By Kweli Archie
“Child care professionals have a unique opportunity to counteract unhealthy influences in a child’s early childhood. They have the power to affect a child’s life for better or for worse. A child becomes what he/she experiences. While parents possess the original key to their offspring’s experience, child care professionals have a spare key. They too can open or close the minds and hearts of children.”
‐ Dr. Haim Ginott, 1993 Teacher and Child
Building strong relationships with families is a key to a child’s success in child care. Creating a learning environment in which children can thrive is dependent on the positive relationships child care professionals develop with parents and families. Overall, partnering with families enhances children’s development. Most importantly, children have better learning and social outcomes when their parents and child care professionals work together. Good communication is essential for building those relationships.
Listed below are 7 actions that child care professionals can practice developing positive partnerships with parents and families.
The Seven “Be’s” of Effective Communication with Parents
- Be Interested – Every person has a story and every family is unique. To establish constructive relationships with parents, the very first step is to show genuine interest in each parent and family and express that interest in each interaction. It is important to remember that every person has a story and every family has a unique life.
- Be humble – Sometimes parents and families can feel intimidated or put off by child care professionals that know a lot about young children. The truth is that there is a lot that child care professionals don’t know, especially about any individual child. In order to care for the well-being of a child, it is helpful to maintain a view of ourselves and parents as co-contributors, with each having some valuable information that is needed to understand how best to support the child.
- Be respectful – We all acknowledge that parents are children’s first teachers. But sometimes child care professionals don’t come across as respecting that role when we are talking with parents and families. It is important to maintain an attitude of respect for the parents and families; their role, values and life style.
- Be inviting – Some parents need to be intentionally invited to communicate with us. Due to a variety of communication barriers, some parents and families do not openly share their opinions and concerns. Ask parents and families open-ended questions that show you are interested and are paying attention. This invites their feedback which can develop into a deeper level of trust and openness.
- Be a good listener – This can be challenging in a busy, noisy child care setting, but do your best to give parents and families your full attention, even if it’s only for a short moment. Express the message I am listening with your eyes, face, and body as well as with your words. Allow time for parents and families to share their opinions and concerns.
- Be positive – Sharing positive stories about their child to parents and families is helpful in building a strong partnership. Don’t communicate only when there is a problem or concern, or when you want something from parents and families. Expressing only negative messages can lead to parents and families avoiding you. Your encouraging, positive words will go a long way in strengthening the trust and openness.
- Be creative – We have so many ways to communicate and child care professionals need to take advantage of as many of these methods as necessary to meet the needs and preferences of parents and families. Never assume anything; find out what is the best way to communicate with parents and families. Be responsive to parents and families by sharing information with them in a way that is most effective.
The Benefits of Good Communication
“Research indicates that children benefit when those who are most involved with their everyday well-being and learning have warm, meaningful communication. Those benefits can be seen at many levels. Children notice how we get along with their parents and they hear how we talk together (or notice that we don’t). When providers deepen their conversations with parents to the point when they become true collaborators in children’s care and learning, children benefit exponentially. Intentionally establishing good communication with parents from the start will also make it easier to work through difficult conversations that may arise later.” (Provider-Parent Relationships, 2015)
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