Ways early learning educators can support young children during the coronavirus pandemic
This article was originally published by Be You. It is intended for early learning educators.
Early learning services have some unique challenges as they deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.
To begin with, educators can’t practise social distancing when working with young children. Young children may also seek out educators for additional comfort during this time. They may ask questions about the outbreak or want to share what they understand about the changes happening around them.
What affects young children is how the adults around them feel and respond. This resource provides information to help you look after children’s mental health during the outbreak
Maintain regular routines and rituals where possible
Children may experience more disruptions than usual during the outbreak.
Routines and rituals are important to maintain at this time, as the little things (such as singing the same funny song when washing hands or reading a favourite story at rest time) can create an emotional connection and relieve anxiety.
Think about how changes to the set-up of their physical environment may affect children, including those taking a break from the service.
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.
Help regulate emotions
Keep building strong relationships with children as much as possible during this time, as the complex relationship-based work you do is incredibly important. You are well-placed as an educator 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.
Keep being interested and supportive of children’s play – it 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.
Look for changes in behaviour
Children who may be feeling overwhelmed by stress or anxiety could be tired, withdrawn, irritable, fearful, unmotivated, moody, lose their appetite, need more comfort, have trouble concentrating and feel physically unwell.
Consult with colleagues, leaders and families if you’re unsure whether you’re witnessing a change in behaviour. If you think a child in your care needs extra support, consult with the relevant leader at your early learning service.
Consider using the Be You Mental Health Continuum and BETLS observation tool on the Be You website.