Effective Communication: Build Your Skills and Confidence

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  Published on Tuesday, 08 June 2021

Effective Communication: Build Your Skills and Confidence

Library Home  >  Leadership & Service Management
  Published on Tuesday, 08 June 2021

If you sometimes find it difficult to communicate effectively with the parents of the children in your care, you’re definitely not alone. Raising concerns over a child’s development or behaviour to their parents, or responding to concerns raised by parents can be daunting.

According to a 2016 Parenting Research Centre survey, 98 per cent of participating educators said they wanted training in partnering with families, specifically in how to conduct conversations with parents about the children in their care. 

The Parenting Research Centre is a service that helps children thrive by supporting parents and providing scientific research to governments and community agencies regarding children’s health, education and welfare.

Partnering With Parents is an initiative that came about to help improve children’s education and welfare throughout Australia, by improving communication between parents and early childhood educators.

Participation in the program by centres requires nominating ‘practice coaches’ from your staff, preferably senior staff members who would already be role models for others. These coaches will then lead your team through a 10-week course aimed at improving educators’ confidence when communicating with the parents of children in their care, particularly when raising concerns. 

The course consists of one half-day face-to-face training session, followed by a number of modules to be completed individually. The training session focuses on resources and strategies to be used by the whole centre, designed to inform an educator’s everyday interactions with both parents and children.

The remainder of the course can be done via online modules designed to fit in around other daily tasks, so as to not take up too much of an educator’s already busy day.

Not only does this program help educators to navigate conversations about sensitive issues relating to the children in their care, it also assists them to become better communicators as a whole. The idea is to enable educators to forge stronger relationships with parents and guardians for the benefit of the children. They in turn can assist and support parents, the primary decision makers in their children’s lives, by making sure they are properly informed about their children’s needs and can make the best decisions for their development and wellbeing. This includes everyday issues such as developmental milestones, toilet training and socialisation.

However, effectively communicating with parents about the identification of children with special needs - such as autism spectrum disorder, developmental delays or behavioural issues - is also a crucial part of the educator’s role. As we are all aware, conversations raising these issues can be incredibly difficult for everyone involved, but it is essential to handle the situation with confidence as well as care and sensitivity in order to secure the best outcome for the child.

Building confidence alongside effective communication skills helps educators to feel capable of handling confronting situations, and this is a big part of what the Partnering With Parents training program is about. 

There were several key areas that the Parenting Research Centre study - which led to the development of the Partnering With Parents program - focused on, based on responses from the educators and parents who participated in their initial survey. As a result, the program works to help educators become more confident in these areas. Two key areas were: 

Being respectful and responsive - According to the survey, when parents raised concerns it was important to them that they felt the educators took their concerns seriously and responded in a respectful and considered way. This included during their initial interaction when the concern was raised, and afterward when strategies were put in place to support the children through any issues, while keeping parents updated on their progress.

Collaborative problem-solving - Parents also commented that they wanted to be involved in the problem-solving process, so that they could work at home in a manner complementary to what was being done by their children’s educators. This collaboration was seen as the best way to give children the most support and the best chance of a positive outcome.

While the Partnering With Parents training program goes into much greater detail, some of the methods that can be used by educators to build their confidence when communicating with parents include:

Rapport building - Forging a genuine relationship with parents can make broaching and responding to concerns a much easier process. If the parents of the children in your care already know and trust you, believing that you have their children’s best interests at heart, they are more likely to respond positively to any suggestions you make regarding their child’s care, and will be more likely to raise concerns themselves, knowing that you will listen and respond with respect and consideration.

Liaising with colleagues - Other staff members in your service may be able to offer insights from their own experiences on how to deal with difficult situations and sensitive conversations that need to be had. 

Knowing the children in your care well - Being very familiar with the personalities, strengths and needs of the kids in your care well will go a long way toward making you feel more confident and comfortable in conversations with their parents, especially when concerns are raised. A strong bond with the children is also essential when implementing any strategies necessary to support their specific needs, as they will respond more readily to you if they feel close to you.

Being honest about your own limitations - If a parent raises a concern they have about their child and it is an area that you are unfamiliar with or not overly confident in, be honest. While parents need to believe that you are qualified to help, they also need to be able to trust that you are honest with them at all times. Tell them that you’re not familiar with the issue, but that you are happy to do some research and let them know what you find so that you can work together on a solution. 

If you are interested in being involved in the Partnering With Parents program, contact Vincent Lagiola, the Senior Implementation Specialist at the Parenting Research Centre via email at vlagioia@parentingrc.org.au.

More information can be found here.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Monday, 07 June 2021