What can parents do to strengthen parent-school connections?
English | español
Silvia Alvarez de Davila, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency
The start of the school year in the fall marks a new beginning for students and families, and naturally parents start thinking about what they can do to strengthen their children’s learning and development. But parent-school engagement is important all year round in order to connect the two important contexts where children grow — home and school.
Through communication across home and school, parents and teachers can share information about children’s progress and discuss their needs and interests to find the right opportunities to promote learning experiences. Meaningful dialogue between parents and teachers creates mutual understanding and enhances both parents’ and children’s experiences with school.
Family-school relationships have been described as a safety net to promote children’s learning and school experiences. However, parents differ in their skills, knowledge, resources, and available time to support student engagement with school and learning. These differences are why cooperation and shared responsibility between parents and teachers are necessary to foster learning and students’ success in school.
How does shared responsibility work? On one side, teachers and schools should:
- Provide an inviting, supportive climate for parents and families.
- Examine and, if necessary, update their practices for partnering with parents to ensure children's academic success.
- Listen to parents and respond to their thoughts and desires for their children with respect.
Volunteering and More
On the other side, parents’ involvement with their children's school may include fundraising, volunteering, or helping in the classroom. But parents can do more to connect to their children’s teachers and school staff in meaningful ways. As parents, you can:
- Work with teachers to set goals for your children's education. Remember — you are a partner with teachers in your children’s education and should work together to achieve mutually agreed-upon goals.
- Make the first contact with your children’s teachers. Talk with them at the beginning of the school year before you have any concerns about your children’s work. Contact teachers by phone, e-mail, or in person. Be respectful and willing to learn what your children do in school.
- Ask for a language interpreter and/or a cultural guide if you need them. This will help prevent any misunderstandings stemming from cultural differences.
- Talk with teachers even when things are going well with your children. If there are problems, it is easier to work them out if you already have a relationship with the teacher.
- Let teachers know about big events in your children's lives, including a death or serious illness in the family, divorce or separation, job loss, or reduced income. These events can affect your child’s behavior in school and their ability to learn. When teachers know about these big events, it helps them understand behavior changes and provide support.
Always work from the idea that parents and schools both want the best for children. As a parent, praise and thank teachers and school staff for their work when appropriate — and watch your connection with your children’s school flourish.
Christenson, S. L. (1999). Families and schools: Rights, responsibilities, resources, and relationship. In R. C. Pianta & M. J. Cox (Eds.), The transition to kindergarten (pp. 143-177). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Christenson, S., & Sheridan, S. M. (Eds.). (2001). Schools and families: Creating essential connections for learning. New York: Guilford Press.
Comer, J. P. (1984). Home-school relationships as they affect the academic success of children. Education and Urban Society, 16(3), 323–337.
Henderson, A. T., & Berla, N. (Eds.). (1994). A new generation of evidence: The family is critical to student achievement. Washington, DC: National Committee for Citizens in Education.
Kim, E. M., Coutts, M. J., Holmes, S. R., Sheridan, S. M., Ransom, K. A., Sjuts, T. M., & Rispoli, K. M. (2012). Parent involvement and family-school partnerships: Examining the content, processes, and outcomes of structural versus relationship-based approaches. CYFS Working Paper No. 2012–6. Lincoln, NE: Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools.
Peng, S. S., & Lee, R. M. (1992, April). Home variables, parent-child activities, and academic achievement: A study of 1988 eighth graders. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.Raftery, J. N., Grolnick, W. S., & Flamm, E. S. (2012). Families as facilitators of student engagement: Toward a home-school partnership model. In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 343–364). New York: Springer US.
The Eight "P" Philosophy for Effective School-Parent Partnerships — These eight “P”s help build effective school-parent partnerships.
Parent Keys to Success in the Parent-School Partnership — PACER Center — Get tips for creating a positive and productive family-school partnership.
Learning opportunities to discover — Tips to help support your child’s learning away from school.
Praise that Builds a Child's Self-Esteem — Use praise to recognize the efforts and accomplishments of your children, and build self-esteem in the process.