As a leader within early childhood, I’ve learned the importance of creating strong boundaries. It’s not just about protecting myself at work, but also at home. The work we do with young children is incredibly rewarding, but it can also be emotionally taxing. Without boundaries, it’s easy to bring that stress home with you, which can negatively impact your personal life.
I’ve found that the best way to create strong boundaries is to be clear about what I will and won’t tolerate. This means being firm but fair with staff, parents, and children. It’s important to communicate your expectations clearly, so everyone knows where they stand. For example, I have a strict policy for how Educators call in sick, with only by phone call and within particular time frames. This ensures that I feel respected, the educator is accountable for their decision and I am provided adequate time to find a replacement.
Boundaries though go beyond just calling in sick and saying what is and isnt acceptable. Boundaries are also inclusive of what you take in emotionally, and what baggage you choose to hold onto. As an early childhood leader, I’ve learned that it’s easy to become emotionally invested in the Educators, children and families that we work with. However, when boundaries are not in place, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and burnt out.
To maintain healthy emotional boundaries, I had made it a priority to take care of my own mental health. This meant I was carving out time for self-care activities, like exercise or connecting with friends, and ensuring that I have a professional support system in place. It also means learning to let go of things that are outside of my control, like a child’s family situation or a staff member’s personal issues.
Creating boundaries had been instrumental in allowing me to be the best leader possible. By learning to say no and setting clear expectations, I was able to focus on what’s truly important- creating a safe and nurturing environment for the children in our care.
So remember, when your pouring out your energy at work, you don’t have a second cup to pour from when you get home, it is the one cup.You need to protect yourself.
Written by Cassandra Button