The Princess of Wales delivers keynote speech at Shaping Us National Symposium
To help give social and emotional skills the greater priority they deserve The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood has conducted a first-of-its-kind global listening exercise, involving experts from 21 countries around the world, to catalogue and identify the skills in this area that matter most throughout our lives.
Through this exercise there was a consensus around a set of skills that we develop and nurture during early childhood, but that continue to be enhanced and refined as we grow into adults. They relate to knowing ourselves, managing our emotions, focusing our thoughts, communicating with others, nurturing our relationships, and exploring the world. These are the skills that lay the foundations for our positive future mental health and resilience throughout our lives.
Healthy development of these core skills is not inevitable – they must be nurtured from our earliest moments of life. The foundations for these skills are laid in early childhood, between pregnancy and the age of five, which is why those earliest years represent such a golden opportunity to make a difference right from the start. But our social and emotional growth continues throughout our lifetime, and change is always possible.
The Symposium, hosted by Shaping Us Champion and mental health and well-being advocate Fearne Cotton, featured talks from a range of thought leaders to outline the scientific, economic and human cases for prioritising early childhood, and our social and emotional development, including:
Professor Jack Shonkoff, Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard whom Her Royal Highness previously met during a visit to Boston last year.
Sara Rajeswaran, Chief of Staff at Aviva, a key member of the Business Taskforce for Early Childhood which The Princess launched in March.
Professor Robert Waldinger, Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest-running studies of adult life ever conducted.
The findings were presented and discussed at the event by a panel of experts covering their professional and personal experiences. Chaired by Professor Eamon McCrory, the panel will include broadcaster Ashley John-Baptiste, clinical psychologist and author Dr Sophie Mort, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, Neil Leitch and Beverley Barnett-Jones, Associate Director of the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory.
During the afternoon, Symposium attendees joined a series of workshops to look at what action can be taken at every level to protect and strengthen these skills for current and future generations across disciplines and across sectors.
The event and the research that has been carried out by The Centre for Early Childhood is a key milestone for The Centre’s Shaping Us campaign, which Her Royal Highness launched at the beginning of the year. The long-term campaign aims to increase awareness of, and action on, the unique importance of early childhood in shaping our future mental and physical wellbeing as adults, as well as the nature of the wider society we build.