The parent-teacher relationship creates a bridge between the two environments in which children spend the majority of their time: at home and in school.
Any effort to support a child will be more effective if the strategies a teacher uses in school align with those used at home. For children who have trouble regulating their behavior, the trust and strength of this parent-teacher relationship is especially important.
Interactions between teachers and parents can have complex power dynamics. Many teachers approach conversations with parents with the expectation that they will share their views as a professional. Of course, the breadth of their experience working with children is invaluable. Research has shown that when teachers regularly share clear information with parents about their child’s development, it helps parents feel more confident and at ease.
Tips for Teachers:
Share specific strategies and activities that parents can try at home, and talk to parents about how to communicate with and help their child during these activities.
Build trust through casual communication. Although this is logistically harder now than before the pandemic, this trust is vital for more serious conversations down the road.
Take time to gauge what parents know, believe, and need. There’s an inherent imbalance in an advice-giving / advice-seeking relationship. It can be off-putting to parents to feel like their knowledge isn’t useful, and this feeling degrades trust.
Stay solution-oriented and calm, even when a conversation gets heated. Give the parent an opportunity to calm themselves down, and reschedule the meeting if necessary.
Tips for Parents:
Ask “silly questions”. Whether you have a question about your child’s development, logistics of the school system, remote learning, or any other topic, you can ask it.
Point out what’s working well. A little encouragement goes a long way, especially when a teacher is unsure about what they’re doing and handling much more stress than normal.
Share. The more information you share about your child, the better you and your child’s teacher will be able to work together to map out strategies to support them.
Reach out. Normally teachers and parents would get to know each other during drop-off and through school events. With these types of interactions on hold, we have to find new ways to connect.
These tips are based on research conducted in a pre-COVID world. We’d love to hear from you: how have you built your relationship with your child’s teacher this year?
Leeanders et al. (2019). Building strong parent–teacher relationships in primary education: the challenge of two-way communication. Cambridge Journal of Education.