As ‘EY WellBeing Week’ draws to a close, we thought we’d share the article Chloe wrote for Kate Moxley’s ‘Wellbeing Weekly’ as practitioner and mental health and wellbeing is something we feel incredibly strongly about.
Practitioner mental health and wellbeing is often overlooked and not treated with the care, concern and respect it deserves.
As practitioners working within the Early Years sector, we are the people on the frontline of childcare; supporting children’s learning and development on a daily basis, running rooms, liasing and supporting other members of our staff teams, meeting managerial demands, being responsive to the needs of not only the children, but their parents and families too – all whilst juggling our own baggage and lives too.
Yet so often, the mental health and wellbeing of our staff teams are incredibly poor but often overlooked/ignored.
Staff are reprimanded for being ill, not ‘pulling their weight’ and looking a little downcast now and then.
But when demands are so high on not only our mental state, but the pressure this then puts on our physical health too, is it any surprise that mental illness is rife among the Early Years workforce?
If managers and leaders support and nurture their staff, not only in terms of their continued professional development, but also placing emphasis on and taking into account their personal lives, needs and ultimately their mental health and wellbeing, from the outset, then we would create not only healthier and happier practitioners, but overall a more productive, healthy and passionate workforce.
The mental health and wellbeing of practitioners does not just affect the individual practitioner, in a workforce that spends so much of their day with other people, the mental health and wellbeing of one practitioner has the potential to affect not only the mental health of colleagues, but also negatively impact upon staff morale, which then cascades to the children, the care we provide and the quality of our interactions, thus impacting the entire atmosphere and wellbeing of the entire setting, staff and children alike.
In order to support and nurture the mental health and wellbeing of practitioners, we do not grand gestures and weekly yoga sessions at the end of the day (although it wouldn’t hurt!) ultimately practitioners need to feel respected, supported and understood, as individuals, as human beings as well as being members of staff.
Managers and leaders could check in more regularly with their staff, not to check up on paperwork or the overall running of the setting, but to get to know the practitioner for who they are, offer support for things that may be going on in the practitioners life and offer solutions for problems they may be experiencing, or most importantly, just to listen.
Early Years is an incredibly emotive sector; as practitioners our roles come with substantial emotional baggage and we carry the emotions, worries and concerns of not only the children we care for each day, but their parents and families too, as well as the emotional needs of our colleagues too; we need somewhere to offload this emotion, to talk it through, to process it and just take five minutes for ourselves, to ensure that we are okay.
As the people who work so closely with the youngest members of our sector, we have to be in a position to be emotionally and mentally available to these children, they need us to be okay and ready to support and listen to them, and ultimately, if we aren’t okay, the children won’t be okay.
Early Years needs to lose the blame culture and the stigma around mental illness, you can have a mental illness and still be fit to look after children; a mental illness doesn’t shape a person or practitioner.
Just like the children we care for; with the right amount of love, support and nurturing, our entire staff teams can grow and develop into happy, healthy human beings who are emotionally intelligent, available, kind and emphatic of others.
These traits are all we want for our children, and so as managers and leaders, this is what we should desire for our staff teams too, and should endeavour to support our practitioners in reaching this equilibrium in any way we can, to not only benefit our settings and our teams, but essentially for the sake of the children and their own mental health and development; children learn from what they observe and so if they see us taking care of each other, being emotionally intelligent in regards to mental health and the needs of others, then this will naturally develop for them as they grow and learn which will hopefully create a society of emotionally intelligent and kind young people.
We have the power to create these young people, and so let’s support each other in doing so.
If you’d like to know more about EY Wellbeing Week or subscribe to WellBeing Weekly, you can access all of Kate Moxley’s Services and Resources here.