As states begin to open up after the prolonged shutdown from the COVID-19 pandemic, people are slowly coming out of their homes to go back to work. For working parents, the newest worry is how to feel safe putting their children back into care while the coronavirus is still out there.
As a businessperson, you want to open up to begin earning revenue again, but as a childcare provider, you are all too aware of the stress parents are feeling. Even if you were able to stay open as an essential business, you and your staff are still adapting to life in the post-COVID world.
Here are some tips to help families feel safe placing their children in your care.
Be Transparent, Be Honest, and Be Flexible
Transparency and honesty in operations help parents differentiate between childcare providers. In today's environment of changes in circumstances, quarantine shutdowns, and financial issues, parents need to know how you intend to handle a situation that can change in a moment.
- Do you offer refunds if your establishment must close for a time?
- Do you provide hours of operation that fit the parents’ schedule?
- What will you do if a child becomes ill at daycare?
Be prepared to convey bad news as well as good. If parents don’t hear it from you, they will make up their own stories that may not paint your business in the best light.
If you make a mistake, own it. Tell parents what happened, how you resolved the problem, and how you fixed it so it won’t happen again. You know precisely how protective people are of their kids. Don't try to hide anything and always tell the truth.
Also, be prepared for last-minute business closures, changes in recommendations, and new ways of maintaining your facility while keeping the children safe and happy. As more is learned about COVID-19, new methods of controlling its spread are sure to come.
Offer Safety, Health, and Well-Being
The COVID-19 pandemic is scary for parents, probably more so than for children. Parents understand that the illness may be more devastating for some individuals than others, and there isn’t any way to tell who will be the sickest.
- Publish your cleaning schedule, including how you intend to keep your facility as germ-free as possible.
- Explain how and when each part of the facility is cleaned and that a deep clean occurs regularly.
- Post and enforce handwashing and mask policies.
Beyond performing the usual sniff-test for diaper pail odor as a way of selecting a provider, parents also express concern about exposure to a virus scientists and doctors are still learning about. While your sanitizing practices have always been paramount, they take on new importance.
Provide well-being for parents by showing them how you follow CDC guidelines as well as state requirements for a safe childcare facility.
Maintain Licensing and Accreditation
Licensing and accreditation never lose importance for childcare businesses. Maintaining your credentials, even in the face of COVID-19 and other business disruptions, communicates to parents and prospective clients that you are determined to meet expected childcare standards.
By earning your credentials, you show parents you took the time to do things right and continue to do so, no matter the business environment.
Ask for and Post Reviews
These days, people rely more than ever on peer-review to find acceptable businesses, including childcare. From Facebook groups to review sites, parents ask others about providers and scan for problems at their chosen facility.
Even if you haven’t asked for reviews, they are out there. Unfortunately, many post only when they are upset. Actively request reviews from happy clients and include your ratings on your website and social media posts. Respond professionally to negative reviews and be prepared to answer questions about any issues parents bring up from their research.
Accept Parent Engagement
Parents want to be the major player in their children’s lives. If they feel unwelcome around your daycare or preschool, they will reflect those feelings with their feet and wallets.
Find ways to include parents as volunteers in the classroom, on field trips, and during fundraisers. Talk to parents about how their children are doing in care and let them know about both positive and negative issues. Invite them to ask questions about how their children are performing and where they need help.
Remember that your client is a family unit. Include parents in your plans and activities, and you will reap the benefits going forward. Parents will see first-hand the level of care you provide for their children. Also, you can observe how they interact as a family. You may find hints of better ways to interact with the kids and approach parents when you need to.
Being proactive is another way of saying plan ahead.
- Plan your communication schedule, so parents know when they will hear from you.
- Let parents know you need more supplies in plenty of time to add to their shopping list.
- Make sure everyone knows how closures, illnesses, and staff changes will be announced.
- Keep parents in the loop so they can opt-out or volunteer.
Parents who know in advance can prepare themselves and their children for new circumstances and changes in routine. They worry less about their jobs and taking care of their families.
Parents know they will miss milestones and need you to tell them any exciting news. Report daily about each child’s performance. What they ate, how well they maintained potty training, and what they learned that day. Find ways to share significant milestones, like losing teeth or first steps as soon as possible.
Create videos or take pictures for a report to pass along to parents via a parent portal or email. If parents can access a report before pick-up, they will be ready to quiz their children intelligently about the day.
No doubt about it, the COVID-19 pandemic, business closures, and the need for essential workers to have childcare played havoc with everyone’s life. Children deserve a stable environment, and parents need to know you are on top of the latest news and guidelines.
Keep an open communication channel, be truthful and transparent in your business dealings, and be prepared for changing guidelines. Over-communicate how you are meeting the challenges of today's business environment.
Transparency, honesty, and positive reviews are some of your most powerful marketing tools to help families return to daycare after the extended quarantine.