Health Advice



Ask the Pediatrician: How to support healthy mental and emotional development in your child

Joan Jeung, MD, MPH, FAAP, American Academy of Pediatrics on

Published in Health & Fitness

Children, teens and their families are facing a lot of stress and challenges to mental wellness. Is it possible to prevent mental health problems and help kids be resilient during tough times?

The answer is yes. Parents and caregivers have powerful tools to help their children thrive, no matter what life throws their way. Positive experiences and safe, stable relationships help children develop the skills they need to manage their emotions, solve problems and develop close connections with others. The process of gaining these critical skills is called healthy mental and emotional development.

Here are some tips on how families can help:

Create predictable and structured routines to give children a sense of stability and connection.

Have meals together. Especially with older kids, family meals are a great time to check in with each other. They may not always be possible with busy schedules but plan them when you can.

Establish a regular bedtime ritual. For young children, a bedtime routine might include a bath, brushing teeth and reading a book together before tuck-in. Bonus: prioritizing sleep makes it easier to deal with everyday pressures.


Encourage a homework routine. Planning when and where to work on schoolwork are time management skills that ease stress. It also helps kids find time to practice self-care and more time to connect with family and friends.

Create a chores routine. Having age-appropriate chores promotes a sense of responsibility, belonging and contribution to the family. Kids gain confidence in completing tasks, which builds self-esteem.

Plan time for play, which lets children explore emotions even before they have the words to express themselves. It also gives them a sense of control in their world.

For younger kids, you can dedicate 10-15 minutes two to three times a week to play with younger kids. Name this special time after the child, like "Roberto's Time." Let your child choose the activity. Put away phones. Make the time unstructured with toys and activities that can promote cooperative play and problem-solving.The goal is to share joy and connect. Play regularly — not just as a reward for good behavior. Bonds you build in these moments lay ground for healthy relationships in life.


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