Often, when I tell people I work with very young children within the mental health field, I am greeted with confused looks or questions such as, “How can a young child have mental health?” I appreciate these questions because it gives me an opportunity to talk about a very important topic! It turns out that everyone, young and old has mental health, and it starts at birth. babies
According to Zero to Three, “Infant-early childhood mental health, sometimes referred to as social and emotional health, is the developing capacity of the child from birth to 5 years of age to form close and secure adult and peer relationships; experience, manage, and express a full range of emotions; and explore the environment and learn—all in the context of family, community, and culture.”
In order for babies and young children to develop healthy mental health, we must look at the relationship between child and caregiver. As a caregiver, it is important that one models expressing a full range of emotion, healthy coping skills, and being in healthy relationships. Caregivers should stay curious when interacting with their babies and young children. This means staying curious about what the child might be communicating, what the child might need, and how the child is seeking connection.
If you are reading this and feel concerned about your role in your child’s developing mental health, do not fret! Children are incredibly resilient and learn how to adjust as they grow. I do encourage you to consider seeking your own mental health treatment if you believe it can aid you in being the best caregiver you can be! Also, extend yourself some self-compassion. Caregiving and parenting is a difficult job and is not meant to be an isolated one. Lean on your support system! If you are unsure where to turn and need some support, give us a call.
Written by Candace Hanson, MA, LMFT
Zero to Three. (2016) Infant-Early Childhood Mental Health. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/110-infant-early-childhood-mental-health
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