As child care providers, we want our centers to be consistent sources of happiness and joy. We relish the laughter of children and love to participate in the magic of learning and discovery. But life isn’t always like that, and the truth is that child care providers will encounter challenging and stressful situations as part of their job role. Effective stress management is one of the responsibilities we have to keep performing at our best, so we can maximize developmental outcomes for kids and build a foundation of trust with parents.
In this post, we’ll talk about stress management in child care, including some of the common sources of stress for providers, children and parents. Then, we’ll share expert insights on preventing and tackling stress, teaching stress management to kids and alleviating the worries of parents.
What is Stress?
Stress is a feeling of emotional tension that happens when we become overwhelmed or face challenges. Stress is a normal part of life, and some stress may even be good for you, but too much stress can be a sign of a need for change. Stress management strategies can help you keep stress in its place so that you can deal with difficulties without burning out.
In a child care setting, everyone can experience stress, including providers, parents and kids. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, kids may be the most vulnerable to stress, because they lack coping mechanisms and may not have the tools to communicate their feelings without acting out. By being aware of stress, understanding its causes and teaching stress management strategies, child care organizations can create a more relaxing and positive environment for everyone.
What Causes Stress in Child Care?
Sources of Stress for Child Care Providers
While child care is a highly rewarding profession, it can also be a source of stress. Child care providers bring serious passion and enthusiasm to the classroom every day, even while facing challenges like exposure to illness, physically demanding work and lower wages.
Work-life balance can be especially difficult. Hours are often long and irregular, especially when hours in the classroom are supplemented by after-hours paperwork. Extra paperwork tasks often result in child care providers taking work home, eating into their personal time and causing stress.
Job stress is common, but it can be managed with wisdom and some careful planning. Effectively managing stress can help child care providers be happier at work so they can nurture each child to their fullest potential.
Sources of Stress for Kids
Change isn’t always easy for kids, so the transition to a new environment, such as child care, can often come with stress. On top of that, child care itself presents potential difficulties. Kids are separated from their parents and have to learn to adjust to an environment in which they may not get as much individual attention as at home. They have to learn new routines and rules, and to get along with other children.
Child care can and should be an exciting, happy place for kids, even if stress happens from time to time. Stress in kids is normal, but when you strategize, it won’t overshadow the fun and learning that happen at your center.
Sources of Stress for Parents
Child care is a major benefit to parents who need their children supervised during work hours or just want their kids to prepare for kindergarten. But placing their precious children in the hands of a child care provider can be a leap of faith for parents, who may have anxieties about their child’s success in child care.
It’s understandable for parents to worry, since that worry comes from the hope that their kids are getting the best possible care. When parents are reassured that their children are thriving and happy in child care, parent stress will decrease naturally.
Stress Management in Child Care: Strategies to Decrease Stress
Decreasing stress — for yourself, your child care staff, the kids you care for and their families — is one of the best things you can do for everyone involved in your center. You’ll be a better child care provider and role model, kids will be happier and parents will love to bring their children to child care every day. Read on to find our child care experts’ time-tested tips for decreasing stress and making your center a more peaceful place to be.
Strategies for Child Care Providers
Understanding the sources of your stress is key to managing the stress you feel at work. Self care begins with knowing where stress comes from in your job so you can take steps to address it. That way, when you find yourself in a stressful situation, you’ll already have a plan for what to do.
Building a support network is one way to mitigate stress you may feel on the job. Other educators provide mutual support and empathy from someone else who knows what you’re going through, while friends and family help take your mind off the stress.
It’s important, too, to remember your reasons for being a child care provider: your passion for education and your love of helping kids. Educators who keep their ideals in mind do better at putting day-to-day work stress in perspective and coming out ahead.
When things get really tough, manage your stress by making sure you take time to relax, exercise and do things you enjoy. If it sounds difficult to find the time for self care, it may be time to consider the use of automation to ease some of your administrative burdens. Child care management software can help free up hours spent on paperwork, so you’ll have more time to recuperate and, most importantly, more time to focus on caring for kids.
Strategies for Kids in Child Care
As a child care provider, you have the opportunity to help kids manage day-to-day stress and teach them stress-handling strategies that they will use across their lifetimes. Their social and emotional development will benefit from wise habits like maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular sleep and exercise and good nutrition. Guide kids through relaxation techniques like pausing to count or take deep breaths when overwhelmed — these are emotional tools they can rely on in child care, at school and beyond.
Change can be hard for kids, so when there’s an upcoming change in routine or new experience, you can help them reduce stress by anticipating those changes. Talk to kids about potential sources of stress and help them understand what might happen. Remember that for kids, even good events like a birthday party can be sources of stress, if kids aren’t sure what will happen, or if the fun gets too high-pitched or overwhelming.
It helps when children have the opportunity to rehearse their expectations surrounding a change or new event, so they can externalize their concerns and feel heard. From here, you can help them understand what is and isn’t likely to happen, giving them realistic expectations by explaining the change or using resources like books or videos.
When stress happens, use calming, cozy activities to restore peace and lower anxiety. Blowing bubbles, reading stories, gentle movement and being outdoors in nature are all great ways to help kids unload stress.
Strategies for Parents
Most of the stress parents feel when it comes to putting their child in daycare comes from their concerns about potential difficulties the child may face when away from home, and whether the child will get the best possible education. As an educator, communication is your number one tool to keep parents engaged and reassured.
A strong, two-way channel of communication with parents will set your center apart as a place where parents want their kids to be. Frequent updates give them an eye into their child’s day-to-day life so they won’t feel that they’ve left their child in unknown territory. You can use photos and videos and daily reports to keep up the flow of information, while progress tracking and newsletters help parents get the big picture of what’s going on in your center.
The counterpart to sharing is helping parents feel heard. Take the time to talk to all families regularly to hear their questions, concerns and feedback. A genuine willingness to take on board parents’ thoughts builds invaluable trust and rapport, and goes a long way to help parents feel that you are partners in the care and education of their children.
Alleviate Your Child Care Worries with Procare Solutions
Procare’s all-in-one child care software has everything you need to alleviate the worries of managing your child care center.
Our expertise in child care has helped us create easy solutions for child care bookkeeping, staff management, attendance tracking and managing early learning standards that will make life easier for child care providers and administrators. And Procare’s integrated parent engagement app lets you track each child’s progress and send professional updates to parents, so they’ll rest assured their kids are getting the best care possible.
Ready to start saving time and reducing child care stress with Procare?