What I like to do as a preschooler

There are many things that your preschooler will enjoy doing. There are also many ways in which they need your encouragement and guidance to help them develop and grow.

I like to repeat activities to learn, practice and master new skills.

Help your child practice the things they are learning, like catching a ball, counting, singing a song, doing simple household activities to help, or repeating an activity from kindy. Focus on what they can do, not what they can’t or shouldn’t do.

You can encourage and guide by saying “You are a great jumper – do it on the trampoline, not the lounge” or “You can practice climbing ladders when we get to the park after lunch. Chairs are not for climbing”.  

Consider giving children extra time. For example, allowing extra time to get ready so you are in the car on time.  

I need help to see another’s perspective.

Guide your child and show understanding. Say things like “I know you want to go to the park now, but I need to drop Dad at work and John at school first. They will get into trouble if they are late.”

Or “When you draw in your brother’s school books, he gets upset”, or “When you throw the toy at Jane, it hurts her and makes her cry.”  

I want to be in charge.

You can help by saying “I know you like this game, but others would like to have a go too. How do we make sure that everyone gets to have a turn?”   

I will repeat behaviours to get a predictable response.

You might respond by saying “That behaviour is not acceptable. You need to (x) or I will (y)”.

You can give three warnings to children who have shown that they are developmentally ready to comprehend this (i.e. they have finished playing the ‘Why?’ game).  

I like using my power, strength and speed.

Praise your child when they are being responsible, such as “Look at how you packed things away without me asking you”.  

Make opportunities to use their skills: “I wonder if we can make a game of who can pack away their bit the fastest”, or “Can you help me lift your play table over there?”  

I like to use the things you use.

Explain the difference between a toy, a tool and a decoration. For example: “Let me show you how to use this tool safely. You can only use this with me around, okay?” 

Find parts of a task that children can help with, such as mixing the flour and milk when baking.  

I will copy how you relate to others.

Role model positive behaviour. Take care to be respectful in the way you relate to other adults and children. Avoid negative words when describing others.   

I use body language to get power over others.

You can help your child learn by saying “Pushing/hitting means you cannot play” and removing them from the situation. 

Suggest ways your child can be part of things: “How about you ask if you can join in or tell them how they can join in your game.”  

I like to play cooperative games with roles or rules.

You can help by asking “What are you playing? What are the rules?”  

Play board games or simple ball games in the park and explain the rules.  

I like to feel I can contribute in the family.

Involve your child in doing chores and things around the house. You can say things like: “This will help our house look great”, or “We need to eat soon, can you help me cook?”, or “Dinner is ready, can you help set the table?”  

I am learning about deception, and omitting or stretching the truth.

You can guide your child by responding with things like “I don’t know that is true or the whole truth. If I checked would it be true? Would [name] say that too?”  

I like to know why.

Explain things when reasons are clear. For example, “You need your shoes on so your feet don’t get sore”, or “The doctor doesn’t have much time so we get them to write our name next to a time for us to see him”.

Encourage your child to think about reasons why for themselves. Questions like: “Who could we ask?”, “Where could we find out?”, “I’m not sure …..I wonder why?”, or ”Can you think of why that might be?” 

Birth and beyond

Exciting times are ahead! Birth comes after lots of anticipation and preparation. It is normal to be a bit worried about the labour and birth, especially if it is your first time. Everyone has a unique birth experience and everyone feels differently about it. 

Preparing for birth

  • Read about birth and labour and discuss them with your medical team 
  • Attend antenatal classes as they will prepare you with some practical support and answer your many questions  
  • Prepare a birth plan letting your healthcare professionals know your preferences for the labour, birth, pain management and who you would like to be at the birth  
  • Research birthing alternatives so that you can make an informed decision  
  • Keep an open mind to pain relief options and birthing positions as you won’t know what you’ll need until you’re in labour. Things don’t always go according to plan and preparation helps to avoid feeling negative over loss of control about the birth experience 
  • Ask your doctor/midwife/hospital services any questions  
  • Visit your hospital before the birth and don’t forget to have that bag packed  
  • Talk to your support person about their role. You may like to read information on the role of the support person during caesarean birth  


The main signs of labour starting are strong, regular contractions and a ‘show’. A show is when the plug of mucus from your cervix comes away.  

Other signs that labour is starting include your waters breaking (rupture of the membranes), backache and an urge to go to the toilet. This is caused by your baby’s head pressing on your bowel.  

The Women and Newborn Health Service has many resources that may be helpful. 

Having twins or a multiple birth

So you are expecting more than one baby – congratulations! It is a different experience and challenging when you have more than one baby. This is why identifying support whilst still pregnant is a good idea.  

There are extra demands on the mother’s body when having multiple births and increased emotional responses. It is a big adjustment, so preparation and planning are key.  

Premature birth

Having an early labour and birth is often an unexpected or emergency situation. Parents may experience a variety of emotions including feelings of grief over loss of control over the birth as well as fear and trauma. You may not have had time to mentally adjust to or prepare for the birth. 

There may be fear of loss about a mothers’ life and/or babies’ life. Both parents can be traumatised by the experience, which can put you at higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, postnatal depression and postnatal anxiety.  

You may also:  

  • Have difficulty adjusting to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit  
  • Be concerned about separation from your baby  
  • Find it hard to feed and bond with you baby  
  • Feel helpless and need time to gain confidence in caring for your baby 
  • Feel anxious about bringing your baby home particularly after an extended hospital stay 
  • Experience continuing feelings of loss about the “normal” or expected birth you had planned.  

Seek out and accept support from each other and from professionals around you to ensure you have the best possible start to parenting.  

Feeding your baby

 “I don’t feel confident that I know how to breastfeed my baby.” 

Breast milk provides all the nutrition and other benefits that your baby needs for the first 5 to 7 months of life. 

This is one of the first skills to learn after birth and it can be challenging and will take a little time to establish. Midwives, lactation consultants and the Australian Breastfeeding Association can all provide support.  

Developing a good understanding about breastfeeding before the birth will help build your confidence. Consider forming a ‘support crew’ in advance so that help is available when you need it. Try to seek support from other women who have breastfed their own babies. 

You may not be sure if you want to breastfeed your baby. If so, it is important to ask health professionals lots of questions so you make an informed decision. Discuss your decision with your partner and other important people in your life. More about infant feeding. 

Planning to raise your child

Parenting is a journey. As your child learns and grows so will you learn and grow as a parent. There are many opportunities to learn and people from whom you can seek support and knowledge. 

You may feel overwhelmed with all sorts of advice you receive about parenting your baby. In this case you may feel doubtful about your abilities to be a good parent or you may disagree with others’ advice.  

Get to know your baby. Watch, talk, sing, play and read to them. Have lots of hugs and cuddles and you will soon know them very well. 

Sometimes it helps to plan for the future to relieve concerns about the unknown when you are pregnant – this gives you a sense of control. Discuss with your partner and family how you would like to raise your child and how you can support each other.  

It is good to talk about how to make your environment as healthy as possible for your baby. This means having a healthy lifestyle. You might choose to quit smoking, adopt more healthy eating habits and role model the benefits of exercise and being active.  

It is never too early to start role modelling the behaviours you would like your child to have in the future like helping, sharing, and being respectful, as babies and children learn from what they see happening around them.  

Pregnancy loss, miscarriages, stillbirths, and infertility  

Grief and loss over losing your baby at any stage of the pregnancy affects both parents and their family. Pregnancy after pregnancy loss can bring up a range of emotions. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  

Help is available from SANDS Western Australia 1300 072 637 Red Nose 1800 686 780 and the Perinatal Loss Service.

Want to know more?

Government of WA, Healthy WA – Having a baby 

The Raising Children Network – Pregnancy and birth 

Women and Newborn Health Service – Pregnancy 

Pregnancy, birth and baby – Having the baby 

Your toddler and your new baby

Expecting another baby? 

Pregnancy and the birth of a new baby can stir up many different feelings for mothers, fathers and other family members.  

For mothers, it may bring up thoughts of whether they will love this baby as much as their first. 

Confidence comes with experience, and many second and third time parents find being a parent again, easier. They feel more confident and relaxed.  

It is important to include your toddler in the lead up to the arrival of your new baby. Siblings will figure as one of the most important relationships in your baby’s life – this relationship is usually longer than the parent-child relationship – so it is important that it gets off to a good start. 

The way children respond to the news of the impending arrival of a brother or sister will depend on: 

  • Age and stage of their development 
  • Temperament  

As the date of the birth draws near, being organized will help reduce some of the stress that comes with the arrival of another baby. 

Preparing your toddler for the arrival of their sibling: 

  • Visit friends with babies, start some role-playing with dolls, feeding and putting baby down to sleep.  Share stories and pictures of your older child when they were a baby. 
  • Make a sibling story book so when the baby arrives they can tell the story to the baby about his big brother or sister. The sibling can possibly read to the baby too because that is a very important job. 
  • Discuss with your toddler if they are happy to give up their old pram to the baby? Are you buying a double stroller?  If so, get your child to sit in the stroller and then put a dolly in the stroller to represent the baby. Get your toddler used to the new stroller before the baby arrives. 
  • If it is planned that your child will go for a sleepover on the night the baby is born, help them by practicing sleepovers beforehand. 
  • If you are planning to move your toddler from a cot to a bed, do this before the baby is born, so there is no resentment towards the baby.  
  • Continue normal routines as they help to give toddlers a sense of security. They like to know what is coming next.  
  • Allow children to express their feelings by helping them put words to their emotions. 

Introducing your toddler to their baby brother or sister in hospital  

  • It is  a good idea not to have the baby in your arms so you can give your toddler a big cuddle. Make a fuss of them before introducing them to the new baby. Take hints from your toddler, who may be shy at first. You might say, “Would you like to see baby’s little feet? You used to have such tiny feet like that. Would you like to stroke them?”. They might be keen to hold the baby, but don’t push it if they are not. Make sure they know you will still love them now the baby has arrived. Take a photo so your toddler can show everyone they have a new brother or sister. New babies are often showered with gifts and toddlers might feel put out. Some new books or appropriate toys as a present from the baby might help any relieve any potential resentment. 
  • Coming into a hospital might be a new experience for your toddler. They may be shy or anxious seeing you in your pyjamas during the day. 
  • They may become upset if they see their mum with drips and drains attached. Consider planning the first visit after these are all removed. Toddlers have short attention spans and hospital rooms are pretty boring, so organising an activity box with things to keep them entertained is helpful. Snacks to satisfy little appetites often go down well. 
  • If your partner or helper is bringing your toddler late in the afternoon, you might like to do your bedtime routine in hospital. Having a shower in mum’s bathroom and then a book to read before they go, can normalise their life and makes it easy for dads when they get their toddlers home and ready for bed. 
  • For more information on Managing a toddler and a baby at home (Internal link) 

Want to know more? 

The Raising Children Network – New baby: preparing your other children 

Australian Breastfeeding Association – Preparing your toddler for the new baby 

We are going to be parents

Pregnancy brings with it many emotions. Even if you planned pregnancy for a long time it can be a bit of shock. You are likely to be excited at first, then begin thinking of the big changes ahead.  

The reality will take a little time to get used to as you wonder about the future. It is normal during early pregnancy to feel fatigued and perhaps a little anxious when the hormones start to kick in. It’s a new stage in your life for everyone involved. Adjusting to these big changes takes time, so go easy on yourselves and get support if you need it.  

Who will care for mum-to-be and baby?

Your GP is your first contact to discuss the options. If you do not have a regular doctor, this is a good time to find one. Options may vary depending on where you live – you may need to travel to a bigger centre for the delivery.  

Your GP will be able to refer you to the hospital or an obstetrician. If there are medical conditions that need to be considered, they will pass on this information to the relevant care provider. 

It is important to register with the hospital or obstetrician as soon as you know you are pregnant so that your choices are not limited. 

The Choices App (available on The Raising Children Network) can be very helpful. It has a week to week guide showing pregnancy progress, with useful tips for partners and how they might be involved during the early stages.  

Once you have decided who is going to manage your care, there will be lots of tests to establish the health and wellbeing of mum-to-be and your developing baby. Your midwife or doctor will organise these tests. Being familiar with what will happen can lower any anxiety. More about monitoring and tests.  

For women who have not planned the pregnancy, there may be a level of anxiety about the few glasses of alcohol, cigarettes or prescribed or recreational drugs they may have had at the time of conception. Find out more about smoking, alcohol and drugs during pregnancy.  

Changes in relationships and lifestyle

There can be losses or changes in many relationships as you move from partners to parents. Pregnancy is a time for planning and preparing for your life changes and new role. 

There may be health changes and physical effects from pregnancy. An expectant mother may have less energy and capability to keep up with household management and chores which have previously been agreed on, so it may be useful to discuss changes in household tasks.  

“Nesting” may occur and mothers-to-be may feel the need to be at home and prepare for the baby a little earlier than planned.  

Some practical details to address:  
  • How long you plan to work during your pregnancy  
  • Parental leave and pay entitlements  
  • If returning to work, when and how many hours 
  • Child care options 

Allow enough time to work this out, but remain flexible. You may feel differently once the baby arrives and your lives and priorities change.  

Financial changes

Budgeting and managing on one income, even for a short period, can add financial pressure. Some useful budgeting tools can be found at Moneysmart. 

The arrival of new baby may put financial strain on the family.

Things you may need to budget for:  
  • Setting up nursery and other essential equipment
  • Clothing  
  • Hospital and medical costs   
  • Ongoing costs (such as nappies)  

Often, the working partner will feel worried about their role as a provider, so doing a little research together and finding out about available leave , tax and financial support is recommended.  

Helpful advice and support

There is no shortage of advice around pregnancy and how to care for your baby from family, friends and experts.  

While the internet has enabled us to have access to information at our fingertips, research is telling us that sometimes we want to talk to a real person who has had recent first-hand experience.  

Our own family might help, but many of us are geographically isolated from our families. Talking with friend or meeting up with other parents at workshops or early parenting groups can be helpful.  

Everybody has different feelings and expectations about parenthood. These may be influenced positively or negatively by your own experience of growing up in a family. Sometimes parents choose to parent differently to their own parents and this can sometimes create tension in families.  

Talk to each other, talk to your family, and talk to your friends about your plans for parenting and seek their support.  

Emotional health  

It’s important to care for your emotional health during pregnancy and early parenthood as well as eating well, maintaining a healthy weight gain and getting enough sleep and exercise.

Many parents, both women and men, suffer postnatal depression or anxiety. It is wise to know the signs and symptoms so that you can seek help if you feel concerned. 

If you have had depression, anxiety or other mental illness in the past, you may be at higher risk. Being aware of your history, and making a plan with your GP for getting help is important.  

If you are experiencing family and domestic violence, or if you or your unborn baby are being exposed to harm, you can get help. Further support can be found at Child Protection and Family Support or at Reachout.com  

Want to know more?

Raising Children Network – Week by week guide to pregnancy

Beyond Blue – New fathers and Pregnancy and new parents 

Women and Newborn Health Service – Becoming a parent  

The Raising Children Network – Antenatal depression and postnatal depression in women 

PANDA – Post and Antenatal Depression Association 

Taking care of yourself

New parents dedicate their time and energy to the baby who relies on them for every aspect of their survival. 

But don’t forget yourselves. Many parents say that being a parent is the toughest job they ever had. Having your sleep interrupted every night for weeks and months can make your life really difficult. 

Set aside some time

It is a common complaint from new parents that they don’t have time to care for themselves. Life is quite different from when you were in the workforce and routines involved only you and your partner.  

Try to remind yourselves that as new parents you have a renewed set of needs, emotionally and physically. Being mindful of your own needs is part of adjusting to the many changes that have taken place since you have become parents. Don’t be too demanding on yourselves.  

To care for your baby you need to care for yourselves as a healthy you equals a healthy baby. Don’t put your own needs on the backburner as it can actually cause more problems when adjusting to your new life style. 

To be able to develop and enjoy your relationship with your baby requires a generally “okay“ state of mind.  

Self care

Self care means any activity that recharges us and keeps our energy and vitality going physically and mentally. 

If self-care has not been one of your greatest skills in the past and you are experiencing low mood or feeling anxious, you may need to have a chat with your GP or child health nurse. 

Discuss what you need with your partner or family and enjoy some activities of your choice, such as: 

  • walking around the block or go to the gym;  
  • catching up with a friend;  
  • getting a haircut, or visiting the beautician; or  
  • just having a long shower.  

You might like to put a list of some of these things where it will remind you to take time for yourself each day.   

Have a “calm-down” plan and practice it. If you feel angry, stressed out, annoyed or tearful, what can you do to calm yourself? Some ideas:

  • phone a friend or relative  
  • do deep breathing exercises  
  • run around the garden or whatever works for you 

Self care tips

Planning for a routine that ensures parental self-care is important in maintaining the family’s wellbeing.  

  • Share the load. Ask for help from your partner, family members or friends. 
  • Practice to stop and take time to think before rushing to the next task, you may notice you are hungry or in need of a rest  
  • Drinking eight glasses of fresh water each day – if you are dehydrated you will feel even more groggy and lethargic. 
  • Take cat naps when you can through the day – frequent mini-naps (5-30 minutes) or even a brief quiet time are really helpful for tired bodies. 
  • Keep some quick to prepare, healthy food in your fridge; for example, fruit, vegetables, cheese, or yoghurt.  
  • Try to grab a snack every couple of hours rather than skipping meals like breakfast and lunch. 
  • Keep up activities that you enjoy – listening to music, reading the news.  


Want to know more?

Beyond Blue – Emotional health and wellbeing 

The Raising Children Network – Looking after yourself  

Pregnancy, birth and baby – Being a parent 

The Women and Children Health Service have lots of resources to get help and support for parents. 

Expressing breast milk

There are many reasons why mothers may want to express their breast milk.

Common reasons for expressing breast milk

  • Their baby may be sick or premature and unable to suckle. 
  • The mother’s breasts feel uncomfortably full. 
  • The baby is with dad while mum takes a break. 
  • The milk supply may need to be increased. 
  • The mother and baby may be temporarily separated. 

Milk can be expressed by hand, by using a hand pump or an electric pump. If you have a premature baby or anticipate that you might need to express regularly you might want to consider an electric pump. Electric pumps are available for hire from the Australian Breastfeeding Association, some pharmacies and hospitals.  

It can take time to express and it does require you to be relaxed, so don’t be in a hurry! 

Things to consider

It helps to express in a comfortable, relaxed and private place, free of distractions – including the telephone. Keep a glass of water nearby, and have  all your expressing equipment ready. Some women find that just thinking about breastfeeding their baby – or looking at a baby photo – is enough to stimulate the milk ‘letdown’. 

Breast milk is sterile when it comes from the breast and expressed breast milk is actually safer to use than prepared infant formula. Very little special handling is required for use by healthy, full-term babies. However, if your baby is hospitalized because of illness or prematurity, it is best to check for any particular instructions with their care staff. 

Expressing breast milk safely

  • Thoroughly clean all equipment used such as pumps, bottles, teats and containers with hot soapy water. Rinse with hot water and leave to air dry before storing in a clean, air-tight container. Pump equipment can be stored in the fridge and washed every 24 hours.  
  • Expressed breast milk can be conveniently stored in the refrigerator or freezer. 
  • Use glass or special breast milk bags that are sealable and made from plastic that will not leach into the milk. You can buy these from pharmacies or the Australian Breastfeeding Association. 
  • Freshly expressed milk should be chilled in the refrigerator before being added to frozen breast milk in the freezer. 
  • Wash hands with soap and water before handling breast milk. 
  • Don’t leave expressed breast milk at room temperature for more than a few hours. 
  • Refrigerated expressed breast milk must be used within three to five days and should be placed at the back of the fridge where it is coldest. 
  • Seal all containers in the fridge and freezer well and label with a date. 
  • Freeze expressed breast milk that you know will not be used within two days. 
  • When using frozen breast milk, use the oldest milk first. 
  • Allow frozen breast milk to thaw in the refrigerator – not at room temperature. 
  • It can then be stored for up to 24 hours before use. Do not refreeze it. 
  • Breast milk from the fridge or freezer that has been heated in warm water should be used straight away. If your baby does not finish all of the milk, make sure the remaining milk is thrown away. 

The type of refrigerator you have can change freezing recommendations. If your fridge has only one door and contains a freezer compartment inside, breast milk can be frozen for two weeks. If your refrigerator has a separate door for the freezer section, it can be frozen for three months. 

Breast milk can be stored for between 6 and 12 months in a deep freezer. 

Thawed breast milk separates and needs to be shaken or mixed well. 

Each person differs in the amount they can express, some mothers find it difficult, even with a good milk supply and a thriving baby. 

Your overall milk production should not be judged by the amount of milk you can express. A baby’s technique of extracting milk is highly developed and your child will always get more milk than you can express yourself. 

Want to know more?

Raising Childrens Network – Expressing and storing Breast milk 

Australian Breastfeeding Association – Breastfeeding information

Sleep for preschoolers

Getting enough sleep is important for preschoolers. Sleep supports the brain development and learning that is happening during this stage of growth.  

Sleep and learning

Most children are now in an early learning or kindy environment. This may mean they are: 

  • learning how to be apart from their parents  
  • learning to socialise with other children  
  • learning new rules 
  • taking direction from adults that are not known to them.  

A well-rested preschooler will be more likely to manage a new environment with enough energy and concentration to learn and to enjoy these new experiences.  

Supporting your child’s transition to sleep

Preschoolers will need support from their parents at the end of the day, to unwind from their busy day, to talk about and process what they have been doing, to refuel with a healthy snack, and to reconnect with their parents through cuddles and attention.  

This can be tricky in many families where there are meals to be cooked, chores, homework and bathing to be done, where all in the household are tired and needing to de-stress from the day.  

Consistent bed and wake times and calming bedtime routines are key. Limit or avoid screen time and encourage less stimulating play as bed time draws near. Just as with toddlers, this is part of assisting your preschooler to ‘transition’ to bedtime.  

Some ideas that can help:   

  • Give warnings when bedtime is near  
  • Practise a bedtime ritual that follows a set sequence such as having a bath, putting on pyjamas, brushing teeth and reading a book.  

When sleep is difficult

Due to higher levels of stimulation and separation from parents in the day, some preschoolers will experience periods of sleep difficulty. This may be either finding it hard to get to sleep or waking during the night.  

‘Switching off’ from their day may prove difficult for some children. They may require some additional support to learn to still their mind and to relax.

If your child is getting out of bed during the night, be calm and consistent with how you support your child to resettle.  

Some children will experience nightmares and night terrors at this development stage as their imaginations are further developed and stimulated throughout the day. Reassure and support them. This stage will pass as they grow.  

How much sleep does my preschooler need?  

Every child is different and there is a big range of what is considered adequate sleep.  

On average, most preschoolers need an average of 11 to 14 hours of good quality sleep a day. They will usually be ready for bed between 6.30pm and 7.30pm, depending on your individual household. Some preschoolers may still need an afternoon nap.

Their behaviour will be a safe guide for you. A preschooler with adequate sleep will be happy, active and playful at home and at kindy.  

Watch for tired signs, like rubbing eyes or being irritable and emotional.  

Remember your child is still learning and growing. They need routine and for you to be reassuring and warm while, at the same time, consistent and firm. 

Want to know more?

Raising Children Network Preschoolers and sleep

Pregnancy, birth and baby – Sleep and your child


Connecting and communicating with your pre-teen

During the pre-teen years, a child’s social network is very important to them. However, they still need the love and support of their parents as much as they did when they were younger.   

Having a close bond can make the transition from child to teen smoother for both parents and children.  

Often in the pre-teen years, parents need to have difficult conversations with their child about issues such as bullying, puberty, and academic performance.  

A close parent-child connection with open communication can make these conversations easier for both parents and their pre-teens.   

Staying connected to your pre-teen child

  • Eat meals together as a family (screen free) as often as possible; use this time to talk together and share things about your day. This becomes more difficult as children get older with sporting and other commitments; however, aim to eat and talk together as a family at least once a day.
  • Have fun as a family: play games, go to the beach or for walks. 
  • Try to have regular one on one time with your pre-teen. Even if it’s only while you’re in the car, make the most of the time to connect.  
  • Show affection regularly, even just a quick hug or shoulder squeeze can mean a lot to your child.
  • Be interested in them and their life. Get to know their friends, their favourite subjects and areas where they are struggling.   

Communicating with your pre-teen child

  • Practice and use active listening. 
  • Learn the art of negotiation and conflict management.  
  • Have family meetings to resolve issues and celebrate successes.
  • Encourage and allow your child to share their feelings and help them to manage these feelings when needed.   

Want to know more?

There are many books, websites and courses which can help parents to maintain a strong, warm connection to their child and help with communication especially around emotions.  

Raising Children Network – Pre-teens: communicating and relationships 

Maggie Dent – Communication for family harmony 

Kids Matter – Family relationships: Further resources 

Promoting good mental health

Children that are mentally healthy are better equipped to handle life’s challenges and curve balls.

Parents play a big role in shaping their child’s health and wellbeing by modelling behaviours that promote and encourage good mental health.  

What is good mental health?

Having good mental health does not mean that children will be free of difficulties or worries. Feeling worried, sad or fearful as we grow up is normal.  

Being mentally healthy is an essential part of wellbeing, and incorporates social life and emotions. Your love, support and strong relationship with your pre-teen can have a direct impact on your child’s mental health. 

Pre-teens who have good mental health often show the following characteristics: 

  • Feel happy and positive about themselves and enjoy life 
  • Have healthy relationships with family and friends 
  • Physically active and eat a healthy diet 
  • Involved in a range of activities 
  • Have a sense of achievement 
  • Can relax and have a good night’s sleep 
  • Feel like they belong to their community 

Supporting your pre-teen’s mental health

Supporting your pre-teen’s physical and emotional health and wellbeing will help them to become more resilient as they enter their teenage years.

Here are a few ideas to promote positive mental health in your pre-teen. 

  • Demonstrate your love, affection and care for your child 
  • Show that you are interested in what’s happening in your child’s life 
  • Mention your child’s good points and achievements
  • Listen to and value their ideas 
  • Spending one on one time and family time with your child 
  • Encourage your child to talk about their feelings with you and talk about solutions to problems that may arise 

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, talk to family members, friends, other parents or teachers. If you think you need more help, seek advice and support from your GP or health professional.

Benefits of being active

Being active contributes to good mental health as well as being very important for children’s physical health. Physical activity sends dopamine (a brain chemical) through the body, giving it a ‘feel-good’ feeling that can enhance mood.

Being active has many other benefits: 

  • Improves heart rate and fitness 
  • Develops strong muscles and bone 
  • Reduces stress 
  • Improves sleep 
  • Increases self confidence 
  • Maintains healthy weight 
  • Improves ability to learn new skills 
  • Creates opportunity to meet new people and make new friendships 
Tips to encourage your child to be active
  • Encourage your child to spend time outdoors and less time using digital technology 
  • Enrol your child in a team sport outside of school time, such as basketball, netball or football 
  • Seek out hobbies and activities that involve being physical 
  • Arrange outdoor activities as a family, like going for a walk, or going to the park, picnic or beach 

The importance of sleep

Just like physical activity, sleep is also very important for your pre-teen.  

Sleep helps to repair and renew the body. During sleep, the body repairs cells, releases growth hormones, and strengthens the immune and nervous system. 

Regular sleep routines will encourage healthy brain development and a more positive mental health outlook. It is recommended that pre-teens get between nine and 12 hours sleep each night.

Healthy eating

Positive eating behaviours developed in childhood can set children up with healthy eating habits and good health for life.

The fast pace of everyday life and high volumes of screen time have impacted on family eating behaviours. Try to make time to ensure that children are developing a healthy relationship with food. 

Tips to encourage healthy eating behaviours
  • Enjoy food in moderation 
  • Include your children in making meals 
  • Enjoy having a meal as a family around the table  
  • Talk about healthy food and the five food groups and what vitamins are in them and how they can nourish our body 
  • Fill your fridge and pantry with healthy foods 
  • Limit junk foods and eating out 
  • Avoid using food as a reward or bride 
  • Encourage children to make their own healthy lunches for school 

Want to know more?

Raising Children Network – Understanding puberty 

Raising Children Network – Preteens health and wellbeing 

Kids Matter – How mental health difficulties affect children 

Kids Matter – Websites and resources for mental health and wellbeing 




Formula feeding

Infant formula is the safe alternative to breast milk for the first 12 months. 

Things to remember when formula feeding

  • Make up the feed correctly. Refer to instructions on the tin or go to the manufacturer’s website for more detailed information. Do not dilute or add extra powder.  
  • Bottles and teats come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There is no evidence that a particular shaped bottle or teat prevents wind or colic. Teats will flow at different rates and it will come down to personal preference. Unusual shaped bottles can be difficult to clean, so keep this in mind when you are choosing one.
  • Feed your baby in the same position as a breastfed baby – that is, cradle in your arms and alternate sides at each feed. This is important for the development of their eyesight.
  • Look at and talk to your baby while feeding. Having eye contact and smiling has a calming effect on your baby and will trigger positive chemicals in the brain and feel-good hormones. Babies may pause during the feed to ‘babble’ to you.  
  •  When feeding your new baby, remember to regularly burp them and to feed them slowly. The feed may take 20-40 minutes when babies are young and less time as they become more efficient at sucking. 
  • Try to give your baby enough milk at each feed to fill them up – rather than separate amounts of 20-30ml each time they cry. Small constant feeds mean the baby won’t experience hunger which may interfere with developing sleeping and feeding patterns. The amount they will take will increase as they get bigger. 

Out and about

The best way to transport infant formula is to take the cooled, boiled water and the infant formula in separate containers and mix them when needed.

If you are feeding your baby away from home, the prepared infant formula should be icy cold when leaving home and stored in an insulated baby bottle pack to keep it cold. It is fine to give your baby cold infant formula. 

To warm a feed you will need some warm water in which to place the bottle and always ensure that it is out of your baby’s reach. Do not take longer than 10 minutes to warm the bottle because bacteria multiply rapidly in warm infant formula and there is the potential to cause diarrhoea. 

Throw out infant formula stored in the refrigerator after 24 hours.  

Want to know more?

Raising Children Network – Newborn Nutrition: bottle feeding 

King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women – Formula feeding 

Frequently asked questions

If my baby has only had a few sucks from the bottle, can I keep it for later?

No, the contents of the bottle need to be used within an hour of being heated up. The bottle has been contaminated with the normal bugs in your babies mouth and they will continue to multiply. You need to throw the contents of the bottle away and start with a fresh bottle with the next feed. 

What is prop feeding?

Prop feeding is when the bottle and the baby are not held but propped up with pillows or other items. The milk may flow too quickly and cause the baby to splutter or choke. Babies fed in this way are also at greater risk of ear infections and leaving a bottle in their mouth will lead to tooth decay. Babies also miss out on the opportunity to connect with their carer.  

How long can I keep a tin or formula?

You need to use a tin within one month of opening it, regardless of the expiry date.