Last year Samantha and her two children, Elliot, aged two and Kendra, aged four moved to a small country town. At first Samantha and her children felt very isolated as they didn’t know anyone. However, staff at her children’s early childhood service were very welcoming, warm and friendly, and over time Samantha worked with the staff to help create a smooth transition for her children into the service. Samantha and her children also attended morning teas and working bees provided by the service and started making friends. With involvement in other community events, Samantha and her children began to expand their friendships and acquaintances. When times were very busy or stressful, Samantha knew there was someone to talk to as she had become part of a community.
When families and early childhood staff work well together, over time they can build a partnership. In a genuine partnership all individuals respect, value and trust one another and contribute to decisions concerning a shared goal, for example supporting the needs of a child. In a partnership families and staff can offer valuable observations about a child, this leads to a greater understanding and ability to work together to meet a child’s needs. They can then work together to help meet these needs. Partnerships play a valuable role in contributing to the development of strong relationships between families and staff.
Factors that help build partnerships include:
- respect and trust
- shared understanding and responsibility
- a common goal
- good communication
- time for these aspects to develop.
Positive relationships can also make it easier for parents and carers to approach staff for support in their parenting role. By having a good relationship, staff can meet individual needs better by assisting with parenting questions appropriately, and providing suitable parenting resources and contact information of other support services in the community.
What early childhood services might also be doing
- Getting to know families through informal chats and/or formal planned events.
- Reflecting on how they communicate with families and adapting this to meet families and children’s needs.
- Involving families in decision making by incorporating their views, knowledge and skills.
At the heart of a partnership is communication. Good communication helps with gathering information about a person and/or their situation; it also helps to build trust which forms the basis of good partnerships. When families and staff communicate openly about children and their needs, staff can provide appropriate support for families and children’s mental health and wellbeing.
What parents and carers can do
- Maintain frequent face-to-face contact with staff; this gives you a chance to ask questions, clarify information and ask for feedback. Phone calls and emails can also be used to make contact when it is difficult to make a time to meet.
- Open communication; when families and staff inform each other about the way things are done, both at the service and at home, it helps to bring about consistency in children’s environments. Providing examples and details about your child’s behaviours to staff is also valuable (eg what works for you when dealing with a particular behaviour).
- Attend events at the service when you can; this is a great opportunity to meet other families.
- If you are available or have a skill to share, volunteer at the service; contributing to the early childhood centre can promote a sense of connection with your community.