How parents can support development

Having a positive and respectful relationship with your child and supporting them gives them the confidence they need to develop emotionally and socially. They will feel secure knowing that they can return to you for support.

You can support your child’s development by helping them to manage their feelings. Your child should understand and be allowed to experience negative emotions, like anger, worry and frustration. They may feel intense fear at times. Your child may encounter many things every day that makes them feel afraid.

You can teach your child to manage their feelings by:

  • responding to their feelings in a positive way - for example, by naming their feeling and not getting angry
  • showing them the correct way to manage their feelings - for example, staying calm when you are in frustrating situations
  • encouraging them to talk about their feelings - how they feel and why they feel the way they do

Other ways of supporting your child’s social, emotional and behavioural development include:

  • giving them affection - using cuddles and kind words
  • playing with them - this will encourage learning through play
  • not saying negative things about your child - for example, instead of “You’re always so loud.” you could say “I like it when you use your quiet voice”
  • saying nice things about them - the way you talk about your child will affect their self-confidence, and ability to deal with future social and emotional challenges
  • allowing them to make some decisions - for example, “Do you want to wear your blue shirt or your yellow shirt?”
  • encouraging independence - for example, encourage them to feed and dress themselves
  • exposing them to new situations and experiences
  • not pushing them to achieve things before they are ready
  • accepting when they fail, without judgement
  • treating them with respect - for example, apologising to them if you make a mistake or wrongfully punish them

Your child will learn by copying you. You should show them the social, emotional and behavioural skills you want them to develop.

Try not to compare your child to other children. Focus on your child and how they have grown and developed over the past few years.


Your child will develop new emotional and social skills in stages. How fast your child develops will depend on their development in other areas - for example, their movement or language skills.

Sometimes before a child develops a new skill they might experience a “setback”. For example, a child who has slept well for a few months might start to wake often during the night before they start to walk.

Setbacks can be worrying for parents, but they are normal and should be expected.

Page last reviewed: 20 November 2018
Next review due: 20 November 2021

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