Building strong relationships with new families 

Building a strong relationship with families at your center is crucial to your client retention, and to the development of a child while enrolled. A strong relationship is often built on communication. When new families begin to attend your center, it is important that you work to build a relationship that is open, honest, and purposeful. So how do you go about creating a culture where new families feel valued and know that they can trust those in charge of taking care of their children? Here are a few strategies you can use to build strong and trusting relationships with the families at your center. 

Set the right tone during the very first visit. 

Let’s start with that very first visit. When a family is interested in your center and they arrive for a tour, the first impression you give them of your center’s culture matters so you want to be sure to communicate your mission statement clearly. They are there to get a feel for the environment and you should ensure the center is warm and welcoming, as always. Families want to know what impact your organization has on children and their communities. Your mission statement should be visible within your center and should highlight the most important goals. 

Have literature ready, such as infographics and packets, that clearly state the purpose of your program. Clearly indicate website information and emails to correspond about any follow-up questions. Do not overwhelm families, however. There is a delicate balance between helping an individual feel knowledgeable and then making a person feel inundated with too much information. Easy-to-read statements and clearly organized text help convey a clear message. 

Enthusiasm and respect go a long way in building trust with new families. When a family visits the center for the first time, you want to make sure that everyone feels welcome. Be sure you schedule the visit during a time when you are confident the family will be able to receive the attention they deserve. For example, naptime is not the best time to have a family come through the center to learn more about the organization. You will be moving through the hallways in hushed tones and classrooms will not be representative of the engaging environment that is typical. Instead, schedule a visit during a consistently active part of the day and get teacher input on when that time of day will be. 

Take the time to sit down with parents and answer questions. Get to know them as people. Having parents fill out a form about their child with information like interests, activities, or potential goals will help you understand their needs. If a family decides they would like to enroll their child, be sure to take a picture of the child and write the name of the child (phonetically) so that all staff can recognize and pronounce names respectfully. 

Be clear about how each family is valued.

If it is appropriate at the first visit, or if it is when they officially enroll, walk families through daily activities and set routines. Families should understand each step of the process and know the rationale behind each one. For example, naptime details should be explained with an emphasis on how crucial naptime is for good sleep patterns and brain development. Ask for input and specific goals that may be associated with each of the routines. Taking the time to inquire about any challenges a child may face with behaviors associated with mealtime or cooperative play, for example, will enable parents to see how much your center cares and values every family’s unique situation. Invite questions and encourage parents to be open about any reservations they may have. Emphasize your belief in each child’s potential and in the positive interactions you are confident will occur as new families become more acclimated with the center. You want to consistently show families that their feedback and input matter. Be sure that families understand the director and staff are accessible and open to addressing concerns or answering questions.

Remind families that when they join your center, they are part of a community. You want to encourage families to connect through your organization so that beneficial relationships can form for the children, and in many instances, for the family as a whole. Invite new families to partake in the local community.  If you have coupons from local businesses, flyers with community events, or a list of local activities for children, share those too. You want families to know that your center is more than just a place to drop off their children; your center is a valuable resource in many different ways.

Communicate clearly, effectively, and efficiently. 

An app that allows for real-time communication and updates, such as HiMama, can contribute greatly to building strong relationships with new families. This app can offer a chance for families to see pictures of their child throughout the day and follow along for updates on their snacking, napping, and engagement. Setting the foundation by having a detailed conversation about communication expectations will enable families to understand the ins and outs of the center quickly. Due to the ease in which families can get reminders, important announcements, and revisit information, such as old reports, they will become more comfortable with the staff and grow to trust their child is safe and thriving while at childcare. 

Be sure that staff know to begin daily reports with including more information than usual the first week or so. This helps families learn the process while being attentive to their needs. At pick-up and drop-off, take the time to ask if there are any questions. Address family members by name, with a smile, and be sure to inquire about how their child seems to be adjusting with the new routine of childcare. Remember to be efficient with your communication and honor your clients’ time. Pick-ups and drop-offs are often very busy, so be sure to use that time for meaningful conversations. By the end of the first week or month, the director or teacher should set up a quick time to speak with new families. This does not need to be a long conference, but it should be purposeful. You can even have parents fill out a small intake form in which they can express whether their expectations have been met. Leave a small space for questions or additional comments. New families will know that they are heard and seen, which ensures them that their child’s needs are being met. 

In the end, strong relationships are built through recognizing value, setting clear goals, and fostering clear communication. Remember, partnering with families helps create a nurturing and productive environment for each child enrolled at your center. 

To learn more about how HiMama supports early childhood educators with expert-designed, research-backed and on-demand professional development trainings, click here!

Linda Valloor

Linda spends her days teaching high schoolers the power of World Literature. She has been a high school teacher for 18 years and has her M.Ed. in Secondary English with a focus on urban and multicultural education. She moved from Illinois to Pennsylvania 15 years ago when she married her wonderful husband, John. She is a mama to 12-year-old twin girls and a younger daughter who is 8. In her spare time, Linda loves to write poetry, cook (and eat) international cuisine, play games too competitively with her family, and snuggle her dog, Rockwell.