Parents raising their first child need help in knowing when to seek help so they can learn the difference between “normal” and “not-normal” development and behaviors. They depend on other family members and their pediatricians to help them learn these distinctions.
And because there’s such a variation in the speed at which children develop, it’s difficult for even doctors and nurses to know what is “normal” for a particular child. Some babies are walking by seven months, while others don’t walk until fourteen months and both walking markers are considered in the “normal” range.
When parents have a second child, they already understand the natural sequence of development: rolling over, sitting up, teething, creeping & crawling, standing and then walking. It’s much easier for parents to track these physical events, however, than it is for them to recognize and support the markers for social and emotional development.
The Markers for Social & Emotional Development
Here are some of the signs of social and emotional concerns in children under the age of three:
Regressive Behaviors (indicating incomplete bonding)
___ clinging, whining
___ thumb-sucking or using a pacifier past the age of 18 months
___ still wanting a bottle after weaning
___ wanting to sleep with parents
___ bedwetting, loss of bladder/bowel control
___ attachment to blankets, stuffed animals at late age
___ rocking and other self-soothing behaviors
Passive Behaviors (indicating shock)
___ daydreaming, dissociation
___ refusing to make eye contact
___ pushing away when being held
Here are some of the signs of social and emotional concerns in children over the age of three:
Hyperactive, Acting-out Behaviors(indicating a need for limits)
___ acting out of control
___ not following directions
___ taking things away from other children
Here are some behavior markers that indicate high-risk behaviors and a need for professional help:
___ chronic lying
___ playing with fire
___ self-mutilation or injury
___ cruelty to animals/other children
___ attraction to violence, gore & evil
___ refusal to make culturally appropriate eye contact
___ seductive, manipulative behaviors
___ attention deficiencies
My Advice to Parents & Other Adult Caregivers
It’s better to err on the side of consulting with professionals too soon rather than too late. Sometimes just a small change in a child’s life can make a huge difference in their social and emotional development. If you see some of the signs above in a child, get an opinion from someone else–your family member, childcare provider or pediatrician.
The good news is that there is SO much really good professional help available now to help small children and their parents. And it is not only much easier and cheaper to help through early interventions, it’s also a lot more rewarding and satisfying.