As a childcare professional, you know how important parent communication is to the success of your program. Sometimes, it can feel like you are working as hard at managing and engaging parents as you are at making sure your center is running smoothly, but how can you find the time to make sure parents have all the information they need?
Technology can be a huge asset to you when it comes to keeping in touch and helping parents feel connected and involved. Here are five parent communication strategies organizations like yours are using that work:
Get a Website for Basic Parent Communication
Building your own website is not as complicated or expensive as you think. There are loads of template sites that you can build by dragging and dropping pictures, titles and text right onto the screen – no web development experience required. Owning your own domain name is easy as well; most template website hosts can throw that into a package for you for less than $100 per year.
Make sure your website contains the information that prospective parents need, like pricing, hours of operation, and your most important policies, but more importantly, make sure you also have an area where parents can go to look for things like upcoming events, deadlines and other important information. Check out eight things every good childcare website should have.
Think about it. When you’re looking for information on a local business, like a painter or even just the closest place to satisfy your craving for sushi, where’s the first place you turn? When you are researching a buying decision of any kind, where do you look? The internet, of course!
It’s no different for parents who are starting to look for childcare, preschool and aftercare services. After all, this is one of the most important buying decisions they will ever make – it’s an investment in their childrens’ early childhood education and development.
If your childcare business can’t be found online when prospective parents are looking, chances are it won’t exist anywhere in a few years. So make sure you have a website, and make sure it works for you as both a marketing tool and a powerful parent communication center.
Send a Weekly or Monthly Newsletter
How well do you communicate about upcoming events, reminders, scheduled closures, and more? If you’re sending notices and reminders every day, you’re probably over-notifying parents and your emails are getting lost in the inbox. If you’re not sending anything, your staff is probably flooded with questions about the when, what, where and how of everything happening at your center.
You can construct simple but attractive newsletters using basic, and often free, templates you can find online. Include a schedule section for a week or month at a glance, with a list of the important events and deadlines parents need to remember. It’s also a great idea to post this information on your website if you have one. You should also try to include fun photos from recent events (just make sure you have that parent authorization form signed first) and eye-catching graphics that will grab parents’ attention and engage them.
No time to take this on? Consider recruiting another member of your staff – perhaps a software-savvy one one who really likes writing and communicating – to handle this for you. Perhaps offer a bonus for that team member for each edition, or consider it part of the professional development pathway your team needs to advance to more senior positions at your center.
Whatever you decide, weekly, monthly, or online, be sure to keep the lines of parent communication open and active.
Give Parents Access to a Question Form
Providing a simple form for questions and comments on your website is a great way to connect with parents who may not have time for a sit-down talk. Place this form in a prominent spot – like a designated parent area – so parents can find it easily, and follow up on submissions in a timely fashion.
If you don’t want to use an online form, have a stack of paper forms at your front desk. Encourage parents to grab one any time they have a question or need something that isn’t urgent, then have them drop it in a box that you check on a regular basis. This eliminates emails getting lost in the shuffle and lengthy back and forth conversations that can last for hours or even days.
If several parents are asking the same question, or if a parent brings up a topic that might be helpful to other parents, there may be a gap in your communications with them. If that is the case, consider posting the answers to those questions on your website, adding a mention in your next newsletter, or putting together an email to get everyone on the same page.
Prepare Regular Progress Reports
Regular progress reports are a great way to show parents how much a child is growing and developing in the classroom. Progress doesn’t have to be all academic, and frequently with daycares, the infant and toddler areas won’t have much to report in those areas. So, what else is there to say?
Lots, actually. Academics are great, and today’s competitive parents love to hear all about the achievements of their little ones. However, behavioral, social and emotional check-ins also add great insight and help parents stay engaged and informed.
Start by dividing the session into equal increments; for a school year, we recommend four regular progress check-ins. Meet with parents early in the year to talk about your initial observations, listing any behaviors that need attention, where a child is on a developmental level, or any social issues you have noticed.
Set attainable goals for each child, and communicate those goals clearly to each child’s parent. Then, at your next check-in, you’ll be able to measure the progress made. This makes parents a partner in the early childhood education process, and it sets the expectation that progress will be discussed at regularly scheduled intervals instead of willy-nilly during hectic times like drop-off and pick-up.
Try a Parent Engagement App
90% of today’s preschool parents are Millennials, and their generation is producing more children right now than any other generation in history. So how do Millennial parents like to communicate? By phone – and not the way our parents did when we were little!
Today’s parents are rarely without smartphone in hand, and checking for push notifications comes second nature to them. That’s why communicating through a mobile app that sends parents push notifications to let them know when they have reminders, messages, or bills to pay is essential for today’s childcare business professionals.
A parent engagement app that allows you to send photos and video messages of little ones is a great way to cure the inevitable parent FOMO – fear of missing out – by making parents feel involved and included in the day-to-day activities at your center. The added bonus? Parents will love blasting those precious moments out on Facebook and Instagram, and that means lots of word-of-mouth buzz about your tech-foward program.
Whether you’re sending quick reminders about event dates and deadlines, photos, or even just an update on potty and mealtime action, the right mobile app can help you turn happy, engaged parents into your program’s greatest evangelists!
With these five parent communication strategies, you’ll position your organization among the top in your area with regard to parent engagement. See how effective communications can help your business by trying a few today!