Keep communicating with parents and pave the way for continued progress! by Carla Poole

SUMMER IS ON THE WAY, AND CHANGE IS IN THE air. Yet caring for infants and toddlers continues to be about consistent nurturing relationships. Throughout the year, you have enjoyed intimate experiences with your children and worked hard to understand and respond to their families. Now, it is time to plan for changes. Planning for change sometimes jostles the important bonds between teachers and families, so it is especially important to remain in close contact during this period. Change can be especially challenging for infants, toddlers, and their families because children are changing so rapidly themselves! Very young children need to be able to rely on trusting relationships and feelings of security to continue their exciting journey of exploration and discovery. When you work with parents to plan for the future, be sure to keep in mind the important relationships children have formed. You can maintain a healthy level of continuity by keeping children's familiar friends and caregivers close by during transition times.

Questions From Parents

The end of the year always prompts many questions from parents. Help families through this transition by welcoming their questions and concerns-not just during parent/teacher conferences, but also during daily drop-off and pick-up times.

During conferences, discuss children's progress and accomplishments with parents. This type of dialogue helps everyone consider the kind of plan that will best support the child's future development. An ongoing dialogue also helps everyone adjust emotionally to upcoming changes.

You may think it best that a child stay with familiar adults and children for another year rather than move on. You can explain to the parents that although their child may be developing quickly in some areas, she is still working hard on other skills, such as learning to cooperate, and would benefit from another year in a comfortable, familiar setting. Gently encourage parents to resist pushing their child intc a new situation that may be too challenging. Maintaining positive relationships over time is the best way for toddlers to learn how to get along with others and feel self-confident -- important goals that will ultimately serve the child well throughout her childhood and beyond!

Questions for Families  

Discussions that focus on children's individual characteristics can help guide your planning. To encourage parents to take a broad view, ask them about their child's daily experiences:

  • To whom does your child seem most closely connected? Which caregiver? Which children?
  • Does she turn to a particular teacher for comfort?  
  • How does she seem to be feeling about herself? Is she proud of what she can do? 
  • Is she learning to cooperate with others? Where do you see this?
  • Is she learning to communicate her needs and feelings? With gestures? With words?
  • What are her favorite activities and interests? 
  • What do you feel are your child's greatest strengths? Areas of vulnerability?  

Share the Care

Take time to talk with parents about their child's experience in your program. Sharing perspectives on something you both care about - their child -- will help you plan together for what needs to come next. Here are some questions to foster your discussion. 

  • How do you feel your child has adjusted to the program this year? 
  • Do you have particular concerns or desires about the coming year? 
  • Do you have any suggestions that could have helped with an experience that did not go as well as you would have liked?
  • Were there any experiences for you or your child that went particularly well?
  • What are you looking forward to for your child next year?