Parent / Educator meetings help build respectful and positive relationships and enable educators and parents to share information about the child. Meetings add to the casual, daily conversations that you have with families by providing more detailed information about children's achievements and allow time for deep conversation.
Having a meeting with parents can be nerve wrecking and make you feel anxious. It's important to be prepared and have confidence during the parent meeting. You are the child's educator and the ultimate goal is to let the parents know how their child is progressing, what their child does within the setting and to discuss any questions or concerns that the parents may have.
Here are some strategies on preparing for a parent meeting and what you can do before, during and after the parent meeting:
Before The Interview
- Some centres like to have half yearly and yearly parent meetings with all parents in the service (except babies). If this is the case, decide on a date well in advance to prepare parents as well as the educators themselves. In regards to who does the parent meetings, it is usually the room leader. If there are educators sharing the role, let them both do it together.
- Let parent's know a month in advance that you will be conducting parent meetings.
- Send out a letter/email regarding the parent meeting, as well as a timetable in each room where parents can write down the times they wish to have for the parent meeting.
- During the parent meetings, if possible offer to look after the children. This will get more parents to participate since they don't have to worry about leaving their child at home or organising someone to look after them.
- When parents come for meetings keep the rooms clean and inviting.
- Make space for the meeting with an adult-sized table and chairs. Also, consider offering healthy snacks or beverages to families. Remember to have paper and pens available so parents can take notes.
- Encourage parents to fill out a parent meeting questionnaire that they can give back to their child's educator prior to their meeting. Parents can also add their questions and concerns. This gives time for educators to prepare.
- Make sure portfolios are up to date and use this as a point of reference when discussing the child.
During The Meeting
- Share observations, work samples and photos of the child with their parents.
- Go through the questionnaire with the parents and discuss
- Open with positives. When you start the conversation, remind parents that the goal of this meeting is to share information about their child's achievements, learning and growth. All parents are proud of their kids and want to hear about their child's strengths as well as challenges, so be sure to discuss both — however always start with the positives.
- If you'll be discussing any issues or concerns about the child to the parents, make sure to have documentation, such as observations/incident reports. Also, make sure to inform parents about any problems before the meeting as and when it occurs. This will give both parties an opportunity to reflect and evaluate the concerning issue.
- Provide suggestions for activities and strategies to support learning and development at home. Spend the last few minutes of the meeting on your specific goals for the child. Note the kinds of strategies you'll use, the length of time you'll use them, and when you'll communicate to parents next.
- When you are speaking with parents, make sure that you are hearing what they are trying to say to you. Try another active listening strategy called “paraphrasing.” Try to restate what you are understanding a parent’s main points to be and make sure that they agree with your rephrasing.
After The Interview
- Follow up on parent-educator meetings. If any questions or concerns were discussed send an email to follow up to the parent to reiterate what you have discussed.
- For strategies suggested to parents to support their child's learning at home, send an email or letter to the parent about strategies discussed during the meeting and how they can easily be implemented at home.
- A little thank-you can go a long way. Many parents have to take time off work to attend meetings so consider taking the time to thank parents in a letter or email. In the notes, remind parents to contact you if they have any further questions or concerns.
- Be sure to contact parents who did not attend and offer alternative ways to communicate about their child's progress.
- Communicate regularly. Let parents know what's going on with their child. Keep families informed about their child in a way that suits each family. Through emails, through a communication book or through a quick phone call.
Parent meetings encourage you to bond with parents and strengthen relationships between the centre and at home. It also provides parents with an opportunity to share their concerns and ask any questions that they may have. Not all parents are able to discuss their child's progress throughout the week so a formal meeting is required to do so.