Building Positive Relationships Through Communication
A strong connection between families and child care providers is essential for building a positive environment for young children. But too often, parents and program staff do not effectively communicate with each other, thereby limiting opportunities for developing open, respectful, and trusting relationships. Miscommunication, or limited communication between adults, can lead to situations that adversely affect all of the parties involved. Following are some tips for families and child care professionals on how to build win/win relationships.
The Family’s Role
Talk with the people who care for your child on a daily basis about eating habits, behavior, activities, learning of new skills, friends, or other “happenings” in your child’s day.
Develop good two-way communication about your goals for your child, your childrearing practices, and family preferences in order to minimize conflicts and confusion for children.
If you are troubled by something that may have occurred at the program, discuss it with your child’s teacher or caregiver at an appropriate time and setting. Open, respectful communication often clarifies a situation before it becomes a problem.
Families of young children should view themselves as promoters of quality child care. If you feel the quality has changed, or is being compromised, talk with the provider or center director.
If possible, actively participate in your child’s program. For example, you can volunteer to make toys, games or food; attend parents’ meetings; visit for lunch; go along on field trips; help in the classroom; or serve on the Board of Directors or Parents Advisory Committee.
Strengthen the bond between your child and their caregiver by helping to establish an attitude of trust. Mention the caregiver’s name in conversation at home, and show interest in your child’s interactions with her/him.
Let your child care provider know you appreciate his/her efforts.
The Child Care Professional’s Role
It’s important for child care providers to gain knowledge about each individual child in their program. One way to learn about the individual personalities of young children is by observing the interactions between children and their families. For example, what are the good-bye rituals, or what do the parents do to comfort their child? The younger the child, the more necessary it is for professionals to acquire this knowledge through relationships with her family.
Be attentive and open to negotiation if a parent brings a concern or complaint to your attention. Keep in mind that assertive communication-when you tell the truth and care about the listener-is the most effective form of communication.
Be sensitive to each child’s cultural and family experience. Reflect the diversity of these experiences in the toys, books, decorations, and activities you choose in creating your learning environment.
Some families may be new to the area or unaware of resources in the community. Early childhood programs can be a community link by acquiring, and making available, information on a range of community resources, including hospital, health clinic, and local library programs, school and community education offerings, and family support services.
Make time for communication. Pick-up and drop-off times are often hurried occasions, however valuable information can be exchanged through these daily informal meetings. By simply asking how the family is doing in a non-intrusive way, adults can share information that may help the child care professional better understand a child’s behavior on any given day. For example, a child may be sad if a family member is on a business trip or if someone is ill. What may seem trivial to adults can be very important to young children.
Make your program a caring community of learners and include children’s families in that community. Ask for their input on ways to build a better “community.”
Children benefit most from healthy, reciprocal relationships between teachers and families. Like most relationships, these require time to nurture mutual respect, cooperation, and comfortable communication.
Early Years are Learning Years, National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1998 (www.naeyc.org)