The Story of... healing
As I connect with other educators and parents around the world there is a consensus that the pandemic that is still rampant in some parts of the world has had an affect on the children in our care. Especially those that have experienced lockdown. Experienced not being able to play with their friends as usual. Not being able to go outside and play as usual. Not being able to meet the rest of their family as usual.
For many children this has given them a chance to hang out with their family and reconnect, for parents to appreciate what preschools and schools do. For far too many children it has thrown them into insecurity, feeling the stress of parent/s unable to pay bills due to losing work, or stress of parents trying to juggle work from home with schooling from home. It has also meant that some children have been forced to be locked-down in homes that are not safe for their well-being for various reasons... whether it be abuse of the child, or between parents, alcohol/drug abuse, lack of food, or in some cases no water, or there has not been a home to be in.. etc etc etc.
Returning to school/preschool is, for far too many, necessary for their well-being.
This was one of the reasons given by Sweden for not locking down... that children would thrive better in school, especially if the pandemic procedures needed to be upheld over a long period of time. Thankfully the children I have worked with in preschool, and when chatting with other EY educators in Sweden we have all experienced a much healthier working environment in the past 4 months than we have ever experienced in our working lives in the early years. Because no-one was coming in sick, children and educators (stayed at home with the slightest symptom), because there was so much more hand washing (and thorough hand washing, that even the one year olds became expert at) and surfaces were being cleaned more regularly (but not obsessively) I experienced for the first time in my over 25 years working with young children as 4 month period where instead of wiping many noses many times a day... I wiped two noses in this whole period, one twice before the child was picked up, and one once before being picked up.
We have spent more time outside - even during the first winter months... eating outside as much as possible too. Because children stayed at home with the slightest hint of sickness numbers have been constantly less than expected, which has resulted in more space too, and more time for us as educators to wipe down surfaces that are used, while the children are there... they have been there to see what we do, we have explained why, so they understand calmly and understand the importance of taking responsibility themselves - hand washing, being aware of not putting toys in their mouths when role playing.
But other than that our children have had the freedom to play with each other. To hug, and come in contact with each other, and to receive hugs from the educators... of course not all educators were comfortable with this, especially in the first few months, so there was a great deal of anxiety amongst many of the staff. what has been important has been to support these educators so that their anxiety does not rub off onto the children. That they are given strategies that make them feel safe. Educators are an important part of the play and learning ecosystem - and their well-being is vital to the well-being of the children.
In the coming weeks I will be sharing five posts with ideas and inspiration for educators working with young children in pandemic/post-pandemic times.
Each post will have a theme...
1. The Art of Healing... in this post I will take a look at how art can support children in processing emotions, communicating ideas and for educators to listen and observe how best they can meet the needs of the children they work with. I will be looking at some inspiration from art therapy, and sharing examples I have used over the years, so that there are some real concrete ideas too.
2. Philosophy with children during a pandemic... in this post I will share how philosophy with children (I have done this with children from 1-13 years old, and it is the most fabulous way for children to communicate their ideas, thoughts and concerns) can help children process their thinking, allow the educators insights so that they better know how to support the children they work with and how to connect activities based on what the children are discussing, to both build on their knowledge and to also help them find the information they need to make sense of the world. I will also give some concrete examples of questions that can be asked, and topics that could be useful.
3. The Story of healing, chapter 2... in this post I will explore how storytelling with children can be another useful approach to both supporting the children in their need to process the events of 2020 and also for you as educators to better understand the children's experiences and how you can support them.
4. Natural Healing... in this post I will explore the outdoors... activities that can be done outside that not only meet the need of being outside and physical distancing in those schools that are required to do this, but also reflecting on the benefits of experiencing nature and big body play. Healing the soul by engaging the whole body and all the senses.
5. The healing powers of play... in my final post of the series I will look at play, and how creating time for play is essential for children to process and heal. That we need to be aware that by controlling play, by who they can be in contact with, how close they can be, what items they are allowed to touch, how the cleaning interferes with the play etc means that the children are not accessing free play that can heal... yes they are playing, but within adult decided restrictions. We need to be reflecting on how are we going to support the children's deep play. How can we as educators learn from the play, through observation and documentation so that we can better understand the processes that the children are actually experiencing and not projecting our agenda, or our fears into that interpretation so that we are blind to what is actually happening.
I am not an expert in art therapy, or play therapy... but I do have experience of using these approaches as an educator to support my role facilitating children's play and learning. And in the up and coming posts, I will share that experience with you... as well as sharing articles, books and links that can help you find out more.
All of the posts will be deeply rooted in listening. The adults listening to the children, but also the children listening to each other.
I will also be using the #slowdown #lookclosely approach. We should not be in a rush to fix things... we need to slow down enough so that we can see what do the children need from us, does anything need fixing, or is it the school that needs fixing rather than the children?
In the film below you can listen to me talk more about Slow Down and Look Closely (and listen closely) to find out more about the approach.