Parents and families are a child’s first teachers and many of these skills are learned naturally through day-to-day experiences at home. Kindergarten classrooms offer another rich environment through which children can learn and practice social-emotional skills. These settings have many opportunities for students to gather confidence and competence in navigating social relationships, regulating their emotions, learning routines and persevering with challenging activities.
Sometimes young children struggle with their emotions and behaviours in the school environment. Often, this is a developmental or adjustment issue that resolves as the student matures or gets accustomed to this new setting. At times however, the student’s social or emotional difficulties are more long-lasting or concerning.
The role of the school mental health professional
Helping educators understand and optimize their role in promoting good mental health in kindergarten and primary classrooms is an important contribution that school mental health professionals can make. Offering information about strategies for good welcoming, self-regulation and social-emotional skill-building can help educators to set up for success.
School mental health professionals can also assist with early identification of mental health problems. It can be difficult for educators to identify mental health problems in young children, particularly given the range in development observed in kindergarten classrooms. With your background in child development, and sensitive and specific tools for assessment, you can help to determine if a student’s difficulty in regulating emotions and behavior, aggression, social withdrawal, shyness, etc. is within the normal range or something to be concerned about.
Finally, as a school mental health professional, you can provide consultation and support for young students struggling with a mental health problem. This might include suggestions for the teacher to offer a higher “dose” of social-emotional skill development or assistance with self-regulation. It might also include help with classroom management or support for parents/caregivers.
For more information
Special interest group materials
Title: Early years mental health: Building a strong foundation
partnership with Ontario Centre for Excellence for Child and Youth Mental
Health April 2018
Title: Infant Mental Health
Presented by Dr. Jean
Clinton, April 2018
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