Understanding early childhood developmental psychology

Expert Stories | Romesh Jayasinghe FRSPH(UK) MITBCCT(UK) M.Inst.Psy

Psychology is the study of human behavior and child psychology is the applied branch of psychology that studies both the normal and abnormal development and behavior of infants and children. The early years of a child's life is the most crucial period when the brain absorbs experiences and parents are critically important in influencing long-term cognitive (mental), social and emotional development and wellbeing.

Though prominent psychologists have developed and expanded theories of psychological development, there are still many aspects of brain development and function that science does not fully understand. However, using available information to understand early childhood psychological development can greatly help parents and caregivers provide a healthy and stimulating environment for children.

Understanding your child is one of the most important things that you should learn as a parent. It is very helpful in becoming effective in guiding and nurturing your child as they grow and mature. You need to bear in mind that your child has a unique set of personality traits or characteristics called ‘temperament’ that remains rather consistent throughout life.

One of the ways you can understand your child is by observing them as they sleep, eat, or play. Look for the consistent traits. Which activities do they like best? Is adjusting to changes easy for them or do they need time to become familiar with these things? These things are the normal characteristics of a child and your child may not be an exception.

As much as possible, have time to talk to your children as this is crucial to gaining information and understanding while at the same time positively engaging with your child. In the case of young children, they require less verbal language and more facial expression and body language in order to understand their thoughts and feelings. Asking them all kinds of questions will allow them to share their feelings, thoughts, needs and concerns to you.

Self-esteem is a major key to success in life. The development of a positive self-concept or healthy self-esteem is extremely important to the happiness and success of children and teenagers. A positive parent-child relationship provides the framework and support for a child to develop a healthy respect and regard for self and for others. Children crave time with parents. It makes them feel special and loved. Parents are encouraged to find time to spend playing with their kids on a regular basis. This should include one to one with each child and group time with all of the adults and kids in the home. If you are a single parent or have an only child, occasionally invite family or friends over to play. Play is the natural language of the child.

Most parents will naturally encounter a few bumps in the road as their child develops from baby to preschooler and from teen to adult. Parents will certainly benefit from reading and learning more about the psychological development of children and what problems to expect as both children and parents struggle through the early childhood years and prepare to face the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of them in this highly competitive and fast-changing society.