Awareness in the New Year

As adults, we begin a new year with conscious goals in mind for our personal development. Whether it’s finishing that last DIY project, learning a new language or changing our diet, we outline expectations for a prosperous year. As we get older, our development plateaus and we see less change over shorter periods of time. Children, on the other hand, are in a constant state of emotional and physical development for the first five years of their life. Social and emotional milestones are also harder to pinpoint than signs of physical development. As we enter this New Year, what goals will you set to keep up with your child’s rapidly developing sense of self?

Erik Erikson, developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst, argued that the emotional and social development of a human being takes place in eight phases, which he referred to as “the eight stages of man”. The first four stages relate to early childhood emotional and social development: hope, will, purpose and competence.

First Stage: Hope
From birth to age two, a baby or toddler that is nurtured and loved will develop trust, security and a basic optimism. Neglect or poor handling could render a child insecure and mistrustful.

Second Stage: Will
Erikson argued that personal development occurs as people reach “psychological crisis” and are prompted into the next stage of development. A well-adjusted child emerges from this stage with confidence, newfound control and a sense of pride in their accomplishments. The early parts of this stage are characterized by Erikson’s “psychological crisis” including tantrums, stubbornness and negativism (what is referred to as the “terrible twos”).

Third Stage: Purpose
At this critical stage of development, which Erikson refers to as the “play age,” a child is learning to imagine, cooperate with others, to take the lead and to follow. Children that have a strong dependency on adults are restricted both in the development of proper play skills and creativity.

Fourth Stage: Competence
The fourth stage is handled during what Erikson calls the “school age”, from 5 to twelve years old. Skills acquired during this period are more complex, such as relating with peers according to rules, mastering subjects at school and progressing from “free play” to recreational activities that may be elaborately structured by rules and may demand formal teamwork.

At the Friends Center for Children, our curriculum is focused on recognizing and nurturing each child’s development needs. In the spirit of the New Year, we encourage parents to visualize how their child’s surroundings, peers and teachers are impacting their social and emotional development. Providing children a safe place to explore these new aspects of their behavior will allow them to develop strong emotional and social skills from a young age.

To learn more about “The Eight Stages of Man” and Erik Erikson, visit:

To learn more about social and emotional development, visit this helpful resource: