National Mental Health Awareness Month

The month of May has been designated as National Mental Health Awareness month. This is a time to raise awareness about mental health, confront the stigma associated with seeking mental health services, and promote well-being. During this month let’s not forget the importance of our youngest individuals, children. Yes, we also need to be aware of the importance of early childhood mental health and the development of social emotional development for young children.

The term social-emotional development refers to the developing capacity of the child from birth through five years of age to:

  • form close and secure adult and peer relationships.
  • experience, regulate, and express emotions in socially and culturally appropriate ways and
  • explore the environment and learn.

…all in the context of family, community, and culture. 

Children are not born with the skills to regulate and understand their emotions or the emotions of others. Research indicates that children who have better social skills are one of the best predictors of future school success (Jones, Greenberg, & Crowley, (2015). In 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported there is increasing evidence that strong social-emotional supports, such as high family resilience and connection and the provision of positive childhood relational experiences, are associated with children who are resilient and flourish despite the level of adversity they may face.

With these things in mind here are a few things to think about:

  • All behavior is communication. What might the child’s behavior be trying to tell you? For example, I’m scared, I need help, or I don’t feel good.
  • When children feel those things, they might engage in behaviors that adults find challenging. For example, falling on the floor screaming or crying for long periods of time.
  • The behavior doesn’t tell us what to do. Understanding the meaning or function does. It is only when we know why they are showing a behavior that we can help meet their needs.

Remember you can make the difference in helping your child develop their social-emotional skills that can lead to their ability to form trusting relationships, understand the feelings of others and recognize their value as individuals.  

Sheila Maness
Director of Special Programs