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Stupid Stuff Directors Do

I have done a lot of stupid stuff during the early years of being a Director.

Most of it was because I didn’t have a mentor & a lack of experience/knowledge in how this business was different from most.

The thing about not knowing something is that you usually end up paying for it big time while trying to figure it out.

And I did.

Strategies have gotten better over the years, but I still see Directors making many of the same mistakes I used to make. I’m going to share 4 of those mistakes with you today. I consider them to be pretty big.

Pay close attention because these mistakes cost time, money and energy and have even caused some centers to close their doors for good:

Mistake #1: Not Signing Up Clients for My Waiting List.

Telling parents to go somewhere else sometimes seem like the right thing to do.  Sometimes parent call & want information about your program and over the course of the conversation you find out that the classroom they would need is full.  S you tell them you have no space at this time & suggest other centers for them to call.

Great, but what if they are really a good fit for you?  Do you actually KNOW that all the children in that class room will be with you next week, next month?  The number of times I turned someone away, just to have a spot open up days later is mind boggling!

Go ahead & schedule a tour.  Treat them just like any other potential client.  I now ask everyone at the end of the tour if they would like to fill out an application form.  For $15, and some brief questions, they can secure their spot on your list on your mailing list.

Now you have their contact information and permission to keep in touch with them even if the end up enrolling elsewhere either because you don’t have space or they made a different decision.  The newsletter should be full of useful information: when is the the Watermelon Thump happening & what is it anyway?  What car seat has been recalled?  How do you get a baby to sleep through the night? What dentist can do the whole family?  Is there a local family restaurant that will pay you to print a coupon for $3 off mac& Cheese kids dinners?  Everyone will want to be on your newsletter.

Sending people off to other centers first, puts you at risk. But, that’s exactly what I did when I started my business. I would talk to folks on the phone & then send them on their merry way. What did that do to my income? It caused it to go up and down drastically.

Not only that, it’s also hard to have a center full of happy parents if they don’t really know how much better than everyone else you are. It usually takes least 3 months for a family to be really settled into a center. By signing clients up for the newsletter & waiting list, you’re increasing your chances of enrolling families even after they start somewhere else.

Benefits of Avoiding This Mistake: You get happier families and you remove yourself from financial traps.

 

Mistake #2: Not Having a Clear and Specific Market.

At first I was just any old child development center.  I cared for infants through school age & didn’t have any specific culture.  I would take anyone who seemed interested.  This meant I got a lot of families who needed things I couldn’t provide or who wanted a different type of program. Once I started focusing on who I wanted as clients, it got a lot better.

Which do you think did better, the general CDC of the focused one?  You’re right.  The focused one.  People knew what I was selling. Over the years I’ve had a center that was an adapted Montessori, one that use the Reggio Emilia Methods, one that focused on low income households & one that focused on academic readiness.  I had focus each time.

That’s what I recommend you do too. Get really specific on your market.

Even though you can have success as a general center, I believe you scale faster when you have a clear market that you talk to.

Just take a look at this example…

If you had two centers on the same street, one can care for any children under 12, and the other one helps single parent families, who do you think “newly divorced” women are going to pay attention to? Most likely, the center who helps “newly single” parents.

Benefits of Avoiding This Mistake: The more specific and clear you are about your market, the better your chances are of attracting the kind of people who will stick around and have the greatest success.

 

Mistake #3: Chasing Unhappy Clients. 

There was a time I used to bend my program into all kinds of crazy directions to keep a client.  I increase my hours (for 2 families), installed a camera monitoring system, adding free Spanish classes, and I don’t even know what else.  I would work my heart out during because I just knew that was the only way to keep my center in the black.

Turns out that’s one of the fastest ways to go broke. I eventually realized that when I solved people’s problems that no one else had, I wasn’t giving them a reason to stay.  I was costing myself $$$$ and staff stress.

When a parent is unhappy, see if it something that really needs to be fixed (a hot classroom) or not.  During your conversation with the parent, it’s best to unearth their problems, show them the “light at the end of the tunnel” about this issue and show them how you address their most pressing needs (happy child, quality care, good education, fun play environment & convenience to work/home).  If they want to leave….let them.

Benefits of Avoiding This Mistake: You leave your existing program in good shape & allow those who don’t fit to self-select OUT of your hair.

 

Mistake #4: Providing Childcare For Free.  

The last mistake I want to share with you is caring for children for free. I used to hear all the time in the early years that the best way to keep good staff was to give them childcare for free.

I don’t believe that that’s the best way to get good teachers. You need to be getting paid something for having a child at the center.  This includes 50% of tuition with no cap.  Pay staff well, give them benefits, but nothing should be free.  People don’t value things that they don’t pay for.  Watch a kid with their parent’s IPhone, if you don’t believe me.

Another way Directors give away their services is to not collect tuition.  To let parents slide.  “They will pay next Wednesday, it’s no big deal.” Is what I used to say.  Wednesday became Thursday, then Friday and finally Monday.  That is a lot of service provided without payment.  Would HEB let you have your food for 5 days without paying for it?

When you provide care for free, the parents aren’t as invested in the results. I’ve found that when people pay they appreciate and the more that they pay the more they pay attention.

Benefits of Avoiding This Mistake: You don’t waste your time with people who may not respect you or the work you do.

 

Now that you know 4 of the biggest mistakes coaches make, you can avoid them.

You’ll notice your business becomes much more stable and scales a lot faster.

Leave a comment and share what mistakes you used to make in your program that you no longer do.

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Vacation Recharge

I have been neglecting this blog.  I got caught up with other things.  Writing is something I love to do, but the hubbub of daily work has gotten in the way.  So today I thought I would write about how my vacation recharged my productivity batteries.

Most summers of my adult life I have gone to the family farm that has been in my Mom’s family for almost 100 years.  It is lush and I am basically offline.  No television, limited internet, and cell coverage.  I send time opening up the farm properties, puttering in my cabin & hanging out in the woods.  I don’t think about work.  I don’t plan.  I create, I sit, I nap & I listen.

Now that I am back, I feel ready to make all the things.  I want to build 500 things.  I want to improve programs.  I want to re-work old projects.  I am making new videos.  It is amazing.

If you haven’t taken your summer vacation yet, please do.  You will get so much more done when you come back.  Take a week.  The business won’t fall apart.  Something may get messed up, a room might go over ratio, a receipt might not get out, or a check may be late being deposited.  But it won’t fall apart.

You have done good work.  Your staff can be trusted to do their job.  Trust them.  You have trained them well.  They know the routines & the systems.  They can handle it.  Let go.

Go somewhere that is just beautiful.  The beach, the mountains, a riverbank,  the fields of amber grain…go to wherever you can and walk in nature, take a nap, RELAX!  Recharge your batteries.  Let your brain be empty.  It will be hard for the first couple of days.  You will want to call in and check up.  Resist.  Give one person your contact information to one person who can call you if there really is an emergency.  If you don’t hear from them, then everything is OK.

 

Take it from me.  You won’t regret it.

 

 

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Registered or Licensed Home?

 

Making the decision to care for children in your home is just the beginning.  Whether you have a Registered Family Home Or Licensed Child-care Home can make a huge difference in how much money you earn.

Running a Registered Family Home can be an excellent way to work in childcare & control your earnings.  I suggest it to people all the time.  No extra overhead, you select your students, you don’t have to drive anywhere.  If you have all your slots filled the $$$ is better than as a teacher at a center.  It can be great.

It can also be very limiting.  You are frequently the only person in your program that can property conjugate verbs.  Lack of adult conversation can result in you driving your family members crazy when they come home at the end of the day with the need to have REAL conversation.  I know my husband was not amused by how much I expected him to interact when he got home.  He had already used 950 of his 1000 words for the day at work, and I was wanting way more than he had to give.  (If that reference didn’t make sense to you, grab a copy of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and all will become clear.)

There is also a real cap on how much you can earn.  If you want to care for 2 babies, Texas standards will only let you have 4 other children during most of the day, and 2 school-aged kids in the afternoon.  Not everyone feels comfortable with the same number of children, These numbers are just an example.  If I charge

  • $140/week- infant
  • $140/week- infant
  • $120/ week – toddler
  • $100/ week – preK
  • $100/ week – preK
  • $ 35/ week – after-schooler
  • $ 35/ week – after-schooler
  • free  my after-schooler

then I earn $670/ week, which is not too bad.  If you are only open 40 hours a week you are earning over $16.75/hour.  Many in-home programs are open from 6:30-6:30, which brings your pay down to $11.16/hour.  Still not bad for a job that lets me get paid while staying at home and spend time with my child.

Here is the question: would it be better for me if I could earn more $$$ and have someone else working with me to share the work and increase my job satisfaction?

In most cases the answer is YES.  I don’t really want to work 60 hours a week.  Do you?  You can hire someone to work at your program for part of the day.  In a Registered Family Home (RFH), this does not change you ratios, just your stress level and job satisfaction.  Some of your tuition simply goes to making life better, or reducing your hours.  That is something I invested in, myself.

If you are in a Licensed Child-care Home (LCH), the story is a bit different.  You can enroll more children.  Your total of children can go from 8 to 12.  If we had the same children as before (2 babies, 1 toddlers, 2 preK, 3 schoolers for $670) and a second staff person, you could add 4 more children for a possible $480.  If you paid a person to come in for 8 hours starting at 7:30 for at $8.00, you would have a bit of extra money ($160 before tax).  You may have to hire 2 people and shift the hours around a bit, depending on when your children arrive, but I would take that extra $8000 a year along with less work and someone to talk to and share work with.

The other thing to consider is your food program revenue.  Many in-home programs use the USDA food program to increase their income.  If you add 4 more children each month and you would increase your food program check by an average of $300 a month or $3600 a year.

OK, I got a little too into the numbers there, but the point is this:  If you went from a RFH to a LCH, you could make you life better financially, reduce your stress and have more fun doing what you love to do!  

Now your thinking, “But that has got to be hard to do or costs a bunch of money.”  NOPE.  The only real difference is that you, the person who stands to benefit, has to become a licensed Director.  The easiest and quickest way to do that is to take a class with TexasDirector.org.  Classes start at $475 and can be completed in as little as a week.  You can complete the class at home, on-line.  $475 for an increase in income of more than $11,000 per year.  Yes please!

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How to Take Action Consistently

Actions speak louder than words. Talking and planning aren’t enough to make progress with most tasks. Some of us specialize in daydreaming and planning. We might have the best ideas, but ideas without action are a waste of time and mental energy. It’s important to spend the majority of your time actually doing something. Action is the key.

 

Those with control over their lives and their time are able to take action on a consistent basis.  They move goals forward.

 

Become more action oriented and gain control over your time:

 

  1. Realize that nothing changes until your behavior changes. Visualization and positive self-talk have their place, but they’re only effective if your behavior changes. You can try to wish your way to a new Bentley, or to make a million dollars by aligning your chakras with the universe, but it won’t happen unless you’re actually doing something different.

 

  • Understand that a consistent change in your behavior is the key to real change.

 

  1. Know the outcome you desire. It’s not easy to take action if you don’t know what you’re attempting to accomplish. Be clear on your intention. Take the time to determine what you want to accomplish. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? What actions can you take today to move in that direction?
  2. Start by taking small steps. Do you want to jog for 60 minutes each day? Get started by jogging for one minute each day. You won’t get in shape by exercising for only one minute, but you will develop the habit of getting out the door each day. After a week, up the time by another minute or two.

 

  • After 4-6 weeks, you’ll have developed an exercise habit and can begin to exercise for real.
  • Does it seem like that schedule is too easy? Good! How much running did you accomplish in the previous 12 months? There’s nothing wrong with easy, provided you’re patient and can see the big picture.

 

  1. Limit your planning time. Those that are slow to take action love to plan, but the best plans are worthless until they’re executed. While you’re trying to work out the fine details, everyone else is already taking care of business.

 

  • There’s no reason to be hasty, but set a limit on how long you’re going to strategize before you actually do

 

  1. Use rewards wisely. Small, meaningful rewards can help you to get off the couch and get busy. Decide on a few rewards and when you’ll receive them. Get excited and begin taking action. When you’ve earned a reward, enjoy it.
  2. Get started early in the day. If you can accomplish something worthwhile before 9AM, you’ll be motivated to do even more during the rest of the day.

 

  • If you fail to do anything substantial by noon, you’ll feel bad about how you wasted the morning. Then you won’t feel like doing anything in the afternoon. Then you’ll let yourself off the hook by telling yourself that you’ll get twice as much done tomorrow. Many people make this process a habit. Avoid becoming one of these people.

 

Take a close look at the most successful people you know. Notice that there’s nothing exceptional about them. They aren’t smarter or more capable than you. But they do manage to get things accomplished each day by taking action consistently. The good news is that you don’t have to be spectacular either.

 

You only need to learn how to avoid wasting your precious time. Consistent action is the key to wealth, weight loss, strong relationships, a strong business and anything else that matters in your life.

Sometimes we all need help getting it done.  If you need help getting going email me TexasDirectorCourse@gmail.com.

 

 

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What is a Mentor Coach and Do You Need One?

Athletes have coaches. Many entrepreneurs and professionals have mentors. They’re really the same thing. A mentor coach is a coach for your growth. Most of us weren’t formally taught how to grow successfully. A mentor coach can help you to figure out what you want to do with your life, set goals, and achieve them. They have experience in helping others to live fulfilling lives.

A mentor coach wears many hats:

  1. A mentor coach is a cheerleader. Life is easier when someone is in your corner. When you know you have support, it’s easier to take risks and chase after big goals. You always have someone on your side when you have a coach. *Your coach will also push you. They’ve seen plenty of clients attempt to avoid hard work and stressful situations. They’ll know when you’re playing games and push you to succeed.
  2. A coach provides guidance. It’s not always easy to make good decisions, especially when you’re stressed or fearful. And let’s face it, some folks just don’t make good decisions, period. A coach can help you to make wise decisions. * A friend can’t always be objective or completely honest, but your coach can. You’ll hear what you need to hear from your coach.
  3. A coach helps you to determine what you want to be when you grow up. It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 68. A mentor can help you to determine what the next step of your life should be. If you’re feeling lost, a coach might be the answer.
  4. A coach will help you to find balance. Coaches are aware that there’s more to life than just money or a perfect classroom. They emphasize keeping things in balance. Health, professional success, relationships, finances, spirituality and leisure activities are all part of a well-balanced life.
  5. A coach is not a therapist. Therapists deal with past issues and traumas. Coaches work from the present moment and into the future. A mentor won’t help you get over a past loss or deal with the fact that you were bullied in junior high. A coach can guide you toward building a more desirable future.
  6. A coach isn’t required to have any training. There are organizations that certify coaches, mentors or trainers, but they aren’t necessary to hang out a shingle and make a living in these areas. Be sure to vet anyone you’re considering hiring. Since the barriers to entry are so low, there are plenty of coaches that aren’t good at what they do. * Pay attention to reviews and schedule an introductory session to see if a particular coach is a good fit. Choose carefully.

Do you need a mentor coach? A mentor coach won’t solve your challenges, but they can help you to help yourself. If you need a steady hand to guide you and a cheerleader to support you, a mentor coach can make a big difference. There are good mentor coaches and bad mentor coaches. If you’re looking for a mentor coach, ensure that you find a good one.

Texas Director offers Mentor Coaching services. Schedule your session today.

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15 Years of Training Directors

Kate and I (Carrie) have been teaching people how to direct childcare programs for 15 years. Did you ever wonder

Where did you come from, where did you go?
Where did you come from, Cotton-Eye Joe?

Sorry.  My Texas roots are showing.  Every time I tried to just type where did we come from, that song just popped into my head.  Anyway…

Back in 2001 we were both working side gigs with a non-profit organization, focusing on helping women grow their businesses.  I was providing training and support to Registered Family Home providers and small child care centers.  Kate was administering a grant focused on job opportunities for low income  women.

They approached me to write a curriculum for a Director Credentialing course, but said they wanted to have an academic teach it.  That didn’t make sense to us.  Why not have the instructor be someone who has actual experience in the field and an academic write the text?  How could they answer questions that came up in class?  They wanted to ensure that the text hit all the points that a new Director needed to know, and so they wanted a “practitioner” to write it.  OK, I can get behind that.  I decided if I was going to create the materials, I darned well wanted to teach it!  Kate agreed, and we set off to create what is now Texas Director.

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We researched, compiled our knowledge, filled out paperwork, and found a place to teach the first class.  We talked through everything that we wished we had known when we started from marketing tips to insurance to classroom arrangement techniques.  Writing the book was much harder than we thought it would be.  We were literally finishing it while we were teaching that first class.

We tweaked it during each class for the first year.  Sometimes it was just that we noticed a place where we needed to add punctuation, but other times we realized that we had not explained a key point well enough.

We knew that adults retain information better if they have short activities after each topic.  So, we had a quiz or work product that corresponded to each area. When the new Director was done learning about goal setting and all the ways they can use that tool to improve their center, there was a goal setting worksheet to go through to cement the knowledge and give a chance to practice the skill.

Everyone who has ever worked in pre-k knows that to really learn something, you have to actually do it.  You can teach Tommy that his name is spelled T-O-M-M-Y and show him the letters, demonstrate how you write it, but he won’t be able to sign-in in the morning until he holds the pencil and tries.  It will be a mess the first time, but he won’t master it if he hasn’t tried once.  That was the core of our teaching and evaluating philosophy.

It still is today.  A lot has changed in 15 years, but that concept and our commitment to making sure our Directors have what they need to start their careers off strong hasn’t.  If you or a friend is thinking about becoming a Director, let us help you.  You won’t regret it.

My time with Texas Director’s has been life changing! Your company
helped me really take charge of my career and give an amazing 
learning experience to lots of children, including my own daughter.
I have been working with children for over 17 years and obtained my Directors
License about 10 years ago! I have had the privilege of working
in so many different types of centers.
From the credential program and trainings you provide, I have learned the aspects of a great 
Center! – C. Monk

 

 

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Why Choose Texas Director?

A colleague asked me ,”Why should someone wanting to be a childcare Director in Texas choose Texas Director to help them?”  It is a good question.  One I had 20 or so answers to, but it all comes down to one thing: We will be there for you.

Kate and I started providing training and other services to Directors and teachers in 1998.  That means it is possible that one of our new directors was enrolled at a center that we helped that first year.  It blows my mind.  We listened to our peers and found ways to help them get the information and services they needed.  We created trainings based on what other Directors said they needed.

Director Credentialing

One thing centers needed was a way to get new Directors qualified to lead a program.  There were a couple of training groups that offered classes for new Directors over the course of a week, in a hotel in one of the 5 large cities in Texas, once or twice a year.  So if you lived in Lubbock, you had to take a week off from your center, drive to Dallas and stay in a hotel for that week.  That was not what we wanted as Directors, so we created a 2 weekend class, which worked better for the folks we talked to.

After doing those for a few years, Kate started exploring online learning and took Texas Director to the internet.  We were the first ones to offer online Director Credentialing.  We have 100% online classes, mixed online and live, and 100% in person classes.  Directors told us they needed different options, so we provided them.

Folks are telling us they need their new Directors to be qualified within the month. With our online and personalized courses, we have that handled.  They are designed to be able to be completed within a week if you push hard or a month at a steady pace.  Our Weekender course which combines online and in-person classwork is also designed to be finished in a month, but is only offered 6 times a year, currently.

Over the years other credentialing courses have come and gone.  What do you do when the company who gave you your certificate goes out of business?  For many folks, the answer has been to transfer your credential to Texas Director.  We allow folks to test in and join our membership if their company disappeared or they aren’t happy with the service and training they received elsewhere.  We will be here for you.

College

Some folks prefer the college route.  Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) issues Directors licenses to those who have related college experience or degrees.  Is this the best option for you?  Do you want material specific to running a child care center?  There are not many college courses in that vein.  You can find 20 classes that will help you run a classroom, which are great if you don’t have those skills but not many on center wide operations.  If you come from the classroom, you will want information about marketing, staffing, communication,  financial management, and business law.

Do you want to be a Director in less than a year?  If you need 3 business classes and 3 child development classes, you are probably looking at at least a year of college before you are qualified, presuming you are also continuing to work.  I will be 100% honest with you, DFPS often gives waivers for folks using this method to be come licensed, but I have a question for you: Do you really want to be running a center without knowing the basics of child development, classroom management, being a boss, taxes, legal issues and marketing?  Will that set you up for success?  Will your professors be available after class for you to problem solve when things go sideways.

I like college.  I have been a lot.  I take all kinds of classes that looked interesting or could teach me something I needed/wanted to know more about.  I have 2 degrees as does Kate.  (Hers are more impressive than mine.)  We hope you take college classes.  I am just not sold on it being the best way to get your Director’s license.

CDA

The last way DFPS licenses new Directors is with a Child Development Associate (CDA) and 2 college courses in business management.  The CDA is a wonderful, nationally recognized certificate showing proficiency as a classroom teacher.  To earn it you must have learned a fair amount either through workshops or college courses.  You have to have completed a 360 evaluation of your ongoing performance in the classroom and had an outside evaluator observe you working in your classroom.  I’ve always strongly encourage my staff to work towards earning their CDA.  If you are wanting to move from the classroom to the Director’s office, this may be a good option for you, but it has one big drawback.  You have to renew your CDA periodically, which means you must be working in a classroom.  As soon as your CDA lapses you are no longer a licensed Director.  Is it in your center’s best interest to have the Director working as a classroom teacher while running the center?

We’ll Be There for You

We love working with and for Directors, both in getting them started and in growing with their business.  No matter what happens, we are here to offer you support.  We create training materials, handbooks, and customized plans based on what a Director needs.

When hurricanes hit the coast our directors called us and we worked with them to get their centers taken care of.  When a center lost its lease unexpectedly we helped them find another location.  When a Director was threatened with a law suit, we were there.  When a Director wanted to open a second and then a third location we were there to help her.  When a center was having unacceptable staff-turnover, we were there.  When you need us, we will be there.

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How to Save More Money on Your Marketing Budget

Did you know that it typically costs a child care program at least five times more to obtain a new family than it does to retain a family?

And, for each one percent increase in family retention, that transforms into a seven percent increase in profits?

So, what does that really mean for you?

It means customer retention makes a lot more sense (and cents) than customer acquisition.

As a general rule, directors don’t feel comfortable with marketing. You go to all the expense and effort of attracting a new family and having them register and that’s something to be grateful for. But if it stops there and you let the family walk away without some plan in place to keep the relationship going, it’s a real waste. It’s not just one lost customer, it’s lost revenue and referrals that might have been.

A better tactic is for directors to focus more of their time, energy, and resources on nurturing and developing that relationship instead of being content. If you provide continual great service to satisfied customers then they’re going to refer others to you as well.

It just makes sense to focus more effort on marketing and selling to the people who already have given you money at least once. Instead, most directors continually focus their energy on trying to get more new families.

Of course, it takes work to build that relationship and obviously it’s one thing to get them, it’s another thing to keep them, and still another thing to keep them satisfied. How do you do that?

By continually providing them with the information and resources that they need. It’s really as simple as that and it’s a worthwhile use of your energy.

Here are some ideas for building on that relationship whether for an online or offline business:

  • Throw in an unexpected bonus when they sign up for your program.
  • Follow up with a thank you note or phone call. And at the same time see how they’re doing with your program and get feedback on what other services you can provide.
  • Send out a physical newsletter or an autoresponder series of emails and ezines to continue sharing helpful tips.
  • Connect with them on social media and refer them to other beneficial resources.

Successful marketing is all about making your customers feel special and well cared for.

Take advantage of this opportunity to have us set up your first Parent Survey or your Newsletter on MailChimp. Click here to go to our FACEBOOK PAGE and tell us TODAY, why you need our HELP!

Let’s connect,

Kate Young

 

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How to Help Someone Who’s Fighting Cancer

I had said about a month ago that I would talk a bit about my mother-in-law’s terminal diagnosis.  She has pancreatic cancer.  We are piling up memories.  Making sure that the younger grandchildren have time with her is a high priority.  Both my husband and I are able to offer support and BE THERE.  Not everyone can.

Cancer, unfortunately, is a fairly common affliction. Chances are good that you’ll eventually know someone who’s fighting their way through the disease. It may be a child at your center, a staff member or a person in your personal life. Avoid being that friend who doesn’t come around or call when someone you know is dealing with serious illness. Step up to be the one your friend or loved one can count on to help.

Consider these ways to help a loved one fight one of the toughest battles of their life:

  1. State, “I’m here to help you.” Then, mean it. Be definite and specific since a person with cancer needs people who will push forward and help them get the daily things done so they can rest and recuperate from chemotherapy and radiation treatments if they are going through treatment.  If they aren’t currently having treatment, they will still need help.
  2. Rather than ask what you can do, say what you will Be specific. “I can pick up your kids from school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays while you’re getting chemotherapy. They can stay at the center and play with my kids until you get home. Will that work for you?”
  3. Cook dinner for your friend and their family every week. Make lasagna and buy a bag of salad and drop it off. Brew a big pot of soup and take it over. Make a Crockpot full of pulled pork, buy coleslaw at your local deli, and drop them off with fresh buns for quick sandwiches.
  • Providing nourishment and pre-made meals for your cancer-fighting friend can be the most loving thing to do for them and their family members. 
  • Be aware that they will probably have a smaller appetite than usual while undergoing treatment.
  1. Take them to therapy. One of the scariest parts of dealing with cancer is undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. It can be a 3- or 4-hour session at the cancer treatment center followed by them getting a contraption strapped on that has an I.V. connected to it that continues to deliver more medication over the next few days.  Don’t feel you have to talk the who time.  Being comfortable sitting with someone in silence is golden.
  • Transporting to and from these sessions can be so helpful for family members that are overloaded with the stress of dealing with the disease on a day-to-day basis. Plus, family members often must continue to work to bring money into the household and can’t be available every day to transport.
  1. Ask when the best time is for them to receive calls. Keep in mind that your loved one who has cancer feels very tired and will be trying to nap and rejuvenate as much as possible. Make arrangements for when you’ll call so it won’t disturb them. You could also ask them to text or call you when they feel like talking.  When you are there pay attention to their cues, and cut the visit short if they are in pain or tired.  I know you miss spending time with them, but they may not be up to it for as long as you are.
  2. Be sensitive and understanding. If you’ve ever needed to be aware of someone’s feelings, it’s when a friend is coping with cancer. Your friend might be feeling cranky and annoyed. Or they might be crying and depressed.
  • Sometimes, if you just listen and acknowledge that their reactions are normal and they’re entitled to their feelings, it’s all that’s necessary to lend support.
  • Find something you can do with them that helps them feel like their old self.  For my mother-in-law it is flowers and gardening.  Is there a way to create a small way to bring that back into their life?
  1. Deal appropriately with your own feelings first. You might be feeling pretty devastated about the news that your loved one has cancer. Allow yourself to cry about it with your spouse or another friend before you talk with your sick friend. The image I used for this blog is the ring theory of grief.  When you are in pain you want to express that pain to others who are affected.  The key element is to share with people in the same circle or those further out.  Don’t go inward, they are dealing with it on more levels than you are.  If the people in the middle want to talk with you- fine.  Otherwise, share outward.
  • Lean on your journal to help you process your feelings and work to accept what’s happening regarding your loved one’s health. Giving yourself a day or two to adjust to the news before speaking to the friend with cancer (if possible) will help you focus more on how they’re feeling and what they’re going through.
  1. Make a consistent effort to take a positive approach. The fact is that many people survive cancer these days. Tell her you’re proud of how she’s handling the whole thing. Acknowledge how she continues to do whatever is necessary to cope with her illness. The more positive energy you can bring to her, the better she’ll fare through her recovery.

Do what you can to be a consistent, strong support to a loved one fighting cancer. You’ll be so glad you did.

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