A Focus on Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health

February 2022
Targeted Social Emotional Supports – Emotional Literacy
This newsletter focuses on sharing information on infant/early childhood mental health and
the importance of relationship-based approaches and supports that help infants and young children feel safe, supported, and valued by the adults around them. The newsletter, and the Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC) program, is made possible by a partnership between the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) and the Pennsylvania Key.
This month we are going ‘Back to the ‘Basics!’ After living through a pandemic for just about two years, you may have noticed some deficiencies in the behaviors and development of the children you teach or interact with. For a good portion of the past 23 months, early childhood age children have either not been in group care and are experiencing a brand-new routine that they are learning how to navigate or have been attending a childcare program that has been mainly focused on health and safety. They are being reminded to keep distance from each other, discouraged from sharing materials, and talked to through a mask.

For a while, the priorities of a classroom shifted from teaching curriculum and building relationships, to counting children, washing hands and sanitizing surfaces and playing germ monitors while keeping children apart. Now that the world is showing signs of returning to a new normal, we need to start reintroducing some skills that may have been missed during Covid-19 learning. 

“Emotional literacy is the ability to identify, understand, and respond to emotions in oneself and others in a healthy manner. Children who have a strong foundation in emotional literacy tolerate frustration better, get into fewer fights, and engage in less self-destructive behavior than children who do not have a strong foundation. These children are also healthier, less lonely, less impulsive, more focused, and they have greater academic achievement.”   
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) has been shown to give children the foundation to success throughout their school years. When given the skills needed to solve peer conflicts, cope with disappointment, and identify and regulate emotions, children already have a head start to success. Social Emotional Learning gives their brain the tools it needs to be able to navigate problems with success and be able to focus on their academic development.  
IECMH Consultation helps adults strengthen their relationships with young children and build capacity to respond to children’s social-emotional needs. IECMHC can help reduce caregiver stress, as well as increase caregivers’ reflective practice skills.
IECMH Consultants are available by appointment to provide IECMHC Virtual Office Hours consultation via telephone or video conference. IECMHC Virtual Office Hours is a short-term, collaborative, problem-solving conversation to help you find next steps for: Child Social-Emotional Concerns; Child Behavioral or Developmental Concerns; Emotional Well-being of Teachers and Caregivers; and Partnering with Families.
Appointments are held on the first and third Fridays of the month, or other days/times by request. Get more info.
Social and Emotional Development Research Background. A large body of research shows that a strong social and emotional foundation helps boost children’s learning, academic performance and positive other long-term outcomes. Read more.

Your child’s social skills in kindergarten are more important than their academics. Learn about the 5 important social competencies you can foster in young children. Read more.

Fostering Emotional Literacy in Young Children: Labeling Emotions. Points to remember and things to do with young children. Read more.
Teaching Emotions. Extend social emotional learning into the home. Teaching Emotions: Activity Ideas to Share with Families (usf.edu)  
Backpack Connection Series: Emotions. How to help children understand emotions at home and school. View in English or Spanish.

Validating Feelings. Talking about and supporting your child's feelings, big & small, promotes healthy social emotional development, builds trust, and allows for learning to take place! Read more.
Explore Feelings with Storytime 2:36. Teacher reads a story and talks about emotions with the children.

Label Negative Feelings 1:42. Teacher talks with child about strong, grumpy feelings.

Preschool RULER was developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence as a way to teach emotional intelligence to our youngest learners. This video provides a glance at how one of the RULER tools - the Mood Meter - is integrated in early childhood classrooms.

Tucker Turtle Takes Time to Tuck and Think: Promoting Children’s Self-regulation with Tucker the Turtle 5:09. Get ready to think like a turtle! Tucker the Turtle is a fun interactive resource created to help children and families learn strategies to work through big feelings like anger. Tucker helps parents and caregivers support their children in learning what they can do to calm their body and emotions down. This user-friendly resource helps teach emotional regulation with a few simple steps. Tucker the Turtle also promotes emotional literacy, problem-solving, and self-regulation in an engaging way. 
Children’s books and Scripted Stories for social situations help children understand feelings, social interactions, expectations, social cues and more.

Children with higher emotional intelligence are better able to pay attention, are more engaged in school, have more positive relationships, and are more empathetic.”  
NAEYC, Teaching Emotional Intelligence in Early Childhood
The Pennsylvania Key has streamlined the process for Keystone STARS programs to request Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC). Child care providers can request services by using the Request for Service Form (PDF). Completed forms can be submitted via email PAIECMH@pakeys.org or faxed to 717-213-3749.
Programs and families can contact the program leadership directly at PAIECMH@pakeys.org with questions or concerns.
Share your feedback! We'd like to hear what you think about infant early childhood mental health. Are there resources you'd like to see? Questions you have? Tell us! Send your feedback to PAIECMH@pakeys.org.