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How Can Leaders Promote Infant Mental Health in Their Programs?

Mar 1, 2017

For program leaders, promoting infant mental health means creating a culture that supports healthy functioning for staff and provides them with relationships within which they can learn from their work, and reflect on its meaning and impact.

The idea of mental health for infants and toddlers encompasses the full spectrum of social/emotional functioning. It ranges from social/emotional wellness—an ability to form satisfying relationships with others, to play, communicate, learn, and experience the full spectrum of human emotions—to the disorders of very early childhood. Mental health is synonymous with healthy social-emotional development. Its practice encompasses promotion (encouraging good mental health), prevention (minimizing risk), and treatment (supporting and guiding the return to a healthy developmental trajectory). Infant mental health develops in the context of family, community, and cultural expectations for very young children.

For program leaders, promoting infant mental health means creating a culture that supports healthy functioning for staff and provides them with relationships within which they can learn from their work, and reflect on its meaning and impact. It also means assisting them develop skills in observation, flexible response, and self awareness. When staff experience such relationships within such an environment, they are better able to support the mental health of the infants, toddlers, and families they serve. Listed below are additional suggestions on how leaders can promote infant mental health in an infant/toddler setting.

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