Food for thought: Centre for Mental Health and Maternal Mental Health Alliance report 🧠🤱🏽🤰🏼💕

The ‘Newton Oakley Education: Food for Thought’ series aims to provide you with learning sparks and talking points to share in staff meetings, training or in your professional library.

Today I attended a webinar held by the Centre for Mental Health about ‘Maternal Mental Health During a Pandemic’ which covered the centre’s new rapid evidence review. While many practitioners working within early years education may not work directly with parents during the perinatal period, it is useful to have a broad understanding of the implications of poor maternal (and paternal!) mental health support during children’s early life. Conversations about service cuts are rife within the early years field but often those conversations don’t extend to discussions about the root cause: how political and local board decisions directly impact your work.

We already know that the perinatal period is a time of significant risk to women’s mental health, with up to two in ten women suffering some form of mental health difficulty, without factoring in the new stresses and significant life changes brought about by a global pandemic (exacerbation of inequality, social isolation, job losses and insecurity, health anxiety, caring responsibilities, etc.).

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Food for thought: implications for parent partnerships in results from #5BigQuestions study

The Duchess of Cambridge has unveiled the findings of the biggest ever UK study on the early years, in a milestone moment for her work on the importance of early childhood in shaping the rest of our lives and broader societal outcomes. The Royal Foundation commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct the research, aiming to discover what the UK thinks about the early years. It also explores how COVID-19 has impacted the perceptions and experiences of parents and carers of the under-fives. Ofsted has also conducted research in to the impact of COVID-19 on children’s learning and welfare that can be found in briefings here and here.

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Lockdown CPD: relationships, baby brains and emotional well-being (reading)

Super research summaries, infographics and resources from the Parent-Infant Foundation on promoting the emotional well-being of our youngest children.

The Parent-Infant Foundation works to achieve their vision of all babies having a sensitive, nurturing relationship. They do this through specialised parent-infant relationship teams, quality networks of parent-infant relationship teams and work to give babies and services that work with them a voice which shapes the national and local policy and practice agenda.

Topics include:

Click here if you would like to enquire about commissioning training (set topics or bespoke), coaching or supervision packages or consultation work delivered remotely.

Continuity: supporting learning between home and setting

It is so important to recognise parents as children’s first and most enduring teachers – we may be experts on child development but they are the experts on their own child! Together we have a far more profound impact than working in separate silos.

A recent example was a blog post I published for my nursery talking about a sunflower activity the children had been enjoying. It referenced the prior learning (investigating decay in the autumn term), encouraged families to watch a time lapse of a sunflower growing together and reminded them of a facility we offer to print photographs from home for children to share. As the children had planted two sets of seeds (one for home, one for nursery) it created a tangible link. Our children absolutely love sharing their home experiences with their friends and staff – they eagerly tell me how big their sunflower is (“it’s almost as tall as daddy..!”) and tell me how they’re helping it to grow (“water, but not too much – just right!”). Parents also join in these conversations – sharing their expertise (we have a few green-fingered carers who know far more about effective growing than we do!) and telling us funny tales about little people remembering at bedtime that they haven’t watered their sunflower so going out in their pyjamas and wellies with a watering can.

Learning and understanding: perspectives and experiences

This kind of continuity between home and setting has also been supported by our “What Does Your Day Look Like?” book. We created a sheet with prompts to enable our pre-school children and parents to share what their world looks like – from the special routines they have when they wake up to what mummy and daddy’s lunch times look like when they are at work (a tricky concept for little people that is sometimes tied up with anxiety – what does “going to work” mean? What does “work” look like – is it a place or an activity – or both!?).

The prompts are open-ended so parents and children can decide what is the most important for each section. Staff completed example ones to get the ball rolling – some chose to draw their day, some used photos, some used text. We made the examples diverse to showcase no one way is best or preferred. Completed pages go in to a special A3 book of experiences – children are able to return to review this book (similar to their “All About Me” photo albums) with their peers or Key Person.

This is also lovely if they’re having a tough day and are feeling a bit wobbly; being able to say “that’s mummy’s lunchbox, she’ll be having her lunch now too – just like you. After lunch, mummy will collect you because you’re going to the park – see, just like the photo?” is a lovely bit of reassurance and containment to help remind children of the day’s routine (now, next) and that mummy is doing similar things elsewhere, but will return.

By valuing children’s lived experiences – in all their wonderful diversity – we hope to celebrate and champion their perspectives and ways of being. This also links to the funds of knowledge research that I feel is vital for early years practitioners to empathise and make meaning for children within the educational setting.

 

 

Click here if you would like to enquire about commissioning training (set topics or bespoke), coaching or supervision packages or consultation work delivered remotely.