Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing
Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing

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2.1 A recipe for good mental health

It might be helpful to regard the factors that contribute to good mental health in childhood as a recipe. This analogy is useful because a recipe gives a list of ingredients and instructions on how to prepare something to eat. As we all know, recipes can be slightly different, depending on which cookbook or website you use. Likewise, the context of a child’s life may require different ingredients, as well as some creative problem solving (like ‘substitution’) should an ingredient not be available. But even when we use the ingredients and follow the instructions, sometimes the results can be unexpected for a range of reasons, either in a good or not so good way.

This is an illustration of some recipe cards.
Figure 2 A recipe for good mental health

Activity 1 What are the ingredients of good mental health for babies and young children?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Reflecting on what you already know and what you have learned in the course so far, write a list of the ingredients that you think are likely to be a ‘recipe’ for good mental health for babies and very young children.

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When compiling your list of ingredients for good mental health and wellbeing, you may have included some of the factors from Session 1, Activity 2, such as resources within the child, family, community and society. You may have added ‘love’ as a key ingredient, but how would you quantify that? In particular, what actions or behaviours would indicate to a child that they are loved? It may be helpful to look back at your response to this activity.

However, as the course has progressed, you may also have increased your knowledge about the role of adults in promoting the mental health of young children. An important way that this can be achieved is for the adult to understand children’s development, and to be aware that some unacceptable behaviour can simply be quite typical of the child’s age or stage of development (e.g. tantrums).

One ingredient stands out as being the foundation of good mental health: the early formation of a stable, containing, unconditional and positive relationship. This assertion is based on the theory of attachment. In the next section, you will explore the theory of attachment and why it is so important in helping our understanding of young children’s mental health.

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