Leaders call for a focus on ECEC as we acknowledge National Families Week

Leaders call for a focus on ECEC as we acknowledge National Families Week

by Freya Lucas

May 17, 2021

As Australia acknowledges National Families Week, held each year between 15 and 21 May, leaders in the allied health and community services sector have called for a focus on the strengths inherent in diverse families, and for a recognition of the role that early childhood education plays in creating a safe space for children to feel welcome, as well as developing intelligence and emotional resilience skills.


Weh Yeoh, CEO of social enterprise Umbo, said the diversity of the modern family represents both challenge and opportunity. 


“During National Families Week this year,” he said “it’s a great time to celebrate the diversity that we see in families today.”


“The challenge is that diversity does not permit a cookie cutter approach to education or therapy. The opportunity is that it is possible to build on the strengths inherent in diverse families – indeed this is the strength of diversity as it applies to any facet of our community.”


To make the most of diversity in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, he continued, services should take an approach of ‘person centred care’.


“Person-centred care positions the family as the expert in their own lives,” Mr Yeoh explained. 


“It means that anything that is done with the family comes from a point of humility, whereby the family has ultimate say in how the service should be performed.”


Umbo, which provides online speech and occupational therapy primarily for families in rural Australia, uses this approach.   


“In celebrating diversity during National Families Week, it is really crucial that our clinicians have the humility to say – we don’t have all the answers.”


“In the ECEC space, a person-centred approach builds the parents’ capacity to handle their child’s situation. This means that a family is able to bring their own unique perspective and the professional is an advocate for their rights, rather than a more traditional ‘professional as expert’ approach.”


Mr Yeoh’s thoughts were supported by Zen Tea Lounge Foundation co-founder, Amy Nguyen, who emphasised that taking an emotional intelligence approach to working with families would support the team around the child to consider more deeply the circumstances of every family. 


“When we consider what families mean in Australian society, many of us conjure up feelings of love, support and safety,” Ms Nguyen said. 


“Unfortunately, for the millions of Australians who are victims of domestic violence, this is not the case. And the rate is even higher amongst minorities.”


Early childhood education, she continued, plays a critical role in creating a safe space for children to feel welcome, as well as developing intelligence and emotional resilience skills. 


“One of the best ways ECEC can support all children is through focusing on the concept of Emotional Intelligence, otherwise known as EQ,” she explained. 


“EQ has been defined as a set of skills associated with monitoring one’s own and others’ emotions, and the ability to use emotions to guide one’s thinking and actions. Developing EQ enables people to manage emotions effectively, for example, not succumbing to a burst of anger, by developing self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy and motivation.”


The benefits of strong EQ in an ECEC setting are two-fold, she continued. 


“Firstly, children are equipped with the skills to better understand experiences outside of their own – making it a more welcoming and inclusive environment for all. Secondly, teaching EQ at an early age better prepares children with how to cope with their emotions and can reduce the likelihood of violence in future generations.”


“This National Families Week, it’s important we reflect on the vital role that ECECs play in raising our children and shaping the future of Australian society.”


More information about National Families Week is available here