Parenting Advice and Support

By Margaret Hannah, MEd, Executive Director - Richard I. and Joan L. Freedman Center for Child and Family Development October 05, 2015

Mental Health Tips from William James College Faculty: Parenting Adivce and Support by Margaret Hannah, MEd, Executive Director - Richard I. and Joan L. Freedman Center for Child and Family Development.

Parenthood can bring joy and sorrow. It can make one feel proud, tired, bored, and overwhelmed - sometimes all at once. It is the most important, most wonderful, and most difficult job ever.

Just when a parent feels competent about an appropriate parenting style, the child changes. Confidence and competence may be replaced by bewilderment and betrayal. Each new developmental stage requires that parents nurture the child appropriately, while also anticipating and preparing for upcoming changes. 

Tips for Parenting at Each Stage of Development

  • Newborn to 6 months: Build strong emotional bonds for baby. Feeding, diapering, cuddling, talking to, and playing with the baby — especially within a predictable pattern — promotes and reinforces growth and development, both social-emotionally and cognitively. 
  • 6 months to 1 year: Safely support movement. Think about what needs to be gated, locked away, removed, or readjusted. A safe environment allows the baby to explore freely, inspiring trust, confidence, and independence. 
  • 1 year to 3 years: Be clear and firm about limits and expect them to be tested. While the child's favorite word during this stage may be “no,” remember to use positive reinforcement and make room for “yes” whenever possible. 
  • 3 years to 6 years: Help with making friends. Help children be successful friends by planning play dates that are likely to be successful. For instance, limit play date length to no more than two hours; schedule play dates for less-busy days; allow children to help plan the event. 
  • 6 years to 10 years: Provide structured - and unstructured time. School can be a major developmental stressor. It takes a great deal of energy and self-discipline for children to successfully navigate a school day. Therefore, their schedules and structures should be offset by free play and down time. Self-guided play is critical at this stage of children's development.
  • 10 years to 15 years: The time of many emotions. Preadolescents truly are “be-tweens” — yearning for independence, while at times still wanting to be treated like a ‘kid.’ Parents need to give the preadolescent opportunities to make choices and make mistakes. During these emotional years, parents should remind themselves to listen to their “tween”. Parents must make every effort to show respect, faith, and love in all their interactions with their tween – even when it's not easy. 
  • 15 years to 18 years: The time of “almost there.” Be clear about expectations. Engage them in mutual problem solving and clarify consequences. Goal setting tends to be well received as long as the parents can “let go” and let teens can “own” their choices. Teens need to be empowered to learn from their choices and encouraged to follow through on their goals. Adolescence is ultimately a wonderful time for parent and child alike, as the final puzzle pieces go into place and the teen makes the successful transition to adulthood. 

Most important: Tune into the child you have, trust your gut, and respond accordingly.