Developmental milestones for emotional and social skills can help you decide if your child lacks maturity. Keep in mind that children develop at different rates, so immaturity isn't always a cause for concern. But if it interferes with daily life, or other developmental skills lag too far behind, it may be time to seek professional help.
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Developmental stages define skills that should be accomplished for each age group, but the milestones are general guidelines, not definitive deadlines. Every child follows their own timeline, but all children must master the skills one step at a time. This concept is important because helping your immature child may mean going back to learn skills from an earlier stage.
The first step toward helping social immaturity is simply spending time together. Interact with your child, play games or engage in other age-appropriate activities to allow you to model and teach whatever social skills that your child lacks under the guise of play. If your child has problems playing with peers, create playdates that have structured activities to guide social interaction. Stay near the kids to intervene and offer suggestions if needed, but stay far enough away to give the sense of independence. The goal is to build skills and confidence by providing whatever support is needed to ensure successful social encounters. As your child grows older, show an interest in his preferred activities and keep the door open to his friends.
Emotional development includes the ability to have close friends, good self-esteem, the ability to express feelings, self-control and taking responsibility for your own actions. You can begin nurturing social maturity by never dismissing how your child feels. When her emotions are extreme or inappropriate for the circumstance, help her calm down and talk about why she was so angry or upset. If she’s unable to explain how she feels, teach words to define the feelings and offer ideas about appropriate ways to respond. Talk about what could have been done to avoid the problem and encourage her to think of options. As your child gets older, teach her how to compromise and to delay getting things that she wants. Don’t forget that a regular daily schedule and responsibilities, such as chores, contribute to emotional development.
Keep a written record of behaviors or interactions that worry you. Pay attention to developmental milestones and use checklists, such as the one available at the First Signs website, to get a sense about your child’s progress. If he's emotionally or socially immature or if he falls behind in any developmental skill, talk to your pediatrician as soon as possible. The sooner you identify possible developmental delays, the better the chance of remediating problems and the more successful your child will be at home, in school and in the community.