UNE early childhood researcher creates resources to support with pain of deployment
University of New England (UNE) early childhood education researcher Dr Marg Rogers is leading a UNE research team’s efforts to write two new programs for educators and parents, to help support young children of defence families cope with the stress of separation.
It is hoped that through the new resources, Defence families and their educators will have extra support to help young children cope with the emotional stress of having a parent away on deployment or training.
Dr Rogers says there is still a “gaping hole” in what’s available for young children, who can be vulnerable to the impacts of family stress and frequent relocations, and those who educate and care for them.
Both parents and educators have been asking for strategies and resources to help children who don’t know why they feel angry or sad or understand where their mum or dad has gone, Dr Rogers said.
The lack of resources, her research has found, can lead to the adults caring for and educating children feeling isolated and unsupported because of the scarcity of available information that can help them have conversations with their children about the really difficult concept of deployment.
A $100,000 grant from The Ian Potter Foundation, for community-focused projects, will go towards helping Dr Rogers and fellow UNE education researchers Dr Jo Bird, Dr Ingrid Harrington and Dr Pep Serow to produce the new research-based programs. They will include story-based resources for use in the home and early childhood environments.
“The program for early childhood educators will help to develop empathy and understanding among a child’s peers in early childhood services, and provide strategies to help with emotional and social support,” Dr Rogers said, with the home program being more comprehensive.
“In the home, families will be able to use the program and resources to not only help children understand and cope with their feelings, but also to develop useful strategies to stay connected with the parent who is away, such as by drawing pictures or writing stories about something they’re looking forward to doing together when the parent comes home, and using a variety of digital communication technology. This is important for helping ensure the parent does not become a stranger when they return.”
The resources will be developed based on first-hand data with children, which Dr Rogers says is an important difference in her research and with the team’s work.
“In Australia, there has been no other early childhood research about defence families using a strengths-based resilience model based on first-hand data from working with children.
“Using this approach, we’ll be able to best ensure the resources fill this gap and provide support to families to build resilience and understanding when they need it the most” she said.
The researchers will work with Legacy and early childhood educators to develop the programs and resources, which will then be trialled in early childhood services within a navy, air force and army base in different Australian states.
The team expects the resources to be available following evaluation in February 2023.
Existing eBooks developed by Dr Rogers can be downloaded from the Defence Community Organisation website. The eBooks are supported by an app, developed with UNE’s Dr Jo Bird, Raph Roberts and Trish Donald, which can be downloaded from App Stores.