June 2020 by Jane Andrews, Area Manager
Why is this important?
There have been many articles within the media during the last 10 weeks concerning mental health and well-being. There have also been numerous radio and tv programmes dedicated to promoting diversion, interest and mindfulness, from cooking initiatives led by Jamie Oliver to crafting demonstrations by Kirstie Allsopp along with other celebrities and presenters. Joe Wicks has tried to focus us on keeping fit as daily exercise has also been strongly promoted in order to help manage the long periods of being inside without access to all our family and friends. In the absence of normal filming conditions these programmes have provided an alternative entertainment outlet as our mental health has been recognised as being at risk during such altered times.
Who should we be concerned about?
Like adults, children’s mental health has been of concern as the government and mental health organisations have identified problems for some vulnerable families and particularly children. During the lockdown national statistics have revealed that there has been a rise in domestic abuse and the knock-on effect for some led the government to issue its revised guidance allowing for cooling off periods in another household in the event of potential risk within families. Most vulnerable within our society are our youngest children. Some parents, already stressed by the current situation, may not have been able to focus on supporting their children through this period. Stressed parents may have found it difficult enough to look after themselves and each other let alone have anything left over for their young children.
|Some parents, already stressed by the current situation, may not have been able to focus on supporting their children through this period.|
So what is to be done?
A return to normal Nursery life will be beneficial for all our young children as it will give them opportunities to play again with their friends and to enjoy different experiences from those available at home whilst instilling a sense of normality and Nursery structure to their daily lives. What benefits the children, will benefit their families.
Our role as early years practitioners can be pivotal in helping to promote mental well-being in our children. Healthy habits at Nursery age can help to provide children with the right tools to cope with challenges, building greater resilience for life. Activities and experiences which we provide and facilitate can be a springboard for the future.
Why worry about this with children so young?
It has been well researched and evidenced that every experience whether negative or positive has an effect on the neurological pathways in the brain. The brain controls all our behaviours both pro and anti-socially. The stimulation or lack of it which a young child experiences both prenatally and in the first few years of life determine the type of brain a child will develop. It has long been established that, ‘from birth to age 5, a child’s brain develops more than at any other time in life. And early brain development has a lasting impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life. (firstthingsfirst.org)
|Scientific advice recommends that being outside as much as possible helps to lessen the spread of transmission of the virus.|
Early years practitioners can be inspirational to children even when they are so young. Nurseries are re-opening with new, government-set guidelines to help ensure that we are continuing to protect our young children, their families and our own staff and families as best we can. Whilst meeting this advice and being outside we can also, as practitioners, ensure that being in nature can further help to nurture our children.
Does this apply to all children, or just some?
Many children across the country have benefitted significantly from lockdown through being able to enjoy extended quality family time through daily exercise, nature walks, games and home schooling. Sadly, this has not been the case for all families. Settings which are predominantly set outdoors (such as Forest Schools) or who offer several regular opportunities to play outside in their designated ‘bubbles’ are able to meet the guidelines adequately.
Engaging with children through teaching them how to set goals and persevere – mastering peddling a bike, learning to use scissors or whittling twigs and later peeling carrots for teatime – allows them to achieve. Equally important are teaching strategies to help children cope when they haven’t been able to achieve their set goals. Everyone makes mistakes and this is the way we all learn in life and it is OK.
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