Why get involved?
Parental involvement is good for children. Parents are the main influence on the social, emotional and intellectual development of children. The more involvement they have, the better children do. Children also settle better into child care or school when their parents are involved. They watch and learn positive skills by watching grown-ups communicate well. And children enjoy it when their parents take an interest in their lives – it makes them feel valued and important.
Parental involvement is good for parents. Getting involved gives parents a chance to influence programs and discuss their child’s interests. Being involved will make you feel more comfortable about raising concerns and working out solutions with staff. Knowing what’s going on and that your opinion is important can really help. And positive partnerships with staff can relieve your stress.
If problems come up, spending more time communicating with your child’s teachers or carers can make it easier for you to solve them. It can also help your child feel comfortable and learn more.
How to get involved
- Find out how the school or centre is run. If the staff don’t give you information to read, you can ask for it.
- Attend the school or centre to get involved in activities or just to watch what’s going on. For example, you could go to ‘get to know you’ sessions and meetings.
- Help prepare materials or activities, or send in materials if the school or centre asks for them.
- Talk to staff about the school or centre, including positives as well as any concerns you might have. Telling staff when you like things helps them work out what to plan again. Also, we all like to know when we’ve done a job well.
- Talk to your child about their day. For example, ‘What outdoor games did you play today?’, ‘What did you have for afternoon tea?’ or ‘Did you enjoy helping some of the younger children?’
- Ask staff how you can prepare your child for school or child care. Are there particular tasks your child needs to be able to do or rules she needs to be aware of and follow?
- You’re most familiar with how your child copes with new situations. It’s OK to give the staff some suggestions if you think it might be helpful.
How to develop partnerships with staff
- Learn the names of staff and what they do.
- Find out when and how staff prefer you to visit or be involved.
- Let staff know how you prefer to communicate with them (face to face, telephone, communication book, a good time to call and any special communication needs you have, such as an interpreter). Staff might ask you to help them develop an agreement about the best ways to communicate with your family.
- Tell staff what you need. For example, let them know your child’s food preferences, any special needs your child has, and the language(s) you speak. It’s especially important to talk to staff when there’s a change in your circumstances at home.
- If your child has specific medical, behaviour or learning needs, make sure staff are aware of how these might affect your child, and of any strategies being used at home.
- Get involved in committees, or offer to help by doing something at home.
- Tell staff about your child’s hobbies and interests.
- Talk to the staff (at least say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’) as you arrive and leave.
- Keep up regular communication. It helps make it easier to talk to staff when you have a concern.
- Find flexible ways of communicating if face to face is difficult. For example, telephone, written notes, or ‘I have a comment’ forms.
- If you have other ideas about working in partnerships or making the program more family-friendly, let the staff know.
When something is worrying you
Sometimes there are problems you want to discuss with staff. Sometimes the child care centre or school will have concerns that they want to raise with you. If you already have a positive relationship with centre staff, these issues will be easier to raise and quicker to sort out.
When trying to solve a problem, things might run more smoothly if you try the following:
- Focus on what’s best for your child.
- For major concerns, arrange an appointment to speak privately. This might be on the phone or face to face.
- Tackle problems early, as things often get worse and are more difficult to sort out later.
- Plan what you want to say ahead of time, and try to speak calmly.
- Explain your concerns clearly, without blaming the staff or other people.
- Give examples to help the other person understand you more easily.
- Use ‘I’ statements, such as ‘I felt embarrassed when other parents found out my child hit their child’.
- Make some suggestions for what might help solve the problem. Ask staff what ideas they have. If it’s a big issue, you might have to give each other time to go away and think about the situation and talk again in a day or two.
- Together, work out the pros and cons of each possible solution, then come up with one you can both agree to try. The solution might not be perfect, but if you can agree to try it out, you’re already halfway towards success.
- Make sure you’re both clear on what you, the staff person and, if necessary, your child need to do to try this solution.
- If the problem still can’t be resolved, think about what’s in the best interests of your child. You might agree to disagree with each other, or ask the staff person what the next step in handling grievances is. It might have to go to a committee of management, the school council or to the coordinator.
- Review progress towards sorting out the issue. When things have been sorted out, remember to let the staff person know.
All families experience difficulties at some time. If you’re having trouble, consider asking the staff at your child’s program for information or referral to someone who can help.