Everything that is born on the planet Earth goes through different developmental stages, from infancy to old age. Like all living beings, a child too goes through varied child development growth phases.
Child development occurs in stages. The great majority of children hit specific developmental milestones by the time they reach a certain age. Many of the changes that happen are normal and expected. But some children do not exhibit these changes as expected.
This is where they pose challenges. And this is where a child psychology expert is best placed to help spot potential problems and recommend solutions for better outcomes.
FIVE CHILD DEVELOPMENT STAGES
Each of the five child development stages represents a phase when the child faces particular challenges and likewise, achieves milestones.
NEWBORN / INFANCY
This child’s development stage runs from birth to eighteen months of age.
During the first month of this stage, a child as a newborn will exhibit and show automatic responses to what’s generally known as external stimuli.
For instance, when you stroke the newborn’s cheek or take away your fingers after placing them in the newborn’s hand. Watch the reaction of the newborn. It will turn its head towards your action.
Aside from the early reactions, a newborn will also start to recognize certain smells, show their emotions by crying or smiling, see close-up objects, and above all, make head movements from side to side.
The newborn phase will also disclose its developmental disabilities. For instance, genetic disorders, hearing deficiency, or fetal alcohol syndrome.
As the newborn becomes an infant in the first year of life, it develops and cultivates new abilities.
During the first three to six months, the child as an infant will be able to control its head movements and bring their hands together.
- During the sixth to ninth months, the child as an infant will be able to sit without support, talk a little, and respond to its name.
- During the ninth to twelfth months, the child as an infant will be able to pick up objects, crawl, and even stand albeit with support.
Additionally, the infant will also begin to trust others; develop confidence, and experience feelings of anxiety and rejection. If the infant does not get the requisite support and care during this child development stage, it begins to develop mistrust, which will affect its personality in later stages.
Also, slow child development at this stage will indicate signs of the infant suffering from Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.
TODDLER / EARLY CHILDHOOD
This child development stage runs from the age of one to three years.
The child evolves from an infant to a toddler. Psychology experts term the evolution phase as a period of remarkable growth and change. They look at it as a period of cognitive, emotional, and physical growth.
- In its first year the toddler learns to walk sans help; climb stairs on their own; jump in place; hold a crayon and draw a circle. Besides, the toddler will also learn to stack one block on top of another; speak short sentences; and follow simple instructions.
- The second year will see the growth of the muscular and nervous systems. Additionally, the child will also move around, examine the environment, be eager to learn new skills, and develop judgment slowly.
- The third year will see the toddler becoming more aware of things and the environment around, and be able to tell and point out things and items,
The toddler needs to be monitored closely at this stage. Child Psychology experts believe it’s important to
- Monitor the child closely, as the child could develop doubts about their abilities and also encounter difficulties, especially in permissive environments. Likewise, if the environment around is tough, the child will begin to feel worthless and incapable of doing things.
- Screen toddlers for autism at eighteen to twenty-fourth months. Else, they believe the same must be done if parents or health care professionals have concerns about the toddler’s reactions and actions,
- Provide guidance. Doubts faced during this period will reveal the child’s capabilities to handle things and feelings of independence.
- Help the child to achieve their full potential. The child needs to get adequate nutrition and achieve cognitive milestones that are appropriate for their age.
PRESCHOOL / MIDDLE CHILDHOOD
This child development stage runs from the age of three to five years.
During this stage, the toddler grows up to become a child with a sense of independence. This will drive it to try new things, explore varied possibilities, or even stay inhibited.
The staging phase will witness the child do the following.
- Refine motor skills: He/she will be able to throw a ball above or overhand; skip and hop; dress on their own; and even draw a person’s image with features.
- Display creative skills: The child should be encouraged to engage in creative activities. Even if the outcome proves to be a failure, the child should be encouraged to pursue future initiatives. Else the child will develop feelings of guilt and lose their way.
- Mature physically and mentally: Social influences will assume increased importance as the child makes their way through elementary school. The child will begin to meet new people, make new friends, engage in school work, and slowly develop a unique identity.
With the child beginning to go to preschool, it is important for parents to monitor its progress and evaluate them. They should enlist the help of a child psychology expert to:
- Help their child deal with potential issues that are common during this stage. The issues can range from emotional to mental, psychological, and social.
- Spot out signs of developmental disabilities like cerebral palsy, etc. They need to be closely looked at so that immediate remedies can be tried out to nip them in the bud.
SCHOOL / LATE CHILDHOOD
This child development stage runs from the age of six to twelve years.
During this stage, the child will:
- Become confident and responsible with a sense of greater independence.
- Develop a greater attention span; and more strength. He/she will also begin to sleep less while acquiring greater abilities.
- Develop a level of competence. If successful, then the child may develop industrious behavior, or else may develop feelings of inferiority.
This stage will also see the child develop relationships with friends of the same gender and to an extent, age group.
Parents or caretakers must pay special attention to their children during this stage. They should:
- Encourage them to take up tasks that they can handle competently rather than tasks that they find difficult to understand or handle.
- Closely observe their child’s behavior as he/she begins to develop sexual characteristics.
- Closely observe for signs of ADHD, like trouble staying focused and getting easily distracted.
In case, the parents or caretakers see unusual signs of developmental characteristics in their child, they should seek out the assistance of a child psychology expert. This will help to spot developmental disabilities. If the child indeed has some disabilities, parents or caretakers can enlist the assistance of medical specialists who provide early remedial services like speech therapy, occupational therapy, etc.
SCHOOL / ADOLESCENT TEENAGER
This child’s growth phase runs from twelve to twenty years.
The phase is termed a period of transition as the child attains puberty, becomes a teenager, and transitions from childhood to adulthood.
Famous child psychology expert Stanley Hall described this period as a ‘period of storm and stress’. As the child transitions to adulthood, it can go through changes on all fronts from emotional to sexual, social, and vocational. All of these will have enormous implications for the future growth of the now teenager.
The teenager will:
- Develop an understanding of self. Additionally, also explore new identities like asking who they are and what they want to be. Psychologist Erik Erikson terms the exploration phase as ‘identity formation’.
- Experience psychological issues and turmoil that accompanies this period of child development.
As the child becomes a teenager, it will also crave for encouragement and support from its parents or caretaker. In case it is successful in this regard, it will develop a new identity and a sense of self. If unsuccessful, it will get bogged down by an identity crisis and appear confused all the time.
Hence, parents or caretakers must pay attention. They should seek out the assistance of psychology experts to help support their teens. This will enable the teen to face challenging issues that are unique to the adolescent period like emotional stress, puberty, and social pressure.
ASSISTANCE OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGY EXPERT
A child goes through various stages of turmoil as it transitions from one child development phase to another. The transition phase results in what’s called ‘developmental issues’.
This is where a child psychology expert plays a vital role.
Also called a Psychology Expert or Psychologist, a Child Psychology Expert is a highly trained and specialized professional who administers developmental screening or evaluation and spells out solutions.
The evaluation will involve
- Interviews with parents or caretakers. This will help in understanding their child’s problem and behavioral issues.
- Review of the child’s medical history.
- Standardized testing that will help to measure functioning in terms of cognitive skills, communication, emotional/social skills, and physical/motor development.
In case the psychology expert finds out the child has a problem, they may refer the case to a specialist like a speech-language pathologist, physical therapist, or occupational therapist.
WHEN TO SEEK OUT HELP?
Parents or caretakers must seek the assistance of a psychology expert when they begin to doubt their child’s capabilities or issues.
Most parents generally focus more on the child’s developmental milestones rather than their issues ranging from cognitive to communication, emotional/social, and physical.
A good example is the age when the child begins to walk. Generally, most children begin to walk between the ages of nine to fifteen months. Now if the child is not walking during this age phase; or attempts to walk between sixteen to eighteen months, then there is certainly an issue. Parents must seek out a developmental psychology expert’s help or consult their doctor.
Not every child is born perfect nor will grow perfectly as expected.
If your child fails to acquire requisite growth capabilities during a specific child development growth stage, then it’s a cause for concern.
This is when parents or caretakers should seek the assistance of a child psychology expert. They should prepare a list of questions and concerns regarding their child’s developmental issues before meeting with the child psychology expert.
A psychology expert is best positioned to diagnose a developmental issue, review the causes behind it, and suggest solutions for the same.