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Like their bodies, children’s brains still have a lot of growing to do after they are born. What children learn through their early interactions with parents and caregivers becomes the foundation for all future development. Research shows that nurturing relationships and safe, secure environments improve brain development and child well-being.

Parents and caregivers who have a social network and concrete support in times of need are better able to provide safe environments and nurturing experiences for their children. All families need a helping hand at some point, so we want to be sure you know that help is available when you need it.

This Guide provides information about:

  • Child development from birth through the teen years
  • Tips for creating the stimulating and nurturing environments children need
  • Tips for managing the challenges of family life
  • Contact information for valuable community resources

Complete Positive Parenting Guide - PDF


Descarga la Guía de Apoyo a la Familia


    Dear Parent or Caregiver

    Positive Parenting Guide

    Dear Parent or Caregiver:

    Like their bodies, children’s brains still have a lot of growing to do after they are born. What children learn through their early interactions with parents and caregivers becomes the foundation for all future development. Research shows that nurturing relationships and safe, secure environments improve brain development and child well-being.

    Parents and caregivers who have a social network and concrete support in times of need are better able to provide safe environments and nurturing experiences for their children. All families need a helping hand at some point, so we want to be sure you know that help is available when you need it.

    This book provides information about:

    • Child development from birth through the teen years
    • Tips for creating the stimulating and nurturing environments children need
    • Tips for managing the challenges of family life
    • Contact information for valuable community resources

    Remember, it is also important for you to take good care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. When you are feeling good, it is easier to be a positive, loving parent and do all you need to do to care for your child.

    We hope you use the resources in the following pages as a guide for what you can expect as your child develops. We also encourage you to talk to your child’s doctor or other professionals if you have any questions or concerns about your child.

    *This guide is also available as an e-book for smart phones, tablets or other mobile

    Your Child at Birth

    Congratulations! You are now a parent! Feeling anxious, overwhelmed and exhausted is normal. As you begin to adjust to your new life, try to remember that getting as much information and support as you can now will help you make the best decisions for your family in the future.

    Crying The average newborn cries two to three hours a day, and sometimes more. Babies this age may cry for no reason and a parent may not be able to stop the baby from crying. Most of the time this is normal.

    Sleep Newborns may sleep up to 20 hours a day but will not have any sort of sleep pattern for the first two months. It can take up to six weeks for babies to learn to be awake during the day and asleep at night. Let babies form their own schedule by feeding them when they are hungry and putting them to bed when they seem tired.

    Nutrition Newborns need to be fed every two to four hours. The American Academy of Pediatrics and many other world-wide organizations strongly support breastfeeding. Baby formula is a popular alternative to breastfeeding for infants less than one year of age. To meet your baby’s nutritional needs, baby formula must be prepared exactly as described on the container.

    Physical Development – Many babies lose a little weight (5–7% of birth weight) during the first few days of life. They will usually return to their birth weight within two weeks as they begin to eat more during feedings. After the first two weeks, newborns typically gain around one ounce per day for the first two months, and

    • Have almost fully developed senses of taste and smell
    • See objects best when they are 30 to 40 inches away from their face as their eyes cannot yet fully focus at close range. That’s why it’s so good to hold them close when feeding and interacting with them.
    • Try to lift their head and look around

    Social and Emotional Development – Newborns typically:

    • Recognize the voices of mom and dad
    • Recognize familiar caregivers
    • Look at parents when they speak
    • Quiet when a voice is heard

    Cognitive Development – Babies respond purely through reflexes at birth. Some common reflexes are:

    • Grasp reflex: baby will tightly grasp objects placed in hand
    • Sucking reflex: baby begins sucking when mouth area is touched
    • Startle reflex: baby pulls arms and legs inward after hearing a loud noise
    • Step reflex: baby makes stepping motions when sole of foot touches a hard surface
    Coping With Crying

    WHEN YOUR BABY WON’T STOP CRYING, it can be very upsetting. Know that it is normal for your baby to cry. The average newborn cries two to three hours a day, and sometimes more. Sometimes it may seem like your baby never stops crying; and all parents find it hard to cope with crying. It may seem like your baby cries more than others, but ALL babies cry a lot.

    You can try the following things to help soothe your baby:

    • Check your baby’s basic needs: feed, burp or change your baby’s diaper if needed
    • Make sure your baby’s clothing is not too tight, too hot, too cold, etc.
    • Offer your baby a pacifier, but never force it
    • Gently rock your baby in a rocking chair or in your arms
    • Softly pat your baby on the back
    • Sing or talk softly to your baby
    • Play soft music
    • Take your baby for a walk in the stroller
    • Give your baby a warm bath

    Strategies to handle your frustration when your baby is crying:

    • Call a trusted friend, relative or neighbor and ask them to come over to watch the baby and give you a break
    • Sit down, close your eyes and take deep breaths
    • Listen to music
    • Exercise
    • Make sure baby is safe in crib and go to another room

    Dealing with a crying baby can be very stressful, but please NEVER SHAKE YOUR BABY! Shaking a baby can cause blindness, brain damage or even death. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it is important to reach out for support.

    Soothe, Don’t Shake Your Baby
    Everyone who cares for your child should know about Shaken Baby Syndrome. Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is one of the most common injuries causing death by physical abuse to infants in Florida. SBS occurs when a frustrated parent or other caregiver loses control and shakes a young child, causing permanent brain damage or death. Crying is the most common reason someone shakes a baby. The outcomes for survivors typically include cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, seizures and learning/behavioral difficulties. Young males who care for a baby alone are most at risk to shake a baby. Everyone who watches your baby needs to know they should never shake your baby. The most important thing you can do to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome is to understand your baby and how to cope with him when he cries or is irritable.

    The Florida Department of Health contributed to the content of this tip sheet. For more information, visit their website at

    Choosing a Responsible Caregiver

    WHEN YOU LEAVE YOUR CHILD WITH YOUR BOYFRIEND/PARTNER OR BABYSITTER, you expect them to care for your child just like you would, BUT that is not always the case! Every year, an overwhelming number of children are abused, neglected and even killed by temporary caregivers. Most of the time, these are boyfriends of mothers of young children but other temporary caregivers, including friends of the parents who may be ill-equipped to care for these young children, are also guilty of committing these horrific crimes.

    When young children are placed in the hands of caregivers, with little or no child care experience, the results can be life-threatening. In fact, children who live with adults not related to them are nearly 50 times as likely to die of inflicted injuries as children living with two biological parents. It’s crucial for parents to have a responsible adult or licensed child care facility to care for their young children.

    People who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol can get angry over minor things that all children do, like crying or spilling something. Some things to know and consider when deciding whether to leave your child in the care of a babysitter or caregiver are listed below but the only way to gauge this person’s reaction to your child’s behavior is to spend significant time observing them around your child.

    Consider, does your partner/babysitter:

    • Expect your child to do things that are unrealistic for his/her age?
    • Show impatience or even anger when your child cries or has a tantrum?
    • Overreact when your child breaks rules or refuses to follow directions?
    • Call your child bad names?
    • Think it’s funny to scare your child?
    • Say you are a bad parent and not strict enough with your child?
    • Hurt your child? Blame you and say it’s no big deal?
    • Make all the decisions for you and your child?
    • Tell you that your child is a nuisance?
    • Drink alcohol or use drugs around your child?
    • Handle guns and knives around your child?

    If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, your child may be at risk of injury. Never let a person you do not know very well have access to or babysit your children. Get to know the person before you let them care for your child…your child’s LIFE depends on it!


    Besides knowing the answers to the questions above, take these additional steps to ensure you are choosing a responsible caregiver:

    Know if your partner/boyfriend has a criminal history

    1. Check the Florida Department of Corrections Offender Information Search at
    2. Check the Florida Sexual Offenders and Predators Database via direct link at:

    Also consider:

    • How do they treat other women in the family and neighborhood?
    • How do they treat other children in their family (nieces, nephews, friend’s children)?
    • If they have children, what is their relationship with them? Their mother?
    • How have they treated former lovers, spouses and partners?

    When you leave home:

    • Be sure to leave your cell number or another emergency contact number
    • Let your partner/boyfriend know that it’s okay to call for help
    • Check in often while you are away

    When you return home:

    • Ask your partner/babysitter what your child did while you were away.
    • If your child is old enough, ask how they liked being babysat by this person.
    • Observe your child’s appearance, condition and behavior. Do they seem peaceful and happy?

    For assistance in finding

    Your Child at Six to Nine Months

    STIMULATING YOUR OLDER BABY REQUIRES NEW ACTIVITIES that will help improve their development in all areas. At this age, babies are very social and interact with others by smiling, waving, babbling and entertaining anyone they know. Babies this age are increasing skills like grasping, rolling over, sitting up, and possibly even crawling. Set up a safe environment for your baby to explore; mobility will improve every day and your baby will try to reach any objects that look interesting.


    At this stage, your baby still needs two or possibly three naps a day. Put your baby down to sleep for the night between 6 and 8 pm, and expect 11 to 13 hours of sleep. However, some babies, especially those who are breastfed, may still wake for a night feeding.


    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting to introduce solid foods until six months of age. Some basic ways for starting solids are:

    • Mix single-ingredient solids like rice cereal with equal amounts of breast milk or formula.
    • Start with one feeding of solids a day. Add a second feeding when your baby can eat two to three tablespoons per feeding.
    • It is important to begin with vegetables, then fruit and finally protein. When your baby becomes used to spoon feedings, add single-ingredient smooth or pureed foods like carrots, peas, apples or “stage one” baby foods in the jar.
    • To make sure your baby is not allergic to a specific food, be sure to wait at least two to three days before starting another new food.

    Physical Development

    • Develops eye-hand coordination
    • Sits with, and eventually without, being supported
    • Reaches for a bottle or spoon when being fed
    • Transfers objects from one hand to the other
    • Begins to crawl (some infants never crawl; however, by 9 months, many babies will)
    • Starts to stand (this developmental stage varies for each child; however, some infants are able to pull themselves up and hold onto furniture by 9 months)

    Social and Emotional Development

    • Talks or babbles while looking in a mirror
    • Becomes upset if a toy is taken away
    • Responds to own name and recognizes family members’ names
    • Shows mild to severe anxiety when parents leave (separation anxiety)

    Cognitive Development

    • Develops a better awareness of the world around them
    • Begins to look for and find partially hidden objects, watches a ball rolled out of sight
    • Tries to get objects that are out of reach
    • Makes noises to show displeasure or satisfaction
    • Explores with hands and mouth

    A Home Safety Checklist should be completed at each stage of your child’s development.

    • Prevent injuries by repairing wobbly furniture or putting it in a room your baby does not enter, by using toy chests without lids or with supports that hold a lid open in any position, and by securing televisions, dressers and other heavy objects
    • Prevent choking by keeping potential hazards like keys, coins, rings, loose buttons and other small items out of baby’s reach
    • Prevent falls by using child safety gates at the top and bottom of all staircases
    • Prevent poisoning and other injuries by keeping purses and wallets out of baby’s reach
    • Always supervise your child when she is in and around water, both inside and outside the home

    Positive Parenting Activities that Promote Nurturing and Attachment

    Help your baby cope with separation anxiety by:

    • Explaining that you are going to leave, but that you’ll return
    • Always saying goodbye when you leave your baby to help teach your baby that you will come back
    • Providing a comfort object that will help your baby feel close to you while you are away

    When to be Concerned

    While each baby develops at his or her own pace, you should be aware of certain milestones your child should be reaching. Failure to reach certain milestones may be a sign of medical or developmental problems requiring special attention. You should let your baby’s doctor know if at six months your child:

    • Seems very stiff, with tight muscles
    • Seems very floppy, like a rag doll
    • Refuses to cuddle
    • Cannot sit with help
    • Consistently turns one or both eyes in or out
    • Doesn’t seem to enjoy being around people
    • Doesn’t laugh or squeal
    • Doesn’t actively reach for objects
    Your Child at 12 to 18 Months

    AT 12 TO 18 MONTHS, your child is still growing quickly, but not as noticeably as during the first year. This developmental stage will be filled with firsts. Some babies will learn to say their first words or take their first steps, while just about all toddlers will begin to make their first efforts at independence. As children begin to walk, run and climb, they will gain confidence and a greater sense of independence. Children this age are also curious about the nature of people and things. Your child needs encouragement and freedom to explore, as well as clear boundaries and limits to feel safe.

    Keep in mind: Now that your child has teeth, you should brush them daily with a baby toothbrush and water

    The developmental milestones typically reached at this age allow children to start placing things, people and actions in categories. For example, when you say you’re going to the store, your toddler is beginning to create a mental picture of the supermarket, and of you in it.


    At this age, your child needs about 14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Most children will start giving up their morning nap and instead take one longer afternoon nap per day. As children adjust to less napping, they may be ready for bed a little earlier—anytime between 6 and 8 pm.



    At 12 months, babies should eat a balanced diet of healthy foods such as: squash (vegetable), bananas (fruit), cheese (dairy), and chicken (protein). All foods should be cut into small pieces so children can feed themselves without the risk of choking. Foods you should still AVOID include:

    • Raw carrots
    • Popcorn
    • Nuts
    • Hot dogs
    • Hard candy
    • Whole grapes

    Babies are still exploring most foods and probably won’t eat a lot at a single sitting. Try to provide five or six small meals a day instead of three larger ones and avoid eating meals or snacks while watching TV.


    By 12 months, your baby is ready to stop drinking formula and begin drinking up to 24 ounces of whole milk a day. Give your baby milk from a cup rather than a bottle. Don’t forget to offer water throughout the day.

    Physical Development

    • Walks without help
    • Enjoys holding objects while walking - often one in each hand
    • Holds a crayon and scribbles (but with little control)
    • Gestures or points to indicate wants
    • Turns pages in a book
    • Likes to push, pull and dump things

    Cognitive Development

    • Understands and follows simple, one-step directions
    • Says about 8 to 20 words, including “hi” and “bye”
    • Identifies objects in a book when asked
    • Pays attention to conversations

    Social and Emotional Development

    • Enjoys being held and read to
    • Imitates sounds and facial expressions
    • Plays alone with toys


    Your child can move quickly and is able to get into many dangerous situations. Pay attention to your child’s surroundings and always provide adult supervision. 

    • Most toddler falls are from windows and balconies. Help prevent falls by moving furniture away from windows, installing window guards and securing balcony doors with child-resistant latches.
    • Prevent motor vehicle injuries by placing your baby in an appropriate rear-facing car seat. Infants and toddlers
      should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat
      manufacturer. Never leave your child alone in the car, not even for a minute. The temperature inside a car can reach
      deadly levels in minutes, even in mild weather.
    • Prevent burns by blocking the kitchen with gates and keeping hot liquids out of reach.
    • Prevent drowning by installing safety latches on toilets, emptying buckets and keeping pet water bowls out of your child’s reach.
    • Prevent poisoning by installing latches on drawers, cabinets and anyplace where medications or cleaning materials are kept.

    Call Poison Control immediately if you think your child has swallowed something poisonous: 1-800-222-1222.

    Positive Parenting Activities that Promote Nurturing and Attachment

    • Your child’s growing sense of independence will push him or her to test the limits of acceptable behavior. This is the right time to set a few limits that your child can understand and that you can consistently enforce. Children’s first rules should help protect their safety.

    You can also try these age-appropriate discipline techniques:

    • Stay one step ahead. Distract or redirect your child from unsafe objects or activities.
    • Save “no” primarily for safety issues. If children hear “no” too often, they start to tune it out.
    • Use non-verbal communication. Give a stern or firm look for minor incidents.
    • Allow time for your child to play alone. Independent play allows him or her to choose and direct the activity, and helps build confidence.
    • Never use spanking or any other physical punishment. Spanking is never an effective form of discipline.

    When to be Concerned

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should let your doctor know if at 12 months your baby:

    • Does not crawl
    • Drags one side of body while crawling for more than one month
    • Cannot stand while supported
    • Doesn’t search for objects that are hidden while he watches
    • Says no single words
    • Does not point to objects or pictures
    • Does not use gestures such as waving or shaking head
    Positive Parenting Tips that Promote Good Behavior in Early Childhood


    Young children need a regular schedule. They behave better when they know what to expect. Try to have them eat, nap and play at the same times each day. When planning their daily schedule, include active time and quiet time; time playing together and time for children to play by themselves.


    Encouraging words help your child build confidence. The key to encouraging your child is to be a coach more than a cheerleader. A cheerleader says: “What a great job!” or “What a beautiful picture!” A coach uses specific praise. For example, when your child sets the table, you might say, “You did such a good job setting the table! You put the spoons and forks in the right place and remembered the napkins!” When you look at a child’s painting, you might say, “This painting just glows with color. You used blue, green, red, yellow and orange. Tell me how you did this!” Specific praise means a lot more to a child than a brief, “You are great.”

    Additional tips:

    • Tell your child what they can DO instead of telling them DON’T
    • Provide children with simple explanations for your rules or limits and offer alternatives
    • Parents should work together so that children get a set of consistent limits. Whether parents are living together or apart, having the same rules is important to avoid confusing children.


    Change Your Approach

    Instead of: “Don’t leave your toy there.”
    Try: “Take your toy back to your room.”

    Instead of: “Don’t touch anything.”
    Try: “We are just looking at these things.”

    Instead of: “Don’t kick her.”
    Try: “Kicking hurts, use your words to tell her you are upset.”

    Use Simple Explanations and Alternatives

    “It is 8:00 and time for bed; you may play with the markers tomorrow."
    “You may not have popcorn now because it is dinnertime. You may have some Jell-O
    for dessert after you are finished with your dinner.”

    Practice Giving Choices*

    Ask your children if they would like a banana or applesauce for their snack.
    Would they like to play with blocks or books?

    *Avoid asking if your child is ready to go to bed, or if they would like to put on their jacket before going outside because it is cold. These activities are not optional.

    Your Child at 24 to 36 Months

    TWO-YEAR-OLDS ARE LEARNING SO MUCH ABOUT THE WORLD AROUND THEM. They begin to ask lots of questions, and they love to imitate adults. They are learning to share and take turns. Sometimes they want to play with others, and sometimes they want to be alone. Toddlers this age like to make choices and do more things on their own.


    For many children this age, it’s time to leave the crib and move on to a bed.

    • Make the transition exciting by talking about the big bed and the items that might go in it, such as new bedding or a favorite stuffed animal
    • Stick to the same bedtime (between 6 and 8 pm) and continue with your normal bedtime routines like reading, singing and bathing
    • Explain to children that once they have been kissed good night and tucked in, they are not to get out of bed. If your child gets out of bed, quietly and calmly take him or her back to bed until he or she learns to stay there.


    At this age, children often become picky eaters and lose interest in food. You may find that some days, your child might not be interested in food at all, and other days, he might only want to eat a certain type of food. Be assured, when your child is hungry, he will want to eat—it is your job to ensure you are providing healthy options by offering a variety of healthy foods.

    • Avoid the use of food as a reward
    • Avoid withholding food as a punishment

    Physical Development

    • Runs, jumps and climbs
    • Walks on tiptoes
    • Throws and kicks balls
    • Learns to zip and unzip
    • Drinks from a small cup without spilling (in the beginning, a cup with a sippy top)
    • Undresses self
    • Dresses with help
    • Uses a fork and spoon correctly
    • Helps to put things away

    Social and Emotional Development

    • Likes having familiar stories read to them
    • Begins to enjoy playing alone
    • Initiates own play activities
    • Doesn’t like changes in routines
    • Watches other children at play and joins in
    • Has a hard time sharing things
    • Shows independence and wants to do things alone
    • Follows simple rules such as taking turns

    Cognitive Development

    • Calls self by own name
    • Speaks 900 or more words
    • Points and names own body parts when asked
    • Uses phrases and three- to five-word sentences
    • Repeats simple rhymes and songs
    • Begins to develop a longer attention span
    • Carries out simple one, two or three-step requests


    A Home Safety Checklist should be completed at each stage of your child’s development. 

    • Prevent choking by choosing toys that do not have small parts
    • Prevent burns by keeping hot foods in the middle of the table and testing the temperature of foods before giving them to your child.

    Positive Parenting Activities that Promote Nurturing and Attachment

    • Try to remain patient and keep your cool during temper tantrums.
    • Rather than using physical punishment, create consequences that relate to the behavior. For example, if your child colors on the wall, take away all the crayons and explain that he can try again later to play with crayons.
    • Stay in control and do not give in to unreasonable requests. For example, when it is time to eat or go to bed, take away toys.
    • When children are upset about being disciplined, allow time for both you and them to calm down before trying to talk to them about their behavior. Let them know you understand how they feel, but that certain behavior is not acceptable.
    • Avoid problem situations. If your child is likely to become unreasonable when he’s hungry, remember to carry snacks with you

    When to be Concerned

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should let your doctor know if at 24 months your child:

    • Cannot push a wheeled toy
    • Doesn’t follow simple directions
    • Doesn’t imitate actions or words
    • Fails to develop a heel-toe walking pattern after several months of walking or walks exclusively on toes
    • Doesn’t speak at least 15 words
    • Doesn’t use two-word sentences
    Your Child at Four Years Old

    FOUR-YEAR-OLDS MAY NOT BE GROWING PHYSICALLY AS FAST AS THEY DID AS AN INFANT, but they are making leaps and bounds both socially and emotionally. Your child can be easily frustrated, but is learning to gain self control. You can help by providing encouragement and support while maintaining patience during those frustrating moments.


    Four-year-olds need at least 12 hours of sleep a day. They may or may not be napping; it all depends on the child. It is common for four-year-olds to get out of bed at night with many excuses not to go to sleep. The best thing to do is stick to the bedtime routine and when your little ones need a drink for the sixth time, be calm but firm with them and let them know it is bedtime and that you will see them in the morning.


    Proper nutrition includes:

    • Three meals a day, plus two nutritious snacks
    • Limiting high sugar and high fat foods
    • Eating fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low fat dairy products

    Physical Development

    • Walks backwards
    • Jumps forwards many times
    • Walks up and down stairs
    • Somersaults
    • Uses safety scissors
    • Cuts on line continuously
    • Copies squares and crosses
    • Prints a few capital letters
    • Draws a person

    Social and Emotional Development

    • Enjoys playing with other children
    • Takes turns and shares (most of the time); may still be rather bossy
    • Seeks out adult approval
    • Understands and obeys simple rules (most of the time)
    • Likes to talk and carries on detailed conversations
    • Understands jealousy
    • Fears the dark and monsters
    • Begins to understand danger
    • Has difficulty separating make-believe from reality
    • Feels anger and frustration and may still throw tantrums
    • Enjoys pretending
    • Has a vivid imagination and sometimes imaginary playmates

    Cognitive Development

    • Groups and matches objects
    • Organizes materials
    • Asks “why” and “how”
    • Tells their own name and age
    • Pays attention for longer periods of time
    • Learns by watching and listening
    • Shows awareness of past and present
    • Follows a series of two to four directions
    • Points to and names colors
    • Understands order and process
    • Counts to five
    • Knows the names of their street and town


    A Home Safety Checklist should be completed at each stage of your child’s development.

    • Always supervise while your child is in and around water—both in and outside of the home > Teach pedestrian behavior such as crossing streets and using sidewalks and crosswalks
    • If you must have a gun in the house, keep it separate from the bullets in a different locked place

    Positive Parenting Activities that Promote Nurturing and Attachment

    Your child is quickly leaving behind baby behaviors. There are new skills your children must learn and behaviors they are learning to control. They are beginning to solve problems and learning to follow rules. How are they processing all this new information? They are imitating the adults around them as they begin to understand many different functions in their world.

    • Give your child a specific chore in the house that needs to be done each day; like feeding the fish, helping set the table, cleaning up toys or checking the mail.
    • Teach them to always say please and thank you when asking for something.
    • Teach the importance of not interrupting others when they are speaking unless it is something important.

    Children this age need to learn healthy ways to deal with anger and the importance of self-control. Children may feel very angry and not understand how to let it out. Help them label their emotions and explain that it is ok to feel that way, but that we must still follow all the rules.

    When to be Concerned

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should let your doctor know if at four years old your child:

    • Still clings or cries whenever his parents leave him
    • Shows no interest in interactive games
    • Ignores other children
    • Doesn’t respond to people outside the family
    • Doesn’t engage in fantasy play
    • Resists dressing, sleeping or using the toilet
    • Lashes out without any self-control when angry or upset
    • Cannot copy a circle
    • Doesn’t use sentences of more than three words
    • Doesn’t use “me” and “you” appropriately
    • Can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality
    • Cannot understand two-part commands
    Healthy Social Development and Bullying Prevention

    TEACHING CHILDREN HOW TO INTERACT WITH OTHERS IN HEALTHY WAYS will benefit them not only at school, but also throughout their lives. It will also help them recognize inappropriate behaviors such as bullying. Bullying is a pattern of aggressive behavior that makes another person feel hurt, degraded, threatened or humiliated. Some examples of bullying include name calling, pushing, leaving others out of an activity and vandalizing personal possessions. Cyberbullying occurs when these activities take place through computer communications and the internet.

    It is important to help your child understand what bullying is and what they can do if they are bullied or see others being bullied. All kids involved in bullying whether they are bullied, bully others, or see bullying—can be affected. It is important to support all kids involved to make sure the bullying doesn’t continue and effects can be minimized.

    You can help your children develop social skills and form healthy relationships with their peers by:


    • Providing a safe and healthy atmosphere at home
    • Keeping the lines of communication open between family members
    • Encouraging them to play with other children outside school hours, hosting sleepovers, and joining clubs and groups
    • Teaching your child what qualities to look for in a friend, such as someone who makes them feel comfortable and likes them for who they are
    • Practicing conversation skills like asking questions and listening and explaining the kinds of comments that might upset others, lead to teasing and get in the way of making friends—for example, ‘Your hair is always messy’
    • Talking about how different situations at school and with friends might be handled—for example, ‘Maybe if you shared your new toy it might help.’ or ‘Smiling makes people feel happier. It helps if you smile when you first meet people.’
    • Talking with your child about what bullying is, why bullying is wrong and what they can do if they witness their peers being bullied
    • Teaching children not to participate in teasing or hurting other children
    • Teaching children that reporting bullying is different from tattling on someone bullying hurts someone and can be stopped
    • Encouraging children to seek help from teachers or other adults if they see someone being bullied (If they are scared to tell by themselves, they should seek help with a friend or even an older sibling)

    Is Your Child Being Bullied?

    Many times kids won’t ask for help, so it is important to know what to look for. If your child is at immediate risk of harming himself or others, get help right away.

    Children react to bullying in different ways. Some signs that a child is being bullied may include:

    • Shy, insecure, suffers from low self-esteem
    • Torn articles of clothing or missing belongings
    • Unexplainable bruises, cuts or scrapes
    • Fear of going to school or participating in organized activities
    • Anxious or depressed when returning home from school
    • Quiet or seems withdrawn
    • Complains of illness such as stomachaches
    • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
    • Has trouble sleeping or often has bad dreams

    Here are some tips to help your child if he or she is being bullied:

    • Listen to what your child says
    • Support your child by talking about how to solve the problem
    • Avoid blaming your child for provoking the situation; this can make the child feel further victimized and may close the lines of communication
    • Ask specific questions about what, who, where, and how long the bullying has been happening
    • Encourage your child to continue being themselves—changing their ways for others is not the right solution to end bullying
    • Teach your child how to step away from the bullying situations instead of fighting back, which may make matters worse
    • Contact the school, principal or teacher immediately

    Avoid these mistakes:

    • Never tell the child to ignore the bullying.
    • Do not blame the child for being bullied. Even if he or she provoked the bullying, no one deserves to be bullied.
    • Do not tell the child to physically fight back against the kid who is bullying. It could get the child hurt, suspended, or expelled.
    • Parents should resist the urge to contact the other parents involved. It may make matters worse. School or other officials can act as mediators between parents.

    Follow-up. Show a commitment to making bullying stop. Because bullying is behavior that repeats or has the potential to be repeated, it takes consistent effort to ensure that it stops.

    Is Your Child Bullying Others?

    Signs a Child is Bullying Others Kids may be bullying others if they:

    • Get into physical or verbal fights
    • Have friends who bully others
    • Are increasingly aggressive
    • Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
    • Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
    • Blame others for their problems
    • Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
    • Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity

    Finding out your child is a bully may come as a shock. As a parent, you may feel disappointed or angry. Feelings of denial are also common. It is important to remember children act differently in different social settings. Guiding children and teaching them appropriate behavior is a big responsibility.

    Here are some useful tips to help STOP your child from bullying others:

    • Tell your child that it is unkind to make others feel unhappy
    • Tell your child that bullying is inappropriate and explain how you expect their behavior to change (making expectations clear helps children recognize desired behavior)
    • Help them recognize appropriate social skills and learn the kind of behavior that is appreciated and accepted by praising them for kind acts offered to other children
    • Spend more time with your child and monitor his or her behavior
    • Surround your child with positive role models
    • Teach your child other ways to make and keep friends
    • Seek help from school counselors

    Follow-up. After the bullying issue is resolved, continue finding ways to help the child who bullied to understand how their actions affect other people. For example, praise acts of kindness or talk about what it means to be a good friend.

    What Can Your Child Do to Help Stop Bullying?


    Even if a child is not directly involved in bullying, they may be contributing to the behavior. Witnessing the behavior may also affect the child.

    Here are some things bystanders can do to stop and prevent bullying:

    • Be a friend to the person being bullied. Reaching out to the person being bullied by talking to them, sitting with them at lunch or inviting them to play during recess helps them know they are not alone.
    • Tell a trusted teacher, family member or coach. Adults can help stop bullying, but only if they know about it. If your child has already talked to an adult and it appears nothing has changed, you may need to get more adults involved. Teachers, counselors, custodians, nurses and parents can all help to address and prevent bullying.
    • Lend a hand. Bystanders can sometimes help the person being bullied by causing a distraction to draw attention away from the bully, or giving the person being bullied a reason to leave the scene. For example, a bystander could say, “Come on, we need to get to class.” Or “Mr. Smith needs to see you right now.”
    • Speak up and walk away. Let those who bully know that it is not funny or entertaining. Don’t provide an audience because that often encourages bullying behavior.
    • Set a good example. Get involved in anti-bullying campaigns and projects.



    Using the internet, cell phones, or other electronic means to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person is called cyberbullying. Cyberbullying affects almost half of all American teens, but most victims say they have never told a parent or other adult about their negative online experiences.

    Like other forms of bullying, teens may engage in cyberbullying because they think that it is harmless or funny, or because the behavior is encouraged by their friends. Teens who might not engage in other forms of bullying may engage in cyberbullying because they believe that their online behavior cannot be tracked or because they are unaware of the serious consequences of their actions.

    Children who are cyberbullied are more likely to use drugs and/or alcohol, skip school, experience in-school bullying, receive poor grades, have lower self-esteem, and experience depression or suicidal thoughts.

    Some other early warning signs that a child may be a target of cyberbullying are:

    • Unexpectedly stop using their devices
    • Seem anxious when using their device or receiving a notification
    • Appear angry, depressed or frustrated after going online
    • Lose interest in things that matter most to them
    • Become unusually secretive, especially when it comes to online activities

    If your child is being cyberbullied, save all the evidence of the bullying and report the abuse to the website moderator or your internet or cell phone provider. Many websites have a tool to report abuse. This link provides a list of commonly used websites and their individual report links: If bullying continues, alert school officials and the parents of the other children involved so they can help stop it.

    Your child could be involved with cyberbullying if they display some of these behaviors:

    • Quickly switches screens, or hides their device when you are nearby
    • Laughs indecently at their device, but refuses to show you what is so funny
    • Appears to be using an account that is not their own
    • Demonstrates insensitivity towards other teens
    • Appears overly concerned with maintaining their status in a particular social circle


    It is important to address cyberbullying with your child.
    Victim or perpetrator, it is up to us to provide the guidance and support our kids need. For more information, visit:

    Your School-Age Child (6-12 years old)

    ALTHOUGH SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN SEEM SO GROWN UP, their social skills are not yet well developed. They may argue and fight a great deal with friends. School-aged children need a lot of help learning social skills like how to make friends, trust others, work in a team and resolve conflicts. Children also need to be taught how to use good manners, ask for help and negotiate with others. Often they have to be reminded to carry out homework responsibilities or household chores. Learning self-discipline is an ongoing process that improves each year.

    Children this age have not had much experience in setting and achieving goals or in measuring their own strengths and weaknesses. They need adults to provide experiences that are challenging, yet achievable.

    Physical Development

    • Needs vision, dental, and hearing to be checked starting in the first grade
    • Grows very slowly, so there is a huge range of weight and height differences
    • Needs parents to provide a healthy diet as obesity sometimes becomes a problem during middle childhood; fast food should be limited
    • Develops coarser skin; freckles and moles may begin to appear
    • Begins to lose baby teeth
    • Coordinates many motor skills (jumping, skipping and running)
    • Begins to focus on “competition” rather than “cooperation”

    Social and Emotional Development

    • Develops a greater understanding of themselves and their role in the family, at school and in the community
    • Gains greater control of their emotions and becomes less fearful
    • Learns to value themselves and develop an overall sense of self-worth
    • Has opportunities for socializing outside of the family
    • Begins to worry about making mistakes, being ridiculed or failing in school
    • Interacts in a give-and-take fashion when playing with peers
    • Prefers other children who are outgoing and supportive
    • Interacts more effectively when parents have been affectionate, warm and accepting with them, and less effectively when there is stress in the family

    Cognitive Development

    • Needs clear, concrete and specific directions (there are still limitations in their thinking and parents need keep that in mind)
    • Uses visual cues and objects to help them solve problems
    • Uses reason in logical steps in order to solve problems
    • Has improved memory
    • Understands cause and effect
    • Understands what is real and what is not real


    Parents need to provide education and supervision to prevent passenger and pedestrian accidents, drowning and serious burns, which are the leading causes of death for school-age children.

    • All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly. This is typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years old. Children under the age of 13 should always ride in the back seat.
    • Texting, talking or listening to music through earbuds is distracting and prevents students from seeing and responding to dangerous situations. Make sure your children put away their phones and other electronics when walking, biking or using other forms of transportation so they can pay attention to their surroundings.
    • Make sure your child’s bicycle, skateboard, scooter or skates are the right size for your child and that your child knows traffic and pedestrian rules and always wears a helmet.
    • Teach your children how to swim and remind them about water safety around the home and while visiting friends and neighbors.
    • Teach your children about the dangers of playing with matches and lighters and the safety rules for using barbecues and stoves.

    Positive Parenting Activities that Promote Nurturing and Attachment

    Parents and caregivers can develop or maintain close bonds with their school age children by playing an active role in their children’s lives. Being involved in their activities, education and friendships and providing positive and developmentally appropriate discipline are important to bonding and attachment.

    • When your child wants to talk, turn off the television, put your phone down and give your child your undivided attention.
    • Attend your child’s sporting events, chaperone a class field trip or volunteer together in the community.
    • Take advantage of The Most Important 8 Minutes of the Day. This idea comes from Gary Benton, a parent trainer in Washington. The first 4 minutes of the day and the last 4 minutes at night are a time to reconnect. Make those minutes count by making eye contact and providing reassuring touch, such as a pat on the hand or a kiss.
    • Dad and award-winning author of Love Limits, Bill Corbett, suggests that you make bonding a part of the bedtime routine by asking kids three questions while tucking them into bed: 1. What is the best thing that happened to you today? 2. What is the worst thing that happened to you today? 3. What is the silliest thing that happened to you today? “Accept whatever they provide as answers, and don’t say anything that might devalue them,” he says. “If they struggle in the beginning with coming up with answers, just let it go. If they detect you’re doing something different, it might feel uncomfortable to them and they might answer ‘nothing’ [but], this simple exercise will bring the parent and the child closer together.”

    When to be Concerned

    Children develop at various rates, but if your child’s physical, emotional or cognitive development appears to be outside the normal range, talk to a healthcare provider. Talking to your child, their teachers and their friends’ parents will help you learn about any possible problems your child may be having. Pay attention to your child’s behavior. Children often show you more than they tell you. You may need to seek help for your child if he or she:

    • Has trouble paying attention and concentrating
    • Often disrupts classroom activities
    • Does poorly in school
    • Frequently gets into fights with other children at school
    • Reacts to disappointments, criticism or teasing with extreme, intense anger, blame or revenge
    • Has few friends and is often rejected by other children because of his or her behavior
    • Withdraws socially
    • Makes friends with other children known to be unruly or aggressive
    • Is not sensitive to the feelings of others
    • Is cruel or violent toward pets or other animals
    Managing Your Child’s Use of Multimedia

    From television and radio to video games, social media and cell phones, our kids are “plugged in” more than ever before. Multimedia tools can be a valuable source of information, entertainment and communication. However, excessive use of media can lead to obesity, interfere with sleep and school, and lead to aggressiveness and other behavior problems. Education and parent involvement can help kids benefit from technology while also protecting them from danger. Here are some ideas you can use to help your child use media responsibly, followed by a few websites you can visit for more ideas and information.

    1. EXPLAIN SAFETY RULES. When children know what you expect of them and have clear, consistent consequences for not following rules, they are more likely to follow rules and avoid dangerous situations.

      If young children are searching for information online, it is a good idea to assist them during the search process and then let them navigate the sites once you are sure they are safe.

      • Personal Information-Let your children know that it is dangerous to reveal any personal information about themselves to someone they meet online. This includes their names, where they live, their ages, the school they attend or where their parents work. Tell them to let you know if someone is asking for this information while they are online. Be sure to praise them when they follow through with this rule. Also, tell your children it is never a good idea to share user names, logins or passwords with friends or people they chat with online. This is personal information and should not be shared.

      • Pictures-Do not allow your children to send any pictures of themselves to someone online without your permission.

      • Meeting in Real Life-Tell your children never to get together with someone they meet online without your permission. If your children make a friend online they wish to meet in person, go with them to a public place to meet the person.

      • Cyberbullying-Have your child agree never to post anything that is mean to another person online. If someone sends your child a nasty message, tell them to let you know so that you can report it to the website.

    2. KEEP THE COMPUTER IN A COMMON ROOM. When everyone in the house can see the screen, there is a better chance kids will follow the rules of online safety. Children who have computers with internet access in their bedrooms are more likely to come across inappropriate content online.

    3. SUPERVISE. Just as we want to know where our children are physically, who they are with and what they are doing, we need to know where they are going on the internet and whom they are meeting there. When kids are first learning about the internet, use the internet with them.

    4. RESPECTFULLY MONITOR ONLINE ACTIVITY. Online activities are unrestricted and open for your review. Checking up on children online for their safety is very different from looking through their rooms for their private diaries. What is available about your children online could place them at risk, while personal thoughts they journal and keep to themselves allow for healthy self-expression and reflection.

      Social Media Preteens should not have accounts on major social media sites. If you have young children, you can create accounts for them on sites that are designed specifically for kids their age. If you want to see if your children have online profiles, such as Instagram or Facebook, you can search the internet by inserting your children’s names, or their friends’ names, into a search engine like Google. If your children have online profiles, let them know you need to see them, perhaps tomorrow. Give them a chance to look at their profiles and think about the content. Learn about social media privacy settings and help your children understand how to use these settings to protect their private information and reduce their “digital footprint.” Tell them to never accept “friend requests” from people they do not know.

      Browser History Check your computer’s history. This will tell you what websites were viewed recently. However, many children and adolescents know how to clear a browser history or delete records of certain websites. Fewer children will clear cookie files. If the history is consistently empty, your computer may be set to automatically delete the history each time you exit out of the internet. This is a feature that you can easily disable.

      Filtering/Monitoring Software Check with your Internet service provider to see what free filtering and monitoring options are available. Software can track how much time kids spend online, allow them to access the internet during only certain times of day when you know you will be home, and filter content so children aren’t accidentally exposed to inappropriate content while doing a search on the internet.

      Software programs can be a big help, but there is no substitute for adult supervision.

      Smartphones If your child has a smartphone, ask your cell phone service provider how to filter your child’s internet usage, limit usage and block certain content or phone numbers. You should also password protect your child’s phone and have the screen automatically lock after a few minutes of non-use. Teach them to use the caller ID and not to respond to calls or texts from anyone they do not know.

    5. TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN. Music, television, magazines, and the internet are all sending messages to your children. Balance these messages with what YOU want them to know about different issues. If your children tell you about something they found online that is a concern, DO NOT OVERREACT. Talk to your child about what you know and believe about the issue. Remember to praise your child for coming to you with this information!

      By establishing clear expectations with your children, and supervising and monitoring their online activity, you are being a responsible parent. If you feel your children are hiding their online activities from you, or you believe they might be in danger, it is up to you to find out what is going on

    6. SET GROUND RULES. Agree on what is reasonable for each child, from the amount of time they can spend online each week, to which sites they can visit without permission. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting entertainment screen time to no more than two hours a day.

    Websites with additional information about keeping kids safe online:

    Positive Parenting Tips that Promote Good Behavior in Teens

    Teens need positive, caring adults to provide consistent support, guidance, praise and encouragement, as well as a safety net. By supporting them as they mature, you allow teens room to develop their own sense of identity. Teens will gradually gain confidence in their ability to make decisions, but they need to know they can still turn to you for advice.

    To help your teen develop and grow independent, parents and caregivers should:

    • Listen to their teens and try to understand their feelings
    • Talk to teens in a friendly open way
    • Help teens set and achieve realistic goals
    • Expose teens to diversity and demonstrate how to accept differences
    • Help identify possible issues while encouraging teens to practice their decision
    • making skills by:
      • Encouraging teens to consider the consequences of their actions, both good and bad
      • Discussing pros and cons of specific decisions
    • Help teens bounce back from poor choices

    It is vital to have good communication with teens. Good communication builds strong relationships. It takes effort to communicate so that everyone is understood. Research from Penn State shares the acronym RECIPE for better communication with adolescents:

    • R - REFLECTIVE LISTENING. Truly listen to what the other person is saying. Repeat back what you think they said, either exactly or in your own words. By repeating or rephrasing what the speaker said, the speaker knows they have been heard.
    • E - ENCOURAGE AND UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER. Consider what they are trying to express to you by putting yourself in their “shoes.”
    • C - COMPROMISE AND COOPERATE WITH EACH OTHER. Find ways to work together rather than argue.
    • I - “I” MESSAGES KEEP PEOPLE FROM FEELING BLAMED. They help you express your own feelings rather than focusing on the behavior of the other person. For example: “I get very worried when you don’t answer your phone when I call” is better for maintaining healthy communication than “You NEVER answer your phone when I call”.
    • P - PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! Good communication is difficult to learn. Expect it to take time to get it right and allow other family members to get it right as well.
    • E - ENGAGEMENT. Pay full attention to the person speaking to you. It is difficult to hear what is really said if you are doing something else. (Can you really watch television and listen to someone?)
    Introduction: The Building Blocks of Child Development

    THE FOUR MAIN AREAS OF CHILD DEVELOPMENT are physical, social, emotional and cognitive. How well a child’s physical, social and emotional needs are met affects how the child’s brain will grow and develop. Understanding how children grow and learn will help you know what to expect and what you can do to help your child develop.

    • Physical Development is the growth of the human body including: height, weight, muscles and the five senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell). Coordination of large and small muscle movements is also part of physical development.
    • Social Development is the ability to connect with others, understand rules and develop values, and cooperate as a member of a family, peer group and society.
    • Emotional Development is the ability to understand and express feelings and control emotions.
    • Cognitive Development is the ability to learn and to use logic and reason to solve problems.

    Development in each area is tightly connected. For example, learning to talk requires hearing (physical), the ability to understand different sounds (cognitive), the ability to pay attention (social), and the ability to interact with others (emotional). Failing to develop in one area affects the ability to progress in other areas.

    Each child will develop at his or her own rate. Developmental milestones show what a child of that age should be doing. If your child was premature, keep in mind that babies born early usually need a bit more time to meet their milestones. Doctors, nurses, daycare workers and home visitors can help you monitor your child’s development, identify concerns and make referrals for help when needed. Treating issues early can help prevent more serious problems later.

    CHILDPROOFING alone will not keep your child safe. Childproofing increases the amount of time it takes for your child to get into a dangerous situation, but it does not replace ADULT SUPERVISION.

    Your Newborn's Safety

    Babies are safest when sleeping alone, on their backs in a crib near their parents’ bed for the first year of life. Suffocation and strangulation in an adult bed is the leading cause of injury-related death for infants under one year of age in the state of Florida. The risk of sleeping-related infant death is 40 times higher for babies who sleep in adult beds compared to babies who sleep in their own cribs.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:

    • Place babies on their backs (face up) every time they sleep. Sleeping on the stomach or side increases the risk of suffocation. Once an infant can roll from back to stomach and stomach to back, the infant can remain in the sleeping position they choose.
    • The crib mattress should fit tightly in its frame and have a snug fitted sheet
    • No other objects should be placed in the crib
    • The crib should always be placed in a room that is smoke free
    • Offering a pacifier has also been linked to a decreased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
    • If breastfeeding, wait until breastfeeding is well-established before offering a pacifier.
    • If you bring your baby into bed for feeding or comforting, please put them back in their own crib or bassinet when you are ready to return to sleep.
    • Keep the room temperature of your baby’s sleeping area comfortable for a lightly clothed adult. This will help keep your baby from getting too hot or overheated.
    • Over-bundling should be avoided due to the possibility of overheating. Infants are typically comfortable with one layer more than an adult would wear to be comfortable in the same environment.
    • Never prop a bottle at naptime or bedtime.
    • If your baby has a crib, lower the mattress when your baby learns to sit, and again when he learns to stand.
    • Respond to your baby’s cries during the night.

    Important Information!

    Sleeping with your baby is dangerous. Even if your baby is breastfed and you don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs or other medications, sleeping with your baby still increases your baby’s risk of suffocation or strangulation while sleeping. The only way to protect your baby from higher risk is to have your baby sleep alone in a crib.


    1. Make sure your baby has active playtime, such as “tummy time,” during the day.
    2. Respond to your baby’s needs quickly during the day to reduce your baby’s stress.
    3. Allow for skin-to-skin contact during the day.
    4. Keep a consistent schedule for meals, naps and bedtime.
    5. Use a bedtime routine of three or four relaxing activities to help your baby wind down (giving your baby a bath, gently massaging muscles, and then spending a short period of quiet time together). Research has shown that babies who have a bedtime routine fall asleep 30% faster, wake up 50% less often, and sleep for longer stretches of time.
    6. Talk or sing softly to your baby before bed. Just the sound of your voice is very soothing to your baby.
    7. Put your baby in the crib when he or she begins to look tired, but is still awake. Putting babies to bed while they are tired, but still awake, helps them learn to fall asleep on their own.
    8. If your baby seems restless at bedtime, put your baby to bed 30 minutes earlier. When babies become overtired, they sometimes become energetic and fight off sleep.
    9. Play soft music, turn on a fan or put a ticking clock near your baby’s crib. Listening to repetitive sounds lulls babies off to sleep.
    10. Continuing normal household activities while babies sleep helps them learn to sleep without silence.
    11. Place a warm towel down on your baby’s sheet and remove it just before you place your baby down.

    If you have tried all of these suggestions and your baby is still not sleeping well, talk to your baby’s nurse or doctor. There may be a medical reason for your baby’s restless nights.

    Positive Parenting Activities that Promote Nurturing and Attachment

    • Breastfeeding
    • Responding promptly to your baby’s cries
    • Rocking, singing and comforting your baby
    • Maintaining loving relationships with other caregivers
    • Keeping primary caregivers consistent over time so attachments can form

    A Home Safety Checklist should be completed at each stage of your child’s development. 

    Most infant falls are from furniture. Help prevent falls by:

    • Never leaving your baby unsupervised on any surface above the floor
    • Always using the safety belts on changing tables, bouncy seats and swings

    Most burns in children under five are caused by scalding liquids. Help prevent burns by:

    • Setting your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or below
    • Never carrying hot liquids while carrying your infant
    • Never warming baby bottles in the microwave—microwaves heat unevenly and your baby may be burned by hot spots

    Drowning can happen quickly and silently. Help prevent drowning by:

    • Always staying with your baby during bath time
    • Never leaving an older child to watch your baby near the water

    Many everyday items can cause choking or suffocation in infants. Help prevent choking and suffocation by:

    • Removing small objects and plastic bags from your baby’s environment
    • Keeping balloons, blind cords and strings away from your baby

    You can keep your infant safe and help prevent motor vehicle injuries by:

    • Always placing your newborn in a rear-facing infant car seat whenever you travel in a vehicle
    • Never leaving your infant alone in the car—even in mild weather, the temperature inside a car can reach dangerous levels in minutes
    Your Child at One to Two Months


    Your baby’s brain is developing through a series of back and forth interactions. Babies and young children naturally reach out for interaction by babbling and making facial expressions. By consistently responding to these efforts in a warm and loving way, you are creating a nurturing environment. At this age, it’s important to spend a lot of time cuddling, playing, reading and talking with your baby. Over time, these interactions help infants form strong attachments with their parents. These early attachments create patterns for the way the child connects with people later in life.


    Although your baby is sleeping for longer stretches of time (4–6 hours), it is still too early to have a set sleep schedule. There are some activities that may help your baby learn to be more active during the day and encourage nighttime sleep. 


    At this age, your child only needs breast milk or formula. Your baby is not ready for cereal or any solid food at this age. Babies usually need 4 to 5 ounces of breast milk or formula per feeding, or 20 to 25 ounces per day.

    Physical Development – Your baby will:

    • Wiggle and use body language to tell you how he feels
    • Use muscles in her arms and legs to grab or kick at toys or people
    • Hold his head up on his own, but still need your careful support when being held

    Social and Emotional Development – Your baby should:

    • Smile at you when he wants to play
    • Frown or cry to show sadness
    • Respond with pleasure when her primary caregiver arrives
    • Copy your movements and facial expressions
    • Like to be around other children

    Cognitive Development – Your baby will:

    • Use taste, touch, smell, sight and sound to learn about his environment
    • Cry when hungry, needing to be changed or wanting attention
    • Make cooing sounds to get your attention, and will coo even more when you respond
    • Make different sounds to tell you if he is hungry, wet, tired or wants a change of position
    • Recognize mother or primary caregiver
    • Follow moving objects with her eyes


    • A Home Safety Checklist should be completed at each stage of your child’s development. 
    • Help prevent fires by keeping nightlights at least three feet away from the crib, bedding and draperies; never heat your home by leaving the oven on or use candles for light.
    • Help prevent poisoning by removing poisonous plants in and around the home.
    • Help prevent burns from hot car seat surfaces by using window shades or covering your baby’s car seat with a light blanket when the car is parked.

    Positive Parenting Activities that Promote Nurturing and Attachment

    • Always respond to your baby’s cries and try to figure out what your baby is trying to say to you
    • When you hear your baby cooing, coo, sing or talk in return
    • Hold and touch your baby as much as possible
    • Look into your baby’s eyes and talk to your baby during feedings and diaper changes
    • Practice being patient. Having patience is very important for your child’s overall development. Babies are just learning what is in the world; it will take time before they know how to behave in it!

    When to be Concerned

    While each baby develops at his or her own pace, you should be aware of certain milestones your child should be reaching. Failure to reach certain milestones may be a sign of medical or developmental problems requiring special attention. You should let your baby’s doctor know if your child:

    • Doesn’t seem to respond to loud sounds
    • Doesn’t notice hands by two months
    • Doesn’t smile at the sound of your voice by two months
    • Doesn’t follow moving objects with eyes by three months
    • Doesn’t grasp and hold objects by three months
    • Doesn’t smile at people by three months
    • Cannot support head well by three months
    • Doesn’t reach for and grasp toys by months
    • Doesn’t babble by four months
    Your Child at Three to Six Months

    THIS IS AN EXCITING PERIOD OF DEVELOPMENT because your baby will begin to show his or her unique personality. Babies this age also begin to establish regular eating and sleeping patterns. Continue cuddling, playing, reading and talking with your baby as much as you can because every interaction will continue to stimulate brain development. Your baby needs an interested audience and a chance to use his or her social skills!


    At this age, babies sleep about 15 hours per day. Your baby may be taking two or three daytime naps and may be waking twice per night for feedings. Although babies can now roll over on their own, you should still place your baby to sleep on his or her back. It’s fine if babies roll over on their own during sleep. Now is a good time to lower the crib mattress to its lowest level to prevent falls. Remember, it is still not safe to put toys, pillows or blankets in the crib with your baby.


    Discuss your baby’s nutritional needs with your medical provider during your baby’s four-month well-child visit. Breast milk and formula are still the main sources of nutrition.

    Physical Development

    • Rolls over from back to stomach and stomach to back
    • Tries to grab objects with hands
    • Opens and closes hands and brings hands to mouth
    • Wiggles arms and kicks legs
    • Sits with support
    • Drools a lot
    • Begins to cut teeth

    Social and Emotional Development

    • Enjoys social play and will become more active in getting your attention
    • Responds differently to an unfamiliar voice than to the voice of a familiar person
    • Shows interest in mirror images and begins to smile at mirrors
    • Responds to other people’s expressions of emotion and often appears joyful
    • Cries when upset, afraid or scared

    Cognitive Development

    • Uses eyes and hands together
    • Uses verbal and non-verbal cues to signal needs
    • Explores objects with mouth
    • Begins to reach for objects such as rattles, caregiver’s face and mobiles



    • Prevent strangulation by removing or shortening any cords that your child can reach
    • Prevent electrocution by installing protective covers on all electrical outlets
    • Prevent poisoning by moving all poisonous liquids, such as cleaning supplies, to upper cabinets and shelves
    • Prevent falls by keeping babies away from open windows and installing window guards on all upper-level windows

    Positive Parenting Activities that Promote Nurturing and Attachment

    • Singing while interacting with your baby, such as patty-cake and peek-a-boo
    • Rocking your baby while singing lullabies


    When to be Concerned

    While each baby develops at his or her own pace, you should be aware of certain milestones your child should be reaching. Failure to reach certain milestones may be a sign of medical or developmental problems requiring special attention. You should let your baby’s doctor know if at four months your child:

    • Doesn’t bring objects to mouth
    • Begins babbling, but doesn’t try to imitate any of your sounds
    • Doesn’t push down with legs when feet are placed on a firm surface
    • Has trouble moving one or both eyes in all directions
    • Crosses eyes most of the time (occasional crossing of the eyes is normal in these first months)
    • Doesn’t pay attention to new faces, or seems very frightened by new faces or surroundings
    Your Child at Nine to Twelve Months

    BY THE END OF THE FIRST YEAR OF LIFE, your baby’s body weight will have tripled and body length will have doubled. Babies this age are very good at expressing their feelings with their gestures, sounds and facial expressions. They can engage in “conversation,” for example, handing things back and forth or imitating sounds and actions. They also understand “cause and effect”—and that they can make something happen: “If I drop this food from my highchair, it will fall on the floor,” or “If I cry, mom or dad will come get me.” Following a consistent routine helps babies know what to expect and how to behave.


    The sleep habits of older babies differ. Some may sleep all night and take one or no naps during the day. Others may wake up in the night but take several naps during the day. By nine months, your baby may be sleeping up to 12 hours at night. Some babies skip a morning nap altogether and start taking one long nap later in the day.

    During this stage of development, it is normal for babies to cry at bedtime because they feel scared when a parent leaves the room. Establishing a bed time routine that includes quiet activities together will help lessen fear and stress. When putting babies to bed, give them some time to fall asleep on their own. If crying continues, check in on your baby, but do not pick your baby up. Instead, rub your baby’s tummy and talk softly to help your baby relax and fall asleep.


    By the time babies are around nine months old, they usually have the ability to pick up foods and feed themselves. They can also begin to learn to drink from a sippy cup. By their first birthday (or soon after) they can be weaned from the bottle. They should be eating three meals a day while still receiving breast milk or formula. If you haven’t already, have your baby join the rest of the family at meals.

    Serve foods that offer new tastes and textures; but be sure they are soft, easily gummed and digestible. Examples include Cheerios® with small pieces of bananas; pieces of cheese and well-cooked pasta; and steamed vegetables such as zucchini, peas and carrots. Cut foods into safe, bite-sized pieces and avoid any foods that need to be chewed. It is very important to supervise your child constantly during feeding times.

    Some babies have food allergies. Signs of an allergic reaction include rashes, hay fever-like symptoms or breathing difficulties (sometimes severe). If your baby shows these or any other symptoms, call your doctor or 9-1-1 immediately. Foods to avoid until after your baby’s first birthday include:

    • Eggs
    • Shellfish
    • Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, lemon and lime
    • Corn
    • Peanuts
    • Chocolate
    • Wheat
    • Honey

    Physical Development

    • Crawls forward on belly
    • Sits up without assistance
    • Pulls self up to stand
    • Walks two or three steps without support
    • Walks holding onto furniture
    • Takes objects out of containers
    • Pokes with index finger

    Cognitive Development

    • Responds to “no”
    • Babbles with inflections, changes in tones
    • Makes sounds like “mama” and “dada”
    • Finds hidden toys and other objects
    • Begins to use things correctly (drinks from cups, listens in a phone)
    • Explores items in different ways (banging, shaking, throwing, etc.)

    Social and Emotional Development

    • Offers toys or objects to others but wants them back
    • Pushes away toys or foods when not wanted
    • Becomes attached to a favorite toy or blanket
    • Cries when mom or dad leaves


    A Home Safety Checklist should be completed at each stage of your child’s development.

    • Prevent cuts by keeping sharp objects out of reach (for example: cooking knives and other tools, scissors, razors, plastic wrap boxes, glass bottles or drinking glasses, knitting needles)
    • Prevent injuries by keeping children away from lawn mowers and power saws
    • Prevent electrocution by putting stereos, computers and other electrical equipment out of reach and making sure that children cannot get to the back of television sets
    • Prevent poisoning by storing medications where children cannot get them

    Positive Parenting Activities that Promote Nurturing and Attachment

    • Play games like hide-and-seek and peek-a-boo to help your baby learn to cope with separation and feel secure that you always come back.
    • Respond to your baby’s cries at night, but avoid picking your baby up to rock him or her back to sleep—falling asleep in your arms makes it more difficult for your baby to learn how to get back to sleep on his or her own.
    • When saying “goodbye,” tell her you will miss her and that you will return.
    • When your baby does something you don’t like or that may be dangerous, distract him or her from the activity by quickly providing something else to do. For example, as your child reaches for a lamp, you quickly pick your child up and say, “Let’s go read this book.”
    • Redirect unwanted behavior by modeling the right way to use something. For example, if your child is drawing on books, take the books away and say, “Books are not for drawing on.” At the same time, give the child paper saying, “If you want to draw on something, draw on this paper.” If your child is throwing blocks, you can take away the blocks and give him a soft ball to throw.

    When to be Concerned

    While each baby develops at his or her own pace, you should be aware of certain milestones your child should be reaching. Failure to reach certain milestones may be a sign of medical or developmental problems requiring special attention. You should let your baby’s doctor know if at nine months your child:

    • Doesn’t babble
    • Drags one side of body while crawling (for over a month)
    • Doesn’t point to objects or pictures
    • Doesn’t search for objects that are hidden while he or she watches
    • Shows no interest in games like peek-a-boo
    • Shows no affection for primary caregiver
    • Doesn’t seem to enjoy being around people
    Teaching Your Child to Use the Potty

    POTTY TRAINING IS SOMETHING YOU DO WITH YOUR CHILD. You are helping your child learn a very important skill. Teaching your child to use the toilet takes time, understanding and patience. You should not rush your child into using the toilet.

    Are YOU ready for potty training? A few things you should think about include:

    • Do you have enough time to help your child with this difficult job?
    • Are you already under a lot of stress? For example, do you have a new home, job or relationship? If so, you may need to wait for a better time to begin potty training.
    • Consistency during potty training is very important. Is your child’s daycare willing to help with potty training?

    Is your child showing signs that he or she is ready to learn how to use the toilet?
    When your child is ready, you’ll see the following signals:

    • Child has bowel movements at regular times each day.
    • Child’s diaper stays dry for 2 hours or more.
    • Child can follow simple instructions such as, “Pick up your truck and put it in the toy box.”
    • Child shows an interest in using the potty or asks to be changed when diaper is soiled or wet.
    • Through words, facial expressions or a change in activity, your child shows you that he or she knows when a bowel movement is coming.

    Most children reach this stage sometime between 18 and 36 months, but it’s also normal for it to occur a little later. Early learning is possible, but not always best. It may be stressful for a child who does not have good bowel or bladder control, or the ability to take clothes off quickly to use the toilet. If your child is not ready, you can still teach him or her what a potty chair is and how it works.

    When you and your child begin potty training, praise him or her for trying. Do not be upset when “accidents” happen. Punishing a child for having an “accident” will only make the child feel bad, and training will take longer. The best way to teach your child about using the toilet is to let him or her watch other family embers of the same sex (watching people of the opposite sex may be confusing). Boys usually learn to urinate in the sitting position but slowly transfer to standing after watching the “older boys” do it that way.


    Put a potty chair in your child’s room or in the bathroom. (Both girls and boys may be able to use adult toilets outfitted with training seats.) Then do the following:

    1. For the first few weeks, let your child sit on the potty with clothes on while you explain what the toilet is and when to use it.
    2. Once your child is used to sitting on the potty, try it with the diaper off. Make the potty part of the daily routine, slowly increasing from one time to several times each day.
    3. Try changing your child’s diaper while he or she is seated on the potty. Dropping the contents of the dirty diaper into the potty helps your child understand what the potty is for.
    4. Let your child play near the potty without a diaper and remind him or her to use the potty as needed. Children may forget or miss at first, but don’t get angry. Wait until he or she goes correctly and reward and praise your child

    Like most children, your own toddler probably will take a little longer to complete nap and nighttime control. The best approach is to have your toddler to use the potty right before going to bed and as soon as he or she wakes up. Using training pants instead of diapers at naptime and bedtime may help. There will be a few accidents, but a plastic sheet between the mattress and the bedding will keep the mattress dry. All children have these accidents. Praise your child whenever he or she makes it through the nap or night without wetting. Tell your child to call for you if he or she wakes up in the middle of the night and needs help to use the toilet.

    Your Child at 18 to 24 Months

    IMITATION AND INDEPENDENCE ARE BIG THEMES when it comes to the end of your child’s second year. At 18 to 24 months, children are more aware of themselves as individuals. Their sense of independence grows as they start to walk, run and climb more easily. Your young child is developing thinking skills and has an increased curiosity about the nature of people and things. You may notice your child’s problem-solving and memory skills improve. He or she may also be finding it easier to understand and respond to simple requests.

    At this age, children will identify with their toys and will not want to share them. They may begin to show frustration when they cannot do what they want, but can usually be redirected to other interesting alternatives. It can help to offer choices rather than having to always say “no.”


    Most toddlers sleep about 14 hours a day. They often take one nap a day, usually from about 1 to 3 pm, and go to bed between 6 and 8 pm. It is still important to sleep during the day. If children are well rested, they fall asleep easier and sleep longer during the night.


    By 18 months, toddlers should eat most table foods cut into small pieces, drink from a sippy cup and be fully weaned from a bottle. Because toddlers may not be interested in sitting still for meals, you can make sure your toddler gets enough food by:

    • Giving five to six small meals per day
    • Offering finger foods toddlers can feed themselves
    • Making meals fun by serving foods with a variety of colors, textures and tastes

    Physical Development

    • Walks well and runs, though may not always stop and turn well
    • Tosses or rolls balls
    • Enjoys moving on small-wheeled riding toys
    • Feeds self with a spoon
    • Begins to gain some control of bowels and bladder

    Social and Emotional Development

    • Imitates actions
    • Gets angry and may have temper tantrums
    • Acts shy around strangers
    • Has trouble sharing
    • Shows signs of independence, like saying “no” and trying to do many things on his or her own

    Cognitive Development

    • Refers to self by name and uses the words “me” and “mine”
    • Says 30 to 50 words
    • Copies single words spoken by someone else and uses the words “please” and “thank you” if asked
    • Chooses between two objects
    • Enjoys humming or trying to sing familiar songs
    • Uses two- to three-word sentences


    A Home Safety Checklist should be completed at each stage of your child’s development.

    • Prevent climbing accidents by using “L” brackets to secure large objects and furniture and installing window guards to prevent your child from falling out
    • Reduce the risk of injuries from falls by seeking out playgrounds with soft surfaces like sand, woodchips or rubber
    • Prevent poisoning by never referring to vitamins or medicine as candy
    • Prevent burns by keeping matches and lighters out of children’s reach and avoiding use of portable heaters in rooms where children play or sleep.


    Positive Parenting Activities that Promote Nurturing and Attachment

    • Praise good behavior
    • Ignore small incidents and accidents, such as spilled milk
    • Give your child the opportunity to correct misbehavior by giving a second chance
    • Never use spanking or other physical punishment and limit your use of the word “no”
    • Model good behavior
    • Talk and read to your child every day to encourage language development
    • When you leave, give your child an object that will soothe him and make him feel close to you
    • To encourage good behavior from your child, you should try to be patient as well as clear and consistent with your rules and consequences

    When to be Concerned

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should let your doctor know if at 18 months your child:

    • Cannot walk
    • Fails to develop a mature heel-toe walking pattern after several months of walking, or walks exclusively on toes
    • Does not speak at least 15 words
    • Does not seem to know the function of common household objects (brush, telephone, fork and spoon)
    Your Child at Three Years Old

    WITH YOUR CHILD’S THIRD BIRTHDAY, the “terrible twos” are officially over and the “magic years” of three and four begin—a time when your child’s world will be dominated by fantasy and vivid imagination. During the next two years, your child will mature in many areas.


    Goodbye naptime, hello bedtime struggles. Between the ages of three and four, children commonly give up their afternoon naps. Your child should sleep anywhere from 9 to 13 hours each day. As a way of gaining control of their world, children sometimes try to resist bedtime. You can help make bedtime easier by:

    • Sticking with the bedtime routine
    • Allowing your child to make some choices, like picking out pajamas or books to read
    • Providing a sense of security with night lights, security blankets or stuffed animals


    At this age, your child’s eating habits should be similar to yours. He or she should eat the same foods at the same times as you, and use child-size utensils. Choking is still a hazard because your child has not yet mastered chewing and swallowing. Avoid foods such as hard candies and cherries with pits and make portion sizes small, especially when serving:

    • Grapes (cut them in half)
    • Hot dogs (slice in half across and lengthwise)
    • Raw vegetables, such as carrots and celery
    • Peanut butter (avoid spoonfuls)

    Physical Development

    • Throws and kicks balls
    • Draws circles and squares
    • Begins to copy capital letters
    • Dresses and undresses

    Social and Emotional Development

    • Cooperates with other children
    • Engages in fantasy play
    • Understands there are ways to solve problems

    Cognitive Development

    • Identifies “same” and “different” objects
    • Talks in short sentences others can understand
    • Tells and remembers parts of stories


    A Home Safety Checklist should be completed at each stage of your child’s development. 

    • Children who have reached the weight or height limit on their rear-facing car seat should use a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness until they each the weight or height limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
    • Now is also a good time to get your child swimming lessons and to teach playground safety, such as not running in front of or behind swinging children.

    Positive Parenting Activities that Promote Nurturing and Attachment

    Set a good example for your child. If you want children to be nice to each other or have good eating habits, show them how these things are done. Tell your child why you do things a certain way. Children may not understand everything you say, but they will begin to understand that you have reasons for doing things a
    certain way.

    Provide children with simple explanations for your rules or limits and offer alternatives.

    • It is 8:00 and time for bed; you may play with the markers again tomorrow.
    • You may not have popcorn now because it is dinnertime, you may have some Jell-O for dessert after you are finished with your dinner.

    When to be Concerned

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should let your doctor know if at three years old your child:

    • Cannot throw a ball overhand
    • Cannot jump in place
    • Cannot ride a tricycle
    • Cannot grasp a crayon between thumb and fingers
    • Has difficulty scribbling
    • Cannot stack four blocks
    Your Child at Five Years Old

    FIVE-YEAR-OLDS WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HOW THE WORLD WORKS and are usually excited about going to school. They ask more complex questions and offer creative ideas for how to solve problems. They are also more social and prefer active games that involve other children.


    Five-year-olds still need lots of sleep and many will still take a nap. A good bedtime for your five-year-old is 8:00 p.m. during the school year.


    The best nutrition advice is to set a good example! Keeping your children healthy includes encouraging them to:

    • Eat a variety of foods
    • balance the food you eat with physical activity
    • Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables and fruits; moderate amounts of sugar and salt and little fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
    • Choose a diet that provides enough calcium and iron to meet their growing body’s requirements

    Physical Development

    • Assists in making own bed
    • Colors within the lines
    • Ties own shoes
    • Jumps rope

    Social and Emotional Development

    • Is aware of gender
    • Separates fantasy from reality
    • Is sometimes demanding, sometimes eagerly cooperative
    • Comforts friends and others when they are sad
    • Understands there are rules when playing games
    • Expresses feelings
    • Wants to please friends
    • Wants to be like friends
    • Agrees to rules
    • Likes to sing, dance and act
    • Shows more independence

    Cognitive Development

    • Uses past, present and future tenses correctly
    • Groups similar objects together
    • Understands the idea of today, tomorrow and yesterday
    • Identifies most letters and numbers


    A Home Safety Checklist should be completed at each stage of your child’s development. 

    • Practice water safety by teaching your child to swim. Do not let your child play around any water (lake, pool, ocean, etc.) without adult supervision (even if he is a good swimmer). Always wear a life preserver or safety vest when on a boat and childproof the pool by enclosing it in a fence with a self-closing, self-latching door.
    • Teach your child how to dial 9-1-1
    • Set a good example for your child by always using a seat belt, helmet, etc.

    Positive Parenting Activities that Promote Nurturing and Attachment

    Expressing appreciation for kind and thoughtful behavior is another way to set a good example for children. By reinforcing children’s kind behavior, you are helping them to understand that their kindness makes a positive difference. For example, “Emily, I’m really glad that you shared your toy with Ryan. See how much he likes playing with it?” Children need to know that the adults in their lives care about them and about others. Children who experience respect and appreciation from adults are more likely to demonstrate caring toward others.

    Research says that harsh physical punishment can weaken children’s trust in adults. Physical punishment does not help children learn self-control. When adults use physical discipline, children feel angry at adults and ashamed of themselves. When young children experience consistent and positive guidance, they are more likely to act kindly toward others.


    When to be Concerned

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should let your doctor know if at five years old your child:

    • Has trouble eating, sleeping, dressing or using the toilet
    • Is extremely fearful or timid
    • Is extremely aggressive
    • Is unable to separate from parents without major protest
    • Is easily distracted and unable to concentrate on any single activity for more than five minutes
    • Shows little interest in playing with other children
    • Refuses to respond to people in general, or responds only superficially
    • Rarely uses fantasy or imitation in play
    • Seems unhappy or sad much of the time
    • Doesn’t engage in a variety of activities
    • Avoids or seems distant with other children and adults
    • Doesn’t express a wide range of emotions
    • Cannot build a tower of six to eight blocks
    Keeping Your Kids Drug Free

    PARENTS CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE IN THE CHOICES THEIR CHILDREN MAKE. When children know their parents disapprove of using tobacco, alcohol or drugs, they are much less likely to experiment. Do your children know how you feel about these issues?

    Most parents find it difficult to talk to their kids about smoking, drinking and using drugs, but substance abuse education should begin at home long before children enter a classroom. Open communication with your children is key to keeping them drug free. It is important to start talking with your children early and to continue emphasizing strong values throughout their teenage years. Here are some tips to help you address substance abuse with your children from an early age.

    AGES 5 – 8

    Children of this age need rules to guide their behavior and information to make good choices. They are eager to please and still look to parents for their opinions. Let your children know how you feel about drugs.

    As kids spend more time out in the world, at school and with their friends, they begin to gather messages from lots of new places. They are also more aware of what they hear and read in advertisements, on television and in the movies. Children will need your help as they try to make sense of all that new information.

    • Model good listening skills by paying attention, allowing your child to speak without being interrupted and repeating back to your children what they said to be sure you understood.
    • Practice ways to say “no” with your children by describing situations that may make them uncomfortable, such as someone inviting them to ride their bikes in an area you have set as off-limits or someone asking them for help to cheat on a test.

    AGES 9 – 11

    As children enter the preteen years, they become very interested in factual information and how things work. They value their friends’ opinions much more and they need to feel accepted by peers. Children need a clear no-use message, factual information and strong motivation to resist peer pressure.

    Children will copy the behavior of their parents. It is hard for children to listen to their parents tell them not to drink or smoke when they see their parents doing it. While children can understand and accept that there are differences between what adults may legally do and what is appropriate and legal for children, do not let your children be involved in your drinking by mixing you a cocktail or bringing you a beer. Never allow your child to have sips of your alcoholic drink.

    • Teach your kids what to say if they are offered drugs or alcohol by someone. “No thanks, I’m not into that.”
    • Prepare yourself with the facts so you are able to answer questions about alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

    AGES 12 – 14

    Since fitting in with peers matters now more than ever, kids are easily influenced by what their friends feel is suitable behavior and are exposed more and more to drugs and drug use. Talking to your child about the direct unpleasant consequences of tobacco and marijuana use, such as bad breath, smelly hair or clothes or yellow teeth, will be more valuable than discussing the longterm consequences. Kids in this age group are more likely to see older kids doing drugs without seeing immediate consequences, so they are less likely to believe a “black-and-white” statement that drugs are bad.

    Kids this age are establishing their own sense of identity; counteract peer influence with parent influence and let them know:

    • Alcohol and drugs can cause them to make poor decisions that can prevent them from being accepted into college, being accepted by the military or being hired for certain jobs.
    • Alcohol and drugs harm judgment and coordination—give real examples, such as consequences from having unprotected sex or being involved in a car accident that causes permanent injury.


    High school and college students are now commonly choosing synthetic marijuana or bath salts over marijuana, cocaine and other drugs because they are highly promoted online, are easy to obtain and will not be detected in routine drug tests. Users begin to feel the effects of the drug within 15 minutes and can remain high for up to eight hours. Until recently, these drugs have been legal in many states; however, these drugs are very dangerous. Effects of these designer drugs include severe paranoia and hallucinations that can cause users to harm themselves or others.


    K2 and Spice are street names for synthetic marijuana. This product is sold under a number of trade names such as “Blaze,” “Bliss,” “Black Mamba,” “Bombay Blue,” and “Genie”. Whatever perceptions people have of marijuana, they should not underestimate the risk of this drug or make the mistake that synthetic marijuana is somehow less dangerous than cultivated marijuana. K2/Spice is a mixture of herbs or other plant materials that have been sprayed with artificial chemicals that are supposed to mimic the effects of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. One of the signs that parents can look for is a strong clove smell. K2/Spice is typically smoked, so parents may find a coffee grinder around the house—which is often used to reduce the product to a fine powder so that it is easier to smoke—and other drug paraphernalia such as pipes or screens.


    Bath Salts are very different from the product that you put into a bath. The only reason why they have the same name is because the products look similar like a fine powder. Bath salts are a synthetic form of amphetamines and cocaine. The packets are marketed as “bath salts,” “plant food” or even “stain remover” and are available in corner stores, truck stops and online. They come with an often-ignored disclaimer, “not for human consumption.” Bath salts are really a tablet or powder that is snorted, injected or smoked. They are sold in packets marked with names like Bounce, Bubbles, Energy-1, Ivory Wave, and more.


    Staying informed about commonly used drugs can help parents talk to their children about staying safe and drug-free.


    Alcohol affects the central nervous system and brain. It can make users loosen up, relax, and feel more comfortable, or it can make them more aggressive. Unfortunately, it also lowers their inhibitions, which can set them up for embarrassing or dangerous behavior. In fact, each year approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking.


    Nicotine, the main drug in tobacco, is one of the most heavily used addictive drugs in the United States. Nicotine is highly addictive and acts as both a stimulant and a sedative to the central nervous system. Exposure to these harmful drugs has been known to cause lung cancer, bronchial disease, emphysema, cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems and sudden infant death. Research also shows that youth who smoke cigarettes are fourteen times more likely to try marijuana as those who don’t.


    the marijuana of today is stronger than ever before. More teens are in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illegal drugs combined. Smoking marijuana leads to changes in the brain that are similar to those caused by cocaine, heroin, or alcohol. It affects alertness, concentration, perception, coordination and reaction time, many of the skills required for safe driving and other tasks. Marijuana can also lead to bad grades, broken friendships, family problems, trouble with the law, etc.


    The major ways of taking cocaine are sniffing or snorting, injecting and smoking. Health risks exist regardless of whether cocaine is inhaled, injected or smoked. These risks include: the collapse of the nasal septum, paranoia, aggression, anxiety, seizures and cardiac arrest. When combined with alcohol, there is an increased risk of sudden death.


    Today’s heroin is so pure, users can inject it, smoke it or snort it, causing more kids under 18 to use it. No matter which way it is used, heroin causes severe effects on the human body. Heroin abuse is associated with serious health conditions that include: fatal overdose, spontaneous abortion, liver disease, collapsed veins, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.


     Inhalants are common products found right in the home and are among the most popular and deadly substances kids abuse. Inhalant abuse can result in death from the very first use. According to the annual Monitoring the Future national poll, approximately one in six children will use inhalants by eighth grade. The same report notes that inhalants are most popular with younger teens. Teens use inhalants by sniffing or “snorting” fumes from containers; spraying aerosols directly into the mouth or nose; bagging, (inhaling a substance inside a paper or plastic bag), huffing from an inhalant-soaked rag; or inhaling from balloons filled with nitrous oxide. Hazards associated with huffing include: hearing loss, brain damage, blood oxygen depletion, limb spasms and depression.


    Club drugs are being used by young adults at all-night dance parties such as “raves” or “trances,” dance clubs, and bars. MDMA (Ecstasy), GHB, Rohypnol, ketamine, methamphetamine, and LSD are known to be some of the club or party drugs. It is likely that club drug use can cause a variety of behavioral and cognitive consequences as well as impair memory. Some of the physical effects include dilated pupils, higher body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth and tremors.


    Painkillers are drugs commonly prescribed for pain and are only legally available by prescription. Brand names include: Vicodin, Tylenol with Codeine, OxyContin, and Percocet. Painkiller abuse can be dangerous, even deadly with too high a dose or when taken with other drugs, like alcohol. Short-term effects of painkiller abuse may include drowsiness, inability to concentrate, apathy, lack of energy, constriction of the pupils, flushing of the face and neck, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and most significantly, respiratory depression. If a teen abuses painkillers for a period of time, he can become addicted to the drug and experience withdrawal symptoms when he stops taking the drug. Associated with addiction is tolerance, which means more and more of the drug, or a combination of drugs, is needed to produce the same high or euphoric feeling, possibly leading to overdose.

    Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse

    Think about your home. What prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs do you have? Where are they kept? Would you know if some were missing? The good news is that you can take steps immediately to limit access to these drugs and help keep your teen drug-free:

    1. Safeguard all drugs at home. Monitor quantities and control access. Take note of how many pills are in a bottle or pill packet, and keep track of refills. This goes for your own medication, as well as for your teen and other members of your household. If your teen has been prescribed a drug, be sure you control the medication and monitor dosages and refills.
    2. Set clear rules for teens about all drug use, including not sharing medicine and always following the medical provider’s advice and dosages. Make sure your teen uses prescription drugs only as directed by a medical provider and follows instructions for OTC products carefully. This includes taking the proper dosage and not using with other substances without a medical provider’s approval. If you have any questions about how to take a drug, call your family physician or pharmacist.
    3. Be a good role model by following these same rules with your own medicines. Examine your own behavior to ensure you set a good example. If you misuse your prescription drugs, such as share them with your kids, or abuse them, your teen will notice. Avoid sharing your drugs and always follow your medical provider’s instructions.
    4. Properly conceal and dispose of old or unneeded medicines in the trash. Unneeded prescription drugs should be hidden and thrown away in the trash. To discourage teens or others from taking them out of the trash, you can mix them with an undesirable substance (like used coffee grounds or kitty litter) and put the mixture in an empty can or bag. Unless the directions say otherwise, do NOT flush medications down the drain or toilet because the chemicals can pollute the water supply. Also, remove any personal, identifiable information from prescription bottles or pill packages before you throw them away.
    5. Ask friends and family to safeguard their prescription drugs as well. Make sure your friends and relatives, especially grandparents, know about the risks too. Encourage them to regularly monitor their own medicine cabinets. If there are other households your teen has access to, talk to those families as well about the importance of safeguarding medications. If you don’t know the parents of your child’s friends, then make an effort to get to know them, and get on the same page about rules and expectations for use of all drugs, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Follow up with your teen’s school administration to find out what they are doing to address the issue of prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse in schools.

    Talk to your teen about the dangers of abusing prescription and over-the-counter drugs. These are powerful drugs that, when abused, can be just as dangerous as street drugs. Tell your teen the risks far outweigh any “benefits.”


    • Eat dinner together on a regular basis to stay connected with your kids and communicate your family values. Among teenagers who eat dinner with their parents six or seven times a week, 93 percent have not smoked a cigarette in the last month and have not attended drinking parties in the last six months.
    • Let your children know that you do not approve of them trying drugs, alcohol or tobacco. Set clear expectations and be consistent in enforcing consequences.
    • Educate yourself on the names of drugs and the effects they have on a person so you can give your children the facts. Giving them misleading information will only discredit you as a source of information on these topics.
    • If your children come home from school with information about Keeping Kids Drug Free, ask them about it and reinforce the message at home. More importantly, listen to what your children have to say.
    • Promote positive decision-making. Letting your children make age-appropriate decisions will help them feel good about themselves and the choices they make. This will help your children develop self-confidence, which will help them reject peer pressure.
    • Be involved in your children’s lives. Get to know their friends, their friends’ parents, who they hang out with and what they talk about. Work with the parents of your children’s friends to set up rules about curfews, unchaperoned parties and other social activities.

    For more information and tips, visit

    Information gathered from: Parents. The Anti-Drug. Sponsored by the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.


    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last year, more than 3.6 million U.S. youth, including 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students, used electronic cigarettes, also known as “e-cigarettes.” Between 2017 and 2018, e-cigarette use increased 78% among high school students and nearly 50% among middle school students. This rapid increase led the U.S. Surgeon General to call the use of these products by youth an epidemic in the United States. In adolescents, exposure to nicotine can harm brain development, which continues until about age 25.

    E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth and that many youth aren’t aware of the dangers of these products, including the negative impacts of nicotine exposure on the developing adolescent brain. Therefore, ensuring that youth are aware of the risks of using all forms of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is critical. Parents can set a positive example by being tobacco free and ensuring that their kids aren’t exposed to the secondhand emissions from any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

    Positive Parenting Tips that Promote Good Behavior in Middle Childhood


    Natural and logical consequences are effective in helping children see the connection between their actions and the results of their behavior. Natural consequences include the results of a child’s actions without any adult interference. For example, the natural consequence of refusing to eat is hunger. Playing in rain puddles will result in wet socks and shoes.

    Natural consequences are sometimes dangerous or impractical. For example, it would be dangerous for a child to experience the natural consequence of running into the street because the child might be hit by a car.

    When natural consequences are unsafe for a child, you can use logical consequences to help the child correct behavior. Logical consequences require adult intervention. A logical consequence for an 8-year-old not studying for a test because he/she was talking on the phone with friends could be losing the privilege of talking to friends on the phone until grades improve.

    The following examples also illustrate the use of logical consequences:

    • Not cleaning up toys may result in the toys being taken away for a short period.
    • Not being able to get up for school in the morning may result in an earlier bed time.
    • Lying or other unacceptable behavior may result in a child writing an essay for the parent.

    Additional tips for positive, age-appropriate discipline:

    • Interact with all children in a warm, accepting, yet firm manner at all times. When you talk with your child, get down on their level, kneel, sit or squat to their level or sit beside them on a bed, chair, etc. When you speak with them, use a gentle touch on their arm, shoulder or back, depending on the child and his/her comfort level with being touched.
    • Since middle childhood brings about a better understanding of reasoning, parents may have to give more detailed explanations for expected behaviors. Be sure the child clearly understands the undesirable behavior. It is not enough to say, “Your room is messy.” Messy should be specified in terms of exactly what is meant: “You’ve left dirty clothes on the floor, dirty plates on your desk, and your bed is not made.”
    • Children in middle childhood need to feel they have done a job well to build healthy self-confidence. Helping out at home gives school-age children a sense of belonging, mastery and confidence.
    • Look for gradual changes in behavior and praise behavior that comes close to the desired goal. Don’t expect your child to accomplish all your expectations at once.
    • Reward desirable behavior frequently through the use of verbal praise, appropriate touch (pat on back) or something like a toy, the child’s favorite food, family time (board game or movie with the family) or money.
    • Remember that your behavior serves as a model for your children’s behavior.
    Your Teenager

    MANY PARENTS WHO HAVE RAISED TEENAGERS say the two hardest times in life came when they were a teenager and when they raised a teenager. Adolescence, the period from 13–17 years of age, is a time of energy, passion and emerging identity. During this stage, teenagers’ bodies and minds are growing. As they grow, heredity, culture, health and nutrition will influence developmental changes. Parents and caregivers need to accept that maturing is a natural process. This process helps youth grow toward independence so that as adults, they will be prepared to manage their own feelings, thoughts and actions.

    Parents often struggle with how to deal with their adolescents. Although your child seems to want little to do with you right now, teenagers still need nurturing, support and guidance to become independent adults.


    Even if your child used to wake up fresh and energetic to start the day, you may have noticed that your young teen now finds it difficult to fall asleep at night and is extremely drowsy and difficult to wake in the mornings. Researchers have found that this is because the biological clock of teens shifts forward, creating a “forbidden” zone for sleep around 9 or 10 p.m.

    Putting good sleep habits into practice is difficult for teenagers, but not impossible. Sleep experts say getting lots of daylight in the morning and exercising during the day, then dimming the lights at night and sticking to a routine bedtime of 10 p.m., can help to reset the body clock. It may also help to sleep in a cool environment and turn off all electronic devices at least two hours before going bed. While an extra hour of sleep on the weekends can be helpful, if a student is used to getting up at 6:30 a.m., they shouldn’t sleep until noon on the weekend because that will simply confuse their bodies and disrupt their sleep pattern for the following week.


    The body demands more calories during early adolescence than at any other time of life. Calorie needs vary widely based on size and activity level. On average, boys require about 2,800 calories per day and girls require about 2,200 calories per day. Typically, the ravenous hunger starts to decrease once a child has stopped growing, though not always. Kids who are big and tall, or who participate in physical activity, will still need increased amounts of energy into late adolescence. These calories should come from nutrient-rich foods, including grains, fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy products. The amount of fat, especially saturated and trans fat, and sugar should be limited.

    Specific nutrients, like iron and calcium, are especially important during the teen years because of the special roles they play in development. Lack of iron can lead to anemia and sluggish feelings during the day, negatively affecting alertness in school, at work and even during athletic participation. Iron intake is especially important for teenage girls, as menstruation depletes iron. Calcium is important for building bone mass during the teen years, which will help prevent osteoporosis and other health problems in the future.

    Practicing teen vegetarians can still get adequate nutrition. Calcium sources include calcium sulfate-processed tofu, leafy green vegetables and soy milk and orange juice fortified with calcium. High-iron vegetables include broccoli, spinach, watermelon and raisins. Vegans should find a vitamin B-12 supplement, although some soy milk has this fortification. You may want to have your teen meet with a nutritionist to learn how to plan well-balanced vegetarian or vegan meals.

    Physical Development

    occurs at different rates for everyone. In early teens there is a rapid increase in physical growth. Typically, females mature two years earlier than males. By late teens, both male and female bodies are close to adult size.

    • As puberty begins, girls have body growth along with the growth of breasts, pubic hair, and underarm hair and may also start menstruating. Boys will have body growth along with the growth of testes, penis, underarm/facial hair, and will have a change in their voice.

    Social and Emotional Development 

    occurs as teens build a sense of themselves. Typically, teens build relationships with others outside of the family. Teens normally feel great pressure to identify with their peers. To help prevent poor choices due to peer pressure, parents and teens need to be aware of this influence. Research shows that as time spent with family decreases, the amount of conflict with parents increases (Larson & Richards, 1994). Conflict with parents stays high for a few years. Do not take this personally. This is a natural step to independence.

    • Teens feel greater pressure to develop social relations with peers, and when these social relations happen, teens move further away from their parents, which can create conflict and tension at home
    • Struggle with self-doubt such as “What am I good at?”

    Cognitive development 

    is the ability to think and reason. The part of the brain that deals with decision making while considering options, facts and setting goals continues to grow and mature into our 20s. Teens may not always make the best decisions. Decision making is a skill learned over time. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Teens often learn by watching others. Teens need good guidance and direction from their support system. They can use step-by-step planning and are able to learn from mistakes. This allows them to make changes to their plans. Involvement in positive activities can help reduce risky behaviors. At this age, teens:

    • Think more flexibly
    • Think through several solutions to a problem
    • Suspend judgement until receiving all information
    • Learn how to seek information
    • Anticipate the probable consequences of alternative actions before choosing them
    • Have a tendency to misinterpret the behavior and motives of others
    • Tend to exaggerate or oversimplify matters
    • Engage in argumentative and rebellious behavior
    • Have trouble with indecisiveness
    • Find fault with authority figures


    Parents and caregivers should be aware of special health and safety concerns facing teenagers, such as eating disorders, depression and suicide, and motor vehicle safety.

    Eating Disorders

    Many teens try to lose weight by eating very little, cutting out whole groups of foods (like “carbs”), skipping meals, and fasting. These methods can leave out important foods their bodies need and negatively impact their health and development. Other weight-loss tactics like smoking, self-induced vomiting, or using diet pills or laxatives can also lead to health problems.

    In some cases, eating disorders develop because a teen participates in an activity that values extreme thinness—gymnastics, ballet, or swimming, for example. In other cases the eating disorder is a manifestation of underlying psychological issues, including low self-esteem, poor self-image, family problems, stress, or feelings of not being in control.

    Signs of eating disorders include unusual weight loss, preoccupation with food, peculiar eating habits, and menstruation that ceases for three or more consecutive months. These disorders are difficult to treat, often because the person denies that anything is wrong and hides the behavior from friends and family. Nutritional and psychological counseling are required. The earlier treatment is begun, the better the chances for recovery.

    Depression and Suicide

    It can be difficult to tell the difference between the ups and downs that are just part of being a teenager and teen depression. Talk with your teen. Try to determine whether he or she seems capable of managing challenging feelings, or if life seems overwhelming. Some signs that your teen may be struggling with depression include:

    • Feelings of sadness, which can include crying spells for no apparent reason
    • Irritability, frustration or feelings of anger, even over small matters
    • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
    • Loss of interest in, or conflict with, family and friends
    • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, fixation on past failures or exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism
    • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure, and the need for excessive reassurance
    • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
    • Ongoing sense that life and the future are grim and bleak
    • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
    • Tiredness and loss of energy
    • Insomnia or sleeping too much
    • Changes in appetite, such as decreased appetite and weight loss, or increased cravings for food and weight gain
    • Use of alcohol or drugs
    • Agitation or restlessness—for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
    • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
    • Frequent complaints of unexplained body aches and headaches, which may include frequent visits to the school nurse
    • Poor school performance or frequent absences from school
    • Neglected appearance— such as mismatched clothes and unkempt hair
    • Disruptive or risky behavior
    • Self-harm, such as cutting, burning, or excessive piercing or tattooing

    If these symptoms continue or begin to interfere in your teen’s life, talk to a doctor or a mental health professional trained to work with adolescents. Your teen’s family doctor or pediatrician is a good place to start. Or your teen’s school may recommend someone.

    Depression symptoms likely won’t get better on their own—and they may get worse or lead to other problems if untreated. Depressed teenagers may be at risk of suicide, even if signs and symptoms don’t appear to be severe. Take all talk of suicide seriously.

    If your teen is having suicidal thoughts, get help right away. Here are some steps you can take:

    • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) or TTY800-799-4889 to reach a trained counselor, or encourage your teen to do so.
    • Seek help from your doctor, a mental health provider or other health care professional.
    • Reach out to family members, friends or spiritual leaders for support as you seek treatment for your teen.

    If you think your teen is in immediate danger of self-harm or attempting suicide, make sure someone stays with him or her. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or if you think you can do so safely, take your teen to the nearest hospital emergency department.

    Motor Vehicle Safety

    In the United States, car accidents are the leading cause of death in teenagers. Parents and caregivers should make sure that teens wear safety belts at all times whenever they travel in a car, and should set a good example by wearing their safety belt as well.

    The following tips can help reduce the risk for a serious or fatal crash involving teenagers:

    • Consider enrolling your teen in an additional driving instruction program.
    • Limit unsupervised driving for the first six months after your teen gets his or her license (e.g., restrict teen passengers, night driving, and driving in adverse conditions).
    • Provide plenty of opportunities for your teen to practice driving with supervision under different conditions (e.g., parking lots, side streets, busy streets, highways, daytime, nighttime or light rain) and continue to ride with your teen to monitor his or her progress.
    • Institute a zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving. Tell your teen never to ride with a driver who is impaired by alcohol or other drug use. Instead, instruct him or her to call you for a ride. Let your teen know that they can call you for a ride at any time.
    • Avoid distractions while driving including:
      • Texting Texting on a cell phone or a handheld device is the most alarming practice because it involves all three types of distraction: visual, mental and manual.
      • Talking on cell phones Research shows even drivers who use hands free devices have dramatically reduced field of vision and slower response times while driving.
      • Talking to passengers For teen drivers, the more passengers in the car, the higher the chances of distraction.
      • Teens should also avoid:
        • Grooming (e.g., putting on makeup, shaving, combing your hair, etc.)
        • Eating and drinking (e.g., a cup of coffee, sandwich, etc.)
        • Reading, including maps
        • Using a PDA or navigation system, such as a GPS
        • Changing the radio station, CD, or Mp3 player
        • Listening to a video playing in the backseat
    What Can Parents Do to Prevent Dating Violence?

    Teen dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors that one partner uses to gain power and control over another. The abusive behavior may include, but is not limited to physical, emotional, verbal and/or sexual violence. Teen dating violence does not discriminate; the violence occurs consistently across racial and ethnic backgrounds. Dating relationships begin younger than most parents and guardians might think; in fact, almost half of 11-to-14-year-olds report already being in a dating relationship. Among 11-to-14-year-olds in dating relationships, 62% report they have a friend who has been verbally abused by a partner.

    While significant levels of abusive behaviors are reported in tween dating relationships, abusive behavior increases dramatically in the years 15 through 18. One in four adolescents report being verbally, physically, emotionally, or sexually abused by a dating partner.

    It is never too early to have a conversation with your child about healthy boundaries in relationships.


    Healthy relationships include behaviors and attitudes that promote mutual respect and equality. An example of this may include assertive, non-violent communication and appropriate responses to conflict. Having conversations with your teen about healthy behaviors is just as important as recognizing the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship. Talking with your teen about everything from healthy relationship boundaries, the potential abuse of technology in dating relationships, and that you are there for them to talk to about healthy relationships will increase their knowledge and safety.

    Some conversation starters for parents/guardians to approach teens about their ideas of relationships include:

    • If you have a problem with your partner, how would you let them know how you feel?
    • Is it ok to have your own time and space away from your partner?
    • What are some ways your partner shows you they care about you?

    Creating an environment where teens feel like they are heard can make the difference between them keeping a potentially dangerous situation to themselves, or trusting you.


    There are many different ways that an unhealthy relationship may begin. Teen dating violence is different than a conflict where both parties can voice how they feel and there is a solution or agreement. In an abusive relationship, one partner is not looking for a solution, but rather to assert power and control, often through fear and intimidation.

    Warning signs of an unhealthy relationship may include, but are not limited to:

    • Calls or texts excessively
    • Makes the other person ask, “Have I done something wrong?”
    • Uses guilt to control or manipulate
    • Isolates from family and friends
    • Monitors technology use and access
    • Embarrasses the other person in public and on purpose
    • Threatens self-harm if the person threatens to leave the relationship

    There are things you can do if you suspect your teen may be in an unhealthy relationship. Adults and teens often use different terms to define relationships and these terms have different meanings. Additionally, adults and teens may have varying expectations about the acceptability of certain behaviors within a relationship.

    Being empathetic can help when addressing teen dating violence with youth. Empathetic phrases may include:

    • I hear you saying…
    • I wonder if…
    • Do you feel…
    • You must have felt…
    • I don’t understand, can you explain more…

    These phrases show empathy without judgment and allow teens to share their thoughts in their own way. Teens are more likely to confide in their friends if they are being abused. To create an environment where teens feel comfortable, it’s important that you ensure they are heard, listen without judging, and provide clear information about what you may be able to do to help them.

    Teens often deny, minimize and feel confusion about the violence in their relationships. They may feel embarrassed, ashamed or fearful about the consequences of disclosing an unhealthy relationship. Below are common responses from teens and open-ended statements for adults to use to provide support and resources.

    Teen statements:

    • It’s not that bad, it’s not like he hits me.
    • I know he gets mad when I hang out with my guy friends. He told me not to and I did anyway. I guess I deserved it.
    • I am scared of what will happen if he knew I told someone.
    • I don’t want him to get in trouble. I just want it to stop.

    Adult statements:

    • I am worried about you. Emotional and verbal abuse is serious too.
    • It is not your fault. No one can make another person use violence.
    • No one deserves to be hurt. There is nothing that you could say or do that would make it okay for someone to hurt you.
    • I understand that this may be scary for you. It took a lot of courage to talk about it. Let’s talk about next steps to keep you safe.
    • I understand that you want to feel safe. Let’s talk about your options.

    Avoid phrases that may come off as blaming or judgmental like:

    • Why don’t you just break up with him?
    • You shouldn’t have let this happen to you.
    • Why do you let him treat you this way?

    The abuser is responsible for their actions. Dating abuse is a choice by one partner to hurt another to gain power and control.


    For more information, training, or services, such as confidential counseling or referrals, contact your local Domestic Violence Center or call the Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119 or TTY 1-800-621-4202, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to speak to a trained advocate.