Child care professionals are aware of the stress that is involved in their chosen field, but often balance this with their passion for the education and quality care of young children. Some programs will unknowingly place added stress on child care professionals, or create an environment that slowly eats away at the passion for child care and replaces it with stress and bitterness. Leadership staff can and should do all that they can to avoid this common pitfall.
Some common stressors in child care:
Perhaps the most common stressor in child care is change. Many professionals can accept and adapt to change when necessary, but often in child care situations change is abrupt, expensive and doesn’t always make sense.
Do this: When change is on the horizon it is critical for directors and other leaders to work with staff to communicate changes, explain any background information, assist them in making the changes, and be a support system. It is crucial to employ the quality characteristics of an effective leader when change is looming.
Not this: Don’t adopt a careless “my way or the highway” attitude. Be mindful of what change means to the teachers and staff members who have a classroom of children to care for. Change is not always easily adapted or received. Being stubborn, frustrated, or upset yourself can also have a negative impact on the proposed changes.
Lack of Support
Child care professionals can become overwhelmed if they are not getting the support that they need from their colleagues or supervisors. They can also feel overwhelmed when parents show little support for their children or their program.
Do this: Directors should be in careful consideration of the roles that staff members play and how they are interconnected and carried out. If one piece of the puzzle isn’t doing their job, the workload falls to another piece and so on and so forth. This can create unnecessary stress. Perhaps a co-teacher isn’t aware that she is supposed to clean the counters after snack time, but the lead teacher swears she has told her. An effective director may step in and suggest solutions.
Not this: Don’t allow it to “work itself out.” Sometimes it will, but you should be aware of what is being neglected and by whom and should choose the best course of action according to policies, plans and circumstances. In the example of the counters being cleaned, if the problem is left to chance, both teachers are under added stress and this may begin negatively effecting the children. One teacher may even get so upset as to yell or quit.
After-hours activities such as prepping materials, parent meetings, staff meetings, professional development hours, and impromptu events all add up to long hours and stressful work weeks. The typical work week can often be filled with many added hours for child care professionals.
Do this: Do everything possible to ensure that staff members have the resources to get their work done within their allotted work hours. If there is more that is expected of them, you must plan accordingly either by providing substitutes, adjusting their work hours, delegating, or paying them overtime.
Not this: Expect them to work out of the kindness of their hearts, guilt them into working without complaint. The simple fact is that staff members should be paid for the time that they put in and asking them to work without pay is unacceptable.
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