Effects of Non-Normative Life Events on Preschool and Middle Aged Children; Cognitive and Socioemotional. This paper is intended to answer the question of what the effects are of non -normative life events on preschoolers and middle childhood aged children; cognitively and socioemotionally. This is very dear to me as I have two young children as well as older step children that have dealt with medical conditions with their father and I, as well as divorce with my older step children. Many factors in a child’s life from birth to adulthood can impact how they grow not only cognitively, but socioemotionally.
As many children are different, so are their ways in which they react in different non-normative life events. “Non-Normative events are unexpected or unforeseen events that occur atypically or unpredictably, with no apparent relationship to other life events, and to some but not all members of a developmental cohort. Still, non-normative life events occur in a context of normative developmental events and each can influence the other in significant ways” (Corr, and Corr, 2013). Children in loving caring homes may cope with the loss of their family pet better than a homeless child whose dog followed them around until it passed away.
A child’s social and cognitive development will impact them emotionally. “Children encounter the deaths of others that are significant in their lives. Such deaths include those of grandparents or parents, siblings or peers, friends or neighbors, teachers and other school personnel, and pets or wild animals. Many adults undervalue the prevalence and importance of such deaths for children. However, these experiences of childhood and adolescence can have immediate impact and long-term significance” (Corr, and Corr, 2013). Children often view divorce the same as the loss felt in a death.
Death is not the only non-normative event that can cause issues in childhood development. An injury of a loved one or illness, and divorce of children’s parents are also ways of a child’s cognitive, and socioemotional development can be affected. Children are naturally curious about the world that is around them. When an event occurs to change what they know as normal, the development changes as well. They attempt to understand why it occurred and adapt to the changes. Some children may blame themselves for mommy getting sick, or Buddy, the family dog, getting run over, although they may have no play in the events at all.
Many times adults try to block children from the event to try to protect their feelings. This has shown to do more harm than good. Children understand loss to a point, depending on age. Explaining why mommy’s belly is sick and why surgeons need to fix it, will help them cope with what is going on around them. Children NEED to know these events were not their fault. In my personal experience regarding illness and surgery, my husband and I include my four-year-old twins in every doctor’s appointment, hospital visit, and in anything we could so they may better understand what is going on with mommy.
We answered every question they had and explained to where they may understand. Even knowing what we told them, they still both reverted back to behaviors that made them feel more safe and comfortable. There is only so much a four-year-old can comprehend, and their reversion is something we prepared for. One of my twins began wetting himself during the day; this being a behavior we had broken months before. In the instance with my husband’s previous divorce, my twelve-year-old stepson consistently wets the bed at night. “Emotional stress is a frequent cause of daytime wetting.
The incontinence may begin after a known stress, such as starting kindergarten or a new school, the death of a relative, or a family illness. Most of the time, however, incontinence due to stress has no readily identifiable cause. The common age-range for this reaction to stress is from ages four to twelve. If the cause of his stress is identified and eliminated, the problem usually disappears within weeks. If not, the frequency may persist for two to three months” (Kids Growth, 2013). At preschool age, guilt is a common aspect expressed by children when they do something they know they shouldn’t.
Erikson’s theory is initiative versus guilt. By now the child has become convinced that they are a person all their own, discovering who they are as a person. Their emotional development is also a growing awareness of self, which is linked to the ability to feel a wide range of emotions. This allows them to make sense of other people’s reactions and to control their own. After a negative behavior, a child will feel guilt or shame after being told what they did was bad. In non-normative events, preschool children may be unable to distinguish between what it is they may or may not have done wrong.
Another personal example, is our miscarriage at 10 weeks, this much anticipated child made us very excited to tell our four-year-olds as soon as we found out, and then to have it break not only our hearts when we lost him or her but then to try to explain to them that the baby was gone and why, is still an uphill struggle. Even now almost two weeks later they still ask, and I’m not quite sure what to say to them except it was not their fault and they did nothing wrong, the baby was just too sick to come live with us.
These events lead to a lot of confusion as to what went wrong or what they could have done to help. They understand that mommy is upset and that hugging her will make her feel better. However, the reason of why she’s crying in first place can be confusing. Again a slight set back in potty habits has occurred. Children see emotions in our faces and actions. Knowing this can help us regulate the emotions of our young children. Parents are a crucial factor is doing this by taking an “emotion-coaching or emotion-dismissing approach” (Santrock).
Emotion-coaching and emotion-dismissing differs in the way the parent deals with the child’s negative emotions. Emotion-coaching parents monitor children’s emotions, watch them for opportunities to teach and label how they are feeling for future reference when the emotion is felt again. In emotion-dismissing parents, the parent is less likely to focus on denying, ignoring or trying to change the negative emotion, this can lead to confusion. Emotion-coaching, using that emotion to teach a lesson, can lead to more effective regulation than the children of dismissive parents.
In the non-normative event of divorce, this being such a gray area, a child’s development, social, emotional and cognitively, can go any which way. In many cases, the child or children involved are used as pawns in the divorce against one parent or the other. In the case of my husband’s previous divorce, his ex uses their children as the pawns to get her way. Having family history of mental instability, on their mother’s side, the divorce, and the negativity towards their father has caused mental issues with the oldest child.
As stated previously, making the child know that whatever the event is, the cause is not their fault. Any child being kept away from a parent is another disruptive and negative effect of divorce, and can have detrimental effects children. Divorce is seen as a loss, although both parents are still alive. The child or children must grieve this loss, and regardless of the opinions or hatred toward the other parent, one must swallow their pride for the sake of the child(ren). “For the young child, divorce shakes trust in dependency on parents who now behave in an extremely undependable way.
They surgically divide the family unit into two different households between which the child must learn to transit back and forth, for a while creating unfamiliarity, instability, and insecurity, never being able to be with one parent without having to be apart from the other” (Pickhardt, 2013). Reinforcing in the child that this situation is permanent will help ease them slowly into a life with two households. This is a long process, and all parents involved should understand this and help the child adjust. “The dependent child’s short term reaction to divorce can be an anxious one.
So much is different, new, unpredictable, and unknown that life becomes filled with scary questions? “What is going to happen to next? ” “Who will take care of me? ” “If my parents can lose for each other, can they lose love for me? ” “With one parent moving out, what if I lose the other too? “(Pickhardt, 2013). Answering all questions and being open to talking with your child about any fears or issues they have, can help their emotional development stay on track. The effects of non-normative life events on young children are reversion as a coping mechanism and mental instability.
These events can cause many social, emotional, as well as cognitive delays often times requiring medical or psychological intervention. Always be open and available to help your child in any way you can, whether it’s spending time with them, answering questions or obtaining professional help to help them cope with whatever loss or pain they may be experiencing. .