Jun 15 2022
Updated at: Jun 21 2022

Communicating With Parents: 6 Strategies for Teachers

Positive Action Staff
Use these 6 communication strategies for optimal teacher-parent partnerships.

Parental involvement is essential for students’ success within a school environment. Yet without effective communication with teachers, this involvement is limited.

Effective parent-teacher communication involves exchanging ideas, thoughts, and opinions to receive and understand a message with purpose and clarity. It’s characterized by active listening, correct information, and coherent, courteous speaking.

When teachers make an effort to establish and maintain healthy, strong partnerships with parents, the school climate changes, and everyone benefits:

  • Teachers and parents develop a stronger sense of trust and understanding, hence better cooperation since parents will reach out to teachers they trust.

  • Parents get more involved in their children’s learning, making them more accountable for school tasks, leading to higher grades.

  • Students’ development and well-being improve. When parents show interest in their children’s education, the children will feel the support and develop a positive self-concept.

As leaders in every child’s education, schools should be the driving force behind effective parent-teacher communication. They can achieve this through hosting regular events that encourage teacher-parent interaction, making calls or sending emails often, and scheduling frequent meetings to talk about the students’ welfare.

Sadly, establishing this relationship has been challenging, thanks to barriers like conflicting work schedules and time inadequacies.

So how do we ensure our communication with parents is effective?

1 - Open a Reliable Channel of Communication

Not every parent will use the same communication channel. So the first key to communicating with parents is asking them about their preferred method of communication. Some will want face-to-face communication, while others will opt for phone calls or written communication.

To make the best use of every communication channel, have a school-parent communication plan. Mapping out your school communications in the coming months will help you maintain constant interaction with parents.

The best time to inquire about the communication option is at the beginning of the year, preferably during the annual open house, where parents meet teachers and learn about classroom management, behavior expectations, and coming events.

During this time, you can discuss the frequency of the communications with the parents and other school members, then settle on a manageable and agreeable schedule for all.

Note: Don't forget to share with the parents the best way they can reach you too. This makes it easy to create a mutual time for smooth back-and-forth communication.

2 - Share Students’ Positive Experiences Too

When you’re juggling the demands of both your career and personal life, it can be tempting to only reach out to a parent if their child is experiencing a challenging or bad day.

According to a recent study, a major reason hindering teachers’ communication with parents is their children’s poor conduct or performance. If a parent keeps receiving only negative news about their child, they’ll fear getting information from the school and eventually shut the teacher out. Besides, constant critics leave a negative reputation on the school.

Consider occasionally calling or emailing parents to share good news concerning their child. This could be as simple as:

  • Leading a class presentation
  • Mastering a management skill
  • Preventing physical bullying
  • Resolving conflicts between friends

You’ll be surprised by how a single positive message about the child’s accomplishment can make parents proud and boost their energy.

However, this doesn’t mean that teachers shouldn’t pass on bad news. Yet, even during negative communications with parents, educators must maintain a positive tone throughout. You want to give the message in a considerate and caring tone to reduce its impact on the parents.

3 - Be an Active Listener

Active Listening is the base of all effective communication. If you’re attentive to parents as they speak, you’re showing them that you value their time, experiences, and opinions, and you consider their concerns for their children. In turn, they’ll develop a sense of belonging, feel safer, and desire to support the school.

When you listen to parents, you’re also acquiring more information about students and their families while getting in-depth knowledge concerning every student. Understanding your students at a personal level helps you learn to relate with them and manage your class effectively.

Related: 6 Behavior Management Strategies for Your Classroom

Below are some ideas for listening well when communicating with parents:

  • Appreciate the parents’ perspectives, even if you have a different opinion.

  • Avoid interrupting parents as they speak. Ensure they’ve finished what they’re saying before you talk. Then summarize what they’ve said, and confirm if you’ve understood correctly.

  • Use more open-ended questions when seeking clarification. This gives parents a chance to expand their explanations instead of just saying “yes” or “no”.

  • Use non-verbal cues like nodding and eye contact to assure the parents of your attention.

4 - Address Any Concern With a Problem Solving Approach

As an educator, there comes a time when you’ll need to raise a concern to a parent concerning their child’s development, wellbeing, or behavior. A problem-solving approach will help you work with the parent to address this concern.

The problem-solving approach involves 5 steps, as explained in the following table.

  • Problem Solving Step

  • Identifying the problem

  • Brief Description With Example

  • Involves defining exactly what the problem is

  • This step requires active listening without bias

  • Example: Behavioral changes, declining grades, class absence

  • Problem Solving Step

  • Analyzing the problem

  • Brief Description With Example

  • Once you identify the problem, it’s time to analyze it for possible solutions

  • Example: How many students' grades declined? Are there other students also missing classes?

  • Problem Solving Step

  • Developing a plan/solution

  • Brief Description With Example

  • With the hypothesis in hand, teachers and parents will consider possible plans to address the identified problem

-Example: If the student’s behavior has changed (e.g. withdrawal, stress) due to bullying, the school can take necessary measures to ensure bullying is prevented from the school

  • Learn more on physical bullying prevention here

  • Problem Solving Step

  • Implementing the plan

  • Brief Description With Example

  • After developing a particular plan to solve the student’s problem, the next step is implementing it

  • Example: In the instance of bullying prevention, the school may impose heavy punishments on bullies, including expulsion

  • Problem Solving Step

  • Evaluating the outcome of the plan

  • Brief Description With Example

  • The final step involves checking for any improvements after implementation. This will determine the effectiveness of the plan

  • Example: If the student’s behavior improves and no case of bullying is reported in school, then the heavy punishments placed for bullies were effective in preventing the act

A major key of the 5-step problem-solving approach is addressing issues as they arise. Problems won’t go away by themselves, and when left to build up, they’ll have serious repercussions on students—school suspensions, substance abuse, and inferiority complexes.

Related: How to Help Your Child Get Rid of an Inferiority Complex

5 - Make a Home Visit

If parents are comfortable with home visits, you might consider setting one up. It’s an excellent way to foster a great relationship with parents and students.

When schools offer Positive Action’s social-emotional learning (SEL) program, students develop excellent SEL skills like self-awareness, responsible decision-making, and social awareness. These skills help them develop better relationships with families and friends.

"Being actively engaged in the Positive Action program helped her feel comfortable enough to talk to the staff and ask for help." Boys and Girls Club of Southwest, Missouri

Therefore, seeing your students at home interacting with their loved ones will give you an insight into their social-emotional development and help you note the areas of their social-emotional life they need to work on.

Visiting parents and students at home also helps you get to know their families and create a partnership in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable.

Expert Tip: If you can’t make home visits, an alternative option is to spend more time in the communities your students live in and to see their interactions with other community members.

6 - Communicate to Parents With Utmost Respect

Teachers and parents need to communicate in a respectful manner with clear and valuable information that improves the students’ lives.

Effective communication requires respect because it helps you better understand the people you’re dealing with.

Respect is not limited to just the choice of words when communicating with parents. It includes honoring every family’s:

  • Parenting arrangements: E.g., blended families, single-parent families, and LGBTQ families

  • Circumstances: For instance, teenage parents, parents with disabilities, and families going through challenges socially or financially

  • Choices: Include the communities they live in, their living condition, and how they dress their children

  • Gender diversity: E.g., respecting the parents’ and children’s gender and preferred pronouns

Below are some ideas for speaking with parents in a respectful way:

  • Use common, everyday language parents can understand instead of professional jargon.

  • When addressing parents or their children, use their preferred pronouns, i.e. he, she, or they.

  • Share a positive experience about their child’s behavior or learning.

  • Work with interpreters if they speak a different language.

  • Ensure printed resources have diverse family dynamics like same-gender parents or parents with different religious and cultural backgrounds.

  • Let the parents make decisions on critical matters. You can suggest ideas, but let them decide on the next action to take.

Positive Action—The Key to Effective Communication

Children’s academic achievement and development largely depends on the relationship between their parents and school. These strategies will improve the efficiency of communication between parents and teachers.

Positive Action is a social-emotional program that provides teachers and parents with the tools and resources they need to communicate effectively with one another. Our curriculum cuts across all educational levels, from pre-kindergarten to high school, and even in adult settings.

Our family involvement programs keep parents committed to their children’s education, encouraging them to communicate regularly with teachers for a continuous learning environment both within and outside the school.

Many learning institutions continue to benefit from the Positive Action program:

"Students enjoyed Positive Action. They broke out of their shell and had the chance to talk about their feelings." Middle School Students from New York

"Even our little ones are policing peers more than I’ve ever seen by stopping hurtful talk when they hear it." Boys & Girls Club in Pennsylvania


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