Helping Your Child Grow and Learn

As a child’s first teachers, parents make a difference for student success at every grade level. Providing a family support system that nurtures a child’s healthy physical, emotional, intellectual and social growth lets a child thrive to do well from preschool to high school.


How to Make a Strong Start

Children’s early experiences shape their potential to succeed in school and beyond. During the first three years of life, brain development is especially rapid with more than 700 neural connections created each second. This means that more is learned and at a faster rate than at any other time in a child’s life.

That’s why how parents, guardians and caregivers interact with infants and toddlers has a long-lasting impact on a child’s development and functioning later in life. Key elements to ensure overall, healthy growth include:

Nutrition – Providing a properly balanced diet with healthy food choices affects a child’s physical and mental development, fosters good eating habits and helps to prevent and overcome illness

Communication – Interacting with a young child by talking, reading and singing supports his/her language, cognitive and social development and provides a language-rich environment

Activity – Playing, movement and physical activity develop muscles, bone density and coordination for a child, reinforce good exercise behavior patterns and boost physical wellbeing

Assessment – Ensuring early assessment, intervention and referral for a young child can help prevent, treat or manage many developmental challenges

Environment – Raising a child in a positive, safe and loving environment has a profound impact on a child’s emotional, physical and social growth and development

When babies and toddlers have strong emotional bonds with parents and caregivers, good health and wellness care and positive early learning experiences, an enduring foundation is built to do well at school and beyond.

Take Action: For videos, podcasts and information on early learning, behavior and development, visit the Zero to Three website:


 How to Help Kids Thrive

Success in school is heavily linked to a child’s self-esteem and self-discipline. When children and adolescents feel good about themselves, they develop social skills and competencies to relate well to others, behave more appropriately and be more aware of the world around them.

Research shows, too, that high self-esteem has an even greater payoff over a lifetime of making decisions. By providing everyday opportunities for your children and teens to learn how to make decisions that are age appropriate, they develop more confidence and a sense of responsibility for their own actions and choices.

Self-discipline is equally important as a basic building block for student achievement. Helping a child to learn why and how self-control, perseverance and grit matters better prepares and empowers him/her for school readiness and learning.

As key assets from preschool to high school, self-esteem and self-discipline are nurtured in a child and teenager when, as a parent, you:

  • Show and express how much you care, love and value him/her unconditionally
  • Set limits and rules that are important to the quality of your family life
  • Provide guidelines with clear expectations to help meet his/her responsibilities
  • Listen and are responsive to his/her needs and aspirations
  • Notice and praise his/her efforts and problem-solving skills
  • Spend individual time with him/her
  • Create an atmosphere of honesty, mutual trust and respect

Fostering healthy self-esteem and self-discipline gives children and teens a strong sense of their own power, purpose, worth and promise to do well in school and beyond.

Take Action: See how key developmental assets support student learning and growth on the Search Institute’s website:


 How to Navigate the Teen Years

A teenager’s need to be more independent, assert themselves and take risks is a normal and healthy part of his/her development.

As parents can attest, teens often seem to make impulsive decisions without thinking about consequences. Yet, studies show this is a natural outcome of this stage of growth since parts of the teenage brain responsible for impulse control only fully mature at about age 25.

Exploring their own limits and abilities, as well as the boundaries you set as a parent, is part of how teenagers develop their identity and become their own person.

Here are some effective ways for parents to navigate the teen years:

Keep Communicating – Maintain easy, two-way communication and develop a supportive relationship that encourages your teen to talk openly with you

Set Family Ground Rules – While teens often push against these rules, learn to be flexible in negotiating new limits as they mature and show they are ready for new responsibilities

Stay Connected – Know where and how to reach each other by phone and who your teen is hanging out with

Reinforce Values – Talk often with your teen about how decisions, behavior and actions reflect values and character and affect others in your community

Manage Risk-taking – Help your teen learn how to assess risk and channel risk-taking tendencies into more constructive, adrenaline-charged activities such as playing sports or performing in drama or the creative arts

Model Behavior – Be a good role model to help guide your teenager’s behavior and actions as they mature and grow

Be There – Show and tell your teen how much your family supports, loves and cares for him/her

When parents encourage their teenagers to become more self-sufficient and provide strong, family support, adolescents are better equipped to meet the expectations, challenges and responsibilities they will face as young adults.

Take Action: For more tips and information on the development and growth of teens, visit the Kid’s Health website:

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