Building a Relationship with Your Caregiver
Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW, RSW
Securing child care can be one of the most stressful challenges of parenting. Searching for that perfect spot—where you know your child will be well cared for, where you feel that the provider’s child rearing values and beliefs are in line with your own, where the location and hours fit with your schedule, and where you trust in the provider’s skills and abilities—can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially when there are waitlists and available spots depend on the age of your child. But then, at some point in your search, you meet someone and it just feels right. You make arrangements, sign a contract, and agree on a start date. For me, this brought a huge sense of relief—like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was still nervous and worried, knowing that big changes for my family were just around the corner, but having a good feeling about our home child care provider was so reassuring.
Once you’ve found a spot, and with this step out of the way, it’s time to start thinking about building a relationship with your caregiver. Growing those initial conversations and meetings into a meaningful partnership. After all, you will be parenting together to support and enrich your child’s development. Your home child care provider will be one of the most influential people in your child’s early life—helping to shape the developing brain and lay a strong foundation for future learning and growth.
The importance of having a strong, positive, relationship with your child’s caregiver might seem obvious but I think it’s often overlooked. Here are some thoughts to consider:
- Take the time to really get to know your provider. Make an effort: a caregiver once told me that one of her daycare parents never even bothered to learn how to properly pronounce her name. After mentioning it to the parent, and trying on several occasions to correct it, she just gave up. The parent was otherwise ok but the caregiver confided to me that she really did feel hurt by this oversight and that ultimately, their relationship suffered. Ask questions and take an interest in your caregiver’s life. Attention to detail goes a long way. Meaningful connections create a sense of belonging and value. If you ask “How are you?” take the time to hear the real answer. Genuine interactions do not necessarily need to be long or complicated, just sincere.
- Respect your child care provider’s time, space, contract, and business policies. Know and respect the expectations and parent responsibilities (payment schedule, drop off and pick up times, sick child guidelines, caregiver sick leave and vacation provisions, etc.). If you are unsure, ask questions! Clarify—don’t assume. Open communication paves the way for any good relationship.
- Work together to support your child’s learning. Your caregiver likely has experience and insight into a variety of early childhood situations and scenarios. Discuss concerns or developmental milestones and strategize together for a plan that will work at home and at child care. Teaching new skills or working to change an unwanted behaviour definitely requires a team approach. For example, your provider can not teach independent dressing or toileting unless you are also teaching these skills at home. A consistent approach will best support your child’s learning and seeing similarities between their home and the home child care will help them feel safe and secure.
- Appreciate the time and effort that goes in to program planning and communicating. Know ahead of time the general plan for the week so that you and your child can be well prepared. Are there any outings booked? What activities are planned? What is the weather forecast? Consider any special items that your child might need (Sun hat? Rain boots? Splash pants? Car seat coat? Snowsuit? Extra mittens? Spare change of clothes?) and be sure to have them available. Review posted/distributed material and carefully read through any email/logbook/online communications. If your child care provider takes the time to write it, then you need to make the time to read it. ♥
- Challenges or concerns are much easier to address when there is a strong foundation and a positive relationship. With well-established trust and mutual respect, small misunderstandings are easily resolved and more serious concerns are handled with sensitivity and kindness. With open and honest communication feelings of resentment and irritation are less likely to fester.
- Building a relationship with your home child care provider models behaviour and sets the tone as to how your child will view the caregiver too. Using social referencing, infants and young children will read their parent’s facial expressions to help them understand a new situation. When they consistently see their parent interact with their caregiver in a friendly, kind, calm manner then they will come to understand that the this new situation is safe. When children see their parents genuinely caring about and respecting the provider then they will also want to form a positive connection with this new person in their life.
Choosing a home child care environment allows your child to grow and learn within the comfort and structure of a family setting. Just as with any family, connection and relationship between the members of your home child care family is essential. A strong foundation of trust, open communication, mutual respect, and kindness between you and your home child care provider will allow your child to flourish.