Mental health is just as important as physical health to a child's well-being.

Mental health is just as important as physical health to a child's well-being.

Communicating With Parents and Families

Establishing strong relationships with the families you serve is important to building trust so families see you as a partner in their child’s development. Sharing growth and developmental milestones on a routine basis (at pick up and drop off is a great time) helps families have a better understanding of their child’s development and behavior. Communicating when a child does something early or late in their development is important to share with families.

Strategies for optimal ongoing communication

•Have an orientation meeting with families where you explain how you will communicate, talk about your daily routines and ask about their routines at home (eating, sleeping, playing), explain how you will get to know them and their child (i.e. Daily log, Temperament Screen, Sensory Checklist), and why regular open communication is important for their child to be successful.
• Greet families at drop off and pick up. Try and exchange a word or two about how they are and how their children are doing.
• For new families, inform them that you value them and want to work with them as a team in the best interest of their child.
• Regularly share information about typical, healthy developmental milestones via handouts, newsletters, posters or flyers.
• Jot down a descriptive note about each child’s day and share it with the family. Saying something positive that happened each day is a great way to develop a positive relationship.
• Meet periodically with parents to share information about their child’s progress in your program. Don’t wait to meet until there is a problem to address.
• If you observe something that concerns you, ask the family what they see at home.
• Respect the family culture especially related to developmental milestones, discipline, eating and sleeping routines and rules for play.
• Ask the family to share techniques that they have found to work at home and try them in the child care setting.
• Share with the family any techniques you have found to work well, and ask them to try them at home.

How to approach parents/families when there is an issue with a child
Communicating concerns with families about their child’s development will be much easier if you have already established a meaningful relationship, are prepared, and focus your conversation on specific developmental milestones and wonder with the parent about the concerns you have noted.

If you have questions about a child’s growth and development (as well as social and emotional development):

  • Make sure you know the policies in place at your child care setting before you have conversations with parents and be sure to include appropriate supervisors in the meeting if necessary.
  • Hold the meeting in an area that is private and comfortable.
  • Be prepared.
  • Practice good listening skills:
    • Maintain eye contact
    • Give encouraging responses
    • Use body language that tells parents you are actively listening
    • Listen honestly and openly to the parents’ perspectives and priorities
  • Start off the conversation with something positive about the child and his/her development.
  • Focus on specific developmental milestones without making a diagnosis.
  • Encourage families to share concerns with their child’s primary healthcare provider.
  • Bring resources for families for referrals if necessary. (See section on Local and National Supports)
  • In some cases, consider connecting with an early childhood mental health consultant. In Connecticut, you can call the Early Childhood Consultation Partnership at 1-860-704-6378 or the Child Development Infoline at 1-800-505-7000.