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Early childhood communities are more than the providers and children: you’ve got to think of the parents, too. It’s essential to ensure that parents and families feel included in your practice, but opening and maintaining those lines of communication can be challenging.
Taking the time to nurture relationships with family members encourages even the most hesitant parties to communicate with providers. As a result, effective communication with parents should be a priority, not an afterthought.
Let’s look at seven ways that you can make that a more regular part of your child care center.
Dozens of studies spanning several decades have underlined the importance of parent-teacher communication as a big factor in children’s wellbeing and healthy growth. Keeping parents informed and involved can lead to children’s higher academic achievement, stronger social skills, and less frequent disruptive behaviors.
With all the upsides, it’s clear that building meaningful relationships with parents is worthwhile. However, many providers find parent-teacher communication to be one of the most overwhelming challenges to face.
Here are only a few reasons why good parent communications can be complicated:
So how can you knock down these barriers and start connecting with parents? There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to parent-teacher communication, but there are lots of methods you can try to encourage collaboration. Let’s take a look.
One way to get off to a great start with parents is to send surveys that prompt parents to share a plethora of information with childcare providers. Of course, there are endless possibilities for the information you can collect, but here are a select few examples.
When parents submit the completed surveys, you can document the responses in a spreadsheet as a reference. That way, you can quickly reference it to ensure that you keep the parents’ preferences and circumstances in mind.
Sometimes providers spend a large chunk of time answering the same questions over and over. One way to troubleshoot this is to have a list of frequently asked questions that cover things like your routines, procedures, and expectations. You can keep these accessible either digitally or physically, posted in an easily visible location to parents.
When parents can easily find answers, you will spend less time going over tiny details, which will leave you more time for more meaningful communication.
Utilizing bulletin boards is a fantastic way to have important information and news available for parents. You can situate one near your classroom or center entrance, and post weekly lesson plans, lunch menus, and upcoming events. To encourage two-way communication, include a whiteboard or notepad to give parents a place to write questions or general notes, or invite them to contact you through your digital childcare management platform.
Regularly changing the board's appearance will catch the parents’ attention and encourage them to check for new information.
While doctors often say that “no news is good news,” this sentiment doesn’t translate to early childhood settings. When parents only receive bad news or messages about negative behavior, they will have difficulty seeing the positive in their children’s classroom experience. Therefore, it’s vital to take time to send good news updates as well.
There are numerous positive messages you can send home, but here are some ideas to start.
When parents only receive messages about disruptive behaviors or incidents, they will become apprehensive every time they receive any communication. Balancing the negative with positive updates helps the parents get a more accurate representation of their children’s development, and enables you to build a happier relationship with them.
Videos are an engaging way to share information. Unlike written communication, videos allow parents to see your face and hear your tone. You can create videos for a variety of reasons.
However, keep in mind that informational videos should not exceed 3 minutes. Parents may lose interest in watching the whole video if it’s too long. Additionally, parents can watch shorter videos together with children.
If you want to make sure parents watch a video, tell the children you sent a video home for them to watch. Parents are more likely to watch videos when their children ask to watch with them.
It’s important to remember that all communication should be accessible and inclusive. Speak at a relaxed pace so that parents can easily understand you. You should also include a transcript for parents who prefer reading or need to translate words.
Conducting workshops gives you opportunities to share knowledge with parents and encourage dialogues about various topics. In your initial survey, you can list several topics, and parents can check which they would be interested in exploring, such as play-based learning or ways to extend learning at home.
During the workshops, parents can learn directly from the providers, which will build trust. Parents also get the opportunity to share their ideas and collaborate with the providers and each other.
While digital communication is a handy tool, it can sometimes be challenging to develop a meaningful connection with a parent you only interact with digitally.
A popular way that providers interact with parents face-to-face is by conducting home visits. When you visit a family in their home, you get a unique opportunity to engage with them in the environment where they’re the most comfortable. Interacting in early childhood settings can feel formal or unfamiliar, but parents are more likely to open up and connect at home.
If visiting homes isn’t your cup of tea, I have an alternative that may be more desirable: organizing community outings. Instead of having field trips during the day, you can hold them over the weekend. Here’s why this might work for you:
Weekend outings allow working parents to join in the fun. You can also collaborate with parents in planning various activities like museum visits, picnics, and exploring local playgrounds. Because children attend with parents and siblings, you’re not always the primary supervisor, so you can relax and enjoy engaging with your community.
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.