As part of the UK’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the government has now asked all early years settings to close for all but the most vulnerable children and those whose parents are key workers.
I can only imagine what it feels like being in the midst of this situation, and we’re here to help support you through it.
This week, I spoke with Sophie Haylock, the director of Early Years HR and the owner of a day nursery in Surrey, England. She pointed out that all of us will likely have to deliver and receive some difficult news in the coming days, weeks, and months. What matters right now is how we confront that knowledge, she told me.
“At some point, we’re going to get through this. How businesses deal with it now is going to speak volumes to how parents, families and staff respond to us later down the line. Think about what you want people to remember you by when we start to open as normal again,” Sophie says.
First and foremost, thank you
By limiting the number of children and parents coming through your doors, you’re taking vital steps to stop the spread of the coronavirus. At the same time, staying open to those that need you makes you, as June O’Sullivan put it this week, the fourth emergency service.
Whatever you’re having to communicate to parents, I want to thank you for all you’re doing. You’re all superheroes, and you deserve the time and space you need to process this. But when you’re ready to share the news with the staff and families in your communities, I’d like to offer some pointers to help you to go about it.
Guidelines for communicating a closure due to coronavirus
- Write as you, not your business – Right now, we’re all regular people doing the best we can. That’s all we can ask of ourselves. Writing this message in starched, professional language separates the message from the problem. Write as you would speak to them in person, and don’t be afraid to share that you’re feeling stressed, uncertain and sad too.
- Offer a link to an authoritative source – The high demand for answers about coronavirus have made our current online climate ripe for disinformation. A link to a government source gives an authoritative voice to your announcement, and helps parents understand that your closure is not an isolated, personal decision.
- Acknowledge the difficulty all around – Nobody is taking this closure lightly — it’s a personal and financial challenge for all involved. Acknowledge that this is hard on your whole community, and as much as you are able, volunteer your support for the families and staff who will have their rhythms disrupted during this time. Once the dust has settled, your community and your parents will remember how you acted when everything was up in the air.
- Identify your key workers – In the UK, childcare services will be maintained for vital workers, such as health care professionals. Be sure to include a note asking for parents to notify you if they qualify as vital workers, so that you can sort out your plan for continued care. The government’s list of key workers, and what their next steps are, can be found here.
- Address vital logistics – Let parents know your plan for collecting or pausing payments, the last day you’ll be open, preferred methods of contact, and any other details that can help them adjust during your closure.
- Let parents know if you need them to do anything – If parents need to complete any forms, pick up any belongings or provide any information before you close, be sure to make that clear to them.
- Encourage well being – Very few of us have experience in the social distancing required of us right now. It might be helpful to provide links to parents and staff members to resources that might help them stay busy, learning, healthy and happy during the coming weeks.
- Keep contact open – Develop a plan to keep in contact with parents. Will you provide them with any resources? Daily or weekly call check-ins? If you can continue to offer parent’s help and support, they’re also more likely to help and support you. Emphasise that while your childcare setting might be closing its doors for the time being, your community is still very much active. Establish how you’ll stay in touch with your staff and families through the shutdown, and reach out regularly to check in, offer helpful resources or remote lesson plans, and stay social.
Learn more about Famly
Find out below how Famly improved parent communication at N Family Club, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.