Children's Mental Health Week - part one: The importance of supporting the social, emotional and mental health and development of young children

As part of Children's Mental Health Week, I have compiled a 4-part mini-series that will take a brief look into the benefits of implementing a low arousal and low demand approach with young children.
Children's Mental Health Week - part one: The importance of supporting the social, emotional and mental health and development of young children
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This 4-part mini-series will take a brief look into the benefits of implementing a low arousal and low demand approach with young children. These approaches are still quite new to me, and I have only recently started using them within my own practice. Therefore, this series is not intended to be an in-depth step-by step-guide but a bite-size introduction to how these approaches can support the social, emotional, and mental health of young children.

The structure of the series is as follows:

  • Part one: discussing the importance of young children’s social, emotional and mental health, and our role in supporting it.
  • Part two: what the low arousal approach is, the benefits of it and how you can implement it within your own practice.
  • Part three: understanding the low demand approach.
  • Part four: a summary of how these approaches combined can support the social and emotional health of young children.

Children’s social, mental and emotional health and development

The Early years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and the development matters framework provide the statutory and non-statutory guidance on all the legal requirements as well as outlining areas of learning which are integral to young children’s development. Within the EYFS documents, significant emphasis is placed upon children’s personal, social and emotional development (PSED), and their mental health and wellbeing. PSED is the first prime area of learning and development and is highlighted as the foundation for all other areas of learning and development.

The predominant reason why significant emphasis is placed upon the PSED, and mental health of young children is because there is extensive research which links poor PSED and mental health to poor outcomes later in life. This can include having a detrimental impact upon their educational outcomes, employability, relationships and can lead to substance misuse and other risk-taking behaviours.

Our role as practitioners

The Mental Health Foundation (Children and young people | Mental Health Foundation) recently highlighted that 75% of children and young people who experience mental health problems do not receive the help that they need. It is further highlighted that children and young people with SEND are more likely to have difficulties with their PSED and mental health. For example, it is reported that 7 out of 10 people with autism have a mental health condition, such as anxiety and/or depression. This is due to a lack of early recognition and intervention, often attributed to limited access to specialist services. These statistics are far too high, and we need to work together to reduce them.

As early years practitioners, we need to put strategies in place to support and promote young children’s PSED and mental health and wellbeing, which could prevent more significant issues from developing later in life. This is not to say that we can prevent all children from developing mental health issues, as there are many factors outside of our practice which can have a detrimental impact on children’s lives. However, what we can do is provide them with the best possible start and enhance their PSED. By supporting children from a young age, we can promote self-confidence and self- regulation which can lead to self-confidence and build resilience. For some children, including children with SEND, they may need more targeted support and for a longer period of time to meet their PSED and mental health and wellbeing needs.

Alternative approaches

So, what can we do as practitioners to support and promote good PSED and mental health? Well, a key component of this is to create an enabling physical and emotional environment around the child, with us as practitioners firmly placed at the centre of it. What we do, how we say it and the expectations we set all impact upon a child’s PSED and mental health & wellbeing. There are many different strategies that we can implement, however the focus of this series is on the low arousal and low demand approach. I chose these two approaches to discuss as they are specifically targeted towards reducing children’s stress, anxiety, fear, and frustration, aiming to prevent reactive behaviour and enhance their overall mental health and well-being.

  

In the next part of this series, we will look at what the low arousal approach is, the benefits of it and how you can implement it within your own practice.

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