Category Archives: Health & Safety

Become a Children’s Mental Health Advocate

by Shannon Ford, Professional Development Coordinator

I am one of the millions of Americans diagnosed with a mental health condition. In fact, one in five of us are!1 Mental health problems are actually more common than heart disease, lung disease, and cancer combined.2   Anxiety disorder is something that causes me to worry a bit too much.  At times, I can be restless and wound-up. Other times, I can be easily fatigued and have trouble concentrating.  On top of this, I’m a single mother raising a teenage son dealing with depression and anxiety.  It’s easy to see why mental health awareness is a topic close to my heart.

Of course, early childhood topics are also an area close to my heart. I wake up each day, wondering how my work in the early childhood field impacts children. I am always looking for ways to grow my knowledge on all things early childhood. As our nation seeks to increase awareness about the importance of children’s mental health, I began to look at my own repertoire on the topic and find ways to increase my skill set on this important topic. Here’s what I found that may help you as a caregiver of young children.

TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THE CHILDREN IN YOUR CARE

For our youngest children, we define mental health more along the lines of social and emotional development and wellness. Ask yourself these questions about the children in your care. Are they:

  • Forming close and secure relationships with adults and peers?
  • Able to experience, express, and manage a full range of emotions and feelings?
  • Able to explore the environment around them and learn?

We know early experiences matter.  Furthermore, they have a large impact on later mental and physical health. They also affect educational success, employment, and social well-being.

ASK YOURSELF ABOUT YOUR CURRENT APPROACH

It’s always good to evaluate your own practices. Take a look what you’re currently doing in your own program.

  • What are you doing to build and strengthen life skills in young children?
  • How are you promoting confidence in young children?
  • Are there opportunities for problem-solving and conflict resolution?
  • In what ways are you fostering empathy and compassion?

LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO PROMOTE CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH

This February, I became a Youth Mental Health First Aider through a course offered by the Marion County Commission on Youth (MCCOY).  Being endorsed as a Youth Mental Health First Aider has given me the tools to assist and support a child showing symptoms of a mental illness. Its tools can also help me with those children experiencing a mental health crisis until someone can reach professional help.  Not only was this course beneficial to me as an early childhood expert, it has benefited me as a parent as well.

National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/mentalhealthmonth

National Council for Behavioral Health, 2016

 

Cover image by Flickr user Aikawa KeCreative Commons license.

September is National Preparedness Month

aap_disasterAlthough September is almost over, it’s not too late to prepare for emergencies and disasters as a part of National Preparedness Month!

Recent studies and surveys show that:

  • 39% of parents say their child’s Head Start/child care center or preschool had experienced an emergency in the past two years.
  • Only modest improvement had been made in household preparedness (23% in 2003 to 35% in 2015);
  • A lack of confidence remains in local governments to respond to disasters; and
  • Families remain unfamiliar with school or child care disaster plans.

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) outlines tips and additional resources to help you get better prepared on its website. Once of those resources is the AAP Family Readiness Kit, which assists families in getting disaster-ready.

Preparedness experts, parents, and child care providers contributed to this kit, which includes general guidelines for readiness that can be used in most situations, including how to:

  • Build a kit
  • Make a plan
  • Be informed
  • Get involved

Preventing Illness this Winter

by Joslyn Hurm-Sullivan, former Education Coordinator and current Deputy Director of Training & Professional Development for Early Learning Indiana

Welcome to October!  As the weather changes, be sure to take extra steps to help prevent illnesses like the flu.  Wash your hands and the hands of your children often and make sure to scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds. Be sure hands are washed after blowing noses and sneezing. You may want to wash pacifiers and toys more often in the coming months as well. Another step is to have your children vaccinated with the Influenza vaccination. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine every season. Call your pediatrician today to learn more.

If your child comes down with a fever of 101 or higher please be sure to see your pediatrician and make other arrangements for child care. Many child care programs have a sick policy. You may want to follow up with your child care and refresh your memory of this policy. Some policies include but are not limited to the following:

  • A fever above 101 degrees taken orally (102 degrees taken rectally or 100 degrees taken axillary – armpit)
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, or rash of unknown origin
  • Cold or other illness causing breathing difficulties or other symptoms that prevent the child from participating comfortably in activities
  • Positive reaction to tuberculin skin test
  • Ringworm
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)

If your child has any of the following symptoms, you will need to wait 24 hours after the symptoms have subsided–without the aid of medication–before returning him or her to child care.

Take additional steps like drinking plenty of water, getting as much sleep as possible and eating a healthy diet along with the vaccination to prevent the flu. You also may want to wash down table tops, door handles, and other surfaces more often to stop the spread of germs.

Click here to view tips for proper hand washing in child care centers. All child care centers follow this policy. View tips for sanitizing toddler and baby toys here.

Cover image by Flickr user Brandon OttoCreative Commons license.

Teaching your kids about fire safety

by Vanessa Vance, Early Learning Adult Educator

National Fire Safety month is coming upon us. Many children may think fire is pretty and fun. The misconception may be because their first experience with fire may have been a birthday candle. They do not know the dangers that can happen. It is important to make sure your child knows what to do in case of a tragedy such as a fire.

Practicing fire drills in your home can help prepare them for this. Have a “safe place” that the family agrees to have as a waiting spot to meet. Make sure the “safe place” is far enough from the actual home to be safe from the heat and flames of a possible fire.

REMIND CHILDREN:
  • Matches and lighters are dangerous and should not be touched by children
  • What an alarm sounds like, so they are not scared when they hear it
  • Not to hide from the fire
  • Stay low to the ground
  • To “Stop – Drop – and Roll” if clothing or hair catch fire
  • To stay in the “safe place” and not leave until an adult meets them
  • That an adult may be a fireman or policeman
  • To NOT return back to the home to save belongings

Remember to replace the batteries in your fire alarms even if you think they are still good! It may just save your lives!

Cover image by Flickr user Aberdeen Proving Ground, Creative Commons license.

Hearing Loss and Language Development in Young Children

by Mindy Bennett, former Director of Programs of Child Care Answers and current Director of Family & Community Engagement Content Manager at Child Care Aware of America

The doctors recently discovered that my 16 month old granddaughter is having hearing problems. She has fluid trapped behind her ear drums and it causes her to hear things as if she is underwater.  This has caused her to have a bit of a language delay as well as problems with her balance.  To correct this they are going to put tubes in her ears. This is a common problem for many children, so I’m sharing my research about how hearing impairments affect language development.

Children who are born with or develop a hearing loss are at risk of language delay.  It is important that parents and other caregivers carefully watch newborns and young children who have been sick to ensure that they are not experiencing any type of hearing loss.  Some signs that a child may be experiencing a hearing loss include not responding to loud noises and not responding to their parent or caregiver’s voice.  Parents may also notice that the sounds that their infant makes taper off and do not sound complete. In my granddaughters case she was actually running her words together.  When she would say I love you it actually sounded like “iloveyou.”

Children who have not received early intervention to correct or improve their hearing often struggle with their language development.  It is common for them to experience delays in both their receptive and expressive communications skills. Research shows that the gap between their language development and their peers who do not have a hearing impairment increases with the age of the children.  It is typical for a child who has not received intervention for their hearing impairment to significantly struggle academically in school across all subjects.  Research has shown that children who are identified with a hearing loss before they are six months old respond better to intervention treatments and have a significantly higher chance of developing typical communication and language skills than children who aren’t identified until they are older.

If parents suspect that their child is experiencing a hearing loss they should take their child to the doctor right away for further testing.  The sooner you detect hearing loss, the better. In many cases, including my granddaughter’s, the hearing loss is only temporary. If you treat this type of hearing loss, the child’s hearing can be completely restored. In other cases, a doctor is able to teach families early intervention techniques that they can use with their child to promote language development.

LEARN MORE

Want to know more about hearing loss and how it affects language development?  Check out these great resources:

Cover image by Flickr user Manda Creative Commons license.