To help foster positive experiences for children while in child care, parents and caregivers need to establish close relationships and open communication. The responsibility for regular care and safety is shared by both parents and caregivers. Both share common goals in nurturing growth and development of children in their care. Parents know their children best. This valuable information can help the caregiver better meet the needs of children.
According to early childhood educator, B. F. Bundy, the relationship between parents and caregivers begins with their initial contact. Those first impressions should set the tone for an open, positive, trusting, and respectful relationship. During the initial phone call or visit, parents need to learn the philosophy of the caregiver. This helps parents to determine whether or not their philosophy and expectations are compatible with those of caregivers (Bundy, 1991).
Parents need to be clear about the caregiver’s views on discipline, program, routines, tuition, pay schedule, hours, late fees, and so forth. To avoid any misunderstandings, parents and caregivers may want to sign a contract for services. A written contract should outline the child care arrangement, including weekly schedule and hours needing care, the cost of child care, and when payments are due.
Once a relationship is established, both parents and caregivers need to work together to build a strong, positive relationship. This relationship can greatly influence the adjustment and attitude the child has about the child care experience.
Open communication is the key to building an ongoing relationship between parents and caregivers. Even though parents have busy schedules, taking time to talk briefly when dropping off and picking up children can keep parents up-to-date on their children’s progress and behavior. Caregivers are better able to do their job when informed of any changes in a child’s behavior (for example, not sleeping well, not eating breakfast, having a bad morning, or easily frustrated). When picking up children, parents are encouraged to talk with caregivers about the day’s activities. If for any reason children are going to be absent or late, contact the caregiver. Also, parents need to inform caregivers of any changes in the regular schedule. At times, the caregivers plan field trips or other special activities. When planning such events, it is helpful to know if children are going to be absent.
Day-to-day communication promotes a positive relationship between parents and caregivers and helps prevent problems.
Parental involvement in the child care experience also helps enhance the relationship.
Here are some ideas for getting involved:
- Visit the child care setting occasionally.
- Plan to eat lunch with your child when schedules permit.
- Help with a field trip or special event.
- Arrange with the caregiver to talk with the children about your job or occupation.
- Provide supplies for activities at child care.
- Prepare a special snack.
In any relationship, occasional disagreements may occur. As parents, your primary concerns may include:
- What is in the best interest of my child?
- Is my child in a safe, caring environment?
- If my child is not happy, what is the reason for the unhappiness?
Some parents may become concerned about one thing or another, such as: why a toy was taken from the child, why the child has paint on his or her new shirt, or why the child’s clothes are still wet at pick-up time. Caregivers may also have complaints regarding not being informed about the child’s absence or a change of schedule, parents being late to pick up the child, or parents frequently past due on child care payments. These are reasonable issues that need to be addressed.
Here are some tips for discussing concerns with caregivers.
- Be clear about the concern when discussing it with the caregiver.
- Use “I” messages to explain concerns to caregivers. For example: “I was very upset yesterday when I picked up Jimmy and we spent ten minutes looking for his missing jacket. I need Jimmy to have his belongings together so he is ready to go when I come to pick him up. When we have to look for missing things it makes me late for my night meetings.”
- Strive to understand the situation from the caregiver’s point-of-view.
- Listen carefully to what caregivers have to say and be sensitive to their feelings once the concern is shared.
- Maintain control of emotions when talking with the caregiver.
- Apologize and try to work it through with the caregiver when there is a misunderstanding or a mistake has been made.
- Viewpoints of parents and caregivers may differ significantly. Parents need to clearly explain how they view the situation differently.
- Remember, as a parent, you have the right to comment on your child’s care.
- Think of situations from personal experiences to back up your ideas and share these with the caregiver.
- When slight differences in views exist, try to resolve the situation in a manner that is comfortable to both.
- Decide whether to work on settling the significant differences in points-of-view or making a change in the child care arrangement.
It is unrealistic to expect that both parties will always agree regarding children’s care. Having a pattern of open, honest communication with caregivers, however, makes it easier to deal with a conflict.
Providing care for children on an ongoing basis is demanding. Remember to share compliments — not just complaints — with the caregiver (Labensohn, 1988). Caregivers need to know their hard work and dedication to the children is appreciated.