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Communication With Parents


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Hi everyone


I am currently in my last few months of my foundation degree and expecting my baby in 8 weeks time what timimg hey !! As you can imagine im trying to sort myself out before the little bundle arrives. For my current research assignment i am researching communication with parents in the birth to three age range. I currently work in a day nursery and we wish to improve on our practice in the way we currently communicate with parents. I am posting on the forum to see if any one could help me by offering any information on the way you in your work place communicate with parents on a daily basis be it daily report sheets newletters etc . Or if any one has any good links to any websites, books etc. If anyone could offer me any help i would be so so thankful.


Hope to hear from you soon.


Thanks so much


Sarah xxxxx

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I'm sure you have already come across this book but just in case - "Working with Parents" by Margy Whalley and the Pen Green Centre Team, published by Hodder and Stoughton - lots of good practical advice in there!

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we have just recently started with little books that staff write in weekly that go home to parents and they can also make nots if they wish. Have to say the feedback has been excellent all parties are finding them very useful. :D

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Peggy PM'd me about communication with parents and asked me to point you in the right direction. Well, after 10,000 words, a 49 minute DVD, quantitative and qualitative research, a power point presentation on this very subject done, practitioner led research for the CWDC, the works - I still feel that I have only touched on this very very complex subject and I am not sure that I really understand how it can be done effectively.


I honestly think that I only touched the surface of what is a very complicated and complex subject but would like to look at this in more detail, perhaps for my masters but the things I learnt were:-

1. We spend 80% of our time communicating, either intrapersonally or interpersonally

2. The models of communication can help you to focus on the 20 million things that can go wrong!

3. Channel capacity is probably one of the biggest issue for us in nurseries, both ours and the parents. Channel capacity refers to the amount of information that anyone can take in at any given time and is timely to meet the needs of the parent at the time which can then become meaningful and purposeful. Conveying information to parents needs to be concise, factual and particularly important should contain statistics where possible. This can makes it less patronising. In fact a lot of information should include some statistical information as people can relate to this in an impersonal way to be less patronising. However, having said that other types of communication must be personalised - see later in newsletters.

4. Beware of informing/advising people about certain things e.g. sending out say leaflet/information sheets on say aspects such as healthy eating, child development etc. They can be deemed as patronising and some parents quite rightly said that what they feed their child is up to them - so the manner in which we deliver the information is really important otherwise you will build barriers.


4. Length of written communication is important as there is a much a bigger chance for it to be misconstrued and have a detrimental affect. Never assume meaning.


As an example, I created a questionnaire on what a quality setting means to parents. Four people asked me for clarification and definitions on three, what I thought to be, simple words - location, environment and physical space.


5. Always ask someone else to proof read what you are sending out. To highlight this I think these quotes from Berlo (who devised a very basic linear model of communication) sum it up well


“People can have similar meanings only to the extent that they have had, or can anticipate having, similar experiences

Meanings are in people

Communication does not consist of the transmission of meanings, but of the transmission of messages

Meanings are not in the message; they are in the message-users

Words do not mean at all; only people mean

Meanings are never fixed; as experience changes, so meanings change

No two people can have exactly the same meaning for anything”


And so I kept on finding this out continually during my research. But I didn't seem to learn from it though as I kept on making similar mistakes!!


Basically to avoid this - its feedback, feedback, feedback without feedback communication has not really taken place at all.


There are some things that obviously have/need to be written but it does not satisfy or tick many of the boxes for effective communication.


Discuss verbally with the parents what they might want or need in the way of communication from your? Perhaps if you had a six week parent meeting after the child started this could be brought up. You will be suprised at the results.


Develop the same communication skills that you do with your children with your parents, probing, reflecting etc. It really isn't for us to assume the things they might want or more to the point we feel they might need based on our experience, hardly empowering. They must recognise the need themselves first.


So in an ideal world when you have the time (LOL) a communication strategy based on an individual parents needs and timings should be drawn up and make it pertinent to a parents time with you at nursery - build in your nursery's newsletters, parent consultations, latest research bulletins, but don't think that because you have produced it that its been received either physcially or the meaning understood in the way it was meant to be conveyed. Follow up with written reminder notices/verbal reminders, informal chats


In order to communicate we need to understand and value a persons experiences, attititudes, culture, social systems, knowledge and communication skills and that includes understanding our own to. We also need to look at the way we present information either verbally (this can mean written language too) or non verbally - unspoken signs and body language etc. social systems etc.


In the States there is often a position for a Communications Officer who will deal with devising communication strategies but it is time consuming and actually we will never get it right 100% of the time.


Newsletters - think about the format, length, information relayed. Can you highlight or box in sections of more importance - change the format occasionally so parents don;t overlook things and become over familiar with the format. Do you issue one for the whole nursery or can the base information be included that needs to reach all parents and then personalise it to perhaps each room.


Information Sheets - think about what time you physically give this out and are they relevant to all parents - make them personal to say each age range. Consider your audeince - do you have parents working full time who already have little time - how can you reach them? How do you know that they have received the information in the way it was conveyed?


Parent consultations - avoid jargon, be careful in your choice of words and meanings that can be misinterpreted.


Communication is about EMPHATICALLY LISTENING not relaying information - how can you achieve this? Often a two minute chat can very often convey more than two sides of an A4 page, takes less time and is more effective. This is assuming that the person who is talking has the necesssary communication skills, attitudes and experience to do this.


The Penn Green book is obviously a very good book, I looked at communication from a slightly different angle of how communication works and why we need to communicate. As they said they have the luxury of having an hour at the end of each day to reflect on all that has happened and then put into action some of the those things they need to review. Another site which is partiularly good is the National College of Leadership is a good site www.ncsl.org.uk - you will find lots of research papers there to.


I know this is perhaps a bit vague but my research was personal to my setting and therefore many of the findings were specific to the diversity of my parents.


Sorry for this post being so long but another quote that I am sure we can all relate to:-


"I am sending you this long letter as I do not have time to send you a short one" Bernard Shaw

How very true.......... Communication takes up a considerable amount of time - 80% of our time. Knowing the barriers is only the first bit.



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Thanks, looks like a load of waffle to me which is why I said that I only really touched on communication - it's certainly something I would like to explore in much more detail and how it relates to an early years setting - people undertake whole degrees on communication so I really feel very novice about it all but it has given me a taster to do other things.


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  • 1 month later...

How did it go? I think you were probably tacklling it from a slightly different persepective to my studies mine was more theorising (gosh is that a word) its just the way I like to learn understand the theory and them reflect on how I can use it. I am sure you would be looking at what you communicate, touching on why and how?

Hope it went well


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