Tips for Early Care Providers, Educators, and Programs
As we adapt to the Coronavirus, one thing remains consistent: the important roles that caregivers and early care providers play in the lives of our youngest children. Infant and early childhood mental health remains important during times of crisis, and the Nebraska Association for Infant Mental Health (NAIMH) has remained a steadfast network of diverse individuals who work to promote infants’ social-emotional well-being. Given that an environment is loving and caring, children can thrive, even during times of change.
To ensure our safety and well-being not only as a community, but also for our next generation, the NAIMH, has leveraged various recent sources to put together a series best practices for early care providers and educators so that we and our children can adjust to some major changes.
Self-Care is Essential
If you feel overwhelmed, ask for help. Know your stressors and those strategies that can alleviate these pain-points. Early care and education are a rewarding, important, and demanding field. To compound the trials of daily life, we are also experiencing massive change. Care for yourself so that you may then care for others.
Show Physical Affection
When it comes to young children, we can’t underestimate the power of hugs, cuddles, and reassurance. One thing to keep in mind is that social distancing is difficult – if not impossible – for young children. Whether you’re changing a diaper or bottle-feeding or encountering a sad child, a little hug goes a long way. While engaging in these daily rituals, feel free to talk to these little ones, too. During bottle-feeding, hold the infant or child, and when encountering tears, a little comfort goes a long way. You may display the same nurturance when children are anxious or glum.
Nurture as Needed
During unpredictable times, children’s behavior may change. From acting out to having accidents despite being potty-trained, early care providers and educators may find these incidents to be frustrating. Now is the time for us to understand that children, too, will respond in myriad ways to unsettling times. Patience and safety are a virtue now more so than ever. Another strategy to consider is to pair children with consistent caregivers to further establish security.
Name that Feeling
Encourage children to identify and accept how they feel through acknowledging and naming their feelings. For example, when a child cries as her parent leaves, a simple statement such as, “I see that you’re sad because your daddy left,” will contribute to the child’s increased sense of emotional awareness.
Engaging children in smaller groups can be a win-win for all. Smaller group sizes will promote health while contributing to children’s well-being. You may also find establishing consistent groups of children with the same caregivers and teachers to be a useful practice.
Create Support and Communication Prior to Drop-Off
One of the biggest changes prior to dropping-off children include temperature-taking and disinfecting. While drop-off already poses as a transitional time for children, there are a few ways you can smooth out the process. These new health and safety measures may lend to parents’ being unable to comfort their child as she or he adjusts to a new day. With this change in mind, you may find it helpful for you and your families to create a visual schedule which demonstrates this new routine. Prior to setting up or changing drop-off guidelines, it may be a good idea to communicate directly with families before they arrive. Whereas some children may need a provider or teacher to ease him or her into the day, you may also wish to permit children to keep a comforting object such as a photo, stuffed animal, or blanket at your center.
Read Books to Kids
Reading stories in which the character undergoes a similar experience is a great way to help children adapt and relate to these transitions. Not only will children find these stories engaging and relatable, they will find insight and strategies throughout the characters’ coping and outcomes. Books with pictures are very effective at communicating these resonant messages.
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