Ideally, parents and caregivers should relate in a cordial, informative way. However, some parents and caregivers are uncomfortable with each other and try to avoid contact.
To some parents, a caregiver may be an intimidating figure. She has influence and power over a child, and they may hesitate to alienate her with questions or complaints. They may feel that inquiries about their child will bother her, and they fear that she’ll take her anger and frustration out on their child.
Some parents stay distant from a caregiver because of guilt. They feel badly about leaving their child with another adult and avoid any contact that will make them feel worse. They drop her off and pick her up as quickly as possible (“I’m so busy!”) and never address the adult in charge.
There’s another reason parents remain detached from their child’s caregiver. They may not take her job seriously, viewing her as a babysitter and treating her as they might a neighborhood teenager. Since many caregivers are younger than the parents they work for, it may seem natural for parents to act this way.
Sometimes it’s the caregiver who’s reluctant to form a friendly relationship. She may feel uncomfortable with parents because she’s younger and less experienced than they are. She may feel awkward telling them about their child’s behavior, giving them advice, or discussing the differences between their standards and her own. She may be generally unsure of herself around adults. Many child-care workers enjoy being with children but are not as positive and confident with adults. In addition, caregivers who see parents rush in and out may hesitate to talk to them for fear of holding them up.
Here are some things you can do to improve your relationship with your child’s caregiver. Take the first step, and offer a friendly hello and good-bye each day. Smile and wave if the caregiver is busy when you arrive. If she has a few minutes to chat, have a brief conversation. Talk about the weather, an upcoming weekend, the children’s artwork on the wall, etc. Try to leave a few minutes at the end of the day to stay and watch your child finish a project or to talk to the other children. If you seem unhurried, the caregiver will consider you more approachable.
Caregivers want parents to pick up their child on time, let them know if there are problems at home, read school newsletters and notices, attend meetings, and comfortably discuss their child’s behavior.
Most importantly, let your caregiver know you appreciate her services. She’ll find it easy to talk to you about your child if she believes you take her seriously. Listen carefully to her observations and suggestions, respect her standards, be mindful of your expectations and tone, and work cooperatively with her. Be flexible when you want to make an appointment with her or when she asks to talk with you.
Raise your concerns in respectful ways: “Does my child interact with other children?” “What are her strengths?” “What skills should she master?” Be polite when you ask her to make accommodations for your child. It takes time to build trust between you and those caring for your child, but effort and consistent friendliness will enhance your relationship.