Engaging with Diverse Families
Teachers have been taught to pay close attention to individual children to learn about their skills and strengths. During the child assessment process, teachers use observation, reflection, and intention to plan and guide children through the many milestones on the developmental path. We know that each child is unique, with interests and abilities that differ from their peers.
When building family engagement practices, it is important to recognize that families are just as unique as individual children. All too often, families get lumped together and their unique attributes are not taken into consideration. It is common to hear program staff start comments about families by saying:
- Our families…
- The parents we work with…
- Families in our program…
Using general language to apply to all families should be addressed whenever it is noticed, especially if the language is in reference to what families don’t/can’t/won’t do. It is vital that educators and administrators see families and parents as individuals and use engagement strategies that are flexible enough to account for individual differences, preferences, and needs.
This is just one step in the practice of creating equitable and culturally responsive family engagement initiatives.
Some of the unique characteristics of families to keep in mind when planning for family engagement include:
- Languages spoken
- Cultural norms related to relationships, child development/expectations, family involvement, and communication
- Work schedules and work demands
- Means of transportation
- Past experiences/relationships with child care providers or educational settings
- Stress levels and coping mechanisms
- Access to resources such as the internet
- Availability of family support
- Parenting experience and values
- Education levels
Take some time to recognize these factors and reflect on the influence they can have on a family member’s ability and interest in engaging with your program. Over the next few weeks, think about how your current family engagement practices take these factors into account. Try to identify ways that you can enhance your practice to include unique family dynamics and strengthen your family engagement strategies.
For the main article Family Engagement Strategies, CLICK HERE
For the article Goals of Family Engagement, CLICK HERE
For the article Family Engagement in the Classroom, CLICK HERE
For the article Program Strategies for Family Engagement, CLICK HERE