Communicating With Your Provider
Good communication is the key to a positive child care experience for you, your child and your child care provider. Here are some strategies.
Communicate Every Day
Even when you are in a hurry to get to work or return home after a long day, the time you spend touching bases with your child care provider will help your provider do a better job.
Talk to your provider. The more your provider knows about what is happening in a child’s family, the better he or she will be at providing care and guidance to fit your child’s needs.
Listen to your provider. What did your child do that day? What’s happening with other children in his or her care? Your child care provider is someone you need to know.
Show appreciation for what he or she does. Caring for children all day is hard work. Children provide some great rewards, but as a parent you need to remember that you can’t take your provider’s work for granted. Notice his or her successes. Remember to say thanks. Take the time to express your appreciation.
Respect the confidentiality of your relationship. If you do communicate regularly with your child care provider, most likely you will exchange confidential information about yourself, your child, and your family. Your provider will probably do the same. It’s important that both you and your provider respect the confidentiality of this information.
Share daily pleasures. Your child care provider may spend more waking hours with your child than you do on any given day. He or she talks with the children in his or her care, feeds them, understands how they are feeling, knows their favorite activities, and observes them as they develop and grow. Don’t hurry home without hearing about your child’s day. The more you understand about how your child spent his or her day, the better you will understand how he or she is doing in child care. Child care providers hope that by sharing information, parents will feel more comfortable about leaving their children in their care.
Take advantage of efforts your child care provider makes to communicate. Some common methods include:
- Conversations at pick-up and drop-off time
- Bulletin boards
- Parent meetings or social events
Communicating with your provider will help you feel more involved with your child’s care. Communication is an important key to quality care – it’s essential for both you and your provider to develop a parenting partnership.
Communication can also prevent conflicts between parents and child care providers. Differences that are discussed early can often be resolved before they become major issues. Sometimes, however, you may need to deal with conflict concerning the care of your child.
Communicating About Difficult Issues
There are times you may find yourself needing to talk with your child care provider about an issues. Here are some issues parents and child care providers may encounter:
- A desire for more educational stimulation
- Caregiver undependability
- Lack of social stimulation from peers
- Caregiver neglect
- Caregiver values are different from their own
- Unhealthy facility conditions
- Child mistreatment by caregiver and others
- Poor communication or coordination with the caregiver
- Problems in child’s adjustment
- Misunderstandings about policies such as vacation and holiday pay, field trips, etc.
Research shows that providers have conflicts with parents because of differing parenting values, limited interest in the child, and lack of respect for the provider. Common actions that bring about these conflicts include not paying on time, arriving late to pick up children, or not treating the provider as a professional.
Many parents will quit using the provider’s services instead of confronting a difficult problem. Although a change in child care may be one solution, it may also not be the best one for your child.
It’s important to think through the problem before confronting the provider. What happens if it does not get resolved? Is it worth confronting? Is it just a "pet peeve" or is it causing true concern for you and your child? Would it cause concern if your life was less stressful? How have you contributed to the conflict?
It is useful to separate the conflict into two aspects: emotion and content. In the parent-provider role it is important to consider the emotions of the individuals involved. Emotions that create conflict usually include feelings of guilt, shame, jealousy, anger, pressure, feeling left out, and worry. The content involved in conflict might relate to conflicting needs, disagreements over policies and practices, and differing ideas of roles.
If you think it is worth trying to resolve a problem, take time to set an appointment with your provider. Most communication occurs when children are dropped off or picked up. This is usually not a good time to deal with a conflict. Plan a time to discuss your concerns when your child isn’t present.
Focus On the Emotions First
The following guidelines will help you in your relationship with your child care provider.
- Remember to treat your child care provider with respect.
- Listen until you understand your provider’s point of view. Your provider will be more receptive to your needs if you have been positive about his or her work in the past.
- State your own views, needs, and feelings. Be honest. Use "I" statements like, "I’m uncomfortable with my child calling you ‘Mom.’ I’m not clear on your practices about names."
Focus On the Solution Second
Here are more guidelines that will help you in your relationship with your child care provider.
- Define the problem in terms of needs. For example, "My son Johnny likes it here and I would like to see our differences resolved so he can stay." Talk about possible solutions.
- Select the solution that will best meet both parties’ needs.
- Plan who will do what, and agree on a deadline.
- Implement the plan.
- Discuss the solution at a later date to determine if it’s working for both you and the provider.
Leavitt, R. L. (1995). Parent-provider communication in family day care homes. Child and Youth Care Forum, 24, 231-245. doi: 10.1007/BF02128590
Van Ijzendoom, M. H., Tavecchio, L. W. C., Stams, G. J., Verhoeven, M., & Reiling, E. (1998). Attunement between parents and professional caregivers: A comparison of childrearing attitudes in different child care settings. Journal of Marriage and Family, 60, 771-781.
Child Care: Raising Children Together — Good child care provides parents with an extended family to help share in the challenges and joys of raising children.