Policies & Practices: Creating a Family-Friendly Program

An environment of acceptance, trust and collaboration w th family members benefits children and your program.

  • Grades: Early Childhood, Infant, PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

Strategies for Family-Friendly Programming

  • Set the stage as early as possible. For new families, encourage their involvement from their very first tour or meeting. For longerterm families, form a committee to work on strategies to create the atmosphere you envision.
  • Prepare an album with photos that show your families in action. Share it with new and existing parents.
  • Ask your Parent Support Group or Advisory Board to share ways family members can be involved.
  • Put information in your first newsletter on how families can join the daily life of the program. Add a tear-off page listing areas they can check to participate.
  • Add books, articles, and materials to your lending library that describe activities and events for families that identify program and community needs.
  • Ask families to complete a yearly program evaluation in which they can make suggestions. Offer a suggestion box throughout the rest of the year for anonymous ideas.

Getting to know the families in your program is a vital part of providing the best possible learning environment for children. A family-friendly program values and incorporates families in every way possible. It says, "Welcome! We are delighted you are here!"

A Friendly Environment

It is up to the program to establish a climate that can draw family members into activities and events. In developmentally appropriate practices, this atmosphere is described as "establishing reciprocal relationships"-actively listening and responding to families. We must be open to their ideas, suggestions, and needs just as we expect them to listen to and support our policies, practices, and requests.

Parents are often unsure of how they can be involved. They may wonder if their involvement will reflect one way or another on their child. We can help them become comfortable by incorporating events that ensure that each family has an opportunity to participate in the program in a significant way.

Completing a family history upon enrollment or within their first 30 days in the program is a good way to begin this process. Review the information you received from each family. Select an interesting event or experience and ask the family to share it with the class or school. Or, identify a skill that a parent can share. Talk to parents individually and ask for their help or involvement Even if they decline, you will have opened the door for future discussions and contributions.

Facilitate Family Bonding

Encourage families to connect by providing opportunities to gather together, work on projects, and enjoy and get to know one another. Try these proven techniques:

Family nights Ask a group of parents to help plan and execute a family night. It can have many purposes. For example, it may be a family information night, an orientation to the program night, a get together to meet new teachers, a gathering to listen to a guest speaker who is of interest to the group, or just a simple covered dish supper to get acquainted.

Grandparents Night Hold a special night just for grandparents to visit and get to know the program staff and each other as well as the child's classroom. Ask them to bring their grandchildren. The children can "tour" their grandparents through their classroom. Offer examples of activities. You may find grandparents are quite active in some children's lives because they have more free time than parents.

Community Service Projects Community service projects are a great opportunity to involve and energize families. Be sure this is an interesting project they can all support and work together on developing.

Family Mentors Ask for volunteers to be mentors for newly enrolled families. Work together with this group to create a list of ways each Family mentor can engage new families into the life of the school.

Remember: If a parent chooses not to be involved, don't take it personally! The important point is that the doors are always open for their contributions. It's up to you to consistently offer new ways they can become engaged with their child's classroom and teachers, and with the school as a whole.

  • Subjects:
    Early Learning, Educational Policy, New Teacher Resources, School Administration and Management, Teacher Tips and Strategies, Working with Families and the Community, Parent Involvement

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