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Children sit next to each other on a classroom carpet. One child has her hand extended, thumb raised.


Paulette Maggiacomo

Paulette Maggiacomo

August 20, 2020

This week’s newsletter focuses on the webinar Trauma and Culturally Responsive Self-Care for Early Childhood Educators featuring Julie Kurtz, Julie Nicholson, and Lawanda Wesley. The focus being on you, the educator, and how you can take care of yourself in order to respond to the needs of those around you.

The topic of self-care has woven its way into many of the webinars in this year’s Transforming Challenging Behaviors Conference. In a previous newsletter, I wrote about Sandi Phoenix and The 5 Phoenix Cups (Safety, Freedom, Mastery, Fun, and Connection). I hope you visited her website to see which cups are the ones that you need to be filled the most in order for you to be at peace. I also discussed Laura Fish and Mindfulness. One of her main points being that we need to be able to identify what brain zone we are in to successfully deal with children. Finally, Antoinette Taylor asked you if you were willing to put down some of the many plates that you are juggling in order to lower your stress level.

So let’s unpack this popular term of self-care and see what it looks like and means to you and what can we can learn from it. This concept has become extremely popular over the last decade in magazines and on social media, suggesting that in order to take care of others, you must first take care of yourself. However, very little thought has been given to different socioeconomic levels, race, and ethnicity. Easy answers such as get a massage, a manicure/pedicure, or take a yoga class are not viable for everyone. Self-care looks different to each one of us. The illustration below is a compilation of over 400 surveys from around the world as to what early educators thought of when they heard the term self-care.

So what does self- care look like? Self-care doesn’t need to cost anything or be exciting, it just needs to feel right to you.

Suggestions for Individual self-care:

  • Read

  • Take a walk

  • Drink a cup of tea

  • Write in a journal

  • Call a friend or family member

  • Take a nap

  • Eat healthy

  • Daydream

  • Let go of negative thoughts

  • Start a new hobby.

Collective Group self-care might look like this:

*The suggestions should be in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions of course.

  • Attend church

  • Donate your time or items to a food pantry

  • Cook for your neighbors

  • Join an online book club

  • Shop for those who still cannot go out

  • Make cards for nursing homes

  • Volunteer or advocacy work for a cause you believe strongly in

How does our level of self-care affect the children we are in contact with on a daily basis? This is where the concept of “mirror neurons” comes into play. Julie Kurtz shares, “Children borrow our calm to co-regulate themselves. We are the external Wi-Fi for the child’s internal world. So if we are calm, the classroom will be calmer. If we feel regulated, the children will be more regulated and that is the magic of mirror neurons.”

How might self-care be incorporated into your child care site? The following flow chart illustrates how a child care center on the East Coast instituted a plan that allows the staff to acknowledge that they have been triggered without letting the children know. This unique idea eliminates shaming the child or children who have triggered the adult.

Those of us who chose to be in this wonderful world of early education did so because we have a very high level of compassion. Our super power is helping others but our kryptonite is not helping ourselves. We give and give of ourselves until there is nothing left. This can lead to compassion fatigue, where our body literally breaks down from the various stressors in our lives. This may show up as migraines, tight jaw, digestive issues, and back pain. If you take away only one thing this week, I hope it is that you will treat yourself with the same loving kindness that you extend to others, because you are so deserving of that too!

Until next time, I wish you well.


A large number of survey responses about self care, including responses like "listening to my body," "balance," and "hitting pause"
An image demonstrating mirror neurons, the idea that one person's emotional state is mirrored by the neuronal system of another. The illustration includes an angry child yelling at a confused adult.
A flowchart of code words, a way to talk about trauma and triggers in the class. The first option uses the code "Julie, you have a call" to mean that someone notices Julie looks stressed and might need support. One option is "Okay, I'll take the call" to mean that Julie needs a two-minute break. The other option is "Could you take a message?" meaning that Julie appreciates the thought but is okay.
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