Mental Health in Early Childhood
The pandemic has robbed our children with a rich and experience-filled childhood. With the limited interactions we have and isolation due to home quarantine, opportunities for development may be impeded and thus affect their mental health.
In today’s Brain Snacks, we explore the impact of the pandemic to the mental well-being of our kids. Being mentally healthy does not necessarily mean the absence of a mental disorder. The disruption of routine, isolation from peers, and lack of engaging activities may significantly affect your child’s mental health. Thus, as their guardians, we must do our best to help them adjust in this “new normal”.
Mental health problems in young children exist! For children in their early years, mental health may be observed through their emotions and engagement in relationships and with the environment. Due to the pandemic, the interactions and exposure of children to learning environments have become limited. What can we do?
Infant and early childhood mental health 
“[This] is the developing capacity of the child from birth to 5 years old to form close and secure adult and peer relationships; experience, manage, and express a full range of emotions; and explore the environment and learn—all in the context of family, community, and culture.” – Zero to Three (2017)
Signs of a mentally healthy child 
They show typical development in the socio-emotional domain
They are able to function and do their daily tasks with ease
They are able to independently cope with problems/challenges
This pandemic life is not ideal for normal developmental events of children. Routinary and structured-activities that benefit children, were disrupted and became limited due to pandemic protocols.
Limited socialization opportunities due to home quarantine
Isolation from peers
“Normal” routines gone
For example, leaving the house to attend school
Intensified in older children due to the challenges of remote learning
Concerns on getting ill
What can we do for our children?
As primary caregivers, we must help our children adapt to the environment. When big problems, like the pandemic and the lockdown, arise, we can help by processing why such problems are happening, and explain why we need to stay at home. Just like in any relationship, constantly checking up on your child helps greatly. We also need to empathize and provide the assurance that their feelings are valid.
For Younger kids (1 to 5 y/o)
Initiate learning experiences at home
Spend time with them through play and activities
Older kids (6 y/o and above)
Assure them that it is okay and everyone struggles in different ways
Start a conversation about their interests
Encourage good health habits (eating well and movement)
 Zero to Three (2017). The Basics of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health: A Briefing Paper. Retrieved from https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1951-the-basics-of-infant-and-early-childhood-mental-health-a-briefing-paper
 Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Children’s Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/basics.html
Center on the Developing Child (2013). Early Childhood Mental Health (InBrief). Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.
 Vernabas, P. (2021).Managing childrens mental health during the pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.rutgers.edu/news/managing-childrens-mental-health-during-pandemic
 Davis, L.S. (2021). Keep paying attention to your kids’ mental health in this pandemic. Retrieved fromhttps://edition.cnn.com/2021/02/10/health/kids-mental-health-suicide-pandemic-wellness/index.html
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