COVID-19 Advice to supporting early learning communities

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  Published on Tuesday, 05 May 2020

COVID-19 Advice to supporting early learning communities

Library Home  >  Health, Wellbeing & Nutrition
  Published on Tuesday, 05 May 2020

Beyond Blue and Early Childhood Australia have teamed up to develop a two-page resource recognising that educators looking after young children have a pivotal role in supporting families through the coronavirus pandemic, they also face some unique challenges, which can impact both physical and mental wellbeing.

For this reason, Beyond Blue’s Be You initiative has developed a resource for early learning educators to help them look after children’s and their own mental health during these uncertain times.

The guidance, which can be accessed here recommends that educators and services:

Focus on their strengths

Be confident in knowing that early learning services already have strengths that will help you get through the outbreak. For example, strong health and safety policies, including hygiene practices.

Be kind

As your learning community works through the challenges, it’s important to be kind, compassionate and patient with each other – skills that you already practise every day as educators. 

Get information from trusted sources

Think about where you get your information, as it can impact on your mental health. 

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. Consider limiting your news and social media consumption if it’s impacting on your mental health.

Try and Manage your stress levels

To manage your stress levels, try to maintain your routines, know your limits, debrief with trusted colleagues, family or friends, and find 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 help with stress management. 

In addition, the Beyond Blue website provides more information on how to look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Supporting children in care to understand and cope with the coronavirus , is very important, especially given that stress levels at home are likely to be higher than usual. In this regard Be You offers the following advice to educators: 

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. 

Use play

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.

Staying in touch with families

Many families have taken the decision to keep their children home from care over the last few weeks. Try and maintain regular communication with families that have made this decision as well as those who have continued to send their child in to the service.

Staying connected via technology is a great way to build a bridge between children at home and those attending their service and should make it easier for children to transition back to care when the time arises.

Finally, Be You recommends creating a culture of kindness and compassion to make everyone’s day a little easier and promote a culture of hope.

Additional reading and references:

For more information on stress and anxiety, including how to support children experiencing anxiety, visit the Be You website.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2020