For every child care center, parent engagement is a key part of the community and family that it makes. Some centers do struggle and some centers excel at getting families involved with their child’s learning and development. One of the things to remember is that there is not one strict working model for a center to follow when it comes to parent engagement. It is also going to depend on your center style and philosophy.
But what does parent engagement look like? Well, it will depend on which lens you are viewing it from. As an educator, it won’t only mean written communication but also the working relationship that is built with families. Educators need to be their authentic selves and build trust with families as they care for their children so they can approach any situation knowing where the parents stand. Many educators become a shoulder to cry on, to vent at, and to hear concerns about what is happening with the children in their care.
From a director’s perspective, you need to take time to talk with families and learn the family dynamics. Directors also learn a family’s struggles and can be a large supporter of the family’s needs outside of the center.
Parents also play a key role; it’s a two-way street and some parents do forget this part. Parents need to be willing to open up to educators and have difficult conversations no matter how uncomfortable they may feel — it will become better support for the child.
Some parents come in and have had bad experiences. Don’t worry right away. As an educator, start fresh with the family. Treat the parents like they’ve never gone through the process, this way you aren’t leaving any roadblocks up and aiding in the negative change. You are laying a better foundation for success. Don’t dive into the deep end right away! Some parents might pull you in and be open to doing so but it’s best to take it slow and walk them through the process of what they can expect from you and what you expect from them. Show them how you document their child’s day to day development and get that information home. Finally, be welcoming, and let families know it’s a safe place for both their child and them!
We’ve all been the new kid in the classroom or in this case the new educator on the floor, it’s important to start creating family connections from day one! Yes, take the time to learn how the center likes to document and the routine, but get your hands dirty and spark up a conversation with families. If you are someone who is a little shy, get a co-worker to introduce you and grow to be a stronger and better version of yourself. You don’t want to be stuck having a difficult conversation with a parent if you haven’t established a good relationship with them first. Be professional, and make sure they know your name, you are human too!! Let’s be real, super-human!
As educators, we also know how important parent engagement is for a child’s development. Children are overall more successful when their parents are directly involved and this starts before they go to elementary school. Families also benefit from a strong community and exposure to cultures, but when a child is in need of more help, both educators and parents can turn to each other and ask questions like: “what are you doing that is leading to more success?” or “is there anything going on at home?” These conversations lead to better overall development for the child as they have a strong support team.
9 Ways to Improve Parent Engagement
- For educators and directors, don’t ever assume! We as educators can go to the worst-case scenario right away.
- Go in open-minded to a conversation and continue to stay professional, even when voices are raised.
- Always be your authentic self! If you aren’t it will destroy your relationship with families and break trust.
- Don’t take it personally as well. Parents might overreact in one moment and then realize the next day that they did overreact.
- Every day is a new day. Start fresh!
- At the end of your school year or summer, survey parents. Take some feedback and make changes. You’ll be surprised at things that went well and what they’d like changed.
- Explore different family backgrounds with the families within your room. Ask them which holidays they celebrate and if they’d be open to helping the classroom participate in this tradition.
- Share stories from families and have pictures of families all over the classroom.
- Learn different ways to say hello in different languages if English isn’t their first language.
As educators, we not only support the child but their families as well! This is why it’s so important to be accommodating and welcoming towards each and every person who is impacted by the children in your care.
Want even more insights into what matters most to parents? See what our survey of 500 parents found in our Childcare Parent Satisfaction Report!