When you are working with vulnerable children, there are some weeks which are truly challenging. I have just come to the end of one of those weeks, to be honest for a whole assortment of reasons it is one I would be happy to not repeat again. What has made this week bearable has been the emotional support from my amazing colleagues and manager.
I have been reflecting a lot on how we can support colleagues and what that can look like. Having the support from colleagues and managers can make such a difference. When you are working with vulnerable children, who are telling you in a multitude of ways they are hurting and sad, this can have a huge impact on staff. It can lead staff to question themselves, it can feed into their own vulnerabilities, it can leave staff feeling hugely stressed and sometimes traumatised. It is essential that colleagues and managers recognise this and support the staff.
I think there are a few things colleagues can do, these include:
Enable the member of staff to get 5 minutes break, offer to take the child/ class and encourage them to get a drink and take some time to breathe. Tell them it is ok that they finding this hard.
Check in with staff at the end of the day and a few days later. Ask how they are, ask how they are feeling.
Remind staff to take time out at the end of the day/ on the weekend to take care of themselves, this might be spending time in the garden, going for a walk or a run, reading a book, anything which enables them to slow down, breathe and be kind to themselves.
Give time and space to talk through what has happened, this is where supervision is so important. If you can’t provide this as a school/ nursery/ team then signpost to where they can go. Some organisations have a free telephone helpline to talk things through, others bring in outside supervisors. Supervision is crucial.
What made a difference for me this week was the support of colleagues and particularly the fantastic support of my manager. Also after one particularly challenging morning I spent time in a stream, standing, breathing, being still, enjoying the sounds and feel of the water, that made such a difference to my wellbeing.