Social and Emotional Development: Ages 6–7
By this point, children have moved from the world of individual play to the universe of group interaction and budding relationships with other children. That evolution is accelerated by new relationships at school, where children of this age group begin to develop key life skills such as sharing, taking turns, cooperating with others and accepting responsibility for their actions.
At this stage, children may exhibit many of these characteristics:
- Develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments
- Acquire a sense of humor but may not understand sarcasm
- Develop judgment of right versus wrong and fair versus unfair
- Define what it means to be a boy or girl
- Participate in cooperative play (games with rules)
- Gain a sense of competence
- Learn to participate in group activities but may not yet have a sense of group loyalty
- Seek affirmation from adults
- Imitate adults
- Learn to make decisions with others
- Begin to set standards for their own behavior
- Learn greater self-control
- Learn to handle a wide range of emotions
- Understand more about their place in the world
- Show more independence from parents and family
- Start to think about the future
- Want to be liked and accepted by friends
What Parents Can Do
- Help your child develop a sense of responsibility by assigning them household tasks such as setting the table.
- Make clear rules, such as how long your child can watch TV or when they have to go to bed, and stick to them.
- Use discipline to guide and protect your child, rather than punishment to make them feel bad about themselves.
- Support your child in taking on new challenges, and encourage them to solve problems on their own.
- Help your child learn patience by letting others go first or by finishing a task before going out to play.
- Be alert for feelings of frustration and failure in your child.
- Encourage your child. Your consistent approval and guidance are keys to their self-esteem.
- When your child is feeling a strong negative emotion, teach them to take a breath and count to 10 or take a timeout.
Keep This in Mind
For the majority of children during this developmental stage, things are either “right” or “wrong,” and there are no gray areas. Through play, children express feelings, use creativity and their imagination, and make sense of the world. They are beginning to seek independence from family and developing friendships, and social skills start developing quickly. This is a critical time for children to start developing confidence in various areas, such as through friends, schoolwork and activities.