Child well-being is an important topic that can be impacted (positively or negatively) by the relationships and life experiences a child has.
Someone who shares my passion for supporting and enhancing child well-being is my friend Sarah. We completed teacher training together and she has years of experience in the profession working with children of all ages. Now re-training in child counselling with the University of East London/Place2Be, she has kindly agreed to answer some questions below to share her expertise in this area.
Q : What does child ‘well-being’ mean to you?
Well-being encompasses physical, mental and emotional health and there are multiple aspects that contribute to these such as:
- Having basic needs met throughout childhood/young adulthood (adequate food, clothing, shelter).
- Not being placed under undue stress that impacts negatively on education and life chances.
- Feeling safe, secure and able to thrive in all aspects of life: e.g. education, sport, relationships.
- Exposure to loving/supportive relationships that allow them to develop a secure attachment which will support future relationships with others.
- Having a secure base where emotions can be regulated – too much over-arousal can lead to high levels of stress, cortisol etc.
- Being in an educational environment that enables them to develop their whole self.
- Having access to life chances and prospects.
Q: Some common things that impact negatively on child well-being are…
- Trauma, abuse, domestic violence, neglect, poverty, insecurity.
- Limited chances on building a secure attachment with a caring adult in early life.
- Stress at school from excessive pressure placed on them.
- Bullying, peer pressure, social media, excessive use of devices, unhealthy lifestyle.
- Lack of support from adults – lack of security and containment of emotions.
Q: Some common things that impact positively on child well-being are…
- Feeling safe and secure at home and school. Knowing who to turn to if they have problems.
- Loving, secure, reliable relationships with trusted adults. Clear boundaries to support containment of emotions.
- Healthy diet/lifestyle.
- Access to specialist services and supportive adults in times of trauma and distress e.g. mentors, counselling/therapists.
- Teachers providing consistency and positive relations supporting a feeling of security and containment.
- Building good relations with peers.
- Access to extra-curricular activities.
Q: How could schools further support the well-being of children?
A school can play a crucial role in supporting children to feel safe and there are numerous practices they could enhance.
- Providing training for staff on attachment, containment and security. Class teachers need to know how to provide an environment that enables a child to feel safe and secure. This will open up opportunities for a child to develop further positive relationships later in life.
- Developing staff self-awareness of their impact on children.
- Increasing children’s activity levels throughout the day, not just relying on sports lessons.
- Access to in-house mental health support such as mentors and counsellors to normalise talking to a supportive adult when needed.
- Quicker referrals to mental health support services/increased provision.
Q: Suggestions for further reading on this topic include…
Axline, V. M. (1964). Dibs in search of self. Mansion.
Bowlby, J. (2012). A secure base. Routledge.
Geddes, H. (2006). Attachment in the classroom: The links between children’s early experience, emotional well-being and performance in school. Worth Publisher.
Gerhardt, S. (2014). Why love matters: How affection shapes a baby’s brain. Routledge.