Here are our final five tips on how to support emotional well-being and emotional resilience for young children...
Practice being Assertive
One of the activities you will see at a Children’s Nature Nursery involves small groups of children carrying out role play with an adult. Children tend to be far better at apologising for their behaviour than being assertive and, while learning to apologise is important, this lack of balance can create quite a challenge when a child is faced with unwanted behaviour from others. A useful way to help your child is to practise assertiveness through role play. You can each take a particular role, and then provide your child with the chance to practise saying, “Stop! I don’t like that. Please don’t do it.” Tip: children often mumble these words, so help your child to practise looking someone in the eye and speaking clearly and loudly.
Face the Feelings
Acknowledging emotion is the fastest way to process it and move on. As we help children to become happy and well-behaved, we are often at risk of giving them the message that their feelings aren’t ok. Children then suppress their feelings and, ironically, their behaviour worsens as a result because they end up frustrated and anxious with no way to express how they are feeling. Instead, our focus needs to be on ensuring children know it is safe to express their feelings in an appropriate way. Tip: next time your child is in the midst of a wave of emotion, try listening, validating and problem-solving. This involves listening to what your child is trying to convey (even if you disagree), validating your child’s feelings, “I can see you are really cross because you don’t want to go home” and then, when he or she has calmed down, finding a solution together, “How are we going to solve this?”
Mistakes are Learning Opportunities
Children can easily become afraid of making mistakes leading to a lack of confidence and a sense of hesitation at ‘having a go’, so it is essential for us to help them to see mistakes as friendly. Tip: when your child is unable to complete a task or gets frustrated, focus on modelling the reaction you want them to develop. This might involve recognising how frustrated they are (see point six above) to help your child to calm down, and then taking a step back to give your child the space to work it out for him or herself with a few words of encouragement along the way.
Teach Problem Solving
In our quest to ensure our children are happy, we often find ourselves solving their problems for them leaving them feeling un-empowered and believing they can’t solve problems by themselves. To help with this it’s important to start encouraging your child to think of solutions, pondering the answers together rather than providing them. Tip: next time your child asks what to do or you see that they need help, try saying “I’m not sure what we should do. What do you think?” or “I wonder what would happen if we tried this?”
Develop a Growth Mindset
The term ‘growth mindset’ was developed by Professor Carol Dweck. If children have a ‘fixed mindset’ they believe that their abilities can’t change or improve. This outlook can mean a child grows up believing they are no good at sport or maths, and feeling there is nothing they can do to change this. With a growth mindset, children grow up believing their abilities can be developed and improved. This outlook enables them to become happier and more confident as well as being more willing to make mistakes and persevere. One of the ways to help develop a growth mindset is to offer encouragement and recognition for the child’s achievements, rather than praising the child. Tip: when your child shows you something they have done, comment on the task itself rather than just saying “good girl”. For example, “Thank you for showing me, you have spent a really long time working on that! Can you tell me how you did it?”
Practise Relaxation and Mindfulness
A favourite activity at Children’s Nature Nursery is our children’s relaxation sessions. There is a lot of discussion about relaxation and mindfulness in the media currently, and with good reason. Research is showing huge benefits to children’s well-being, with reduced anxiety, improved peer relationships and improved academic achievement just some of the plus points of including relaxation and mindfulness in your daily routine. Like the idea but not sure where to start? Try relaxkids.com for some great MP3 downloads specifically designed for children.