While working at home or at nursery during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it can be hard to adjust to supporting parents and maintaining your own well-being during this difficult time. However, these tips could help:

Contacting parents

However you decide to stay in contact with parents during the coronavirus pandemic, remember that what matters most is that you have contact with your most vulnerable parents and and that there is a positive nature to the contact.

Maintaining professional standards is just as crucial as it would be in your usual work situation while working from home, so it important to remember:

  • It’s a check in and chat: the call is to ensure that vulnerable parents are coping well during this period, still feel connected to their community and get a chance to highlight any difficulties that they are experiencing

  • To offer advice: you’re not expected to be an expert in everything but you can sign-post parents to services that can help. Providing clear information about external services and agencies is the professional approach to getting parents the right support to resolve personal difficult circumstances

  • Confidentiality: don’t discuss information or data with anyone outside of the organisation or with anyone who doesn’t need to know. Confidentiality arrangements are the same whether working from home or the office so take guidance from your confidentiality policy and procedure if you are unsure about the protocols. Don’t leave messages with personal or sensitive information as you cannot be sure if they will reach the parent you are contacting or who else may be able to hear them

  • GDPR: Apply the usual principles of data protection to ensure you keep any data secure and treat other people’s information in the same way as they would usually expect. Your GDPR and Data protection policies will provide further guidance regarding expectations

  • To withhold your number: if calling from a landline and working from home, withhold your number as this will protect you from future calls from parents to your private number. For every call ensure you put 141 before typing the number to retain anonymity for yourself

  • Time limits: set a time limit for any calls you make at the beginning, to set the tone that this is a call of a professional nature and not an open-ended personal chat. This will enable you to bring the call to an end after the specified time and the parent will have their expectations met professionally.

Responding to distressed parents

Whether you are working from home or still at nursery, it is likely that during the conversations you are having at this time, you will be presented with some disturbing or upsetting information from parents about difficulties they are experiencing because of the social isolation.

This could range from parents reporting loneliness due to missing family and friends, to more serious issues relating to hunger or ongoing safeguarding issues that have escalated due to the situation. Whatever issue is presented to you, it is likely that there will be support services available to support them. Providing this information to parents is the key to remaining positive about the situation.

When responding to a distressed parent…

Listen: Listen carefully and try to show understanding and empathy. Let them know that they are not alone and that there are many others living in similar situations

Provide information: let them know that you can provide them with information that will enable them to make their own decisions about how to resolve their issues, look at providing information about local and national organisations to help them and encourage parents to make contact with them

Advise them: provide some practical advice about strategies to resolve the issue, if it related to an early learning or childcare issue. Visit Action for Happiness for some practical strategies for coping during the crisis

Follow your policies: follow your policy and procedure for recording and reporting the concerns raised.

Managing personal responses to distressed parents

When home-working and taking a distressed call, it is possible that it feels more personal, due to the environment being more personal. It is useful to give this some thought and have some strategies in place to support yourself, to separate work from personal responsibilities.

These might include:

Keeping perspective of the situation: this will support you to clarify the blurred lines between work and home, so remind yourself of the key elements of your role and the support that you provide to parents before starting work each day

Expectations: have realistic expectations about what can be achieved for the parents and remember that any professional role is to offer available options but it is for the individual to choose from themselves and we cannot carry the burden of other people’s choices

Recognise the lens you are judging the situation by: remember it is likely that whatever distressing situation is shared with you by a parent, may appear far worse to you than it does to them because their life experience is different to yours

Speak to your line manager or colleagues: share your concerns and use any additional services that are available such as internal or external counselling services if you are worried about how a parent situation has made you feel personally

Changing your focus: change your focus by going outside for some fresh air or doing a quick housework task to reset your thinking. Even a loud clap of your hands will immediately change your focus and mood

Keep positive: and find gratitude for your own circumstances by having some prompts around your work area that remind you how lucky you are. A photo of someone, a memory, or a pet that you can spend a minute thinking about to remind yourself how fortunate you are that you have things in your life that make you smile. Spend a minute thinking about this, take deep breaths as you let the thoughts soothe you and smile!