By Meagan Friedman
My center opened a few weeks ago. Those first two weeks were some of the longest, most rewarding, frustrating, and exhausting weeks of my life. That being said, I can’t believe how much I learned in those two weeks. For anyone who is re-opening in these new days of Covid-19, here are five things I have learned and hope you will find helpful.
- Have patience. You are going to interact with many people during this time including parents, staff, and children. Some of them are going to be so excited to be back, they won’t care what you do or how you do it. Others are going to question every single decision made and ask so many questions that it’s overwhelming. Remind yourself how stressful this is for everyone, take a deep breath, and meet them all with patience and understanding.
- Educate yourself. Read, talk to experts in the field of medicine, and reach out to other directors. I have been fortunate to have access to an amazing group of doctors and over the past few weeks I have learned so much about Covid-19 and how it spreads. Having this information has allowed me to stay calmer and more rational when having emotionally charged conversations and when faced with exposure situations. It has also helped me to feel more comfortable and confident in my decision making.
- Everyone is stressed. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is stressed out and overwhelmed right now. Your parents, teachers, and even children may seem like they are taking it all in stride, but that doesn’t mean they are. The children are adjusting to being back in care after months at home with their parents. They sense their parents are anxious which makes them anxious. Adults are all viewing the world with this new scary lens which I am finding is driving people to act in ways they might not usually. Just remember, at the end of the day, we are all just trying to stay safe and protect everyone around us.
- Care for your teachers. It took me almost the whole two weeks to recognize that this is really hard for the teachers. They want to be back and they want to be with the children. But they are scared and it is very hard work right now – way harder than it was before. There are all these new guidelines that weren’t there before. I have had teachers need to take mental health days in the first two weeks. They are worried about keeping the children safe, but they are also worried about themselves and their family. Find ways to value their feelings and to show them how much you appreciate them. Listen to their concerns and help them understand they aren’t alone.
- Take care of yourself. Don’t forget at the end of the day to take care of you. Eat well, exercise, get sleep, and do things you enjoy during your down time. At times, it will feel like you are working 24/7. I respond to emails and phone calls from early morning to late evening some days. I definitely have not followed this advice as well as I could have, but am working on it. I recognize the importance of self-care right now more than ever and am continuing to work on taking care of me.
The bottom line is that this is a really hard time to be in child care. Things are different and scary in this new world that we are all adjusting to. What I am working hard to recognize is that this new normal doesn’t change all the wonderful things about being the director of an Early Childhood Center. I still get to see the children every day and hear them laughing throughout the building. I continue to build relationships with teachers and parents, which in some ways is even more necessary and rewarding now more than ever. I am working to appreciate the best parts of our current situation and hope you can too.
Meagan Friedman is the Director of the Bertha Alyce School at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center in Houston, TX.