As the TEC Center hosts webinars for our Spring/Summer 2020 Webinar Learning Series, we are hearing from thousands of early childhood teachers and practitioners. We’re listening to concerns about their students not having access to devices, internet and data. These concerns are in addition to the concerns about family illness, caregiver unemployment, as well as mental health issues that many families are facing right now. As early childhood practitioners, we know that the children and families we serve have always had varying home life circumstances, but now many early childhood practitioners are seeing these varied circumstances playing out through a zoom screen, or through silence because they lack the technology to connect.
However, we must continue using a strengths-based approach when serving children and their families. While many families have limited access to devices, internet, and data, they may have other tools for learning at their home, including their own knowledge, stories, toys, books, etc. As an entire field, we must prioritize understanding how to support every single child and their families. Here are some tips for early childhood practitioners to strengthen their relationships with families and support caregivers to continue the learning at home.
Tips for Strengthening Your Relationships with Students’ Families
- Ask how and when is best for you to communicate with them. Consider individual family needs and offer options for communication and connection.
- Communicate and connect consistently. Reach out and connect with families in predictable ways using consistent platforms. Ask caregivers what form of communication and times is best for them and try to stick to that. Remember, they may be caring for other children and coordinating communication with multiple teachers.
- Keep information readily available to families, but do not overwhelm them. If you send a newsletter or frequent email, keep the same format and if they are long, include a summary at the top.
Tips for Supporting Caregivers as At-home Teachers
- Keep an open and honest line of communication with caregivers about their expectations and needs. Ask if they want more or less activities and tips.
- Learn from caregivers. They may not have expertise in the curricula but they have their own set of strengths and skills which may support their children in ways that you are not aware of or are unable to. Ask them what is working or not working from home.
- Give praise to caregivers, “You are doing a great job!” There’s research evidence that this is really important and supportive of parenting in general, probably is needed even more right now!
One silver lining to school transitioning to remote learning is that we are hearing more professionals speaking up about digital inequities.
Here Are Some Examples of What You Can Do to Help Address Digital Inequities for the Families You Serve:
- Ask families what they need from you right now. Instead of making assumptions about what families need and want, ask.
- Learn more. Your experience and insight is valuable so learn more about digital inequities in your community to have a more complete understanding. There are many readings focused on this topics, such as T is for Technology by Rand and New America blog by Lisa Guernsey, Digital Inequity information from Children and Screens
- Speak up. Voice your concerns and share your experiences with colleagues, your supervisor, principal, elected officials etc. Ask how you can all work together to best support all children and families in your community. Speaking up will hopefully guide you to those in your community who are already advocating in this area.
- Reach out to those who can help right now. While not a long-term solution to end digital inequities seek our local organizations, companies (cable and internet companies), and individuals who can sponsor or donate digital technology tools and internet devices to minimize the unequal access to tools families and students need for e-learning and connection at this time.
Suggested citation: Herdzina, J. (2020, May 28). A result of the COVID-19 outbreak: Supporting families while addressing inequities. Erikson Institute’s Technology in Early Childhood Center. https://www.erikson.edu/news/result-of-covid-19-supporting-families-while-addressing-inequities
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