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One of the biggest challenges childcare providers have been facing through the pandemic is dealing with newfound emotional and behavioural changes in children.

From bereavement and personal trauma to parental substance use, abuse, financial difficulties at home, unlimited screen time and lack of rules and boundaries, there have been many contributing factors to this change in behaviour among the children who are returning to childcare. While some children seem to have become unusually aggressive, violent or noisy, some are seen to have gone quieter than usual, leaving providers unsure of the best way to deal with them and support them adequately.

According to a recent report by the Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families, a high proportion of the nursery staff they interviewed for the survey, reported they felt stressed, confused and unsure of the best way to deal with the complex behaviour changes in children.

Some of the common changes they reported were:

Greater separation anxiety and difficulty forming relationships with nursery staff

Many children seem more anxious than before when leaving the parents at the gate and are fearful of staff wearing PPE. They seem to need more time and support to settle in and there is a general increase in reliance on comforters.

A recent inability to manage their emotion

An increase in meltdowns, tantrums and aggressive behaviour. Many children seem more demanding and less willing to listen to adults, share spaces or co-operate with others.

Germaphobia and an obsession with washing hands

A heightened fear of germs and an ‘obsession’ for handwashing. Many seem nervous or paranoid about seeing other adults and are afraid of playing or socialising with other children.

Inability to cope with the restrictions around seeing friends and family

Many children seem to find it difficult to cope with the changing rules and restrictions where they get to see their grandparents and family for a while and then not being able to do that again as the rules change.

These increased responsibilities for support and safeguarding can unsurprisingly take a huge emotional toll on childcare providers. If you feel you need more training in the best ways to support the children who are experiencing challenging emotions, here are some workshops and resources that could help:

Online network and free webinars for childcare practitioners

The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families offers a free online network, Early Years in Mind, for childcare practitioners. The network which was developed by mental health experts shares practical and clinical expertise to support mental health in babies and young children.

They are also offering a series of free webinars for childcare practitioners and nursery workers, covering some of the major issues highlighted by early years practitioners such as:

  • Managing challenging behaviour in early years settings
  • Supporting bereaved children in early years setting
  • Caring for children in early years settings who have experienced trauma

You can book your sessions here.

Online workshops by Young Minds

Young minds have a range of online training courses and on children’s mental health covering practical ways of working with children experiencing distress, trauma or adversity. You can find more details here.

Training courses from NCC

NCC has an extensive online course on Challenging Behaviour in Children and Young People. The CPD accredited course provides training on how to understand the underlying causes of challenging behaviour, assess, intervene and provide support to the children and promote positive behaviour.


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