Making care feel like home – exploring the path to building meaningful relationships with families
As the calendar switches to May it’s natural to think of mothers and the role they play in society. Advertisements are everywhere, reminding us all to take some time to thank our Mums, acknowledging all the big and little things they do for us throughout our whole lives.
Early learning environments play an important role in supporting children, but May serves as an important reminder to stop and consider the role that early learning spaces play in supporting families as a whole.
Far more than just a place where children are educated and cared for, high quality early learning spaces are places where families can turn for advice and support, filled with specialists who have unique insights into children and their needs.
In the piece below we explore five ways that services can build meaningful relationships with families so that young children “are nurtured within a tightly woven web of love.”
Family at the heart
The early years learning framework (EYLF) reminds us that before they come to early learning children belong first to a family, a cultural group, a neighbourhood and a wider community. Families are at the heart of belonging, and best practice often centres on providing family centred care.
When services have a family centred approach they understand that educators and families are a powerful team in supporting a child. Educators use the knowledge, understanding, skills and resources of the family to assist them in caring for the child and making good decisions.
Information is shared freely by both parties, and relationships are open and respectful. Everyone collaborates on the best outcome for the child, and parents feel acknowledged and respected in their important role while being supported to have their needs met.
Empathy is essential
When we make an effort to consider and understand the feelings of others, to take a moment to “walk in their shoes” and imagine how it might feel to experience what they are experiencing we are practicing empathy.
Empathy doesn’t always equal agreement, but it does mean that as educators and professionals we take a moment to respect and accept differences. Practicing empathy for families can help us to feel more connected and pause for a moment to see a new perspective.
Rather than becoming frustrated that once again a hat hasn’t been packed, we can pause and choose a more empathetic path, imagining ourselves as a busy parent with 101 competing demands for attention.
Diversity is a gift
No two children and families are alike, and therein lies the essential strength of a service. Just as each educator brings their own unique perspective, bias, experience and understanding to a role, so do children and families.
Diversity can refer to cultural differences, community backgrounds, religious beliefs, abilities, sexuality, family structure and much more. Showing respect for diversity, and embracing all the unique perspectives it brings to an early childhood space tells families that all perspectives are welcomed, and that their child is in turn.
In a space where diversity is respected people feel safe to communicate their needs, find common ground, share an understanding and work together to achieve shared goals.
Support and resources
Keen to learn more about fostering strong relationships and connections with families? The following resources may be of use:
- Building partnerships with families – ACECQA
- Connecting with families – DESE
- Collaborative partnerships with families and communities – ACECQA
- Family Engagement – NAEYC
- Combating pandemic disconnection: How early education and care services nurture children and families’ sense of belonging within a community. – Big Fat Smile