By MJ Donallen
Kinder Educator at Aurora Doncaster
As the end of the year looms, and we get used to what is known as ‘Covid normal’, I would like to share some thoughts, insights, and observations as a Kinder educator in the childcare sector in these times.
Having been an educator for nearly 18 years, the ways in which children have shown such strength, confidence, capabilities and resilience during such a difficult period has been incredibly inspiring and moving. Through these months of lockdown, I have been overcome by an immense sense of gratitude for all our children, who have mastered a collection of coping mechanisms. I have come to a deeper understanding of the importance of mental health issues that centre around children and how as educators, it is important that we create safe and welcoming spaces.
Research states that there has been an alarming rise in emotional distress amongst children since the onset of the pandemic. This has been manifested by many months of enduring ‘hardships’ at such a young age. Moreover, research also reports that “1 in 5 (75%) adults are also struggling with mental health and wellbeing, through the loss of jobs, connections with families and friends, and the freedom to explore our wonderful world”.
Many children have expressed their sadness of not being able to see their friends, go to the park celebrate their peers’ birthday or have play dates in their homes, and yet they continue to push through showing strength and resilience beyond their years.
Moving forward in these unprecedented times as educators have been somewhat of a challenge in many aspects, however, we have learnt to adapt to smaller numbers within our service, assist children in managing their emotions whilst continuing in their learning. We also allotted times for families as they faced the unknown, all whilst being advocates for providing ongoing mindfulness practices to all children and educators.
In the reality of ‘the here and now, our duty of care and responsibility to all our families and children is paramount and is to ensure that we are meeting the children’s needs where they are at and providing opportunities for expression in a safe environment.
Through observations over the months, we have become more aware of how lockdown has affected children’s lives -the first being, that children need routine and structure. Therefore, it’s important to give them an idea of what their days look like from the moments they wake up in the morning to play and learning, mealtimes, who will be home with them, and when they go to bed at night.
The second is that children’s behaviours will most definitely be challenged during the course of their early childhood. However, what is different from the previous generations is that our children have had to learn to be in lockdown for such a long time. Therefore, the unwavering changes due to the uncertainties of what has been occurring have seen an increase in heightened behaviours, such as sadness, frustration, lowered self-confidence, and a deep longing for their peers’ physical presence. Accordingly, to assist our children we have been incorporating our zones of regulations into our daily routines at Aurora, which provides children with the opportunity to express themselves through the use of visualisations and communication. In addition to that, through literature and reading books, we have characters and storylines where the children again can share how they are feeling.
Engagement and interactions with others have become more of ‘parallel play’ scenarios, where the children are happy to play side by side, rather than engage closely in their play. Furthermore, developmental skills are sliding such as writing and hand grips – where children are unable to hold and manipulate markers to write their names or cut paper with firm grasps.
Due to lockdown restrictions, extra-curricular sessions have had to cease and be on Zoom, which brings up the question of ‘screen time’, and how the children feel connected or disconnected from the instructor. Consequently, throughout this time we have worked consistently to stay connected with our families and children through our 3 Core Pillars of Connect, Care and Create. These took place through phone calls, emails, DLP (Digital Learning Platform) and Connection Calls.
How can we continue to support and guide our children?
Below are a few ways we can further aid our children in their development and in dealing with the challenges that have surfaced during this pandemic.
- Have open and honest discussions with your children – allowing them to express their feelings.
- Monitor media exposure – ensuring the children are not hearing of events that may cause them anxiety and be there to explain to them what is happening.
- Continue to reassure the children that they are safe and that you are there for them.
- Maintain healthy lifestyle practices such as good nutrition, staying hydrated, mindfulness practices, and getting fresh air.
We are very proud of each and every one of our families and their children in how they have handled these times and are excited to see our centre being full again with lots of smiles and laughter and we also look forward to contributing to their journey ahead.