Communication with parents can sometimes be difficult. Parents are often in a rush when they pick up or drop off their students, making it difficult for teachers to set up a rapport about the program or its students.
However, good communication between educator and parent is vital for student success! These tips can help establish that relationship.
- Learn parents’ names. Greet parents every time they come to the program. This is not only polite, but shows parents you are interested in speaking to them and respect their input and opinions.
- Ask families to share information about their lifestyle. Are there religious observances you need to know about? Certain foods the family avoids? These questions can be asked in person, or by enrollment form. Remember to be sensitive to people’s privacy; if they don’t want to explain why this or that rule is in place, don’t push them.
- Say something positive about their child whenever possible. Creating a positive relationship first can make more difficult conversations easier later on. It’s better for parents to hear the good things about their child before hearing their child may need special treatment for academics or behavior; hearing the positive with negative makes problems easier to accept.
- Respect parental confidences. If a parent confides in you that their child is having a problem, don’t immediately dial up a specialist or call a counselor to look at the issue. That is a decision the parent should have a very big say in, so if they do not want to investigate it yet, respect that decision and wait a bit before suggesting it again.
- Discuss only essential details of incidents. If two children get in a fight, don’t describe how one seemed agitated all day or how the other one refused to take his nap. Explain the nature of the conflict and how it was resolved, and then end the discussion. This avoids placing blame on one child over the other. Also avoid naming other children involved whenever possible.
- Timing is important. It takes patience and practice to learn that some things can wait. Not every minor rule infringement or questionable behavior requires a bit reaction. Only draw attention to and action if the child is in danger or the behavior becomes a problem.
- In your newsletter or handbook, include a time about going home. Transition times are very important, especially for young children adjusting to changes in their schedule. Offer suggestions and resources on issues or concerns families may be facing.
- Have a sense of humor! Being able to laugh at a situation later makes it easier to handle them. Whether it’s a child meltdown or a parent’s bizarre comment, a good sense of humor can make any situation just another funny story.
Source: School-Age Ideas and Activities for After-School Programs by Karen Haas-Foletta, Michele Cogley, and Lori Ottolini Geno