Every student brings with them their own personal experiences that influence their practice to make magical moments with their charges and support the development of the children in their care. For third-year student Izzy, one of the experiences that she draws on to support her charges is the heart-breaking loss of her mother.

Supporting children’s wellbeing, providing them with a voice and ensuring creativity and messy play is at the heart of all Izzy does. These core values come from her own experiences.

In her blog, Izzy explores how our early childhood degree and diploma supports her understanding of grief and wellbeing in the early years, how she’s been supported as a student and, most importantly, how she brings her own childhood memories into her practice to support the children in her care.

“This blog is dedicated to my lovely mum Clair, who is sadly no longer with us.

“My name is Izzy, I am 20 years old and have just started my third year at Norland (gosh time has gone so quickly). I grew up in a beautiful little village in Bedfordshire where I lived with my mum, dad and two older sisters. Growing up with two of the most independent and strong-willed sisters was amazing and we’ve always been there for each other.

“Before coming to Norland, I completed three A Levels in Fine Art, Psychology and Business Studies. I’ve always had a passion for working with children and have taken every opportunity I can to gain experience working in nurseries, schools, and with children with disabilities.

“After experiencing grief, I feel it’s vital as an early years practitioner to be fully equipped with the knowledge and understanding of how we can support families and children going through bereavement

“In 2021, my lovely mum passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. At times like this, when the unimaginable happens, you realise how much your family and friends mean to you. I often reflect on this period, and it reminds me about the importance of kindness and supporting each other.

“My mum was a huge inspiration to me. She played a significant role throughout my childhood and some of my earliest and fondest memories are baking flapjacks in the kitchen together and long muddy walks in our wellies, being greeted by a warm fire, hot cocoa and homemade ginger cake. My mum loved being in the kitchen and took so much time and care to always create delicious meals for us.

“I carry these values with me in my practice, cherishing every opportunity I have, to bake with children and involve them in the kitchen, although most of the mixture tends to get eaten before it makes it to the oven! My mum also devoted a lot of time to sewing and spent hours creating wonderful costumes and outfits for me and my sisters to wear. She used to say that ‘the greatest gift you can receive is one that has been homemade’. I loved painting growing up and was always encouraged to be creative, which is why providing children with messy play and creative opportunities is so important to me.

“After experiencing grief, I feel it’s vital as an early years practitioner to be fully equipped with the knowledge and understanding of how we can support families and children going through bereavement. At Norland, we learn a lot about how to support children and their wellbeing. I particularly enjoyed the lectures in my second year on supporting transitions, which included a section on supporting children with grief and bereavement. Looking at Carter’s developmental stages and grief helped me to comprehend the ways in which toddlers and babies react to the loss of a person close to them.

“Nothing is more significant to the little ones in our lives than giving them a voice. Taking time to acknowledge and understand children is at the heart of everything I do.”

“When I lost my mum, I realised how important my family and friends were. This was reflected to me when we learned about a theorist called Bronfenbrenner who explained that children have lots of people around them in their life that are significant in their development.

“Having a first-hand experience with grief has hugely influenced my early years practice. Someone once said to me that ‘when you talk about the loved ones you’ve lost, you bring memories with them back to life again’. I’m a strong believer in honest and open communication with children and that nothing is more significant to the little ones in our lives than giving them a voice. Taking time to acknowledge and understand children is at the heart of everything I do.

“Norland provides excellent student support and I feel so supported knowing there’s always someone there to listen, and always an open door. Norland has a counselling service for students to support their wellbeing [every student is entitled to six free sessions]. Prioritising wellbeing and taking time for myself is super important to me, and I find that exercise really helps me to relax and unwind, particularly swimming and yoga.

“We are fortunate that Norland constantly listens to student feedback and organises events to support our wellbeing. I loved going to the movie nights and taking part in the netball club last year which, apart from being great fun, gave me the chance to meet new people.

“As most university students do, I felt nervous moving to Bath and starting at Norland, but having these opportunities to meet new people and embark on the most amazing journey is what makes Norland such a special place.

“To my lovely mum, your memories will always be with me.”

References

Carter, M. (2016) Helping children and adolescents think about death, dying and bereavement. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London.

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