So, here we are, another year to celebrate the Week of the Young Child, honoring our youngest citizens and those who care for and love them. I believe we can almost all agree that our children are gifts that have been given to us to nurture and support as they grow to be our next adult generation. However, how can we care for our children if we do not care for ourselves first, especially in this time of uncertainty and worry?

Airline attendants, in their opening safety speech, tell us to put on the oxygen masks first before helping those around us — including our children. Of course, we cannot help them if we are incapacitated. Why do we tend to ignore that sentiment in every other aspect of our lives? Guardians will put their children’s schedule, needs, food, sleep and safety first, always. Why? Because they inherently know that they are the providers of their child’s life and without their efforts, their children will not thrive.

Early childhood educators put the children in their care first each day as well, often saying they would stand between their children and harm’s way, even though they are not their own flesh and blood. Educators take home the concerns and celebrations of multiple children, even when they must go home to the concerns and celebrations of their own family members. Why? Early childhood educators inherently know they are part of the village that helps the caregivers provide for the children’s lives and that without their efforts, children may not thrive.

Caring for children is a tough job. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, guardian or educator, a day spent with children is physically exhausting and mentally challenging. You are responsible for this little life and that weight of responsibility is never lost. You are always “on.” So how can we care for ourselves so we are best able to care for the little ones? Educators can always take a yoga class, eat well, exercise or even take a bubble bath to calm anxiety and stress, but stress does not always wait until we get home at the end of a day. Oftentimes daily activities bring on stress but we still need to be alert, engaged and “on” for the children in our care. Recently, research involving “mindfulness” has come into focus for those in early childhood education. According to Parlakian, Kinser and Gehl (2018), mindfulness occurs when we are intentional about being attentive to the immediate world around us, without judgment and with openness.1

Perhaps you have heard about being in the “now”? This means stopping our actions, focusing on deep breathing, observing our surroundings and proceeding in the moment. During mindfulness practice, we are taking a moment to listen to our internal dialogue, shifting away from judgment or frustration and focusing on the moment at hand. Mindfulness practices can offer educators a brief chance to refocus their work on what matters most — the children — and away from the stress of the moment. It can help our minds and bodies relax into the day at hand. Added to an educator’s toolbox, mindfulness practice can be a valuable personal and teaching resource.

Join Rasmussen College for our upcoming free webinar “Tell Your Story: Get Started as an Advocate for ECE!” on Thursday, April 16, from 7:00-8:30pm CST. For more information, and to register, visit: https://rasmussen.co/ECEAdvocate or contact mary.muhs@rasmussen.edu.

Mary Muhs is the chair of Department of Early Childhood Education at Rasmussen College.