Connect With Families

Explore how to better connect with the families of the students you support and why it is so important.

Grades K-12 15 min Resource by:

Over the last few years, school was brought into the home and the home was brought into school in a way that was unprecedented. Boundaries have blurred, and educators and school leaders no longer want to just engage their students’ families; they want to partner with them as stakeholders in the same goal: their children’s well-being and success. The following five practices can improve your partnership with the families of the students you support:

There is much discussion of the importance of getting to know your students in order to create relationships, engage, and deepen learning. Equally important is getting to know the families and the community that you support. The better you know them, the better you can serve them and their children, which is why schools exist.

  • Find ways to learn about families’ needs, values, and hopes for their children; what languages they speak; what traditions they have; what beliefs they hold; struggles they may be experiencing; what they are proud of; and possibly much more. Consider different modalities to gather this information:
    • Surveys, both digital and analog
    • Family interviews, both in-person and remote
    • Hosting a focus group to gather information
    • Quick conversations during pick-up, drop-off, or a school event
  • Always assume positive intent from families. You almost always have the same goal; you both want their child to be successful. When you are all aware of what you have in common, it makes it easier to communicate and work together.

If we truly want to partner with the families we serve, we have to be able to communicate with them and to do so in a lot of different ways.

  • Make communication a priority.
  • Develop a communication plan. Communication must be intentional and well thought out if it is to be successful. You must know the following:
    • What is the purpose of the communication?
    • Who is the audience?
    • Who will be doing the communication (will it be on the school, classroom, or individual level)?
    • When?
    • Who will the communication go to?
    • How will communication be received?
    • Will communication be two-way?
  • Make sure to communicate in a lot of different ways.
    • Find out how families like to receive communication:
      • Paper newsletter
      • Signage and/or marquee
      • Phone call
      • Digital communication
    • Consider using one (or more) of the following digital platforms for family communication:
    • Provide communication in the languages your families speak.

Communication is the tool that allows us to make connections with the families we serve and to share events and opportunities for families to make connections with one another. Being connected around the common goal of the children’s well-being and success allows the community to work together and make that goal easier to achieve.

  • Engage in some of the tips outlined in the article Connect Positively With Families.
  • Provide opportunities for positive interactions between and among families that are centered around the school.
    • Social events
      • Ice cream social
      • Family movie night
      • Family heritage night
      • Family dance party
    • Academic events
      • Math night (pi[e] night)
      • STEM night
      • Family read-a-thon
      • Family Hour of Code
      • Fitness night
      • Music concerts
    • Parent-only events
      • Parenting classes
      • Cooking classes
      • Language classes
      • Community Café

School is often the place that families come to first if they have a need—any kind of need. It is important that schools are able to help get the needs of families met. In order to do this, schools and their educators must know about the resources available to families and how they can connect their families to them.

  • Build (or at least know about) relationships and partnerships with organizations and businesses that can support families. Examples include social services, health care, food, clothing, housing, and mental health services.
  • If a family reaches out for help, it is important to be able to help them immediately. If a family needs to be connected with another service, make sure you create that connection for them by walking them to the counselor, making a plan with them, or even calling with them right away. If they aren’t helped immediately and educators don’t make these connections for them, they are likely not to receive that help.

All educators need appreciation and gratitude to help keep us going. The same is true with the families we support. It is important to give families gratitude and appreciation for all they are doing to support their children.

  • Share with families their child’s successes using their preferred platform.
  • Send pictures.
  • Send a thank-you note or video.
  • Host events, such as a volunteer appreciation lunch or a career day.
  • Tell parents “thank you” when you see them during pick-up, drop-off, or at a school event.

Schools educate the whole child, and a large part of any child is their family. If we are able to create a bridge between school and home, then we will be able to better serve the students we care so much about.