Emotional Skills



Children start gaining emotional skills as babies and gain new skills as they get older. Not all children develop at the same pace. Children express themselves in different ways and it is normal for primary school aged children to lose control of their emotions or show defiance while their emotional skills are developing.

Primary school aged children emotional skills include the following:

  • Enjoy playing with other children
  • Test boundaries
  • Begin to understand what it means to feel embarrassed
  • Are more aware of other’s perceptions
  • Try to express feelings with words but may resort to aggression when upset

Emotional dysfunction is the extreme side of not being able to manage emotions and difficulty calming down when upset and in children might include:

  • Excessive crying
  • Extreme anger
  • Physical aggression toward self or others
  • Bouts of impulsivity that result in harmful risk taking
  • Suicidal thoughts even at an early age

Children who don’t have the ability to control their feelings or behaviour can have a harder time making or keeping friends. Children who are rejected by their peers are also more likely to get bullied.


If you have concerns for your child, you should seek an appointment with a Counsellor or Psychologist. Sometimes medication is needed but treatment is complicated due to concerns about how medication will affect their brain development.

You can guide your child and encourage positive behaviours to help them learn to behave in appropriate ways. You should set clear house rules and enforce them fairly.  When your child follows the rules, praise your child. Also showing respect to your child even when you are disciplining them and helping them work through their emotional or behavioural issues.

Questions you can ask your Health Care Team:

  • What signs do I need to look out for Emotional Dysfunction?
  • What ways can I help my child?
  • Should my child’s school teacher be informed and school support put in place?

It is difficult seeing your child not being able to regulate their emotions and it can affect the whole family. Talking to a Counsellor or Psychologist to help the whole family can help ease the anxiety for you and your child.

“A child whose behaviour pushes you away is a child who needs
connection before anything else”
- Kelly Bartlett

Need support? NurtureConnect allows you to connect with our NurtureProgram support team, or call our 24 hour NurtureLine 1300 622 243 or join our Facebook community.


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Disclaimer: This publication by Miracle Babies Foundation is intended solely for general education and assistance and it is it is not medical advice or a healthcare recommendation. It should not be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment for any individual condition. This publication has been developed by our Parent Advisory Team (all who are parents of premature and sick babies) and has been reviewed and approved by a Clinical Advisory Team. This publication is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Miracle Babies Foundation recommends that professional medical advice and services be sought out from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your personal circumstances.To the extent permitted by law, Miracle Babies Foundation excludes and disclaims any liability of any kind (directly or indirectly arising) to any reader of this publication who acts or does not act in reliance wholly or partly on the content of this general publication. If you would like to provide any feedback on the information please email [email protected].