Child care providers have noticed a growing need among children for support in learning social-emotional skills. Interviews with respondents from 15 local preschools and childcare centers earlier this year noted increasing social-emotional and mental health concerns among children, as indicated by poor emotional regulation skills, emotional outbursts, poor impulse control and physical aggression. Just under half of the sites had to remove a young child from their program due to such concerns. Behavioral problems often reflect a lack of skill. We can give children the best start possible by teaching them how to manage their emotions and navigate social interactions. Many school districts are already working on this with their Social Emotional Learning efforts.
In an attempt to meet the needs identified by local early childhood settings, The SOURCE’s Early Childhood Committee has chosen to support the use of Conscious Discipline as a universal level approach to address young children’s mental health. This model emphasizes the importance of the relationship between child and teacher. Developed by Dr. Becky Bailey, it asks teachers to model self-regulation themselves and to create a nurturing, structured environment in which children can thrive. When children learn how to form healthy, stable relationships from the adults around them, they are set up to have a reduced chance of mental health concerns or other issues as they grow.
Right now, 12 Elkhart County child care sites are learning about Conscious Discipline and how to use it in their individual classrooms. These sites will be participating in book studies and workshops over the next several months. In addition, the leaders of the Early Childhood Committee visit sites and give support. By September 2019, we will have data about how these changes have impacted the teachers, classrooms and children – helping us know what to do next to support the mental health of young children in Elkhart County.
Find out more about our system of care's early childhood mental health work at https://thesourceelkhartcounty.org/early-childhood-mental-health/