Our world has changed a lot in the last few months. It’s hard enough being a parent or carer but now that life has changed somewhat, parents may have lots of additional concerns about leaving their child in childcare. There is no doubt that you already work hard to build relationships with parents – life is always going to be much easier if everyone gets along. But how can we build on the partnership even further?
What are the benefits of strong relationships with parents?
Some of a child’s most important cognitive development happens during their pre-school years. If parents and carers take an active role in their child’s early education, they are helping to give the child the support they need to reach their full potential.
Parents that are the most in tune with what is happening in their child’s setting are able to establish a connection between the learning that takes place in your setting and learning that takes place at home. They can then extend the learning that has taken place into real-life experiences, further boosting the child’s learning.
Looking beyond the child’s days at your setting, research shows that family engagement in a child’s education can lead to them achieving better at school, having better social skills, and improved behaviour.
On a more day to day note, a child is likely to settle a lot better where there is a strong relationship between home and your setting. Furthermore, getting parents involved boosts their confidence in you, as they see you do what you do best.
This will help build a positive reputation for your setting.
As you can see, parents, families and educators need to work together in partnership to give a child the best possible experience.
How can you build your relationships with parents to make them ever stronger?
In order for a child to really thrive the responsibility for the parent/setting relationship belongs to both sides. However, the parent may not recognise this so it may be down to you to encourage it.
Firstly, take time to find out about the child’s past. Talking to parents about a child’s early experiences can help you plan for effective learning, plus it helps you offer support to parents in continuing their children’s learning at home.
Continue with daily communication. You are probably already using a daily diary or communication book, but you may be tempted to stop this as the child gets older. Consider keeping it going for those hard-to-reach parents that perhaps have a grandparent or friend collect.
Collect ‘wow’ observations from home (either on paper or on an online system such as Tapestry). The children at your setting are going to have other experiences outside of your setting that you can’t offer, such as swimming. Allow parents to share any achievements with you. Not only does this keep communication open and help you get to know each child, but it will also help add to your assessment of them.
Encourage contributions from parents by really valuing anything they have to offer. They may be able to help out, talk to the children about their job or a skill they have, or share information about their culture. By welcoming them in, the children in your setting will benefit from what they have to share, the child of the parent will get a massive boost, you show the parent that you have nothing to hide, and they get to see what a brilliant job you do. Win win!
Set goals with parents and work together to help their child achieve them. This is particularly important if a child is struggling with something particular such as separation anxiety.
Make resources available to parents. Many parents may want to continue the fantastic learning that you do at home but simply don’t have the tools to do so, or just don’t know what to do. Consider a lending library so that parents can see the sort of thing you do and so that the link between your setting and home can be as strong as possible. If you don’t think lending things out is feasible, then how about suggesting a list of activities for parents to do at home. You could put these out on your social media which gives you lots of content ideas.
Consider home visits. Where you may have a particularly tricky situation such as a child that is extremely anxious or a child with additional needs, it may be worth offering a home visit. Home visits are widely used to help settle children into their reception class at school and have brilliant positive effects. If you are going, don’t go alone and make sure your colleagues know exactly when you’re going.
Cater for ‘hard-to-reach’ parents. In any setting you are going to find that some parents are easier to reach than others. You might find that fathers, parents who live apart from their children, and working parents are included in this group. You will need to use different strategies for involving them – talk to them to find out what works best for them. Don’t forget to provide information in a way that is accessible to all. Some of your parents may not be able to read, or struggle to read English because it is an additional language. You may need to go that extra mile to make any contact accessible for all.
Make a strong effort to involve parents and carers and you will go a long way to having children that reach their full potential. If both parent and setting recognise and respect what the other does, then a child can really thrive in the best possible way.
About the author
Gina Smith is an experienced teacher with experience of teaching in both mainstream and special education. She is the creator of ‘Create Visual Aids’ – a business that provides both homes and education settings with bespoke visual resources. Gina recognises the fact that no two children are the same and therefore individuals are likely to need different resources. Create Visual Aids is dedicated to making visual symbols exactly how the individual needs them.