Children's Health Education

How do mental health counselors help families understand development stages and mental health in children?

child development

child development

What is child development?

A child’s development is a series of learning procedures they undergo until they mature and reach adulthood. Normal growth is the process through which most kids attain particular milestones at around the same time. It is the process through which a kid evolves, improves, and acquires social, physical, cognitive, emotional, and communication abilities. The developmental phase of a child is divided into five phases that include 0–3 months (newborn), 3–12 months (infant), 1–3 years (toddler), 3–4 years (preschool age), and 4–5 years (school age).

Children achieve several milestones at each of the preceding phases that include a unique combination of social, physical, cognitive, and communication traits. The age at which a trait is developed or learned is something that psychologists and psychiatrists have discovered by studying children and their normal development over the years. For example, research psychiatrists have developed checklists so they can check the age when a neurotypical child reaches a milestone. Then these professionals can check if a child ticks all the boxes and understand the rate at which their brain is developing. If, however, two or more boxes remain unchecked, the healthcare professional might intervene and try to figure out the cause of the delay.

Individuals who are interested in studying more about child psychology and the prospect of providing counseling services to children and their parents can pursue a career by earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology followed by a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in mental health counseling. The American International College offers online doctoral programs in counseling that are completely flexible and allow students to complete their studies at their own pace. All courses are accredited, making this a great opportunity for anyone who wishes to complete their education in a flexible way.

Importance of developmental needs in children

For a child to grow healthily, all their developmental needs must be fulfilled. These include physical and psychological needs such as shelter, access to clean clothes, water, and a healthy environment free from violence and abuse. In addition, their cultural and spiritual needs must also be met to allow them to flourish.

The initial two to three years post-birth are extremely crucial for a child as the brain of a child develops at an incredibly fast rate during these years. This is the time when the complex and intricate networks of a child’s brain are built, and so it is the time that they require the most attention and affection from their parents. The human brain grows to ninety percent of its adult capacity by the time a child is six years old. It is during this time that children continue absorbing an incredible amount of knowledge from their life events and surroundings. Such initial experiences and events—both favorable and adverse—set the basis for a child’s continued development, survival, physical well-being, and mental health.

The long-term health outcomes of a child will directly benefit from effective initial growth, which also enhances possibilities for future endeavors, academic achievement, and even professional potential. Since these abilities are crucial for future self-confidence, social interaction, community participation, and psychological well-being, the consequences of this developmental period on a child’s behavioral and social development are particularly critical.

Role of a mental health counselor in teaching families how to identify and tackle child developmental delays

Most parents are unaware of the developmental goals and needs of their children because they have not been educated about what these goals and needs are and how they can affect the development of their child. As a result, parents are unable to recognize if their child is healthily developing cognitively compared to other children. This can be harmful to the parents and especially the child because developmental delays can have a significant negative impact on how the child performs in the future. In fact, many developmental delays are caused by underlying mental health conditions that are very important to diagnose. The timely diagnosis and treatment of mental issues that lead to developmental delays is essential so that the child can receive the required medical attention at the right time. Some of the major mental health issues that cause developmental delays in children include neurobehavioral disorders such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Other issues include language and speech-related delays, and behavioral delays. Concerning ADHD and ASD, it has been noted that the earlier parents seek treatment for their children, the better the patient outcomes are. In fact, a study on autism spectrum disorder highlights that early intervention among children with autism can help achieve great progress and contribute to a high chance that they will not register on the autism spectrum by the time they reach adulthood.

In such a scenario, mental health counselors play a key role in educating parents and informing them beforehand about age-related milestones that their child must achieve. When parents are made aware of the various age-related developmental milestones, they will be equipped to recognize when their child is underperforming and seek medical assistance immediately. Additionally, a mental health counselor will be able to guide parents in different ways so they can tackle developmental delays, for example, through games and exercises. Through these activities parents can participate with their children to bring them up to the cognitive level of their peers. Counselors can also teach parents how to fulfill the developmental needs of their children and can provide children with occupational therapy, behavioral therapy, speech and language therapy, and much more.


Ultimately, fulfilling children’s mental health and developmental needs is very important, as not doing so can severely impact their personal and mental health. Counseling is a highly rewarding profession—especially for counselors who work with children—that helps children develop in a healthy manner so that they can perform better in every aspect of their lives, from adolescence to adulthood.