According to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, early childhood experiences are critically linked to children’s mental health in their adult years. The Harvard experts declare that “most potential mental health problems will not become mental health problems if we respond to them early.”
They explain that “‘toxic stress’ can damage brain architecture and increase the likelihood that significant mental health problems will emerge either quickly or years later. Because of its enduring effects on brain development and other organ systems, toxic stress can impair school readiness, academic achievement, and both physical and mental health throughout the lifespan. Circumstances associated with family stress, such as persistent poverty, may elevate the risk of serious mental health problems. Young children who experience recurrent abuse or chronic neglect, domestic violence, or parental mental health or substance abuse problems are particularly vulnerable.”
In explaining the importance of early intervention, they write that “it’s never too late, but earlier is better.”
Holly Elissa Bruno, in her bestselling book, Happiness is Running Through the Streets to Find You, writes about overcoming her own childhood trauma. She offers the reader a guide to how to support young children who are facing trauma, and how we adults can turn life’s challenges into strengths. She explains:
"I write this book to claim trauma as my teacher…Trauma is my most rigorous guide. Trauma is my unchosen but compelling pathway to a life of meaning, an uplifting appreciation of beauty and a deeply anchored conviction to make the world better for every child.
Our painful past can become our greatest asset if we choose."
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Karen and Francis, thanks for always reminding us how everything is interrelated and grounded in relationship and well-being AND true support for the ones caring for our children. Well said and THANK YOU.
Just another HUGE indictment of the horribly way we treat our essential workers, and a mandate to pay them adequality so that THEIR mental health allows them to nurture, support, and provide a stress-free environment for all of our young children!
Pay attention to the mental health of children who are new to English! This article provides an important message - but keep in mind that many children who are experiencing trauma may be in an early childhood setting where their language is not well understood. Imagine what it's like for a young child who is facing some kind of extreme stress and is sent to preschool or child care where they don't know what's going on and nobody seems to understand them. We need to do more to prepare teachers, care providers, and whole systems to make sure these children do not get LESS attention or support because of the added factor of language difference. Strategies such as *being truly present with each child at some point each day like *sitting side by side making block towers or playing with clay even if you don't speak each other's language or *providing lots of opportunities for self-expression through art and 3-D materials or *training bilingual volunteers to interact and look for signs that help is needed can support multilingual children as they cope with stress and trauma.