NEMCSA - Head Start / Early Head Start

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Early Childhood Development

Child Mental Health

     The Head Start / Early Head Start program promotes mental health and wellness by supporting children’s social and emotional development.

     Parents, as the primary caregivers of their children, play a central role in ensuring that their child’s emotional needs are met. Staff seek to enhance each child’s ability to form warm and trusting relationships with adults through providing experiences that support the social and emotional well-being of infants and young children. These early relationships have a great affect on how children view themselves and what they expect of the world. Building respectful and responsive relationships with children and their families is important to enhancing the mental health environment within the program.

     The unique aspects of early childhood mental health, adapted from Zero to Three, is regulation (calm, attentive and interested in the world), attachment (close and secure relationships), communication (shared and purposeful), and exploration (discovery and learning).

     The following mental health supports are provided to children and parents:

  • Staff seek to create a learning environment that is healthy and safe, encourages movement and exploration, is child-sized, allows for choice, and is comfortable and convenient for children, parents and staff.
  • Staff provide children with predicable routines and transitions to create a sense of security in the classroom.
  • Staff plan experiences and interactions that enhance children’s self-confidence and support their development of social skills.
  • Staff address child behavior issues using positive strategies and seek assistance from a mental health professional through a regular schedule of on-site consultation.
  • A screening and assessment process is used for the timely identification of children with possible present or future social/emotional difficulties.
  • Staff work with parents to identify and address concerns about their child’s mental health and support parents’ participation in any needed mental health interventions.

     All children have basic emotional needs, including the need for protection and safety, consistency and predictability, trusting relationships, and feeling as though they have an effect on the world. Research tells us that children who have secure and positive relationships demonstrate more confidence, have healthier peer relationships, are able to seek adult help, and have higher achievement throughout the school years.

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