Giving children actions for a sustainable future

Supporting children’s mental health through lifelong learning for sustainability.

Jul 24, 2020
Empowering educators to help children and young people learn how to manage life's challenges is part of Be You’s vision where every learning community is positive, inclusive and resilient.
Influences and events can impact an individual’s mental health. 

When children feel worried about something, such as climate change, evidence shows it can help to empower them to address their concerns.

So, involving children in sustainable practices in early learning services could also be good for their mental health.
Young children in Australia responded to the Children’s rights report and expressed the importance of the natural environment, breathing clean air and drinking clean water. 
The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) has suggested listening, responding and talking to children about their worries, supports their wellbeing. Building on their capacities for living sustainably can promote resilience and regain feelings of control in an unpredictable world. 
What does living sustainably mean? 
Living sustainably is about making environmental, economic and social choices to create healthy environments that improve our quality of life. 
Research has shown that there is a relationship between mental health and the environment; and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 3 is to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.”
Linking to national educational requirements
Education for sustainable development has been applied to educational frameworks, with early childhood education being identified as a strong place to lay foundations for lifelong learning for sustainability.
This is reflected in both the Australian Early Years Learning Framework and the National Quality Framework to promote a sense of care for the environment and children becoming environmentally responsible. 
Connections to mental health and Be You resources

Following the suggestion from ARACY, educators can promote children’s mental health by empowering their leadership, agency and voice. Learn more in the Empower module.

The Be You Actions Catalogue provides suggested actions, such as talking to children about what a mentally healthy learning community looks like. 

These conversations may involve how we can care for our environment.

When we consider links between mental health and sustainability, embracing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of being, knowing and doing is helpful.

For example, mapping out what contributes to our emotional wellbeing offers connections between social, physical and spiritual knowing with relations to people and land. Explore the Always Be You Action Chart ‘Good Mental Health’.

Acknowledge, consider and celebrate many ways for mental health and wellbeing.

What actions for a sustainable future have you embedded and are you exploring with children in your learning community?

Share your thoughts, challenges and ideas with colleagues and join the Be You Early Years Learning Community – Collaborating for Sustainability.