Be You Consultants Nikki Edwards and Tanya Burr share why educator self-care is so important and how you can start the conversation at your service.
Why self-care is so important for educators working with young children and families
The work that educators do draws on so much of who they are as a person. There is a need to be physically and emotionally invested and present in your work. As an educator, self-care is about the ‘tools’ you have within you to cope with, manage and thrive, because as a professional so much of the care of yourself has to be done by you.
For me, self-care sits with self-regulation,” says Be You Consultant Nikki Edwards. “What tools and patterns do I have, how aware of them am I and how can I access them when I need them most?
It can be helpful to use the analogy of a ‘bucket’ when considering our capacity for emotional regulation. If it is full, we have reserves to draw from if something happens to throw us a little off-kilter, if it’s near-empty we have no reserves and we lose the capacity to not only help ourselves but also help others.
“With self-care, it becomes so important for us to recognise and acknowledge the things that fill our ‘buckets’,” says Tanya Burr. “If we know what these things are we can do them more intentionally as familiar rituals, and have the capacity to face challenges and support others whose ‘buckets’ may not be so full.”
In order to self-regulate, there are times that we need to co-regulate first; which means to seek out and maintain a connection to people that lift us up and support us.
How can we teach self-regulation skills to children without understanding co-regulation and our own strategies for this, and for self-care? The root of self-care is an awareness of self; it is about the wholeness of us. Early childhood is a place where we are working with the complexity of relationships. We need to bring priority to self-care because to do our work well means we need to feel comfortable to bring our whole selves to the complex relationships in our settings.
What educators can do to make self-care a priority
If self-care and self-regulation are not a topic of discussion at your place of work, begin the conversation.
“Find a conversation starter in a resource that you connect with and share this with your team,” says Nikki. “Be innovative in keeping the conversation reflective and equitable, through e-mails, phone calls, newsletters, staff meetings and e-communications.”
Tanya believes that focusing on the simple question ‘Where is my joy?’ is a very powerful one.
“If educators can answer this question about their day, each day, they can then begin prioritising their self-care,” says Tanya.
Tanya recalls that when she was a centre Director, she used to make checklists for herself which included tangible things she could look at and see that she was doing a good job.
“One of these things was making sure I spent time with the children, so I could show families that I knew their child,” says Tanya. “One of the mums at the centre would arrive every afternoon and stop for a chat – I would always share a story about a moment I had spent with her daughter during the day.
“One afternoon she told me how much she looked forward to hearing my stories about her daughter and how they showed her that she was loved at my centre. That was over 10 years ago. It was a real lightbulb moment. I realised I had been spending all this time focusing on my ‘be a good Director’ checklist, but what I had really been doing was making real connections and building relationships. I wasn’t talking to this Mum to do my job, I was seeking out, prioritising and sharing my joy.”
How Be You can support educators’ practices around self-care
The core of what Be You brings is a sense of community. A whole learning community can have shared language, purpose and priority. In understanding self-care and supporting actions that develop and strengthen this, Be You provides a conduit to togetherness. Self-care by definition is about self, but it is rarely a successful strategy for thriving at work if kept to oneself.
Be You resources for self-care
Educators can connect with Consultants at and Early Years Learning Communities online activities. These are great spaces for reflection and planning, and engaging in conversations about self-care.
The self-care poster you receive in your learning community welcome pack is great to display, and there are also the Fact Sheets on Wellbeing and the Wellbeing Tools for You.
If educators would like to engage in some further professional learning, Nikki and Tanya recommend the Mentally Healthy Communities – Understand module.
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