18 Ways to Build Relationships with Parents.

May 15, 2021

Building relationships with parents and caregivers is one of the most effective things you can do as a teacher. Showing warmth and empathy through a quick playground chat or phone call enables valuable and supportive connections to be made between home and school. This post gives 18 examples of how you can do this and why you should.

 Why communicating effectively with parents should be a priority.

Parents who are engaged in their children’s learning and who encourage and support learning at home positively affect their child’s long-term achievement. Parents involved in home learning activities matched to the learning happening in school make an important difference to their child’s attainment. In fact, In relation to narrowing the gap and raising aspirations, Gorard et al. (2012) argued that ‘parental involvement in their child’s learning was the only area with sufficient evidence to suggest a causal model for impact on pupil attainment.

 By enabling strengthening communication and building relationships with families, you create opportunities to check parents understanding of what is happening in school and what should be happening at home. It also gives teachers a chance to pick up any difficulties and problems that families might have and gain valuable information about any incidental learning outside the school.

18 tips for talking with parents. 

  1. Give them your full attention. Even for a short time, be fully present and actively listen. Make notes, so you don’t forget any actions. Excuse yourself if you’re interrupted with something truly more important, and make sure they know how and when any follow-up will happen.
  2. Ask how they would like to be addressed. Don’t just call them mum or dad, and don’t assume a surname. Instead, introduce yourself first, and then ask them their name.
  3. Listen to them (don’t jump in). If you take the time to listen and understand what they are saying, they are much more likely to take the time to listen to you.
  4. Don’t make judgements or assumptions. We all do it! Stop, listen and fact-check before coming to a conclusion.
  5. Make small affirming comments: “You did really well to get here on time given the weather”. A friendly comment goes a long way to breaking down barriers and diffusing stress and tension. This shows you as more human and relatable, someone to connect with and trust.
  6. Show an interest in them and their lives – try to find out what they like doing. This is so important! Not only as an insight into what learning opportunities and/or barriers exist in the home but also for access to valuable parent support you can use in school.
  7. Remember things and ask them about them the next day. “Did you watch that TV programme?” “How did the dentist go yesterday?” For a parent who is struggling, this is a huge gesture. It shows them you care and are a source of support. At a minimum, it is a friendly open door that can enable you or them to ask a more difficult question.
  8. Recognise and respect their experience and how much they have to cope with bringing up a child (often not in easy circumstances). Check understanding and prior knowledge by using open questions “have you any concerns?” “what have you tried so far?”
  9. Show respect for what they are doing for their child and the impact that has. “Charlotte’s reading is really improving now you’re reading at home with her every day”. Affirmations like this show people that what they are doing matters and has value.
  10. Show you understand how difficult being a parent is: “It’s difficult when they start at nursery getting them into a new routine.” “We know how busy it is and how little time you have as a parent.”
  11. Try to find out what life is like for them. Celebrate difference. Build it into the classroom and the learning.
  12. Show understanding about their particular situation: “I realise you’ve got the other two children to look after as well.” Even just an acknowledgement of their difficulties can feel supportive.
  13. Be kind when things go wrong. Offer them support. “How can we help with the toilet training? I’m sure we can crack it together.”
  14. As far as possible, be honest and straightforward. Even when the news is difficult, parents will appreciate this.
  15. Be openminded. Put aside preconceptions and foster an approachability that enables you to experience new perspectives.
  16. Tell them about yourself. This can help you seem more approachable. For example, “I found it difficult to get my 3-year-old to calm down after a tantrum” “I love Coronation Street too.”
  17. Apologise. If you get something wrong or if you could have approached something better, let them know, “I’m sorry if I haven’t been clear about this... we need you to...”
  18. Be warm, but be straight if something isn’t acceptable “I understand what you are saying, but we do have a rule about this because ….”

Remember that parents are partners in learning and are willing to work with you if you listen, are supportive, and show them how. They can be a fantastic asset to the school and in helping to meet the needs of all pupils. The role of parents in education is often overlooked, but parental engagement best practice bears out the importance of nurturing these relationships. Every small step taken to form and maintain these partnerships will make a lasting difference to all parties.

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