I often hear educators comment that families don’t get involved in the program or service and I always wonder whether our expectations are the same as families. Do we place the same emphasis on what’s important?
Most of the time when we discuss “family involvement” it revolves around curriculum input and or feedback as well as sharing a skill or their time. As an educator and parent myself I also am in conflict and have started to really consider what family partnerships are about….what they look like.
Firstly I think we need to understand that “involvement” will be different for everyone and there should be no set prescribed way. I also think that we need to move away from the terminology “involvement” as this equates to skill and time… rather we need to consider words such as “partnership” or “relationship” or “shared purpose” which reflects an approach, a value placed on this relationship with families.
So how can we achieve this?
- Ask families about their values, practices and goals for their child
- Share information verbally with families about their child’s achievements and learning – don’t assume apps / emails can achieve the same as face to face conversations
- Listen to families and their requests for their child… even if we disagree it’s important to gain clarification and understanding
- Be available to families
- Respectfully acknowledge their anxieties and concerns
- If unsure- ASK! Always ask about cultural practices, languages, beliefs… it’s is better to ask than assume.
- Respect families level of participation
- Understand that what appears as “denial” can in fact be fear and therefore requires sensitivity
- Share common interests as this makes us human and creates connections
- Ask specific questions in children’s documentation. We often seek involvement an input just by asking for “comments” or “feedback”. Maybe, families don’t exactly know what we are after. Posing a specific question drawing on their knowledge and expertise of their child may help such as “have you noticed this before?” “does Riley enjoy sensory play at home?”
Research tells us that when educators and families have a shared approach, where we discuss goals, aspirations, family practices and values and how we can support these then there are better outcom6se for the child. If families feel comfortable with educators, they are more likely to share information, ask questions, be receptive to educators and visa-versa.