Dr. Jean Clinton explains pivotal role of RECEs in supporting children’s mental health
By Sharon Ho
When entering the room, registered early childhood educators should be committed to making a child’s eyes shine. This was one of Dr.Jean Clinton’s messages during her keynote address at the College of Early Childhood Educators annual meeting held last January. .
The renowned clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioural Sciences at McMaster University spoke about the importance that a close relationship between a child and their RECE has on their mental health.
“The relationships that children have with RECEs are absolutely critical when considering mental health as a factor in developing the ability to relate to peers and adults, to be able to express, manage and to feel emotions, ”says Dr. Clinton.
According to her, the quality of these relationships makes it possible to create brain connections in different areas of the brain. Through these connections, a child can be prepared for success well beyond infancy.
Close and warm relationships can also help children recognize their sources of stress in life and enable them to deal with it.
Stress can have a negative influence on a child’s mental health and well-being, as well as the way they approach daily life. Although it is an integral part of life, Dr. Clinton knows that a certain type of stress, toxic stress, can take a toll on a child.
“Toxic stress occurs when children feel a lot of pressure, which sets off an alarm in their bodies and brains,” she says. It becomes a threat when the system is activated and there is no relationship to absorb this stress and help children stop it or learn to deal with it. When children suffer from toxic stress this is a problem because we know the consequences and effects on the brain, health development and the immune system. “
Children who tend to be more exposed to toxic stress include those living in poverty and without caring relationships, as well as those who are abused or neglected, whose families are affected by serious conflict or debilitating mental illnesses affecting children. parents. What does toxic stress look like? A child playing with their blocks may think that someone accidentally stepping on them is doing it intentionally and that this is an attack, not an accident.
“They can’t be appeased by an educator because they haven’t developed brain connections that let them know an adult can help them,” she explains. RECEs should not judge or punish the child for it, but should say, “You are really upset.
I’m here to help calm you down ”. “
RECEs can help children cope with toxic stress by building trusting relationships with them. Dr. Clinton encourages RECEs to do the following:
- Get to know the children by documenting lots of observations about them;
- Sit down with the children, be there for them and give them space.
According to Dr. Clinton, building trust can take a long time if a child is suffering from toxic stress, and it depends on their temperament.
How can RECEs know if they are making progress in building such a relationship?
- When the child spontaneously smiles at them;
- When the child wants to share his joys;
- When the child points out things to her during their activities.
“They will start to call on you as a learning resource rather than avoiding you and not engaging,” she concludes.
Visit youtube.com/collegeofece to watch Dr. Clinton’s presentation to the College’s annual meeting, the highlights of which are as follows:
- The importance of the role of “neuroplasticists” in RECEs;
- How a child’s mental health can be affected by possible stress on their RECE.
Visit order-epe.ca/ressources to review the Practice Guideline: Fostering Positive Interactions with Children and Learn More About How RECEs Can Support Children.
The College’s new Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, which was released in June 2017, underscores the importance of the relationship between RECEs and children.
The code of ethics A. Responsibility towards children states that:
- RECEs take the primary responsibility for ensuring the well-being, learning and care of children.
Standard I: Caring and Caring Relationships B.1., states that:
- RECEs are familiar with the research and theories about the influence that caring and caring relationships have on children’s development, learning, self-regulation, identity and well-being.
Standard I: Caring and Caring Relationships B.2., states that:
- RECEs know a variety of strategies to foster positive interactions with children and families.
Standard III: Safety, health and well-being in the learning environment B.7., states that:
- RECEs are familiar with a variety of strategies to promote the well-being and safety of children in learning environments, including but not limited to nutrition, physical, mental and emotional health.
To learn more about the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, visit order-epe.ca/normes.