Young children flourish best when parents and childminders work well together and form a ‘partnership’ but as all childminders know, some parents are easier to work with than others. Keep these 10 simple things in mind when you reflect on how you communicate with your parents.
1. However you may be feeling, SMILE when people come through the door every time.
Good body language makes such a difference to face to face communication. Make sure all parents get a warm and genuine greeting. Make time to listen to each parent and use ACTIVE listening skills. When you are handing over their child, you shouldn’t be packing up boxes, or tidying at the same time. When you are talking with a parent, give them eye contact and your full attention, just for a few minutes.
2. Show ALL parents that your setting welcomes diversity
Make sure that your resources and displays represent the ethnic, cultural and social diversity in your community and ensure that parents can see their own family background and culture represented in your wall displays. Most importantly, learn to pronounce parents’ names correctly.
3. Make everybody feel welcome including fathers
Stereotypical views of childcare as women’s work can make childcare feel like a no-go area for some fathers. Go out of your way to make fathers feel welcome. If you invite parents to do activities at your setting, make sure these activities are for ‘parents’ not ‘mums’.
4. Use whatever forms of communication work best for the parents, not for you
Communication takes many different forms and as a childminder in a modern age you need to be flexible. What works well for one parent, may not work well for another. And don’t forget fathers. They may prefer different communication methods than mothers. Ask parents about what form of communication they would prefer and try to do whatever works best for them.
5. Always get a written contract in place
Always get a written contract with parents because this sets the right tone for your “business” relationship right from the very start. Even if you are childminding your best friend’s little girl (in fact, especially if you are minding for a friend) make sure you get a contract because this is a business arrangement that is outside of your friendship. A contract in writing protects everyone from later misunderstandings.
6. Establish yourself as a ‘friendly professional’ NOT a friend
It is entirely up to you what ‘tone’ you establish with the parents of the children you look after but if you become their “friend”, it can be hard to have serious discussions about late payment or their child’s problematic behaviours later on. Instead, if you set yourself up to be a friendly professional, then you have established the necessary boundaries you may find helpful later on.
7. Make sure that the parent always has the impression that you are happy to talk longer with them if they need to
Sometimes an issue is too big to discuss in your doorway, especially if there are other parents around or the child is listening in. In this case, don’t try to rush it, ask the parent “when can we talk more formally” and tell them you will be in touch to arrange a time by email or text message later on.
8. Have two bulletin boards
Many childminders have overflowing bulletin boards full of all sorts of curling paperwork that no one except the Ofsted inspector ever needs to see. The clutter of paper makes it impossible for anybody to read the important messages hidden between the rubbish.
One way to handle this is to have TWO bulletin boards: an Ofsted inspector bulletin board with all the paperwork you have to display for legal reasons like your registration certificate and the parent poster AND a totally separate Parent Information Board on which you put things you actually want parents to see like your weekly plan of activities, menus and your holiday chart.
9. Invite parents into your setting for an event
Parents can make a valuable contribution to all the children’s learning by sharing their time, experiences and talents. If their home culture is different to yours inviting a parent to do an activity with you could even be a fabulous diversity activity for everyone. Hold a special event and invite parents to join you for the afternoon.
10. Give parents clear ideas of how they can support learning at home
The best way to help a child in the long run is to help his parents because parents are the most important influences in a child’s life. Give lots of specific help and encouragement to parents whenever you can, give them tools to support their child’s learning at home, and take extra time to help more vulnerable parents.
My NEW Communication with Parents Pack includes a communications audit that you can use to examine what is working well and what you need to improve. Pack challenges you to think about how parents want to FEEL when they choose a childminder and includes information for new childminders setting up and for experienced childminders hoping to achieve outstanding
- Supporting learning at home
- Attracting new parents to your setting – improving your marketing skills to get new parents to contact you, your unique selling points, WOW factors, managing the ‘first visit’
- Audit your setting to improve what you do
- Sharing challenging information about their child’s learning and development with parents in a tactful way
- Parent and child questionnaires
- Letter templates for challenging situations – late payment, late collection, unhealthy lunches, terminating your contract with a family
- Transition programme
Use the tools in my new pack to examine what is working well and what needs to be improved in terms of how you communicate with parents.
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About Kay Woods and Kids To Go
Kay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.
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