A Focus on Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health

October 2021
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.
Welcome to the October issue of the IECMH newsletter! We are continuing to focus on the Pyramid Model and explore the universal tier, nurturing and responsive relationships.

Decades of research has now shown that having a secure attachment with a primary caregiver leaves a child healthier and happier in virtually every way we measure such things—in competence and self-confidence, empathy and compassion, resilience and endurance...in the ability to regulate emotions, tap intellectual capacity, and preserve physical health... in pursuing our life’s work and having a fulfilling personal life. Perhaps most important, a secure attachment in a child’s first relationships lays the foundation for good relationships throughout all of life! We now know, without a doubt, that relationships are the engine and the framework for satisfaction and success in ALL domains of life. Research has shown that social relationships promote mental and physical health and even lower the risk of death. 

Fifty years of research has shown that children with a secure attachment:
  • Enjoy more happiness with their parents
  • Feel less anger at their parents
  • Get along better with friends
  • Have stronger friendships
  • Are able to solve problems with friends
  • Have better relationships with brothers and sisters
  • Have higher self-esteem
  • Know that most problems will have an answer
  • Trust that good things will come their way
  • Trust the people they love
  • Know how to be kind to those around them.
Excerpted from Raising a Secure Child, Guilford Press, Hoffman, Cooper, and Powell, 2017, p.15.
Breaking down the researched-backed ways parents and caregivers can support children’s healthy brain development. 7:43
The PA Key Infant-Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Team is excited to share a new service: Virtual Office Hours!
Through Virtual Office Hours, early learning professionals, families, and specialists who are supporting children 0-5 will be able to speak directly with IECMH Consultants via telephone or video conference. Virtual Office Hours is a short-term, collaborative, problem-solving conversation to help caregivers and specialists find next steps for: Child Social-Emotional Concerns, Child Behavioral or Developmental Concerns, Emotional Well-being of Teachers and Caregivers, and Partnering with Families.

This service is now available at no cost across the state of Pennsylvania. Virtual Office Hours are available by appointment on the first and third Friday of every month. Click here for more info.
  • Serve and return interactions shape brain architecture. When caregivers are responsive to children’s signals, they help them build critical skills. 6:06

  • “Child - adult relationships that are responsive and attentive – with lots of back-and-forth interactions – build a strong foundation in a child’s brain for all future learning and development. This is called ‘serve and return’ and its takes two to play!” Follow these 5 steps to practice serve and return.
  • As children learn in the context of caring relationships with adults, they will become more skilled at building positive relationships with other children, are easier to teach, more compliant, and less likely to engage in challenging behavior.
  • Engaging in adult-child interactions throughout the day in positive and descriptive ways allow for young children to feel safe, seen, valued, and heard. They discover who they are and learn to understand others.

  • Eye contact, presence, touch, and a playful setting are the four core components required to truly connect with others.

  • Think of all the ways you make connections with children as deposits into their emotional piggy bank. Being purposeful and consistent in the way we create nurturing and responsive relationships with children is the foundation for social-emotional learning.
  • Children need us to see them as whole human beings, not just the sum of their behaviors. They need us to listen to them, to validate their feelings and to take them seriously for who they are and the people into whom they will grow.  
  • “A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.” 7:35
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.