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Social & Emotional Wellbeing

Below is information to help parents understand and foster social and emotional wellbeing in their children, from birth to 18 years of age, through LOVE, TALK, PLAY, and READING.


Parents can help to teach the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. These skills which accompany social and emotional wellbeing help children deal effectively with daily tasks and challenges and strengthen their resiliency, which can provide protection from factors that might otherwise place them at risk for adverse health outcomes. 

Infants & Toddlers (Birth - 36mos)

LOVE: Be affectionate and nurturing; hold and touch your baby frequently; make eye contact; smoke; coo at your baby.

TALK: Talk and sing to your baby.

PLAY: You are the most exciting thing for your baby; play peek-a-boo; imitate the baby's sound and movement.

READ: Make reading aloud part of your routine.

Remember, when you respond quickly to a baby's needs, you're loving them, not spoiling them!

Preschoolers (3 - 5 yo)

LOVE: Give praise, hugs, and spend special time together.

TALK: Listen actively by stopping what you are doing, making eye contact, and paying attention to what the child is saying.

PLAY: Play is the work of childhood and is critical to learning and healthy development.

READ: Use stories to help engage the child in labeling and identifying various emotions. 

Remember, all behavior has meaning!

School Age (6 - 10yo)

LOVE: Encourage and respect a child's growing independence, give hugs, and acknowledge their successes. (Remember to praise them for trying, not just succeeding). 

TALK: Talk with your child about their feelings, choices, and relationships.

PLAY: Create safe spaces for your child to develop social skills with peers. 

READ: Along with independent reading, create time for your child to read to you.

Remember, spending quality time together builds resilience!

Pre-adolescents (11-13yo)

LOVE: As so much is changing for the pre-teen, self-esteem is challenged and peer approval is desired. Create times for hugs and express your love for your child and show positive regard for their peers. 

TALK: Develop new routines based on the changing lifestyle of your child that allow for private conversations. Rather than open-ended questions that may overwhelm, try suggesting topics to talk about and give your child the choice. 

PLAY: The increasingly self-conscious child will relish private times with you that are full of laughter. It is good to provide a safe place for children to act young at times when they feel pressure to grow up. 

READ: Books about people their age will help pre-teens to accept themselves and the changes they are experiencing. Suggest books that highlight teens doing activities that make a positive impact in their world. 

Be as active in your pre-teen's life as possible. Attend school functions, including parent teacher conferences, have their friends over to your home, and get to know your child's friends and their parents.

Adolescents (14-18yo)

LOVE: Teens "try on" different aspects of personality as they are discovering what works for them. Express unconditional love. Offer support and parameters for exploration. 

TALK: Encourage teens to talk about their ideas and experiences. Listen without judgment. Choose calm and receptive moments to share your opinions. Help to build the connections in their frontal lobes by discussing what they know and what they are learning about link between their actions and the consequences. 

PLAY: As time spent with their peers increases, maintain regular family time with teens and let them help make choices for how that time is spent. Consider play that involves healthy risks. 

READ: Continue to model reading. Share your favorite books from the early adult years. Ask to read one of theirs.

Be active in your teenager's life. Know who their friends are, know what activities they are involved in, and know their grades. 

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This information was adapted from Wisconsin Knows: Children's Mental Health Matters
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