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Relationship Based Practices: Talking with Families About Developmental Concerns

Module 1: Introduction

On-screen text: The professional development opportunity you are about to engage in is based on real interviews with Early Childhood Professionals.

Hi, I’m Erica.
I started as a parent in our program, and I’ve been working as the director for over 10 years. In that time I’ve seen so many positive changes in the ways we serve children and families. In our center, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to provide comprehensive services for families with infants and toddlers.

As we get to know the children and their families here, we share their joys as well as their challenges. And sometimes there’s a child who we feel worried about. Maybe it’s something about their behavior, maybe their development and skills. We all know it can be challenging to talk about worries like these with parents.

It can be harder when we think we’ve noticed an issue before a parent has. And it’s even more difficult when a parent doesn’t see what we’re seeing, or thinks about it in a very different way. But we also know how helpful intervening early can be when we have a concern.

Today, I’m going to share some strategies for having important but challenging conversations like these with families. We’re going to look at raising a concern with a parent about their child’s development. In this simulation we’ll focus specifically on a child’s speech and language delay, but you can use these strategies no matter what the concern might be.

I want to emphasize that having a challenging conversation with parents is about engaging them in a collaborative process of observing their child together.

When we’ve engaged the parent from the start in how exciting it is to observe their child and watch for the emerging skills, it lays the groundwork for having more difficult conversations, if we’re noticing that a skill is not emerging as we’ve expected. It’s different from simply telling them what we know and what might worry us about their child. And it’s different from simply giving advice.

Engaging parents in collaborative conversations about screenings and referrals is more than just having a meeting or completing a form; it’s an ongoing process and an essential part of our relationship with families.

It requires careful relationship-building in order for any conversations like this to take place, so that concerns can be addressed within the context of a trusting relationship. It's reassuring for the parent to know that you are in this together, and that they are not alone in trying to figure this out.

Finally, as a teacher, early childhood professional or home visitor, keep in mind that a conversation about developmental concerns would take some planning. You’ll want to talk it over with your coworkers to decide when you’re going to start the conversation, and make sure there’s coverage in the classroom for when you spend time with the parent.

Asking the parent’s permission and finding out when it is convenient to have the conversation are ways of showing respect.

[Click through activity: If you and the parent speak a different primary language, you must bring someone who speaks the same language as the parent into the conversation. Clear and natural communication is vital to these conversations.]

Please select the button below to continue to Module 2.