At my last placement (Reception class), I gained more communication skills as I had more of an opportunity to talk to the children’s parents – at my pre-school placement, I had very little contact with the children’s parents as the children were dropped off and picked up from the door, so there was not much interaction. However, at my Reception class placement, I saw the parents to speak to twice a day – it gave the parents an opportunity to talk to myself and the teacher about how their children had been that day, and some of the parents used this time to ask me to babysit.
When speaking to the parents about their children, I kept a positive and professional attitude, and did not present the children as an ‘object’ or a problem. If the child had misbehaved that day, I did not talk to the parents about it, as the Reception class teacher would deal with these types of situations, though I observed how she spoke to the parents, and I think that if I was in a similar job in the future, I would be confident at problem solving.
It is important as an early years worker to keep the communication between adults professional, and it is also important to remember to remove all barriers of discrimination and prejudice.
As an early years worker, there are many adults that need to be worked with alongside working with the children. These include;
The parents: The parents of any child need to be communicated with closely, in order to keep the child’s developmental plans consistent and to keep them informed of decisions that are being made about their child. In pre schools and primary schools, there are usually parents of children that are also on the Parents & Teachers Association for that school. They could also be members of management that are in effect, the worker’s employer.
Other workers in setting: A worker must act as a member of the team when working in their setting, and information needs to be shared between staff, and it is important to remember that other staff members such as office staff, catering and cleaning workers, and the other teachers in other rooms are also colleagues.
Other professionals in a wide range of organisations: A worker must remember that there are specialists and health professionals that may be involved in the planning and structure of a child’s learning and development. The setting where the early years worker is based will also be inspected from time to time, and this means that the worker will need to have an idea of what to expect when this happens.
The reason for the need for strong communication and relationships with significant adults is to benefit the wellbeing of the child – it is essential that any early years worker remembers this. Children pick up quickly on weak relationships, and communication between the key adults in their lives, and will be unsettled if they are subjected to this.
The principles of the way in which we communicate with adults is similar to the way in which we address children;
If there is a good communication level between people, a good relationship can be formed between them.
Non verbal communication is often as, or more important, than the words that are used – this includes eye contact, and using friendly body language.
Active listening is the key to effective communication.
Adults should be treated in a polite and respectful manner – an adult coming into the setting should be acknowledged with a warm and friendly smile and greeting. Politeness should always be enforced when talking to adults and children in the childcare sector. This also means that people should be addressed as they wish – asking parents what they wish to be called and making a note of this for future reference – this will keep them familiar, and make them comfortable around the worker. Some people may prefer to be called ‘Mr X or Mrs Y’.
Christian names should not be asked for – this may offend somebody who is of a different religion or no religion. Children with medical conditions such as epilepsy, asthma, and diabetes should never be referred to as ‘an epileptic/asthmatic/diabetic’ as this defines them by their condition rather than their individuality.
It is important for early years workers to listen to what adults are telling them, and notice again, both verbal and non verbal communication is important. Their body language may be a clear indication of their feelings, and if a worker is showing that they are interested, the adults are more likely to feel at ease around them, and be more receptive in what is said. Careful listening will enable workers to establish what others want and need, putting them i a position to give a response. Asking ‘open’ questions means that the following information is easier to gain from adults;
Information and exploration of ideas
Confirmation and clarity of what is being said
Using prompts can also help to keep people responsive and keep talking – this can include;
Reflecting what has been heard
Confirming what is being said
Assuring that the right message has been given
Summarising and focusing on the main issues
Care should be given when talking to parents and ‘non-childcare professionals’ that initials are not used for agencies or standards – as they are not familiar with these, a parent will not understand what it means, and if they have not built up a level of comfort and ease when around the worker, they may be too intimidated to ask – this can also include fellow co-workers that are new to the job. The vocabulary used is important, and it is vital that information is not over simplified, as this can appear patronising.
Difficulties in communication do not just occur when talking to children – there may be barriers that need to be overcome to have a successful relationship with an adult. The most obvious is the possibility of difference in language between the worker and the other adult – for this, interpreters may be needed, and relying on an interpreter can bring difficulties in itself. This could be because the interpreter is adding a twist on things, because they are a member of a specific religion or culture, or because they are a family member. The interpreters opinions and own advice could be incorporated without either adult’s knowledge. Another issue with having to use an interpreter is the protection of confidentiality.
Conflict may also arise when communicating with adults in a childcare setting – it is normal for these problems to occasionally occur, this can range from a complaint by a parent, to a misunderstanding between parents and the setting. Disagreements between people do not always have to turn out in a negative way, as the expression of different points of view can be helpful, and aid development. Conflict however, can cause;
Tension – tension in relationships can cause problems for individuals, including anxiety and stress.
Deterioration in working ability – this will affect the services that are being provided to children, and this leads to deterioration of the progress and relationships within the setting.
If this knowledge is put into force in childcare settings, an effective working environment will enable positive relationships to develop, with parents and childcare professionals feeling at ease when talking about problems.