Your Child’s Life In Stages

Hover over or click on each age for more information.

When you’re done, scroll up, press the green button and Let’s Start Learning!

Through 18 yearsFIDELITY

FidelityFostering a healthy sense of identity promotes fidelity.
As children enter this stage of their development childhood comes to an end and adolescence begins. The adolescents’ body rapidly matures and they develop a keen awareness of the physical revolution within them. They also become heightened to the physical changes in others. Combined, adolescents can become primarily concerned with how they seem in the eyes of their peers. The adolescent mind can experience a standstill between childhood and adulthood making their peers influential and the need for healthy role models* essential. Peers can come in the form of cliques and adolescents are no strangers to the more popular cliques in their circle. Those within these cliques can express opinions at the expense and exclusion of others. Because adolescents are still developing their personal and professional selves, negative opinions of them from their peers can create an internal conflict of identity. In short, these types of experiences can cause adolescents to over-identify with cliques, acknowledge their opinions, and internalize them as their own. This creates identity confusion from within of who they believe themselves to be vs. how they believe others perceive them. Parents can help safeguard their children by being healthy role models, taking time to ask questions, listening, provide understanding, and by continuing to provide other methods of support that fosters their children’s sense of hope, will, purpose, competence, and identity. Combined these virtues can help remove doubt from the adolescent, foster loyalty to their healthy sense of self and to other important figures in their life, and provide a healthy sense of who they are and who they can be.

Please read the articles in our Childhood Environments section.

6-12 yearsCOMPETENCE

CompetenceFostering children’s innate skills & other abilities promotes competence.
As children enter this stage of their development their world is beginning to grow. They are being introduced to more of their neighbors and school becomes an integral part of their experience with peers, teachers and others within their community. Ideally, parents have visited and feel good about the school their children will be attending and family life has prepared children for school life [1]. During this period of development children apply their skills to tasks designed by the teachers in their life. In academic terms, your children’s teachers are considered an important secondary attachment [2]. This means your children are learning some of the fundamentals of life from them; trusting in them to provide direction, encouragement, and a sense of competence. When children use and feel good about their skills and abilities they are more likely feel competent, which supports their sense they can make it in the world around them.

Please read the articles in our Childhood Environments section.

3-6 yearsPURPOSE

PurposeFostering a healthy sense of initiative promotes purpose.
During this period children are exploring more and family members are becoming a meaningful part of their relationships. These relationships can help foster initiative in children by demonstrating faith in their abilities to plan and take on tasks. These tasks may come in the form of routine chores, which can promote their sense of purpose through obligation and performance. As children learn to utilize their abilities they also begin to link initiative to an essential part of every action. While fostering a healthy sense of initiative can promote a sense of purpose in children, it also supports their internal and external awareness that it is okay for them to move and act as they do.

Please read the articles in our Childhood Environments section.

1-3 yearsWILL

WillFostering a healthy sense of autonomy promotes will.
As a child’s muscles mature so do their opportunities for experimentation of holding on and letting go. These patterns can be viewed as a wonderful metaphor as parents display faith in their child’s abilities to explore the world around them, while maintaining reassured feelings [in the child] that they are close by if needed. When the parent provides safe environments that nurture their child’s sense of autonomy they are also promoting their child’s will to stand on their own. These prosocial* experiences support their internal and external sense that it’s okay to be who they are.

*positive sense + social = Prosocial

Please read the articles in our Childhood Environments section.

0-1 yearHOPE

HopeFostering a healthy sense of trust promotes hope.
Trust in infants is rooted in the quality of the relationship with their primary caregiver. When children come into the world they are completely vulnerable, which is why the primary caregiver’s job is so important. It is the primary caregiver who will navigate an infant’s earliest experiences, which includes a warm, nurturing atmosphere, and one that is free from overstimulation of sights and sounds. This can help promote their brain development. Infants also require regular feedings, periods of deep sleep, and time to relax. These demonstrations of care by the primary caregiver provide a sense of inner certainty as well as outer predictability for the infant (Erikson, 1963). These combined with constant affection will nurture their feelings of inner goodness, which fosters their sense of trust in the world around them. Trust can act as an internal safeguard and nurture their sense of hope.

Please read the articles in our Childhood Environments section.

Stages of children’s Social and Emotional Health. Hover over or click on each age for more information.

At SUNKISSED FAMILIES we are hoping our Life in Stages tool is something you’ll visit again and again to utilize as an introduction to our content and as a reflective tool. Our Life in Stages tool implements a researched system of ideas and methods as a foundational guideline that we believe can promote hope, will, purpose, competence, and fidelity in children 0-18 years old. It is important that all of the information we provide be viewed subjectively, which is why our SUNKISSED researchers tell stories. Through storytelling SUNKISSED readers have an opportunity to understand the concepts we are promoting and choose methods that work best for their children. You will discover repeated themes that include the significance of a child’s healthy attachments to their parent(s), extended family, friends, and community members, in addition to the fundamental building blocks that have a place in the schedule of our children’s social and emotional development.

I have long wished I had been given a reference of sorts when my children were young; one that was free, easily accessible, and offered many of the philosophies that have been fostered by some of our greatest scholars. As parents and caregivers we have wonderful inherent qualities that provide important tools for nurturing the children in our lives, yet we can experience periods within their social and emotional development that can leave us feeling puzzled by certain behaviors. These behaviors are often fueled by conflict that exists between our psychological and social identities. It wasn’t until I went back to school to study Child Development that my own questions of its interrelation were answered. Through lectures, group discussions, and research I was able to take the newfound pieces to my puzzle and gratefully put them into place, leaving me with a rich reserve for the understanding of others and myself.

SUNKISSED FAMLIES is fortunate to have a team of talented Researchers & Scholars that take time from their busy schedules to create environments that combine theory and practice. Together, they are able to offer their insight on where a child’s social and emotional health begins and how it evolves. This means helping parents and caregivers to understand the importance of nurturing trust, independence, initiative, competence, and individuality in children, which can elicit prosocial attitudes of faith, determination, purpose, competence, and loyalty. We believe these attitudes are the foundation for helping children establish and achieve goals, express compassion for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and form and maintain a healthy self-identity and social-identity, which can leave children feeling socially and emotionally secure. And, when children feel socially and emotionally secure they are more likely to consider what is possible instead of what isn’t possible. SUNKISSED FAMILIES would also like to recognize our wonderful Guest Contributors who demonstrate valuable approaches to help foster a child’s self-identity and social-identity, and our Spanish Translator who allows SUNKISSED FAMILIES to embrace a significant segment of our population.

We feel privileged to provide you with information we believe can promote healthy social and emotional outcomes for your SUNKISSED family! We welcome your feedback. Please email us at

Jeannine Marie Lenehan,

Founder & Principal

SUNKISSED FAMILIES™ and the Center for Social & Emotional Health


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