Parent’s Guide to Emotional Development of 7-Year-Olds


It can be difficult as a parent to guide the development of a 7-year-old. This is a critical time of their lives and it can be intimidating.

How can parents help with emotional development in a child? Parents help by being patient and working with the child. If the parent is too judgemental or uninvolved, then the parents cannot help the child cope. There are situations where a therapist is needed, but parents are crucial.

As we start this article, remember that every child has some unique features. Everything may not work perfectly, but you take the time to know your child and how he/she acts, then things will work out well. Now, let’s get into the article.

How do I Handle Crying/Emotional Outbursts?

One thing that you need to understand about 7-year-olds is that they are learning to regulate emotions. Sometimes it’s just going to be difficult for them.

Crying is a way for them to express that emotion. Around age seven, they react impulsively when situations put them under stress. Crying can also happen when they are tired or feeling insecure.

One of the reasons they may cry or have anger or any emotion is because they value routines. A transition from the norm may bother them.

Some children are just naturally more “emotionally charged” than others. Other words to describe this behavior are “anxious,” “explosive,” etc. These children for whatever reason are highly sensitive to experiences.

They really struggle with this. I have seen it first hand. My younger sister was very easily distressed when she was younger. Being a teenager now, she does a lot better.

But how are parents supposed to handle these circumstances? What are they to do?

There is much cognitive and emotional adjustment that they need to work on. It can be good to find a therapist if the problem feels too big for just you to handle.

The most crucial part of a child’s emotional training is the parents.

Parents, the ones that spend every day with the child, are the biggest force for change in their early lives. You can bet that the way you treat or react to your child will have an effect on them.

Parents are supposed to be loving figures which the child attaches themselves to. This is the way it works. If the parents are too disengaged or judgemental with the child and his/her struggles then the parents will not be able to help the child with coping.

Let’s talk about some different things about breakdowns.

Temper Tantrums

One reason why children have temper tantrums is that they never learned or were taught how to handle their emotions. Sometimes emotions are just crazy and as a child, this can be difficult.

Yes, there are children who act out to get what they want. Those are the ones on the floor at Wal-Mart. But I am talking about the ones struggling with their emotions just because they don’t understand or haven’t been taught.

If a child is in a situation they do not recognize or is not routine to their lives up until this point, they go into fight or flight (we will talk more about this in a minute). Crying is not much of a fight but it does grab attention.

As a parent it’s important to walk them through being calmed down and then explaining what is going on and how everything will be alright. You are the guide and you will need to calm the volcano that is about to erupt.

This leads into my next topic.

Amygdala Hijacking

When a child is falling apart on the floor (We’ve all seen this at the store) or having a meltdown, the child is experiencing an “amygdala hijack.”

This term was coined by Daniel Goleman, a psychologist, in one of his books. He believed that regardless of our advanced nature, our brains do have a primal instinct in our brains that make us respond quickly when a threat arises.

He believes that what was once designed to protect us anciently is now a hindrance in our modern society.

If you aren’t familiar with the different parts of the brain, you might be wondering what an amygdala is. Let me explain.

The amygdala is an almond shaped piece of the brain that sits deep inside the temporal lobe. It is apart of the fear circuit in your brain. This the thing that creates fight-or-flight response which you then use to respond to unpleasant situations.

Daniel Goleman, a pyschologist, believes that what was once designed to protect us anciently is now a hindrance in our modern society.

They amygdala is also involved memories and storing them. the amount of emotion that has happened in memory determines where that memory is stored.

According to Goleman, we have stored these experiences through the generations and that is why we respond the way we do.

Combating Amygdala Hijacking

Your child needs to grow some emotional intelligence. This is the way to combat the emotional breakdowns that happen. Your child goes into the fight-or-flight mode. It is difficult to come down off of this.

“Emotional intelligence is the opposite of an amygdala hijack.”

Arlin Cuncic

I remember multiple accounts where my sister would get mad or cry because of some situation and it would take hours for her to calm down. I’m not kidding when I say hours.

I said something one time that really took her for a spin. She disagreed with me vehemently and I had to go calm her down and help her understand why things were the way they were.

Fortunately, as she has gotten older, she has become better at regulating herself and understanding that everything is not the way she saw it. So there is hope out there. For siblings and parents both.

Coping with Amygdala Hijacking

Give your child a break. I’m not talking about a timeout or secluding them (although they may want to be secluded). I am saying give them the time and space to calm down and control themselves sometimes.

Take deep breaths with your 7-year-old. Take the deep breaths all the way from your stomach. Teach your kid how to do this. As we have already discussed, 7-year-old outbursts make it difficult to be calm. Helping them to focus on breathing can take their mind off of stressful things.

Another great thing to do to distract and move on is identifying the emotions or problems. Ask your child what is wrong. Daughter or son, they should be able to figure it out. If they can’t right away, no worries. Help them to figure out how to identify.

This means you will also need to learn how to identify your own struggles. If your child can’t figure it out then you have to be able to teach them.

Help your child to see things as they really are after they have calmed down. Help them to understand reality. Teach them to notice the world around them and take all of it in. Getting out of yourself can sometimes help the situation.

After the break down, you’re going to want to a “post game” with your child. What I mean is identifying how everything went and what can be worked on for next time.

Problems can be overcome and you can work together with your son or daughter to analyze and talk. Ask them how they felt or what makes them calm. Do they get scared? Anxious? Or even mad?

A really good one to talk about is what triggered the emotion and how can it possibly be avoided or handled in the future?

All of these questions and more can be used in the “post game” to help with the next round of emotional explosions.

How to Help Your Child… and Yourself

Now for the part about how to help your child. Here are a very ideas I have found.

Reassurance Does Not Work

Your first thought may be to reassure your child. It’s like telling anybody in the history of the world to calm down when they are mad. It just doesn’t work.

The hardest thing I can imagine doing is sitting there and being totally calm while my hypothetical child screams or is in distress, but you need to do it. This is the first step to helping your child.

If you get angry or upset or your tone becomes anything but calm, you might as well throw gasoline on the fire because that’s how your anxious child is going to react.

You know how people say that dogs or child sense your emotions and react accordingly? Turns out that is real. What we knew intuitively, is now backed by science.

Neuro-imaging research has discovered that when one person’s brain hits the roof with negative emotions like anxiety or distress, another nearby will do the same. This is why you have to be calm instead of wondering why your child is the way he/she is.

Validation Does

Validation of feelings really helps your child. Honestly, it helps them to know that you care and understand. The goal is to help the child understand the problem that is the feared thing.

If your child is afraid of being with people, then you can say, “right now you don’t want to be with people. I know that your tummy hurts and you don’t like it.” Just validate what they are feeling. Words that began with “you feel” shows them that you are validating what they feel even if it is not reality.

Be Patient

Now comes the part of telling yourself that it is going to be okay. You’re going to want to build yourself up. Being a parent is hard and it is harder with a highly emotional kid. You’re doing a good job with what you know.

Tell yourself what is going on. “She is just having a hard day.” “He is doing the best he can right now.” “She can’t control these outbursts.” Thoughts like this really help in the long run. Compassion is what you need to make it through this troubling time.

Also know that the anxiety won’t last forever. It will eventually fade away. Being there to contain the fire is your job. Just be patient and listen to your child. In this situation, less is more. The calmer your are, the faster you will get through this.

“Compassion will result in a quicker resolution to your child’s outburst, even though it will always take longer than you wish.”

Laura Kastner, PH.D.

Listen and Repeat Back

Another good tactic for the child to know that you are listening is repeating back what they have said to you. When a child is distressed, they are really just reaching out for help where they can get it. Your child needs you.

Arguing will not help you in the slightest so do not even try. I know it can be tempting but safe yourself the trouble and do not do it. Let your child know that you are here to listen to them.

Speak calmly and slowly so that they can understand. In their frenzied state, they are going to struggle to understand a lot.

Act Wisely

Your actions will make all the difference. You can’t choose how your child is going to act, believe me. You can choose how you act though. Your actions will define so much in the outcome of your child’s success over the their problem.

If you have to, take a breather. Count to ten or something. Taking care of yourself is crucial. Take some deep breaths. You will make it through. Teach yourself how to calm yourself and in doing so, teach your child as well. Who knows, maybe it will work.

Something I find that we forget to do in our busy world is emotional regulation. It’s so important and as a parent, you will need to learn how to do this.

You will need to learn how to be self-calming, self control, etc. These skills will help calm you. Once you figure out how to handle yourself in a situation and you have taught yourself control, your child will recognize that. You will be a role model.

The amazing thing is you have to teach yourself in order to teach your child. How incredible is that? What a great learning experience. I love it. This can be a truly incredible experience if you allow it to be.

Distractions

If your child is starting to calm down, you can distract them from the problem to help subside the problem. I am not talking about shoving a phone in front of your kids. I strongly disagree with that tactic but that’s not what I am here to talk about.

You could share a story you know. You could sing a song. Teach them breathing techniques. You’re going to deal with this multiple times probably so you might as well get creative.

Depression

I have personally never experienced childhood depression, either in me or others. This idea makes me want to protect. I have had season depression in the winters for a couple of years now and I know that it is not a pleasant experience.

Generally, the world sees children as carefree and happy. That’s how they are depicted and when they are anything else, it is weird to us because it is out of the norm. It would be unwise to assume children cannot experience things as anxiety and depression.

Sometimes it’s hard to notice these things because children grow and go through different phases as they develop. How does a parent gauge a child’s emotional well-being?

A lot of it is how much time a child spent in this state of mind? how long has your child felt down or how negative is your child about life? How engaged is your child? You will know and understand your child the best. You will notice.

Here are some signs that your child may be struggling:

  • Irritability, anger, sadness in excess
  • Withdrawn from those around them
  • Shame, guilt, regret

Now, we’ve talked about the brain overreacting and taking over logic in your 7-year-old. Anger and irritability is something different. This is when a child gets set off by many things and is uncontrollable. Generally, these are extreme emotions will be obvious because the child is uncontrollable.

Sometimes with tears, it goes unnoticed. I would watch out for these signs.

When your child is withdrawn from your family or people they care about, you should address the issue. I mean the child could also be quiet but you know what is out of the ordinary for your child.

Has your child begun to spend a lot of time alone? Does he/she find ways to be “tired”? If your child is struggling with depression, they will pull themselves away from people they care about and things that they enjoy. If you sense things are wrong, I would recommend investigating.

Any comments about shame, guilt, regret, or any thoughts regarding sorrow should be addressed. This would be things like, “nobody likes me.” or other self-depreciating comments. Please ask your child why he/she feels this way. If your child feels an emotion so deep that they desire to hurt themselves, that is a huge red flag.

7-year-olds are so little and innocent. Any child is innocent. It’s dangerous if they feel that way. Talk to a professional about this.

But what can you do? You as a parent can be the best cheerleader your child has ever seen. If I were a parent, I would want my child to know how amazing and bright they are. I would personally want them going to bed knowing that they have worth. This is so important for them. 

In the end, you are a source of light for your child. You are a place of refuge. If your child is struggling, you need to be the shelter they can run to.

If the problem is serious or you feel the need to get help for your child, search out psychiatrist or psychologist. They are trained and they will help you know what to do. My younger sister went to one for a while and it really helped her.

If you sense anything, it is worth checking out. It is far better to know that nothing is wrong now then wait and found out that something was wrong ages ago. Your child will thank you later in life for helping them early in life.

Understanding a Growing Child’s Personality and Opinion

Your child is in one of the biggest stages of their live. They are beginning to develop distinct opinions and their personality is blooming.

They love to learn and they are sharing that with others. At this age, they can become so vibrant and it’s difficult to know where to step in to make sure everything stays in check.

Along with personality and opinions, they start getting wise and thinking they know better. As a parent, how are you going to know when to step in and take the reigns for a bit?

I think this is a case by case situation. You know your child and what you can do. I think sometimes, just let them do their own thing.

If it is not harming them or anybody else then it should be fine. You want to give your kid respect. They are developing who they are and that should be praised.

If you can see that something is a problem, you can put an end to it and explain why it is not a good idea. You probably already have rules and punishments set in place so I won’t educate you on that.

I think from what I have noticed is that many parents seem to have this overlord/dominion over their kids. It’s authoritarian parenting style and it is probably one of the worst things you can do to your child.

If you have rules, make sure it is clear what is expected. Make the consequences real. Talk to your child about problems that arise. Do not deny them time to speak their thoughts, even if they are wrong or silly.

Please, establish respect with your child. They will love evermore for it. A child want to be heard and respected. Give them that within reason. Don’t become so uninvolved or passive that they walk right over or around you.

You are in control of your house but you also respect your children and who they are becoming. Parents who do this are called “Authoritative.” This is the kind of parent we should all strive to be. Your children will be much more successful in many aspects of life if your parenting style is this.

Another thing I have noticed while reading about 7-year-olds is that they have to learn how to accept that people have different opinions. Everything is not black and white. As a parent, it will be your job to help them understand difference of opinions.

Sometimes you’ll just have to laugh off their reasoning and just agree with them. They will grow out of it eventually. If it is a bigger issue like whether it’s okay to hit someone or not is a whole other ball game and that should be addressed, of course.

Conclusion

I’ve never been a parent. I hope to be someday. I shared with you things I have studied and my personal experience with a sister that was extremely anxietous as a child. Love your child through all phases and know that they will grow out of these stages.

I hope that you can receive something from what I said. Best of luck and I hope that you grow together with your child through this experience.

Related Questions

What fine motor skills should a 7-year-old have? a 7-year-old child should have a good grasp on how to write well. By this point, a child will probably write neatly. Their motor skills will have become really fine and specific, like cutting around lines on a paper. A child of this age should be able to dress themselves and use the bathroom independently. They have more complex motor skills and understanding at this age. If your child is not at this point yet, don’t stress. They will get there eventually.

How do I get my child to act more mature? Kids need routines and responsibility. For whatever reason, a child becomes more mature when they realize that they have responsibility and someone relies on them. Teach your child about honesty. When they learn what it means to be honest, they are more likely to be mature. A child who is mature is also taught self-control. Help your child become a wise person over time. It will take some time but your child will begin to become more mature.

How do you handle a strong-willed child? Give your strong-willed choices. Allow them to decide. This helps them learn to bridle themselves. Give them a routine and rules they must follow. Be honest about the consequences and rewards. This helps so you don’t have a power struggle with your child. Your strong-willed child will learn from experience, so let them experience things.

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