News from The VA Infant Toddler Specialist Network

December 2016-January-February 2017 
Issue #20

Infant and Toddler Mental Wellness
When we think of healthy beginnings for infants and toddlers, we immediately think of things such as nutrition and safe environments. We should also think of warm and supportive interactions with the caregivers who are in the lives of those children, which include parents, grandparents, and child care professionals. These warm, supportive interactions are critical for emotional and mental wellness later in life.  

Listed below are a few things caregivers should know about mental wellness in early childhood that may help the infants and toddlers in their care reach their full potential.

Infants experience and perceive a range of emotions.
  Infants as young as six months can begin to sense and be affected by the moods of those around them. They are able to experience a range of emotions which includes sadness and fear and can express very basic intentional behaviors. Child care professionals should be aware of their own emotions when caring for infants and toddlers.
Early positive interactions promote emotional wellness throughout the lifespan. 
  The interactions between caregivers and infants are vital to the development of the brain. Caregivers who consistently engage with an infant in a responsive, comforting, and supportive way help that infant develop a sense of predictability about the world which gives the infant the confidence to explore and develop independence. When this type of environment does not exist, the infant does not see the caregiver as dependable or as a source of support and may have a less stable or delayed foundation for emotional development. The early years are also critical for a child’s development of a positive self-image which begins to develop in infancy.
Having appropriate expectations of young children’s development is important.
  Emotional development is a component of brain development that is just as critical as cognitive, physical, or verbal development. Caregivers should understand general social-emotional milestones so that the expectations of the infant or toddler are appropriate and potential deficits can be recognized, if they are present. Learn the Signs. Act Early. is a resource that provides tips and guidance for what to expect regarding healthy emotional development.
Parents and caregivers should be mindful of their own emotional well-being. 
  Caregivers must consider their own mental health needs as well as the needs of the infants and toddlers in their care.  Infants and toddlers whose caregivers suffer from mental illness are generally at a higher risk of developing social-emotional problems because of the interactions with the caregivers. All caregivers likely experience stress at times and should seek support, if needed.
Young children are resilient and, if properly supported, can overcome potentially traumatic events. 
  Repeated, regular, positive communication between caregivers and infants and toddlers will likely lead to more secure attachments, even if the child has had occasional negative experiences or has previously experienced such events. This is one reason why consistency is important during infancy and early childhood.  Infants and toddlers may be able to overcome some of the effects of these events through consistent, predictable, and supportive interactions with their caregivers.
Adapted from Halle, T., LaMonte, L. Gooze, R. A., Bartlett, J. D., & Murphey, D.  Child Trends 5: 5 Things to Know about Mental Wellness in Early Childhood, October 2015.

Early Childhood Mental Health Virginia
Early Childhood Mental Health Virginia, 
provides information about training, technical assistance and resources for families, caregivers and providers of children, birth to age 8, in Virginia.

. . .  that the VA Infant & Toddler Specialist Network, a program of Child Development Resources Training Division, has moved. 
Please note our new phone number! 

Upcoming Professional Development Opportunities:


. . .  that registration will begin February 1, 2017 for the 2017 Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health Institute?
In This Issue



The VA Infant & Toddler Specialist Network  is a program of Child Development Resources, and is supported by the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) Grant #93.575, with funds made available to Virginia from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Points of view or opinions contained within this document are those of 

the author 

and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of VDSS 
or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
For more information contact Amy Stutt, VA ITSN Statewide Director at (757)378-3167.