Building a business
Families need food?
In the United States, one child in five suffers from hunger. That is, their families have to skip meals, eat insufficient meals, or choose between feeding some family members (children) but not others (parents). Ironically, many children suffering from hunger are also overweight or obese because the family relies on inexpensive, filling, and non-nutritious food rather than fresh, healthy, and nutrient-rich food.
If you have families struggling to feed their children, call the national Hunger Hotline to find food pantries, soup kitchens, and government programs that provide food assistance. The hotline is a service of WhyHunger, www.whyhunger.org, a national nonprofit organization organized in 1975 to combat the root causes of hunger.
National Hunger Hotline: 1-866-3hungry (1-866-348-6479).
In the summer, when most schools are not in session, low-income families can get free meals for children 18 years old and younger at selected program sites around the country. The meals are part of the Summer Food Service program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To find sites, call the hotline above or use an online map locater at www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/summer-food-service-program-sfsp.
Hiring: Seniors can bring experience
Because early childhood programs often have yearly turnover rates of 25 to 40 percent, directors are almost constantly engaged in hiring new staff. One previously overlooked group—seniors—may be a source of potential recruits.
According to a poll released in October, 82 percent of working Americans older than 50 say that it is at least somewhat likely they will work for pay in retirement (Sedensky 2013). In fact, older adults are now the fastest growing segment of the workforce, and by 2020 people 55 and older are expected to make up one-quarter of the civilian workforce.
Many older workers need the money. Some have been laid off, and others have realized their savings or retirement plans will not be enough to supplement Social Security. Those accustomed to high incomes and those seeking benefits (health care, retirement plan) may exclude themselves from seeking work in child care.
A sizeable proportion of older workers, however, want to continue working but with less stress or fewer hours a week. Some want a second (or third) career, one in which they make a contribution to society. They still feel useful and want to stay in touch with the world. These workers might be good candidates for part- or full-time work or be willing to volunteer.
Of course, some older workers have health limitations that would preclude their working with children. But overall, seniors are healthier and living longer than any previous generation.
Companies that have hired seniors report that they bring experience, reliability, problem-solving ability, and people skills. Despite the stereotype, seniors are often eager to learn new skills, willing to adapt to change, and possessed with a strong work ethic.
According to one CEO, older workers may demand higher pay, but they end up paying for themselves because they don’t need as much training or supervision and they do quality work.
Sedensky, Matt. Sept. 13, 2013. “Some employers see perks in hiring older workers,” KTVB.com, www.ktvb.com/news/business/223625741.html.
Sedensky, Matt. Oct. 15, 2013. “Aging in America: Many Americans expect to work beyond 65,” MassLive, www.masslive.com/living/index.ssf/2013/10/aging_in_america_many_americans_expect_to_work_beyond_65.html.
One way to reduce stress: Ask for help
Most early childhood professionals experience stress at one time or another. And they have plenty of reasons: low pay, long hours, parent misunderstandings, noisy classrooms, high staff turnover, to name a few.
One way to reduce stress is to ask for help. Many of us think that asking for help is a sign of weakness or cheating on our responsibilities. We have a deeply entrenched notion of self-sufficiency, that we should be able to do it all ourselves. Or it’s our way of feeling in control.
But no one is completely independent. Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes. The hard part is asking for it.
In an article for Psychology Today, Toni Bernhard (2011), author of Turning Straw into Gold, suggests practicing first, trying an experiment in asking for help. Her suggested steps:
1. Make a list of what you need help with. You may need to replace the old handwashing signs in restrooms, for example, and to add more books to the toddler room.
2. Write down names of friends and family who have offered help in the past. Nearly all of us have heard a friend or co-worker say, “Let me know how I can help.” Generally, people who offer help are sincere; it’s not an idle comment. But they can’t read our minds. So it’s up to us to suggest a task, the more specific the better.
3. Match people with tasks based on their interests, time, and flexibility. You might give an old handwashing sign to a creative parent and ask her to design and print new ones, for example. You might ask a neighbor who volunteers at the library to scour book stores and garage sales for toddler books.
4. Pick one task and call the person. Be direct: “I need some help.” Explain the task, provide background information (the old handwashing sign, titles of the toddler books you have now), and state any limits (cost, time, materials). Think of it not as a burden but rather an opportunity for the person to feel helpful.
5. Not in Bernhard’s article, but a step that many self-help gurus might suggest is: Pat yourself on the back. If the person says yes to the task, you can feel grateful for the help. If no, you have changed your behavior to lessen stress and avoid burnout. You can continue the experiment by choosing someone else to ask or switching to another task.
Bernhard, Toni. June 16, 2011. “How to ask for help,” Psychology Today, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/turning-straw-gold/201106/how-ask-help.
Interpersonal communication: A lesson
Any chance you’re going to make coffee this morning?” asks the director a few minutes before the staff meeting.
JoAnn, the teacher to whom the question is addressed, replies in amusement, “Yes, I was just thinking of that. Ten cups or 12?”
“Ten should be enough,” says the director. Then, noticing the amused expression, she asks, “Why are you smiling?”
“I’m remembering something that happened with Tamesha yesterday,” JoAnn says, pouring water into the coffeemaker.
“What was that?”
“Tamesha threw a little tantrum yesterday afternoon,” JoAnn explains. “When her father came to pick her up, I asked her, ‘Tamesha, would you like to tell Daddy what happened today?’ ‘No,’ she said. Well, of course, that’s what she would say. She didn’t want to tell her dad about her melt-down after lunch.”
“Yes, children are honest that way,” says the director, reflectively.
“Then her father said, ‘Tamesha, tell me what happened,’” JoAnn continues. “Tamesha fidgeted a bit at first and then told him about the tantrum.”
“What you’re saying is that communication between adults is sometimes indirect,” says the director. “We hope the other person will hear the request or guess what we want. So maybe I should have asked you outright: ‘JoAnn, will you please make coffee?’”
“Right,” says JoAnn. “Or instead of a question, it could have been a statement, such as ‘I would like for you to make coffee.’ That expresses the wish just as assertively.”
“And in either case, you would be free to decline,” says the director. “As adults, we can hear requests from others and not feel compelled to comply.”
“Exactly,” says JoAnn. “On the other hand, I could have said no to your first question too, and it would have been honest, but you might have felt frustrated with yourself for not asking for what you wanted to begin with.”
“Yes,” says the director. “In this case, we’re only dealing with coffee, but there are times when we’re dealing with more important matters and need to make our requests directly.”
“Would you like some coffee?” says JoAnn, holding out a fresh cup.