It’s all about relationships

June 30, 2014 8:45 AM

Kirby Messinger

The relationships that we form as young children influence our behavior and health for the rest of our lives. Child psychologist Allison Boothe, an assistant professor at Tulane University, is working with New Orleans teachers to give children better outcomes for the future.

Allison Boothe

“I am so happy that the Stranahan Foundation sees the merit in our program and how it affects the future of New Orleans children,” says child psychologist Allison Boothe. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

“If you can make a difference in a child before the age of 5,” says Boothe, “you can change the trajectory of their entire life.” 

For the past seven years, Boothe has directed the Tulane Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation project, which partners with child-care centers statewide to support and promote the social and emotional development of young children. Now with the assistance of a grant from the Stranahan Foundation, Boothe will expand her program into local charter schools. 

“Children learn important skills through the relationships they have with their caregivers,” says Boothe. “Teachers play an important role in a child becoming socially and emotionally healthy.” 

One of the skills that the program focuses on is self-regulation, which is vital for children to master at an early age. Self-regulation in childhood can predict adult physical health, substance dependence, criminal convictions and even wealth. Small things, like helping a child learn “whole body listening,” a concept that the entire body, not just the ears, has to be focused on listening can have a big influence on their future development. 

Boothe and her team work closely with schools and child-care centers to support teachers in effective classroom management skills. They help implement programs within a teacher’s current curriculum that teach social-emotional skills. Boothe emphasizes that her goal is not to make a teacher’s life more difficult; rather, she partners with them to find the best solutions possible, often finding alternative ways to help individual children. 

The two-year grant from the Stranahan Foundation allows Boothe and her team to expand their success to more children in the New Orleans area. 

Kirby Messinger is a communication/marketing officer in the Office of Development Communications.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000