December 2023 Newsletter – Practices that Support Healthy Development: Build Strong Relationships with Families

Build Strong Relationships with Families

It has long been said that families are children’s first teachers, and therefore, our partners in supporting the developmental needs of children. If an educator is unable to form partnerships with families, they will likely struggle to address challenges and provide the best possible care for young children. If common ground cannot be reached between educators and families, especially those with opposing views, little progress can be made toward goals, potentially impacting children’s development.

Family involvement requires a substantial investment of time and energy from program employees from the top down. It is more than planning a carnival and expecting everyone to show up. Families will reciprocate the investment that they perceive from the program. This investment starts with the daily interactions that occur between families and every member of the team. When these interactions are positive, respectful, honest, and informative, the door to deeper engagement opens a bit.

Here are a few other strategies to consider:

  • Learn more about family values, parenting approaches, communication styles, and children’s home experiences. This must be done in a nonjudgmental manner, which can be challenging if you have opposing views. For example, your feelings about corporal punishment may conflict with a family’s practices. Regardless, to support the child and effectively communicate different child guidance strategies that the family will receive and try, you must maintain open and receptive communication. Once you have a better understanding of the family, you will be able to frame challenging conversations in a way that meets families where they are.
  • Ensure consistent communication using home language and translation whenever possible. This may require the use of translators for both written and verbal communication.
  • Share resources while honoring the family as the child’s first teacher. While it may be the case that ECE professionals have more formal education and training related to child development and teaching, it does not mean they know what is best for each child and family. It is important to balance your expertise with your efforts to partner with families. Position yourself as a resource, invite families to reach out to you, and ask families if they would like more information. When sharing information, consider sharing it with all of the families in your group, rather than singling out one family. Share with excitement by saying something like, “I just found an article that made me think about biting in a new light! I hope you find this information helpful.”
  • Build opportunities for family engagement that meet families where they are. Participating in at-home learning, assessments/conferences, family committees, chaperoning, class volunteering, and advocacy efforts are all options. However, not all options will be feasible for every family. Work with your team to identify outside-of-the-box opportunities for families to get involved in their child’s learning and the program in general.

 

For the main article Build Strong Relationships with Families, CLICK HERE

For the article Serve and Return, CLICK HERE

For the article Build Resilience, CLICK HERE

For the article Strengthening Cultural Responsiveness, CLICK HERE

December 2023 Newsletter – Practices that Support Healthy Development: Strengthening Cultural Responsiveness

Strengthening Cultural Responsiveness

According to the NAEYC, cultural responsiveness includes:

“…using the experiences and perspectives of children and their families as a tool to support them more effectively (Gay 2002). As this approach is child and family centered, it sets the stage for critical relationship building (Ford & Kea 2009).”

The work that it takes to strengthen cultural responsiveness is vital to creating equitable and safe learning environments for children, but it is also challenging work. In some ways, it is a deeply personal and reflective endeavor. Conversely, it is work that is best guided by a professional with experience in this area who can guide individuals and groups to explore values and deeply held beliefs.

For example, consider the work of uncovering biases. Bias is the tendency we have to prefer or avoid certain ideas, items, individuals, or groups. We form biases based on our upbringing, life experiences, and, unfortunately, stereotypes that exist. Bias can be explicit, meaning that we are aware of our preferences, attitudes, and feelings. Bias can also be implicit, meaning that we are not aware that we hold, and operate according to, these beliefs.

A person trained in cultural competence and culturally responsive teaching practices will be able to guide individuals and teams through the challenging reflections and conversations about those implicit biases of which we are not even aware! We strongly encourage you to seek professional development opportunities that strengthen your skills in this area throughout 2024.

Steps that ECE professionals can put in place immediately include:

  • Actively demonstrate value for the contributions of each child regardless of their race, religion, home language, gender, family make-up, abilities, etc.
  • Reflect aspects of our diverse communities in a positive light, showing the excellence of the children, families, and community members outside of the program.
  • Discuss similarities and differences positively.
  • Develop strong partnerships with families and community resources that support families.
  • Incorporate children’s home language and culture in the environment and interactions.

Learn more here.

For the main article Practices that Support Healthy Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Serve and Return, CLICK HERE

For the article Build Resilience, CLICK HERE

For the article Build Strong Relationships with Families, CLICK HERE

December 2023 Newsletter – Practices that Support Healthy Development: Build Resilience

Build Resilience

Resilience can be described as a person’s ability to bounce back from challenging situations. People display resilience by getting back on their feet after a medical condition, the loss of a loved one, or losing a job. The difficult situations that children face may not be as big, but that does not make them any less challenging. Children can experience challenges when transitioning from one classroom to another, or even after the birth of a sibling.

Studies have shown that children can be greatly impacted by life events that are referred to as adverse childhood experiences or ACEs.

According to the CDC, ACEs include:

  • experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect
  • witnessing violence in the home or community
  • food and housing insecurity
  • experiencing discrimination or racism
  • witnessing substance use problems in the home
  • close adults who struggle with mental health problems
  • experiencing instability due to divorce, parental separation, or household members being incarcerated
  • having a family member attempt or die by suicide

Adverse childhood experiences and other forms of stress can cause the body’s stress response system to go into overdrive and remain at a heightened level long after the direct threat is present. This can have lasting negative impacts on the body as well as brain development.

Luckily, researchers have also identified several protective factors that help strengthen resilience, or the child’s ability to bounce back from these challenging life events. A few protective factors include:

  • A supportive relationship with at least one adult – it can be someone other than the child’s parent(s) or legal guardian(s).
  • Positive self-concept – meaning that the child feels confident in themselves and their skills.
  • Self-regulation – coping skills to manage strong feelings, problem-solving skills, etc.
  • A sense of connection with a larger group, such as a faith congregation or cultural group.
  • Parental well-being – when parents’ needs are met, they are better able to meet the needs of their children.
  • Empowerment – the feeling of purpose and/or agency.

You can read more about protective factors here.

 

For the main article Practices that Support Healthy Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Serve and Return, CLICK HERE

For the article Strengthening Cultural Responsiveness, CLICK HERE

For the article Build Strong Relationships with Families, CLICK HERE

December 2023 Newsletter – Practices that Support Healthy Development: Serve and Return

Serve and Return

The research of experts such as John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth has given us a much clearer understanding of attachment, how it forms, and the impact that attachment has on future development and relationships. Attachment can be described as the bonds that children develop with their caregivers. You can read more about attachment here.

One of the best ways that caregivers can engage with children to build strong bonds is called serve and return. Imagine a tennis match, which begins when one player serves the ball. The second player must then return the ball to the server by hitting it back over the net.

Now imagine you are sitting with a young child who points to a toy on the shelf. That is the child’s serve. Your role is to return that serve with an appropriate interaction. You might say, “You are pointing to the basket of balls. Do you want to play with a ball?” or you might pull the toy off the shelf, name it, and hand it to the child.

Children’s serves come in all types of actions and your returns can be just as varied. It is essential, though, that you are able to identify that a serve has been sent your way and provide a fitting return. Here are some tips to help you engage in serve and return interactions:

  • Pay attention to cues – Hunger cues, signs of sleepiness, interest in a new activity, waning interest in a toy or activity, signs of frustration, or lack of engagement are all things that might prompt a serve from a child.
  • Mirror the child’s actions – When a child laughs and smiles at you, laugh and smile back. When a child points, look and point in the direction they are pointing. When a child babbles, talk to them.
  • Take turns – When playing with children, alternate who places the next block on the tower. Play turn-taking games and fingerplays. Be patient as you build children’s self-control as you model self-control as you wait for your turn.
  • Have turn-taking conversations – Regardless of the age of the child, name items, describe what you notice the child doing, or describe what you are doing. Say things like “What else?”, “What’s next?” or “Tell me more.” to prompt turn-taking conversations. These questions also extend children’s thinking, ideas, and play.
  • Sometimes it is appropriate to return a child’s serve with an offer of encouragement, smile, or nod. You can also let the child know you are available to help if they need it.

Typically, serve-and-return recommendations focus on interacting with infants and toddlers, but engaging in serve-and-return interactions with children of all ages will help build relationships and strengthen social and emotional development.

 

For the main article Practices that Support Healthy Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Build Resilience, CLICK HERE

For the article Strengthening Cultural Responsiveness, CLICK HERE

For the article Build Strong Relationships with Families, CLICK HERE

December 2023 Newsletter – Practices that Support Healthy Development

Practices that Support Healthy Development

Early childhood educators work hard to create learning environments that keep children healthy and safe. They plan engaging activities that encourage children to explore and experiment. On top of all of those responsibilities, they also help children navigate social and emotional situations that can be quite overwhelming for young children. Volumes of research on social and emotional development tell us that these interactions are just as important as the steps teachers take to teach academic skills and maintain safe environments.

These practices help establish a responsive learning environment in which children can thrive. In this month’s newsletter, we will explore a few strategies that teachers can implement that can support the development of the whole child. As we head into 2024, take some time to reflect (independently and as a team) on how well your program integrates these strategies into daily interactions and work together to address any gaps you uncover.

Best wishes in the New Year!

The CCEI Team

 

For the article Serve and Return, CLICK HERE

For the article Build Resilience, CLICK HERE

For the article Strengthening Cultural Responsiveness, CLICK HERE

For the article Build Strong Relationships with Families, CLICK HERE