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Importance of Early Childhood Educator Well-Being

Being an early learning and child care (ELCC) teacher can be an extremely rewarding experience. Particularly knowing that ELCC programs can improve child development outcomes that stretch into adulthood.1 These optimal outcomes are due, in large part, to practicing nurturing care within the program.

Nurturing care in early childhood is defined as providing healthy, nutritionally adequate, secure and safe, responsive caregiving, accompanied by early learning opportunities within a supportive environment that enables these interactions.1

However, as with any career, there are many physical, social, and emotional demands that accompany this work that can add strain for an ELCC teacher. Research demonstrates that many teaching practices related to nurturing care, such as positive classroom management and responsiveness approach to children’s needs, can be negatively influenced by reduced educator psychological well-being (i.e., stress and burnout).2 Therefore, achieving wellness in the workplace is not only critical for supporting teacher well-being, but it also ensures that ELCC teachers are well-equipped to provide the physical, nutritional, social, and emotional stimulation necessary for child health.2

ELCC workplace wellness sets the stage for optimal physical, nutritional, social, and emotional environments that support children’s healthy growth and development.3

Balancing Job Demands with Job Resources

Job Demands refer to the physical, social, and organizational factors that take mental energy in the workplace (e.g., managing children’s behavioural and emotional needs).4

In contrast, Job Resources are the physical, social, and organizational factors that help us achieve our workplace goals (e.g., providing high-quality care to children).4

Within ELCC settings, managing job demands through the use of available resources is a way to reduce stress and burnout and promote motivation.4

Three Job Resource Opportunities

When seeking out job resources, you need not look far! Some of the most effective job resources are readily available at your ELCC centre:5

  1. Social support. Building strong relationships with co-workers is an excellent way to reduce the mental strain experienced by job demands. For example, connecting with co-workers about shared work stressors and providing emotional support for one another can reduce the negative impacts that job demands have on mental well-being.
  2. High-quality relationships between staff and supervisors.  Honest, respectful, and supportive working relationships between ELCC staff and supervisors enhance coping with workplace demands. When staff effectively communicate their physical, social, and emotional needs, supervisors gain greater awareness of how to provide support, such as accommodating scheduling and time-off requests.
  3. Job autonomy.  The more freedom and self-determination you are given within your ELCC role can also reduce the negative impacts of workplace demands. Greater job autonomy can provide ELCC staff with more options for choosing when and how to manage work-related stressors. High-quality staff-supervisor relationships complement job autonomy by allowing supervisors to provide direction and feedback to staff when necessary.

A study conducted by the CHEERS team during COVID-19 further highlights these three points as they concluded that ELCC staff’s well-being would benefit from work environments that promote social connection and job autonomy.6 Wellness can be fostered in the workplace through providing social support to co-workers, cultivating strong-working relationships with supervisors, and promoting freedom and self-determination within early learning settings, which are important resources to help reduce stress and maintain high-quality care practices that support children’s overall health and development. Remember that everyone experiences job demands and accesses resources differently. That is why it is crucial to pay attention to your workplace needs to promote mental well-being in a way that works for you.


Check out the findings from the Happy Teacher Project that describe early childhood educator wellness as a global imperative that needs to be approached from individual, program, and system levels in order to support high-quality care and education which will support a better society through healthier children and families. ECE Well-Being - What We Know and Why We Should Care

Check out our CHEERS Blog,  Lessons from the Pandemic: Supporting Educators Well-Being, for a brief summary of the sources of distress and resilience of both early childhood educators and supervisors and the ways we can further support well-being in the classroom.


  1. Black, M. M., Walker, S. P., Fernald, L. C. H., Andersen, C. T., DiGirolamo, A. M., Lu, C., McCoy, D. C., Fink, G., Shawar, Y. R., Shiffman, J., Devercelli, A. E., Wodon, Q. T., Vargas-Barón, E., Grantham-McGregor, S., & Lancet Early Childhood Development Series Steering Committee. (2017). Early childhood development coming of age: Science through the life course. The Lancet, 389(10064), 77-90. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31389-7
  2. Jennings PA, Jeon L, Roberts AM. (2020) Introduction to the Special Issue on Early Care and Education Professionals’ Social and Emotional Well-being. Early Education & Development, 31(7), 933-939. doi:10.1080/10409289.2020.1809895
  3. Kwon, K.-A., Horm, D. M., & Amirault, C. (2021). Early childhood teachers’ well-being: What we know and why we should care. ZERO TO THREE Journal, 41(3), 35–44.
  4. Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., de Boer, E., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2003). Job demands and job resources as predictors of absence duration and frequency. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 62(2), 341-356. doi:10.1016/S0001-8791(02)00030-1
  5. Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., & Euwema, M. C. (2005). Job resources buffer the impact of job demands on burnout. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10(2), 170-180. doi:10.1037/1076-8998.10.2.170
  6. Lafave, L., Webster, A. D., & McConnell, C. (2022). Early childhood educator well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic: A qualitative study and emic perspective. In Pattnaik, J. Renck Jalongo, M. (Eds.), The impact of COVID-19 on early childhood education and care. Educating the young child, 18, pp. 193–212. Springer, Cham.

About the Author

Makayla Vermette is a Research Coordinator for the CHEERS research project in the Department of Health and Physical Education. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Mount Royal University and is pursuing her graduate degree in Psychology at the University of Windsor. She is passionate about workplace function and wellness for the employee.