In this section
Mental health is the emotional, social and behavioural wellbeing of any infant, child, young person or adult. All children, no matter their age, can have mental health problems. Good mental health is important for healthy development, and research tells us that recognising and addressing
problems early can help improve outcomes.
Having good mental health involves:
Mental health difficulties can occur in children of all ages, and can result in social, emotional and behavioural problems. Babies and toddlers can have mental health difficulties for similar reasons to older children and adults. They learn about emotions and how
to manage them by watching and copying grown-ups who are important to them.
It can be difficult to know if your baby or young child’s behaviour is a result of a mental health problem. The following symptoms may be a sign of social or emotional concerns in a baby, toddler or young child, especially if you notice these issues being present most
of the time and affecting your child’s ability to cope with day-to-day life at home, childcare, kindergarten or school.
The exact cause for most mental heath problems is not known. Many factors combine to affect a child’s social and emotional wellbeing, including factors from their environment and factors they inherit from their family. It’s important to remember that difficulties with mental health in children are
no-one’s fault, and no-one is to blame.
Lots of different things can be stressful for a parent, baby or toddler, or both. Things that can affect mental health in infants and toddlers include:
School-age children will experience a number of changes in their social, emotional, personal and physical development. These changes can be challenging, and children this age may experience the following:
Building resilience in children helps them to cope and recover more easily from difficult situations (eg. family breakdowns, making mistakes, bullying or a falling out with friends). Having strong positive relationships and spending time with your child is key to building resilience.
Developing the following skills from an early age can also help build resilience in your child:
Most children learn to overcome challenges on their own so give them an opportunity to problem solve before you interfere. You can also try problem-solving together with your child and help them to develop coping strategies for future challenges.
Often parents don’t feel confident in seeking help for their child’s social, emotional and behavioural wellbeing. It’s important for you and your child to have support. If your child has ongoing issues socialising, controlling feelings appropriately, learning, or meeting milestones, it can be helpful to talk about
your concerns with your GP, maternal child health nurse or school or kindergarten teacher.
If you or your
child are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm, contact emergency
services on 000.
There are many community services available if you have concerns about your child’s mental health or you’d like more information:
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.