Coaching Adults to Promote the Positive Mental Health of Children
Over the years the poem “Children Learn What They Live” by Dorothy Law Nolte has guided many adults in how they relate to and nurture children. Her wisdom is thoughtful yet simple offering advice such as “If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn” and “If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.” But, knowing what is best for children does not always come naturally or easily.
Parents and preschool teachers receive learning opportunities
Wake County is fortunate to have two large-scale, proven programs in place to coach adults to provide young children with basic social, emotional, and behavioral skills. One program focuses on parents while the other concentrates on teachers.
A network of 35 Raleigh-based organizations boast that almost 300 providers are newly trained and certified in the internationally acclaimed Triple P – Positive Parenting Program®. These providers are available to support parents to address and prevent behavioral and emotional problems, big and small. Administered by Project Enlightenment, the hands-on program teaches best practices while at the same time encouraging parents to find out what works best for them as a family.
Teachers in 90 Wake County Public School System preschool classrooms are trained in the evidence-based practices of the SEFEL (Social-Emotional Foundations for Early Learning) framework of instruction, which promotes children’s social skills and decreases problem behaviors. Led by the N.C. Department of Instruction and Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, teachers participate in classroom coaching sessions to learn various strategies to help children understand and express their emotions, interact with others, and to build positive relationships.
Community programs support emotional well-being
In addition to these two direct interventions, the promotion of positive mental health is also driven by policies and programs.
Through the Social and Emotional Early Development (SEED) for Child Care Quality project, the Lucy Daniels Center assisted child care centers to incorporate healthy social and emotional development practices into their procedures. As a result of the project, some centers are providing training to new employees using a manual developed specifically for the center. Another outcome is a three-step process, developed during the program, to help center staff identify and refer children who demonstrate a need for mental health services.
For parents and caregivers who have young children with unmet social-emotional, developmental and health needs, Wake Connections offers a simple way to connect families with home-based programs and services.
These programs are readily available and offer parents, caregivers, and teachers promising opportunities to build the positive mental health of children.