“There were many tough days”: Early childhood educators’ emotional wellbeing during COVID-19 pandemic

Gloria Quinones, Monash University, Australia (
Emily Berger, Monash University, Australia (
Melissa Barnes, Monash University, Australia (

Background: The COVID-19 outbreak has affected the health and wellbeing of people around the world. Since the outbreak, early childhood educators have been at the frontline, responding to children and families attending early childhood services. However, little attention has been placed on the psychological impact this has had on early childhood educators in Australia.

Aim: The aim of this study was to understand Australian early childhood educators’ emotional experiences with the COVID-19 global pandemic. The study aimed to gain an understanding of the collective voices of educators and bring awareness to how they responded and supported children and their families during this global crisis.

Method: We invited early childhood educators to complete an online survey where they detailed their experiences in relation to their emotional wellbeing in the current COVID-19 times. 216 participants drew on their personal experiences and 86 were willing to participate in an interview. 30 educators were interviewed for the study.

Results: The results revealed that educators experienced higher degrees of emotional labour during COVID-19, affecting their wellbeing. The higher levels of emotional labour of educators at this time also had negative effects on teachers’ psychological and physical health, increasing job burnout and stress and lowering job satisfaction. For example, educators reported feeling mentally exhausted due to the extra pressures and management involved in responding to COVID-19.

Conclusions: Early childhood educators experienced intense emotional experiences during COVID-19. Evidence from this research suggests educators deserve more recognition about their emotional labour and emotional exhaustion experiences during COVID-19.

Implications for practitioners: Early childhood educators’ emotional experiences require further recognition and should be given higher priority beyond current COVID-19 times. Supporting educators with targeted professional learning will contribute to their well-being, which will have flow on effects for the health and wellbeing of children and families. More clearly defined work expectations and support for educators is needed, including in policy for educator’s wellbeing for future pandemics.

Implications for children and families: The emotional wellbeing of educators directly relates to their everyday work with children and families, especially how educators manage expectations and demands from society and their own institutions. The findings from this study showed educators positively supported children and their families, however often with limited advice and government assistance. 

Key words: professionals’ voices, workforce issues, wellbeing, COVID-19, qualitative methods, quantitative methods

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: