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Three: Your Emotional Child

When your child is about three, his emotions begin to come into focus: love and fear, sadness and joy, disappointment and excitement, enthusiasm and reluctance, happiness and anger, caring and hate. Infants have emotions too; but for the most part, your infant's emotions are elementary: fear and frustration, well-being and discomfort, pleasure and pain. During the period from three to six, your child's emotions develop rapidly. Your preschooler is confronted by his emotions in new ways and in novel situations. As his parent, you help him learn to experience and express emotions. You watch his frustration and anger become temper tantrums and pouting, his excitement and enthusiasm express themselves through occasionally inappropriate and apparently uncontrolled behavior, his bad dreams become terrifying nightmares, small reactions become real fears, disappointment becomes devastation. Your child becomes emotionally vulnerable and his feelings can easily be hurt. Sharing with love comes up against the reality of a sometimes hurting and nonaccepting world.

As your preschooler becomes a grade schooler, the circle of his emotional world expands. You gradually fill a smaller portion of his emotional world as other people and events begin to take up an increasingly larger proportion. Your grade schooler is confronted by a multiplying set of emotional experiences and opportunities: success and failure, competition, acceptance and rejection, approval and disapproval from a widening variety of people, and the sometimes exhilarating and sometimes harsh reality of abilities and inabilities.

As your grade schooler becomes an adolescent, emotional experiences grow increasingly more complex. The emotional pull between home and friends becomes a central issue of life. In addition, sexuality becomes an emotionally laden delight and dilemma. Your adolescent has become a physical/emotional being. Here, focus is on some of the more important emotional issues and problems with which parents have to deal.

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