Judy Kynaston –National Project Manager: KidsMatter Early Childhood

 

Positive relationships are very important for children’s mental health and wellbeing. Characteristics of positive relationships include responsiveness, warmth, sensitivity, and respect. This includes being ‘in tune’ with each other’s needs and responding in a sensitive, timely way.  Children benefit from caregiving that is consistent, predictable, and stable as this helps to give children the motivation, confidence and skills to engage with others, explore their world and learn.

 

Anne Stonehouse – Early Childhood Consultant

 

Every relationship between two individuals is unique, whether it’s a child, a parent, two staff members, two educators, all those combinations that would happen in a service, so I think there needs to be attention and opportunities for educators and staff to reflect on the relationships that they have and whether those relationships enact those general principles of respect, of warmth

 

Robin Dolby – Clinical Psychologist

 

Educators can have all different frameworks for looking at children.  And if you're thinking about relationship or documenting relationship, then one of the things you can be curious about is how the children use you as a resource.  Do they use you to go out to explore? If they go out and they find something that they're interested in, do they look back at you to see that you're enjoying them? If something goes a little bit awry, which does, you know, very often, all the time, are they able to come in and get support from you? Or it might be for comfort, or it may be that they want to come in also in a positive way for you to delight in them.

 

Catherine Hydon – Early Childhood Consultant

 

Early childhood educators can model positive relationships in everything they do all the time, from the way that they greet children to the way they say goodbye to them at the end of the day and everything else that happens in between.  It is worth noting how much children watch the way that relationships function around them and it is also worth noting that at times when things are difficult this is when children need the most guidance around how do you maintain a relationship when you don't like someone at that moment and, or you don't like what's going on or you don't get what you want, and if educators can be mindful of that in terms of their own interaction and trying to sort through problems and difficulties then that information is showcased or demonstrated to children on a daily basis. 

 

Anne Stonehouse – Early Childhood Consultant

 

Prioritising relationships, I think has profound implications in a care and education service, if you really take that seriously.  It affects your practices.  It’s about optimising one-to-one times between educators and children, it’s about structuring your programme so that you are free to greet families and children when they arrive in the morning and have at least a very brief personal interaction with them. 

 

Tracey Simpson – Early Childhood Consultant

 

Given everything that an early childhood service has to consider in their day to day running, sometimes one of the most important things that gets left out is that relationship with the broader community.  Many schools and early childhood settings think that they’re the centre of the community and in many ways they are.  But I always say that you have to think about the going out as well as the coming in. We might have our doors open for people to coming in but we also have to go out and start to think about who is our community?  What is the history, the story of this community and the sub-communities within it and let’s find out about that

 

Judy Kynaston –National Project Manager: KidsMatter Early Childhood

 

In an early childhood service, children experience and observe a ‘hub’ of relationships. These include the relationship between children and families, children and staff, with their peers, as well as observing the relationships between educators and educators with families. These relationships are important because when children experience and observe mutually enjoyable, caring and respectful relationships with others, they also feel accepted, valued, and a sense of belonging.

 

Dr Nicole Milburn – Clinical Psychologist and Infant Mental Health Consultant

 

Children do best when they have the opportunity to form good strong relationships with a number of people.  It gives them a sense that there are different ways of going about the world.  It gives them the sense that they can ask different people for help rather than rely on just one.  It gives them a sense of safety and security because if one person’s not available then they’ve got a whole lot of other people that they can then go to for help. 

 

Judy Kynaston –National Project Manager: KidsMatter Early Childhood

 

Children’s ‘hub’ of relationships is particularly helpful for those children whose relationships with their families may be affected by difficult circumstances. For these children, the formation of at least one positive relationship with another adult is a protective factor that can make a positive difference to their mental health and wellbeing. As early childhood educators you are uniquely placed to provide such a relationship, given the significant amount of time you spend with a child.

 

Robin Dolby – Clinical Psychologist

 

When children come in they're going to know very well the patterns that they have at home.  And these aren't right or wrong.  It's just they're patterns that are very familiar with them, and so some patterns are going to work better than others in terms of equipping those kids to be able to manage in their life, and manage in future relationships.  So I think the starting point for educators is that you're respectful from where the children are starting from. You're respectful toward their families. But you also have your eyes wide open for the opportunities of what you can offer the children. 

 

Robin Dolby – Clinical Psychologist

 

So, if the children start to show difficulties at your centre then you can think, well, the first thing I'm going to look at is relationship support rather than tallying up the difficulties and think, is it some problem inherent in the child? I'd cast my view more widely and think, I'm going to provide relationship support and I'm going to give this child a very strong message that here I can take charge and keep the child safe.