Communicating Expectations
Author:á Karen DeBord, Child Development Specialist
North Carolina Cooperative Extension

The daily transition from the rush of home to the child care setting can be eased if parents and caregivers work together to create a sense of stability and consistency. The transition is easier for everyone, especially the child, when parents, providers, and children know what to expect. When enrolling a new family, it would be helpful to discuss with parents what they can expect from you, and the expectations you have of them.


Remember that child care providers are real people with real feelings doing a real job for real income. Although a close family-like relationship may develop between you and parents, make no mistake that child care is a business. Therefore, it is important that you interact with parents on a professional level. Maintaining a professional and businesslike attitude ensures that both you and parents will have clear expectations of each other.

Parents, wanting what is best for their child, can expect the following things from their child care provider.

1. Open and frequent feedback about their child's day and development. An open exchange of questions, noted behavior changes, and joys or concerns should be shared with parents.

2. An open door to the provider's home anytime. Parents should feel welcome visiting theá child care program.

3. An environment that is safe and free of hazards, but that also allows children to explore. Safety seats or seat belts should be used when transporting children and adults.

4. A willingness to work with the parent on particular problems or limitations - situational and developmental - such as toileting, food habits, manners, attachment, separation, and television viewing.

5. Advance notice of any changes in scheduled care, particularly in termination of care.

6. A non-judgmental attitude about family customs, work schedules or parenting style. A cooperative spirit for the benefit of the child is much more productive.

7. A trust that other adults interacting with the children are supervised, trustworthy, and well trained in the needs of children.

8. A positive and stimulating environment that teaches children life skills and enhances their self-esteem. Children should be allowed to question, investigate, and make choices.

9. Notification of changes in the day's schedule. Parents should have given permission before children take field trips away from child care.

10. A written statement of policies regarding payments, philosophy, illness, and procedures for drop-off and pick-up, etc.á


To benefit the child, there are several equally important considerations for parents.

1. An agreement between the caregiver and the parent about expectations in scheduling, payment of fees, and vacation time.

2. When difficulties or misunderstandings arise, a willingness to ask questions and listen until all facts are collected. Maintain open and constructive communication.

3. A willingness to discuss the child, the child's routines, activities, and preferences to provide the caregiver with a basis of understanding of the child's needs.

4. Ample notice if there will be a change in care so that the provider may fill the vacant spot with another child.

5. Fulfill agreed upon pick-up and drop-off times. Honor payment dates and bring supplies (diapers, formula, change of clothes) before the provider runs out.

6. When a child is sick, parents need to be honest with the provider to avoid spreading germs to other children in care. Parents also should inform the provider if the child did not eat breakfast or did not sleep well the night before.

7. Parents should be assured, not threatened when the child develops an attachment to the child care provider. This is an indication that the child feels safe and loved in the care setting and allows the parent to feel confident the child will be in good hands. It also shows that the child trusts that the parent will return.

The role of the care provider is to supplement the primary role of the parent(s). The greater the consistency between provider and parent, the more secure the child will feel.

Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC. DeBord, K. (1993). Communicating expectations. In Todd, C.M. (Ed.), *Family child care connections*, 3(2), pp. 3-4. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.

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