Parental engagement

Dear Editor,

Parental engagement is difficult to define; however, many agree that early, intentional and constant parental engagement is important to the successful growth of cognitive, emotional and developmental skills of infants and children.

There have been many schools and community programs focused on parental engagement stemming from the federally mandated No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB Act) of 2001. The NCLB Act replaced and recertified the longstanding Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 that encouraged the combined efforts of educators, parents and community to increase the effectiveness of instruction and learning.

It is my belief that the success of parental engagement lies in understanding its definition and meaning.

Each parent, educator and organization has his or her own idea and definition of what engagement means. Today, I will share my ideas of what engagement means based upon 30 years of parenting, educating young children and participating in and encouraging parental involvement.

My first and most important observation and belief is that every parent, regardless of ethnicity, race, socio-economic or education status, desires what is best for his or her child. The vast majority of parents believe that they are effectively engaged in the lives of their child(ren).

Some parents believe they are actively engaged because they provide food, clothing and shelter. Meeting basic needs for survival does not constitute engagement. Many parents feel they are successfully engaging because they chose topnotch educational childcare or school programs, or they’ve enrolled the child in extracurricular activities such as tutoring, football and ballet.

However, parents often shrug their shoulders when asked the: who, what and how questions. Who is my child best friend and why? What is your child(ren) passionate about? Do I truly listen to my child(ren)?

Where there is no open and intentional dialogue, there can be no engagement. Oxford Dictionaries defines the verb engage as to occupy, attract or involve someone’s interest or attention of to establish a meaningful connection or contact with (Oxford University Dictionaries n.d.) Based on this definition, it is important for parents to fully participate in whatever school, program or activity they chose for their child. In addition, requires action, attention, and communication.

For most people, engagement does not come naturally. It requires action through intention. Let’s get started by getting to know your child. After you get to know your child(ren) then you will become balanced in how you can help them make long-term life decision.

~ Linda Garvey

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