Building Relationships with Parents & Families

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Regardless of the capacity in which you work with children, it is very important to know how to build relationships with parents and families. This lesson gives you some ideas on how to go about this crucial task.

Why Parent and Family Relationships Count

Are you someone who works with children or adolescents? If so, then you might already know how important it is to connect deeply with parents and families. Whether you are a teacher, guidance counselor, or social worker, the young people under your care will benefit tremendously from a sense of consistency, or continuity and sameness, between home and school. It also helps young people to see that the different and sometimes very diverse adults in their lives care about and trust one another. Finally, you might find that relationships with parents and other family members actually help you understand children better, and you will be greatly enriched by this understanding.

However, building relationships with parents and families can take time and patience. It is not necessarily something that happens overnight. This lesson gives you some concrete ideas to help you build these relationships.

Determine Your Preconceptions

Before you go about establishing relationships with parents and families, it is important to define your preconceptions, or the things you assume about others before you have even gotten to know them. You do not need to feel ashamed for having preconceptions, since it is very natural; however, you need to pinpoint what they are to stop them from getting in the way of your relationships. For instance, if you assume that parents and families do not understand English, you might not give them a proper chance to understand you when you talk without an intermediary. Or, if you assume that parents are selfish and do not care about their children, you might be less open to listening to their perspective. Try making a list of your preconceptions and talking them over with a trusted colleague, so that you can remove their detrimental impact.

Have Events

One of the best ways to build relationships with parents and families is to host fun and festive events that they are all invited to. Getting parents into the school or clinic setting is crucial, and it is easier when it happens in a fun and hospitable way rather than only in the context of a meeting or conference. Some ideas for events that families might love include:

  • Math game nights, when families play math games alongside their children
  • Literacy carnivals, with games set up thematically to represent different books
  • Potlucks, where each family contributes a dish that is special to them

When you plan events, make sure to think about the work schedules of the families you are considering. Consider transportation and childcare, or any other issues that might make it difficult for some families to attend.

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