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How You Can Support the Teachers in Your Child Care Center Every Day!

May 18, 2022

This post was originally created and published by Procare Solutions on May 3, 2022. You can find the original piece here. It is reprinted here with permission from Procare.

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It’s Teacher Appreciation Week! No doubt you’re showering your early childhood educators with much-deserved goodies and tokens to show how much you value them.

Making sure they don’t burn out and reducing their stress is something you can do year-round!

Let’s look at several tips to help your staff that were offered during last summer’s The Business of Child Care Conference, hosted by Procare Solutions, from Dr. Aditi Nerurkar. She’s a Harvard physician, speaker and correspondent whose expertise includes the science of stress, resilience and burnout.

And she’s a mother with a deep appreciation for those who work in child care.

How You Can Help Employees De-Stress

Dr. Nerurkat said it can be difficult to address stress and mental health issues with employees in a way that respects their sense of personal space and privacy.

Dr. Nerurkar said that instead of saying “I noticed” when beginning a conversation about burnout, begin by asking the employee how he or she is doing and have an open-ended conversation.

“Just assume your employee is struggling,” she said.

She suggested the following five key strategies to lead your child care center:

1: Organizational temperature checks: Do you have a culture of psychological safety? Are you engaging with your employees about mental health?

2: Set up peer and professional counseling groups: Make them free and easy to access. She said peer-to-peer groups especially are important among those in leadership positions who can’t talk with their employees about certain things that are causing stress.

3: Model healthy behavior: As a leader in your organization, minimize the emails you send and respond to in the evenings. Do anything you can to help set the right tone.

4: Validate and normalize the experience: Make sure your employees know they’re not alone in feeling it!

5: Continually try to make employee expectations and organizational culture match: Be consistent and follow through with the culture you’ve established at your child care center.

Dr. Nerurkar encouraged child care providers to make the “Goldilocks principle” part of their lives, which means finding a middle ground between checking out and over-stressing.

She said to minimize burnout, human productivity functions on a curve — on the left is someone who is bored and not engaged with work, and to the right of the curve is someone who is stressed and anxious and can’t focus.

“But there is a sweet spot in the middle of human productivity,” she said.

She also suggested implementing a “stop, breathe and be ” technique, in which you briefly pause every time you do an activity you do several times a day, such as washing hands or turning on a computer.

Such incremental things can have a cumulative effect by the end of the day.

She also suggested adding a small graphic to each room, perhaps a small triangle of dots or a logo, and tell the kids and teachers that each time they see it, they should “stop, breathe and be.”

And while meditation and exercise are great, we only do them once a day. But doing something 20 times a day for a few seconds can have a big effect on resilience and changing our brain chemistry.

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