By Michelle Saint Hilarie
Every parent who has to take their children to a child care program, whether it is a center or a home setting, knows the challenges of establishing and building a trusting relationship with their child’s caregiver. One of the biggest barriers to establishing a relationship with your caregiver is time. The drop off and pick up time is not an ideal time to get to know each other, even though these times are typically the only times you are seeing or interacting with your child’s teacher or caregiver. This means that in order to establish and build a relationship with your child’s caregiver you will have to invest some time to get to know each other.
Here are some creative tips and ideas for building a relationship with your child care provider:
Visit the Program Multiple Times
Ideally, you should visit the child care program before your child starts attending. Visiting multiple times at various hours of the day helps you familiarize yourself with the program and how it operates. This not only gives you an opportunity to get to know your caregiver, but it also allows you to get to know the other children and possibly their families as well. During your visit you will learn about all the various ways your caregiver will communicate with you, whether it is a daily written note, lesson plans, parent newsletter or posted messages on the door or bulletin board. Visiting multiple times will also inform your decision about finding a program that meets your family’s unique needs.
Now that you feel comfortable with the program you have chosen to care for your child in your absence, it’s time to get involved by volunteering in the classroom, participating in the parent meetings or teacher-parent conferences, or just planning a visit from time to time. While you’re there, spend some time talking to your child’s caregiver to get to know them better by asking questions about the program, their work experience and education or the current events in the classroom. Be ready to share information about yourself as well!
There are many forms of communication and there are many tools available that allow people to communicate in ways we never have before. The Internet and smart phones enable child care professionals to take and share pictures, videos, text messages, and voice messages in an instant. Speak with your provider about their policies and comfort level in sharing moments throughout your child’s day with you.
Allow your child to take printed photos with him/her to share or display in the classroom. Also take photos of your child at school to display at home; this will help create a school-home connection. Also, you don’t have to be the only one on the receiving end. Speak with them about sharing special moments from home, or sending an inspirational quote to them sometime during the day. You can also set up an email account or a group on Facebook for families and the caregiver to communicate about special events or just day-to-day activities that everyone will want to know more about. Depending on the age of the child, they may even get in on the fun and send a simple email to their parents about their day.
The work and school week is an extremely busy time and doesn’t allow for a lot of extra time to participate in extra activities, but you can get creative in your communication with your child’s caregiver. A hand-written card or note, some baked cookies or muffins, or even having your child draw their teacher a picture, is a nice way to let your child’s teacher know you care and value your relationship. You can offer to create a newsletter for the classroom if they do not already have one, or create a questionnaire that will allow you all to get to know each other better. The questionnaire could include simple questions like what’s their favorite food, color, movie, or music. Feel free to look up some more ideas on websites such as Pinterest or about.com.
Ultimately, nothing is more important than simply talking face to face with your child’s caregiver. There is value in establishing open lines of communication to and from your caregiver. Your provider is very interested in communicating with you and getting to know you as well, and often times, already has an open door policy.
Michelle Saint Hilarie is the Senior Program Director at Child Care Resource & Referral –ARIZONA, a statewide program of Child & Family Resources, Inc. If you ever have a question or concern about child care, call Child Care Resource & Referral – ARIZONA, anytime Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 1-800-308-9000. Their knowledgeable and friendly Resource and Referral Specialists are happy to assist you with any of your child care needs.