Guest post by Jennifer Carsen
Day Care in Demand
Pre-Internet, family engagement was a matter of encouraging the families of children enrolled in your program to come to you to participate—literally. If a parent was unable to come to school for student activities, there wasn’t a lot you could do about it!
But now, in our hyper-connected era, there are now a multitude of ways to reach out and engage parents wherever they are, from a school blog to Facebook to free informational online workshops. Social media and other online family communication systems allow you to expand your family engagement toolbox with new opportunities to be with the tools that young families routinely rely on for personal communication. You can be where they congregate and reach out to them in real time on the devices they use all day, every day.
These channels are a wonderful tool for bringing families, both willing and recalcitrant, more fully into their child’s learning experience. It’s important to remember, however, that parents today are bombarded with information from all directions. You want to be adding to their experience with your school rather than just adding to the noise.
How can you ensure your digital communications with parents are enriching rather than merely annoying? Here are 5 strategies for success:
- Get personal. While group emails and e-newsletters are great tools, it’s still important to connect with parents individually from time to time. You can even go old-school and drop a note in the mail or call them up on the phone (yes, Virginia, people do still make phone calls!).
- Keep track of your online communications. You certainly don’t need to plan a whole year’s worth of school communications out in advance – though, if you’re inclined to, this can be very helpful. It is important, however, to keep track of how often you’re communicating with parents. The fall fundraiser is undoubtedly a big deal, for example, but 6 emails in 6 consecutive days is likely to lead to overwhelm.
- Make sure you stay relevant. Parents are going to be most concerned about what’s going on that will impact their child’s experience at your school, and less so about initiatives targeted at prospective families. Tailor your communications accordingly.
- Don’t reach out only when you need something. You never want parents to see a message from your school and think with an inward groan, “What do they want now?” Your online school communications should always include interesting news and “just for fun” components, too.
- Remember: It’s a two-way street. Don’t just talk at parents online—talk with them. Promptly respond to comments on your blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, and so forth. And, don’t forget, digital communication is simply another tool for family engagement. It should augment and enhance the personal interactions and activities you already offer.
If you’re interested in learning more about the intersection of the digital world and your work with young children, you won’t want to miss Luisa Cotto’s, webinar on June 24, Engaging and Empowering Families of Young Children in the Digital Age. Lusia is Manager of Communications and Engagement at the United Way of Miami-Dade. You can learn more about Luisa on her website. The web
inar is sponsored by MyChild Daily Reports, which is an online communication tool to communicate with and engage parents in early childhood settings.
Cotto’s session “will focus on how to build relationships and have ongoing communication with families using a variety of channels and digital tools,” she says. “Participants will have the opportunity to reflect on their current practices and policies within their programs. The session will also provide onepager tutorials and adaptable resources.”
To learn more and register, click here.