In this blog series, Susan Damico, Director at the Devereux Center for Resilient Children, discusses the mental health effects of the pandemic on children, educators, and families. In this article, Damico provides tips for educators to navigate these challenging times while also keeping their mental health in mind.
The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted the lives of everyone, with certain professions being hit the hardest. Without a doubt, early care and education professionals fall into the "hardest hit" category. Many have been laid off or furloughed, some transitioned to working from home with very little notice, some never left the classroom but had to quickly adapt to changing guidelines, and all face some degree of uncertainty about what the future holds. While the circumstances of early care and education professionals across the country vary tremendously, there is no doubt that the workforce as a whole is under more stress than perhaps ever before. The COVID-19 crisis has taken a toll on the mental health of every single one of us. And while it is normal that our bodies are responding to this threat in ways that heighten our anxiety and stress levels, it is equally important that we find healthy ways to cope. The good news is that each and every one of us has what we need to navigate this crisis. The better news is that a few ordinary strategies can have extraordinary, positive results for our mental health. Here are two tips to get you started in the right direction.
- Put yourself first: Adults who care for young children play a critical role in the healthy development of young children. A typical day is often both rewarding and exhausting. In order to have the energy it takes to provide quality care, we need to have the stamina to be creative, patient, kind, silly, loving—and the list goes on. It is impossible to bring all of this positive energy to the job if we are not taking care of ourselves first. So ask yourself this question: "What practices am I engaging in each and every day to take care of myself so that I have what it takes to be a great educator?" Grab a pen and paper, make your list and commit to making these activities a priority. You deserve it and the children depend on you!
- Silver linings and partnerships with families: A helpful strategy in coping with challenging times is to seek out the silver lining in a situation. The COVID-19 crisis has created overwhelming challenges on so many fronts, and it may be difficult to think about positive aspects that have resulted. I would challenge us to reflect on how the COVID-19 crisis has created opportunities for increased family communication and how we can continue to build on these opportunities. With so many children having spent the last few months at home, many educators have been connecting with parents to share ideas for at-home learning. Many have been simply reaching out to stay connected and show their support. No doubt that some have had more success than others, but the effort to strengthen partnerships with families is now a higher priority than perhaps ever before. Let's keep the momentum going and continue to learn from our colleagues about what strategies are working, what new ideas can be shared, what skills we can hone to make sure we are being creative in our efforts to support families. It is still unclear when many children will return and whether or not a second peak will result in future closures. This uncertain reality confirms for us that time and energy dedicated to strengthening partnerships with families is critical.
About the Author
Susan Damico is a former Legislative Assistant and current Director of the Devereux Center for Resilient Children where she manages and coordinates all elements of the center. She graduated from Bucknell University and received her Master's degree in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.