Children’s wellbeing – how we can help
In this article Siobhan Wyper, Head of Early Years at Brighton College in Bangkok, looks at the importance of self-belief and self-confidence to children’s wellbeing.
I think we’d all agree that we live in a highly stimulating world. Bangkok, where I live, can certainly be an overwhelming place. It’s in the context of all this ‘noise’ that giving children time to think, reflect and pay attention to their wellbeing becomes so important, particularly if we want them to develop into well-rounded individuals who are happy in their own skin.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines wellbeing as “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.” For a child, achieving positive wellbeing requires support from their parents, guardians, teachers, and anyone else who spends an extended amount of time with them on a regular basis. And the elements required for this will be different for every child. It’s important to take a holistic approach to wellbeing; this means looking at the whole child, and engaging and developing the multi-dimensional levels of their character - physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. What are their interests? What makes them ‘tick’? Appreciating and celebrating each child as an individual not only helps with that crucial sense of wellbeing but also supports their development in every other way.
This is backed up by recent educational research, which states that “There is a very strong link between the achievement of children and the high expectations they have of themselves” (in Outstanding Teaching: Teaching Backwards, by Mark Burns and Andy Griffith). These high expectations are those that children put into place themselves, and come partly from building a strong sense of self-worth and self-confidence. In young children this means they are not afraid to take risks, to try new things, or to be out of their ‘comfort zone’. This resilience means they are not afraid to fail, as sometimes the best learning is done through trying, failing, amending and trying again. I’m sure we’d all agree that these are invaluable skills for life beyond the early childhood years!
As adults we can support the development of self-confidence by celebrating a child’s journey rather than the outcomes achieved. Praising a child’s efforts, rather than focusing on the end product or what they are unable to do, has far-reaching implications. We’ve seen the impact of this at Brighton College, where praising and celebrating our pupils’ efforts, rather than the concrete outcomes alone, has led not only to increased levels of effort but higher levels of achievement as well.
For parents of young children, this could be about setting a realistic goal in a very simple context – for example putting on a t-shirt independently – and then supporting your child to achieve this. Praise the steps that they take that will support them in reaching this goal, such as laying the t-shirt on the floor. Laugh about the times that their head went into the arm hole. Celebrate their efforts even if they did not manage to get the t-shirt on.
It’s also important to note that wellbeing is about finding a balance in life, whether you are an adult, teenager or young child. Every minute of every day does not have to be filled with activity and stimulation. The importance of sleep, of healthy eating, and of quiet periods of time cannot be overestimated.
"As adults we can support the development of self-confidence by celebrating a child’s journey rather than the outcomes achieved."
Sitting and chatting about a child’s day is important to help them achieve balance and a state of wellbeing, and this should be done when you can truly listen and take in their answers, not when you’re trying to navigate rush hour traffic or get everyone to sit down and eat dinner! Here are some questions that I’ve found are better conversation starters with my two children than the standard “What did you do today?”
- “What happened today that made you feel happy?” (change emotion as appropriate)
- “What new thing did you try today?”
- “Who did you help today?”
- “Who helped you?”
- “What was the worst/best part of your day?”
At our school we believe happiness is the precursor to success, not only in the classroom, but in life itself. If a child is unhappy they will not be able to achieve. I think this is a great ethos for us all, and by paying attention to our children’s wellbeing we can help to make it happen.
All images courtesy of Brighton College International School Bangkok.
A version of this article was first published in BAMBI (Bangkok Mothers and Babies International) Magazine in November 2016.