If you are one of the many parents who is currently using the services of a childcare provider, you have already discovered what a complex task it is to find the right person or center for your child. You and your child will be well served by the time and attention you spend finding a provider who will support you in caring for your child. However, finding the right provider is only the beginning.

By cultivating a positive relationship with your provider, your family will gain a partner in the rearing of your child. A childcare provider can support your family’s values, give your child unique experiences, offer you special insight into your child’s strengths and needs, and often provide perspective for you in your job as a parent. You can take steps to develop such a relationship based on trust and respect.

Share important information.

Providers need information to create the best environment for your child. By knowing more about your child’s personality, habits and preferences, your provider can best meet his/her needs. Don’t be afraid to share your concerns about your child. By sharing behavior challenges and how you have managed them, your provider will be able to support your parenting style and provide consistency. Plan to also share information about yourself, so the provider can be supportive and understanding during exciting or stressful times. Make sharing information a habit. By offering a few words at drop-off time about how your child slept last night, a note about Grandma’s upcoming visit or a quick phone call to say that you loved the last class newsletter, you can let your childcare provider know that you value him or her enough to take the time to communicate.

Be honest and direct.

If you have a concern or request, talk with your provider as soon as possible. Letting annoyances build will hurt the relationship. Take time to double-check a story your child has told about the previous day that concerns you. Young children often get details wrong and the results can be comical or troubling. A provider may have no idea that an action or policy bothers you, and by sharing this information you can find a solution together.

Understand that the provider has a different perspective.

Even if your provider is a parent, when he or she is at work, concerns and perspectives may change. What may seem like a simple request to you (such as wanting your child to come to the program on an extra day) must be filtered through issues, including how this might affect other families. If you keep this differing perspective in mind, it will help you to avoid personalizing policies and rules.

Use respectful communication.

There are many opportunities for conflicts between parents and providers. Parents must act as advocates for their children as well as for their own needs. Providers and parents tend to see each other either at the hectic beginning of the day or at the end of the day when everyone is tired. By always keeping communication respectful, you can avoid many potential conflicts and work together as a team to solve possible problems.

Give the provider the benefit of the doubt.

When something comes up that confuses you, assume positive intent until proven otherwise. When parents and caregivers look for ulterior or negative motives for actions, the relationship suffers.

Expect trustworthiness on both sides.

You need to be able to trust your provider with private information. Health issues, financial concerns and troubled family relationships are the kinds of information that providers need, and you are entitled to expect that information to be kept confidential. Remember that your child’s provider also needs to keep information regarding other families confidential. Rather than be insulted that your questions about other families are not answered, appreciate your provider’s ability to keep these confidences.

Respect personal boundaries.

Providers vary in the intimacy they are comfortable with in relationships with families. Some may enjoy socializing with you and your family, others prefer a more formal relationship. Don’t take it personally if he or she doesn’t want to call you by your first name and don’t assume that formal relationships are an indication of the warmth shared with your child.

Ensure that the relationship is in service to your child.

Many parents are relieved to have another adult in their lives, especially one who cares so much about their child. However, it is easy for friendships between parents and caregivers to get in the way of the caregiver’s relationship with the child. For instance, a caregiver needs to be able to share bad news, such as a child’s misbehavior, without worrying about hurting the parents’ feelings.

By working to ensure a positive relationship with your child’s caregiver, you will help your child to have the best experience possible. Using open, respectful communication, working to solve conflicts and showing appreciation for your childcare provider will allow you both to support each other in your hard and important work as parents and childcare providers.

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