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Supporting children's social and emotional wellbeing: does having a say matter?

Anne Graham, Southern Cross University
Robyn Margaret Fitzgerald, Southern Cross University

Abstract

This presentation explores the potential of emerging understandings of childhood, and of children’s participation, for promoting children’s social and emotional wellbeing. Firstly, we discuss how recent developments in conceptualizing and acting upon children’s social and emotional wellbeing have now generally positioned this field for incorporating a more participatory approach. Secondly, we analyse the growing body of theoretical and empirical literature linking participation with children’s wellbeing and we posit that the ‘recognition’ of children lies central to this. Here we also signal the critically important role of dialogue in facilitating such recognition. Thirdly, we examine these links between participation, recognition and social and emotional wellbeing through the lens of experience with one particular program initiative, ‘Seasons for Growth’, which aims to support children and young people to understand and manage issues of change, loss and grief. We draw on our learning over the past 12 years in developing and implementing this program, together with related research we’ve since undertaken, to reflect on the ways in which a dialogic approach to children’s participation opens up possibilities for further promoting the social and emotional wellbeing of children. Finally, we signal a number of issues that will require ongoing attention if, as researchers and practitioners, we are to pursue the development of programs and interventions that move beyond merely ‘listening to children’s voices’ to instead inviting and holding their rich and sometimes complex understandings as they make sense of the issues that shape their identities.

Suggested Citation

Graham, A & Fitzgerald, RM 2009, 'Supporting children's social and emotional wellbeing: does having a say matter?', Proceedings of 2nd ENSEC Conference, Izmir, Turkey, 9-12 September, Bogazici University, Turkey.

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