Self-esteem can be affected by poor physical health, negative life events, deficient or frustrating relationships and a general sense of lack of control.
The regular and significant periods of time spent outdoors at forest school combined with participating in physical activities will support development of both physical and mental health. Higher levels of physical and mental health will equip children to handle negative events and failure in a more positive way.
Setting children challenging but realistically achievable activities will promote a feeling of satisfaction and achievement that will drive the child to challenge themselves more.
The promotion of social skills through group games and activities will enable children to better communicate with others and develop positive friendships and relationships.
Forest school sessions can also support the development of self esteem by giving children ownership and control of sessions. Opportunities for challenge should be provided and children should be encouraged to challenge themselves but should be free to choose which activities they take part in and in what way. Forcing children to take part in activities they are not mentally or developmentally ready for will likely reduce the chance of them attempting them in the future.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a measure of how well we understand and manage our own emotions and how well we recognise and respond to the emotions of others. Developing emotional intelligence in children involves developing personal competencies such as self-control and adaptability and social competencies such as empathy and non-verbal communication.
The Mixed Model of emotional intelligence is widely was devised by psychologist Daniel Goleman and consists of 5 key areas:
Self awareness is the ability to know one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals and recognise their impact on others while using gut feelings to guide decisions. Children with a high EQ will have an accurate assessment of what they are capable of, when they need help, and what their emotional triggers are.
Forest school can promote development of self-awareness by providing opportunities for children to challenge themselves and take risks. This may be physical activities such as tree climbing that support awareness of physical self or reflective activities that encourage children to analyse their successes and failures.
Self-regulation involves controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances. Children with a high EQ are able to keep their emotions in check when they become disruptive. Self-management involves being able to control outbursts, calmly discussing disagreements, and avoiding activities that undermine you like extended self-pity or panic.
Forest school can promote self-regulation in the same way as self awareness, by providing activities that challenge the child. It is only through experiencing situations that challenge their emotions will children learn to manage them. For this to be effective it is important that children should feel they are in a physically and emotionally safe environment.
Socials skills are the skills necessary to manage relationships to move people in the desired direction. Children with a high EQ are able to negotiate the needs of others with their own. They can find common ground with others, managing others in a work environment, and be persuasive.
Forest school can promote social skills by giving children opportunities to work in different sized groups and with a variety of ages both younger and older. Playing games that involve verbal and non-verbal communication support development of social skills. When there are conflicts between children during sessions it is important not to jump in straight away but to allow them to opportunity to resolve problems and agree compromises between themselves. Conflict resolution is an important social skill.
Empathy is considering other people’s feelings, especially when making decision. Children with a high EQ can read the emotions of others and responding appropriately.
Forest school can support development of empathy through developing an environment where all members of the group are equal and encouraging children to talk to each other about how they feel. Staff can model empathy through reflective activities at the end sessions that focus on how members of the group felt and what they enjoyed and found challenging during the session.
Motivations is being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement. Children with a high EQ can successfully motivate themselves to achieve their goals. This includes goals that are not only pragmatic but also goals set for the sake of curiosity or a satisfaction in being productive.
Forest school sessions that are child led promote motivation as they allow children to explore their own interests and learn in a way that suits their learning style. Keeping sessions as flexible as possible and encouraging children to take ownership of and lead activities will support development of motivation.