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The age of emotion

What is the ideal age for emotional learning?

"A growing body of scientific evidence tells us that emotional development begins early in life, that is a critical aspect of the development of overall brain architecture and that it has enormous consequences over the course of a lifetime"
- National Scientific Council of the Developing Child -

Emotional development, to me, is at the core of a child's well being. It is where a child learns how to skillfully identify, express and regulate his feelings. Emotional development happens as a result of a complex interplay between a child's biology and environment. It is really no more complicated than that. Children observe, feel, internalize and respond to what is occurring in and around them. Giving such children the scientific and imaginative tools to begin understanding and self-regulating their emotions is no longer a luxury it is necessity in this ever-changing world.

Age Matters

Children learn about their emotions from birth onwards. Learning how to regulate their feelings often appears to be one of the most challenging tasks in early childhood (i.e. temper tantrums, crying, hitting, biting). Every feeling is so incredibly intense and new that without the proper skills such emotion overwhelms a child. Providing children simple teachings about their feelings is perfect in the pre-school aged years. It is also helping hardwire a path of emotional health in their brain.

At the end of preschool, "children who have acquired a strong emotional foundation have the capacity to anticipate, talk about and use their awareness of their own and others' feelings to better manage everyday social interactions" stated the NSCDC. And children who have learned unskillful methods of emotional regulation are already positioned for psychological difficulties, emotional problems and health issues. In other words, I strongly believe (as do many scientists and scholars) that preschool is the ideal time to teach children about their emotional health.

The risk of not teaching a preschool aged child about their emotions can be great. Research demonstrates that about 75% of a child's brain develops after birth. In other words, a child's thought processes get wired along with his emotional and physical development. If a child develops unhealthy emotional patterns early - his or her thinking may be impaired. And there is no child that wants to enter school without strong emotional and cognitive health.

Timing is everything

Providing preschool aged children from 2 to 5 with scientifically supported and creative curriculums to better understand and express their emotions has the power to positively affect the trajectory of their lives. This approach plants seeds of emotional health versus needing to pull out the roots of the now-prevalent childhood emotional disorders (i.e. anxiety, depression).

[Sidenote: Healy is involved with creating a curriculum of emotional health for preschool aged children]

© Maureen Healy
Permission must be granted by the author for use on web sites and for outside publishing.