Quality family communication helps to ensure that your home environment is more positive than negative. In fact, researchers have discovered that the quality of family interactions correlates with how satisfied they are with those relationships. Conversely, poor communication patterns oftentimes increase family conflict and diminish emotional bonds. Having effective communication between family members not only reduces negative interactions but also allows them to solve problems in a productive way. Communicating effectively helps family members tackle one problem at a time as they arise and prevents them from piling up and causing negative interactions between family members. Positive communication also helps every family member feel valued and understood. Some of the benefits of a quality and active family communication are:
Family satisfaction: a study published in the August 2012 issue of the journal “Communication Research” reported that families with open parent-child communication scored high on family satisfaction and low on entitlement behaviours in children. In part, open family communication creates an environment of adaptability where perseverance through difficult times strengthens family cohesion. Families with a more rigid and controlling orientation were more likely to have children with a lowered sense of their own self-worth and exaggerated levels of entitlement compared with their peers from more communicative families.
Candid disclosure: families that actively encourage conversation are likely to report higher levels of family satisfaction, and are more likely to have children who feel comfortable disclosing their activities and behaviours while away from home.
Reach understanding: when you communicate openly with family members, you are able to share what you believe in and learn how others feel in disagreements. While you may not agree, you may begin to understand more about the reasons why they do what they do or say what they say. You could even grow a better appreciation for them.
Solve a problem: many issues among family members arise because of miscommunication. Coming together to talk about a particular problem can open the lines of communication so you can find solutions to what is negatively affecting both of you.
Encourage support: a family system helps every one of its members through the good and the bad times. When a family communicates well, everyone understands what loved ones need, making them able to provide support. Even if nothing can be done about the situation, just providing a listening ear can make all the difference.
Provide insight on situations: family members often disagree about how they should deal with their personal problems. While it may be difficult to hear, sometimes it's good to have a family member share another perspective of a situation. This enables the person dealing with the issue to make an informed decision about what troubled him.
Form tighter bonds: trusting in family members by communicating with them will foster the love you share and tighten your bonds. Many families grow apart because the individual members each become wrapped up in their individual lives, and they forget to come to home base to talk about the world around them. When problems do come up, if you've established a strong communicative base with your family, you'll feel as though your family is a safe place to seek shelter.
4 Patterns of Family Communication
According to the Family Communication Patterns Theory, there are four different types of family communication: consensual, pluralistic, protective, and laissez-faire.
These patterns differ in their level of conversation and conformity. Conversation refers to families being able to have open conversations and discuss any topic freely, while conformity is related to families with individuals (a parent usually) who has the authority to make final decisions.
Families with a consensual type of communication value open conversation, but also conformity within the family unit. Family members communicate freely about thoughts, feelings and activities, but at the same time, parents are the final decision-makers about important issues. These two somewhat conflicting orientations lead to tensions, caused by a desire to be open but also have control. In these families, parents usually spend a lot of time explaining their decisions, values and beliefs, and their children learn to value conversation and often adopt the family value system. Families of this nature try to avoid conflict, as it threatens the hierarchical structure in which the parents make choices for the family.
Pluralistic families are oriented toward conversation and away from conformity. Parents in these families believe in the value of "life lessons," and expect their children to develop through their interactions with people outside the family unit. Decisions are made as a family, with everyone having equal input. These families also engage in open conflict resolution. They are not afraid of disagreements and have developed good strategies to resolve differences. Children from pluralistic families learn to be independent and have confidence in their ability to make decisions.
Protective families do not value open conversation and are oriented toward conformity. In these families, you are likely to hear the parent say, "Because I said so”. Children are expected to obey their parents, and parents do not usually share the reasoning for their decisions. Conflict is usually low in these families because children are oriented toward behaving in accordance with the family norms. However, if conflict does arise, members of these families are ill-equipped to handle the situation. In general, children from these families do not learn to trust their own ability to make decisions.
Laissez-faire families value neither conversation nor conformity. Family members are often described as "emotionally divorced" from one another. Not much is discussed among members of the family, and parents often don't have an interest or investment in the decisions made by their children. Conflicts tend to be rare in these family situations, as everyone is free to do as they want, however children do not learn the value of conversation. Because they have little support, they may also question their ability to make decisions.
How to Establish Relationships With Families as an Educator
Having a positive relationship with your students’ families lets you share concerns and work together to help students who learn and think differently thrive. We will provide eight tips that will help you build a trusting relationship with your student’s parents on the following pages.
1. Imagine yourself in their place.
Building a relationship with families starts with empathy. When students have struggled in school for years, their families may have many negative experiences with the education system. They may feel overwhelmed or judged by teachers. Keeping that in mind can help you understand why a student’s parent or caregiver might be on the defensive from the start. Make sure they know that you’re there to support them.
You can use questionnaires to gather information from students and families to understand their concerns better. No matter the family, know that parents and caregivers are on their own journey.
2. Begin with a positive interaction — and then keep it up.
When you first reach out to families, start with something good. Introduce yourself, share something you enjoy about the learner, or let them know you’re available if they’d like to speak. Aim to share a piece of good news with each student’s parent or caregiver at least twice a month.
3. Find out how families prefer to be reached.
Not all people are comfortable talking by videoconference. Others don’t have time for a phone call at certain times of the day. Ask if families have a preferred way of communicating and at what time of day. Then honour that preference. In cases when an email is appropriate, it’s important that you learn how to write an effective one so your thoughts can be expressed clearly and there is no risk of misunderstanding.
4. Gather your thoughts in advance.
When the time comes to talk with families about your concerns, draft what you want to say before the meeting or phone call. A bulleted list of notes can help you prioritise and keep track of your thoughts. You can also consider sharing a version of this list with families before the meeting so they can gather their thoughts too. This list can help you both remember what you want to talk about if the conversation becomes emotional or moves to an unexpected direction.
5. Use “I” statements.
Frame what you have to say from your perspective by using “I” statements. You can start sentences with “I noticed,” “I am concerned,” or “I feel.” These statements are an empathetic way to share your thoughts and may help family members not to take the concerns personally. For instance, saying something like “Why isn’t he/she turning in assignments?”, may put a parent or caregiver on the defensive and may also shut down the conversation. Instead, you could say, “I noticed he/she hasn’t turned in assignments for the last few weeks. Has he/she spoken to you about it?” This explains your concern and allows for a discussion.
6. Set boundaries together.
Let families know you would like both parties to be able to talk candidly in a way that promotes productive conversation — all with the shared goal of ensuring the academic success of a student. Some suggestions may include:
● Agree to start and end your meetings and calls within the time you’ve allotted.
● Encourage families to share their perspectives; show respect and appreciation for their opinion and in return, ask families to consider your point of view as a professional as well.
7. Communicate clearly and be solutions-oriented.
● Explain that you assume everyone comes to the discussion with the best of intentions.
● Suggest that you’re both allowed to speak without being interrupted.
● Agree to discuss commonalities you both know about the student - but also be open to hear the information only family members know.
● Ask families if they have any boundaries around the conversation they’d like to follow, too.
When you begin a conversation, be up-front about what you want to talk about and your expectations. If you need to share information or voice your concerns, make sure that’s clear. In case you’re looking for solutions to a concern, let the caregiver know you’re asking for their input to find the best solution together.
8. Send a follow-up email if needed.
A follow-up email after a critical conversation can serve many purposes. First, it gives you the chance to thank families for their time. It can also help both - you and the family process and summarise the discussed topics.
Working with Family Members
Partnerships in education build bridges between families, legal guardians, communities, and educational entities. Schools must partner with families and communities to provide the best possible education. True partnerships are based on mutual respect.
When the bell rings and the school day is finished, educators hope their students' education and growth continue in their home environment.
Regretfully, many teachers know that for some students, once they leave the classroom, much of the curriculum they work on during the day stays in their bookbag. It's a question that reading teachers face every year: how can we open lines of communication with families and increase their involvement to help students keep exploring, discovering, and obtaining knowledge at home?
Families are a student's first teachers, and they remain central to the learning experience throughout their child's school years. Indeed, it is widely acknowledged that family involvement is crucial to student success. Below, we've gathered insight and background into opening lines of communication with parents and families, providing parents with instructional practice tools, using available resources, and instilling a growth mindset in students and their parents.
One of the more mainstream or traditional forms of communication with parents, parent-teacher conferences can be a simple way to meet parents. Teachers may choose to utilise conference time to provide families with easy-to-implement tools and ideas for at-home involvement. It is not uncommon for parents to be overwhelmed or do not know how to assist their children best. A week before conferences, parents may benefit from a teacher sending out a short email with information about what to expect, vital information about and resources for at-home support, which you then can discuss at the conference.
Phone calls home
Calls home to parents are another traditional method of communication, but unfortunately, they are often associated with negative student behaviours or "getting in trouble." This is an opportunity to change that perception and demonstrate that a phone call home can be a positive experience. Research suggests providing parents with information about their child's classroom performance between report cards can make parents more likely to remain involved in their children's work. While emails are quick and efficient, they can be easily overlooked or be deemed impersonal. Taking time to call and discuss a students' achievement can be an excellent tool for opening up communication lines and checking in on their at-home engagement.
Hosting a Science Fair
Hosting a science fair, whether it takes form in person or as webinar parents can watch from home, is an emerging way of opening lines of communication. Parents and teachers become partners for student success by providing space for parents to learn about their students' education, ask questions, and develop at-home involvement practises. Such events present an opportunity to talk about expectations, both parent expectations for their student and student's teacher as well as teacher expectations for students and parents.
Providing Parents with Instructional Practice Tools
In addition to considering methods or tools for communicating with parents, it's also essential to think about why parents may be less involved or visible to educators. For many parents, the new methods of instruction they see in their student's homework can be overwhelming when they don't match the methods they used in school. Research suggests many parents believe they are not competent enough to instruct their children adequately. There are several simple ways to teach parents how to succeed in their at-home learning role.
In today's digital age, the utilisation of social media can be a beneficial way for teachers to keep parents up-to-date and involved in their children's learning. There are plenty of tools to choose from.
For example, creating a class Facebook page for parents to join can engage them in what their child is learning. The platform can also provide parents with suggestions for learning materials, at-home work, class participation opportunities, and keeping them in the know about what their child is working on and has due. In combination with online supplements, assigning students interactive homework to read to a family member, going over vocabulary or spelling terms, or discussing comprehension can be excellent ways of creating at-home engagement opportunities.
Creating Youtube videos and online documents that can be shared with your students' families can help build a school-home connection and help both students and their caregivers better understand the skills that are being covered at school. This content should help families understand academic content standards.
Instilling Growth Mindset in Parents
A growth mindset assumes that abilities can be developed and continually improved through dedication and hard work. Parents and caregivers can have a powerful impact on their childrens' mindset.
While emerging research encourages teachers to integrate a growth mindset in their classroom and with their students, instilling it in parents is less frequently discussed.
Parents set the tone for their children's learning by using positive, encouraging language that encourages growth and accepts failure.
The mindset changes parents' perceptions from fixed:
"My child can't read or write like that,"
to one of growth:
"My child can't read or write like that yet!"
Research suggests when teachers instil a growth mindset in parents, it has two effects:
● It shows parents they can make a difference in their child's academic achievements, and
● It has a large potential to positively impact classroom performance by giving parents the confidence to supplement school efforts
When families offer concrete praise focused on specific skills, students gain confidence and build metacognitive skills. For instance, rather than saying, "you are so smart," replace it with pointed positive feedback about the students' work, "I was proud that when you weren't sure about how to find the main idea, you decided to go back to the story and re-read it". To help parents familiarise themselves with this language shift, develop a list of "Say this, not that" examples to provide to parents and class volunteers.
Utilise Family Support
Students are often encouraged to use their resources to find solutions easier. However, it can be easy for teachers to forget to do the same. Communities and families are excellent resources waiting to be explored. Through tapping into the resources below, teachers are likely to increase parent engagement and student learning.
Volunteers: When we think of classroom volunteers, we often tend to only think about parents and caregivers. What if we extended our definition? Volunteers could include older siblings, extended relatives, grandparents, and community members.
Families help schools when they:
Schools encourage volunteerism when they:
● Volunteer to assist teachers, administrators, and children in the classroom or other areas.
● Come to school to support children's participation in the arts and other school events.
● Attend school workshops and other programs for their own training and education.
Provide Students and Parents with After-School Resources
● Create flexible schedules and multiple ways for parents to volunteer.
● Match talents and interests of parents to the needs of students and teachers.
While teachers do their best to serve every student and family well, some students require
extra assistance. One solution is proactively providing community programs and after-school assistance locations to parents and students. Providing a list on your class website or hand-out could be incredibly beneficial to students' success or parents struggling to provide at-home assistance.
How does it all tie together? Providing parents with a road map at the beginning of each year can be an excellent way to plan and communicate a home-school literacy connection all year round. Your road map might include resources such as a short letter to parents, what their children will be learning, objectives for them, a guide to helping their child learn outside of the classroom, and a volunteer sign up sheet. Providing this type of resource sets a tone for communication throughout the school year.