The Role of Self-Care in Early Childhood


I had the opportunity to guest write the National Association for the Education for Young Children (NAEYC)'s Focus on Ethics Column (September 2015).  In the column, I spoke about the importance of self-care in our profession.  So, what is self-care and why is it important to cultivate in our lives?

Self-care is identified as self-regulation of ones needs- physically, emotionally, cognitively, and socially. It is the ability to recognize and identify when are not having your needs met and planning a course of action that will support you in changing your behavior or circumstances.  Why is it important? As one early childhood educator shared, self-care is how you assure that you bring your whole self to your work in the classroom and community in early childhood education. 

What is keeping early childhood educators from enacting self-care in their daily lives? Research shows (Anderson, 2014, Osgood, 2012) that in early childhood education, the personal and professional self are intwined. In other words, our personal and professional sense of self are fused to form one identity. The very traits that are valued in our field---a love of children, caring, compassion, self sacrifice---are our greatest vulnerabilities. These traits are hard-wired into who we are. They are the traits that keep us from self-care.

Some of our most common traits, require the subjugation of self into the greater good. As early childhood educators, our personal traits and I would add values, keep us from making choices that lead to self-care.  How many times have you stretched beyond what was healthy for your work in classrooms and programs.  If you have sacrificed time, money, or given-up activities or events for the sake of the children or program, then it is time to reflect on self-care.

I am not advocating for minimums of practice. I fully believe that all children deserve our best, whole self.  As I reflect on my own practice it serves as a reminder that we---as a profession---should find ways to create time for self-care in our days. One of the ways that I started examining my own self-care was to start a journal of when I felt up or down in the classroom. What happened when things went well and when they did not.  It was a small step but helped me to start to see the patterns in my own practice. 

As a topic, this one is close to my heart. Look for future postings on the importance of self-care.

How are you caring for yourself today?