National Center for Effective Mental Halth Consultation
   

Role #2: Empowering Caregivers

Another essential role that consultants play is empowering caregivers (parents and providers). As previously discussed, the goal of early childhood mental health consultation is not to have a consultant "fix" the problem or the child's behavior in lieu of those who provide regular care for the child. Instead, the consultant supports and empowers caregivers to "become therapeutic" and infuse promotion, prevention and intervention strategies into their everyday routines at home and in the classroom (Hepburn et al., 2007). To this end, consultants engage in several core capacity-building activities:

  • Educate caregivers on key child development and early childhood mental health topics, such as developmental milestones and "red flags", the importance of caregiver/child relationships, and managing challenging behaviors.
    • For example: Conduct specialized workshops, trainings, and team-building exercises.
  • Collaborate with caregivers to develop home and/or classroom-based strategies that address young children's social/emotional needs, while ensuring that caregivers can feasibly implement those strategies (i.e., strategies are aligned with caregiver values, abilities and resources).
    • For example: When developing strategies for a specific child, gather information from various sources including screening/assessment results and conversations with caregivers about the child's strengths and needs as well as their own. Consider conducting a home visit, if the family is amenable, so that you can see how the child functions in both environments.

Note: Check out the CECMHC website for a number of tools and resources to assist you in developing and implementing strategies. [For example, see the Teaching Tools for Young Children]

  • Provide strategy implementation support to caregivers, such as modeling and coaching in the home and/or classroom.
    • For example: When a caregiver is faced with challenging child behaviors, help him/her think through potential causes for that behavior and what strategy(s) might be effective given the circumstances.
  • Offer emotional support to caregivers, particularly opportunities to express the stresses and frustrations associated with managing young children's challenging or troubling behaviors.
    • For example: Regularly ask caregivers how they are feeling and if someone seems overwhelmed, take the time to actively listen to their frustrations and, if they are receptive, suggest relaxation techniques that might help provide some stress reduction.

Empowering caregivers

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Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development National Center for Effective Mental Health Consultation