5–6 years old: Emotional development

5–6 years old: Emotional development
As children grow, they learn how to manage and express their emotions. Follow your child’s emotional development from age 5 to 6.

Emotional development allows children to understand, express, and manage their emotions as they grow. Children also develop the ability to recognize and interpret the emotions of others, which helps them build relationships with those around them.



Emotional development: 5–6 years old

At this age:

  • Your child has more control over their emotional reactions, but they still need help to calm down after they experience strong emotions.
  • They are getting better at using words to express their emotions and are less likely to react aggressively with actions such as hitting.
  • They can recognize the emotions of others by observing their facial expressions and certain gestures.
  • They still need the support of an adult to exercise patience before their needs can be met.
Remember that not all children develop the same skills at the same speed. The material on this website is for general information purposes only. If you’re concerned about your child’s development, speak with a doctor.
  • Your child expresses their needs and is becoming more independent.
  • They are able to make decisions and enjoy taking on challenges.
  • They have a better understanding of social rules and may experience new emotions such as shame, guilt, and pride.
  • They are getting better at taking the emotions of others into consideration. For example, their empathy may lead them to console a friend.
  • They may describe themself as being very good at everything in order to impress others and gain acceptance.
  • They are aware of the differences between them and their friends. They compare themself to others to evaluate their own strengths by commenting on a friend’s behaviour or athletic abilities.
  • They enjoy playing with friends, but are also able to play by themself for up to 30 minutes.
  • Your child enjoys role-playing games, especially when they get to imitate the actions of the adults around them.
  • They are getting better at telling the difference between what’s right and wrong, even is this concept is black and white for them.

Little by little, your child is beginning to do the following:

Find out how to support your child’s emotional development through books.
  • Make an effort to solve problems on their own when they want something or need to settle a conflict.
  • Choose activities and sticking to them.
  • Use the right words to express pride or discontent.
  • Show more perseverance when they’re faced with a challenging task, with the support of an adult.
  • Act in order to please an adult or avoid displeasing them since they have greater awareness of how others perceive them.

How can you help your child progress?

Your child is unique and will develop at their own pace. They have strengths and weaknesses and are becoming increasingly self-aware. You can support your child’s emotional development with these simple everyday actions:

When you clearly and freely express your emotions on a daily basis,
 
your child understands that emotions are normal and learns to use the right words to talk about how they feel.
When you point out your child’s good deeds by recognizing their achievements and saying things such as: “I noticed that you paid attention during the game. That’s why you were able to score all those points!”
 
they learn that they need to make an effort in order to succeed. This kind of encouragement helps them persevere.
When you ask your child to wait a moment before giving them what they asked for,
 
they learn to wait more patiently.
When you show your child different strategies they can use to calm down, such as taking deep breaths, doing a physical activity, drawing, or squeezing a stress ball,
 
they learn techniques they can use when they get overwhelmed by their emotions.
When you break tasks down into smaller, more manageable challenges for your child,
 
they learn to stay motivated and persevere.
When you welcome your child’s emotions by putting yourself in their shoes so you can understand what they are experiencing,
 
they understand that they are not alone, and that their feelings are important.
When you pay attention when your child has an emotional outburst, and instead tell them: “This is hard for you. But I love you and I will stay with you until you feel better,”
 
they understand that their emotions are normal and are reassured by your presence.
When you talk about your day as a family, taking turns to share your favourite moment of the day, a funny thing that happened, and an event that challenged you,
 
your child feels that you are interested in what they are experiencing. They also get used to sharing their joys and disappointments on a daily basis.

 

Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Chloé Gaumont, M.Sc., psychoeducator
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: January 2022

 

Photo: iStock.com/PacoRomero

 

Sources

Please note that hyperlinks to other websites are not updated regularly, and some may have changed since publication. It is therefore possible that a link may not be found. If a link is no longer valid, use search engines to find the relevant information.

  • Bouchard, Caroline, and Nathalie Fréchette. Le développement global de l’enfant de 0 à 5 ans en contextes éducatifs. Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2008, 488 pp.
  • Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. “Emotional development in childhood.” 2011. child-encyclopedia.com
  • Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. “The self-conscious emotions.” 2011. child-encyclopedia.com
  • Ferland, Francine. Le développement de l’enfant au quotidien: de 0 à 6 ans. 2nd ed., Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2018, 264 pp.
  • Gross, James J., et al. Handbook of Emotion Regulation. 2nd ed., Guilford Press, 2015, 669 pp.
  • “Nos émotions.” emotion.ca
  • Passeport Santé. “L’enfant de 5 ans: qu’est-ce qui change à cet âge?” 2017. www.passeportsante.net
  • Portail Enfance et Familles. “Étapes du développement.” www.portailenfance.ca
  • Shaffer, David, et al. Developmental Psychology: Infancy and Childhood. 5th ed., Quebec, 2019, 613 pp.
  • Sunderland, Margot. The Science of Parenting: How Today’s Brain Research Can Help You Raise Happy, Emotionally Balanced Children. DK, 2008, 288 pp.
  • Zeanah, Charles H., et al. Handbook of Infant Mental Health. 4th ed., Guilford Press, 2018, 678 pp.