Hello Peekapak friends! Through the craziness of the pandemic, we wanted to offer a more positive outlook on some new opportunities presented. Through the shifts to hybrid and virtual learning is the expansion of family engagement within a student’s life, as well as the recognition it plays in developing the school-home community.
The Link Between Family Engagement and SEL
Studies show there is a positive relationship between family engagement and SEL. A report from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Health study of Early Childcare and Youth Development highlights the need for young children to demonstrate social-emotional competencies to be school ready. It found that children with “highly involved parents had enhanced social functioning and fewer behavioural problems”(How Social & Emotional Skills Benefit From Parent Engagement). When parents and educators share responsibility for student growth, opportunities to reinforce and extend learning at home to cultivate a climate for success occur. (Reimagining family engagement in the time of COVID)
The Importance of Family Engagement Post COVID
Pre-COVID, educators acknowledged the importance of family engagement but it was not a priority, instead thinking of it as ‘nice to do when we have time” (Embracing a New Normal: Toward a More Liberatory Approach to Family Engagement). However, the pandemic has forced families to engage more with their students’ education, as educators relied on parents for time and support during online learning. Going forward, making family engagement the ‘new normal’ will benefit children, parents and educators.
Creating a Strong Connection Between School and Home
So how exactly do you go about creating a strong connection between school and home? The most important strategy is to create a relationship with parents/guardians based on mutual trust in order to collaborate on student learning. Setting specific times during the workday to reach out to families and develop authentic family engagement policies is a great place to start. Additionally, investing in professional development to shift family mindsets, or incorporate engagement in existing routines. If possible, there has been success in creating a new role in a senior-level position dedicated to family and community engagement.
Best Practices for Family Engagement
Encouraging families to get involved is the most effective way of gaining traction with implementing family engagement initiatives. Common channels of communication include family night activities, PTA meetings, parent-teacher conferences, and community-building social events. However, at Peekapak we recognize there are sometimes barriers in these activities. Below there is a list of best practices!
More Inclusive Outreach
Between work, lack of childcare, sports, or just simply family time, parents do not always have time to attend scheduled in person meetings. Offering an alternative video conferencing option increases accessibility to these meetings and removes barriers of time and place. Especially if there is a recorded option, families will be able to access the information anytime, therefore increasing engagement.
Building Families Teaching Toolkits
The shift to online learning has forced parents into a new role of teacher, on top of other responsibilities. It is important to remember many parents do not have the professional expertise, or practical experiences of teachers. Many parents are finding themselves in unfamiliar territory with little to none resources to guide their children. In order to create the proper environment for children at home to learn, teachers have found explaining the why and how of lessons to parents has made a tremendous impact. When parents understand the lesson goal and have strategies to overcome obstacles, they can encourage learning through conversation and home activities.
Access to Academic Resources and Content
Coaching parents in how to utilize resources sent home with students can result in higher productivity and reinforcement in the home. Training parents in technology and the relevant educational programs allows a smoother transition for children. Students would be able to access grade appropriate activities with the assistance of parents.
Grace, Compassion and Support
At the end of the day, it is important to remember families have been drastically impacted by the pandemic. Having compassion for students and families who are trying their best will go a long way. Take a second in moments of frustration to remind yourself of external circumstances families are going through and recognize many families are overwhelmed by the transition to online with multiple children at home.
Walkthrough of a Family Wellbeing Night
Here at Peekapak, we engage families through Family Wellbeing Nights in which students, parents, and all members of the household are encouraged to join and participate. Through these Family Wellness Nights we walk through the importance of SEL competencies, such as self-regulation and perseverance, providing activities you can add to your toolbox to learn how to better cope with any anxiety or stress in the future. These interactive sessions are a great way for families to learn together and start an open and honest conversation with their children on any issues they may be dealing with, and how to actively deal with them in a fun and engaging way.