Infant And Early Childhood Mental Health

Many times I get asked the following questions:
Why would children that young need therapy?
Children so young will not remember these years anyway?
What are they supposed to talk about?

These are all good questions! When we discuss Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, we are focusing on children aged 0-5 years old. This stage of life is a period of rapid multidimensional development! Their little brains are literally sponges seeking and gaining new information all the time. Due to this, sometimes as parents we just do not realize how quickly they are developing and interpreting their experiences! In these moments, little ones are making sense of the world through their interactions with those close to them, including parents, siblings, and family members. In other words, these years are full of impressionable moments.

As many of us know, we are consistently responding and sometimes reacting to others in our environment. This is no different in our little ones. They are responding to events occurring in our households, the stresses of the family, and the interactions they have with others. Sometimes those experiences and interactions are positive and sometimes they are negative, and the following behavior can be acceptable or challenging. When that behavior becomes challenging in the home and other environments (daycare, grandparents, etc), this can be the cause for a parent to seek out IECMH services.

So the short answer to question 2…little ones which are infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, have amazingly wonderful brains. Those brains store a lot of information that occurs through their experiences. Let’s remember that children do not have the same language development as adults, and often cannot communicate their experiences in the same way. Sometimes little ones may not understand why they react to their environment the way they do; however that information is somewhere in that brain. So, we need to make sure to keep in mind that although they may not remember, their brain and body is storing those experiences.

Examples of this include stressors the family has experienced, including stress from postpartum depression, parents marital conflict, or poor experience with medical procedures. Some of these experiences can impact the parent-child relationship and the connection or attachment between parent and child. Which are great reasons to seek services from an IECMH therapist!

Finally, the answer to my favorite question, “What are they supposed to talk about?” When we are addressing a child’s needs, we do this in the context of the parents perception. Which means the parent is an integral part of the therapy process. As stated in prior blogs, as parents we need to reflect on our own feelings, thoughts and behaviors when it comes to our relationship with our child.

So in therapy, we are working with parent AND we are working with child. When working with the child, we utilize the language they know best…PLAY. Play therapy helps children to express their feelings and process their thoughts and experiences by assisting them to make connections. So while we support the parent, we support the child, and as we support the child we help the family unit.

So I hope through this blog, I answered the purpose of IECMH, and the importance of meeting the mental health needs of our very young children and their families.Share