Dr Jean Annan’s 7 Dimensions: Children’s Emotional Well-being reflects the multiple perspectives she has encountered on children’s development through her broad experience with young people. She has worked as an educational psychologist, university lecturer, researcher, teacher, leader and systems facilitator in educational settings. Dr Jean Annan talks to NZ Booklovers.
Tell us a little about your book. The 7 Dimensions of Children’s Emotional Well-being helps professionals and parents by condensing a broad range of technical and professional knowledge related to children’s brains, experiences and emotions. The book, written in straightforward, everyday language, introduces a framework based on contemporary neuroscience and the theories of development that have been supported by this science. This framework guides those who support young people to identify areas of strength and support for children’s well-being and the pivotal areas that can be strengthened.
What inspired you to write this book?
There are a huge number of published articles about children’s emotions, including those that discuss self-regulation of responses, the experiences generally associated with positive and negative emotions and tips for managing mood disorders. While this extensive information can be of great benefit, it is not always easy to know which suggestions are best suited in children’s particular environments. And, of course, some of the material available comes from more reliable sources than others.
What research was involved?
The chapters in the book contain information that is theory and research based. A broad range of academic articles associated with neuroscience and the theories and practices that are supported by our current knowledge of the brain was reviewed and the information categorised into emerging themes. Over time, these categories became more distinct and the relationships between them were clarified. There came a point at which any new information encountered was able to be represented in one of the seven dimensions. Examples of this research are cited in the book.
What was your routine or process when writing? Did you have a typical writing day?
As the development of the framework occurred simultaneously with work with young people, parents, school leaders and teachers, every day looked a little different. This iterative process of writing and checking with the education community helped to clarify and refine the dimensions and observe the framework’s use in practice. It was through the writing process that the solution to one final tension in the framework was resolved. It fit like a jigsaw - an ecstatic moment!
What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?
I enjoyed almost everything about writing this book. My trust in our current knowledge of neuroscience and psychology to make a real difference in people’s lives drives me to make the most of this. In the book, I have written about the experience of flow. Much of this book was written, as was the research and in-field development of the framework, in the flow state. I could see that it helped parents and educators make sense of sometimes challenging situations. Many adults I spoke with considered their own social and historical journeys in relation to the framework. This process not only helped them to understand themselves but equipped them better to support the children with whom they worked.
What was the most challenging aspect?
I was always driven to get the book finished quickly as I had the concept in mind and the research at hand. However, I had to exercise patience. Looking back, I now see that the time it took to complete the book was possibly the most valuable aspect of the conceptualisation process. Time to reflect on the dimensions and observe the framework’s application, provided the opportunity to see how each part fit with the others and to make critical adjustments.
What do you hope to achieve by publishing 7 Dimensions: Children’s Emotional Well-being?
I hope that by publishing the book, those working with young people will be better equipped to design bespoke, focused and effective social and learning environments to enhance children’s emotional experience. Furthermore, I expect that when the framework is applied with integrity, it will help adults and children to situate children’s responses in the spaces between the resources (strengths and supports) brought to situations and features of the social and temporal environments around them.
Have you had time for your own personal reading recently? If so, what is the book you’ve most enjoyed in the past year?
Yes, I love reading, focusing, in the main, on scientific and historical books. I think my favourite book in the past year has been John Arden’s ‘Mind-Brain-Gene’.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing or working?
I enjoy engaging in physical exercise, not only because it creates clear space in my mind but also for the love of the activities themselves. Particularly appealing to me are skiing, pilates and walking. I also enjoy learning new things and am currently learning to play the piano and speak Italian.
What’s your next project?
My next project involves making the 7 Dimensions concept accessible to a wider audience by illustrating the framework’s application in different settings.