Self-Care, Childcare, Rooted in Relationships Helps Support Both!
Now, there is a bingo game for adults and childcare providers. When one of the families wins, their childcare provider may give them a free day of care, $5, ice cream, or childcare in exchange for a date night.
This game is more than a game, though. Leisa Gracia is a Grand Island, Nebraska in-home childcare provider, and Rooted in Relationships participant. When Leisa grappled with pandemic-related depression, her Rooted coach, Amy, emphasized not only childcare, but self-care.
From there, Leisa made a game out of staying emotionally strong, and she included her families.
Rooted in Relationships (Rooted) is one of Nebraska Children and Families Foundation’s Early Childhood initiatives. Rooted emphasizes the importance of children between the ages of 0-8 forming healthy relationships. As our organization believes in well-being for everyone of all ages, we love when our early care providers aren’t just caring for themselves, but also the families with whom they work.
“I have a fun group of parents,” said Leisa. “I was getting down and feeling some depression. If I feel that way, I figured that others feel that way.”
Leisa said her spirits have lifted, and the bingo game is still in full swing. Her Rooted coach, Amy, originally recommended this activity. The next step of the bingo game is that the winning family must prove that they’re caring for themselves. Once they win a bingo prize, they must post their photos to Leisa’s childcare center’s Facebook page.
But that isn’t all. Throughout Leisa’s time spent in Rooted, Leisa said she’s expanded her self-care and childcare repertoire beyond that of her kids; she’s also expanded her vision of how she sees the children.
Leisa said that during her Rooted training sessions, she was urged to look at the big picture of a child’s behavior and refuse tunnel vision.
Since then, her perception of the children she cares for has evolved.
“What I saw as ‘naughty’ – as much as I don’t like that term – and attitude problems in some of the kids just meant they were lacking something,” said Leisa.
“Their acting up had nothing to do with childcare. It could be that their parents had a fight. It could be that they missed their father. Maybe they lacked a connection with me. Maybe they lacked a connection with each other,” she said.
Either way, Leisa’s learned to work with the symptoms rather than diagnosing the cause as misbehavior.
“My way isn’t always the right way,” she said. “[Rooted trainings] gave me options. Not every kid is the same; there may be more to it than them being ‘naughty.’”
Leisa said one of the takeaways from Rooted training included her implementing visual, structured schedules, which she said transformed many perceived behavioral problems.
“It’s possible that some kids don’t have structure. At home, they may watch TV and not sit at the table. I needed to see the broad, bigger picture, not just the way I do things,” she said.
For Leisa, creating a picture schedule addressed many behavioral problems.
“I didn’t realize [a schedule] meant so much for kids and to have a routine, visual activities, and reminders. I didn’t know it would help even a three-year-old to understand that we come in, we take our shoes off, we take temperatures, and we go wash up.”
For one boy in her care, Leisa’s routine turned his behavior around. Whereas Leisa had initially perceived the boy’s inability to follow orders as misbehavior, she’s happy to report that he simply needed clear-cut directions, thanks to her schedule.
“Now, he knows that he doesn’t just come in and sit down and watch TV, and he won’t get in trouble,” she said. “Seeing those pictures [in the schedule] totally changed his perspective!”
Leisa said, thanks to her Rooted coach, she saw results fast. “We only did that [schedule] three months into my Rooted [training]. I saw a magnificent change in [that little boy] until the day he left for preschool!” said Leisa.
Leisa has continued to put up pictures around the house to show the children the daily routine and gentle reminders of household expectations.
She’s since decorated her house with visuals of the children eating at the table to prevent any floor-diners. During the colder months, she’ll put up some fall-and-winter images that show step-by-step how to zip up a coat.
Back in Business: How Leisa and Her Coach Stuck to Policies
Aside from adding structure to her in-home center, Leisa appreciated her coach’s support of her business policies.
“My coach, Amy, helped me set guidelines for me to follow and stick to,” Leisa said. “She said, ‘Leisa, you need a backbone.’ And I realized I have a wonderful [childcare center business] contract. Now, I need to use it!”
Leisa put her boundaries to the test when a family was six months late in their payments. Amy was a source of mentorship and tough love for Leisa throughout this challenge.
“Amy said, ‘Are you sticking to your contract and running a business, or are you her friend, and don’t care? If so, we won’t talk about this anymore.’”
From there, Leisa decided to implement her policies. She politely but firmly gave the family a two-week timeframe to pay. It worked.
In another instance, Amy helped Leisa to enforce other regimes. When parents dropped their children off for more than the requisite 9.5 hours, Leisa began to follow her contract and charge the designated overtime.
Also, as a general means of communication, management, and bonding, Leisa even sends out monthly newsletters to her families. In these updates, Leisa includes professional, kind reminders. She also announces children’s birthdays, her days off, and other essential information.
On occasion, Leisa sends the families a quick, easy quiz about her center’s policies. The parents who successfully take the quiz are eligible to receive a day of free childcare among other prizes.
Finally, Leisa has loved Rooted’s positive reinforcement stickers!
“They are the most amazing thing I’ve gotten as an [Rooted] incentive,” said Leisa. “I put stickers on the kids’ backs to ‘fill their bucket.’” Leisa explained that filling her children’s buckets is the act of delivering ongoing, positive feedback.
“I put a sticker on them, and I fill their bucket. They did something to make me happy. They love that!” said Leisa.
Rooted: It’s Not All Fun and Games: Or is it?…
As both a childcare and afterschool provider, Leisa said she initially didn’t have many school-aged toys. April Sundberg, the Rooted area lead, has since brought her a series of engaging activities for all ages, sometimes for the children to use at the same time.
“I told April [Rooted’s area lead] that my school-age kids didn’t have anything. April said, ‘It’s on!’” Leisa said that shortly thereafter, she had a new Connect 4-in-a-Row game.
“The big kids go outside and play – and they love it! The little kids do it, too, it can teach them hand-eye coordination,” she said.
“For me to incorporate everyone…this is awesome. I feel really close with my coach and leaders,” said Leisa.
Leisa said her Rooted coach has given her other developmentally engaging activities. From different-textured pillows to stimulate children’s sensory abilities to a parachute to a magic hat where the children pull out smaller objects including an airplane, Leisa said these toys have been educational and entertaining.
“Each object [they pull from the hat] has a different color, texture, and name, so they’re learning colors and the names of those objects. My three-year-olds love it! My infants love it! My five-year-olds love it!”
Finally, there’s the Safe Space, one of Rooted’s many evidence-based practices. Instead of punishing children with a Time-Out, Rooted encourages providers to create a positive, safe space where children can go whenever they want to re-calibrate.
When asked if she has created a Safe Space in her center, Leisa said yes and no.
“I tell them they can grab a teddy bear and sit, but mostly, they want a hug or to sit on my lap,” she said. “I’m their safe haven.”