As soon as a new child joins a child care program, a lot of important and close relationships are launched instantly. Both the family and the teaching staff must start collaborating as partners in the care of this child despite not knowing each other yet! Parents know nothing firsthand about day-to-day program operations and teachers know very little about the family’s home life. But the need for and the process of building trust and rapport has already begun.
Fortunately, there are many ways for child care programs to speed up this critical process. Teachers can regularly share detailed information about a child’s ongoing development and daily experiences. And they can provide ways for parents to share information about their child and home experiences so that teachers will have a more well-rounded view of the child. These smooth working-partnerships form the bedrock of all high-quality child care!
Programs can learn more about the child and their home life:
- Give parents a questionnaire about their child’s likes and dislikes, past experiences, favorite activities and foods, typical schedule/routines, temperament, etc., in preparation for the orientation meeting.
- Conduct a home visit, if possible.
- Invite parents in to share special skills, family recipes, cultural items, favorite songs, etc.
- Spend more time with parents by inviting them to join you on field trips.
- For English language learners, ask parents to give you some key phrases in the child’s first language so you can communicate with the child right away.
- Give each child a blank “All About Me” book to fill out at home, using photos/captions, and then return it to school, to share with the class and add to your classroom library.
Families can learn about their child’s day at the child care program:
- Take photos and videos to capture some of their child’s “precious moments” during the day.
- Tell parents about poignant social scenarios involving their child’s learning about others.
- Make personal notes/captions about what their child was learning through their play.
- Make notes on the child’s progress towards new accomplishments, explain their “process”.
- Keep good records on daily food, sleep, and potty habits, as requested.
- Schedule quarterly parent conferences.
- Provide easy access to relevant handouts on typical parenting issues, in a file or via email.
- Send home lyrics to songs you are teaching the children so parents can learn them, too.
Ways to help families feel connected with other families:
- Arrange for family pot lucks, parties, coffee hours, or appetizer hours at the center.
- Offer parenting workshops on popular topics, provide child care and refreshments.
- Create a place for families to post information on community events or materials they want to sell, barter, and donate.
By Lisa Poelle, M.A.