Effective family engagement is one of the key pillars of building positive relationships between educators, children, and their families. Building positive relationships and making connections should be the foundation for everything that you do as an educator. Engaging families effectively sets everyone up for success and provides a strong foundation from which to build supportive parent-educator relationships.
Most educators find engaging parents challenging even during “normal” times. And now with the pandemic and with the subsequent transition to virtual learning, it has become even more difficult. There is barely any interaction with families and everyone is struggling to find new ways to engage with parents.
So, what can we do to bring everyone together in a safe and meaningful way? Here are five easy things you can put into practice right away to begin building those relationships and boost family engagement.
LEARN THE PARENTS’ NAMES AND USE THEM
The first step in building positive, engaging relationships is learning your parents’ names. Did you know that a person’s name is connected to their identity and individuality? We all love to be called by our names, don’t we? When someone remembers your name or calls you by your name, you feel valued and respected. You feel welcome, important, seen.
Calling a person by their name is a sure way to easily get their attention. And that’s because your name is the most important and favorite word in your world. So be sure to learn your parents’ names and use them in conversations and interactions with them.
ASK PARENTS HOW THEY WANT TO BE ENGAGED
It’s easy to think that as an educator you know what’s important or meaningful for the families you work with. And sometimes the things we think are meaningful may not be exactly what’s needed or wanted by the families we’re working with.
So it’s important to engage the families and ask them for ideas and advice on how they would love to participate and be involved in your programs and their kids’ education. And you can do that by offering them a menu of ideas and letting them choose from that. More importantly, let them see you put their ideas and suggestions to practice.
HOLD FREQUENT INTERACTIVE MEETINGS
Parents want to be connected to each other and to you. And you can create opportunities for them to build social connections with you and with other parents through regular meetings or cafes.
We’re used to asking parents to show up in person, but with the pandemic, you can hold such meetings virtually. And that’s even better because it gives them more flexibility and the ability to attend. Parents can participate virtually from wherever they are; be it in their car while driving home or during a work break in the office.
So set up these meetings to allow families to connect with you and others. We at Curricula Concepts can help facilitate those meetings. We can provide the training and all the support you need to hold such meetings. We will do all the work for you and the families will love you for it.
SEND HANDWRITTEN NOTE CARDS TO PARENTS
The next thing you can do is choose a parent or family every week and send a personalized, handwritten card to them. Not an email or a text; a real handwritten note.
This could be one or two sentences of positive, encouraging words; something will lift them up in some way. And doesn’t even need to be about their child. It should be about them. What is something positive and encouraging you can write to parents to lift them?
With the gloom that’s been 2020, everyone needs to hear encouraging and positive words. A kind word from you as an educator or a teacher could make some parent’s day.
CONNECT AND SHARE WITH YOUR PEERS
The fifth way you can improve and build positive relationships is to connect and share with peers from other programs ideas on how you can increase engagement with families. Are there wins when it comes to engagement that you can build on or adopt from other programs?
Obviously, you can’t have all the answers all the time. So connect with others, share what’s working for you, learn what they are doing differently, and implement it into your programs.
Engaging families and building meaningful relationships is not a walk in the park. It takes hardwood and intentional effort. But failing to build positive, engaging relationships with parents adds a whole lot of challenges to your work as an educator.
So pick one or all of these five ways and try them in your programs. Hopefully, you will soon have engaged and supportive parents to work with as you work together to raise and educate their children.