In more than 60 percent of all two-parent households, both parents work, and in nearly all of these households, at least one parent is employed. This means that the vast majority of parents in our country experience regular and prolonged periods of time away from their children. Since parental involvement is one of the most influential factors in students’ academic success, the question then becomes how to help working parents stay abreast of what their child does when they are apart.
As a lead teacher at a YMCA Early Childhood Center, I believe children of all ages benefit from having their parents and teachers on the same page with their growth, health, and education on a regular basis. We offer care for more than 3,500 children (from infants through preschoolers) every year.
Being a YMCA facility, we teach kids to make healthy choices, as well as teaching them the ABCs, and other important life skills, like good sportsmanship and how to be themselves. We know that the values and skills children learn early on become the building blocks for their future lives.
Good Habits Start Early
If you eat healthily as a child, you become more used to those kinds of food than unhealthy foods. For example, I myself didn’t grow up eating very healthy food—eating out was easier since both of my parents worked two jobs. Now that I am an adult, I don’t always make the best eating choices. On the other hand, when my sister was growing up, my mom was able to stay at home and give her home-cooked meals every day, and as a result she is fit and eats healthy foods all the time.
At the Early Childhood Center, I encourage healthy eating habits by encouraging them to eat (or at least try) the food we provide, and modeling healthy eating and drinking habits while I am in the classroom. I also try to instill healthy habits by taking the children outside at least 60 minutes a day and doing small physical activities inside like yoga and GoNoodle throughout the day.
Using Smartphones to Engage Parents
Because our working parents only see their children a few hours a day, we want to keep them updated about all the fun things their children are doing during the day, and we also like to send home helpful information about health and wellness.
For a long time, we communicated with parents using daily sheets we would type on the computer, print, and then make copies of. We used up a lot of paper this way. We also sent out a monthly newsletter featuring upcoming events and lessons. Personally, I prefer to communicate on a daily basis (both at drop-off and pick-up) so we can know anything that would be beneficial during the day and we can give parents an update of what happened each day.
(Next page: Streamlining processes, better connecting parents and children)