It’s Mental Health Week this week, coinciding with World Mental Health Day which took place on Monday, October 10. Any day/week/month is the perfect time to talk about mental health, but Mental Health Week is an excellent reminder.
According to data from BeyondBlue, 50% of all the mental health conditions we experience at some point in our lives will have started by age 14. And with 1 in 4 Australians experiencing an anxiety condition, and 1 in 7 experiencing depression in their lifetime it goes without saying that mental health affects many of the people around us. In addition, mental health for many has been even further impacted over the last few years. The pandemic and its far-reaching effects continue to be of great concern.
How early childhood educators can support children’s mental health
While mental health issues are not always avoidable or preventable, there are things we can do to offer the best chance of developing good mental health.Let’s consider just a few of the options we have to make a difference in children’s mental health and wellbeing:
For children, in particular, we often talk about building resilience. This is giving children the ability to bounce back from setbacks. It enables us to fail but not let that sense of failure overcome us. Rather, resilience allows us to use an instance of failing as a teacher so we can continue to do better and take a new or improved approach to a variety of dealings in life.
Beyond Blue has a fantastic guide on building resilience from birth to age 12. Resilient Youth has many free resources on this topic also.
Wellbeing strategies can improve and provide protective measures that can work to prevent mental health challenges.
We are passionate about yoga, breathwork, meditation, and the power of music for making a measurable difference in children’s wellbeing (and adults!).
Promote open communication
Talking about feelings is essential at every age, and if we encourage this in very young children we can hopefully set them up with positive habits as they grow up.
Undertake activities that show children how to identify different feelings, encourage acknowledgment of emotions and that every feeling is perfectly okay to have.
Provide opportunities for children to share feelings one on one and in group settings to show that we all have a range of different emotions and experiences all the time.
Creating a bright future for all children
We want every child to be happy and free of mental health challenges — however, this is not always possible. A bright future is not necessarily one with no mental health challenges, but one where the stigma is broken down and we are all able to gain the support we need when we need it.
As early childhood educators, we have a wonderful opportunity to be part of breaking down those stigmas and showing young people that help is available. Let’s do what we can to make a difference.
For inspiration visit our Facebook page where you will see a snapshot of enhanced wellbeing, a day in the life of Bonkers Beat!