How to Promote Effective Communication in Childcare
As an early childhood educator, you’re constantly communicating with those around you: your co-workers, your students, and — most importantly — your students’ families. But, mastering effective communication with parents in child care can sometimes feel like an uphill battle.
Where should you start? How much can you really do? Are there any tools available that can help make communication easier?
At ChildCare Education Institute, we’re dedicated to providing teachers like you with the highest-quality training resources available to help you become the best possible educator (and conversationalist). And, because we have a number of courses focused on communication strategies in childcare, we’re sharing our top tips on how to promote effective communication in childcare.
Practice active listening.
Effective communication is just as much about how you listen, as how you talk. That’s why it’s important to make a concerted effort to show parents that you’re actively listening to their opinions, ideas, and insights. . Whether you’re meeting for a one-on-one conference or engaging in conversation during drop-off/pick-up, we recommend taking steps to show families you’re paying attention, including:
- Providing verbal acknowledgments (e.g. saying things like, “I see,” “Yes,” or “Okay”).
- Using body language to engage through non-verbal cues (e.g. making eye contact, having a relaxed posture, nodding along).
- Paying attention to the parents’ non-verbal cues.
- Ensuring the other party finishes their thoughts before interjecting.
- Summarizing what the parents have said to make sure you’re understanding them correctly.
- Asking open-ended questions that invite more detail (e.g. “I’d like to hear more about that.”).
By engaging in active listening, you’ll demonstrate to parents that you value what they have to say — and in doing so, you’ll encourage them to continue to openly communicate with you moving forward.
Communicate intentionally and respectfully.
One of the keys to establishing effective communication with parents in child care is treating each family with respect and understanding during all interactions (even the briefest ones). For example, if you have parents at your center who don’t speak English, try bringing in an interpreter for parent-teacher conferences and/or paying for a service that can help translate important documents into their native languages. By taking this initiative, you’ll not only show the parent how important they are to you and your center, but you’ll also be able to open lines of dialogue that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. If you don’t have room in your budget for a service or translator, Google Translate can be a helpful free option for translating written text.
Another way to ensure you’re communicating respectively is to take into consideration the family’s religious/cultural background, their gender identities, and their parenting arrangements or family structure. Once you’re aware of these elements, it will be easier to communicate with them in a courteous way (e.g. addressing them by their preferred pronouns, showing sensitivity when necessary). If you’re unsure of a parent’s preferred pronoun or a child’s at-home situation, we recommend including a question around the topic on your program’s registration survey.
Build trust with families.
It’s almost impossible to establish an effective line of communication between you and the parents at your program if they don’t trust that you have their best interests at heart. That’s why it’s critical to pay attention to the actions you take every day and make sure they’re demonstrating your commitment to students’ and parents’ well-being. This means:
- Treating students and parents with respect and responsiveness.
- Honoring commitments.
- Being transparent and open.
- Keeping your students out of dangerous situations.
- Avoiding shady business practices.
- Anticipating problems and addressing them as soon as they arrive.
- Setting a positive example for those around you.
- Showing professionalism in classroom and center environments.
Once you’ve established an element of trust with parents, it will be easier to communicate with them about student concerns and solutions in the future.
Open a two-way line of communication.
One of the most simple (yet important) communication strategies in childcare is to provide parents with a convenient way to initiate conversations with teachers and program staff. This can be as simple as offering open-door hours for parents to come and voice concerns or providing them with a feedback line where they can share their thoughts. However, we’d recommend taking it a step further and looking into a communication tool (like our sister company, LifeCubby) that allows parents to digitally message educators (and vice versa) at any time.
By allowing parents to proactively share information about their child, along with concerns about their behavior or progress, you’ll be able to gain a more complete picture of how the student is developing. You’ll also be able to receive feedback from families in real-time that can help your program grow and improve.
Be flexible about how you communicate.
Parent-teacher communication isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. While one parent might enjoy live chat updates, others might prefer face-to-face dialogue or written updates. That’s why one of our favorite tips on how to promote effective communication in childcare is to take a flexible approach with families.
Before your school year begins, ask parents how they’d like to communicate about their child’s day and progress. Then, take that into consideration as you make a plan for the year. If you have limited resources and can’t accommodate all styles individually, try a combination of mediums to help appease everyone. The different forms of communication available can include:
- Phone calls
- In-person conferences
- Virtual conferences (if your center is limited in-person visitors)
- Digital newsletters
- Written notes
- Live chat/SMS messaging
As you talk to parents about their preferred mode of communication, also gauge how often they’d like to be updated. This will help you get a better idea of how often you should check in to ensure they’re feeling listened to and included.
Don’t wait until something is wrong to reach out.
While it’s obviously important to reach out to parents when something is concerning you about their child, it shouldn’t be the only time you and the parents connect. Make an effort to talk to families when their children experience “wins,” as well. For example, if Jamal volunteered to help you pass out supplies during art class, let his parents know at pick-up or send him home with a templated “good job” star note. Additionally, try connecting with parents simply to check-in and see how things are going. If you know a family is navigating through a big change or major event, take a few minutes to write them a quick note and let them know you’re thinking of them. This will help further your relationship with them and establish more open lines of communication.
Approach big conversations ready to collaborate.
If a student’s concern does arise, schedule time with the student’s parents to talk about the problem in person. Then, come to the meeting ready to collaborate with the family and work together to find a solution. When you communicate during the meeting, make an effort to understand where everyone is coming from and how each person can bring their own skills to the table to benefit the child. Finally, make sure you’re clearly addressing the issues you’re seeing with the student and backing it up with concrete evidence. Be sure to keep an empathetic tone throughout the meeting to help the family feel understood and show that you truly want to help.
Use mass communication for emergencies or center-wide updates.
Another tip for how to promote effective communication in childcare is to take advantage of mass communication resources during emergencies or unplanned changes. This will allow you to quickly share time-sensitive information and ensure that everyone is kept in the loop. We also recommend that you update any emergency response plans your center has in place (or create them if you don’t have any) to include a communications strategy for each emergency.
Host communication workshops at your center.
Talking with families is an essential part of childcare and something all teachers have to navigate during their tenure. As a result, each teacher likely has their own tips and tricks that they can share with others (as long as they have the platform to do so). Try hosting a communication workshop at your center once a year to allow teachers to share their own experiences, hear from guest experts on the topic and brush up on their skills. We recommend hosting these prior to the start of a new school year so that each educator can put their best foot forward with their new classroom.
Want to learn more about how to promote effective communication in childcare? Our online courses (including this one) can help. The best part? All courses are available 24/7 and accessible from any device — including your smartphone. To learn more about the 150+ courses we offer, click here.
Interested in demonstrating your commitment to establishing effective communication with parents in child care? Showcase your skills with our Communication and Interpersonal Skills Certificate program. Our online program covers communication strategies in childcare, verbal and non-verbal communication with children and so much more. Click here to learn more and start your journey today.