Early Childhood: the importance of the early years

This post is part of our series on what makes a good childhood.

Although intuition tells us how important a child’s early experiences are, the evidence is now overwhelming. A good childhood really is the foundation for a healthy adult life and cohesive society.

Over the previous decade, we have seen a greater focus on, and understanding of, the importance of childhood wellbeing, both from an objective and subjective perspective. It is now generally understood that children’s wellbeing is crucial, not just for their own lives, but for society as a whole. Continue reading “Early Childhood: the importance of the early years”

What makes a good childhood: Pre-pregnancy

We know that the foundations for a good childhood start well before conception. This may seem a little strange at first, but there are a number of key domains that are important for the future child to have functioning well enough in their prospective parents.

By Dr. Nicole Milburn, Senior Manager for Infant Mental Health and Developmental Consultancies, Take Two

Some of you might remember from my guest blog in late July that I promised to write a series of posts about the importance of a good infancy for a good childhood.

In the meantime I have been diverted by other Institute activities, not least of which was the national speaking tour of Dr. Bruce D. Perry, Child Psychiatrist and Neuroscientist. Dr. Perry and his colleagues at the ChildTrauma Academy have made an enormous contribution to our understanding of the impact of trauma on development. They have clearly articulated that the brain develops in a sequential way, from the most primitive functions to the most complex. This means it is vital that we understand what happens and when it happens within the timeline of the developing brain so that we can understand the impact of events and what to then do about it. This model also gives the appropriate emphasis on very early development as laying the foundation for life.

A couple pre-pregnancyWe know, however, that the foundations for a good childhood start well before conception. This may seem a little strange at first, but there are a number of key domains that are important for the future child to have functioning well enough in their prospective parents. Continue reading “What makes a good childhood: Pre-pregnancy”

If We Value the Expertise of Children and Young People

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“Yet, without the participation of experts we won’t be successful. And the expert is the child”

Janusz Korczak

I have recently begun to ask myself the question: how different would out-of-home care look if we truly valued the expertise of the children and young people that live in it? In fact, would so many children, young people and families be so enmeshed in the benevolent web of services that accompany the child protection and out-of-home care systems if those systems routinely and genuinely valued the expertise of children and young people right from the beginning?

My internal dialogue takes the discussion further… Let’s say, for one utopic moment, that we sit as equals at the table with young people who have experienced abuse, neglect and the terrifying complexity of the system set up to serve their ‘best interests’. Let’s imagine that they have proffered arguments and evidence alongside academics, experienced sector professionals and bureaucrats, in support of approaches (for we know without doubt that one size does not fit all) that focus on making their childhood good. What might that look like? And more importantly who would have the courage to make it happen?

We won’t ever know if we don’t ask.

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Young people who have lived through abuse and neglect and have subsequently been bounced, powerless, through the pinball machine of court processes, case managers, care placements, care plans and repeated attempts to ‘go home’ – these young people know. They know what it all feels like. Under their skin, in their hearts, they know how it feels.

Countless reforms and ‘system improvements’ will continue to achieve minimal success at best if we continue to prevent the key experts from leading the discussions and shedding light on the impact of decisions made by people so far from the ground that we all look like ants from where they sit.

Maybe childhood would be better for the huge numbers of children and young people in care if we were prepared to let them show us how to make it so. We won’t know unless we try.

Post written by:  Lauren Oliver, Youth Engagement Coordinator, Berry Street Childhood Institute

What makes a good childhood?

shutterstock_2040590By Dr. Nicole Milburn, Clinical Psychologist and Internal Consultant for Infant Mental Health at Berry Street Take Two

The Berry Street Childhood Institute has a primary task of helping the community think about what makes a good childhood. In health and welfare work, we are so often required to focus on what is not good enough and what requires improvement. To have an institute in our field that is dedicated to sharing a conversation about what makes a good childhood is a really wonderful addition.

I am a Clinical Psychologist and Infant Mental Health Specialist. The field of infant mental health has been burgeoning over the last 50 years and has much to say about what constitutes a good childhood. Infant mental health has particular strengths in this area, having come from the fields of both psychoanalytic theory and developmental psychology.

Psychoanalysis has a long history of thinking about what lies inside people’s heads; what conscious and unconscious drives and motivations are acted out in behavior, and how people see themselves in relation to one another.  Continue reading “What makes a good childhood?”

Attachment-based Practice with Adults: Understanding strategies and promoting positive change

shutterstock_65734030By Clark Baim, UK presenter and Berry Street Childhood Institute Fellow

I was delighted to facilitate a training event hosted by the Berry Street Childhood Institute focusing on attachment-based practice with adults.

Attachment theory is often misunderstood as applying only to infants and toddlers. This training focused on contemporary theory and research, which demonstrates that attachment strategies are crucial to our psychological, social and emotional well-being across the whole of our lives. Continue reading “Attachment-based Practice with Adults: Understanding strategies and promoting positive change”

The Berry Street Education Model

Everyday Strategies for Teachers

The Berry Street Education Model was created in response to teachers requesting strategies.

  • How do I engage my struggling students in learning?
  • How do I manage difficult behaviour?
  • How do I build independence for learning?

The Berry Street Education Model has been design to support teachers as they meet the complex needs for students who struggle from the effects of chronic stress or traumatic stressors.  Our model also helps teachers to feel empowered within the classroom to teach the whole-child.

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Through our work with schools across Australia, we know that the best strategies help teachers to set up and reinforce a pro-active, pre-emptive, and de-escalated strengths-based classroom.  We know that teachers need strategies that they can start using tomorrow; and a whole-school approach is often required to unify practice to nurture success for all students.

Here is one of our favourite strategies:  GOLDEN STATEMENTS

As teachers, we hate to feel like we are nagging our students all day long.  

“Take out your books. Now turn to page 27. I’ll wait…”

Please turn to page 27. PLEASE turn to page 27…!” 

How is the following statement different in tone and mood?

“I will begin teaching when I see all books turned to page 27.” 

The first example makes the student the subject of the sentence, and the students can choose to either follow the direction or stall. The second example make the teacher (“I”) the subject, and the teacher declares what she is going to do, when she is going to do it, and the conditions for success. In the second case, the teacher maintains positive power in the classroom while describing what she is going to do rather than what she is asking the students to do. For instance, when you say, “You will…” you lose control; when you say, “I will…”, you gain control.

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Golden Statements are special statements that teachers can use in classrooms to:

  • Give directions
  • Issue requests
  • State their expectations
  • Repeat their expectations

The last function listed here is our favourite: Golden Statements allow teachers to repeat themselves without feeling like a broken record or a complaining nag.

Golden Statements build relationships because they keep both student and teacher in thinking mode. They stop the arousal escalation of the teacher because the teacher feels that they are issuing their requests in a reasonable manner. Golden Statements empower students because students can see that the teacher is holding the relationship and has clear expectations for the activity at hand.

Please check out the following link on more information, including links to research papers. Please note, we are currently in a research and evaluation process with University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education, a joint effort with the Centre of Positive Psychology and Youth Research Centre.

http://www.childhoodinstitute.org.au/EducationModel

 

Post written by: Tom Brunzell, Senior Advisor, Education, Berry Street Childhood Institute

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Childhood Conversations Pilot Program – Session 4

We are continuing our focus on 21st century childhood. shutterstock_93772915

We are now turning our reflections to Education & Technology. 

In particular, we are looking closely at access to technology and how information about family is shared. 

When we looked back at our own childhoods, people talked about the T.V. being the only  form of technology that most people had in their house. Cartoons were watched after school and on Saturday mornings, and movies were watched with the whole family.

Generally, information about family was shared in an annual family newsletter, sent in letters or discussed over the telephone. 

What role is technology playing in 21st century childhood? shutterstock_74859610

How is information about children and families now being shared with extended family and friends? Do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing? Let us know what you think of these changes. 

 

Post written by: Julie Noonan, School Engagement Co-ordinator, Berry Street Childhood Institute