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Emotional health for infants, children and young people

Emotional development 0-6 months

Supporting a baby’s emotional development is just as important as looking after their physical needs. From the moment they are born your baby can communicate with you through his or her behaviour –this might be an obvious thing like a cry, or a subtle expression like moving an eyebrow. All your baby’s movements, expressions and responses are the unspoken words of their first language. Babies can’t think like older children but they do experience strong feelings and bodily sensations. They can be very sensitive to their environment, the people around them, the sounds, smells and emotions in the room. 
The key to understanding your baby’s language is taking the time to watch. As you watch, observe and learn to interpret the meaning of your baby’s cues and behaviours you will soon get to know them, what they are saying and how they would like you to respond. 
Link to Brazelton Centre UK:

Emotional development 6-12 months


Between six and twelve months of age, babies grow and develop rapidly.

Your baby may be learning to roll over, sit up, crawl or walk. All of these changes bring new feelings for you both. Babies learn best when you give them the space and time to explore and creating safe and stimulating environments is important.

During this time your baby might show signs of being ready to try food. You might have a variety of feelings about this as it marks the beginning of a new stage.

This may be a time when you start to think about leaving your baby with other caregivers. It is important to think about how to do this in a way that feels safe for all of you.

Emotional development 1-2 Years


Your baby is now a year old and may be a lot more mobile. Parenting can start to become demanding in a different way. You now need to think about safety and appropriate boundaries as well as caring for your baby.

Some parents miss their tiny baby and others are pleased that their baby has a little more independence.

Remember as this independence grows your baby will still need you. They will continue to return to you for reassurance that things are okay.

Emotional development 2-5 Years


Between the ages of two to five years old there will be lots of changes as your child moves away from babyhood to being able to manage a lot more on their own. Your child may be spending a lot more of their time with other people, going to preschool and nursery. This is a big change for young children.

There are new skills to learn like potty training and speech and language. These new skills will be learnt through play. Enjoy this special time together - you are your child’s first teacher!

Low mood

It is normal to feel low sometimes. This happens to everyone at different times. Our mood can change when we feel stressed or bad things happen.

Big events during childhood and teenage years can affect your child’s mood. This could include situations like changing schools, moving house, hormonal changes, friendship or relationship difficulties, and parental conflict.

Some symptoms of low mood may include:

• Anger or frustration

• Low self-esteem

• Tearfulness

• Worrying

• Feeling anxious

• Feeling tired and lacking energy

• Changes in eating habits

• Withdrawing from friends or family

• Loosing interest in hobbies.



As a parent it can be very frightening to discover that your young person has harmed themselves on purpose. There are two main reasons that young people self-harm. As a way to manage strong and overwhelming emotions or as a way of reconnecting with life or their body. Many young people want to protect their family or friends from their feelings, self-harm can be habit forming and a way for the young person to cope.

Self-harm can take many forms and is usually something which is private and secret for the young person:

• Cutting

• Burning, including with lighters or aerosol cans

• Punching or hitting themselves

• Poisoning

• Excessive exercise

• Overeating or starving themselves.

Worries and anxiety


What do children worry about?

Fears and worries are a normal part of life for all of us. Most children and young people worry from time to time and they need to learn skills to manage these worries. The content of these worries will change as your child or young person gets older. Common worries include:

• Being scared of the dark

• Having bad dreams

• Ghosts and monsters

• Animals

• Worries about doing new things or going to new places

• Exams and the future

• Changing school or moving house

• Death

• Fitting in with friends or peers.

Anxiety is when these worries become big and overwhelming.

Dealing with bullying

Being bullied can make your child feel alone, worthless, angry or sad. As a parent it can make you feel angry or sad that you haven’t been able to protect your child or young person.

Bullying can be done by anyone - family, friends, school mates, work colleagues or strangers. It can happen anywhere - in a school, workplace, home, social activities or online.

Experiencing bullying can make children and young people feel sad, that they are not clever enough, or good enough at things such as sport or making friends.

How you can help

Getting to know your baby’s sleep and wake states will really help you to work out what your baby needs. You will notice he can only do things when he is in the right state –so for example he won’t want to play when he is crying.  Babies connect best with you when they are in a quiet alert state and love to look at your face and hear your voice. Holding them at a distance from your face to your lap is usually ideal. When your baby looks interested, speak slowly and warmly and then wait for your baby’s response. At first he will watch, but when he is a few weeks old he will vocalise back and gradually become skilled at conversational ‘turn-taking’.

You could also try:

  • repeating the noises they make 
  • cuddling and making eye contact 
  • copying the faces they make 
  • sticking your tongue out and see if your baby copies 
  • the 'Five to Thrive' approach: talk, play, relax, cuddle and respond

Link to AIMH: a video link about ‘baby states’ and information on child’s emotions and how to interact with baby to meet their needs.

Every baby is different and will have their own pattern, moving through their sleep and wake states many times. Watching your baby’s cues and signals will help you to get the pace right. Babies naturally move from having fun to finding it all too much. If your baby gets overstimulated they may look away for a time, sneeze, cough, hiccup, bring up a bit of milk or their skin tone may pale or deepen because they need to change state. Watching for your baby’s cues will help you know if your interactions are too much, too little, or just right for your baby at this time. 

Link to: Baby Watching: making sense of your baby

How we can help

If talk to your health visitor about your baby's behaviour.  They can observe your baby withyou and help to make sense of what your baby is 'saying' so that you can support them to develop well and feel secure.  They can also signpost you to additional local resources that can help you to grow in confidence in interacting and enjoying your baby.

Who can help?

If you’re worried about your child’s development, a health professional in our team will be able to offer advice and support. You can Call Us on 0300 029 50 50 or Text Us on 07520 649887 to start a conversation. **Monday to Friday 9.30am - 4.30pm excluding bank holidays**

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