Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reducing Stress in Child Care Providers

It is that time of year when teachers, children and families all experience an increase in stress levels. Whether it is from holidays, traveling or extra guests, or just because the weather is frigid and the outside time is shortened, this stress can cause some increased behavior issues in your classroom. The following are some simple strategies to reduce children’s stress, and as a happy consequence, reduce your stress levels and the families’ also!

1. Make changes or add materials to your program gradually. Children are sometimes stressed by novelty and change. Add items a few at a time or make slight changes over a period of several days or even weeks. Be sure to talk about the changes or additions ahead of time. You could add envelopes and “junk” mail to your writing area on one day; wait a few days to add stickers, and few more days to add the mailbox.

2. Set up several or related new activities at the same time, especially if the new area is likely to draw a lot of interest. For example, you can cut down on the competition and stress for the new workbench that only has space for two children, by adding Styrofoam and golf tees to the art area, and by putting tape measures and books about building in the block area.

3. Give children enough time to thoroughly explore materials and work at their own pace. Challenging behavior can be caused by the stress of expectations to finish or leave a project based on someone else’s timetable.

4. Arrange for children to move to a new activity in small clusters. For example, tell them “if you have shoes that tie . . . “ Avoid having everyone change activities at the same time. This promotes running and competition for favorite areas. Also, avoid sending children to a new activity one at a time. This only increases “wait” time and the possibility of challenging behavior.

The bottom line: what is peaceful for the children, is also peaceful for you!

Written by: Barb Vigil, Early Childhood Specialist
Adapted from Child Care Plus+ Newsletter , Spring 2006

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