Jan 19

Child care providers often find themselves in a difficult position when global tragedies occur.  Children who start arriving the morning after a particularly devastating tragedy, such as the earthquake in Haiti, often have questions that can begin the moment they arrive, especially if the news was just on Mom’s car radio.  Certainly their ages play a role in the questions and conversations, but all in all, kids want reassurance especially when it’s something their young minds can’t comprehend.  But how do you address a group of children, often of varying ages, when the questions begin?  It’s a fine line, especially since parents have definitive ideas on how much their children should be told.  One child might know more than others, while another might be lost when the questions begin.

Child care providers routinely have toddlers and pre-kindergarten age children during the day with older school age children coming in the afternoons.  This can complicate matters.  Still, there are ways to walk that tightrope that allows you to respect each parent’s wishes while also addressing questions and concerns of your young charges.

With younger children, they have no concept of distance; explaining a tragedy that happened in another part of the world or the country, for that matter, means little to them.  All they know is what they’ve seen on television or have overheard adults talking about.

Many child psychologists agree that providing simple answers is sufficient for younger children.  Instead of focusing so much on the human toll, child care providers can often steer the conversations to another factor of a tragedy; in this case, earthquakes.  It can turn into a learning opportunity that steers clear of those topics best left to the parents while also explaining in age-appropriate terms what earthquakes are, how the oceans are affected and even how the birds and fish react.  The purpose is to not discount their questions while also remaining in neutral territory.

If you notice any child who might be having a difficult time, you can always take him or her aside for a one on one chat.  Again, you don’t want to navigate those difficult waters that include life and death, but you can ease their minds by telling them help has arrived to help the children and that big airplanes are bringing supplies to everyone to make their days better.  Of course, it’s not that simple, but again, your goal is to keep it age-appropriate.  At the end of the day, be sure to mention to Mom or Dad the difficulties their little one had.

Tragedies are all too often a part of our lives, but with a little tender loving care and by carefully choosing our words, soothing the concerns of the youngest is manageable.

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Jan 11

Jean Mercer, Ph.D. and author of “Child Myths”, part of the Psychology Today network, recently wrote an article titled “What We Expect to See in Day Care and What We Should Look For”.   It was an interesting read in that she accurately described what many of us see in our own mind’s eye of what a child care setting “looks” like.  Many of us have this image in our minds of how our own day care settings were when we were kids.  She mentions group activities and the familiar “circle time” where the children sit in circles and enjoy being read to or each taking turns telling a story.  She also brings back memories of smocks and finger painting as well as cookie and juice time.  A trip down memory lane, to be sure.

It’s what else she brings front and center that had me thinking about the way child care providers tend to their little ones in contemporary day.  Child care providers approach their responsibilities with a more educated view than our own Miss Smiths’ of yesteryear.  She mentions new research published by J. Ronald Lally in “Zero to Three” in the November 2009 issue of Psychology Today.  Some of the issues most significant for toddlers and infants include child care providers who ensure repeated eye contact is made and communication abilities that are being developed courtesy of the modern child care provider.  She also mentions smaller groups, which is becoming more common.  Today’s child care centers are working to ensure more employees are focused on fewer children at a time so that each child is better able to bond and enjoy being in the center.  This, of course, means fewer problems when Mom drops little one off each morning.

Although frequent teacher changes are expected and even encouraged once a child begins kindergarten, toddlers and other youngsters who have not begun school fare much better when they become familiar with the same faces each day.  It promotes a sense of safety for them.  While some day care centers are assigning their employees to the two year old groups or three year olds, some experts believe the same caregiver during those first initial years is actually healthier for the children.

The biggest difference in today’s child care providers is the way they approach their responsibilities.  More are becoming better educated and are insisting employees not only have some experience or background, but that they are mentally and even legally qualified to care for our society’s youngest.  The days of having a babysitter are long gone;  our partners who play a role in shaping our children today are just as significant and their roles are just as important as Mom and Dad themselves.

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Jan 05

When my son and niece were little ones, my sister and I were really blessed in that Mom and Dad played such a significant role in our children’s lives.  My dad was a school teacher for many years and my mom, after having worked two decades, was able to stay at home after her grandchildren were born.  Dad, of course, was home during the summer months.  My sister would drop my niece off and I was usually right behind her with my son.  Dad was always waiting for them, as eager as they were to get their day started.  It never really occurred to us to ask what their mornings consisted of before Mom got up; we just knew an exciting adventure awaited them each morning as Dad greeted us at the door.

A couple weeks into one summer, my sister and I noticed an occasional chant of “Jerry! Jerry!  Jerry!”  Not thinking much of it, we’d laugh and blow it off.  That was until we overheard one of the conversations between our little ones.  We overheard my niece say, “Wait till Steve gets up on stage, he’ll straighten them out”.  Finally, it began to dawn on us they were watching Jerry Springer at some time during their days.  We asked our parents about it and got the reply we expected, “No! Of course they don’t watch Jerry Springer!  No one watches Jerry Springer in this house!”  Finally, after a bit of questioning and investigating, we realized part of the ritual every morning was “coffee hour” with Dad and his grandkids.  The kids had “white” coffee, which was milk while Dad had “yucky” coffee, which, of course, was black coffee.   They’d watch the old classic I Dream of Jeannie as they drank their morning coffee each day.  When the show ended, Dad would head out to the kitchen to fix breakfast.  The next show that followed the Barbara Eden classic was the Jerry Springer Show.  This, naturally, was where they were picking up that familiar chant.

It’s a big family joke now – my son is in college and my niece is getting ready to graduate high school.  They still get a kick out of how they pulled the wool over all our eyes that particular summer.

Many child care providers make television available during the course of their days.  Many incorporate educational DVDs and television programs while others will allow an occasional Disney cartoon during the day.  A recent CNN poll reported that nearly 80% of child care providers incorporate at least thirty minutes of television for the little ones in their charge.  The alarming realization, however, is that 12% of the day care centers polled admitted to allowing television to be viewed for up to three hours or more over the course of a single day.  While television and DVDs can play a role in a child care setting, as with most things, too much of a good thing is well, never good.  Do you allow television to be viewed in your child care business? If so, do you have a daily limit?  Drop us a line and let us know.

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