Providing ongoing relationships with caring adults is the key to stable mental health development in young children. Speaking this week to members of the Academic Distinction Fund, Tulane University child psychiatrist Charles Zeanah said that adult relationships in the first five years of life lay the foundation for adult mental health. Children who enjoy positive Childrenrelationships with caring adults in a stable environment are most likely to develop the positive self image, feelings of competency and personal empowerment that are the building blocks of good mental health.

According to Zeanah, who is executive director of Tulane’s Institute for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, children who suffer from abuse, neglect and other issues (divorce, death of a parent, severe illness, etc.) during early childhood can face a lifetime of mental health problems. Research has shown a direct connection between abusive early childhood incidents and the development of depression and other mental health problems during adulthood. Adults who suffer as few as five adverse incidents between birth and age 5 have a depression rate that is five times greater than that of children who suffer a single adverse incident. While many adults do overcome difficult childhoods, Zeanah said their achievement of good mental health requires greater effort and often entails the cost of professional counseling or psychiatric therapy.

“If we get it right from the start, we’re in much better shape, both biologically and economically,” Zeanah said.

The teachers, daycare providers and staff at Horizon Education Centers are dedicated to “getting it right.” We provide warm, nurturing environments that encourage children to feel good about themselves and build self-confidence.