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Young Children's Mental Health

Posted by rpd03 on July 9, 2014 at 11:30 AM

Young Children’s Mental Health: What Is Essential? 

When we think of children's health, we usually think of their physical well-being. "Are they active and fit? Do they get sick often?" Mental health is just as important as physical health. "Mental health" includes how we feel about ourselves and other people, and how we cope with life. Mental health in young children is related to their social and emotional development. Caregivers, teachers, and family members all have roles to play in fostering young children's mental health.

Tip Sheet

For good mental health, young children need—

safe places to live and play

the right amount of healthy food to eat

love, care, and comfort from caregivers and family members

plenty of time for active play with other children

time to relax and follow their own interests

caregivers and teachers who are supportive and encouraging

experiences that help them feel confident and capable

time to express and understand their own emotions

guidance and discipline that are firm but not harsh

A child's mental health is probably good if he or she usually—

seems to feel safe and comfortable rather than fearful

shows a range of emotions, both positive and negative

is interested in other people's well-being and treats them with respect

treats animals with kindness

can "bounce back" from disappointments or frustrations

can show anger without hurting self or others

chooses to act in ways that are safe

uses positive ways to get attention

stands up for himself or herself

gets involved in activities at home and in the classroom

is willing to try new things (activities, foods, friendships, etc.)

will persist when trying a challenging task

can express feelings to some trusted person, instead of keeping them "bottled up"

Factors that might contribute to a child's mental health problems include—

illness or genetic factors

exposure to lead, mercury, or other environmental poisons

abuse or neglect

natural disaster that disrupts family life

exposure to violence in the family or community

difficulties related to poverty

serious family problems, including divorce or death of a loved one

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