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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Magazine Issue 54
18 Promoting Mental Health in Early Childhood Reflections from the Infant and Early Childhood Social and Emotional Wellbeing Conference (IECSEW) Canberra, 2013 The Infant and Early Childhood Social and Emotional Wellbeing (IECESW) Conference held in Canberra in 2013 highlighted the state of mental health in Australia. With fifteen percent of four to fifteen years olds diagnosed with a mental health issue, the role that early childhood can play in prevention and intervention was addressed. The conference took a multidisciplinary approach with participants coming from various fields including education and psychology, as well as medical specialties such as child psychiatry, nursing, occupational therapy, social work, play therapy and more. Local and international keynote speakers, workshops and poster presentations explored the range of research and innovative practices being pursued in the quest for the social and emotional wellbeing. This article will draw on the presentations of two of the keynote speakers: Professor Jude Cassidy, Professor of Psychology, University of Maryland (USA), and Doctor Deborah Weatherston, Director of the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health (USA). In an address titled, Secure Attachment: A Foundation for Children's Healthy Development, Professor Cassidy discussed the importance of secure attachment for "healthy child functioning" . In large part, this importance is a result of the cognitive and emotional learning that takes place within secure relationships. Secure attachment relationships result in 'statistical learning' for infants and young children: learning the probability of what will happen in relationships and what can be expected. Cognitive learning takes the form of representations of others based on experiences and generalisations of other people, and of the self, with an over-riding recognition that 'I am loved and lovable'. Emotional learning centres on emotional regulation, which is learnt by infants and young children when they have someone to help them experience the hidden regulators of humans: touch, warmth, smell, movement, stillness, synchrony of breathing, texture, softness and stroke. Professor Cassidy elaborated on how positive cognitive models and emotion regulation skills are important for healthy development, particularly in the areas of: • Relationship functioning By preschool age, children vary in their capacity for successful peer relationships. Children who feel secure will behave 'better', are more pro-social and less aggressive. A lack of security can lead to risky behaviour and a higher tendency to drop out of high school.
Reflections Magazine Issue 53 Summer 2013
Reflections Magazine Issue 55 Winter 2014