Mental Health in the News – Parents and Caregivers of Young Children Hit Pandemic Rock Bottom

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Mental Health in the News – Parents and Caregivers of Young Children Hit Pandemic Rock Bottom

Welcome to Tykes & Teens’ “Mental Health in the News” series where our experts provide perspective on mental health and wellness issues that are making headlines.

According to a story last week on NPR’s WLRN, parents and caregivers of young children say they’ve hit pandemic rock bottom:

  • January 2022 has been the worst month of the pandemic.
  • Families and teachers are facing numerous challenges, including:
  • Children are too young to be vaccinated.
  • It is difficult for them to wear masks consistently.
  • It is not uncommon for entire classrooms to close for quarantining.
  • There are few substitute teachers.
  • About 1 in 6 parents say they have experienced either a school or a day care shutdown in the past few weeks.
  • Parents are frustrated.
  • Teachers are frustrated.

In this episode of “Mental Health in the News,” Tykes & Teens’ Infant Mental Health Consultant Rachael Moshman discusses what early childcare centers are experiencing here on the Treasure Coast, how they are benefitting from Mental Health Consultation, and also provides advice on how to navigate this challenging time.

“Substitute teachers are in and out; and splitting up classrooms has left children feeling scared and unsettled, resulting in an uptick in challenging behaviors,” says Rachael.  “One childcare center in particular that Tykes & Teens supports for example was down to eight teachers in one week.”

One method Rachel is using, called scripted stories, is being used by teachers to help support children’s emotions and understanding of expectations during a difficult  routine or activity.  Her story “My Teacher Isn’t in School Today” is tailored specifically to the current pandemic environment to reduce challenging behaviors.

“My teacher isn’t at school today. I may feel sad. I may miss her. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to miss my teacher. I wish her well. Being with a new teacher might be scary at first. It’s okay to get to know a new teacher. I might be in a new classroom. It will be fun to play with new toys and meet new friends! Things are different. I don’t know the rules or what comes next. I will listen for directions. I will ask for help if I need it. I will look at the schedule to see what comes next. I am safe. I can handle changes. I will have a fun day at school!”

Parents can also use this approach and write scripted stories to support their children at home with routine activities.

Following are recommended resources, including how teachers and parents can write their own scripted stories or choose from pre-developed stories, such as brushing teeth, following rules, wearing a mask, and more.

 

*These resources are from The National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations through funding by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Program.

For more information on the high-quality programs and services that Tykes & Teens provides for children and families, visit www.tykesandteens.org/get-help/.

To learn how you can help make a difference in the mental health of children throughout the Treasure Coast, visit www.tykesandteens.org/give-help/.

A special thank you to the Indian River County Hospital District for supporting the early childhood mental health programming that Rachael is doing in Indian River County.

About Tykes & Teens’ Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation:

In addition to family and individual therapy, Tykes & Teens’ Infant Mental Health therapists and staff are collaborative partners within select Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs, providing Mental Health Consultation (MHC) to staff at these centers.  Tykes & Teens is the only agency on the Treasure Coast providing this service from an evidence-based  trauma informed lens.

Mental Health Consultation is a preventative-based approach focused on fostering the social emotional development of young children from birth to age 5 at early childhood education programs to promote long-term emotional health and wellness. Tykes & Teens therapists are highly specialized in child development, evidence-based classroom practices, and the effects of stress and trauma. The agency’s therapists and staff develop relationships with caregivers at early childhood education programs to support building the adult’s capacity and skills to strengthen the healthy social and emotional development of all children at the center – early and before formalized intervention is needed. Therapists and staff support the development of nurturing and responsive relationships to decrease incidents of challenging behaviors, reduce preschool suspensions/expulsions and support the need for a program-wide effort in using culturally-responsive practices and addressing implicit bias.

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