Childcare Can Be a Source of Social Support for Parents

This month we are talking about the importance of social support for parents. Being surrounded by encouraging friends, relatives, and neighbors not only helps relieve parents’ stress, but also benefits their children. Because many parents deal with childcare on a daily basis, it is important that this setting be particularly vigilant in promoting social support.

Having parents who are connected to a positive social group helps kids! Tweet this!

“Childcare providers that encourage social support create relationships between parents and staff that are more open,” says Lindsay Johnson, an Early Childhood Specialist with Le Bonheur’s Early Childhood Services. “They also help in getting parents more involved and hands-on in their child’s learning and development.”

Social support, which can be anything from a neighbor offering to babysit to a friend providing parenting advice, can be promoted in a number of different ways.

Helping Parents Connect

A couple of methods that Johnson has observed are parent message boards, on which job openings and other helpful resources can be posted, and Community Cafes, where facilitator-led discussions encourage open communication among parents.

“What’s most important is for childcare teachers to have face-to-face interactions with parents,” says Johnson. “That way it becomes more than just a letter home—parents can express what they are interested in learning about or what their concerns are.”

Strengthening Families is an initiative from the Center for the Study of Social Policy, a Washington, DC nonprofit group. The program suggests ways for teachers to facilitate these interactions, such as offering coffee for parents or sharing details with parents about their child’s day. Teachers can also encourage relationships among parents in their classrooms by taking time to introduce them to one another or by planning periodic events such as breakfasts or family fun nights.

Some childcare centers simply are not making these kinds of efforts, but others are continuing to improve. Parents too have to be committed to engaging, and not just dropping off and picking up their children.

Getting Parents Involved

“The biggest thing for parents is finding time,” says Johnson.  “They can also sometimes be hesitant to connect and get involved if they don’t feel like they know what they’re getting into.”

For this reason, some providers ask parents at the time of enrollment to commit to participation inside and out of the classroom, which could mean attending training sessions on various topics, volunteering in the classroom, or joining social gatherings with other parents throughout the year. This way, parents know from the beginning that they have an active role to play.

Connections Benefit Everyone

The benefit of such engagement is not only for the parents, who are introduced to valuable resources, but also for their children.

“Having parents that are connected to a positive social group influences the children’s social-emotional development,” says Johnson. “Children learn from their parents, and this provides a positive message for working with others and helping others.”