Friday, September 16, 2011

My TEDx talk & Childcare - or Why This Blog Has Been Silent

It's been about 2 months since I posted on here.  There have been a number of reasons for this, but a major one is that I was preparing to give a talk at the TEDxDarwin event.

What is a TEDx event?  Basically, it's a mini-conference where speakers apply to present an interesting idea or original perspective in a polished speech (without notes) under 18 minutes.  You are mic'ed up, videoed, and all the talks are released online under a creative commons licence (meaning it can basically be shown and shared by anyone for free).

TEDx events are a spin-off from TED events.  TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 26 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. At TED, the world’s leading thinkers and doers are asked to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Talks are then made available, free, at TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Benoit Mandelbrot, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.   In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organised events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.  The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organised. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)

So I had to submit a proposal to the organising committee, along with a bit about me and my experience as a public speaker, and I was fortunate enough to be selected to speak.

My talk was called Empowering Parents Through Information, and you can watch it here (the picture's a bit dark on some angles, particularly the opening shot, but the sound is clear):

Feel free to share with parents, health care providers, or policy makers who you think might be interested.  You can link back to this blog post, find it on Youtube under my name (Caroline Norrington), or here on the TED website.

Brave New World of Childcare

The other major reason that this blog has been silent is that I am now working 4 days a week.  Bethany is transitioning from being cared for by her Granny to a childcare centre for 2 days a week and her Aunt for another day.  The fourth day of work I am doing flexibly in evenings and on weekends.  As you might imagine, fitting in two more days of work is going to severely cut into blogging time.

I am very happy that we have been able to find Bethany a place in a lovely childcare centre - a community-run organisation, the Nightcliff Family Centre.  Unfortunately it's a bit out of my way, which is a pain as I am still breastfeeding her at lunchtimes, but I am happy to do the extra driving time to have her somewhere as stable as Nightcliff appears to be.

I thought I'd post a few notes here about what I looked for in a childcare centre and why, because when Bethany was first born I had no idea what I was looking for, and I thought some notes might help parents who are looking.

In order of importance:

1) Recommendations of other parents.  I asked around.  I particularly took note of the opinions of parents who I thought probably had similar parenting philosophies to me.

2) The extent to which the carers engaged with the children lovingly and sensitively, as opposed to just doing feeding / sleeping / crowd control.  For a 14mo, long daycare has to be a home away from home, and babies are still really forming their understanding of whether they are worthy and that comes from being shown love and sensitivity and having the chance to interact one-on-one with a carer.  I found this out by asking parents, and also by going to the centres and watching the carers interact with the children.  Daycare centres will have routines, but good centres will also do their best to adapt to your baby's routine.

3) The extent to which the children going there seemed to be happy.  This involved again talking to other parents and visiting the centre (although I think when you visit the centre you can catch them during a bad day or a busy moment, so take the visit with a grain of salt).  Great signs were children who ran in to cheerfully hug the carers in the morning, and parents who say that their child still speaks fondly of their carers some years later.

4) Transparency and parental engagement.  I visited one place where the carer flat out refused to let parents come and settle their children in or drop in during the day.  This is not on, in my view.  A 14mo old needs to gently adjust to a new care environment by being gradually transitioned, and a 14mo cannot tell you what happens to them at daycare, so the ability for the parent to be involved and for parents to scrutinise how care is being provided is essential.  Good centres actively encourage parents to help their children transition, because this makes children happier.  Beware any childcare providers who discourage this, because it suggests they either know very little about child development, and/or your child's psychological and emotional wellbeing is not high on their agenda.

5)  The quality and quantity of one-on-one attention my baby was likely to receive.  For example, avoid having your toddler / older baby being cared for in the same room as very young babies.  Very young babies require intensive attention, and leave the carers with very little time to be responsive to your older baby / toddler.  I tried to find a centre that didn't take babies under 6mo, or has the younger babies in a separate room.  I actually found a centre where Bethany is basically in a room of 1-2yo's, so that's great.  Look at the ratio of carers to babies.  The required ratio is changing from 1:5 to 1:4 in 2012, but it can still vary from centre to centre.  I was particularly keen on centres with 3 carers to 10 babies.

6) Stability of the centre and longevity of carers.  This is actually really, really important, but I put it lower down my list because it's very hard to find.  Children bond to particular people, not to the centre per se, so if your centre has a high staff turnover, that can be very disruptive and upsetting to them.  Ask how long the carers have been there.  I was incredibly lucky to find a centre where two of the carers in the baby's room have been there for over a decade (one for almost 3 decades) and are committed to staying there.

7) Other things I looked at were policies on sleeping and behaviour management.  Most childcare providers I spoke to were happy to use gentle methods to get my baby to sleep if I preferred.  No childcare providers are supposed to use corporal punishment.  You can find many centres this day which practice positive discipline and do not use humiliation strategies like time out / naughty corners.  That's not important to everyone, but it was to me, and it's good to know that this is quite common in centres and not at all too much to expect.  I found that the centres who did well against all my criteria generally were also very positive about me coming in to breastfeed.  (In fact, I had a carer suggest the other day that perhaps I could come in to feed Bethany twice!  Unfortunately that's not feasible, but I do appreciate how welcome they made me feel.)

1 comment:

  1. Hey I 'tagged' you in a 10 random things post but you don't have to play if you don't want to, I know you're busy. Just thought I'd let you know.