Even though the
relationship between parents and caregivers is less intense during
the early elementary years, it often remains strained. Ideally, both
sides should extend themselves, and parents and care- givers should
relate in a cordial, informative way. However, many parents and
caregivers are uncomfortable with each other and try to avoid
contact. This leaves all parties feeling dissatisfied.
To some parents, a caregiver may be an intimidating figure. She has
influence and power over a child, and parents 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 out anger and frustration on their child or threaten to
drop the child from the program.
Some parents stay distant from a caregiver because of guilt. They
feel bad 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 extend
themselves to 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
baby sitter and treating her as they might a neighborhood teenager.
They come and go from the day care center, the caregiver’s home, or
their own home with barely a nod. Since many caregivers are younger
than the parents they work for, it may seem natural for parents to
act this way. Yet, regular caregivers do much more than occasional
sitters do. They plan activities and programs, help with homework,
and offer comfort and advice.
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. 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,
children’s artwork on the wall. 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.
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, and work
cooperatively with her. It takes time to build trust, but effort and
consistent friendliness will enhance your relationship.