Parents play a central role in making decisions about their child’s care and, in order to help achieve good outcomes for children, practitioners must strive to build a strong and positive relationship with them. This partnership becomes most successful when based on clear two-way communication, where both parties value and support the input of the other in helping to nurture the child’s learning and development.
With this in mind, here are some tips to strengthen your relationship with parents:
Ask parents to participate in decisions:
Whenever possible, invite parents to participate in decisions that affect not only their child but the setting as a whole. For example, what charity should your nursery support this year? What trips should you carry out this term? How should you spend a grant to improve the resources at your setting? Give parents the information they need to form an opinion, listen to their input and feedback on the decision you’ve reached.
Declare Your Intention:
Tell them that you want to partner with them, that you appreciate their support, and look forward to working together.
Make a Positive Phone Call Home:
If you have a self-contained class, call all homes within the first couple of weeks and then at regular intervals throughout the year. If you teach many students, identify those students who perhaps need a positive call home.
Ensure language is no barrier:
If you can’t speak a parent’s native language and their grasp of English is weak, seek the services of someone in the community who can act as a translator when you have meetings together. Although language can be a difficult barrier to overcome, it will mean the world to parents that you’re doing whatever you can to connect with them in this way.
Try not to make assumptions:
Be careful not to make assumptions about parents’ lifestyles. For example, don’t assume a mother is, or isn’t, married or even that she’s married to a man! Ask open-ended questions to get the information you need to confirm what you do (or don’t) know. This will save having to have an embarrassing conversation later on and potentially getting off on the wrong foot!
Invite parents to share their skills, culture or traditions:
Give out a survey at the beginning of the year to find out what skills, knowledge, and interests parents have. With this information, you’re armed with a wealth of resources that could tie in neatly with the themes you’re exploring at your setting. Many parents would be thrilled to be asked into the setting to speak with the children about something they’re specifically learning about.
Invite Parents to Celebrate and Break Bread Together:
Communities are strengthened when people come together in celebration. Start the year with a potluck. Share food and stories about food. We all bond over food.
Provide parents with as much information as possible about what’s going on in your setting and what exciting events are coming up in your calendar. In your newsletter, you could even suggest conversation points so parents can ask their children about what they’re learning: “Ask your child to tell you what they learned this week about hatching chicks.”