Multiracial parents smile down at young child, line of text reads "Encouraging Family Engagement in Early Childhood"

September 2022 – Published by 4-C

A child’s development is influenced by a number of different factors, such as their family life, their school, and the neighborhood in which they are raised. Even though each of these factors contributes directly to their development in their own ways, family engagement and interaction have an ability to make a major impact on a child’s overall well-being.

Family engagement is an investment in a child’s learning and development. When a parent or caregiver shows an interest in connecting with their child’s teacher or child care provider, they’re showing their child that they and their education are both important, that there’s an interest in helping them to succeed, and that they are capable of doing it. In turn, children internalize these messages and shape their future views of themselves and education.

When a child’s family is engaged with their learning both at home and at school it increases their chances to:

  • Have higher grade point averages
  • Be involved in more challenging school programs
  • Complete homework regularly
  • Have higher graduation rates
  • Lower dropout rates
  • Enroll in educational programs

While caregiver and parental investment is important, it is just as essential to for educators to develop a positive relationships with a child’s family. By building relationships with parents, early care providers and teachers can utilize methods to promote family engagement and help reduce any barriers preventing engagement at home.

Black child with curly hair and striped sweater smiles up at parents, bubble of text reads "Ways to Encourage Family Engagement in Early Childhood"

Ways to encourage family engagement:

  • Work together with families to set goals for children’s education and learning
  • Discover the challenges, experiences, and composition of families
  • Post pictures of children with their families on your classroom’s bulletin board
  • Have a welcome area for families to use during drop off and pick up
  • Establish trust and mutual respect to build positive relationships
  • Take advantage of after-school opportunities such as:
    • Family game night
    • Talking to parents at pick-up
    • Parent-teacher meetings
    • Projects that involve parents

Connecting with caregivers and parents can reduce barriers otherwise preventing active participation in a child’s care and education. As a result, parents will in turn have unique opportunities to get more involved in their child’s learning journey. It has been demonstrated that family engagement has a positive effect on student success regardless of income or education.

Barriers to engagement and how to overcome them:

While a parent or caregiver might want their child to succeed in child care or school, sometimes there are barriers that prevent traditional types of family engagement. This can include time constraints, economic constraints, limited access to transportation, and personal barriers like inadequate support from partners. Luckily, there are ways to work with all families to help children succeed.

These can include:

  • Use technology to connect with families – particularly those who aren’t able to speak with you in person
  • When sending home forms or notes with a child, try to send a personalized note highlighting a skill the child is learning or a positive interaction they had that day
  • Ensure you’re able to communicate with the family in their preferred language
  • Maintain a communication and/or outreach routine so families know when and what to expect from you
  • Make sure families know how to get in touch with you and encourage them to celebrate their child’s at-home accomplishments

By connecting more intentionally with parents and caregivers, it’s easier for everyone in a child’s daily life to have a better understanding of classroom expectations and logistics. This in turn helps with the transition between home and the learning environment, which can help reduce challenging behaviors. Together we can help all children succeed and thrive.

Is your child struggling with challenging behaviors while in child care? Is there a child in your classroom or program that could use additional behavioral supports?

4-C is partnering with Behavior Help Wisconsin to offer one-on-one coaching to child care providers and programs in Dane County. For more information check out this page.

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