How to Turn Helicopter Parents into Co-Pilots
Help Manage Parents' Expectations to Maintain a Healthy and Prosperous Business
The care-taking instincts we have as parents are genetically hardwired into us as humans to ensure our survival. Once a child begins taking steps toward independence, some parents find it difficult to switch off the same around-the-clock nurturing they’ve been using until that point.
ECE teachers know that children need the freedom to be bored, frustrated, or even sad from time to time. But it's much harder for parents. Some may expect you to address every minor disappointment, which is, of course, impossible and counter-productive. Several studies have even reported that this approach can create later problems for their children.
We work with thousands of schools and have gathered some of the best advice from directors and teachers on how to bring these families back into the fold of your school's community and hold their trust for the long term.
Communicate effectively with parents who may have a hard time letting go in your preschool:
- Most importantly, listen. Even when you feel like you've already listened to a similar issue before. Often, a hovering parent wants to be heard and acknowledged. A caring and engaged listener can diffuse many situations.
- Take everything seriously. Reassure parents that you'll immediately address any health, safety or educational concerns and work together to solve them.
- Make a plan and share it. When there are minor concerns that you know are typical but parents believe are a symptom of a problem, work with the parent to set mutual goals that focus on developing the child's skills. Then, provide regular updates regarding the specific concern.
- Put the focus on life skills. Your job is to help prepare children for elementary school and for life. Offer a gentle reminder that facing and conquering challenges is an essential life skill that you're helping their child to achieve. Suggest age-appropriate activities parents can utilize at home to continue fostering independence.
- Set clear expectations at enrollment. Give new families age-appropriate examples of things they may see on camera that are normal. For example, their child may be sitting alone for periods of time at a table independently. This is a sign of healthy development and not necessarily a cause of concern.
- Remind them about conference time. Knowing when the next conference is scheduled can sometimes alleviate a parent's anxiety and provide a structured forum for sharing feedback.
- Discuss the importance of trial and error for children. It's how they learn to do anything -- from walking and talking to reading, writing and making friends. Mistakes and moments of frustration are completely normal, and learning how to handle them and improve is a critical part of a child's early education.
- Redirect parents' energy into another activity. Ask for their help in planning a fundraiser or volunteering in the classroom on a regular schedule. Making them feel more a part of the community can help increase their comfort level.
- Remind them the kids are learning through doing. Social interaction is a learned skill, and preschool is the perfect place to practice. The same child who may be observed sitting alone one moment may be joining a larger group a few minutes later.
Letting go is never easy. From the day we welcome them into the world, we're preparing our children to be independent. Helping families to embrace their child's burgeoning independence is essential to a successful partnership with their childcare and early education provider.