Childrens Wellbeing and Picture Books
It is no secret that in recent years children’s wellbeing and mental health has taken a turn for the worse. The Children’s Society (2017) have stated that research shows a significant minority of children experience poor wellbeing and my experiences of working with children has led me to believe this statement is true. However, upon further research, I was shocked by the statistics I found (Counselling Directory):
Nearly 1 in 10 children and young people (YP) between the ages 5-16 are affected by mental health problems;
4% of children and YP between ages 5-16 are anxious or depressed;
70% of people who experience mental health problems do not receive the support needed;
1.6 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder;
80,000 children and YP suffer with depression – 2% of children under 12 will experience depression.
Having suffered with anxiety and panic attacks myself, from the age of 15-24, I am included in those statistics and I know how it can affect daily life. Both my physical body and my mind were affected, from feeling hot but shivery, to feeling sick, to my mind expecting me to have a panic attack wherever I went. I eventually avoided doing things that made me anxious (which was a lot of social events). It wasn’t until I was an adult that I actually saw a doctor and knew what was happening to me. I took medication and had several bouts of counselling before having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which worked wonders to change my thought patterns, and decrease the anxiety drastically. But what made the biggest difference for me was my faith in Jesus.
There were several occasions that I can remember vividly where God clearly told me He was by my side and I did not need to fear the anxiety. At the time of having CBT, I was spending a good amount time with God, studying His word and focusing on Him. I truly believe that Jesus used those times and the CBT to heal me completely of anxiety and panic attacks. Now, that’s not to say I haven’t felt a small amount of anxiety since that time, but I would say that the level of anxiety I feel is on a normal level – the normal butterflies you may feel when going for a job interview for example. In those situations, I know that God is with me, and whatever happens, He’s in control. For a child who is still learning about the world around them and understanding their thoughts and emotions, I can only imagine how much more difficult it is for a child to suffer with poor wellbeing and mental health.
There is plenty of research out there that demonstrates just how critical the early years are in a child’s development and learning (Dowling, 2010; Field, 2010; Passer et al, 2009). Public Health England (2017) write that it is widely recognised that for a child to develop well cognitively and have a good wellbeing and mental health in adulthood, it is important they have good emotional health and wellbeing when growing up. It has been further suggested by The Children’s Society (2017), that if a child has a number of negative experiences early in life this will significantly impact not only their childhood but also their life chances. Additionally, not only the child is affected but also their families and communities around them (The Children’s Society, 2017).
In my own conversations with professionals who work with children, I have concluded that children have a low sense of self-worth and with the use of technology on the rise; children are accessing materials that are inappropriate for their age such as shooting games on consoles. Teachers and educational professionals I have worked with and been in contact with are seeing the negative impact this has on a child’s behaviour and these children do not understand that they’re doing anything wrong. Furthermore, with the rise of the need for nurture units and Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSA) in schools, it is clear something needs to be done to support not only children, but their parents/guardians in ensuring a child has the best support and experiences to develop healthy wellbeing.
For a long time, I knew I wanted to work with children but did not know in what capacity. I studied Education and Childhood Studies in university and then worked as a Teaching Assistant in primary schools. My experiences of working with young children have provided me with insights into the real lives, emotions and situations children of a young age find themselves in. During my time at these schools, I saw first hand how having a poor wellbeing, or experiencing difficulties such as anxiety or not being able to control emotions of anger can impact development and learning; as well having a negative influence on a child. I was working in a classroom where a child was suffering badly with anxiety and that was when I had a ‘light-bulb’ moment – I want to write children’s picture books focused on wellbeing, with the aim of them being used as a resource to help children understand and process their thoughts, feelings and emotions.
So why picture books you may ask? A child so young may find it difficult to grasp concepts without visualisation and when they’re dealing with complex things like anxiety and anger, having illustrations along with text gives them this visual aid. Not only that, reading books like this may give the child something to relate to in terms of what their issue is and will hopefully give them the chance to explore and understand their emotions and feelings. Picture books are so beneficial in creative positive experiences for children, particularly with adults and reading itself. It has been suggested that when reading picture books children will sit close to or even on the lap of the adult reading to them which creates a warm and comforting experience for the child (McLane and McNamee, 1990). In my opinion, this is what a child needs when experiencing poor wellbeing – to be comforted, have positive experiences and to be able to understand what they’re going through with the opportunity to explore how they can deal with it.
My hope is that these books, along with other practiced strategies can have a positive impact on children’s wellbeing, enabling them to grow up healthy and happy.
Topics of my books so far (yet to be published) include:
Being true to self
Topics of further book topics include:
Children with parents’ who suffer from depression
Boundaries and knowing they’re for safety
Fear of failure
Do you have topics you think are important - please comment below.
Dowling, M. (2010) Young Children’s Personal, Social and Emotional Development., 3rded., London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Field, E. (2010) The Foundation Years: Preventing Poor Children Becoming Poor Adults, The Report of the Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances., London:Cabinet Office.
McLane, J.B., McNamee, G. D., (1990), Early Literacy., London: Harvard University Press.
Public Health England, (2017), Promoting Children and Young People’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/41490/Final_EHWB_draft_20_03_15.pdf
The Children’s Society, (2017) Promoting Positive Wellbeing for Children, https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/research/well-being/publications/promoting-positive-well-being-children
Counselling Directory, (2017) Key Statistics About Children and Young People, http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/young-people-stats.html