Promote Social-Emotional Well-Being

Love, Talk, Play, Read

Infants and Toddlers (Birth – 36 months)

  • Love: Be affectionate and nurturing; hold and touch your baby frequently; make eye contact; smile; 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!

National resource: ZERO to THREE, Social Emotional Development

State resource: Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health.

Preschoolers (3 to 5 year olds)

  • 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!

National resource: Vanderbilt University, The Center for Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning

State resource: Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health and Wisconsin Pyramid Model

School Age (6-10)

  • 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, 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!

National Resource: American Academy of Pediatrics, Building Resilience in Children

Search Institute, Assets in Middle Childhood

Pre-adolescents (11-13)

  • 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 the 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.

For more information check out the Palo Alto Medical Foundations website.

Adolescents (14-18)

  • 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 the 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.

National Resources:

Kids Health, A Parent’s Guide

Centers for Disease Control, Positive Parenting

Search Institute, Developmental Assets 

   Promote Social-Emotional Well-Being Printable Document


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