Tips for Early Childhood Educators: Building Relationships to Support Children

From the “Ready to Learn” series

From the “Ready to Learn” series

At the Ounce of Prevention Fund, we believe that all learning happens in the context of relationships. Children learn best when they have a secure relationship with their parents, teachers and other caregivers.

Developing strong relationships takes time and effort. Here is some advice from our experts to help early childhood educators begin to create relationships with parents and children.

Learn everything you can about the child

A child’s parents or other caregivers are the richest sources of information that early educators have about the children in their classroom. Learning about a child’s background and how they learn will influence important choices you make as an educator.

Before the school year starts, take time to talk with a child’s parents or guardians about the child’s temperament, culture, and eating, sleeping and reading routines. A particularly important part of this investigative work is exploring what parents recognize as strengths and weaknesses in the child. If busy schedules get in the way of setting up time to talk, send a survey to the child’s home that asks these questions.

Take notes on the child’s activities

Keeping written track of what you observe about a child’s behavior and level of response to certain activities is a great way to keep the conversation going with parents and facilitate a strong partnership with them that will help ensure the success of the child. Share your notes with parents regularly to start discussions about the strengths of the child and what parents can do at home to help him or her overcome any challenges. This practice is a great way to chronicle a child’s progress over the course of the school year, and the information could be useful to teachers who will have the child in the classroom in the future.

Intentionally acknowledge family members during drop off or pick-up times
At Educare Chicago, teachers are diligent about making parents and caretakers feel welcome inside the school at all times of day, including drop-off and pick-up times. While not every school may be able to practice an all-day ‘open door’ policy, recognizing parents and making a special effort to talk to them as children begin and end their day will help the children to feel secure. Children will think to themselves: If this is a safe environment for my parents, it must be a safe environment for me.

Support families

Parents and caretakers who feel supported by the staff at their child’s school are more likely to stay involved in their child’s education. And research tells us that the longer parents stay involved in their child’s education, the further that child will likely go in school.

In addition to giving parents regular updates on their child’s progress, educators can help parents by directing them to supports and resources at the school that can help them deal with any life situations that are affecting the child. If you don’t have family support resources in your school, research local organizations or peer groups that can work with families on challenges they may be facing.

Read more articles in our “Ready to Learn” series.