Getting to know your child as they develop can be one of the most rewarding parts of being a parent. Learning how your child views the world, teaching your child new skills, and mentoring them as they process big new feelings and changes is all part of being a parent, but it’s not easy.
As your child develops, they go through progressive developmental stages, from birth to adulthood. Environmental, genetic, and cultural factors can all affect a child’s development, and how quickly they progress from one stage to the next. It’s difficult for children to explain what they’re going through, much less to analyze their feelings. That’s where child psychology can help give you highly important and valuable information.
What Is Child Psychology?
Child psychology is the study of subconscious and conscious childhood development. Child psychologists observe how a child interacts with their parents, themselves, and the world, to understand their mental development.
Why Is It Important?
Everyone wants their child to have healthy development, but it’s not always clear if a child’s behavior is a symptom of a normal stage in development or a sign of an abnormality. Child psychologists can help you understand the difference. Understanding the normal and abnormal psychological patterns of a child can help parents understand how to best communicate and connect with their child, teach their child coping mechanisms for managing emotions, and help their child progress and thrive in each new developmental stage.
Child psychologists can also identify abnormal behaviors early, help detect the root of common behavioral issues such as learning issues, hyperactivity, or anxiety, and help children work through early childhood trauma. They can also help to prevent, evaluate, and diagnose developmental delays or abnormalities such as autism.
Child psychology studies the interaction of a few main areas of development:
Physical development in children is typically a predictable sequence of events. Your child holds their head up, rolls over, crawls, walks, and runs, in that order. Your Child Psychologist can aid your pediatrician in observing your child’s physical development, and if there are any abnormalities that could indicate developmental irregularities. Child Psychologists will observe your child’s progression toward the milestones of development to ensure that your child is physically developing normally. Major delays in physical development may reveal other underlying developmental issues that can then be addressed early on.
The medical understanding of childhood cognitive development has greatly changed over the recent years. We now know that even newborn babies are aware of their environment and are interested in it, even before they have the language to express that.
Cognitive development refers to the intellectual learning and thought processes of a child. It includes the observation and understanding of the world around them, language learning, memory, decision-making, problem-solving, how the child uses their imagination, and how the child uses basic reasoning. All of these factors are influenced by a child’s genetics and environment.
Emotional (Social) Development
Emotional and social development are deeply intertwined. Emotional development refers to how the child feels, understands, and expresses their emotions. Emotional development is expressed in very young children through the expression of basic emotions like fear, joy, anger, and sadness. As the child develops, more complex emotions such as confidence, hope, guilt, and pride emerge. Emotional development also includes a child’s ability to feel and understand the emotions of other people through empathy. Learning to regulate and express emotions appropriately is difficult for many children. Helping children understand their emotions early can have a powerful impact on current and future emotional development. A Child Psychologist can help your child understand and express their emotions in a healthy, positive way.
Emotional development highly informs social development. This is true because the way a child feels understands, and expresses their feelings has a direct impact on how they interact with other people. Social development is about how the child develops the values, awareness, and social skills necessary to relate to the people around them; their parents, peers, authority figures, and animals. A child’s early relationships can have a huge impact on their development of age-appropriate social skills. Trust, friendship, conflict management, and respect for authority are examples of social development.
Child Psychology is an important branch of family health. It gives parents the resources to help their children advance through the stages of development and gives physicians a deeper look into the mental health and possible challenges a child might face in regards to learning or social differences, or developmental delays.
Child Psychology should not be a reactive measure. Make it part of your proactive family health plan today.
Family Practice, Psychology
Western Washington Medical Group