A Focus on Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health

June 2022
Resources to Help You Support Young Children During Difficult Times
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.
The impact of continued community violence is being felt nationwide and across our state by babies, young children, their families, and the cross-system workforce that supports them. You, as the early childhood workforce, you work hard to promote social-emotional development and relational health, provide nurturing and responsive interactions, ensure high quality early learning environments, and link and bridge families to additional supports when needed. When safety and security are threatened, we recognize that adult caregiver capacities and confidence to do each of these things is seriously threatened.

The IECMHC team recognizes that presently, many of our subscribers may be challenged with holding their own stress, fear, helplessness, and uncertainty right alongside the children & families they work with. The following resources have been shared to help support adults in talking with children in age-appropriate ways about community violence, supporting children in their coping, and understanding some of the ways in which children may respond to a traumatic event. 

And as a reminder, in the wonderful words of the late Jeree Pawl, “HOW you are is as important as WHAT you do.” So, remember to take care of yourself- seek connection with trusted individuals, engage in activities you find nurturing and calming, and find ways to regulate your body, mind, and spirit. With this centered calmness, you can offer the safety of connection and relationship with the babies, toddlers, young children, and families you serve. 
How to Talk with Kids after Texas Shooting: Brandy Fox, Director of Cross Sector Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Initiatives with the Pennsylvania Key was joined by Dr. Brian Allen (PhD), clinical psychologist and director of mental health services at the Center for Protection of Children at Penn State Health to address how to talk with kids after a traumatic event. Listen to the recording of WITF’s Smart Talk.

Becoming Trauma Informed: Define Trauma and its Impact, Practice Skills, Secondary Traumatic Stress, Resilience, and Supportive Practices: A professional development series presented by approved instructors across Pennsylvania. A second round of instructor training has been completed to expand the number of instructors statewide. Participants in this course will help make trauma-informed practice a priority throughout Pennsylvania. Search the PD Registry for upcoming training dates or reach out to an approved instructor to schedule a session!
We know that some stress is a normal part of being human and is even healthy. We also know that when parents and caregivers experience a lot of stress, it has a negative impact on the children in their care. Managing stress is very important. You matter!
Assisting Parents/Caregivers in Coping with Collective Traumas: In the past year, there have been a multitude of traumas each of us have experienced or witnessed through media exposure. These include the ongoing pandemic, economic hardship, violence and abuse, racism and discrimination, policy changes that negatively impact specific groups (e.g., LGBTQ+ people, immigrants) and system failures (e.g., health disparities, police brutality). There have also been numerous stressors including balancing work and parenting demands and managing other obligations at home and/or in our personal life. This combination of traumas and stressors may feel overwhelming right now. This may be especially true if you have experienced prior traumas and are being reminded of those past experiences. Get strategies to help you cope right now. Learn more.
Preventing Compassion Fatigue: Caring for Yourself: You devote a lot of time, energy, and professional responsibilities to many other people, but you may not devote enough time to yourself. Learn more.
The Cups, Pitchers, and the Wells: The Path of Resilience 2:45: Focusing on the social and emotional well-being of the adults caring for young children. “You can’t give what you don’t have.” Watch now.
Resources to help adult caregivers meet the unique needs of infants and young children in addressing the effects of trauma in the aftermath of violence or disaster.
What to say to kids when the news is scary: Difficult Conversations: Read what child development experts suggest about what caregivers can say to help kids process all the scary news they may encounter. Learn more.
Resources to Provide Support Around Traumatic Experiences: In response to traumas within communities, the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) highlights a multitude of resources for early learning programs, schools, community partners and families. Learn more.
Shelter From the Storm: A Guide for Early Care and Education Providers: The trusting relationships you build during everyday moments help young children feel safe and secure, emotionally, and physically, as they grow and learn. Learn more.
While our first instinct as early childhood professionals may be to stop all forms of aggressive play, including gun play, experts say such play is beneficial to child development.

"Play is a tool that children use to explore and know their world. When children are given the chance to explore and play with weapon play, it eventually gets played out. They have explored it and they are not as driven to explore it. It seems to me a better outcome then if we are to deny them the chance to explore an issue they are curious about and as a consequence they feel they have to hide their interest or curiosity." Kirsten Haugen
Weapon Play in Early Childhood: How to Be Developmentally Appropriate and Responsive to Current Events: Research has shown there is no correlation between weapon play as a child and later weapon use, but instead is linked to higher social competencies. Weapon play is just one facet of a child’s play and through it children can learn communication and problem-solving skills, as well as develop their imaginations. Learn more.
Beyond Banning War and Superhero Play: Meeting Children’s Needs in Violent Times: There are many reasons why children bring violent content and themes into their play. They are related to the role of play in development and learning, as well as to the nature of society. Learn more.

Got Preschoolers “Playing Guns?”: Young children are fascinated with powerful things. Dinosaurs. Superheroes. And when they are exposed to powerful things, they like to explore them in their play. Learn more.
Every day you make a difference by helping kids grow smarter, stronger, and more kind. Here are some ideas to help you nurture and support young children during difficult, uncertain times.
The Breaking News - Storytime Read-Aloud 2:57: The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul touches on themes of community, resilience, and optimism with an authenticity that will resonate with readers young and old. Watch now.

Once I Was Very Very Scared: A little squirrel announces he was once very, very scared and finds out that he is not alone. A story by Chandra Ghosh Ippen to help children and grown-ups understand how stress can affect children and ways to help them. Learn more.
25 Children’s Books That Explain Death and Grief to Kids: These stories help kids understand and process loss. Learn more.

Sesame Street in Communities: Explore topics such as traumatic experiences, exploring emotions, resilience, violence and more to find multimedia tools, activities, and tips. Learn more.
Talking with Children About Difficult Things in the News: During times of tragedy and difficulty in the news, we may think children are unaware of what is happening. However, children are more aware than we know and are especially sensitive to the moods and conversations of adults around them. Here are some ideas and considerations for supporting children when the news in the world is difficult. Learn more.
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 | Partnering with Families.
Appointments are held on the first and third Fridays of the month, or other days/times by request. Get more info.
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.