The role of a child care worker is to care for and educate children in a classroom environment, but what about rare cases that require further support to help a child thrive? Knowing when to support children in child care is another element of working in child care.
Every new experience, good or bad, broadens a child’s understanding of their world. As with adults, it is natural for a child to experience periods in which they withdraw to process their learning. While these periods are often brief and passing, some children can be subject to higher levels of stress, trauma or grief.
It is important to remember children requiring extra support is not always associated with violence and could be due to a number of issues. This could include bullying, unrecognised learning difficulties such as ADHD or dyslexia, or stress in the home environment such as illness or divorce.
Signs of a child requiring extra support
Signs a child may require extra support can include:
- Being distracted
- Engaging less with classmates and group activities
- Anxiety around changes to the classroom environment
- Difficulty regulating emotions
- Sudden lack of self-esteem.
Younger children may also experience trouble sleeping, start hitting or biting others with no previous history, or regress in toilet training.
Delivering the right support to children in child care
As a child care worker, there are many ways to offer support and guidance to children, in gentle and compassionate steps that address the trauma without making the child feel singled out.
The first step is to be present. Start a conversation with the child without addressing your concerns directly. Instead, ask them how they feel about different aspects of their lives – friends, school, or home – and offer your support in any way. This may give some insight into the cause of the suffering and help you determine the next step.
Another step is to build them up. Start to recognise the things they do well and offer positive feedback throughout the day in a casual manner, and without drawing obvious attention. This exercise is very beneficial to all children in a child care environment as they are developing their self-esteem.
It is important to speak with the child’s parents if you have concerns, as they may have more insight into the cause of the change in behaviour. This allows families the opportunity to offer further support at home, or seek the support of a professional if required.
Identifying a child who is suffering and supporting them through the challenging time is part of a child care worker’s role. However, you should always seek the support and guidance of a more experienced staff member, and ensure all staff members are aware of your concerns.
Knowing what to look for and taking a caring approach is the best way for child care workers to offer support for children in child care at the times when they need it most.