early years are a wonderful time to begin to build positive mental health. From
a young age, children can learn social and emotional skills in order to
form close and secure
experience, manage and
express a full range of emotions
environment and learn within the context of family, community and culture
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 SMH professional
Helping educators understand and
optimize their role in promoting good mental health in kindergarten and primary
classrooms is an important contribution that SMH 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.
SMH 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 SMH 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.
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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