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Your child’s emotional development 1 to 2 years

1 to 2 Years
Support independent behaviour, whilst providing comfort and reassurance when needed

Your child at a glance

Your child is entering ‘toddlerhood’, exploring the world with greater independence but still needing your support. During this year you are likely to see your child:
  • Becoming more aware of herself and what she can make happen
  • Starting to express a wider range of emotions and with more intention
  • Showing intense feelings for you and other main caregivers, and also starting to show affection for others she knows well
  • Expressing negative feelings and reactions clearly and specifically; tantrums may appear this year
  • Starting to express pride and great joy when learning or mastering something new
  • Becoming more assertive and showing a need to be independent
  • Beginning to engage in behaviours with the intention of being helpful (e.g. around the house)

Your child's story

BabyYour child is becoming a toddler, and you will notice that her quest for independence is growing stronger. With this comes a need to take charge of situations more and challenging behaviours will occur. The most common source of frustration is not being able or allowed to do something.

Tantrums may start to appear during this year, and she may resist doing what you ask or refuse certain foods or clothing. Self-control is still difficult, and learning to manage negative emotions takes time. Your child needs your patience and guidance in finding more effective ways of dealing with situations.

For your child, increasing independence is exciting and liberating, but at the same time it can be scary. He is becoming ever more aware of himself and of being separate from you, and separation anxiety tends to appear, peaking around 18 months, and then decrease and fade away. It can be challenging for both you and your child when one moment he is struggling to 'get away' and do things himself, and the next moment he cries if he sees you leave the room or comes running to be picked up. Naptime may become difficult for some during this year, often linked to separation anxiety. But there are things you can do to overcome this hurdle and help your child find his way back to peaceful sleep.

During this stage your child is starting to express affection more often and more clearly, perhaps becoming very generous with her hugs and kisses. She will also start showing more affection towards others she knows well, and towards favourite soft toys. You may notice that your child is interested in helping out, or doing what you are doing; stirring the food, rinsing a bowl, carrying a chair etc. She is learning by copying you and is actually intending on being helpful. You will see a face full of pride and joy when she is successful in her endeavours.

What you can do to encourage your child's development

As your child is reaching for more independence and starting to challenge situations, patience and understanding is required on your part when he feels frustrated. Great ways to help him learn about emotions:

  • Keep talking to him, quietly and calmly, and name emotions he may be feeling. When he senses that you know and understand how he feels, he will find it easier to calm down and regain control.
  • Provide support, empathy and calm. If you need to, find a way to calm yourself down before responding to his behaviours.
  • Talk about what has happened once your child has settled. Following this, a nice calming distraction can be helpful, such as reading or drawing.

Clinging to mumIt is natural for your child to suddenly feel insecure, or experience separation anxiety, in the middle of what seems like a toddler who knows no fear. Embrace her when she needs to be close to you, explain that you understand how she might be feeling. Equally, encourage independent behaviour when she is trying something herself whilst letting her know you are there should she need it.

Notice and return your toddler’s affectionate gestures, as this is important learning about expressing positive emotions such as compassion, love and care. Allow him to help where possible, and you can even get him a smaller sized set of e.g. bowls or dustpan and brush. Also, make sure you notice what is intended as being helpful, point it out and provide positive feedback. Respond to his joy when he presents you with a successful result.

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