Starting nursery as a little tot can be very overwhelming… mummy and daddy aren’t there, you’re in a totally new environment and there are bound to be lots of unfamiliar faces around. For some children it’s straight in at the deep end, attending childcare full time from a young age.
That’s why, to a child, a key person is arguably the most important person in your setting.
So why don’t they have closer relationships with that child’s family?
Often, parent communication is dealt with by management at a nursery. And yet, they’re rarely the most informed person when it comes to each child. Fostering stronger key person to family relationships will help to give the key person more knowledge about the child they’re looking after, and give the family more understanding of what happens at your setting.
A key person is someone that takes on the role of the main carer at the setting. They provide a secure base for the child by being a kind, responsible, and trustworthy figure in the life of that child.
This base comes from a key person ensuring the child’s emotional and physical needs are met. Various environmental factors feed into providing this secure base, but the key person is at the forefront. When children feel secure, they are able to:
Your key people undoubtedly have a very important job. We are all well aware that at nursery, children can often be in groups, be it small or large, for prolonged periods of time. To have someone that’s always there to answer questions, cuddle with, and laugh or cry to, can reduce stress levels significantly. A child’s overall wellbeing and development will be positively affected by this close, secure adult–child relationship.
“We can never remind ourselves too often that a child, particularly a very young and almost totally dependent one, is the only person in the nursery who cannot understand why he is there. He can only explain it as abandonment, and unless he is helped in a positive and affectionate way, this will mean levels of anxiety greater than he can tolerate.”
- Goldschmied & Jackson, 1994
There are countless reasons why close parent partnerships are important for everyone involved in the childcare experience…In fact, that’s exactly why Ofsted often require evidence that parent partnerships are taking place. You never really stop looking for ways to improve the communication between ‘home’ and ‘nursery’.
If your key people have ‘tuned in’ to their key children, understand their interests, and are generally fulfilling their role, perhaps they could thrive under a little more responsibility?
Empowering your key people by giving them more responsibility could be the catalyst for more information, communication and stories being shared between management, practitioners, children and their families.
Top tip Why not refer to a ‘key person’ as a ‘family person’ to emphasise the importance of working with both the children and their families.
Inside your nursery, it’s the key person who protects the physical and psychological well-being of the child. Equally, they are also the adult that the child knows best, the one who they trust and respect.
It’s much easier for a parent, or couple, to get to know and trust a select person as opposed to the entire nursery staff team. Making your parents feel comfortable will bring lots of benefits; they are more likely to get involved with the nursery, attend events, and spread positive feedback
Since the key person works alongside parents and carers to ensure that there is a continuity of care, they are in the best position to be the main communicator between home and nursery. The key person will care for the child all day every day, and there is certainly value in the sharing of knowledge directly with one another, rather than through a third party.
The idea in all of this is to take some of the pressure off you as a manager. It’s not about you knowing any less.
You can parents in the loop with everything that’s going on, while simultaneously improving the efficiency of how information is shared between the setting and home. Have confidence in your key person, give them this responsibility and with sufficient time and the right tools – watch them thrive!
Of course, like anything, it is important to have a process and set policies in place. It is crucial that key workers know how to behave, what they need to accomplish, and what you expect of them.
As well as this, if you find yourself in a situation where a key worker isn’t quite grasping it, you have documentation to refer back to. Having clear roles and responsibilities allows you to more effectively manage your entire nursery.
Top tip Consider the sensitive feelings of the parent and think carefully about how you communicate, particularly when you have important and/or difficult things to say.
Of course your primary concern is for the children, but their parents are very important too. With parents often having to spend prolonged periods of time away from their little ones, it’s vital that you help them to avoid feeling as if they’re missing out on their child growing up.
Big milestones can be reached at your setting, and it’s important that parents feel reassured that this is normal and nothing to worry about. A strong relationship with regular communication also has the benefit of making them feel more involved in these special moments too.
As a parent, you want the best treatment and care for your child. You, naturally, will want to be in touch with someone who fully understands their individual learning, development and care.
Top tip Key people should be flexible in their approach to communication with parents. Adaptations may need to be made to suit different parents, particularly those with English as an additional language.
This two- way relationship is crucial for both you and the parents. Firstly, it creates a shared level of expectation which reduces the risk of any misunderstandings. At the end of the day, parents know their children best, so the key worker can benefit by learning:
Parents might know their child best, but if done correctly, the key person can play a crucial role in helping to improve the parent’s knowledge of their own child too.
Looking for some ways to improve the relationship between parents and their child’s key person? Here are a few quick ideas:
Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.