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What is Infant Mental Health? (The Elevator Speech)

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

Infant Mental Health is the social and emotional development of children from 0 to 3.

First3Years TX describes Infant Mental Health as:

“The developing capacity of a child from birth to age 3 to:

• Experience, regulate and express emotions

• Form close and secure interpersonal relationships

• Explore the environment and learn”

Infant Mental Health matters because the way the brain wires in the first years of life acts as the foundation for future development. Healthy social and emotional development is key for future success in life.

Infant Mental Health practices are heavily focused on relationships and attachment, as the types and quality of relationships young children have at an early age can serve as a predictor for future relationships. Co-regulation is another important practice for the young child’s emotional development and this practice can only happen if there is a trusted caregiver in a young child’s life.

Context is a key part of Infant Mental Health practices. It is important to consider familial structures, communities, cultural perspectives, and resources in order to get an accurate assessment of a situation.

Infants and young children CAN experience trauma and it has an impact unless interventions happen. Zero to Three says that “Understanding infant mental health is the key to preventing and treating the mental health problems of very young children and their family”.

It is important that everyone is made aware of the importance of Infant Mental Health so they can understand how their actions matter! A deeper understanding of this topic can lead to more intentional interactions and connections.

We do not have to be perfect caregivers-just present!

I think it is important to mention that infants and young children are pretty adaptable. Their brains have the ability to be rewired through love, intentional practices, and connection. Another lovely thing to remember is that the brain is not finished developing until 24! While the initial foundation is crucial, the brain has opportunities to grow, rewire, and change over the next 21 years. Thank you neural plasticity!

I am not sharing this information to scare or shame anyone. I am sharing this information because it is important that we are aware of the impact we have on the development of young children and how the development of social-emotional skills is key in the first years of life.


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