Mental health is the ability to understand and share feelings, build close and positive relationships, and the ability to explore and learn. When young children are worried, sad, or angry it can be hard to solve problems, make friends, manage and share feelings, follow directions, and do well in school. Sometimes, we as caregivers can struggle to know how to best help our children at different stages. ICAA’s Head Start program has put together some ideas for you to try!

Here are some things you can do to help your child develop positive mental health:

Infants

  • Hold your baby while feeding them.
  • Smile at your baby. When your baby smiles back, smile more.
  • Coo, babble, and talk with your baby.
  • Talk to your baby about what you are doing, “Are you hungry, I am fixing you a bottle.”
  • Read and sing to your baby.
  • Take care of yourself, try to relax, have fun, and enjoy your baby.

Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Offer choices: “Would you like milk or water?” “Would you like to wear a red shirt, or blue?”
  • Follow your child’s interest and carve out at least 15 minutes to play.
  • Praise your child while they are trying or in the act, not just at completion.
  • Help your child practice patience. “Let’s wait until after lunch to go outside.”
  • Check in and make sure your child always feels safe. Reassure children.
  • Build in extra time, children like to be able to do things themselves.
  • Practice following directions.

School Age Children

  • Teach the language of feelings.
  • Learn to put yourself in your child's shoes and talk through their concerns.
  • Encourage creativity.
  • Adopt an “I can” family attitude.
  • Show children that having a mix of struggle and strength is normal for everyone.
  • Practice random acts of kindness as a family.

Having positive mental health makes it easier to develop close relationships with family and friends, do well in school, try new things and solve problems.

ICAA’s Head Start program serves children in Burnett, Clark, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, and Washburn counties. Head Start helps children with school readiness and encourages parents to be active in their children’s learning. The program also helps parents with their own education, literacy, and employment goals. Head Start provides services and information around areas such as education, health, nutrition, social, and more. Learn more about ICAA Head Start at www.indianheadcaa.org.


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