Why family engagement works

Learn why family engagement efforts can be helpful for schools and community agencies to set up children and families for success.

Boy and woman sitting on a chair together

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. We know that family engagement works because research has shown that family engagement is related to: 

Effective family engagement

When planning family engagement initiatives, consider these tips from Michigan State University Extension.

  • Keep a broad and open definition of family. Families come in all shapes and sizes and reach far beyond biological connections. Invite those who play an important role in a child’s life to participate in family engagement regardless of their official relationship. 
  • Prioritize the process, not the product. Instead of focusing on concrete end results, such as memorizing a new fact or skill, try to focus your energy on the process of playing and learning together. 
  • Encourage cooperation. Find activities that require children and adults to work together to accomplish a goal or solve a problem. Building skills for cooperation and collaboration builds strong ties and teaches kids important life skills.
  • Keep it low-pressure. By planning activities that are fun and low-pressure you are ensuring that children and adults are ready to engage and not feeling stressed or anxious about achieving. 
  • Mix it up. Shake up what kind of family engagement opportunities you are participating in to connect the family's varying interests, skills and strengths. Ask the children what types of things they would like to do as a family.

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

MSU 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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