Early childhood mental health involves a young child’s ability to experience, regulate and express emotions; form close and secure relationships; and explore the environment and learn. Some children are at greater risk of developing mental health difficulties and early identification and intervention is important. It can help prevent problems from becoming worse and improve mental health outcomes for children.

These KidsMatter Professional Learning topics focus on how early childhood educators can recognise and respond when children experience mental health difficulties.

Helping children who are experiencing mental health difficulties

All children behave differently

Using observation to inform practice

Observation is an important way of gathering information about children and their mental health and wellbeing. When done over time, across different contexts and tasks and using different educator perspectives our understanding of a child’s behaviour deepens. Observation helps us to tune in to children and notice their strengths as well as any behaviour that causes concern.

Discussing concerns with families

Early childhood settings play a crucial role in identifying and reducing the impact of barriers discouraging families from discussing sensitive topics, raising their own concerns and seeking help. These barriers reduce when educators communicate with families on a regular basis, work collaboratively, and respect their input.

Responding to children experiencing mental health difficulties

Many early childhood services are working with children identified as having mental health difficulties or showing signs of needing further support. Support their development and mental health by:

  • Having policies and practices in place for responding to children with mental health difficulties
  • Being aware of community supports and their referral processes
  • Creating partnerships between educators, families, and community supports