BeYou produces guide for early learning communities as they deal with COVID stress
Recognising that early learning services have some unique challenges as they deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Be You has released an article offering ideas and support on how to manage educator health and wellbeing, support children, and work with families.
“What affects young children is how the adults around them feel and respond. This resource provides information to help you look after children’s, and your own, mental health during the outbreak” a spokesperson said.
Starting from a position of strength was important, with Be You encouraging services to identify the strengths they have that would help them to get through the outbreak, such as strong health and safety policies, including hygiene practices.
Kindness, too, is important, as services work through challenges. “It’s important to be kind, compassionate and patient with each other – skills that you already practise every day as educators” a spokesperson said.
Thinking about what information should be shared, where that information comes from, and how often it is shared is an important part of managing mental health and wellbeing at this time.
The recommendation from Be You is for services to use trusted sources such as the Australian Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert and Health Direct websites, the World Health Organization, and information from peak bodies such as Early Childhood Australia, and to consider limiting news and social media consumption if it’s impacting on your mental health.
A range of tools and services are available to support educators to maintain a calm state and manage their stress levels, such as sticking to a routine, being aware of limits, debriefing with trusted colleagues, family or friends, and finding ways to stay engaged and connected during the outbreak. The Be You website provides information on wellbeing tools and how to practise mindfulness, which can also help with stress management, as well as more information on how to look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.
Children will also benefit from maintaining regular routines and rituals with little things (such as singing the same funny song when washing hands or reading a favourite story at rest time) being a way to create an emotional connection and relieve anxiety.
While some changes to the environment may need to be made for health and safety reasons, it is important to consider how such changes might impact children, especially those who are taking a break from attending care.
The advice from Be You is to give children as much notice as possible about changes to routines and environments, and have realistic expectations of them during this time. More information on transitions and separation anxiety is on the Be You website.
Keeping strong relationships at the centre of practice is important, with educators being trusted adults who are well-placed to help children navigate and explore their emotions and help them self-regulate. Remind children that while adults might be experiencing heightened emotions, they did not cause these emotions and the adults will be okay.
Staying interested and supportive of children’s play helps them to feel connected, valued and accepted. Having fun together during play time enables children to experience pleasure and joy. Play also helps children to express and work through their feelings, even before they have the words to say how they feel. More information on why play is important is on the Be You website.
Children who may be feeling overwhelmed by stress or anxiety could be tired, withdrawn, irritable, fearful, unmotivated, moody, lose their appetite, need more comfort, have trouble concentrating and feel physically unwell. In the event that children are experiencing distress or difficulties, it is important to seek further support from service leaders, parents and other sources.
The World Health Organization has developed a flyer on Helping children cope with stress during the 2019-nCoV outbreak, and the Raising Children website also has information that could be distributed to families.
If families are keeping children at home, Be You recommended that services think about how they can remain connected to the early learning service for a smoother transition back to the service.
Families might share news from home, or share photos or video of what is happening in the service with their child, and encourage the broader learning community to look out for each other and do simple things that make each other’s day easier or happier.
To access the full range of suggestions as produced by Be You, along with the tools and resources mentioned in this article, please see here.