If you follow my work, you probably know I speak and write about the importance of informing parents of the myths surrounding young children — and of helping them understand what’s truly best for the little ones. None of that is possible without first establishing solid teacher-parent communication.
In this guest post, Madeleine Hutchison offers recommendations for doing just that.
Building a teacher-parent relationship creates a strong support system for students and helps families better understand the value of what you do. It is important to identify ways in which classroom experiences can be shared and to highlight opportunities for participation within the classroom or school environment. Establishing open lines of communication and sharing classroom observations supports the child’s success and helps serve as a bridge between home and school.
Strategies for connecting with parents include relationship building, opening the environment, and sharing observations.
Relationship Building Through Consistent Communication
Consistent communication is helpful because it opens the lines of communication between school and home. Consistent communication helps parents feel informed and involved in their child’s learning. When parents can anticipate regular contact from their child’s educator, it builds a sense of trust and reliability. Conversation starters are specifically formulated questions and statements teachers can use to encourage communication and inspire more exchanges about school and specific activities.
Possible conversation starters might include
- “Mathias has been working very hard with his self-help skills. He zipped up his jacket all by himself during outdoor play. Has he been practicing at home?”
- “Henry did such a wonderful job practicing the alphabet today during art time today! Come take a look at his creation using the letters of his name!”
- “I noticed Zadie has a little less energy this week than she typically does. Has she been going to bed later or waking up earlier?”
- “We noticed that Olivia has been asking to use the toilet during bathroom time. We think she’s ready to start toilet training. What do you think?”
- “Boden and Julia seem to be getting along quite well in the classroom. Does he talk about Julia at home?”
What forms of communication are possible?
- Emailing families on a weekly or daily basis
- Creating a printed newsletter once a month
- Offering conversation starters
- Providing images with captions
Opening the Environment
It is exciting to learn about the children’s home environment, family life, cultural experiences, and traditions. Encouraging families to share their experiences with the group helps to create community. Children can bring pictures or drawings from home to share about specific holidays, traditions, and other aspects that are important in their home life. Surveys are another way to learn what your families want and need from you as a child care provider. They can submit questions and concerns anonymously and allow you to better understand their needs.
If you provide a variety of volunteer experiences for parents they’ll feel involved and connected to the classroom environment. When there are to be celebrations in the classroom, open opportunities for families to provide specific items. Teachers can create a sign-up sheet for the celebration or special lesson. When it’s to be an in-class birthday celebration, you can further promote connectivity between home and school by encouraging families to send in pictures, treats, or paper products that can enhance the celebration experience.
As a whole, sharing ongoing observations with your families about their children is not only important to keep track of the children’s development, but it also allows parents to easily show off all the hard work you do as an educator. This can be done through a secure child care app, online private photo sharing album, and/or physical photo albums for families to view during pickup and drop off.
Although there may be times when you must share “less-than-ideal” observations regarding someone’s child, it’s important to remember that you both have the child’s best interests in mind.
Consider the sandwich approach when communicating not-so-positive news and observations. With the sandwich approach, you can share information with parents without hyper focusing on a single negative concern or observation, while still identifying the exhibited behavior. This approach involves highlighting some positive experiences and observations prior to sharing the challenging observation. You also conclude with another positive statement, thereby “sandwiching” the difficult comments. This approach helps parents develop a balanced understanding of the happenings throughout the day, and it also allows parents to leave with a good impression.
Some of the suggestions above may be determined by your center’s expectations. Otherwise, identify the approaches that make most sense for your situation. Commit to the approach that you can plan to implement consistently, as it will build familiarity and trust with families.
About the Author: Madeleine Hutchison is an Early Childhood Educator from HiMama with her Master’s in Early Childhood Studies. HiMama’s childcare app facilitates open communication with families and enables contactless operation of a center, from documentation to payments. HiMama also offers free resources, including webinars, activities, printables, podcasts and more!