What can parents do to establish and nurture this relationship?
Relationships count, and children, parents and educators all benefit when there are genuine partnerships. So how can you help to build a strong and positive relationship with your child’s educators?
Think about your centre as a place for families with young children. Find a centre that feels welcoming to you and your child, where you feel comfortable and able to form relationships with those caring for your child. You don’t need to become firm friends, although this can happen outside of the centre. It is more about respecting and valuing each other’s roles and being able to work together to support the best outcomes for your child.
1. Ask for a copy of the centre philosophy
This will tell you about the beliefs and values that underpin practice at the centre. Reading this will help you to get to know your centre and how educators will work with your child and family.
It may also prompt questions. For example, the philosophy may include a commitment to work in partnership with families. You might want to ask more about this. For example, how do educators build this partnership? What can parents do to support the partnership? Share your hopes, expectations and priorities for your child.
2. Try to get a sense of staff continuity
Ask about the experience of educators and how long they have been at the centre. Ask about staffing at the centre, and who will be your child’s primary carers. While some changes are to be expected, it’s hard to build strong and trusting relationships if your child’s educators are continually changing.
3. Help educators to get to know your child and family
While educators will have a range of strategies to support successful transition, sharing your knowledge will help them to support your child. Your centre is likely to be interested in what your child enjoys doing, things that interest them, any concerns they have about starting at the centre and what helps if they feel worried or sad about something. It’s a good idea to think about this ahead of time.
4. Keep enrolment forms up to date
Form filling is nobody’s favourite activity, but enrolment forms are a vital source of information. Take time to complete these and remember to keep your information up to date. It is important that the centre is able to contact you.
5. Ask how information is shared at the centre?
Ask how the centre shares information with families and how you can communicate with your child’s educators. It is recognised that families have different needs and expectations when it comes to information sharing. You should be able to choose ways that suit you and your family. This may include talking with educators when your drop off and collect your child, arranging a time to meet for longer conversations, using technology (e.g. email, SMS, Storypark), reading notes and noticeboards and writing in a communication book. Let the centre know how you would prefer to share and receive information.
Introduce yourself to your child’s educators. Share a little about yourself and get to know them as people. Show that you value the important work they do and be sure to say hello and goodbye when you are dropping off and picking up your child.
Stay in touch. Regular and ongoing communication is important and this can be initiated by you or the centre. It is critical to make time for conversations, but when these happen needs to be negotiated. Most parents say they like to chat with educators at the beginning and end of their child’s day and find this is the most convenient way to share information.
Educators also say they value these conversations, which help them to build their knowledge of children and relationship with families. However, it is important to respect educators’ professional responsibilities. Remember, mornings can be a very busy time and their main priority will be to help children to transition from home to the centre.
Be mindful of their need to care for the group. A brief chat is fine, but it is better to arrange another time to meet for longer conversations. Similarly, remember that educators have personal and family responsibilities too, and may not be able to engage in a spontaneous extended conversation at the end of their work day.
6. Show your appreciation
Show your appreciation when you see educators caring for your child or notice that your child has learned something new. Remember, all educators need to be qualified. Some hold vocational qualifications in early childhood education and care, some will be degree-qualified early childhood teachers.
Let them know that you value their contribution to your child’s learning. Ask questions about your child’s current play and learning. Ask them how you can support their learning at home. Tell educators about things that interest, excite or challenge your child outside of the centre your child. Let them know your hopes, expectations and priorities for your child’s learning and discuss ways that you can work together to extend learning.
Getting the most of your centre
To get the most out of your centre, think of yourself as a member of the centre community with rights and responsibilities. Sure, your centre needs to comply with national quality standards and you have rights as a consumer of the service, but this is also about the care and education of your child. This is a shared responsibility where educators and families need to work together.
The evidence is clear. Children whose families are interested and involved and build strong and positive relationships with their child’s educators learn and achieve more. This is true in all areas of education, so start well by committing to this partnership at your early childhood centre.