May 9 – National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

Guest posting by Judy Sparks…

http://zerotothree.org

Clinical Work with Traumatized Young Children edited by Joy Osofky“Presenting crucial knowledge and state-of-the-art treatment approaches for working with young children affected by trauma, this book is an essential resource for mental health professionals and child welfare advocates. Readers gain an understanding of how trauma affects the developing brain, the impact on attachment processes, and how to provide effective help to young children and their families from diverse backgrounds. Top experts in the field cover key evidence-based treatments—including child-parent psychotherapy, attachment-based treatments, and relational interventions—as well as interventions for pediatric, legal, and community settings. Special sections give in-depth attention to deployment-related trauma in military families and the needs of children of substance-abusing parents.”

As an Early Intervention Specialist I’ve had the privilege of knowing many families of young children with special needs over the last 20 years.   Often these children have suffered the effects of trauma early in life, some even before birth, and upon delivery, join life with a foster family.  Some children begin life with their birth family, only to experience traumatic events with parents struggling with their own mental health issues, and land in a foster family setting.  What strikes me most about all these children  is their resiliency.  Given the opportunity to thrive in a nurturing environment often provides amazingly positive results.  In his book , Reconciliation:  A Son’s Story, my husband Steve Sparks  recounts his own family story which bears testimony to how resilient children can be.  Undoubtedly there were role models and mentors who shared hope with Steve and his siblings to help them live positive and productive lives.

Equally amazing, I’ve known children who have returned to their birth parents as family situations have improved, who blossom even more so once reunited with their family of origin.   While there are exceptions to every rule, helping parents maintain a hopeful attitude about family reunification will serve them well as they go through such transitions.  Being ever mindful of the importance of children’s mental health, this National Day of Awareness is a great reminder that parents can nurture themselves and their children following trauma to elicit positive changes in family life.   That is the focus of this year’s National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.

Judy Sparks
Early Intervention Specialist