Develop a plan for how to create an open and ongoing dialogue with your parents
Communication is important in any relationship but especially in a business relationship involving something as sensitive as the care of someone’s child. Establishing a sense of trust, transparency, and integrity is imperative to creating an atmosphere of professionalism and, more importantly, safety.
Clear communication helps mediate behavioral issues, misunderstandings, and stress while allowing involved parties to have a better understanding of a child’s daily experiences and disposition.
Create a plan to help foster a meaningful pattern of two-way communication with the families of the children in your care.
What to talk about
There are several different areas of communication to address when it comes to keeping your business running smoothly and providing the best care for children and families. Don’t just make a vague decision to communicate well: outline what families need to know, what you need to know from them, and how you will convey this information in a way that keeps you organized and accountable. Consider the following.
Policies and procedures
Having well-defined rules and protocols for handling a wide range of situations can remove confusion, conflict, and the need to repeat guidelines over and over again. Create a written set of policies and procedures that cover everything from daily drop-off to emergency evacuations and beyond – try to include the who, what, when, where, why, and how for all potentially relevant scenarios.
Include your policies and procedures, along with helpful information such as the daily schedule, an annual calendar, and important phone numbers, in a parent handbook and ask parents to sign that they have read and agreed to everything contained within. A written manual can eliminate the need for extra inquiries and provides an outline of your expectations.
Maintaining an open dialogue is important for both parties. Parents need to know how their children are doing and about any issues or milestones because they may have anxiety about not being present. Caregivers need to know about issues at home, about concerns the parents are having, and about the child’s home environment and disposition.
The communication can come in many forms and maybe a combination of any of the following:
- Casual face-to-face communication
- Regular emails or daily notes
- Scheduled meetings or conferences
- A daily notebook in which parents and providers write notes
- Telephone calls for when there are concerns or an immediate issue
Defining your preferred means of communication and hours of availability in the parent handbook is an effective way of establishing a system that works best for your business.
Asking for feedback – and taking it seriously – is a great way to grow as a professional. It also shows parents that you’re interested in their experience and invested in your work. Send out an annual survey to assess the quality of your program. Questions may include the following:
- What do you like best about the care your child receives?
- How could I improve my services?
- Is there anything about the program that you’d like to change?
- Is there anything you would like to see added to the program?
- Would you recommend the program to other parents? Why or why not?
Consider the answers and assess whether you should make changes to your program, policies, or procedures.
Fostering an atmosphere of trust and inclusiveness is an important part of running a childcare business. Develop a plan for communicating with parents; take a genuine interest in their concerns, opinions, and advice; and commit to working together to provide the best possible care for the children involved.
The Virginia Infant & Toddler Specialist Network helps improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers through extensive resources, services, and education for caregivers. Learn more about how we can help you improve the standard of care.