Role Of Parents In Emotional Development During Early Childhood

Social competence and emotional maturity of the child are critical components required for their accomplishments, be it at the individual level or the academic level. That’s why the role of parents in emotional development during early childhood is considered very important, if not the most important.

Both social competence and emotional maturity can be developed in a child through loving and sustained relationships. No matter how many opportunities are provided for children to learn and grow, if they feel fearful or insecure, there can be no all-round development in them.

That’s why it becomes important to adopt the 4 powerful strategies to build a strong emotional foundation in a child during the early years, which can together become the platform on which the holistic development can happen in the child.

In this article

The following 2 aspects are covered as regards the role of parents in emotional development during early childhood:

  1. The Three Interrelated Areas of Emotional Development
  2. The Five Building Blocks of Emotional Well-being

The 3 Interrelated Areas of Emotional Development

1. Social Interaction

Social interaction is defined as a relationship that a child shares with others and comprises of interaction with peers as well as adults. Few examples of social interaction are helping friends, playing or participating in activities in a group, extending cooperation or taking turns.

Talking about social interactions, we have compiled a list of some highly effective social and emotional development activities across three articles:

The first one pertains to newborns to 6 months old babies, which can be read here

The second is for 6 months old babies to 3 years old toddlers, which can be read here, and

The third one pertains to 3 years old toddlers to 6 years old, which can be read here.

2. Emotional Awareness

Emotional awareness, to start with is the ability to recognize and comprehend one’s feelings and actions. It also encompasses the ability to understand how others’ feelings also get affected along with one’s own feeling.

3. Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is defined as the ability to express one’s thoughts and feelings in an appropriate manner and behave in a manner that is socially acceptable. Examples of self-regulation are the ability to hold one’s words from uttering and remain calm when one is overcome by anger, or showing patience and perseverance while and to accomplish a specific task.

The 5 Building Blocks of Emotional Well-Being

There are five emotional building blocks that have to be instilled in a child by both parents and teachers, to promote the development of positive qualities of mind and character. These building blocks can be instilled only by laying a strong emotional foundation.

The five building blocks of emotional well-being are:

1. Self-Identity and Belonging

Self-Identity is defined as an awareness of an individual about who they are, and what is their place and role in their given environment. A healthy and positive sense of self-identity helps a person to know that they are distinct as an individual, and are valued and respected for what they are.

Though the identity in a child develops and reaches its peak towards the end of adolescence, a strong foundation has to be laid during the early years itself. This helps in understanding oneself, boost self-esteem and develop a positive relationship with others.

Most of all, it provides clarity regarding the role they have to play within a given environment, be it at home or (especially) at school.

Why is Self-Identity Important to Preschoolers?

The ecological systems theory states that a child is basically enmeshed into a system framework, wherein the more intimate environment is the home and the school.

The home environment of a child is usually safe and protective, as they are accepted just as they are. But when it comes to the school environment, the child has to undergo a rapid and challenging transitional experience from home to school, in order to be able adapt to the new environment.

Since the child’s acceptance within the school environment may not be the same as it is at home, he/she may will need love, care, attention and support.

For instance, a child’s speech, behaviour, action and culture may be completely different from the other children at school and can therefore pose a challenge. Moreover, the child missing his or her family members while in school only adds to the struggle and makes it all the more challenging.

This is where the role of parents in socio-emotional development of preschoolers becomes very important.

2. Secure Relationships

A child initiates relationships right from birth. These relationships are crucial during early life and contribute to his/her all-round development. Though most of the initial relationships are only with the immediate family, it soon expands to outside the realm when the child enters play school.

While the relationship with the immediate family is built gradually and in a very familiar environment right from the day of birth, the need to build relationships within the school environment happens (from the child’s perspective) all of a sudden on the first day of preschool!

This is where the role of teachers in socio emotional development of preschoolers becomes critical. After all, only a secured relationship can facilitate him/her to be confident and explore the new learning environment around – the school, with the hope of having an adult to help whenever in need.

Why Secure Relationships Are Important for a Child?

Establishing secure relationships during the early years is absolutely important for a child, as it:

  • Influences social and emotional development (psycho-social) over the lifetime
  • Develops a sense of identity and a sense of belonging
  • Boosts self-confidence and motivation level in the long run
  • Helps to establish good, healthy and pure relationships, which in turn contribute to social skills and independence
  • Enhances thinking and reasoning skills

3. A Language for Feelings

The process of recognising, naming and subsequently dealing with the feelings in an appropriate manner is called Language for Feelings. Just like how adults would, a child also exhibits a range of emotions depending on the context or situation, or even based on the person involved.

As they are too young to understand their emotions, the parent or teacher need to help children recognise their feelings by adopting certain effective practices for development of language, to promote verbal cues to communicate their feelings. This is exactly where the role of parents in emotional development of a child becomes critical.

By playing the role effectively by way of attentive listening, love, care, understanding and empathy; they can empower the child to deal with his or her emotions appropriately, confidently and effectively. But that’s not all.

Children should also be provided with opportunities to understand others’ emotions too. Only then will they understand the cause-and-effect as regards others’ reaction to their action, and their reaction to others’ action.

Why is Language Important to Express Feelings and Emotions

The greatest advantage for a child to be able to freely express and articulate his or her feelings as an outcome of an emotion, is that it makes it easy to deal with the emotions effectively.

Irrespective of whether the emotion is happiness or sadness, expressing how it feels helps in not getting overwhelmed by it. Moreover:

  • It gives the child the space to explore other different emotions and feelings
  • Helps feel assured of being understood, which also gives a sense of trust
  • Helps gain self-confidence due to the moral support received from those around

4. Inner-Strength and Resilience

A child’s ability to cope with and bounce back after overcoming the challenges or adversities that he/she faces in everyday is called resilience.

For a resilient child, it is the inner strength that provides him/her with skills to cope with the uncertainties that life throws up on an every-day basis.

The intensity of challenges could range from simple to complex, which demands subtle or greater degree of adaptation respectively. Similarly, the frequency of challenges occurring may be regular or once in a while, which demands adaptations of a different kind.

Either way, resilience is important.

Why is Resilience Important?

Resilience, especially among preschoolers, is not well developed during early childhood. However, a strong foundation can be, and has to be laid during that phase, as it is one among the 8 most important positive character traits a child should have.

This, again, is where the role of parents in socio-emotional development of preschoolers become very important; as they can help their child to:

  • Face the many challenges life throws at them
  • Learn and develop positive dispositions (outlook) towards life
  • Develop a positive self-image
  • Take up (well-informed) risks and challenging responsibilities
  • Identify one’s talents and develop the right skills to accomplish a positive self-identity

The perception of value that a child has on himself or herself is called self-esteem. It is the awareness of oneself with regard to one’s own qualities, capabilities, uniqueness and the dynamic way they all work together to manifest the best version of themselves.

Good self-esteem in a child helps to establish a sense of:

  • Identity
  • Self-Worth
  • Acceptance and Value
  • Self-Confidence

The foundations of self-esteem are laid during infancy through attachment and bonding. However, both parents and teachers have an enormous responsibility to help the child to build on it while developing relationships at home and at school.

Why is Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem Important?

Self-confidence and self-esteem in a child are important as they:

  • Support physical, mental and psycho-social well-being
  • Help influence academic achievements
  • Encourage the child to learn cope with challenges
  • Help set realistic expectations and develop positive relationships


The role of parents in emotional development of a child is possibly the most important role they will play, as it has an influence across his or her entire adult-life. That’s why the importance of this role can’t be emphasised enough!

How healthy or otherwise the influence will be depends on how much they have invested to learn about their role and how well they impart the lessons to their child – by living the role, rather than just teaching!

Disclaimer: The content in this page and across this website are for informational and educational purposes only. In case of any concerns about your child’s growth and development, please contact your professional child healthcare provider.