The importance of family engagement

Family engagement helps schools and community agencies set children and families up for success.

Graphic of a family

When you hear the words family engagement, you might imagine a family smiling, laughing and playing together. Positive family experiences are crucial to a child’s healthy development and learning, but family engagement goes far beyond the four walls of a family home. According to the National Association for Family, School and Community Engagement (NAFSCE), family engagement is: 

  • A shared responsibility involving schools and other community agencies engaging families in meaningful ways to support the learning and development of children.
  • Continuous, meaning it extends past childhood and throughout a parent-child relationship, even as children reach adulthood.
  • Not locational, meaning it takes place in multiple settings including at home, in school or other learning environments, as well as other community programs.

Many schools, after-school programs and other community agencies are looking to build a strong community focused on engaging youth and families together.

Why is family engagement important?

According to Youth.gov, research shows that parental or family engagement in a child’s education can improve their test scores, attendance, social skills, relationships, behavior and how a child feels about school. Why is family engagement associated with such positive outcomes? Family engagement works because it creates:

  • Connected kids. Family engagement helps kids feel connected to their caregivers, families and communities. Kids who are connected feel safe, secure, supported and are ready to learn. 
  • Connected adults. Family engagement helps parents and other caregivers feel connected and tuned into their children and communities. When adults are tuned in and feel supported by schools and other agencies, they feel connected to their child and more prepared to support their child.
  • Connected schools or institutions. When schools or other agencies are connecting and engaging with families, parents and children, they are getting valuable information about what families need, what strengths families have and how their programs are working. 
  • Fun! Family engagement events and activities are supposed to be just that, engaging! When families spend time having fun together, they create strong bonds and build trust together.

MSU Extension’s Heads In, Hearts In family engagement resources

Michigan State University Extension has created a series of family engagement activities called “Heads In, Hearts In.” These resources contain simple, easy-to-follow activities where parents can engage with their children around a specific educational topic. Heads In, Hearts In activities will encourage families to use their minds (putting their “heads in”) to expand their knowledge and work, grow and learn together (putting their “hearts in”).

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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