How My Anxiety Affects Working With Children
Author’s Note: I am in no way, shape or form complaining about my job. I love working with kids and despite my anxiety, they are a huge source of encouragement for me to keep fighting and healing. You will find working with kids in any situation to be difficult, whether you deal with mental illness or not.
“Children will not remember you for the material things you gave them but for the feeling that you cherished them.” — Richard L. Evans
Since December of 2016, I have worked in a daycare, mainly with preschool-aged kids. I have always loved working with children and their energy and love for life always amaze me, but kids are kids. They are selfish, they are needy. It’s not a bad thing; it’s a completely natural thing. They are still in the process of learning how to fully go to the bathroom by themselves, how to properly share, how to sit still, etc.
For any human being, even handling one preschooler can be daunting, let alone the 1:12 ratio. When I first started at the daycare, my goal was to be very kind to the kids, share meaning with them through the way I lived my life. My heart is still in that place, but there is a lot of stress with trying to tame these youngsters, especially being the youngest staff member. Every opportunity the kids get, they definitely push my buttons, whether it is on purpose or not.
I usually work in the afternoons/evenings. The first thing I do when I get there is I sit down at my desk and oversee the nap time process. You would think managing 8-12 preschoolers during nap time is the easiest part of my day, but it isn’t. We have some kids who like to move and make noise during nap time because they either a) don’t want to sleep or b) can’t get to sleep. It can be frustrating and stressful. I sometimes even have to take away toys from the kids (stuffed animals, etc.) because it distracts them from a nap.
Once nap is over, it’s up to me to wake the kids up who did sleep, get their socks and shoes on, put their cots away, and take them to the bathroom, which is usually a half-hour ordeal. Once we have gone to the bathroom, I will change diapers/pull-ups of the kiddos who aren’t potty trained yet. Once I’ve washed my hands (for the tenth time in less than an hour), the kids get a snack. After snacks are centers (desk activities such as puzzles, magnets, blocks, flash cards, etc.). My heart is at ease during this time because the kids are sitting down and playing, not running around with the possibility of making a gigantic mess or falling down on the floor after I’ve told them several times to stop running.
Disciplining the kids is hard for me. Each kid has a different reaction when I take a toy away from them, put them in time out, or tell them they can’t play with a certain friend for the rest of the day. I worry they will hate me or go home crying to their parent(s) about the awful day they had because Miss Hannah put them in time-out.
My deepest fear working in childcare is me. Am I being too nice to them or too harsh? Should I play with them more or let them learn to share with their friends? Do I tell their parents what they did wrong or do I let them read it on their papers? Could I invent more games to play with them rather than the same old “Bearhunt” song they treasure so dearly? Should I? Could I? Would I?
I leave for college in eight days. I have a couple more days of work at the daycare, and then I don’t come back until my winter break which is about three and a half months from now. I know I have done all I can to be a positive influence on these kids. I am going to mess up, I am going to get frustrated, and that’s OK. I need to stop beating myself up for getting angry. I am strict, not evil. My goal for these kids is to be able to show them love and kindness no matter what. I want to make sure I tell each kid that I love them each day I see them. They need to know that. They need to know, in a world so cruel, that they are loved.
Editor’s note: The lead photo is included with permission from the child’s parent.
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