Emotional health for children

Good emotional and mental health for young children looks at developing their capacity to:

  • form close relationships;
  • recognise and express emotions; and
  • explore and learn about their environment

Put simply having positive emotional and mental health means your child has the ability to grow well and love well.

Good emotional and mental health is important in helping to strengthen your child’s capacity for relationships, improve general health and wellbeing, maximise their educational potential, promote social inclusion and expand their opportunities.

Positive emotional and infant mental health is not about perfection. It is hugely important that we don’t create unrealistic expectations for ourselves, our babies, and our relationships. 

Central to positive emotional health is the relationship a child has with you and other family members or carers. It is known that children need healthy, supportive and stimulating environments with a clear focus on, and commitment to helping them develop high self-esteem and good relationships. With such support, they are more likely to become confident, happy and ambitious people.

Babies are wired for connection! During pregnancy and infancy, it is obvious how physically reliant babies are on their parents and caregivers. They are also socially and emotionally connected to us in so many fascinating ways. The way we interact with babies and infants literally shapes their brain development.

Your Child’s brain grows better when you do five simple things that feed the growing brain

Respond - You notice your baby’s needs and feelings.

  • This switches on your brain and body to connect to your baby.

Cuddle and Engage -  Your baby picks up signals from your body when you are close together.

  • This switches on the baby’s brain and body to connect to you.

Relax - Settling and calming yourself settles your baby.

  • The brain works best when we are calm and alert.

Play - Your face, your movements, and your tone of voice all stimulate your baby’s brain.

  • Playfulness promotes healthy development at all levels of the brain.

Talk -  Human brains need language in order to work properly.

  • All the words, sounds, signs, symbols, or objects that you use to communicate build patterns in your baby’s brain that will help them to make sense of their life.

Being kind to yourself is about self-compassion, self-care and self-forgiveness when you fail to live up to your own expectations. Your children don’t need perfect parents they just need good enough ones!

Parents need support to meet the challenges of parenthood and it is important that everyone can be kind to ourselves, each other and acknowledge difficult feelings. 

Look after yourself as best you can. That might mean taking a longer shower when you get the chance, enjoying a cup of tea, spending a few minutes in the garden if you can, or just having a chat with a trusted friend. Don’t feel the need to take on extra challenges, or be highly productive.

If your mood is persistently low and you are more tearful or irritable than is manageable, ask for help from your GP or health visitor as early as possible. You deserve it, and so does your baby.

Anxiety and depression can affect anyone at any time. That includes Dads too. The earlier you get help the better. Checkout out parent’s health pages for support for you.