This message was contributed by Melissa Be (Utrecht University).
“When I have something on my mind, I just walk to the teacher. Yes, I’ll ask for suggestions like ‘how do I need to do these things at home? Do you have suggestions?’ Yes, I can always count on her.” – Batoul, parent of Dahbi (4 years old).
In the Netherlands, like in other countries, there is increasing attention for parent-(pre)school partnerships. Good collaboration and cooperation between parents and teachers are very important for the child’s development. It affects their school outcomes, work attitude, social-emotional functioning and their wellbeing.
Parental involvement is a difficult concept:
- Parental involvement is more than only active involvement of parents at the (pre)school, for example in assisting in (pre)school activities.
- It is also, maybe more importantly, about the contact and exchange of information with (pre)school teachers about the development and wellbeing of the child.
- Furthermore, it is about stimulating the child’s development at home. Parental involvement is a two-way street in which both parent and (pre)schools need to take responsibility.
How does your (pre)school encourage parental involvement? More information about the different types of parental involvement can be found in the article by Epstein .
Positive experiences of migrant parents
“Yes, I can always count on her”, this is what Batoul likes about the relationship with her daughter’s teacher. Batoul is one of the participants of the parent-interview study of the ISOTIS project . The main goal of the European ISOTIS project is to promote equality and inclusion in education and society. Besides Batoul, 41 other parents with a migrant-background participated in this study to share their experiences with the educational system in the Netherlands. This study looked more closely at what parents value in their contact with the (pre)school and the professionals working there. What do parents see as key ingredients that stimulate parental involvement?
4 key ingredients for enhancing parental involvement
Based on what the parents expressed in the interview study, we have some suggestions:
Invest in personal one-on-one contact with the parent. Parents appreciate that they can always talk and reach out to the teacher. One parent mentioned that she received suggestions about how she could deal with her child’s behavior. It is important to give parents the feeling that you are standing on the same side. So, respond to their questions seriously and acknowledge that raising a child is not always easy and that you can find a good solution together.
Show interest and take initiative in the communication with the parent. When parents bring or pick up their child are good opportunities to start an (informal) conversation. Express an interest in parents’ background and explore whether you have some shared interests.
Share positive experiences and express positive expectations about the child’s development. What went well today? Share these experiences and explain why these contribute to the development of the child. Parents appreciate being informed about the activities of the child at (pre)school, for example through photos or a group app. ‘then I can show the picture and my child responds with ‘I was too afraid to come close to the animals’. Then you have a conversation with your child about it, about school. Because if you ask your child ‘how was school?’ ‘Yes mom, good, it was nice’, then you’ll get a short answer. Parents like to hear when things are going well with their child, so do not only communicate with them when there are problems.
Create a meeting place within a (pre)school where parents can come together and meet each other. A good initiative in Rotterdam and Utrecht is the ‘parent room’. This is a place in the school where parents can drink coffee with each other and also learn about current educational projects in the school. Parents did mention the importance of a coordinator (‘parent broker’) who is able to enhance a safe environment and make sure that all parents are able to ask their questions.
What to do as a (pre)school?
To stimulate parental involvement, it is important to position yourself at an equal level as the parent and collaborate as a team to foster the child’s development at (pre)school and at home. Make sure your (pre)school is a ‘safe haven’, a meeting place for parents and teachers. Welcome different (cultural) backgrounds and start a conversation when you have the feeling that you and the parent are not on the same page. Collaborate and think of a solution in the best interest of the child. A principal can be very valuable here, because he/she can make sure that all professionals are aligned in their practices, for example in the communication with parents. Which norms and values are important? Which needs do parents have? And what is expected of parents? How do you create an open, safe and positive (pre)school environment? Talk with parents about these issues to create a good relationship that will support children’s prosperous development and wellbeing.
 More about ISOTIS: ISOTIS