A child’s brain develops more during the first 5 years than any other time in life. This early brain development can have a lasting impact on child’s ability to learn and succeed, not only in school but throughout life!
2017 statistics highlighted the increasing difficulties our children are experiencing in the UK. (Source Young Minds*)
- 1 in 10 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder – that’s roughly 3 children in every classroom
- 1 in 5 young adults have a diagnosable mental health disorder
- Half of all mental health problems manifest by the age of 14, with 75% by age 24
- Almost 1 in 4 children and young people show some evidence of mental ill health (including anxiety and depression)
1 in 4 adults experience a mental health difficulty every single year and 1 in 3 adult mental health conditions relate directly to childhood experiences!
We are not born with the ability to self-regulate our emotions and it is important to remember that by age 5 children’s brains will be 90% developed. This does not mean that we can not learn new things and change old habits as we get older but as we all know, it does make this learning harder.
There are 3 components to our ’emotional brain:’
- The Hippocampus receives information, organises it and considers memories (past experiences) before sending it to the Amygdala for interpretation.
- The Amygdala is responsible for decision making and it will interpret the emotional meaning of everything that happens to us. If it perceives something as threatening, it sends messages to another part of the brain called the Hypothalamus.
- When the Hypothalamus receives these messages it sets the body into ‘fight or flight mode,’ in children this often displays as a tantrum and the child becomes distressed.
Our ’emotional brain’ predominantly develops between the ages of 2 – 4 years old. I am sure that you have heard the terms ‘terrible two’s’ and ‘threenager.’ Children’s past experiences are limited and they do not have much emotional understanding so they often become overwhelmed.
When children feel overwhelmed, it is so important for us to support them by ensuring that they feel heard, validating how they feel and helping them to resolve that feeling though explanation and education.
I believe that wellbeing should be part of the National Curriculum and that this education should start in the Early Years. I have developed a programme that helps children to understand and express their feelings, equipped with a set of skills for manging a range of everyday emotions. The programme also introduces Mindfulness to the Early Years. Mindfulness engages the frontal lobe of the brain which is responsible for logical thinking, reasoning and managing emotions. Furthermore, we provide children with a strong sense of self and a set of core values to help them succeed, not only through school but through life!
Wouldn’t it be nice if children could just grow up naturally with the set of skills and strategies that many of us (myself included) have had work hard to learn as adults!
If children are better equipped to cope with the day to day experiences, they will be much more able to SHINE through any storms they may face in the future, as confident, resilient and content young people!
To change the future of mental health, we must start with our future generation. I want every child to be given the opportunity to SHINE, feeling Secure, Healthy, Nurtured and Empowered!
Please feel free to share using the hashtags #FutureofMH and #MyFeelingsMatter.
Let’s work together for a brighter future!
Founder of Sunny Kids Shine