Social-emotional and behavioral development defines how children learn to express and manage emotions, form relationships, and interact with peers in groups. A child with developmental delays may continue to show progress but at a slower pace than their peers.
While every child grows differently, broad developmental milestones are defined for children according to age. Children who are not at the expected social, emotional, and behavioral milestones for their age are likely to feel frustrated.
The lack of understanding about their own feelings or that of others can result in uncontrollable emotions and aggressive behavior. Unfortunately, in such cases, normally safe environments, such as a classroom or playground, can become confusing and stressful places that the child tries to avoid. This further compounds the problem.
Social-emotional skills in young children include habits such as:
Showing an intention to be helpful
Sharing toys, stories, treats, and ideas
Seeking or providing comfort
Exhibiting empathy and compliance
Children with developmental delays tend to face challenges with social and emotional skills, including:
Trouble understanding social cues
Inability to initiate communication with others
Trouble carrying on two-way conversations
Difficulty dealing with frustration or coping with change
Often, additional behavioral problems can also manifest, including:
Lack of impulse control
Moodiness and anxiety
Early childhood intervention (ECI) and related services, such as social skills training, can help the child reach developmental milestones.
Children begin their social and emotional development during infancy. Their first social and emotional bond is usually formed with their primary caregivers.
Children ideally reach key milestones within the first few years of their life - up to age five. Knowing what to look for is an excellent first step to ensuring that the child’s progress is as expected.
The First Year
Most babies develop their first social smile by three months. They may also enjoy playtime with their caregivers.
By seven months, infants may start responding to their names, the emotions in a parent’s voice, or a reflection in the mirror.
By the age of one, children usually start differentiating between family members and strangers. Children may also show a preference for specific people, toys, foods, or activities.
Years 2-4 (Toddlers)
By the time they are two years old, children start recognizing themselves as individuals; and identify with a sense of self. They may copy certain words or gestures to communicate.
Once they gain a sense of self, their social interactions with other children become more engaging than before. Children may start looking forward to playtime with other children.
After age three, children can engage in simple games where they learn to interact, negotiate small situations, and take turns with others.
Years 4-5 (Preschool Age)
At four years, the child grows more independent and imaginative. Children learn to play interactively with others. Role-playing games may start at this stage, pretending to be the mommy, daddy, or teacher.
Children also learn about concepts like sharing and learn basic empathy and self-control.
By the time a child is five, they may show a clear preference for spending more time with friends, and they understand the difference between boys and girls. Children also enjoy expressive activities, such as singing, dancing, acting, and sports.
Award Behavioral Health Supports Children with Social-Emotional Behavioral Delays
Children with social-emotional behavioral delays can catch up to their peers with support from their caregivers and a structured learning environment. Early intervention services and support at home are the most effective way to help these children.
Here are some ways to support a child with social-emotional behavioral delays:
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