Self-conscious emotions /slow-to-warm-up

As children grow & develop, they are capable of experiencing a higher order of emotions, such as shame,embarrassment, guilt….etc.  These feelings are labeled as self-conscious emotions and are related to the child’s sense of self in a positive or negative way.  This is a normal developmental step in children’s lives. 

A child’s temperament is also reflected in a child’s behavior.  Although only 15% of children (according to the sample referenced in our Child Development book by Laura Berk) are labeled as “slow-to-warm-up,” this is not considered abnormal.  Some children are slow to adjust to new situations & have mild low key reactions that other children may react to differently.

However, some children exhibit exaggerated behaviors and responses to certain situations.  I work with some children that exhibit behaviors that are sometimes hard to decipher as to whether they are overly shy and need time to adjust to people and situations or whether they are habitually embarrassed and ashamed as a natural pattern in their lives.  They exhibit the normal higher-order of emotions, but continue to do so in almost any interaction with them rather than just during times that this behavior could be seen as reasonable.  They continue to exhibit a fearfulness or anxiety even when they seem to be warming-up to you after a certain amount of time….they never let their guard down entirely or stay consistently comfortable with you. 

With time, you come to understand that their needs are not being met at home, at the very least, and that perhaps there is an abusive or neglectful situation with the people closest to them.  It is sad that these children are already experiencing lives that are teaching them not to trust others and to feel uncomfortable with themselves and those they come in contact with.  I am so glad that there are programs available to these children to experience some consistent, positive, loving care with people who are helping them learn to interact with adults and other children with more optimistic results.  Hopefully the experiences they have while involved with these types of programs can help to tip the scale in their lives to a little more balanced outlook and set of social skills that they can use throughout their developing lives…..give them hope of something better than they have known in the past.

Deanna Cote’

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~ by dscote on October 18, 2009.

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