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Understanding Early Childhood And Infant Mental Health

Meredith Miller | Published: June 14, 2018

Father child woods

The mental health of during infancy and early childhood is just as vital as a child's physical well-being. It can layout the trajectory of a child's emotional and social development. Even so, both infant mental health (IMH) and early childhood mental health are things not everyone clearly understands. That is why the following article will take an in-depth look at infant mental health, mental illness, and more.

What is Infant Mental Health?

Over time, infant mental health has been defined in various ways. One way to look at it is by seeing it as the developing capacity from birth to typically 3-years-old, or even up to 6-years-old. The development during this time refers to the ability to manage, experience, and express emotions, explore and learn their environment, and form interpersonal relationships.

The term IMH is also used in order to define the field of study and practice of mental health applying to infants, toddlers, and their respective families.

Why is it so Important We Understand It?

It is vital for both family and any caregivers to understand early childhood mental health as it is all about focusing on optimal emotional and social development. How a family connects with an infant is the foundation of that child's life. Having greater understanding can help enhance that connection as well as learn to detect any problems in their development that may come up.

Infant Mental Health Facts

When it pertains to IMH, there are a few basic facts to focus on to help you develop a clearer picture of it all:

  • A child's brain has mostly grown by age 3, and they are busy making connections and learning about the world.
  • The relationship between caregiver and child is essential in shaping brain development so that babies feel confident enough to actually explore their surroundings.
  • The goals of IMH services are to promote healthier development, prevent mental health issues, and treat mental illness in infants and young children.

What Leads to Infant Mental Health Disorders?

As with other mental disorders, there is not exactly a singular cause of mental illness in infants. The environment, an infant's psychology, and their biology all have a role to play in this. Reacting to environmental stress can lead to the development of mental disorders.

As explained earlier, IMH is important to how a child will develop socially and emotionally as they get older. The brain is undergoing some dramatic growth within the first 3 years of life. A negative impact from abuse to neglect can damage this growth. This neglect can include caregivers in the infant's life not being as responsive, stable, or protective as they should be.

Mental illness in infants can also be something unexpected like something they are born with. It is generally difficult to find a root cause for biological factors, but in many cases, it can deal with abnormal neurotransmitter levels or an increase of activity in one specific area of the brain.

If you feel as though your child may be experiencing some kind of disorder, you can always connect with an infant mental health specialist to go over possible symptoms, treatment, etc.

Improving Infant Mental Health

There are numerous of ways to go about improving IMH. It all begins with having a greater understanding of what it entails. Once you understand what you can do, you should also seek out professional opinions from an infant mental health specialist for broader collaboration in dealing with the mental welfare of infants and young children.

What Can You Do?

One of the things that you can do is focus on early childhood care and educational programs. It is detrimental that you promote the well-being of your infant and young children in order to assist in their mental health development. There are programs like Early Head Start or simply daycare whether at home or inside centers that you can utilize.

Organizations such as those have a lingering effect on early childhood mental health. They contribute to infants developing strong social development. Also, they encourage them to put aside their fears about the unknown world and go out and learn about it instead.

At home, you can remember to give them a warm and nurturing environment. Speak with your child often to help with their communication skills. Talking about things can also help them understand and manage their emotions.

Infant Mental Health Training

Participating in IMH training is not only helpful for professionals, but also for your family. This type of training can teach more about the attachment between caregivers and infants. It can provide thorough information about how, when disturbed, it can place healthy development at risk. A focus should be placed on both infants as well as early childhood mental health.

Infant Mental Health Specialists

An infant mental health specialist has several responsibilities not only to your child, but to your family as a whole. They must support a child's development while also helping with the relationship between child and family.

A good infant mental health specialist will provide social support to all members of the family, support a child's development of new skills, and more. In addition, an infant mental health specialist can aid in diagnosing any mental illness in infants as well as treating any early childhood mental health complications.

To conclude, understanding infant mental health and early childhood mental health are crucial to helping your child develop the necessary social and emotional skills. If you feel you need further support or that your child may be developing a mental disorder, then it is no trouble to seek help in the form of an infant mental health specialist.