For most parents, their interactions with you and your setting are limited. It can easily seem like there's some invisible boundary between the two of you.
In part 3 of our series on parental partnerships, we're looking at increasing parents' involvement with your setting. For most parents, their interactions with you and your setting are limited. It can easily seem like there's some invisible boundary between the two of you. Interaction is ok at drop-off and collection times, but spend too much time together & who knows what might happen?! This separation between a parent, and the time they spend with their child at home, and you, and the time you spend with their child at nursery, preschool or any other sort of setting, can really undermine positive parental partnerships. Take a look at our suggestions of ways to break down that invisible boundaries below.
Get Parents Into the Setting
Does the idea of having parents hanging around while you're trying to do your job make you uncomfortable? It really shouldn't. Encouraging parents to physically spend time in your setting is a wonderful way to improve the partnership between you. It is reasonable though, to be wary of parents hanging around without some sort of structure. The last thing you want is to undo your hard work during settling in. Consider these ideas for structured, enjoyable ways to get parents to spend more time in your setting:
- offer parents the chance to eat breakfast at nursery with their children. Not only do you allow parent and child to enjoy a meal together, but parents get to see how mealtimes work in the setting as well
- invite parents to share a skill with all the children. From guitar playing, to gardening or speaking Mandarin, parents get to feel truly involved in the setting, and all the children get to try out something new
- put on an exhibition of children's work. Rather than simply sending paintings home, why not put on an evening exhibition, and encourage the children to show their parents around. This is great for the children's development, and let's parents into your setting too
- make yourself available for coffee. Even if it's something you do once a month, send an open invitation to your key children's parents to join you for coffee in your setting to catch up, and watch what's going on together
What About the Busy Parents?
Obviously, lots of parents will not have the availability to spend an afternoon teaching preschoolers to play the guitar. If they did, they wouldn't need to use a nursery! There are still ways to proactively reduce the barriers which can prevent positive parental partnerships forming.
Even if a parent can't personally share something with the children in the setting, they can contribute in other ways. Why not ask a parent if they can share the recipe to a favourite family meal? If you can take something which a parent knows well, like a family meal, and bring it into the setting, they inherently understand a bit more about what's going on. Moreover, this approach can be a lovely way of getting to understand and share different family religions and cultures with the rest of the children.
New technologies have also opened up great possibilities for reducing barriers. Instead of only taking photos of their child engaged in an activity, consider taking some more general photos of what circle time looks like, or at a mealtime. You could go even further and record short videos to share with parents. Getting preschool aged children to give their own tour of a setting is an activity which is great for their communication skills, and enlightens parents at the same time.