Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Your relationship with your growing child

3-minute read

Bringing home a new baby carries a sense of joy and responsibility. We know that what happens in the first 3 to 5 years sets the scene for how a child feels about themselves, how they relate to others and how they succeed in life. Your relationship with your child shapes the way your child grows and learns.

Feeling secure

The top priority for parents is to help a baby to feel safe, secure and deeply loved. You do this by responding sensitively when the baby tells you, in their own way, that they are tired, hungry or needing comfort. Comforting a crying baby isn’t spoiling them – a reassuring cuddle tells them that reliable people will protect and care for them.

Managing feelings

As a baby grows into a toddler, your relationship with them changes. You notice and encourage their moves towards independence — putting on their own clothes, playing happily for a while on their own or feeding themselves. Gradually, with your support, young children learn to manage their own feelings. Some children find understanding feelings and getting along with others relatively easy, while others may react angrily if they can’t get their own way and need your help to calm down.

We all have different temperaments and sometimes there’s a clash between you and your child. If your child ‘pushes your buttons’, try to stay calm, take deep breaths and don’t join in the temper tantrum. Instead, develop a strategy for coping with disappointment — ‘Let’s try again, and this time I’ll work with you’.

Use words to show you understand, such as ‘I know you’re feeling sad' or 'I can see that you are upset'. Show your child how caring people respond to someone’s distress. And don’t expect a 3-year-old to share all their precious things — waiting a turn, not being the centre of attention and learning to share are all life lessons that take time and maturity.

Juggling time

When your child starts day care or school, your world changes again. You may feel a mixture of excitement and nervousness, and wonder how your child will adjust to their new situation and how you will juggle family and work.

Here are a few tips:

  • Be as organised as possible; make lists, mark events on the calendar and pre-pack lunches.
  • Don’t worry if everything isn’t neat and tidy.
  • Keep to routines wherever possible.
  • After a late family night, arrange a sleep-in and a quiet day.
  • Plan for quality time with your children, not only big events. Play gently together at bath times or share a bedtime story.

If things go wrong, be prepared to say, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve had a hard day’ and kiss and make up. Remember to take the time to look after yourself — this will help you to muster the patience, energy and understanding you need to be an engaged and active parent.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2019


Back To Top

Need more information?

Positive relationships: parents & children | Raising Children Network

Positive relationships between parents and children are key to child development. These relationships are about being in the moment, quality time and trust.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Child development: the first eight years | Raising Children Network

Child development and learning in the first eight years lays foundations for life. Development happens through play and relationships, as this video shows.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Child development: the first five years | Raising Children Network

The first five years of life are critical for child development. Find out how your child’s experiences and relationships shape the way your child develops.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Supporting your child's development I Starting Blocks

Learn tips to continue supporting your child in child care by learning outcomes, arranging play dates, eylf and monitor the developmental milestones.

Read more on Starting Blocks website

Baby development milestones | Raising Children Network

Babies develop through relationships and play. Developmental milestones track changes in babies as they learn to move, see, hear, communicate and interact.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Conversation skills for children | Raising Children Network

Help your child develop conversation skills by role-modelling, prompting, guiding and practising. These skills help children’s development and relationships.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Bringing up children is the most important job youll ever have Relationships Australia

Bringing up children is the most complex job you'll ever have, though it's easier when there is some agreement on how to do it.

Read more on Relationships Australia website

Child development from 5-6 years | Raising Children Network

At 5-6 years, expect tricky emotions, friendships and social play, lots of talk, improved physical coordination, and more. Get tips for child development.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Child's Development 3 to 5 years I Starting Blocks

Learn about the developmental milestones to observe for your 3 to 5 year old child.

Read more on Starting Blocks website

How your baby’s brain develops

Learn how your baby’s brain develops and how your interactions, the environment and their experiences can affect your baby’s future development and learning.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.