Communicate Effectively with Child-Care Providers
As a parent, you want the best for your child. That means ensuring that your child is nurtured and cared for in a loving and supportive environment that promotes his or her physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. Researchers and parents alike know that the early years of a child’s life are critical to development, and quality early childhood education sets the stage for success in school and in life. Many parents want their child to have the benefit of a preschool experience prior to kindergarten, and working parents particularly rely on preschool or child-care programs to support their young child’s care and education.
Even if you have carefully selected a child-care provider after considering all the important issues, you are still leaving your son or daughter with someone you don’t really know. Having a communication strategy aimed at maintaining a positive and reciprocal relationship with your child-care provider is one of the most important aspects of your child’s early education. In fact, researchers have consistently found a positive relationship between the level of parental involvement – volunteering at school, participating in home visits, helping with class activities – and children’s academic and developmental success.
One of the first things you’ll want to consider in developing your communication strategy is who is included in the care of your child. Remember, there may be other adults besides the primary provider in the child-care setting who interact with your child. Teachers or assistants may change during the course of the day. Remember to include the director of the center on your child-care team, as well. Even if the director doesn’t play a direct role in your child’s care, he or she needs to be informed about the details of your child’s care.
Once you’ve identified everyone involved with caring for your child, you are ready to plan how to communicate effectively with your team.
• Communicate every day. When it’s time to pick up or drop off your child, you’re often dashing off to work or home. Even when you are in a hurry, it’s very important to spend some time touching base with your child-care provider. This personal, daily contact is the most critical part of your communication strategy. Just a few minutes a day with your child-care provider can dramatically improve the care your child receives.
In many cases, you will need to steer the conversation with questions pertaining to your child’s development. Keep in mind that the other children in the care setting are a key factor in your child’s development. Ask questions like, “What did my child do today?” and “How are the other children doing in the child care setting?”
• Be timely. Give your child-care provider ample advance notice of events in your child’s life or changes in your need for care – a parent’s travel schedule, a sick relative, changes in the home environment. These changes affect a child’s emotional stability and may have a direct impact on your child’s behavior.
The more your provider knows about what is happening in a child’s family, the better he or she will be at providing care and guidance to fit your child’s needs. Consider passing a notebook between the home and the child-care setting. This lets parents and care providers jot down observations of the child, updates on health, schedule changes and so forth. Written records of emergency numbers, immunization records and instructions for care can be lifesavers in an emergency.
• Listen to your provider. Remember that communication is a two-way street. You should be able to talk your child-care provider about any issue, but you also need to be open to what he or she has to say to you. A well-trained child-care professional can provide very good insight into your child’s development, so take the time to listen openly to their reflections.
Parenting is an emotional job. When conflict arises with a provider, some parents have a tendency to act rashly. Take the time to hear what your provider has to say, keeping in mind the amount of time the provider spends attending to your child’s needs.
• Be respectful. Respect your child-care provider as a person and treat him or her as a professional. Your provider should respect your role as final authority for your child. No matter what the topic, you will find it easier to address when you begin by respecting the other person.
• Show appreciation for what he or she does. Any parent will tell you that caring for children all day long is hard work. It is important to remember to not take your provider’s work for granted. Notice his or her successes, and take the time to express your appreciation.
A strong communication strategy with your care provider is one of the most important things you can do to prepare your child for success in school and in life.
Jeremy Evans works for Durham’s Partnership for Children, a Smart Start Initiative.
Durham’s Partnership for Children
Orange County Partnership for Young Children
Wake Smart Start
National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education