Three professionals who are well versed in working with children or training staff offer recommendations for places to play in the family.
If you’ve ever visited a family-focused business, such as a theme park or entertainment center, you know they often have young employees who have little experience working with children. Often, visiting these businesses can be frustrating. Of course, we can’t blame a teenager working his first job. However, we can admit that businesses need to do a better job of training staff to work with children. After all, working with kids isn’t for everyone.
I don’t blame the staff who are frustrated working at one of these family fun places. As a mother, I often feel depressed! However, I am constantly looking for ways to communicate effectively with my children. I think home-focused businesses should do the same when it comes to training their employees. This will make work and customer experience better.
I talked to several people who are well versed in working with children from different backgrounds about how businesses can better train their employees. They say so.
Meredith Turkin – who chairs the International Accreditation and Continuing Education Standards Council, which trains and certifies individuals to work with children with autism, mental health and cognitive impairments – says there are many items businesses can add to their checklist through training employee. First, business leaders should consider working with a “reliable partner or supplier, such as a certification body that provides programs on a long-term basis.”
“Make sure the content comes from multiple clinical and expert perspectives, including from lived-experienced individuals (who themselves have autism or have a disability, etc.),” Tekin says. “Also, repeat and reinforce training – make sure employees and managers discuss any process impacts and provide written material for reference.”
When communicating with children, employees should use communication methods flexibly.
“Speaking in a friendly, direct, and clear manner helps avoid confusion — many people may not understand certain jargon, sarcasm, or may take it literally,” Tekin says. “Sometimes kneeling or standing at a child’s height can help, but not everyone is comfortable making eye contact or talking to other people in close quarters. Also, keep in mind that some people with autism or other People with differences may not be able to use language, but that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. The best policy is, when in doubt, ask!”
Most importantly, Tekin says the greatest success comes from hiring and screening employees correctly.
Should these businesses have a checklist when hiring new employees? For example, experience working with children in a previous job, etc.
“Training can help build empathy and understanding of different perspectives, especially for tourists with disabilities, in case staff have not experienced it first-hand,” Tekin said. “Providing specific, up-to-date and relevant training bridges knowledge gaps, enabling and empowering staff to do what they do best, helping visitors have a fun and safe time.”
whitney reaserdirector of education at the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Diego, recommends following the “three C’s” when working with children.
“Keep your expectations clear, concise, and consistent,” Raser says. “The shorter your ‘rules’ are, the stronger they are for children and often easier to understand. Most of us expect statements of no more than three or four words. For example, ‘use kind words’ and ‘talk to adults in Together”. Also, whether a visitor services assistant on a floor or a member of the leadership team uses these phrases, they are the same. Consistency is key.”
Raser also recommends using visual supports to communicate with children.
“Children may have language differences or neurological abnormalities with venue staff—having signs associated with each expectation, as well as kinesthetic movements, helps children grasp what is being asked of them in the space,” Raser said.
Finally, Raser said it was important for all employees to “approach their jobs with humility, empathy and lifelong learning.”
“Organizations should reach out to local nonprofits that work with children from neurological or linguistic backgrounds,” Raser said. “Often these nonprofits are eager to share best practice with other community partners. These groups can offer culturally relevant and/or research-based approaches to best supporting children. Regular involvement in this work and these partnerships is important because New ideas and learning can support the ongoing work to make spaces inclusive.”
Janelle Owens – Director of Human Resources at EdTech company Test Prep Insight, who has worked in HR at Target and Wells Fargo – says her best piece of advice for businesses is to role-play with employees.
“Once employees start working independently, what they role-play during orientation and training can have a huge impact on their behavior,” says Owens. “Role-playing provides a safe, controlled environment in which you can subtly unmask employee preconceived notions and biases. Role-playing can play a key role in equipping employees with the potential for interacting with the wide range of people a home-based setting might offer. Be ready for anything.”
Owens also said business leaders should remember that “HR training shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. It needs to be flexible and dynamic.”
“For younger team members who might be working on their first real job, I double down on training through role-playing,” Owens says. “With senior employees, you can use their previous experience and general maturity to discuss training matters. You can ask for their opinion and explore how they have handled certain things in the past. However, with green employees, you need to lead by example and Training, role play is very suitable. In a sense, it is a form of “learning by doing”. In addition, using role play to train young employees has the added benefit of being more engaged. It is a A more active and participatory format of training can attract the attention of younger employees, especially teenagers.”
As a parent, what advice do you have for businesses that work with children? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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