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Beach Balls or Raw Eggs? Sharing Sensitive Information with Parents

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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Taking good, objective notes during observations is critical for documenting behaviors and development. A fair number of these to share at conference time can really make a difference. When approaching parents with a problem behavior or a concern about development, it is far easier to do so when you have a series of documented observations of the issue in question, rather than simply trying to give a verbal run-down of what you "think" is going on.

Through the observations, you can approach parents with sensitive information in a very objective manner, which gives you credibility and information that is hard for them to ignore or dispute. There should, of course, be as many postive notes taken about a child as there are ones less positive. If things appear too one-sided, a parent can be put off and less receptive to what you have to say.


Think about your approach before the conference. Couch your concerns with examples of things you enjoy about their child and areas in which he is doing well. How you deliver the information you want parents to hear is as important as what you have to say, because one will enable the other. I always tell my students that sharing  information with parents is a lot like playing catch. When you have positive and happy news to share, it's like playing with a beach ball... it's big, soft, easy to throw, and catch.


But having to deliver information about a behavior issue or developmental concern is more like playing catch with a raw egg. The players immediately come in close and there really isn't any carefree tossing going on. Rather, the egg is carefully delivered from hand to hand, with deliberate care. Remember this at your next conference.

  When sharing information based on observations in a summary sheet for a parent conference, it is important to remember to only include the positive aspects of a child's report in such written material, saving comments on negatives or problems to verbal discussion during the conference (backed up by the actual, objective observation notes). You may be wondering why I say this.... Oftentimes, a parent will take this summary home and read it over again at a later time.When he or she does, it may be interpreted differently than it was at the conference, when you were explaining your position verbally. Often, these subsequent readings put parents on the defensive. Also, if only Mom came to the conference, she may let Dad read the summary when he gets home, without benefit of reading the accompanying anecdotal notes and hearing your discussion at the conference... and it may cause misunderstanding about why you "would say such things," often leading to anger... and a phone call the next day to the center Director. This is not good team-building strategy.

preschool conversations

We want parents to leave a conference with not only correct information, but also with confidence that we have their child's best interest at heart. This builds the foundation for the type of collaborative caregiving that allows for goals to be set, strategies made, and postive outcomes... and isn't that what we all want?


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Debra Pierce is professor of Early Childhood Education at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. Ivy Tech is the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college systems, serving nearly 200,000 students annually.

Her professional background has always involved children, over the past 40 years, having been a primary grades teacher in the Chicago Public School system, a teacher of 3 and 4 year-olds in a NAEYC accredited preschool for 15 years, and a certified Parent Educator for the National Parents as Teachers Program.

Debra is a certified Professional Development Specialist for the Council for Professional Recognition. She has taught CDA courses to high school career/tech dual credit juniors and seniors in preparation for earning their CDA credentials. She also conducts CDA train-the-trainer events across the country and develops and teaches online CDA courses for several states, is a frequent presenter at national and state early childhood conferences, and is a Master Trainer for the states of Minnesota and Arizona. She was also awarded the NISOD Teaching Excellence Award by the University of Texas.

Debra is active in her community, supporting children's literacy and is on the board of directors of First Book in Indianapolis. Debra is a contributing author for Hamilton County Family Magazine and Indy's Child in Indianapolis.
She loves spending time with her two grandsons, Indy, who is 6 and Radley, almost 3.

Debra has spent the last 16 years dedicated to the success of those pursuing the CDA credential and is the author of The CDA Prep Guide: The Complete Review Manual for the Child Development Associate Credential, now in its third edition (Redleaf Press), the only publication of its kind. She hosts a website providing help and support to CDA candidates and those who train them at http://www.easycda.com
The comments and views expressed are not in collaboration or affiliation with The Council for Professional Recognition or Ivy Tech Community College.
Follow me on Twitter at /easycda

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Guest Monday, 24 October 2016