What is Early Childhood Mental Health Anyway?

The topic of mental health often makes people feel uncomfortable as we tend to think only about the significant mental health disorders that occur such as schizophrenia. Mental health encompasses much more than just mental health disorders; and being mentally healthy is just as important for children and adults as being physically healthy.

What is mental health for young children? 

For young children, mental health is another way of describing their emotional and social development. This includes the development of healthy attachments, self-regulation, empathy, resiliency, positive peer relationships, and identity all in the context of nurturing relationships. Promoting healthy minds is an integral part of the curriculum and philosophy of UCCC.

Because of our focus on emotional and social development, we are beginning to embed an early childhood mental health consultation (ECMHC) model at UCCC. We are already doing many of the things that are a part of this model such as training teachers to understand mental health and how to support children’s development of healthy minds. We also use assessment and screening tools such as the DECA, and provide support and coaching to teachers to address the needs of the children in their classroom. By adopting an ECMHC model, we will enhance our ability to meet the emotional and social needs of the children at UCCC.

What does this mean for me and my child?

It means that your child will continue to receive emotionally responsive care and learning opportunities to enhance your child’s mental health. It means that we are continuing to support teachers in helping them to understand and support children’s emotional and social development. We will be working with teachers to help them identify and support children who may be at risk for impaired mental health. It also means that we will be working hard to provide more opportunities for families to learn about how to support the emotional and social development of their children and what to do when there are concerns about a child’s mental health.

You may start to hear us talking more about early childhood mental health consultation but this just means that we are working even harder to promote the development of healthy minds for all of the children at UCCC. 

Post by Jessica Sims