What is the most important part of a successful relationship? Whether we’re talking about romantic, family, friendship, or business relationships, we all know that strong relationships require effort. But this doesn’t have to be a lot of work - think of it more like saving a dollar a day versus cutting your expenses in half, or increasing your daily steps rather than running a marathon. A little goes a long way when it accumulates over time and relationships are no exception!
Whether from focused closures, holidays, or summer break, there will be days and seasons when our child care centers must close, and this can cause stress and anxiety for both parents and directors. Sometimes these seasons can be scary, such us waiting for a ‘second wave’ lockdown, but I believe that regardless of the circumstance, closures are a great time for us directors, owners, and teachers to plan ahead, focus on growing the size of our centers, and intentionally connect with the families in our centers.
Today I want to talk specifically about staying connected to the families in your center. When we are intentional about fostering healthy relationships we will not only continue to build positive connections with current families but also be more likely to be referred by those families. Love is multiplied, not divided and when we share love, care, and concern with our clients, we will not only benefit them, but receive it back in equal measure.
Although it’s easy to focus on the negatives in life, think of closures (even unexpected ones) as a building season, an investment season, and a time for you to really make a difference in your community.
Well that’s all easy to say, but how to get started? Let’s jump right into the tangibles below!
You probably already have a Facebook page, but maybe haven’t used it as much as you could. Today, more than ever, is the time to utilize social media!
When families are home they will be on social media more. It is a great way to stay in touch with families through live stream video, interactive posts and sharing updates. Be sure to keep in mind when to post information to maximize your interaction.
Encourage families to share learning activities, games, crafts or other fun things they are doing at home on your page as well. This is a great way for families to not only connect with you, but with other families in the center as well, while learning about new resources or documenting fun activities like baking with kids at home!
A great way for teachers to stay connected with the families in their classroom is to offer learning materials. This can be as simple or complex as you’d like, such as online resources catered to age. Alternatively, teachers could prepare a weekly packet for families for curbside pick up or a simple monthly packet sent via email. Either way can be a huge blessing to families and a great way to reduce boredom and encourage learning while the children are stuck at home.
Another great way to help is to offer a virtual story time for children. This could be a school-wide storytime or done per classroom. Storytime is always a favourite and such an easy thing to do, and can be made even more accessible by pre-recording storytimes or sharing virtual storytelling sources in your area
To get started just log onto Facebook Live (preferably a school or class page) and have the teacher read the story for the children. The key is to let the families know well ahead of time or schedule them regularly so they can interact with it LIVE. Don't forget to show the pictures slowly, kids always want to make sure to see the photos twice!
Virtual story time is a great way we as educators can encourage reading and literacy in our young children. Take the time to carefully pick each story and be intentional to mix it up with old favourites they will love and new adventures that keep them on the edge of their seat!
Most centers publish a regular monthly newsletter. If your center is closed unexpectedly or just for the summer and you’d like to stay in close contact, bumping your newsletter to a weekly one is a great way to stay connected.
In the weekly newsletter you can include things like:
Once the updates slow down a bit, you may think of adding in a featured staff member, another great way to foster relationships by allowing families in your center to get to know your team!
Everyone knows how much a personal check-in text means to us, but do we realize that others feel the same way? Especially if your center is closed unexpectedly families may be dealing with some anxiety. Checking in with them personally to see how they are doing and how you can help makes a big difference.
Checking in is so simple but can easily be forgotten in the bustle of running a center, so encourage all of your Lead Teachers to share the load and keep each other accountable! Of course, remember to be genuine and be willing to back up your offers of aid as well - a cliché comment or vague sentiment will have less of an impact than a short, thoughtful message with a specific offer of help or advice.
I hope this got you thinking about a few new ways you can help foster relationships with the families at you centre this season, especially where the usual physical methods of a smile, handshake or hug are beyond our reach. The important part is to always focus on what we can do not on what we can’t do. These can be incredible seasons if we embrace them for what they are, especially since humans crave community when we are going through adversity
I want to wish you all the best in your work in this essential industry and encourage you to check out our Sandbox blog for more tips, updates and resources. Please reach out if there is anything more we can do to be a resource to you and help make your life easier! We love hearing from you and all the unique ways you are growing and adapting your centers to the unexpected changes and unique circumstances we are dealing with today!
Running a childcare center is a difficult calling, but it is incredibly important and can be exceptionally rewarding so if you ever feel that you are getting down, remember to focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t and don’t ever forget that you are appreciated and you got this!!