Parents

Healthy Development

As a parent, you are your child’s first teacher. The bond that you form with your child helps to build a strong foundation for your child’s healthy social and emotional development. Engaging in “serve and return” with your child (engaging with your child in play, conversation, and affection) contributes to a nurturing and supportive relationship. Social-emotional health is foundational to academic achievement, lifelong health and success.

One in five children and adolescents may have a mental health problem. Yet an estimated two-thirds of all young people with mental health problems are not getting the help they need, in part due to a shortage of quality early childhood mental health service. Roughly 13% of women experience depression after child birth. Maternal depression makes it harder for women to nurture their babies and impacts the overall quality of family life. There is growing evidence that mental health of fathers and other care-givers is as important to young children’s well-being.

As a parent, you can help to ensure that your child has a strong social-emotional foundation and that your own mental health care needs are met.

You can:

  • Participate in rich, interactive relationships between you and your child
  • Read daily to your child from birth on
  • Pay attention to your child’s temperament and feelings
  • Take care of your own mental health
  • Ensure that you and your child get appropriate social-emotional /mental health screens
  • Learn about, prevent or address “toxic stress” in your life
  • Advocate for investments in healthy development by telling your story and communicating with elected officials

Priority Issues

Champions

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Stable, caring relationships are essential for healthy development.

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University