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Illinois Action for Children’s Early Childhood Mental Health Consultants Are Here to Support You

Illinois Action for Children is pleased to offer the opportunity for home- and center-based emergency child care providers to participate in a no-cost, virtual early childhood mental health consultation. Consultations can be conducted via phone or video conference covering the following topics:

  • Social-Emotional Concerns
  • Behavioral Concerns
  • Developmental Concerns
  • Staff Concerns/Issues
  • Working with Families
  • Identifying Resources for children/families/staff

The current events related to COVID-19 can be stressful, confusing, and in some instances traumatic for many people and communities. Children are not exempt to these feelings of distress.

Children need to feel safe, heard, and understood. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified the presence of safe, stable, and nurturing adults as the most important protective factor for children and young people in the face of stress and adversity. It is important for adults to talk with children about COVID-19 to assure they receive age-appropriate, factual information, and to understand and help them process their feelings.

The greatest truth of this pandemic is we are all in this together. Each of us has a part to contribute to our fight against this virus and to bring our world back to some sense of normalcy; even children.

IAFCs Early Childhood Mental Health Consultants bring advanced training and expertise and will work with you to help you provide the best support possible to the children in your care.


Can’t wait for your consultation appointment? The Q & A section below will provide you with some guidance for supporting the social-emotional development and wellness of the children in your care.

Q. How do I talk to children about COVID-19?

A. Keep information simple about the actual virus. Explain that much like the flu, people with this sickness will have a bad cough and fever. Children really need reassurance. So, be sure to share how most people who contract this virus stay home or in the hospital, rest, get good care from doctors and nurses, and get all better.

Q. How should I support children who feel worried about their parent’s/caregiver’s/loved one’s health and safety?

A. Be sure to provide a safe space for emotional expression. Validate the child’s feelings of sadness, concern, disappointment, and worry. Reassure them that their loved ones are taking many measures to establish and maintain overall safety for themselves and the child. Remember, supporting and teaching emotional regulation will help children learn to cope with such complex circumstances.

Q. How do I help children understand their role in this health crisis?

A. Promote the practice of healthy habits such as adequate handwashing, covering coughs, exercising necessary physical distance, especially when sick. These activities can be made fun for kids with your creativity and knowledge of early childhood development.

Q. What are some normal behaviors that might be expected in children during this health crisis?

A. Often, children demonstrate stress through observable behaviors such as aggression, hyperactivity, poor concentration, irritability, anger, separation anxiety, developmental regression and difficulty sleeping. Note, this list is not exhaustive but serves as a reminder that children respond in various ways when significant changes have occurred in their lives. Children have big feelings that they don’t always know how to express appropriately. One of the vital roles as a caregiver is to help normalize their feelings and help them manage and express challenging emotions in safe and healthy ways.

Q. What ways can I promote social connections among children during this time of social (physical) distancing?

A. Instinctually, most children are social and physical beings. In fact, they need these types of interactions to learn, feel safe, connect to others and grow. To that end, close engagement among children, their peers and adults may not be avoidable. However, adults should take responsible precautions that assure hands and noses are clean, universal precautions are implemented and sick individuals do not have these close exchanges with children and others.

Q. How do I recognize concerning behaviors/ unhealthy coping responses in children during this health crisis?

A. Although challenging child behaviors are normal responses to stress and/or trauma, there are instances that call for greater concern. A child who withdraws, expresses a desire or attempts to cause harm to themselves or others is an indication that increased supports are needed. Crisis and Referral Entry Services Hotline (CARES) 1-800-345-9049

If other behaviors, such as but not limited to, aggression or defiance appear to increase in intensity, frequency and duration over time, you should schedule an appointment for an Illinois Action for Children Early Childhood Mental Health Virtual Consultation for further guidance. 


Resources

During these challenging times, it is important to be kind to yourself and practice self-care. We have more to give when our own cup is full, as you can’t pour from an empty cup. Realize that you may not have all the answers and that is ok, no one does at this time. Anxiety and worry are normal reactions to this period of uncertainty. Try to maintain social connections through virtual means and seek professional help if needed. Below are some resources for families and providers.

Zero to Thrive

COVIBOOK

Something Strange Happened in My City

Resources for K-12 Schools and Child Care Programs

Resources for Communities