Emotional well-being by Jenny Barber

4th April 2017

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We welcome to the Childcare Expo community Jenny Barber. Jenny is passionate about child care and early years and has worked in the field since leaving school. Along with offering bespoke training to local authorities, she also provides consultancy services including popular mock inspections working with settings to improve quality and maintain continuous improvement. Here Jenny discusses emotional well-being…

I recently read some statistics in Matt Haig’s book “Reasons to Stay Alive”, which gave me pause for thought. According to the World Health Organisation, suicide kills more people than stomach cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, cirrhosis of the liver and Alzheimer’s. It kills more people than most other forms of violence put together – warfare, terrorism, domestic abuse, assault and gun crime.

This made me reflect on what we as early years professionals are doing to support children’s emotional health and well-being, especially the most vulnerable children. The themes of the EYFS put the unique child at the centre, every child is an individual with their own set of life experiences, their personality and their character. We surround that child with positive relationships in the setting, to hopefully nurture and give the child a sense of emotional security. The theorist Elinor Goldschmeid talked about how in a nursery a child, a very young child is the only person who doesn’t understand why they are there. Children having a bond with their key carer is critical to them feeling a sense of emotional security. It is about minimising distress and discomfort, supporting a feeling of belonging and contentment.

Professor Ferre Laevers in his research identified a scale of well-being for children. Well-being needs to be high to enable engagement, involvement and learning. To truly support children’s emotional and mental health, we perhaps need to look at this scale of well-being above anything else. A happy and content child will have higher self-esteem and is better equipped to face the challenge. Positive self-esteem and self-regard rooted in childhood, provide a foundation to be built upon and enables resilience. Nothing is fool proof, but ensuring our practice is supportive is a starting point. It is good to reflect on our practice and answering  these questions from the perspective of your key children can be insightful:

Do I feel I belong here or am just part of the crowd?

Do I usually feel accepted, understood and protected, rather than scolded or neglected by the adults?

Am I usually addressed seriously and respectfully, rather than as someone who is ‘precious’ or ‘cute’?

Am I usually glad to be here, rather than eager to leave?

Am I usually accepted rather than isolated or rejected by the majority of my peers?

Am I valued and responded to?

Do the practitioners understand and meet my individual needs?

The responses to these questions can provide valuable clues into a child’s sense of emotional well-being and our influence on that state of mind.

Emotional well-being is achieved for children when:

  • Their needs are met and feelings accepted.
  • They feel able to express their feelings and emotions.
  • They enjoy relationships that are close, warm and supportive.
  • They feel valued and part of the group.

The statistics I mentioned at the beginning are quite shocking and we can only play a small part in supporting emotional health, but every small step adds up to making a difference.

To hear more from Jenny, please visit her website.

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