A Focus on Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health

March 2022
Targeted Social Emotional Supports – Social Problem Solving
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’s focus is on a skill we all need in our daily lives, problem-solving. Adults play a key role in supporting children to work through problems in rational, equitable ways. According to the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations, “when faced with conflict young children have difficulty coming up with rational solutions. They act out in anger or with frustration for lack of a more appropriate way to deal with the situation. Children need to be specifically taught the problem-solving steps, to be able to think of multiple alternative solutions, and to understand that solutions have consequences.”

In this issue, we share a variety of resources to support the growth of problem-solving skills in young children (and maybe provide a few helpful reminders for adults!). As you consider how you can foster these skills in the children in your care, keep the following tips from Rasmussen University in mind: 
  1. Use everyday moments 
  2. Ask open-ended questions 
  3. Center emotions 
  4. Read books and tell stories 
  5. Take advantage of natural curiosities and interests 
  6. Model problem solving 
  7. Look to the child for the solution 
March 11,2022, was Social Emotional Learning Day.

Social emotional learning (SEL) changes lives—studies show that SEL improves well-being and academic outcomes, builds a positive school climate, and provides children with the necessary skills to excel in today’s workforce. Yet many members of our communities don’t know about SEL yet.
SEL Day is an opportunity to collectively spread the word about the importance and impact of SEL. Working together, we can raise awareness for SEL, bring on new SEL stakeholders, create artifacts that demonstrate SEL in action, share SEL best practices… and more!
However, social-emotional learning (SEL) is not for SEL Day alone. Sharing SEL-related work throughout the year will help create momentum for counting social-emotional skills as essential for success in school and life. 
To effectively engage in problem solving, children must learn the steps of this process and identify potential solutions of a social problem.   Social problems that occur most frequently revolve around acquiring something or stopping something, the inability to do or complete a task or not being able to access what one wants.
Ages and Stages: How Children Learn to Solve Problems. By encouraging children’s exploration and supporting their efforts to resolve difficulties, children 0 to 6 learn to be very effective problem solvers. Learn more.

The Make a Plan Plan. The Make a Plan Plan is a five-step strategy for helping a teacher and a child find solutions together. Learn more.

Problem Solving. Learning to solve problems on their own not only helps children develop self-confidence and feel more in control of their own lives; it also helps prevent more significant issue like aggression and violent behaviors. Learn more.
Problem-Solving in Real Life Situation 2:20. Teacher guides children having a disagreement through the problem-solving steps and celebrates when they select and use a solution.
Problem Solving in the Moment 4:31. Teachers can use the problem solving approach with children in the classroom helping to resolve social problems as they arise.

Teach Social Situations 4:46. A teacher uses puppets with her class to reinforce ways to solve a sharing problem.
Problem Solving Steps Poster. When faced with conflict many young children have difficulty coming up with rational solutions. Children need to be specifically taught the problem- solving steps to be able to think of alternate solutions. Learn more.

Additional Resources
  • We Can Be Problem Solvers! (Social Story). A story to help children practice finding solutions to social problems. Available in English and Spanish.
  • Solution Kit. Cue cards for children with solutions for problem solving. Available in English and Spanish.
  • Suri Spider Selects a Solution (Social Story). Suri Spider is a super spider who likes to play with her friends at Sunny Stream School. Find out what Suri does when her friends do things she doesn’t like. Available in English.
It is important to provide families with information about how the problem-solving process is being taught and used in the classroom. They can reinforce children’s use of problem-solving strategies and support social-emotional development at home. 
Preschool Problem-Solving. Discover five ways families can help preschoolers develop problem-solving abilities. Learn more.

Introducing the Solution Kit. A sample letter to families providing the tools used in the classroom to solve a problem. Learn more.

We Can Be Problem Solvers at Home (Social Story). Read the We Can Be Problem Solvers at Home story with your child to teach the problem solving steps. Available in English and Spanish
Solution Kit: Home Edition. Print and cut the Solution Kit pictures or save to your phone/device photos. Remind children to use the Solution Kit when solving problems at home. Learn more.     
Social Problem Solving – ECE Virginia. Social problem solving with our support, children can work together to find solutions to their problems. Videos cover tips for explicitly teaching problem-solving skills in engaging and meaningful ways and explore ways to support problem-solving skills in the moment. Learn more in the Guide to Promoting Problem Solving and the Family Guide to Supporting Problem Solving with Others.

Checklist for Teaching Problem Solving. A tool for teachers to guide, support and improve problem solving in their classrooms. Learn more.

FLIP IT: DCRC’s award-winning FLIP IT strategy uses strength -based processed to address challenging behaviors in children. 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.