Practical strategies for practitioners in early childhood services

Native language

Child smiling from Asian countryMany parents will speak to their children in their native language at home and will have a desire for their children to be able to continue to speak that language.

Practitioners need to find out:

  • What language is spoken at home?
  • Does the child attend any language schools?
  • Which resources are available for practitioners to support families to maintain their native languages?

Sensitivity around the topic of migration history

Two children of different skin coloursMigrants leave their country of origin voluntarily to seek a better life for a range of personal and economic reasons. They usually make a choice to leave and have a chance to plan and prepare for migration. However, refugees and asylum seekers are outside of the country of their nationality and are unable to avail themselves of the protection of their country. Therefore, amongst refugees and asylum seekers there may be a great deal of anxiety, embarrassment and fear around ‘identity documents’. There may be fear about legal documents.

Practitioners need to:

  • Understand the difference between migrants and refugees
  • Understand verbal and non-verbal cues for individual children
  • Ensure that they request information from the parents and not the child
  • Check assumptions about families based on stereotypes

Gender issues in diverse families 

male and female communicatingOur understanding of gender roles may affect our communication and interaction with families from diverse backgrounds. In some cultures, women do not shake hands or they may avoid a public display of affection. In some cultures, men may kiss and hug each other or perhaps they do not make physical contact with women.  Women may prefer same-gender interpreters or support workers.

Practitioners need to:

  • Be sensitive to gender issues
  • Communicate with families about their specific needs

Greeting families

Indian lady doing NamasteHave you thought about:

  • How the families in your service would like to be addressed?
  • Asking parents or carers if they would like you to use their first name or surnames?
  • How you will show respect for children who come from different cultural backgrounds in your service?

 Practitioners should:

  • Gather information about the family in a sensitive manner
  • Be open and ask parents about the ways that respect is demonstrated in their culture
  • Ask about greetings in a child’s home language

Addressing families

Kindy director welcoming familiesEvery culture has a naming system. In some cultures, people have middle names. For example, people in some cultures use the names of their mothers, fathers or grandparents as a middle name. At times names also may be influenced by religion or caste.

Practitioners need to:

  • Ask the parents/carers what they would like to be called
  • Use proper pronunciation and spelling
  • Use greetings in the language that is familiar to the family

Religious practices across cultures

religious symbolsPeople around the world follow different religions and have different spiritual beliefs. They may be linked to a church/temple/mosque and may have different religious requirements.

Practitioners need to:

  • Find out if families have any special religious requirements or observations (e.g. food, dress, prayers?)
  • Gather information about their church/temple/mosque and, if they agree, share pictures with the other children in the service.


The same gesture can have a different meaning in different parts of the world. For example, pointing, touching and nodding, all of these gestures convey different meanings for different people.

Hand gestures

Practitioners need to:

  • Ask parents about the gestures they use in everyday life
  • Talk about symbols of rudeness. For example, pointing using specific combination of fingers may be offensive or inappropriate. Pointing with the index finger is common in Europe and North America.  Pointing is considered rude in some Asian countries (e.g. China, Japan). 
  • Have conversation with parents about the meaning of gestures in their cultures
Last modified: Wednesday, 13 July 2016, 4:04 PM