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Working With Parents:
Advice For Childcare Workers

Working With Parents...

Working With Parents
All those who work with children will recognise that the relationship between the child-care establishment and the parents/carers of the child is very important.

A good relationship will benefit the child, the parent and those who work with the child.

Why Work With Parents?

There are a number of reasons why working with parents is considered to be important and neccessary...
  • Parents have the most knowledge and understanding of their children. If they are encouraged to share this with staff, the child will benefit.
  • Children need consistent handling to feel secure. This is not likely to occur if there are no good channels of communication between parents and staff.
  • Research has demonstrated the positive effect that parental involvement in the education process has on the progress of children. If parents become involved early on in the child's education, they are likely to maintain this involvement throughout the child's educational career.
  • Children's learning is not confined to the child-care setting. An exchange of information from centre to home and from home to centre will consolidate learning, wherever it takes place.
  • Parents have a wealth of skills and experiences that they can contribute to the child-care centre. Participation in this way will broaden and enrich the programme offered to all the children. Many playgroups rely on a parent's rota to complement their staffing.
  • Parents who are experiencing challenges with their children may be able to share these challenges and work towards resolving them alongside sympathetic and supportive professionals.
  • Parents may experience a loss of role when their child starts nursery or school. Being involved and feeling valued may help them to adjust to this change.
All centres develop ways of working with parents, but naturally there are differences, depending on the emphasis of each particular establishment.

For example, a family centre where many of the children are referred by social services, perhaps as a result of some crisis, will work with parents in ways that are quite different to those used in say, a workplace day nursery that cares for children during parents' long shifts, or a playgroup where parents operate a daily rota.

Nevertheless, there are general principles that will always apply...

  • Be friendly and approachable. Remember that parents might feel uneasy in an unfamiliar setting and it is up to staff to make the right kind of approach.
  • Be courteous and maintain a professional relationship.
  • Encourage a meaningful exchange of information between the home and centre.

Making Parents Welcome

It is the responsibility of those who work with children to do everything that they can to make parents feel welcome and valued.

The needs and feelings of all parents should be considered.

This may include some who have less than positive memories of their own childwood experiences and who need particular encouragement to feel comfortable.

Parents who are unfamiliar with the methods and approaches used may require extra explanation and reassurance.

Parents from some minority ethnic groups may be concerned that their child's cultural and religious background is understood.

Provision should be made to ensure that parents who do not use the language of the setting are provided with the full range of opportunities to be involved in their children's care and education.

Written Communications

All centres will have a brochure that they provide for parents which will give them initial information about the service offered.

The brochure provides the parent with a great deal of information which is useful for reference once the child has started at the centre.

Parents can expect to receive a whole range of written communications once their child has started at the centre.

Some centres produce their own booklets, for example, about their approach to reading or other areas of the curriculum, indicating to parents how they can be a part of their children's learning.

Parents might also receive regular newsletters, invitations to concepts, parent's meetings, requests for assistance and support, information about the activities provided for children, advance notice of holidays and centre closures, and so on.

These will often be reinforced with notices and verbal reminders. It is important that these notices and letters communicate the information in a clear and friendly manner.

Progress And Achievements

A great deal is to be gained from sharing record-keeping with parents.

This does not mean merely making children's records available to parents, but encouraging parents to contribute by offering their own observations of their children, thus putting the child into the wider context of home and community.

Parents can be involved in the process of recording their children's progress and achievements in a number of ways...

  • Parents will often help staff compile a profile of their child at admission. This is usually organised around areas of development and shows what the child can do. It may also include space to refer to the child's preferences, for example 'likes painting', and any other related information, including concerns. These initial profiles serve as a starting point and will be added as the child progresses and achieves new skills.
  • An exchange of information about a child's achievements or concerns will usually take place on an informal basis at the beginning and end of sessions and can be very useful.
  • Most settings and parents would agree that there is a place for a regular, more structured exchange of information where records can be updated by parents and by staff and progress discussed. This will give parents the opportunity to add to the records compiled by staff and supplement these with additional information from their observations. Plans for continuing progress should also be discussed with parents, emphasising the partnership between parents and staff and recognising the parents' key role in promoting their children's development.
  • Checklists that break down a certain area, for example reading, are quick and wasy to fill in. Children and parents will enjoy filling these in and recording progress together.
  • Diary-type booklets that are regularly written up and sent home with children for parents to read and comment on provide another useful channel for exchanging information, particularly for those parents who are unable to get to the centre on a regular basis.

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