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Understanding Your Child’s Development: An Overview for Military Parents

Children change quickly. Suddenly your sleeping infant is an independent 3-year-old. Before you know it, your kid is off to high school.

Each phase of a child’s life comes with different joys and challenges. Learning about your child’s developmental stage is one way to become an even better parent. By having the right information at the right time, you can help your child grow and learn. Here are some tips for better understanding and supporting your child’s growth, no matter what the age or stage.

Why you should track your child’s milestones

Many parents look forward to the first time their child will smile at them, take a step or say “mama” or “dada.” These moments are more than memories. Some early skills such as rolling over, waving, saying a few words and walking are developmental milestones. Such touch points help gauge how your child is advancing physically, mentally and emotionally. It is important to learn about healthy changes in behavior at each stage of development.

Milestones provide important clues for parents. Remember every child is different, and there is a wide range of expected dates for any particular skill. There are guidelines, for example, that most babies learn to walk between 9 and 15 months. Note that accomplishing a developmental task early does not necessarily predict that the child will be superior in a particular domain.

Keeping track of your child’s major milestones, especially early ones, helps you be more attuned to know what to expect. It can also signal you when your child may need additional help. Track your child’s changes with the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s milestone checklists or with the CDC Milestones Tracker app. You can also consult the CDC’s developmental milestones resources to determine if your child is on track. Trust your instincts and talk with your medical provider if you have concerns. Help is available, and early intervention is of the essence.

Age-appropriate discipline for children

It’s important to understand the types of discipline that best match your child’s age and stage of development. Discipline of infants is never appropriate. However, helpful strategies with toddlers include distracting your child, allowing natural consequences to play out, ignoring tantrums and using timeouts in certain cases.

Typically, parents find positive consequences are easier and more effective in shaping a child’s behavior and can have more favorable and lasting effects to curb negative behaviors.

See the parenting tips provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including insightful tips on using discipline and consequences. Get even more ideas from the article Tips for Disciplining Your Child.

Penn State’s Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness and the Department of Defense’s Office of Military Community and Family Policy have partnered together to provide comprehensive, on-demand parenting programs to assist you in handling parenting challenges at any age. Be sure to check out the parenting resources offered through Thrive, the free, online parenting education program that includes positive parenting practices, parent and child stress management and physical health promotion.

How to keep your children safe at every stage

Informed, attentive and involved parents are key to keeping children and youth safe at every age and stage. That means more than putting covers on electrical outlets. Safety involves everything from car seats to climbing hazards. As children grow, safety needs change. Read Keeping Your Children Safe for tips on ensuring safety for your youth, as well as how to teach your military child about healthy boundaries and how to identify and address bullying behavior in order to keep them safe from potential harm.

Military OneSource stands ready to help you enhance your family, whether it’s by offering a better understanding of your child’s development stages, connecting you to the New Parent Support Program and Military and Family Life Counselors, or tapping into the many other parenting and children resources offered. Schedule a New MilParent specialty consultation — designed specifically for expectant parents and parents of children up to 5 years of age. Whether you are looking for tips on toilet training or trying to find time for self-care, free and personalized support is here for you to tackle your parenting challenges. Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to learn, engage or discover ways to take your parenting to the next level. OCONUS/international? View calling options or schedule a live chat.

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