The Bi-Directional Link Between Children’s and Teachers’ Wellbeing
From extensive research in brain development, it has been conclusive that early childhood experiences are vital in developing well established children for the future with positive life outcomes. In particular these experiences affect children’s physical health, social and emotional wellbeing later in life (1,4,8).
Even more, the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and the National Quality Framework (NQF) have acknowledged this position and has placed a focused emphasis on the role early childhood practitioners (ECPs) have in understanding and supporting the development of the social wellbeing of children through the relationships they build with both the child and their family (3).
Children’s mental health issues contribute to ECPs’ own emotional health and wellbeing.
It has been found that mental health issues, in particular oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and anxiety and depression are among the most commonly diagnosed mental health conditions in childhood (5,6,7).
In all cases of children’s mental health and wellbeing, it commonly presents itself through behaviour – positive, negative, or even hidden/silent behaviour, which means something.
- In these cases, it has been found that supporting children in the class who experience more emotional and/or behavioural difficulties, is often aligned to ECPs’ stress levels. In turn, contributing to ECPs’ own emotional wellbeing (4,6).
- ECP wellbeing has flow on effects in the relationships they form with children, the way they interact with them and react to their behaviour.
- ECP wellbeing will also have an influence on the relationships they develop with families.
This raises important issues for the early childhood field and for ECPs in understanding their role in supporting the development of positive emotional wellbeing of all children. This includes being equipped with the knowledge of the importance of emotional wellbeing in children’s development. It also involves the responsibility in understanding what ECPs can do to support children and their families/family members who may be experiencing mental health issues.
IMPLICATIONS FOR ECPs
ECPs have a responsibility to establish partnerships and collaboratively work with families.
In the study undertaken by Williams, Sanchez, and Hunnell (2011), they discuss the positive outcomes when there are partnerships between families and education organisations.
They base their study around the concept of an ecological approach, which emphasises four principles that are also relevant to the early childhood context. Two of the most important and interrelated of these being discussed below: interdependence and interpersonal relationships, both of which are also related to developing partnerships with families.
- To be able to cater for their present needs and to provide effective learning experiences, is to understand children and their past experiences (2). This entails nurturing and growing interdependent relationships with families. It is when families and teachers work hand-in-hand with the unique knowledge they have of the child from each of their contexts (i.e. the home and early childhood service).
- Instead of the main reason for conversing with families to be negative feedback, such as discussing problematic issues, challenging behaviour, or mishaps that have occurred during the day; when partnerships are focused on the interpersonal relationship it becomes stronger. As a result, there will be more benefits for all involved .
- Partnerships that are focused on interpersonal relationships create more positive, trusted, and effective relationships.
- This leads to families being more involved in their children’s education that works towards inclusive practices, while also supporting teachers.
- In particular, children’s behaviour was more effectively supported, which in turn reduced teacher stress and supported their emotional-wellbeing.
(1) Brown, W.H. & Conroy, M.A. (2011). Social-emotional competence in young children with developmental delays: Our reflection and vision for the future. Journal of Early Intervention, 33(4), 310-320.
(2) Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR]. (2009). Belonging, being and becoming: The early years learning framework for Australia. Retrieved from http://education.gov.au/early-yearslearning-framework
(3) Gloeckler, L. & Cassell, J. (2012). Teacher practices with toddlers during social problem solving opportunities. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40(4), 251-257.
(4) Green, B.L., Malsch, A.M., Kothari, B.H. Busse, J. & Brennan, E. (2012). An intervention to increase early childhood staff capacity for promoting children’s social-emotional development in preschool settings. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40(2), 123-132.
(5) Hamilton, S.S. & Armando, J. (2008). Oppositional defiant disorder. American Family Physician, 78(7), 861-866.
(6) Matthys, W., Vanderschuren, L.J.M.J., Schutter, D.J.L.G. & Lochman, J.E. (2012). Impaired neurocognitive functions affect social learning processes in oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder: Implications for interventions. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 15(3), 234-246.
(7) Nordahl, H.M., Well, A., Olsson, C.A. & Bjerkeset, O. (2010). Association between abnormal psychosocial situations in childhood, generalized anxiety disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 44(9), 852-858.
(8) Temple, E. & Emmett, S. (2013). Promoting the development of children’s emotional and social wellbeing in early childhood settings: How can we enhance the capability of educators to fulfil role expectations? Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 38(1), 66-72.
(9) Williams T.T., Sanchez, B., & Hunnell, J. (2011). Aligning theory and practice: Understanding school-family partnerships at an inner-city high school. Children and Youth Services Review, 33(5), 689-697.
© Tirzah Lim 2017