The critical nature of family support in child learning and development cannot be overestimated. Even when children spend more of their waking hours at the early childhood center than they do with their family, their family relationships are still crucial. Family members who do not pay attention to the child’s developmental needs, whether by intention or due to ignorance, can undo the achievements made at the center. Professionals must seek to engage families in the child’s learning, providing motivation and education where necessary (Halgunseth et al., 2009).
Teacher outreach is especially important for children with diverse families. There are many non-traditional families today, such as single-parent families, foster families, and adoptive families (Dizard & Gadlin, 2014). There are families headed by grandparents, aunts or uncles, even older siblings. Parents may be heterosexual, lesbian, gay, or bisexual. My experiences with diverse families have helped me to move past the bias I had, which was largely based on ignorance. It was hard for me to understand certain types of families, such as foster families, lesbian, gay or bisexual families, and families headed by older siblings. Because I had never been in contact with these types of families before, I did not know what to expect or how to approach them (Dizard & Gadlin, 2014).
Family members may, for a variety of reasons, feel nervous about talking to the teacher, so the teacher must begin the dialogue her- or himself. Excellent communication skills, such as “reading” the other person’s reaction by watching and listening, knowing diplomatic ways to express facts, and empathizing, or putting oneself in another person’s place, are all crucial elements for respectful and inclusive interactions with families (Halgunseth et al., 2009). Dispositions towards open-mindedness and honest curiosity about the lives of others help to produce positive engagement with different types of families. For example, if a child has two fathers, I would probably ask how each prefers to be addressed and how the child addresses them. This question would show respect for their family type (Goldberg & Smith, 2014).
Dizard, J. E., & Gadlin, H. (2014). Family Life and the Marketplace: Diversity and Change in the American Family1. Historical Social Psychology (Psychology Revivals), 281.
Goldberg, A. E., & Smith, J. Z. (2014). Preschool selection considerations and experiences of school mistreatment among lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive parents. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 29(1), 64-75.
Halgunseth, L., Moodie, S., Peterson, A., Stark, D. (2009). Family engagement, diverse families, and early childhood education programs: An Integrated review of the literature. National Association for the Education of Young Children. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/research/FamEngage.pdf