Our community is exceptionally diverse. A large number of our families were born overseas and are without family support networks. Many members of the community are affected by the ‘boom and bust’ economy of the mining industry, with some fly-in-fly-out workers.
The mental health risk factors for children and families is complex. Our youngest children don’t yet have the skills to communicate their thoughts and feelings in language – only through behaviour.
We have been open for 10 years and in our early days we were exploring exactly what it was we wanted our service to be and the role we wanted to play in the lives of children and their families. We had many conversations with schools, Allied Health professionals and other early childhood colleagues about the rise of mental health issues in very young children.
The benefits of engaging in professional development
It was really clear to us that mental health and wellbeing needed to be our primary focus. It was also apparent that we had to look at wellbeing from every angle: our children, families, community, environment and educators.
What affects the wellbeing of our community, affects the wellbeing of our families and ultimately the wellbeing of our children.
This perspective had the potential to be an overwhelming responsibility for us. What has made a difference has been having access to reputable, evidence-based resources for supporting the development of positive mental health in our learning community.
Resources for parents and access to support from a Consultant who can help us utilise the material in a way that meets the unique needs of our individual service, has been a big help.
We have improved our own understanding of the protective factors children need to be mentally healthy and to navigate challenges.
By creating a safe and supportive space, our children have been given a voice to learn and express their thoughts and feelings in healthy ways. This has allowed them to practice their skills to negotiate different social settings.
"This space can help them feel connected to and supported by the community, where there are no expectations. They can tackle challenges in this environment at a pace they set.
This short video shows an interaction between four children tackling a single challenge together. It is a significant moment for these children and shows the impact of what we are doing. Only a few months ago this scenario could have played out quite differently.
There is problem solving, collaboration, resilience, team work, persistence and accepting a challenge. You can hear one child encouraging himself, while another provides him with extra encouragement.