News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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Social and emotional skills as important as academics in preschool and kindergarten

Be proud if your little one knows letters, colors, and numbers, but as you prepare for the transition to preschool or Kindergarten this summer, look beyond academics. Teachers report social and emotional skills like self control and following directions, not academic skills, are the key to school readiness.

Natalie Kasiborski, coordinator for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan's Early Childhood Behavioral Health Initiative (ECBHI) in Charlevoix, Emmet and northern Antrim Counties, recommends that parents continue to practice letters, colors, and numbers with the kids this summer – but pay special attention to social and emotional skills, too. “Summertime is a great opportunity for parents to help their children continue to build their social and emotional skills,” Kasiborski says. “When school is out, children often have a less structured schedule and more time to play. Play is an important part of learning; it helps them explore social interactions, develop friendships, gain confidence, and learn to resolve conflict.”

Kasiborski says parental influence can be just as significant as academic learning. “Sometimes the focus is so much on formal learning in a school setting, that we forget that children are learning from us, their parents, every day,” she explains. “Everyday moments are opportunities to teach your children how to interact with their peers, and how to identify and handle their emotions.”

To help prepare your child for Kindergarten or preschool this fall, the Early Childhood Behavioral Health Initiative suggests the following activities:

The ECBHI seeks to enhance the availability of, and access to, behavioral health services for children ages 0-5 and their families in Charlevoix, Emmet, and Northern Antrim counties. Services available through the Initiative include Parent Support Partner, a program to help parents find and utilize behavioral health resources for their children; the Ages & Stages Universal Screening Program, which offers tools to help parents track their child's development and seek help when abnormalities may be present; mental health consultation for children at risk of expulsion from child care and preschool; and parental education and support nights, bi-monthly sessions that will provide free dinner and child care while parents listen to and learn from experts in child development and parenting. It is generously funded by the Frey Foundation, The Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, the Charlevoix County Community Foundation, the Char-Em United Way, and the CareSource Foundation.

To participate in the FREE Ages & Stages developmental screening program, visit For more information on the ECBHI or any of the services offered, contact Kasiborski at 231-347-5144 or

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties.