3 Things Families Need From You

3 Things Families Need From You

The decision to leave your children in care with someone - particularly if that someone is a relative stranger - is monumental. There is such an element of trust required, and as educators, we have a responsibility to earn and maintain that trust. 

The decision to leave your children in care with someone - particularly if that someone is a relative stranger - is monumental. There is such an element of trust required, and as educators, we have a responsibility to earn and maintain that trust. 

We often talk about what we want or need from families: 

  • I wish they would read the program
  • We need them to come in for a working bee on Saturday
  • Why can’t they understand the value of play-based learning? 
  • Sally’s mum really needs to send extra spare clothes and I’ve asked three times!

But what about what families need from us? Building an authentic, trusting relationship takes time and effort.

We’ve put together a few basics that families need from us each and every day: 

1. They need to feel welcome

Have you ever walked into a place and felt instantly at home? This is what we want for our children and families when they come into our service. We want them to feel that this is a place that they belong. While there might be efforts to achieve this by creating “belonging trees” or family photo walls or placing greetings in various languages on the door, really feeling welcome comes about through genuine interactions. There’s nothing worse as a parent than arriving to drop your child off or to pick them up in the afternoon and having educators not even acknowledge your presence. Sounds rude right? Unfortunately, it does happen. While every educator may not have time (we are, after all, working with the children) for an hour-long chat in the morning, a simple “Hi Andrew, how are you this morning?” and a smile, can go a long way. As we work to build relationships, we often gain insight into family life, and can use this in our interactions too: “Hi Andrew, how are you this morning? Kate said you started a new job, are you enjoying it?” 

When we make families feel welcome and seen, in our service, they inevitably feel more comfortable leaving their children with us, and coming to us if they have concerns or questions. 

2. They need to hear positive things about their child

You’ve had a tough day with Jasper, who is two. He has bitten three other children in the toddler room and has been quite emotional throughout the day which is unusual. When Jaspers mum arrives, you are eager to find out if anything has happened or changed that could have led to this. You meet her at the door “Hi Abby, I need to talk to you about Jasper. He’s bitten three children today!” 

What is wrong with this picture? First of all, parents don’t like to hear negative things about their children. Did you need to tell Abby? Absolutely. But could there have been a better way? Let’s try again: Start by allowing Abby to come into the room, not meeting her at the door. “Hi Abby, how was your day?” wait for Abby to reply. “Jasper loved building with the blocks this morning, he shared really well with Eden and they built a huge tower. We left it up so he could show you. I did want to let you know though, that we had a couple of occasions today where Jasper bit another child. He also seemed a little up and down emotionally. Have you noticed this too? It’s quite unlike him.” You would give Abby the opportunity to talk about what had occurred and finish by sharing something positive about Jasper, “He did come with me to get an ice pack for Ellie and he even got a book and sat with her to look at it together, which was really sweet.” 

Many parents report feeling guilty at having their child in care, and that feeling of guilt compounds when they hear that their child has “misbehaved” at the service. Negative messaging can also impact poorly on the parent-child relationship, particularly if every time the parent comes to pick the child up they hear something negative about them. 

While we definitely need to have difficult conversations with families, we can ensure that they are counterbalanced with all of the wonderful things about their children. 

3. They need to feel heard

Have you ever felt like someone is not listening to you? It’s incredibly frustrating. There can be a tendency at times, to dismiss what someone is saying when we think we might know better. For example, a parent says “I don’t want my child going outside today, it’s too cold and they will get sick”, we might dismiss what they are saying, with the knowledge that it’s germs that make us sick, not the weather. It’s important that instead of being dismissive, we take the time to engage in conversation with the parent, to understand their perspective, and to respectfully provide them with information, support, confirmation - whatever it is that the situation calls for. The parent who doesn’t want their child going outside for fear of getting sick most likely isn’t trying to be difficult, they aren’t trying to mess with your program, or create an issue. They simply have their own experience, understandings, and perspectives.

When we give these things to families, we strengthen relationships

Think about how you interact with the families in your service each and every day - are there any of these three things that you could do better in order to strengthen relationships? 

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