Men in ECE Speak Up: Ugly stereotypes, the importance of male teachers and why we love this field of work
Before I begin, I would like to thank everyone who responded to the survey attached to the last blog on Men in ECE. Without your open and honest responses this second post would not be possible.
Your feedback from the survey has been incredibly helpful to me in formulating this post and has provided Clayton Early Learning with valuable data as we continue to advocate for excellence in the field of early childhood education.
Since my last post, I had been eagerly awaiting the results of the survey in hopes of gaining some new insight and perspectives from other teachers, both male and female, parents and community members. Some of the responses solidified my predictions from the last blog, while others presented a perspective I hadn’t heard before.
We will not necessarily try to debunk or support any specific point of view or stereotype here. My intention now is only to initiate conversations surrounding societal perceptions of men in this field so that we can support professional development and growth for all educators and to celebrate the contribution that men can make as ECE professionals.
Now, I am eager to share some of the responses that I received to the survey questions posed in my first post. For brevity, I have paraphrased the collected responses to provide a general sense of how those surveyed responded to each of the prompts.
Do you feel men in ECE are more sought after by employers?
A slight majority of replies to this questions suggested that yes, men are more sought after by employers to work in this field. However, this question received a variety of perspectives that suggest that employers attempt to remain unbiased in selecting their teaching staff. One respondent stated that the current trend in ECE is to advocate for more men in the field, therefore employers feel more obliged to hire men.
In your opinion, what importance, if any, do men play in the field of ECE?
Predominantly, the responses indicated that gender balance is an important benefit of having men in ECE classrooms. This balance can support positive modeling of communication and collaboration between male and female teachers. Responses also illustrated the benefit of having male role models for both boys and girls and the differences in communication styles, creativity and interaction that men display.
In your opinion, are there currently any stereotypes about men working in ECE?
This question elicited a variety of answers that many of the respondents were quick to include that they did not subscribe to. Some of the responses indicated that society perceives men in ECE as unambitious, that men choose to work in this field because they weren’t adept at working in upper level education classrooms, or that men in this field are choosing an easy job.
The majority of the responses revealed that ECE is still not considered a masculine profession, regardless of the push to employ more men in the field. One person stated that society believes “men should work with older children.” This leads into some of the more harmful stereotypes of male ECE educators. Several of the respondents wrote that society views men in ECE as predators. This stereotype is particularly harmful to the field as it often serves to discourage would-be male candidates from pursuing a career in early education. Conversely, a looming stereotype that male teachers have inappropriate interests in their work can be extremely harmful to the parent-teacher relationship. Knowing that a trusting relationship is critical in partnering with families, this stereotype is one that must be acknowledged and debunked.
It is disappointing, though not necessarily surprising, that the bulk of our responses indicate that those who participated in the survey believe men in ECE are generally viewed with skepticism and suspicion.
While the daily professional work of an educator is challenging in its own right, men in the field of early childhood education face the additional test of overcoming gender stereotypes that may impact their sense of efficacy as a teacher.
Despite the sometimes harsh reality of stereotypes of men in early childhood education, I was inspired to read the responses that men offered regarding their choice of profession. Though this is a small sample of what was received, it speaks volumes to the diversity of men in the field - their approach to teaching, philosophies on education and motivations for working with young children and families. The responses below have been edited for clarity and brevity, but are completely authentic in tone and message.
Why did you choose a career in ECE?
“For the joy of working with young children.”
“I have taught secondary, primary and ECE. It is the most important age for children's learning, and the development of their dispositions. My teaching philosophy and mission is to empower all through education.”
“I wanted a job that would be nurturing in nature and where I could use my talents for communication and working with children.”
“Because I'm good with children and I enjoy their company. Children are very intuitive. I am successful in my work as a teacher because children can sense that they are safe with me and that I genuinely enjoy working with them.”
“To inspire and tap into little minds. I believe children can do far more than the general population believes they can and so I push my students to show the world what they can do.”
“It was exciting to discover that I was good at teaching preschool students. Being confident in my ability at work is a great feeling.”
“I wanted to make an impact on the lives of young children.”
As I wrote in my last blog, male ECE teachers are a diverse group with many reasons for educating, impacting and improving the lives of young children. If you know a male early childhood educator, I encourage you to ask them why they have chosen this field. I guarantee you that their answer will inspire you with a new respect for their work.
We will continue sharing these stories, challenges, barriers and celebrations of men in early childhood education and hope that you will too. This is the first important step in overcoming harmful stereotypes and encouraging gender diversity in the field of ECE.
Every year Clayton Early Learning celebrates the diverse cultures of our staff, students, and families in our schools and home based programs with our annual Culture Night. This year’s event will be on December 16th and the central theme of the event is food with a focus on traditional recipes submitted by our community. The five course tasting while occur in various classrooms and gives Clayton families and staff the opportunity to come together to explore the culture and journeys of those around us.
Food intersects between all things culture, and each culture tells a story of history, struggle and progress. “Food is our common ground, a universal experience” said James Beard, an American cookbook author and columnist. This year the tables at Culture Night will have cards with conversation starters to prompt discussion about what food means for our own families and ways food links cultures. Some of these questions listed below you can also use with your own families during the holidays:
- Where does this dish come from?
- What makes this dish important to your family?
- When do you typically eat this dish?
- Was this dish passed down by someone in your family, or is it new?
- What dishes do you look forward to eating the most around the holidays?
Clayton Early Learning is an inclusive school that places a strong emphasis on diversity. We see differences as an opportunity for growth and learning and Culture Night proves one way to create this honorable space. By modeling this for children, we give them another way to get that head start to success in the future in an increasingly diverse world. Cesar Chavez said, “if you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.”
We look forward to eating with you on December 16th from 4:30-6:30pm!
After three presidential debates, endless internet memes, and over $1 billion spent by the candidates, you’ve likely received your ballot for the 2016 election. With all the information about the presidential candidates that’s available, it can be difficult to decipher where they stand on the issues that matter to you and your family the most.
Reliable, high quality child care is a priority for many working families and is important to supporting our workforce and economy. Both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump have released child care plans on the campaign trail, which is an exciting example of how early childhood care and learning is becoming a priority for our nation as well.
The plans the candidates have presented differ in the types of investments, programs, and strategies they would support. Below are summaries of the candidate’s child care plans, but to learn more visit their websites at https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/early-childhood-education/ and https://www.donaldjtrump.com/policies/child-care.
- Make preschool universal for every 4-year-old in America
- Significantly increase child care investments so that no family in America has to pay more than 10 percent of its income to afford high-quality child care
- Improve the quality of child care and early learning by giving a RAISE to America’s child care workforce
- Double our investment in Early Head Start and the Early Head Start–Child Care Partnership program
- Expand access to evidence-based home visiting programs
- Award scholarships of up to $1,500 per year to help as many as 1 million student parents afford high-quality child care
- Increase access to high-quality child care on college campuses by serving an additional 250,000 children
- Rewriting the tax code to allow working parents to deduct from their income taxes child care expenses for up to four children and elderly dependents
- Allow parents to enroll in tax-free dependent care savings accounts for their children or elderly relatives
- Provide low-income households an Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit – in the form a Childcare rebate – and a matching $500 contribution for their savings accounts
- Creating a new, dynamic market for family-based and community-based solutions
- Incentivizing employers to provide childcare at the workplace
- Provide 6 weeks of paid leave to new mothers before returning to work
For other analysis of the two child care plans, check out some of these articles from around the country:
How the Trump and Clinton Child Care Plans Stack Up, New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/15/us/how-the-trump-and-clinton-child-care-plans-stack-up.html?_r=0
What Clinton’s and Trump’s Child-Care Plans Mean for Parents, Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/09/15/what-clintons-and-trumps-child-care-plans-mean-for-parents/
Comparing Trump and Clinton's Child Care Plans, NBC News: http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/comparing-trump-clinton-s-child-care-plans-n647711
Where do the presidential candidates stand on child care and pay equity?, PBS: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/matters-child-care-pay-equity/
Presidential Candidates Release Child Care Proposals—What This Means for Parents, Child Care Aware of America: http://usa.childcareaware.org/2016/09/presidential-candidates-release-child-care-proposals-what-this-means-for-parents/
When parents pick their child up from preschool, there are two questions that are most prominently heard as they eagerly greet children: “How was your day?” or “What did you do today?”
Unfortunately, this type of inquiry rarely results in the kind of discussion that parents are seeking. In fact, many preschoolers respond with “I don’t know/can’t remember” or “Uh, nothing.”
While open ended questions are a great way to learn more about children’s feelings, ideas and experiences, these end-of-day questions are typically too broad for a child to really engage in; especially if they are hungry or tired. Unless the child’s day included something very out-of-the-ordinary, it can be difficult for kids to immediately recall and report out on the day’s activities, which can be a real road block for parents who are seeking and engaging conversation with their young learner.
These fifteen questions are a bit more specific than ‘how was your day,’ but can prompt answers that will effectively tell parents all about the child’s activities and experiences for the day.
Try using just a few of the questions to start and follow the child’s lead in extending the conversation.
- What is your favorite color? Did you see or use that color today?
- Who did you play with today?
- What book(s) did you read today
- What was something funny that happened today?
- Were there any parts of your day that were ‘blah?’
- Did you have to use a pencil/marker/crayon/paintbrush today? What did you do with it?
- Who is the first person that said ‘hi’ to you today?
- Who was the first person that you played with?
- What was your classroom job today? Which job is your favorite/least favorite to have?
- What is the most special thing to you in our home? Is there anything at school that is most special to you?
- Who is the nicest person that you know?
- What is your favorite place in your school/classroom?
- Is there anyone in your class that you’ve never played with before?
- What was the easiest thing that you did today?
- What was the hardest thing that you did today?
Do you have ideas to share with parents about questions that are great conversation starters with kids? Please share your suggestions or experiences
The summer months are a great time to get outdoors and let children explore the world around them. These tips will ensure that the fun doesn’t need to end due to sun damaged skin, dehydration or water-related accidents. Read on and have a safe summer!
The Skin Cancer Foundation warns that “Just one blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.” This means that no matter what a child’s skin tone may be, protecting their skin from the sun’s harmful rays is an absolute must. Here are some skin safety reminders for children 6 months and older:
- Choose broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
- Spray sunscreen is great for wiggly little ones, but should not be sprayed directly onto their face. Instead, spray the sunscreen mist into your hands first and then apply carefully to the child’s face and ears.
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours or after swimming and excessive sweating.
- Use hats and sunglasses for extra protection
While sunscreen can be a wonderful protectant for older infants and children, parents and caregivers should avoid using sunscreen on babies who are less than six months old because the infant’s skin is still too sensitive for most sunscreens. Keep young infants’ skin safe by
- Dressing babies in lightweight clothing that covers the infant’s arms and legs.
- Dress infants in wide-brimmed hats that will protect their ears, neck and face.
- Use a protective cover on your stroller to keep baby from being burned while out for a walk.
Hooray for Hydration
BabyCenter.com warns that summer heat can be a significant catalyst for dehydration; especially for children who “are less likely than adults to remember to drink fluid-especially when they’re having fun playing outside.”
Adults can encourage children to drink more water throughout hot summer days by
- Keeping a water bottle handy. Kids are more likely to remember to take a drink if they see that water is available!
- Serve hydrating snacks like watermelon, cucumber slices and popsicles made with real fruit juice.
- Add fun flavors to your water with fresh fruit, like sliced strawberries, pineapple and oranges. This is a much healthier alternative to artificially flavored and dyed beverages like sports drinks and soda, which can contain a ton of sugar and are less effective in hydrating hot children.
- Remind kids to stop and take a drink throughout the day.
Important reminder: Just like sunscreen, water is not safe for young infants who are less than six months old. Babies 0-6 months typically receive as much water as they need through breast milk and formula. Too much water can cause water intoxication. For more information about when to introduce babies to drinking water, visit www.healthychildren.org.
When children are properly supervised, water play is a fun way to beat the summer heat. While many adults are aware of the danger that is present at the beach or a swimming pool, caregivers must never forget that drowning can occur even in shallow wading pools and water tables. Whether you’re poolside or at home, these tips will help your family enjoy water play safely:
- Give children undivided attention when playing in or near open water. Avoid distraction by putting cell phones away so that children are actively supervised at all times.
- Teach children how to swim.
- If there are several adults present while children are playing in or around water, designate a ‘Water Watcher’ who oversees water play for specific increments of time to prevent any lapses in adult supervision.
- Teach children to swim and play in water only when an adult is present.
- Learn CPR so that you are able to assist if there is ever an emergency.
For more water safety tips and guidance about designating a ‘Water Watcher,’ visit www.safekids.org
The Colorado legislative session has come to a close! After considering nearly 800 bills and resolutions these past few months, Colorado policymakers adjourned for the year on May 11th. Clayton Early Learning tracked over a dozen bills related to our children, their caregivers, and the field of early childhood this legislative session, several of which passed into law:
- HB16-1227: Exempts a CCCAP applicant who is a teen parent from the current prerequisite child support cooperation as a condition of receiving child care assistance. The bill also exempts an applicant who is a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, harassment, or stalking from child support cooperation requirements or from establishing good cause for not cooperating as a condition of receiving child care assistance. This bill would eliminate one of the key barriers for teen parents and domestic violence survivors seeking to access child care.
- HB16-1242: This supplemental appropriation bill for the Colorado Department of Human Services includes a reassignment of funding to go to doubling the amount of Early Childhood Mental Health Intervention Specialists employed by the state from 17 to 34. This means more readily available help and resources to organizations like Clayton to support positive mental health of our children, families, and staff.
- HB16-1423: Tightens statewide restrictions to protect student data privacy by adopting additional duties that the state board, department of education, school districts, boards of cooperative services, and charter schools must comply with to increase the transparency and security of the student personally identifiable information that the department and the education agencies collect and maintain.
- HB16-1425: Specifies that a licensed child care center is not required to obtain immunization records for any child who enrolls and attends the center for up to 15 days or less in a 15-consecutive-day period. A center that accepts short-term enrollees can only do so only if it provides notification to all parents who have children in the center that the center allows short-term enrollees without obtaining proof of immunization.
- SB16-22: Removes the 10-county limit in the “cliff effect” pilot program for CCCAP to allow additional counties to participate in the pilot program. The pilot program addresses the “cliff effect” that occurs when working parents receive a minor increase in their income that makes them ineligible for child care assistance, which is often not enough of an increase to cover child care costs completely. The pilot allows for a more gradual phase out of assistance to help families transition.
- SB16-212: Aligns state law with changes in federal law related to the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). The state law would be modified to specify that a child receiving CCCAP supports continues to be eligible for those supports for an entire 12-month period before eligibility is redetermined, as long as the child's family income remains below 85% of the state median income for that family size, as required by federal law. This correction to state law would also support the CCCAP reforms that have been occurring since the passage of HB14-1317 in 2014 that Clayton Early Learning has played an active role in implementing.
Bills that Clayton Early Learning followed that did not pass includes:
- HB16-1002: Re-enacts the repealed K-12 Parental Involvement Act which required employers to provide its employees up to 18 hours per academic year of unpaid leave from work to attend a child’s academic activities. This bill would expand both the types of activities that were permitted for the employee leave, such as parent teacher conferences, as well as expand the law to include parents of preschoolers.
- HB16-1022: Increases the amount of funding school districts receive to more comprehensively fund full day kindergarten. According to this bill, if a school district does not currently provide a full-day kindergarten program during the 2016-17 year they must use these new funds to expand its kindergarten facilities. Funding for following school years are also written into the bill.
- HB16-1045: In 2013, the general assembly created a child tax credit against state income taxes for a resident individual. But the credit, which is a percentage of the federal child tax credit based on the taxpayer's income, is only allowed after the United States congress enacts a version of the "Marketplace Fairness Act". This bill repeals the contingent start of the tax credit and instead allows the credit to be claimed for any income tax year beginning with the 2016 income tax year.
- HB16-1050: Creates a task force to address the child care needs of low-income parents of young children as the parents seek to advance their education. The task force must identify and reduce, if possible, barriers to obtaining child care from the range of available federal, state, and private child care sources, determine whether the parents' child care needs can be met through existing sources, review and streamline the processes for providing child care for parents while they obtain education or training, communicate the availability of child care from public and private sources to parents who are seeking education or training, and recommend legislative changes.
- HB16-1196: Creates the aspire to college Colorado pilot program in the department of human services to provide college savings accounts, as defined in the bill, to preschool-aged children served in an early childhood program. Within existing appropriations, the state department shall make an initial $50 contribution to a college savings account administered by CollegeInvest as part of the college savings program on behalf of an eligible child.
- HB16-1338: Under current law, the early childhood leadership commission is scheduled to repeal on September 1, 2018. The bill extends the repeal date to September 1, 2020.
Just because the legislative session is over doesn’t mean that the policy process stops! Summer and fall are busy seasons for legislators, as they meet with their constituents, attend interim commissions, prepare for elections and begin to draft bills for the upcoming session.
If you have any questions about these bills or ways to be involved in the legislative process while policymakers are out of sessions, please contact Lauren Heintz, Policy Specialist for Clayton Early leaning: email@example.com.
Loose Parts Basics
Though architect Simon Nicholson developed the “Theory of Loose Parts” over 40 years ago in 1972, the theory and movement has recently gained new momentum as parents and educators return to natural materials and environments to support children’s learning and creativity.
For young children, loose parts are simply materials that can be moved, arranged, manipulated, stacked, carried or combined in multiple ways. Loose parts are the most effective tool for providing open-ended play opportunities where children do not use any specific set of directions or instructions for how to interact with the materials that are available. Explaining the basis of his theory, Nicholson stated, “Children learn most readily and easily in a laboratory-type environment where they can experiment, enjoy and find out things for themselves.”
Both synthetic and natural materials can be included in a loose parts collection, though the bulk of what you will typically find in a loose parts center should tend toward natural materials. Here is a list of some ideas for parts to include in an outdoor loose parts learning environment:
Stones and pebbles
Sticks and logs
Twine or rope
Opportunities for Learning and Development
One thing that many commercial toys lack is the opportunity for children to look at the toy as anything but what it’s been molded and marketed as. A battery operated toy microphone, for instance, is difficult to imagine as anything else; especially when the microphone is made of plastic, plays loud sounds and has been so specifically constructed. Loose parts, on the other hand, allow children to look at an object not as what it literally is, but as something that could be nearly anything that the child can imagine.
Open-ended play and loose parts not only encourage creative thinking; but also the development of sensory awareness and the opportunity for children to discover and master their environments. The autonomy that children gain through loose parts construction and exploration will support the child in building mental flexibility and adaptability as the child uses increasingly complex problem solving skills over time.
What’s most remarkable about loose parts play is that it supports learning in every single learning domain; language and literacy, science, math, art, music and physical fitness. An outdoor classroom with loose parts will:
Provide children with exposure to a broader range of vocabulary
provoke the child to construct higher order inquisitions about scientific processes and concepts; like life cycles, weather patterns and nature’s interdependent structure
challenge the child to use new strategies for accomplishing physical and mental tasks independently
Encourage gross motor development through ‘heavy work;’ pushing, pulling, lifting and rolling
Where to Start
Once caregivers and educators have decided to provide loose parts play opportunities, there may be some wonder about how to choose materials and whether the children will even be interested in the ‘new toys’ that have been offered.
Gathering materials must be done thoughtfully to ensure that there are a variety of sizes, shapes, textures and materials available. Quantities of each material should reflect the number of children that will be using the loose parts, and each different category of material should have its own space or storage so that all of the materials are organized, visually appealing and accessible to the children who will use them. A disheveled pile of sticks and rocks is very difficult to imagine as construction material; a basket of stones and crate of sticks, however, are much more likely to be selected by children who want to build a fort.
Outdoor learning specialist and loose parts advocate, Patty Born Selly, encourages parents and teachers to also be patient, and remember that “Chances are, these children have become accustomed to electronic toys or action figures.” If children seem confused about how to use the loose parts that are now being offered, or do not have an automatic attraction to the materials; parents and educators can serve as guides for the child as they become familiar with the new loose parts by using prompting questions (“What does the shape of this rock remind you of?”) or by modeling how to use the loose parts themselves. Once children see how one can build a town or racetrack from sticks and differently sized stones, the students will ask questions and engage because the teacher’s behavior alone is welcoming the children to explore. Soon, the instructor’s town is a distant memory as the children have become confident with their new materials and are now constructing a playground for the ants they’ve found nearby.
For two months I’ve been putting off writing a blogpost on Men in Early Childhood Education (ECE). I spoke to other male coworkers in the field of ECE in preparation for this assignment, prepared notes from my conversations, and racked my brain trying to come up with a focus for a blog on “Men in ECE”. I still have no answers, but I do have a question: Why are men in ECE important? Or, better yet, why do we celebrate men who work with children?
At the beginning of the first all-staff meeting that I attended at Clayton, a standing ovation was given to all the males present in the room, for working in ECE. At the time I was proud, but as I started to unpeel the layers, like an onion, of what I thought it meant to be a male educator, I quickly realized how many stereotypes of the gender-job role were, well, stereotypes. As an organizational effort to embrace diversity in all forms, one of the most persistent stereotypes is the male teacher.
The assumptions of male teachers typically flow within the realms of communication, classroom management, and affect. “Strong leadership”, “firm discipline”, “stern tone”, “strong presence” are some of the terms I’ve heard people use to describe men in the ECE field. “Father figure” gets thrown around too, but what I imagine when I hear those words is a totalitarian dictator, not the educator of my 3 year old child. I believe most people are misinformed about what men in ECE really look like.
I recently had coffee with Soren Gall, the Infant, Toddler & Family Specialist at the Denver Early Childhood Council, to discuss what has become this blogpost. Two years ago, the two of us met to talk about this same topic, as Soren was gathering information from various men in the Denver area who work in early childhood education. Upon meeting this second time, we reopened the conversation. I had my notepad ready with a list of questions I had prepared for the interview. Soren wrote a Clayton blogpost on men in ECE a few years ago while completing his capstone as a Buell Fellow. The article highlighted male communication styles. As the conversation progressed, my list of questions grew. Who are these men in ECE? Why do they choose ECE as a career? Why are they so sought after by employers?
Soren and I came to a few conclusions. As male teachers, it’s a vital point to avoid common stereotypes that prevail in our own minds and through the image portrayed by the media. Men in ECE are a diverse group of individuals that come from a variety of backgrounds and bring with them a range of perspectives and approaches in and outside of their classrooms. In order to break down common generalizations, it is important to see male teachers as this diverse group. However, men in the field do have some similarities. They enjoy working with young children and are passionate about participating in their development and learning. Men in ECE understand their role in the social/emotional development of young children as secondary caregivers. Also, classrooms with both men and women educators provide young students with a model of communication and interaction that balances and celebrates the full range of human interaction.
My inquiry is still unsolved. Why do we as educators, parents, and school administration laud and praise the male ECE educator? What is so special about this demographic? How do we assess and answer this question, leaving aside the stereotypes of men working with young children, generalizations and assumptions about parents, and media portrayals of men?
In an effort to support further reflection and research on this topic, we have created the following survey to gather your feedback on men in ECE. Please follow the link below (or click here) and take a few minutes to fill out the survey. Your answers will help inform the conversation and drive the discussion around the upcoming “Men in ECE” blog series here at Clayton. Your participation is greatly appreciated!
Every year, Clayton Early Learning, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, and Children’s Hospital Colorado team up to host Speak Up for Kids, a complimentary event that provides an insider’s perspective of the policy making process including the training and support needed to speak up effectively on the issues that matter most to Colorado kids. Anyone who wants to learn how to be a voice for our state’s children are welcome to attend and this year we had a record breaking attendance of over 200 advocates and coaches!
Want to know what it’s like to participate in this annual event? Let’s hear from our guest blogger and Infant/Toddler Supervisor at Clayton Early Learning in Far North East Denver, Lydia McKinney.
"The first time I had the privilege to participate at Speak Up for Kids was three years ago. I attended the meeting by myself. I didn’t know anybody. Of course, I was aware of who Children’s Hospital and Clayton Early Learning were, and I knew more about Children’s Campaign after I researched them. That first day I went home with a pocket full of knowledge, an experience which opened the door to opportunities, and a goal to keep pursuing where my heart leads.
The following year I was invited to be an advocacy coach on behalf of Clayton Early Learning and this year I was a table captain. An advocacy coach answers all the questions you have about your legislature, walks with you to the Capitol, and guides through the process of it. A table captain initiates a conversation at the table where participants of all field attend. Each time I attended the meeting I meet people, developed relationships, and connect with old friends.
A wide variety of people take time off from their busy work schedule to participate in the training, meet legislators, and reflect on their experience with fellow participants, advocacy coaches, or table captains. It’s a day you meet people you thought would never have time for you because they are doing the important work of making policies. The best part of meeting with policymakers is realizing you are the one they want to meet and listen to. You are the most important advocate for our kids!
Now you may be thinking of yourself as your read this blog, “only people whose job it is can afford to advocate” or “they have lobbyists who advocate for causes”. However, your role as an advocate didn’t start because you attended Speak Up for Kids, the event only re-enforced the need to follow your passion. Let’s say you are a provider with a disabled child who you want to provide with the best care, but practically you cannot because there is no access to a playground that developmentally appropriate. It’s your passion, so pick up your phone and call your city council man/woman, express your worries, ask for referrals, and make your mission public. Advocacy is in all of us, we are all connect to children no matter what kind of jobs we have. Police officers, trash men/women, bus driver, city council women/ and men, the mayor, Senators and Representatives, the Governor – even you!"
Interested in learning more about Speak Up for Kids and other ways you can be an advocate for Colorado’s children? Contact Lauren Heintz, Policy Specialist at Clayton Early Leaning, at 303-393-5623 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out pictures from this year’s event at www.facebook.com/ClaytonEarlyLearning/!
Parents and caregivers sometimes hear the reminder “Don’t forget to take care of yourself;” but wonder how self-care could be a practical part of their busy lifestyles. Further, most natural caregivers are uncomfortable prioritizing themselves because it feels selfish or unproductive. In truth, self-care is an essential skill that will only enhance the caregiver’s ability to effectively support others. Without the ability to nurture one’s self physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually; caregivers are at risk for burnout, fatigue and other barriers that will drastically impact the quality of care that they can provide for others.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is the regular and ongoing way that a person actively participates in enhancing their health and quality of life. At the most basic level, self-care includes responding to your own physical and mental health needs such as illness, injury and chronic pain as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety. Caregivers who neglect their personal health are not as physically or emotionally able to effectively meet the needs of others and can risk developing much more serious health issues when personal care is neglected or postponed.
While personal health care is the foundation for an essential self-care routine, there are additional elements of self-care that must not be neglected. Social experiences, spiritual and creative practice, exercise and healthful eating habits are among the self-care basics that are most often overlooked by caregivers who falsely believe that spending time on these types of activities is selfish or indulgent. Instead, spending time with friends, attending church or participating in a book club all provide opportunities to rejuvenate the caregiver’s energy and ability to respond to the needs of others in a positive and intentional way.
Making Time for Self-Care
All kinds of caregivers can struggle with making time for self-care, though parents tend to be among the most resistant to prioritizing self-care; perhaps because their work is a 24 hour-a-day job. Regardless of the schedule, self-care can be integrated in a way that promotes the caregiver’s health and well-being while still meeting the needs of those in their care.
Small Doses Make a Big Difference
The most overwhelming myth that caregivers tell themselves is that they cannot spare any time for self-care. The truth is that every schedule can accommodate time for self-care; even if it’s only 10 minutes to meditate or write in a journal. Whether the time occurs before the caregiver’s day begins or during small blocks of down-time throughout the day; try starting with just 10 or 15 minutes for activities like walking, yoga, breathing exercises or a brief call to a friend. Even in small doses each day, intentional self-care boosts a caregiver’s energy, mood and resilience to challenging situations.
Ask For Help
Another story that caregivers tell themselves is that to ask for help would mean that the caregiver is less competent in their work or is weak. Nothing could be further from the truth. Effective caregivers know that by asking for help, they will have the support they need to overcome challenges and to maintain a positive approach to caregiving. Professional caregivers can ask colleagues for support and relief, even if it’s only a short break to take a walk outside. Personal caregivers and parents should reach out to family members and friends to ask for an hour of babysitting while they practice the activities in their self-care routine. Allowing loved ones to support self-care needs will not only provide the caregiver with personal time, it will also enhance personal relationships and model positive lifestyle habits for others; especially children.
Self-Care is a Smart Investment
When caregivers reach a point of burnout, chronic fatigue or depression, their work is no longer effective and the caregiver will need to invest a significant amount of time in self-care in order to regain the motivation, energy and general well-being that’s been lost. Instead of neglecting one’s self to the point of suffering, caregivers can integrate a regular self-care routine that only costs minutes per day and will enhance their quality of life almost immediately. Remember, self-care is not a single activity that one enjoys over the course of days, weeks or months. Instead, genuine and effective self-care is practiced daily to ensure that caregivers maintain the energy, desire, physical and mental health needed to perform such demanding work. Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s the most selfless thing a caregiver can do to ensure the quality care of others.
Tell us your experiences with self-care. Do you have any ideas about easy ways to integrate self-care into caregiver routines? Share with us below!