Mental health is just as important as physical health to a child's well-being.

Mental health is just as important as physical health to a child's well-being.

Consider Factors that Influence Children’s Social and Emotional Development

To fully support and understand children’s social and emotional health, all of the factors described below need to be taken into careful consideration.

  • Cultural considerations: What unique beliefs and parenting style does each family bring based upon their culture?
  • Risk Factors:
    • Environmental risk factors: Living in an unsafe or unhealthy community (poor air quality and other environmental pollutants), receiving care within a low-quality child care setting, lack of resources available in the community or lack of policies supporting children and families
    • Family risk factors: Maternal depression or mental illness in the family, parental substance abuse, parent incarceration, parental unemployment, family violence and poverty
    • Risk factors within the child: Fussy temperament, developmental delay and serious health issues

Source: Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation  http://ecmhc.org/tutorials/social-emotional/mod1_2.html

  • Consider Temperament and Behavior:
    Temperament refers to the unique way that each child experiences and approaches the world. Children are all different and their temperament will control how they behave and react to different situations. Temperament is also influenced by genetics, parenting, life experiences and culture. There are nine traits that have been identified to be part of a person’s temperament:

    • Activity level- amount of movement and body activity
    • Biological Rhythms-regularity of biological functions (e.g., sleep-wake cycle, hunger, bowel elimination)
    • Approach/Withdrawal-how a person reacts to a new situation or person
    • Quality of Mood-positive versus negative moods
    • Intensity of Reaction- reaction to positive and negative situations
    • Sensitivity-how sensitive a person is to irritating stimuli
    • Adaptability- how quickly or slowly a person adapts to changes in routine or overcomes initial negative responses
    • Distractibility-how easily the person is distracted by unexpected stimulus
    • Persistence-how long the person will keep doing a difficult activity without giving up

Temperament can be grouped into three different types:

Type of Temperament Suggested Caregiver Techniques to Respond to Temperament
Flexible– positive mood, adaptability, low intensity, low sensitivity- the flexible child may get lost in the shuffle.
  • Check in with the flexible child regularly
  • Set aside special time
  • Needs intimate contact
Fearful-adapts slowly to situations, withdraws easily
  • Stay close to this child
  • Draw the child in slowly, and scaffold their play
  • Allow independence to unfold, before you back away
Feisty, fussy or active– active, intense, distractible, sensitive, irregular and moody at times
  • Use redirection when a child has an intense reaction
  • The key to dealing with feisty children is to be flexible
  • Anticipate transitions by letting them know ahead of time that a change is coming
  • Maintain peaceful, calm surroundings.
  • Making the most of quiet moments.
  • Provide opportunities for active and vigorous play

Each temperamental type needs to be considered as early care and education providers individualize their care and best try to meet the needs of the children.

Source: http://www.earlylearningcoalitionsarasota.org/forms/2011/intentionalteaching/9%20Temperament%20Traits,%203%20Termperament%20Types.pdf and PITC, training – https://www.pitc.org/cs/pitclib/view/pitc_res/974

Goodness of Fit:
What is important for good mental health is the “goodness of fit” between provider and child. As a provider, your reaction should be appropriate to fit the child’s temperament such as being patient and kind for the shy child or acting calm and firm to redirect the active child. Understanding why a certain behavior may be happening can help a provider figure out the best action to take. A great tool to help understand different types of behavior and appropriate action is called: Toward a Better Understanding of Children’s Behavior.