Healthy social and emotional development position children to learn, to develop positive relationships and to be successful.
What do all young children ages birth to five require for healthy social emotional development?
- Predictable and responsive caregivers
- Safe and consistent environments
- Healthy relationships / attachments
- Basic needs are met (food, shelter, medical, etc.)
- Parental supports
- Quality childcare
What does it look like when children do not have opportunities to have these needs met?
- Highly reactive – unable to regulate emotions
- Low responsiveness
- Challenging behaviors
- Poor attachments or connections to caregivers
- Poor social skills and poor peer relations
- Difficulty with focus, attention, initiative-learning problems
- Medical manifestations
Why birth through age five?
- Brain research tells us about the impact the environment and relationships have on the developing brain and that birth to three is a critical time where pathways are set to later impact development, learning and successes.
- Adverse life experiences have significant impacts upon the development of young children. Effectively preventing or addressing these in the early years, can divert or mitigate experiences toxic to a child’s development.
- Fewer resources are needed earlier in a child’s life with proportionately greater outcomes.
- When opportunities are made available that provide a ‘level playing field’ for all children, these can mitigate toxic stressors and set children on a trajectory toward success.
What are some of the barriers?
- Public understanding of early childhood mental health is often limited to visualizing a child with a chemical imbalance or a child who experiences poor parenting. It is more effective to consider “leveling the playing field” so all children have opportunities to develop emotionally, socially and academically.
- Few available resources to effectively address the mental health needs of young children.
- The importance of quality childcare environments and healthy caregiver relationships are underrepresented. Quality early care and education opportunities are limited by a lack of resources and a workforce with limited supports.
What can Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation do?
- Cost-effective way to “even the playing field” for all young children by serving early care and education environments.
- Effectively reaches children in their natural family and community environments and extends the reach of services by creating partnerships among and between the caregivers in the child’s life.
- Facilitates screening of many children and provides services to larger groups indirectly by building caregiver and family capacity.
- Children identified with higher needs are offered targeted strategies and can be referred to more intensive services when indicated.
- Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation is a critical component within the ‘continuum of care’ necessary to meet the needs of young children birth through age 5.