As educators, we hear it all the time: “Parent relationships are so important. You need to listen more to parent concerns. Did you reply to that parent’s request?” While we always want to focus on the children first and foremost, our relationships with parents are an essential part of being an educator.
Of course, parents are the main stakeholders in childcare businesses, but fostering strong relationships between parents and educators is about more than paying the bills. Happy parents make for happy children, which makes for happy educators, which makes for happy owners/operators. It’s a chain of engagement and satisfaction that’s worth our effort.
Relationship development and increased connection with children
First and foremost, having a good relationship with a child’s parents allows you to learn more about that child. You can ask questions about their past, home life, culture, etc, and use this information in your classroom. Embracing the uniqueness of each child in your classroom provides an abundance of new learning opportunities for everyone. Children can share interests and fun facts about themselves with their peers which can lead to activities for everyone to try. A great example of this is trying new foods!
Parents will be more likely to confide in an educator they feel they can trust. That trust is built on a foundation of open and honest communication. Asking thoughtful questions about their development and sharing updates and stories shows parents how much you care and want their child to succeed.
Continuing with classroom learning at home
You put so much effort into the learning opportunities children have in your classroom each day. Imagine the growth and progress the children have when their parents do the same! The more you connect and interact with parents, the more you can share what their children learned or participated in at childcare that day. Parents can then use this information and create similar learning opportunities at home to continue to grow and develop their child’s skill set.
Comfort in the learning environment
The more knowledge educators have about a child, the easier it is for them to anticipate that child’s needs and preferences. If a parent has informed their child’s educator about their favorite food or color, the educator can then set up learning opportunities for the child with those things in mind.
By the same token, if a child has had a negative experience and this is communicated to the educator they can help the child work through it and understand any adverse reactions they may see. For example, if a child has had a negative experience with a dog, the educator can slowly and cautiously introduce dogs to a learning environment and focus on telling positive stories involving them.
Avoid uncomfortable conversations with parents
We have all had the unfortunate experience of an uncomfortable conversation with a parent. These can take us by surprise, which makes them even more difficult to manage. The stronger your relationship with a parent, the less likely you are to be caught off guard. Parents often express anger or frustration when they do not have all of the information about a situation. The more open and honest you are with your parents from the start, the more they will trust you enough to give you the benefit of the doubt.
In the event that a parent does not agree with your decision, they are more likely to bring it up calmly and respectfully if they already have a relationship with you.
Increase parent engagement
Getting parents more involved is something that all childcare centers strive for. Increased parent engagement means a better childcare experience for everyone. Strong parent engagement leads to increased participation in educational activities, including graduations, family events on the weekend, the formation of parent boards, take-home activities, etc. The stronger your relationship is with your families, the more likely they are to want to participate in these events.
Recognizing educator’s hard work
You work very hard to provide an inclusive and comforting learning environment for the children in your classroom each day. Despite tantrums, messes, and lack of materials or support staff, you persevere and put the children first. ECEs deserve to be recognized for their hard work, and there any many ways parents can show appreciation to their childcare providers.
The stronger your relationship is with your parents, the more likely they are to recognize and appreciate your hard work. Those parents will be quick to acknowledge the differences they see in their children, the extra efforts you have put in, and how hard you work each day.
Free childcare promotion
Parents who are satisfied with their childcare experience will be sure to tell their friends and family. When you have made parents feel welcomed, safe, and supported while their children are in your care, they will be happy to exchange the favor by writing reviews recommending you and your center.
When you send out your survey, be sure to ask your parents on a scale of 1-10 how likely they would be to recommend your center to friends and family so that you can formally calculate your net promoter score.
You never know who you might meet! Parents come from all different backgrounds, hold various different jobs, and are connected to copious amounts of people. As you get to know each other, you could connect in a variety of different ways. Many parents and educators stay in touch over the years to keep informed on a child’s growth and development.
The benefits of developing strong relationships with your parents are endless, and there is no better time to start than now! Make time to connect with the parents in your classroom and get to know each other better each day!