‘Oh! Your child is so shy, is he an introvert?’ A question you might have often faced from strangers at a social gathering where your child refused to even look up when someone asked, ‘What’s your name?’ There is absolutely no need to get embarrassed at the not-so-social behaviour of your toddler. A ‘clingy or introvert child’ often grows up to a sensitive human being.
Then there was two-year-old Ryan, who was the last child in his batch to settle at his play school. He howled and cried and refused to go to birthday parties or be exposed to any other social event. But as he grew older, his teachers and parents realised they were raising an extremely sensitive child who turned out to be a caring and loving individual, and sociable too.
Most first-time parents struggle with identifying social and emotional milestones for their children, confusing what is a perfectly natural expression of their age with a behavioural problem. It does not help to have senior family members and a network of so called well-wishers, who seem to forget how their children and grandchildren grew up.
Rather than getting affected by stray remarks or letting your own anxieties take over, it may be a good idea to remember that while every child is unique, all human babies are the same. What seems to be the most dominant expression for a two year old, will gradually turn into something else by the time your child is three.
There is no dearth of handy reading material out there that could help you sail through the difficult initial years of parenting with regards to identifying milestones. But here is a ready reckoner for you, just in case:
If you are enjoying with your baby, who is 6-9 months old and growing fast, then look out for the following social and emotional signs:
This is the age when a child starts showing signs of anxiety when put among strangers. There is no need to believe that the child is unsocial, if he or she cries or refuses to go to some unknown person. This is a natural instinct.
Smiles or gurgles and laughs when happy. They start differentiating between ‘being happy or sad.’ At times, they will clap to show they are happy.
Wants to show love with fingers and touch, and love being touched too. Even towards toys. May be, they will cling to a favourite toy and try to carry it everywhere.
Parenting a 1-2 year old, is physically demanding. Your child will be curious and energetic, but he depends on an adult’s presence for reassurance and needs a lot of attention. You can look out for the following signs:
This is the age when a child starts showing the first signs of being separate from parents, which not only causes him to worry, but develops a sense of ‘me’ and ‘mine.’ The whole notion of owning something or having his ‘own’ way or declaring an object ‘mine’ is a way of coming to grips with this exciting but frightening new idea.
They often do not respond to spoken commands and need to be distracted, though they know what ‘no’ means.
Shows interest in other children but usually plays alone. He has no idea of sharing and you should not expect him to share his toys or books.
Your child will imitate actions and games of others and become more cooperative in dressing, from a desire to imitate adults
A 3-5 year old is a bundle of energy and has a tremendous spurt of imagination that can be at times wrongly interpreted by the parent as being ‘hyper.’ This is the age when a child starts moving away from the parent to the outside world consciously. What do they do?
Wants to please friends and make friends beyond family. This is the age to ‘reach out’ or sing and dance with friends in a group.
Though some children share separation anxiety, especially those who haven’t been to a play school earlier, most children of this age start showing independence and move away from parents. Sometimes, they can be demanding with you, at times they can be eagerly cooperative.
They start to recognise difference between a boy and a girl and even distinguish between fantasy and reality.
Each phase brings its own set of challenges and joy. If you are wondering if you should put your six-month old at a creche in order to get back to work, know that infants at this stage adapt more easily to a care giver. As they get older, their sense of attachment gets stronger and they find it difficult to stay away from their parents and settle down in a new environment. While we do not encourage parents to force their children into doing something they are clearly not comfortable with, it may help to keep in mind that some of the reactions that you see in your child, may purely be related to their age and are not anything grave or permanent. Go with the flow and do what is best for your child and you.