Infant mental health is the social and emotional wellbeing and development of children in the earliest years of life. Research shows that good infant mental health can promote positive outcomes throughout a child’s life, into adulthood.
The early years are important, severe and persistent problems in early relationships and emotional development can have persistent and lifelong impacts on a range of outcomes.
This year’s Infant Mental Health Week theme is ‘understanding early trauma’, focusing on the impact of trauma in the earliest years of life.
Sally Hogg, from the Parent-Infant Foundation, says:
“Early trauma can have a significant impact on a baby and their future. Yet, many people assume that very young children are relatively unaffected by traumatic experiences. This may be because babies’ and young children’s reactions may be different from older children’s and harder to recognise. Our hope is that this year’s Infant Mental Health Awareness Week will increase awareness of this important issue and build support for the services which we know can help.”
Adverse childhood experiences
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events that occur during childhood, these include forms of abuse, neglect and violence. However, the safeguarding Board NI also identify parental separation as one of nine ACEs.
When a parental relationship breakdown there is often conflict between the separated parents, this can result in anger, stress and tension. This can impact on children, particularly if their relationship with a parent is affected.
Poorly managed parental separation can have long term negative impacts on children, impacting on their mental health and wellbeing.
No child is too young to be affected by ACEs. In fact, babies are more vulnerable than any other age group. Their brains are developing rapidly through every new experience. ACEs can cause developmental challenges as babies and toddlers grow, especially if they are not surrounded by safe, secure, nurturing relationships and environments.
Family mediation can help parents manage conflict and empower them to develop more effective means of communication. The process enables parents to focus on their children though the development of co-parenting plan that benefits everyone involved. Engaging, voluntarily with the process of family mediation enables parents to negotiate a plan with the focus on the needs and wellbeing of their children, and ensure that future plans to co-parent are in the best interests of their children.