Bright Start: Supporting Social-Emotional Development
As professionals, we often focus on children’s physical growth and learning milestones. But what about mental health? It’s a topic that often gets overlooked – especially in very young children.
Mental health can be a sensitive topic, but it’s important to talk about. That’s because everyone has mental health – even babies – and the foundation for lifelong mental health is set in the early years.
Children’s social-emotional development begins at birth with the relationships and experiences they have right from the beginning. With secure and loving relationships and positive experiences, children develop a foundation of mental health that supports them throughout their lives.
Social-emotional skills allow children to make friends, care for others, manage their emotions and resolve conflict peacefully. Actively supporting children to develop these skills will not only reduce challenging behavior but will help you build stronger relationships with families.
The information on this webpage will help you understand how to nurture a child’s mental health by supporting their social-emotional development.
- Videos: These short educational videos build professionals’ knowledge of social-emotional development and early childhood mental health.
- Print Materials: Customizable brochures for families to help parents and caregivers support social-emotional development from birth to age 8.
- Communication Tools: Ready-to-use social media content, posters, a fact sheet for policymakers, and more. Tools are designed to support outreach and communication to parents and others about social-emotional development.
- Messages: These messages can help deepen your understanding of social-emotional development and help you have more effective conversations with families.
- Early Childhood Mental Health Specialists/Consultants: Professionals who provide free and confidential supports for children’s social-emotional development.
These educational videos build professionals’ knowledge about social-emotional development and early childhood mental health.
The videos are tools to increase your own understanding and in the description each video provides more information, including a summary of key points. The videos can also help you have more effective conversations with parents about these sometimes-sensitive topics.
- An Important but Sensitive Topic | Watch on YouTube (youtu.be/JFr-F4NX3qs)
- The Foundations of Mental Health | Watch on YouTube (youtu.be/ZbyptHZ1TNI)
- Tips for Professionals | Watch on YouTube (youtu.be/PsXL1jn1KBw)
- Conversations About Children’s Mental Health | Watch on YouTube (youtu.be/synZCXALZQM)
- Key Messages for Parents and Caregivers | Watch on YouTube (youtu.be/AQi5m62ZXf0)
Even as we work to increase our own knowledge of how to support social-emotional development in our program, we can also help families support healthy development at home.
To educate families, there are handouts based on a child’s age, that include developmentally appropriate tips, ideas and activities.
Introducing the Materials
These materials are meant to be a conversation starter. They are not meant to be left in your lobby or given to parents without an introduction.
Parents may have concerns about their child’s behavior. You can start the conversation – and introduce the materials – by recognizing that it’s completely normal to have these concerns and many parents do.
Make sure parents understand that by increasing our support of a child’s social-emotional development, we can make a positive difference in their mental health, behavior and overall well-being.
Give parents a copy of the appropriate handout (based on the age of their child) and walk them through it. Point out how each handout includes age-specific tips and ideas for parents to try at home.
Make sure you tell parents that there are resources in our community to support families if there is a behavioral or mental health concern and that they should reach out if they are worried.
- Infant-Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) on the Pennsylvania Key
- PA Taskforce on Child Protection
- ZERO TO THREE
- Center on the Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning
- Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Interventions
- Pennsylvania Association for Infant Mental Health
- Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation