Staff Workshop Teacher Handout: From "Building Family and Community Relationships"

NAEYC standards for early childhood professional preparation

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2

Early childhood professionals should:

  • Know about and understand family and community characteristics.
  • Support and empower families and communities through respectful, reciprocal relationships.
  • Involve families and communities in their children's development and learning.

Meaningful parent involvement

  • Develop the ability to talk with parents during drop-off and pick-up times. Make a mental note of the information you want to share.
  • Ask parents what they want their children to experience while in the early childhood program. Learn about the goals they have for their children. Incorporate these into the curriculum and program.
  • Involve parents in formal decision-making. Parents may bring new perspectives on how to use limited space, ideas for building needed equipment, and insights that are useful in hiring new staff members.

Because young children's lives are so embedded in their families and communities, and because research indicates that successful early childhood programs depend upon partnerships with families and communities, early childhood professionals need thorough understanding and application of knowledge in this area.

First, well-prepared early childhood educators require knowledge and understanding of family and community characteristics, and about the many influences on families and communities. Family theory and research provide a knowledge base. Successful early childhood educators require a strong understanding of how socioeconomic conditions; family structures, relationships, stresses, and supports (including the impact of having a child with special needs); home language; cultural values; ethnicity; and community resources, cohesiveness, and organization affect children and their families. Knowledge of these and other factors creates a deeper understanding of young children's lives. This knowledge is critical to teachers' ability to help children learn and develop well.

Next, teachers develop the knowledge and skills needed to support and empower families through respectful, reciprocal relationships. Candidates understand how to build positive relationships, taking families' preferences and goals into account, and incorporating knowledge of families' languages and cultures. Teachers demonstrate respect for variations across cultures in family strengths, expectations, values, and child-rearing practices. Teachers consider family members to be resources for insight into their children as well as for curriculum and program development. Teachers know about and demonstrate a variety of communication skills to foster these relationships, emphasizing informal conversations while also including such approaches as e-mail discussions and posting information and children's work on the web with print copies sent home for families without web access.

In their work, early childhood teachers support and empower diverse families, including those whose children have special characteristics, learning needs, and challenges; families who are facing multiple challenges in their lives; and families whose languages and cultures may differ from those of the early childhood professional. Candidates also understand that their relationships with families include assisting families in finding needed resources, such as mental health services, health care, adult education, English language instruction, and economic assistance that may contribute directly or indirectly to their children's positive development and learning. Well-prepared early childhood candidates are able to identify such resources and know how to connect families with services, including help with planning transitions from one educational or service system to another.

Finally, well-prepared early childhood teachers possess essential skills to involve families and communities in many aspects of children's development and learning. They understand and value the role of parents and other family members as children's primary teachers. Candidates understand how to go beyond parent conferences to engage families in curriculum planning, assessment of children's learning, and planning for children's transitions to new programs. When their approaches to family involvement are not effective, candidates evaluate and modify these approaches rather than assuming that families are "just not interested."

Understanding Family and Community Characteristics

Take a walk or drive through the center's neighborhood and the neighborhoods and communities of the families. Note:

What children and their families experience daily. This information gives you a feel for children's prior knowledge and experiences and leads you to extending this knowledge, or using children's prior experiences as a springboard for introducing new ideas. Perhaps children pass small or large businesses on their way to and from the center that could be visited and studied. Or there may be plants, trees, or ponds that could serve as sources of learning.

Resources for children's play-parks, recreational services, or other areas. Children's time outdoors could be extended if no play areas are available in their neighborhood. Or, you may choose not to duplicate equipment readily available to children in their home or community.

Physical characteristics of the community. Are the neighborhoods in high-traffic areas that could serve to introduce children to community rules and institutions? Or are there land forms-hills, valleys, ponds-that could be used to introduce children to concepts of geography?

Resources for families. Note any social services, churches, or other agencies that offer families support. Visit the Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, or other social agencies to learn about their services.


Reprinted, with edits, with permission of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Although we cannot represent the NAEYC Guidelines Revisions regarding assessment in its entirety you can find the complete standards for early childhood preparation in the NAEYC document "NAEYC Standards for Early Childhood Professional Preparation: Baccalaureate or Initial Licensure Level."

  • Part of Collection:
  • Subjects:
    Early Learning, Educational Policy, Parent and Teacher Communication, Educational Standards, School Administration and Management, Teacher Training and Continuing Education, Working with Families and the Community

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