Tips to help early childhood providers communicate with parents

Communication between an early childhood provider and parents is an important part of a high-quality early childhood program.

Communication between early childhood providers and parents is an important part of a high-quality early childhood program. In the Early Childhood Standards of Quality for Infant and Toddler Programs from the Michigan Department of Education, one of the program standards is that “the program maintains ongoing partnerships with families to support families continued engagement with and participation in their children’s development and care.” Communication is not always easy, but by following some simple strategies, you can improve your communication with parents of the children in your early childhood program.

  • Keep communication lines open. Open communication is a key to establishing a successful and meaningful relationship with all parents. Developing a relationship in which each party can honestly and openly share both successes and challenges takes time but will pay off in the end when you are able to effectively communicate with each other.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Sometimes we all just want to be heard. Whatever problem we have, it is important to us at that moment that our concerns and issues are really listened to.  It’s important for the listener to listen carefully and try to understand the other person’s point of view. If it is not a good time to listen, be honest and let the parent know that it would be better if you could talk another time, so that you’re really able to focus on his/her concerns.
  • Take concerns seriously. After listening to the parent, show that you will not disregard their concerns and explain how you will address them, if possible. If it is not workable in your childcare situation to accommodate the parent’s concerns, compassionately state you’d like to, but can’t because of certain reasons or rules in your childcare. See if you and the parent can work together to find an alternative solution that works for everyone.
  • Use “I” messages. They will help you speak honestly about your feelings without placing blame on the parent. Focus on how you are feeling and how behaviors affect you. Try using statements that identify your feelings and behaviors and a possible solution to the behaviors. For example, “I feel like you don’t respect me as a childcare provider when you pick Johnny up late. I feel angry because after the children leave for the day, it is my time with my family. Do you think that we could work together to help you pick Johnny up on time?”

Emphasize the positive. Even when talking about difficult situations or topics, focusing on the positives will help to keep the conversation moving forward and will make it easier for parents to want to work with you to find a solution.

Following these simple strategies can help you keep the communication lines open with your parents and make your job much easier. For more resources on communication with parents, please visit the eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care at

For more articles on early childhood eduction and other related topics, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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