Is it ok to kiss children on the cheek?
Relationships with children in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services are of paramount importance. So important is it to get the relationships space right that the National Quality Framework devotes an entire Quality Area (Quality Area Five) to ensuring that children are supported and cared for in a way that helps them to be, belong, and become.
In Western culture, one of the ways in which affection is shown and shared is through a kiss on the cheek. In many films, television shows and family structures, young children are implored to kiss the cheek of a family member as a sign of respect and caring.
Naturally enough, in some services, there comes a time when parents will implore a child to kiss the cheek of an educator to say hello or goodbye, or a child will initiate a kiss on the cheek. At such times, many educators will reflect, discuss and determine what to do in these situations. Some educators will cite concerns of hygiene, others will reflect on their child protection training, their own level of comfort with these interactions, and the policies and procedures of the service.
Are there any specific regulations which prevent educators from kissing children on the cheek, or children kissing educators on the cheek?
There is no specific provision of the Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations that explicitly refers to the appropriateness of educator’s kissing children.
Regulation 168(j) requires services to have policies and procedures in place regarding interactions with children, including the matters set out in Regulations 155 and 156.
Regulation 155 requires an approved provider to take reasonable steps to ensure that the education and care service provides education and care to children in a way that maintains at all times the dignity and rights of each child; gives each child positive guidance and encouragement toward acceptable behaviour; and has regard to the family and cultural values, age, and physical and intellectual development and abilities of each child being educated and cared for by the service.
Regulation 156 requires an approved provider to take reasonable steps to ensure that the service provides children being educated and cared for by the service with opportunities to interact and develop respectful and positive relationships with each other and with staff members of, and volunteers at, the service.
How can services get more information about how educators are expected to behave?
For further information on the standards of behaviour expected of employees, educators can refer to the NSW Ombudsman website.
Are there any specific training courses that educators can do to learn more about physical interactions with children?
The Department does not have a specific training course relating to physical interactions with children. Free child safe training sessions are offered by the Office of the Children’s Guardian for people working or volunteering in child related organisations in NSW. For more information see here.
What about developing a code of conduct? Does the New South Wales Regulatory Authority have any advice here?
The training above includes consideration of codes of conduct that outline an organisation’s values and provides clear expectations for personal and professional boundaries, ethical behaviour, appropriate and inappropriate behaviour and relationships for staff, volunteers, parents, children.
How can educators in other states get information about the requirements of their Regulatory Authority?
Information for educators in other states, in relation to contacting their relevant regulatory authority for a response, can be accessed by visiting the ACECQA website.