15-20 years from now, we'll be living in a society heavily influenced by those who are infants, toddlers and preschoolers today. So it's kind of important to look at the care they're receiving presently, to see if we're doing the best we can. Our future society depends on it. Here's why:
In the first few years of life, more than 1 million new neural connections form every second. After this period of rapid proliferation, connections are reduced through a process called pruning, which allows brain circuits to become more efficient. In light of these findings, focusing on early childhood only makes sense. -Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University-
We simply can't ignore this kind of research anymore. We have to look at the earliest years and the actual experiences children are receiving during this time. It's pretty important to do our best.
That's why you matter so much to the world. If you care for infants toddlers and/or preschoolers for any significant amount of time, you are instrumental in shaping the architecture of their brains.
If we want you to teach empathy to young children, someone, somewhere has to be empathetic to your needs, too. Yes, it's true.
Nobody really wants to be like The Giving Tree in Shell Silverstein's book, because, if you remember it correctly, the Giving Tree gives and gives until finally she finally dies and no one ever gives anything back to her! That's just sad.
But, equally as sad is the fact that caring for the caregiver isn't something that seems to take priority. We live in a world were violence can be a part of daily life for too many people.
And in the US, parking lot attendants make more money on average than child care providers.
Not that there's anything wrong with being a parking lot attendant. Cars are expensive and can be easily damaged. Parking lots provide safety and security. Their employees have an important job.
My question is this? Are our infants and toddlers as precious as our vehicles? Are they, too, easily damaged? If so, then why do we pay providers and teachers less than we pay those who care for our cars?
Until we figure out and change this, caregivers may be responsible to set the right example and care for themselves in the best interest of all.
"When you care for yourself, others will care for you." Shakti Gawain
So, Take a tubby! Here's what I mean by that.
When I was much younger, I stayed with a family who where dynamic and sometimes intense communicators. Things wren's always calm and orderly in that household but they were always interesting and fun!
When it got to be too much for her to handle, the matriarch of the family would proclaim loudly "I'm gonna take a tubby!" Meaning I need about 20-30 minutes of alone time and I'm going to take a bath. I noticed she never asked permission for that time. She just claimed it and everyone left her alone. This is a great example of self-care in the real world.
We all need to take a metaphorical or a real-life "tubby" more often. If you care for young children we both know you deserve it. Sometimes it's not the young children that get to us but everyone else involved.
I know of a family child care provider who spent long days with children and set up an environment of fun for them to learn in. One thing she did daily in order to keep her sanity was get out the yellow placemat.
All the children knew that when Emily got out her yellow placemat, she needed time to herself to open the daily stack of mail. And they gave her that time. 15 minutes each day doesn't seem like much to ask for a break but in family child care it's sometimes really heard to get any.
Emily knew that in order to care for children respectfully all day long, she needed that small amount of time for herself. She guarded that time carefully, took it every day and set a really good example of self-care for the children that she cared for so well.
We talk a lot about "best practices" in early childhood education. I have my own interpretation of best practices. It looks like this.
The right boundaries
If you, like most of the people around you, may have trouble with this, don't feel bad. You have more awareness than most of the people who can't recognize their own challenges. Just remember to take those baby steps forward and you'll be OK!
If you're already a member of this wonderful community of providers and parents, you're getting a bonus for reading this today!!
Here it is!
If you've already joined for free, you have access for a limited time only to the on-line, self-paced, interactive course I've created.
The workshop sums up what I've personally learned about empathy over the last 45 years of studying and practicing early childhood education.
I designed it to be interactive and fun for you so check it out now. Members may have to create a log-in if they haven't already. The only reason it's free right now is because I made a small paperwork related mistake with my non-profit status and it's going to take several weeks before it's resolved and I get to release the workshop to the world.
When I do officially release the workshop, it'll be available for 5.5 CEU's in Wisconsin.
Thanks so much for reading this today! And thanks for doing what you do!
Nanci J Bradley is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning, and most of all, PLAY! (click on the word) She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI.