Expert Articles

The Crucial Foundation of Social-Emotional Development from home to school

Author: Ms. Nancy Ting
Senior Lecturer at Yew Chung College of Early Childhood Education

During the infancy and toddler stages, children primarily accumulate social interactions through their daily lives. They are curious about the things around them and enjoy observing the environment and the communication between people. At times, they observe how their parents and caregivers interact with others, attempting to read facial expressions and body language, and they are particularly sensitive to emotions such as joy, anger, sadness, and happiness. However, when faced with new environments and unfamiliar people and things, infants and toddlers often experience separation anxiety and worry. Once infants understand object permanence, they begin to exhibit separation anxiety. When your infant realizes that you will truly leave when you go away, it may make them feel very unsettled. Most infants experience stronger separation anxiety around 9 months of age.

How can parents alleviate separation anxiety during the transition from home to school?

Creating opportunities for infants and toddlers to engage in social activities, providing clear instructions and praise, and teaching positive and kind values. Encourage infants and toddlers to interact with others, thus learning how to build good relationships. In daily life, pay attention to using descriptive language and affirming children’s feelings. This can help infants and toddlers develop self-awareness and recognize their own and others’ emotions, understanding how their emotions and others’ emotions influence each other. They can learn self-emotional regulation and try to use appropriate methods to accept and express their emotions and needs, thereby controlling their behavior.

Initiate sharing your own emotions with your child, and encourage infants and toddlers to express their feelings. Caregivers can lead by example by sharing their emotions, sharing joys when happy, and not deliberately hiding their emotions when sad. This allows young children to understand that everyone, including adults, experiences different emotions, and it is perfectly normal. Even adults get upset or even cry when they encounter unpleasant things. Or, when faced with unreasonable situations, they may feel angry and need time to calm down and be alone. These methods can serve as concrete demonstrations for infants and toddlers to learn how to manage and regulate their emotions when they encounter different emotional states.


  • Bowlby, J. (1960). Separation anxiety.
  • Piaget, Jean (1977). Gruber, Howard E.; Vonèche, J. Jacques. (eds.). The essential Piaget. London: Routledge and K. Paul.
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The Crucial Foundation of Social-Emotional Development from home to school