School aged childcare: Nurturing relationships and supportive interactions

Hi everybody and welcome to the first in a mini series of Blog Posts for School Aged Childcare (SAC) providers. The National Quality Guidelines for School Aged Childcare Services were introduced in November 2020 and should be distributed over the coming weeks (until then, you can download the guidelines in PDF format here )

We felt that such an important document deserved some attention so over the course of the next few months, we will have a series of Blog Posts which will reflect on the guidelines.

While each of the 6 guidelines are all of significant importance, we felt it was appropriate to begin with Guideline 5 – Nurturing Relationships and Supportive Interactions.

The past year has been challenging on us all, including our children and young people. Schools and ELC / SAC services have been re-opening on a phased basis and by now you have probably welcomed back most or all of your children or will be doing so very soon. In this blog post we are going to look into the importance of Guideline 5 – Nurturing Relationships and Supportive Interactions. We couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to begin the series as children and young people are welcomed back after a very long break. Covid 19 has affected everybody in different ways and now, more than ever, your role is vital in supporting children and young people as they come back through the doors. Two key features of Guideline 5 are Nurturing Relationships and Supportive Interactions.

Nurturing Relationships

We all know that positive and nurturing relationships are so important between children and practitioners, and now more than ever we need to be aware of children’s needs. Children and young people need to feel cared for. The pandemic has impacted on families in many different ways and children may need the extra support and understanding.

Supportive Interactions

A key feature of supportive interactions is that practitioners are approachable and available for children and young people and that they are supported in daily interactions as well as in times of need. Children and young people should be encouraged to share their feelings and needs and practitioners should be responsive and encouraging. Children and young people’s contributions should always be acknowledged and supportive interactions can also be encouraged among children through discussions and open-ended questions. Sometimes children will need some 1 to 1 time or may need support in how they interact with others.

Things we can do:

  • Talk to parents / guardians before the return if possible or during the initial return to see how their child has been doing, how they are coping, if they have had any difficulties and if there are any positive strategies the parents feel can support them.
  • Create opportunities to check in with children, have chats or ask them how they are feeling and encourage them to share their experiences or thoughts. Checking in can be done verbally or children can be encouraged to draw, write or express themselves through other mediums. Responding to children is also important so if they say they are feeling worried or sad, they should have the chance to talk through this and share their concerns.
  • Consult and Collaborate with children and young people - they have been at home for almost 3 months of home schooling while also missing their peers, sports and other activities. They may need time and space to re-adjust back into the routine. Perhaps their needs have changed and maybe the routine or environment needs to be revised – collaborating and consulting with children is an excellent way to demonstrate that their voices are being listened to and respected and that they are cared for and nurtured.
  • Creating Essential Agreements – Essential Agreements are not Classroom Rules – they are agreements, created in collaboration with children and young people. These agreements set out the values and beliefs by which everyone agrees to act and behave and children and young people play an active role in developing these. Allowing for meaningful input from children and young people is a great way to set the standards for behaviour but also to encourage children to take responsibility and reflect.
  • Set up or re-establish your Key Person System – The Key person will be the go-to person for a child or young person who may need support - when these relationships are re-established children may feel more comfortable knowing that relationship is still intact and that there is somebody there to care for and support them.
  • Create space and opportunities for collaboration and playing together – like us adults, children have really missed their friends and all their social interactions. Fun group games and activities as well as down time to chat or play in small groups is a great way to allow children to get re-acquainted with each other and the adults. Meal times are also an excellent way to start conversations and engage with each other. Some children may require a little extra support in their social interactions so observing and planning are really important during the initial transition.

Check out the full document to see other sections of Guideline 5 including;

  • Diversity, Equality and Inclusion
  •  Developing Relationships with New Children / Young People
  • Key Person Approach
  •  Listening to, hearing and Responding to the Voice of the Child
  • Responding to Children’s and Young People’s Behaviour
  • Bullying Prevention Strategy


On a final note, it is important to acknowledge that to care for children and young people, practitioners and adults must care for themselves too and your own well-being should be a priority.

The H.S.E have great advice for taking care of our mental health during Covid 19

https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/mental-health/covid-19/minding-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.html

Barnardo’s have a great resource available called: SUPPORTING CHILDREN’S EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING IN THE TRANSITION TO EARLY LEARNING AND CARE. While it is aimed at children in ELC, many of the points are relevant to SAC and they also have a section on Adult Well-Being too.

https://first5.gov.ie/userfiles/files/download/d823b0b53463c3a7.pdf

 

Other Resources which you may find useful can be found below.

Helping kids through it: a reminder to us all about supporting children's wellbeing at this time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bsiYS3o-fg

https://www.rte.ie/news/coronavirus/2021/0205/1195202-mental-health-children/

https://www.childtrends.org/publications/resources-for-supporting-childrens-emotional-well-being-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/nurture-rooms-how-schools-are-boosting-pupils-wellbeing-1.4094188

 

If you have any questions about the School Age Childcare Guidelines, or would like some support or advice on any aspect of your ELC / SAC service, please feel free to contact us here in KCCC on 045-861307 or by email to comdev@kildarechildcare.ie