SUPPORTING YOUR CHILD’S SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH
By: Amy Saarnio Wyka, MSW LMSW
My name is Amy Saarnio Wyka, and I am a Children’s Case Manager at Gogebic Community Mental Health in Wakefield, Michigan. I live in Montreal, Wisconsin with my family. My family grew up in this area, and I am grateful that my son is able to grow up here too. I studied social work at the University of Michigan and prior to working at Community Mental Health, I was a Social Worker at Iron County Human Services.
As a Children’s Case Manager, I work with children and their families in their homes, schools, and in the community. My job is to assist children and their family across environments so he or she can live life without any interference from a mental health challenge or a developmental disability. I work with caregivers, siblings, teachers, and the child to help support social and emotional health.
Being socially and emotionally healthy is important for the following reasons: it helps our children make and keep friends, express how they feel in safe ways, and learn throughout life. So what is social and emotional health? Social and emotional health is a young child’s growing ability to: form close relationships with other people, express and manage emotions, and explore new environments. According to the Michigan Great Start Team there are many things we can do every day with our children to help them learn these skills without taking extra time, effort, or money! For children ages birth to five, they encourage the following: 1) Gently hold and cuddle your child often. 2) Respond to your child’s efforts to communicate with you. 3) Enrich your child’s daily routines by making eye contact and sharing smiles, conversations, stories and books. 4) Take time to follow your child’s lead. Join her in one-on-one play and talk with her about activities whenever possible. 5) Gently guide your child through social situations. 6) Be sure your expectations match what your child is socially and emotionally ready to do. For children ages 5 to 8 they encourage the following: 1) Be Consistent. 2) Be open and honest with your child. 3) Model the words and actions you want to see in your child. 4) Get involved. 5) Let your child make mistakes. 6) Show affection. 7) Encourage responsibility and independence. 8) Help your child speak up for herself.
If you would like to learn more about Social and Emotional Development, you can explore the following resources: Bright Futures at www.brightfutures.aap.org/Family_Resources.html, the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning at www.vanderbilt.edu/csefel, Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation at www.ecmhc.org, Zero to Three at www.zerotothree.org, and the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health at www.mi-aimh.org. If you have concerns about your child’s social and emotional health you could talk to your child’s doctor or a school professional who is familiar with your child. For questions about services provided through Community Mental Health, you can call 906-229-6120 or visit the agency’s web site at gccmh.org or facebook page.