It’s Children’s Mental Health Week and Mental Health Awareness Month and we’re diving deep into early childhood mental health—including what it is, why it matters, and how you can enhance your own child’s mental health and well-being.
A child’s earliest experiences shape the foundation of their developing brain—including sound mental health. During the first 2,000 days of your child’s life, critical brain development is rapidly occurring. When a child is mentally healthy, they are able to:
When a child’s development process is either disrupted or impaired, it has lifelong implications. Children hurt by abuse or other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) may need additional professional help to cope with their trauma—even if they are supported by caring parents or adults.
Social and emotional development contributes to the basis of a child’s overall mental health and has a long-lasting impact on their life trajectory. A child’s mental health is equally important to their physical health—and has a powerful impact on their capacity to fulfill their potential and reach their goals.
Children who are mentally healthy tend to be happier, have a positive attitude toward school, eagerly partake in class activities, display a greater motivation to learn, and demonstrate higher academic performance than peers struggling with mental health.
On the flip side, children who may face social and emotional health difficulties may have trouble following directions, participating in school education, experience rejection from classmates, perform poorly in school, and have lower self-esteem.
Build strong and trusting relationships.
When a child is young, relationships are incredibly crucial. Trusting, consistent, and reliable relationships are essential for a child’s mental development and overall health. Research has discovered that children who have trusting relationships with their teachers are more likely to ask questions, try new activities, solve problems, and share their thoughts.
Having a strong relationship with family and friends in your child’s life can play a role in your child’s social-emotional development. When your child has a significant person who is present and available to support them, it helps your child develop resilience, feel comfortable sharing their worries, and freely ask for help.
We all have bad days—but maintaining consistency in your own behavior as a parent or caregiver with your child will help build social-emotional resilience and contribute to stronger mental health. Being warm and affectionate with your child enables them to develop secure, safe relationships with the adults in their lives—all while you provide a model of consistent, loving behavior.
Create a safe environment at home.
Although you can’t always control what your child experiences at child care or pre-K, you can create an intentionally safe and positive home environment. Be mindful of your child’s access to media, including TV shows, movies, video games, and the entire internet, and give them other opportunities for entertainment, such as board games, puzzles, and books.
Model self-care and self-love.
If you are a parent or caregiver, you can practice being a role model for your child. Take care of your own mental health, talk transparently about your feelings, and show your child that you make time for the activities you care about. Seeing an adult practicing self-care can be instrumental in a child’s overall understanding of mental health and learning how to create safe rituals to support their health.
Ensuring that children have a strong foundation for social-emotional development takes a community-wide approach—from early childhood educators to parents and caregivers.
At One Place, our programs are designed to provide children in Onslow County with environments filled with positive relationships and nurturing experiences. In doing so, we can reduce child abuse, lower rates of incarceration, decrease homelessness, and increase high school graduation rates.
We’re here to help! Learn more about children’s mental health here.
Stay tuned for more blogs this month on topics related to child mental health!