Families are part of the job of working with children and in some ways they are the most important aspect because without the families on board you can have loss of enrolments, tension and disengagement. Here are 5 tips to help make sure your relationships with families are positive and create a sense of belonging.
- Greet the families: It sounds obvious but too often when I am working in services I see families come into the service either in the morning or the afternoon and make their way through the entire service without being spoken to by any staff members. It is important to make sure families are not only greeted to make them feel like they matter and have been noticed, but also to allow for a brief conversation about their child’s day to occur.
- Acknowledge diversity: Every parent has different needs when it comes to communication based on time, language, culture, ability and more. If you are only sharing information in one form because it is what works best for you, e.g. a newsletter, then how can you be sure all of your families can engage with this?
- Consider your context: Every service is different and has their own context that needs to be considered. I have worked with work-based centres where you see the same parent most days because they work on site, to services where many different family members drop off or pick up, and even services where 90% of the children are collected and dropped home via bus and very few families come in. It is important to consider the different needs of sharing information when in a different context and you can’t just do what you did at your last service.
- Be professional: We are early childhood professionals and need to act accordingly when communicating with families. Consider your body language, your tone of voice, how much attention the family has, whether you are discussing other families and gossiping, if you are discussing a private matter in the middle of a public corridor. All of these things can have an impact on how a parent feels about their experience and the service.
- Provide support: You can’t predict what sort of support family members may need and when, and while it is good to have some flyers and information on hand, it is also great to be able to provide specific support. Don’t be afraid to say “leave it with me, and I’ll get back to by this afternoon/tomorrow with some information”. It might be a contact for a local service, some information off the internet, or an article from a magazine, all of this shows that you care and want to help out your families based on their needs.
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