Science has taught us much about child development in recent years. We now know that the foundation for sound mental health and intelligence is built early in life. Early experiences, including relationships with parents, caregivers, relatives, teachers, and peers, help shape the developing brain. Disruptions in this developmental process can damage a child’s capacity for learning and relating to others, causing lifelong implications, such as toxic stress.
Toxic Stress is caused when a child experiences strong, frequent, and/or prolonged biological stress responses to such negative situations such as poverty, threatening neighborhoods, domestic violence, parental substance abuse problems, poor child care conditions, and abuse or neglect. Toxic stress can severely damage a baby’s developing brain and can impair school readiness, academic achievement, and both physical and mental health in children and, later, adults. Many problems, ranging from the failure to complete high school to incarceration to homelessness, could be dramatically reduced if attention were paid to improving children’s environments, relationships, and experiences early in life.
New Infant Mental Health Series
To help new parents to encourage their babies intelligence and cope with things like trauma and toxic stress, MAYA Organization has partnered with Patrick Webster, the Project Manager of LAUNCH IMH Learning Collaboratives at the Matilda H. Theiss Child Development Center, to develop a new Infant Mental Health series. The goals of Project LAUNCH include encouraging programming that fosters positive mental health in children as well as devising a new system to provide certificates to local social and health workers for competency in infant mental health.
MAYA’s role in the partnership is to help Project LAUNCH produce a new, four-class series that will focus on helping parents understand how to encourage their babies’ intelligence and promote mental health. These classes will be taught in Northside and focus on:
- Encouraging development and positive mental health
- The importance of cuddling, speaking, reading, and nurturing children
- How traumatic events that affect babies and/or their families can have a negative effect on child development
- How to avoid trauma and help build recovery and resiliency in children who experience trauma that could not be avoided
- Coping with trauma
- A detailed look at ways to mitigate the effects of trauma on children
- Helpful for families who deal with stressful situations such as drug addiction or unsafe communities
- Separations and changes in the home
- Helping parents and caregivers understand and work through trauma caused by changes in the home, from parental separation, death, foster care, and adoption
- Early behavioral signs and how to talk to your pediatrician
- Infant behavioral signs that might indicate issues like hyperactivity, autism, etc
- When and where to turn for professional help for your children
We plan to offer this series in January in our Northside and Swissvale offices. New and expectant parents who take the classes will earn points towards commonly needed new infant items.