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Circle of Care

Dear Debi,
I have a son who is a year and nine months and he currently attends preschool. I work all day so my mother picks him up from school and cares for him until I get home from work. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on important developmental milestones. What can I do to stay informed about what he’s learning even though I can’t always be with him?
Silvana Fossa, Mother of one son
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Collaboration insures individualized care
  • Open & constant communication creates continuity
  • Partnership helps establish secure, emotional attachments
Expert Advice
Ann Corwin, Ph.D.
Ann Corwin, Ph.D.
Parenting consultant, mother of two
If you look at a partnership, the first thing that comes to mind is “team.” Everyone has to be on the same page and everyone needs to know his or her role. That’s what makes a healthy team/partnership – when you and I both know our roles. That has to be clarified with the mother, the grandmother and the provider. The mom could ask of the child care provider, “What do you see your role with my child?” so that she feels more secure about what the provider will provide with her child. You want a provider who is going to make the child feel safe, interact, and appreciate milestones – not someone who feels they’re going to be the substitute parent.

Clarification of roles is important. Remember to establish the roles with the child so that they understand that they’re only allowed certain activities with certain people. Children will learn they do this with mom, the other with grandma, and something else with the provider. It will help them understand that they can behave differently and also be loved by many different people. You must help kids with differentiation. It’s not about prohibiting things, but about allowing those things in a different environment with different people. That’s how you establish different roles. A partnership is not about competition. It’s about teamwork – that we’re all out to help this child establish healthy attachments. If you know the roles, there doesn’t need to be any competition in this circle of care.

When a child is cared for within a “circle of care,” the child feels “I am loveable by a lot of different types of people.” The child also feels, “I can trust the care of a lot of different people.” If something happens to one person, the child believes that he or she can trust in the care of somebody else. The main thing is that with this diversity of care, it means that there are different roles in different relationships, with different levels of attachment that children can rely on.

Think of the graphic of a circle. If you’re in a circle in a family, you can all see each other, talk to each other, touching. When you get in trouble, it’s when you have triangles within the family, not circles. For example, two sisters talking about their mom. The healthy thing would be to encourage each sister to fix the relationship with the mom. If you want healthy communication, it needs to be circular communication instead of one person talking to another person about a third person, who never gets that information. Make as many circles as you can in your family. You feel like you have people by your side, on either side, that makes you feel secure. The more secure, the easier it is to handle our social-emotional issues.

To include grandma and a provider, you would want to bring another circle within your circle. The key is don’t do isolation. Don’t just make them a piece of your circle; make them a part of the family. It’s not “just” a grandma or “just” a provider. They all have their unique roles and relationships with the child. Have open communication between all three and establish roles to eliminate assumptions and competition between all involved. The child will feel loveable with lots of people.
Child Care provider Comments
David Palomares
David Palomares
Father of three children
Communication is essential to making sure things flow smoothly without someone getting left out. Christian’s teacher communicates with my mother-in-law or my wife, and when I pick him up, she gives me a quick recap. Then on Wednesdays she sends a packet with everything going on for the week. Anything that’s coming up, she puts on a calendar. It helps us because that’s how we cross-reference everyone so we’re all on the same page.
Bernice Jones
Bernice Jones
Cares for her granddaughter
I recommend that Silvana try to stay in contact with the teacher as much as possible. She’s probably getting feedback from the teacher through the grandma, but Silvana needs to be the main contact. Even if she contacts the teacher on the phone, if she’s not available in person, that would help her stay informed. Also, she should talk more to her mother to get more detailed information about her son.
Alma Martinez
Alma Martinez
Child care provider for 10 years
Silvana should ask the preschool if they could send photos home of the kids from throughout the day. That could help her get an idea about what her son does during the day.

The mom can also give the teacher a daily log to write in while her child is in school and then have Grandma write in the log at home about any milestones he may have reached. A log is great because it’s easily transportable and the notes can be really quick.

Activity Logs Featured Activity:
Activity Logs
Circle of Care Featured Video:
Circle of Care
Topic: Child Care Management
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