Parents As Partners
Parent partnerships are an integral component of a child’s early education.
Parents and caregivers are a child’s primary educators and so the value of their knowledge of their child, the opportunities and experiences they provide and the influence they have on their child’s learning and development journey should not be overlooked or underestimated.
Many settings report difficulties in striking a balance between parental involvement and parent partnerships, but the most important thing to remember when developing these partnerships is that communication is key. Without basic communication and open conversations, partnerships with parents will not be able to be developed.
Equally, it is imperative that as practitioners we adopt the same individual approach to our relationships and partnerships with parents as we do for the children we care for and their individual needs and learning styles.
Every parent we meet will have a different approach to parenting, their child’s learning, and their level of involvement and will also respond differently to different types of communication. Because of this, it is important to ensure we get to know each parent the best we can to enable us to develop a partnership and to also ensure that partnership is communicated and maintained in a way that suits the parent, their individual needs and circumstance.
If we are unable to establish partnerships with parents from the outset, then it can be difficult to develop these as time goes on and the child’s learning journey progresses. We must endeavour to engage parents as early as possible, but also in a non-intimidating, condescending or over-powering way; sometimes a hard balance to strike in the day to day.
The benefits of strong parent partnerships between the setting and caregivers are unrivalled. A holistic approach to a child’s learning and development is key as we all know, but when we add in a supportive and engaging parent partnership, the potential for further learning and development benefits and opportunities flourishes.
If parents are engaging in their child’s learning and development during their time in the setting, then children will see their learning as an intertwined journey between home and the setting, rather than the two as separate entities. This engagement could be in a variety of forms depending on the individuals, for example responding to observations, joining in key days and celebrations, having good open relationships and communicating with the child’s key people.
Similarly, when a child witnesses their parents engaged and interested in their learning and development and day to day activities of the setting, this promotes a positive correlation between the setting, opportunities and experiences and their home life and relationships which generally allows children to respond more positively to learning opportunities and experiences both in the setting and at home, which can only contribute positively to their approach to learning, engagement and development.
It is also important to mention, that without strong parent partnerships, we as practitioners may miss out on key information about the child, their experiences, circumstance and significant changes and updates that could be pivotal in a child’s life. This could subsequently impact upon a child’s engagement and learning and development within the setting, and so parents need to feel respected, valued and able to communicate and share sensitive and potentially tricky information and events to us as the child’s key people. Without this trust, respect and open lines of communication between home/setting, we will lack the knowledge, understanding and skills necessary to support both the child and their family, thus impacting upon the child’s opportunities to learn.
Whilst there are constant changes, updates and developments within the Early Years curriculum and guidance, one thing that never changes and will never falter, is the importance of these partnerships with children’s parents and primary caregivers. It is important to give a holistic approach to each family as individuals, in order to meet all of their needs and in turn provide the child with the most effective, engaging and nurturing learning environment, armed with the necessary information and knowledge of each child and their individual backgrounds. This will allow you to efficiently support their learning and development throughout their time and journey within the setting with their parents as partners in their learning experience.