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Emotional health for 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.

Your baby will be communicating with you and you can support this by listening, watching and turn taking with them.

You could 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
  • try the 'Five to Thrive' approach: talk, play, relax, cuddle and respond

You may notice whilst your baby is babbling or holding eye contact with you, they stop and look away. This is your baby showing you that they need a break in the interaction, as it can be overwhelming or tiring. They may then turn back to you and start babbling again. Your baby is telling you they are ready for more turn taking and interactions. 

You will become attuned to these patterns as your baby grows and develops. Some parents say they start to recognise the different ways their baby communicates with them. Your baby might be telling you, by their cries and movements, that they are hungry, tired, have a wet nappy or just need to be close to you.

These are the building blocks of learning early communication and social skills, and will help to develop your bond.

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.

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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