Exploring the experiences of preschool teachers working with children living with parental mental illness

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Abstract

Children exposed to the risk factors associated with parental mental illness are seen to be at risk of developing cognitive, emotional, and behavioural difficulties in preschool and later in life. Given that educational settings are seen as optimal for early intervention, preschool teachers have an important role to play in identifying and responding to the needs of these vulnerable children at a critical period of their development. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of preschool teachers who have taught, or currently teach, preschool aged children (4–6 years) affected by a parent’s mental illness. Seven university qualified preschool teachers were interviewed about their experiences and reflected on their practices, specifically those practices that seemed to help support the child and those that did not. The findings highlighted that preschool teachers are knowledgeable and have the skills to identify warning signs and risk factors for young children, however this knowledge was limited in the context of parental mental illness and associated risks for preschool children. As such, the present study highlighted the need for targeted and specialized training and resources designed for the needs of preschool teachers. Several implications were discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalEarly Childhood Education Journal
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

Keywords

  • Cross disciplinary collaboration
  • Developmentally vulnerable children
  • Early childhood education and care
  • Family and parental mental illness
  • Family-focused practice
  • Preschool teachers
  • Staff development
  • Working in partnership with families

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