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Social-Emotional Development in School-Age Children

Date Posted:  Monday, December 17, 2018

Each child grows and develops at his or her own pace, but most children reach common physical, cognitive and social-emotional milestones at each developmental stage. While physical and cognitive developmental milestones might be easier to observe, the development of certain social-emotional skills are crucial, especially in school-age children (5-12 years old).

As children enter the school-age years, they begin to develop a sense of independence. New relationships begin to flourish. While their relationship with parents, and other significant adults, continue to be the most significant in their life, meaningful relationships with their peers become increasingly important. During this period, children continue to learn how to identify and appropriately express emotions and needs. Self-regulation and empathy are essential social skills to help children be successful emotionally, socially and academically.

Some common social-emotional milestones are:

5 to 6 years old

  • Enjoy playing by themselves, but prefer to play with peers.
  • More willing to play and work cooperatively, take turns, and accept others ideas
  • Are able to recognize and verbalize their own feelings
  • Understand that their actions may have positive and negatives consequences
  • They are able to show empathy and compassion
  • Show jealousy toward siblings
  • Feel safe with clear guidelines and routines
  • Respond enthusiastically to positive reinforcement
  • Motivated to learn
  • Enjoy competition - might have difficulty accepting failure
  • Want to please parents and teachers

7 to 8 years old

  • Develop a sense of humor. Enjoy telling funny stories and jokes
  • Are able to distinguish between fantasy and reality
  • Are engaged in imaginative play with other children
  • Enjoy taking on more responsibilities at home and school
  • Show interest in joining extracurricular group activities
  • Share strong likes and dislikes
  • Can work more independently and love to work cooperatively with peers
  • Fear making mistakes. Are less prone to take risks to avoid failure
  • Vocabulary is richer and are able to better express themselves
  • Energetic and sometimes impulsive. Need ample play time, especially outside, in order to physically release energy. Unstructured play time is important to foster creativity
  • Attention span is still limited but become more engaged in activities

9 to 10 years old

  • Develop a more acute sense of fairness and right and wrong
  • Can be critical of self and others
  • Are generally happy but become moody/angry easily. Are quick to forgive
  • Like to negotiate
  • Become more abstract thinkers and are able to grasp and associate multiple concepts at a time
  • Are reading to learn instead of learning to read
  • May become concerned about conflicts with friends
  • Are more resilient and can deal better with making mistakes
  • Take pride in school work and like to recognized for their effort and achievements
  • Can express thoughts and feelings; talkative

11 to 12 years old

  • Peers take on a significant role in their lives
  • Likes and respects adults but will primarily look for approval from peers
  • Enjoys talking to others
  • May experience mood swings
  • Physical changes associated with puberty begin to become more noticeable
  • Increased desire for independence

Although certain milestones are associated with a specific age level, the actual age when a normally developing child reaches that milestone can vary quite a bit. Remember, your child is unique! If you have any concerns regarding your child’s social-emotional development, you should consult EB’s school counselors (Carla Maia and Douglas Gostlin) and/or your child’s pediatrician.