The Start of Good Mental Health
As it is World Mental Health Day I wanted to write something about Personal, Social and Emotional Development in the Early Years.
Some young children are born or develop clinical mental health issues and some may be experiencing mental health issues due to circumstance, such as a family break up. However, the majority of young children are not affected by mental health issues but we, as parent, carers and practitioners can do many things to set them up for dealing positively with mental health issue later in life.
What can we do for the children in our care
- Help them to develop positive self-esteem, self-worth and confidence
- Help them to become resilient individuals
- Ensure they feel loved and valued
- Help them to understand their emotions
- Help them develop good social skills
Confidence and Self-esteem
Ultimately, a child is the only person that can determine their self-esteem and confidence, however it is up to the adults who care for them at home and at school/nursery to provide positive input and the right environment to help them develop this.
Even as an adult, feeling a sense of achievement when completing a small or large task does wonders for our self-image and confidence. When a child catches a ball, when they complete an obstacle course, when they climb to the first or last branch of a tree, when they build a bridge from boxes. They learn what their capabilities are. When doing so with other children they will also learn to take turns, how to communicate with others, interpreting others’ emotions, respect for each other and how to lead and follow.
Setting small challenges on a regular basis will help children grow and develop. Positive feedback from the adults in their life will hugely impact their confidence and self-esteem. However rather than always setting challenges and rewarding when the challenges have been achieved, also support them to develop the ability to challenge themselves and identify their own achievements.
Please have a look at my earlier blog on resilience here
Loved and Valued
I think it is pretty obvious that a loved child is a happier child, however can we just go a little deeper than the obvious.
If a child feels loved, valued, safe and secure they will have a greater sense of self-worth and be more likely to become more independent and successful as they grow older.
Listening to a child when they express an opinion and having discussions rather than always telling them what to do will teach them more, make them feel more valued. Furthermore, when a child believes that they are being unfairly treated, they are less likely to listen and more likely to avoid or even resist discipline.
Young children need to be taught about their feelings, helping them to make sense of their emotions. It will allow them to become adults who can express themselves appropriately and regulate how they behave in social situations, as well as become compassionate and empathetic.
Children in early years have to learn about emotions and become emotionally literate. As all children are different, due to different characters and life situations and experience, some may find it easy to “fit in”, whereas others might take a long time to develop emotional literacy. These children may explode or appear to behave badly on a regular basis.
Show them love and understanding when they appear to be having a “tantrum”. Hold them tight or try get them to understand why they are feeling this way as they will most probably be a bit freaked out by all these strange emotions they are feeling.
Top Tip – Active stories, songs and active rhymes about our feelings are great activities to help children understand their emotions. They will also learn through generally being active and playing in groups.
Research has shown that the best predictor of a child’s ability to adapt to adulthood is not their marks in school, classroom behaviour, or IQ. But the way that a child gets along with other children.
Children need friends their own age, as they can use each other to learn how to relate to people. And it is believed that those who learn about and develop positive friendship and social skills from a young age are more likely to develop stronger relationships with others, benefiting their wellbeing and mental health.
by Tania Swift