Children’s emotional well-being has been ever more at the forefront of many people’s minds for some time. In the post-pandemic world, as things return to normal, it is becoming increasingly clear that the repeated lockdowns and social isolation had a significant impact.
Those who work in early childhood education are at the forefront of supporting children and families who have had a very different start to family life then they had perhaps imagined. Now, more than ever, a focus on children’s emotional well-being, resilience and on building the foundations of strong mental health are vital.
The Montessori approach is perhaps best known for the beautiful materials that Maria Montessori designed and introduced to the children. It is also well known for supporting children to be independent, and for being an educational approach that follows their interests. Yet, Maria Montessori also wrote a great deal about children’s whole development, including their psychological development. Today we have the added advantage of research in the field of neuroscience to add to our understanding of children, and the way we can best serve their needs.
Montessori teachers are well-placed to support children’s emotional well-being, and to support the behaviours that we see arising as the result of the big emotions that children experience. For a start, the Montessori approach supports children to be independent, community-minded, resilient, and creative in their thinking. Perhaps most importantly, Montessori teachers spend a great deal of their time observing children and striving to understand their developmental needs and drives.
Here are some key things we can do to support children’s emotional well-being in the Montessori environment:
- Commit to a shared intention as an environment and community to place emotional well-being at the heart of the culture – through actions, resources, activities, relationships and communication.
- See children’s behavioural responses as expressions of their emotions and as a way of communicating how they feel inside.
- Focus on preparing a developmentally appropriate environment that removes obstacles to children’s development, which also reduces their frustrations and promotes their overall sense of well-being.
- Commit to learning about emotionally literate, responsive and respectful communication strategies that all adults use with children and each other.
- Ensure that all teaching staff are trained in responding to children’s emotions and behaviour in such a way that their brain development is actively supported.
- Learn about the way that children learn to self-regulate, and about how adults can use co-regulation strategies to support them in developing this skill over a period of time.
- Make sure that children are ‘held in mind’ and are treated as individuals with meaningful thoughts and feelings.
- See mistakes as friendly so that children develop a strong sense of self-worth and a growth mindset.
- Always remember that ‘the problem is the problem’, not the child. In other words, challenging behavioural situations are seen just as that – situations – with no blame, judgement or criticism towards the child.
- Place respectful, attuned and sensitive relationships that support connection and collaboration at the centre of practice.
“We must study the profound and mysterious psychology of the little child, observe its development, and find what we can do to help.”
Maria Montessori, The 1946 London Lectures, p. 33
We are offering our first ‘Montessori and Emotional Well-being’ CPD course online starting January 2023. Find out more and book your place here.