Wellbeing- "the state of feeling happy and healthy" (Cambridge dictionary). It is the ultimate thing that all parents want for their children. As early years educators, we view this as a starting point for child's learning and development. There is a huge emphasis on personal, social, emotional and physical development and communication to grow self-confidence, resilience and emotional security. So what exactly does it mean and how can we support and promote wellbeing?
Emotional stability and security is a key element in child development. Children rely on adults for help and must know that their emotional needs will be met before they can go off to explore and learn. What are those key needs and how can we meet them?
Attachment- having parents, carers or a key teacher at school available as needed. Children constantly look for approval, or to see what they can get away with. Even when playing by themselves, children regularly glance to see if you are looking, thus giving them the reassurance to carry on. Try to give them your undivided attention (yes, that means no phone) even if they are not asking for it directly while you are with them.
Expectations and control- achieved by being consistent and maintaining routines. The world is very big and exciting and sometimes frightening, and learning new things can seem so hard. However they are achieved so well if there is consistency and support in routine, as then a child knows what to expect. And when you know, it does not seem so scary any more. It develops confidence and resilience and promotes learning.
Emotional support- it is important to recognise when children are overwhelmed. Being there for them with a cuddle or having a quiet five minutes will make them feel heard and secure. Children are very attuned to their parents' mood and it will reflect on them, so it is good to be mindful of that. Love, attention and acceptance of their feelings creates trust, security and stability. It develops confidence and a sense of self-worth and a strong base to learn and expole.
When children feel confident, they will go off and play. Play is essential to a child' wellbeing- it is their opportunity to express themselves, to think for themselves, to use their imagination and reflect on the whole existence. They will play alone, or will involve parents or carers to show what they are doing and for further reassurance. It is good to follow their lead (unless of course it is dangerous), even if it seems silly, as it validates and approves their thoughts and makes them want to try again. It is CRUCIAL not to overwhelm the child with too much structured play or pre-set activities as it puts extra pressure and expectations on them and does not allow to explore and experience things in their own way, even if it seems that they have unlimited energy (since 5am!)
Self-regulation is a tool for life that we can start teaching from an early age. It is the way in which we control our responses to situations by understanding our emotions and developing strategies to manage them. It is necessary to provide opportunities to learn about feelings and emotions, how to accept and deal with them through books, songs, role play and conversations, as well as lead by example. Children with well developed self-regulating skills are successful learners who are able to persist when facing challenges.