Social, emotional, and relationship development of young children

Volume 4 Number 4 - October 2016

Editoral

The development of emotional, social and relationship competencies are seen by many (Aubrey & Ward, 2013; Pahl & Barrett, 2007) as key development areas for children in early years. The age range that is seen as crucial varies however, and where and how these competencies can and should be developed is also contested (Macvarish, Lee & Lowe, 2014). Pahl and Barrett (2007) state that early childhood education (ECE) is often seen as a time that should prepare young children for their later school success, and parents, politicians and sometimes even ECE educators see this as a call to focus on academic skills and intelligence development. Therefore, the arguably more important aspects of emotional and social wellbeing and competencies in a holistic educational understanding might not get the attention they should. Pahl and Barrett argue for the importance of social-emotional competence for school success as more important than early academic achievements. Heckman (2007) supports this notion.

An important lesson to draw from the entire literature on successful early intervention is that it is the social skills and motivation of the child that are more easily altered – not IQ. These social and emotional skills affect performance in school and in the workplace. We too often have a bias toward believing that only cognitive skills are of fundamental importance to success in life. (Heckman, 2000, p. 7, as cited in Pahl & Barrett, 2007, p. 82)

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Practitioner Researcher

This article explores the concept and benefits of the relationships forged between children and animals. It builds on Edward Wilson’s biophillia theory, in which he considers children to be born “hardwired” with a natural predisposition and attraction towards animals (Melson, 2001). Animals can offer children the feeling of security and comfort, providing a friend to bond with in the early childhood context, enabling children to feel secure and confident to explore their early childhood environment (Frieson, 2010; Zilcha-Milano, Mikulincer & Shaver, 2011). In particular, this article explores how animals can be used by teachers as a pedagogical tool to support children’s learning and development, especially children’s social and emotional development.

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In a world filled with conflict and violence, early childhood teaching can help create peace. A discussion of the meaning of peace education, how it is relevant to early childhood education, and how peace education is supported in Aotearoa/New Zealand through Te Whāriki(Ministry of Education, 1996) is presented. Differentiating between creating peace around the children and fostering peace from within the children, this article explores the possibility of using mindfulness practice to help children gain inner peace.

This article notes that, while research keenly highlights how spirituality plays a critical role in children’s lives, it largely goes unrecognised in the importance of child development (Hart, 2005; McCreery, 1994; Whitehead, 2009; Wilson, 2010). Spirituality is a concept that resists definition: it means different things to different people (Hyde, 2008). The term covers a broad spectrum, ranging from sensing a ‘divine presence’ at one end to the other end where the focus lies on experiencing the emotionally enriching, awe and wonder response to an event, experience or encounter. This abstract and diverse understanding of the term make it difficult to incorporate spiritual development into practical teaching strategies with clear, educational outcomes. This article intends to throws light on what spirituality might mean in the context of early childhood education.

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Special Edition

This article discusses some of the developments of neuroscience research over the past 10 years in relation to emotional and social development of young children. Based on recent research on the topic and a synthesis by the authors of research findings into action based, applied teaching techniques, seven strategies are suggested to allow early childhood teachers to improve their support of the emotional and social development of children in their centre in everyday practice.

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This commentary provides an introduction and overview of findings from neuroscience research over recent years that are relevant for considerations in regard to the social and emotional development of infants, toddlers and young children. Beyond physiological aspects of brain chemistry and the formation of synapses and pathways in a child’s brain, the importance of a caring relationship with a primary care giver during the first months and the impact of severe strass factors on the development of young children are discussed from a neuroscience perspective.

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This article seeks to explore ideas from psychoanalytically based literature which can be used by teachers to think further about the emotional world of children and their responses to their communications. Literature explored include attachment theory, writing by Daniel Stern about the development of the senses of self, which are formative to early development, a reflection on the sequence in which emotional regulation best develops, and then consideration of some of the ideas from Alfred Adler and current thinking within writing about ‘compassion communication.’

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The Ministry of Education statistics show that, between 2000 and 2015 in Aotearoa/New Zealand, the rise in under two year olds participating in early childhood services grew by 53% (Education Review Office, 2015). This is a significant growth and, as this area of early childhood education is still developing and changing, it is an area where research needs to be considered to ensure that we are providing quality care and education for infants. This article reports on research undertaken in regard to teachers implementing the RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) philosophy developed by Magda Gerber in two early childhood settings in New Zealand. As a major finding from this research, teacher identity is considered in the way in which identity is formed through the influence of both personal and professional identity, and the importance of this identity formation for ensuring quality practices in ECE is discussed.

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The emotional, social and relationship development of gifted children within the early childhood years is not simplistic, nor homogenous. The domain of gifted research is fractured, which affects the consideration of gifted children’s emotional development and subsequent social and relationship development. This paper considers and critiques two groups of theories, both of which assert gifted children’s emotional development is advanced but diverge on the effect this advanced development has upon the gifted child’s social and relationship development. The varying impacts of these discursive images of gifted children are problematised, as is the effects of neoliberal discourses and developmental discourses upon the emotional, social and relational development of gifted children. Following on from this critique, recommendations for pedagogical practice are expounded.

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An awareness of personal feelings in any given situation provides teachers with the opportunity to reflect on the question: How does the way I am feeling influence my daily behaviour when I am with infants and toddlers? This article explores pedagogy in relation to the socio-emotional aspects of reciprocity in early relationships and the notion of self-regulation, drawing on the research of Professor Stuart Shanker, York University, Toronto (2016). Self-regulation focuses on how a teacher has the chance to deeply reflect on his or her own level of emotional functioning in order to explore strategies which will support children as they develop competencies to face the stressors that daily living and learning brings. The future of society may depend on the courage of teachers to stop and reflect as to how and why early relationships may best meet the needs of very young children in group settings.

“Throughout our lives, but especially during childhood, relationships with others regulate our stress and fears.” (Cozolino, 2006)

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Book Reviews

The S. E. T. Social Emotional Tools for Life book, written by Michelle M. Forrester and Kay M. Albrecht aims to give early childhood teachers tools to support children’s social and emotional development. The S. E. T. Social Emotional Tools for Life book is packaged as an approach; however, it makes use of people, places and things that already exist in the early childhood setting. There is no need for fancy teaching materials, special classroom supplies or a specific education background. The strategies are not all new, some have been around for a while, and some are derived from play therapy. The same goes with the underlying theories behind the strategies. Understanding theoretical foundations and applying them to teaching is the basis of sound practice. Where some books were unsuccessful in bridging the theory and practice divide, Forrester and Albrecht have been able to marry theory and practice well. Theorising practice or practising theory, are explained in clear terms, in interesting and engaging ways, with a particular focus on social and emotional development.

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This is an exceptional book that takes a unique perspective on children’s play and connectedness with each other and the early childhood settings in which they are situated. Serving as a context for the study, Alcock explores the emotional interactions that occur during play events for children from infants through to the young child. This is a well-researched book with a detailed explanation of the methodology and a concisely worded theoretical framework, which are employed to study children’s emotionally relational ways of playing and communicating in four early childhood centres located in Wellington and Auckland.

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This book introduces us to the concept of dialogism, developed by the Russian philosopher Bakhtin in the early to mid-1900’s. Jayne White explores how this concept can be meaningful for teaching and learning in the early years while drawing on examples from her own research with infants in New Zealand.

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Contributors

Amanda Burr, Andrea Delaune, Guneet Sachdev, Helen Lane, Jean Rockel, Jennifer Fiechtner, Katie Sandilands, Kay M. Albrecht, Mariette Zoeppritz, Michelle M. Forrester, Norah Fryer, Dr Simon Rowley

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