Brightside Up counselors decipher infant and toddler behavior

Brightside Up counselors decipher infant and toddler behavior

MENANDS – Biting, hitting, throwing things on the ground.

The mental health experts at Brightside Up, a childcare resource agency serving the Capital Region, are on a mission to help demystify these infant and toddler behaviors and more.

“The downfall of toddlers is that they are misunderstood,” said Kimberly Polstein, the organization’s director of mental health services. “We don’t understand that a toddler’s job and joy is to fill that bucket and empty it. And to fill the bucket again and empty it again.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on New York’s already strained child care industry.

A flood of state and federal child care aid has allowed many daycare providers to stay afloat and increase hiring by offering higher wages and signing bonuses, but the impact socio-emotional impact of the past two years on staff and children has been more difficult to quantify.

Researchers have begun studying the behaviors of a generation of babies and toddlers born during the pandemic, known as “COVID babies”.

To get involved, call Brightside Up at (518) 426-7181

The year of isolation had a profound impact on young children’s ability to adapt to the daycare environment, according to Rebecca Delgiudice, a Brightside Up mental health counselor who conducts one-on-one coaching with daycare workers. child care.

“There’s a lot of separation anxiety, which is pretty typical for some infants and toddlers, but more so because they haven’t had a chance to go anywhere,” Delgiudice said.

Brightside Up’s work is part of a two-year project by the state’s Office of Child and Family Services – made possible with US Bailout dollars – that aims to develop a model at the statewide for mental health counseling at the early childhood level.

As part of the four- to six-month intensive program, mental health consultants visit daycares of all sizes and provide real-time guidance to staff on building skills and relationships with children. The service is offered in virtual, hybrid and in-person formats and is free.

When Delgiudice visits a classroom, she says she is primarily there to support and empower the caregiver, so they can be there for the infant and hear their cries. For suppliers who adhere, it is intensive and deeply thought-out work.

“We’re not changing the child, we’re changing the adult’s thought process,” Delgiudice said.

She noted that the brain develops most rapidly during the first three years of life and that relationships during this phase are critically important to a child’s development and well-being.

“We know that when children are exposed to toxic stress – when they don’t have those supportive relationships – then they are really at risk of developing serious problems later in life…we always keep in mind this very opportunity to support the child, the family and the community,” said Delgiudice.

Polstein and his team say they are guided by research from Yale University on implicit bias at the preschool level. The study, which tracked the eye movements of preschool teachers, found that instructors tended to look at black boys more closely than other students when expecting misbehavior.

The researchers mapped what they call the “kindergarten to prison pipeline,” noting the disproportionate suspension and expulsion of black children, especially boys.

Typically, 3- and 4-year-olds are expelled at triple or quadruple the rate of K-12 children combined, Delgiudice noted.

“The relationships we have with adults, that also informs our self-concept. If we get the message that we’re bad, bad, bad and adults can’t handle me, what kind of message does that send- he?” she says.

The organization is one of 34 Regional Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (CCRR) participating in the program. Currently, 35 mental health consultants serve 19,000 registered child care providers in the state.

The project has already produced valuable data for infant and toddler mental health consultation. They measure the classroom climate using parameters such as positive and negative interactions between adults and young children and the closeness of the adult to the child.

Providers often report a reduction in problem behaviors after just a few sessions, Delgiudice said.

“From the beginning, we always tell the adult that we don’t have a magic wand to make that kid stop doing what they’re doing, but I can build your toolbox so you can react differently and I can hope the child does too,” she said.

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