Remotely Support Developmental Parenting Behaviors – Q&A with Lori Roggman
We recently asked Lori Roggman, co-author of Developmental Parenting: A Guide for Early Childhood Practitioners, to share her thoughts on remotely fostering developmentally supportive practices in parents of young children.
Q: What are some ways that professionals can remotely support developmental parenting behaviors with families in their program?
A: 1. Be in touch. Find a way to stay in touch with each family. Use online video conferencing for a face-to-face home visit or use your phone for supportive conversation and listening in on parent-child interaction. Families have enjoyed both kinds of virtual visits but may prefer one or the other. Email, real mail, and texts are other ways to provide support, encouragement, information, and ideas. Some professionals have mailed or dropped off books, art materials, or food.
2. Stay focused. When life is hard, parenting is harder, and children are more vulnerable. Help parents stay focused on supporting their children’s development and well-being when it is most critical–when life is hard. Listen generously to parents’ concerns about how the current situation is affecting them. Ask open-ended questions to help them talk about it, follow-up questions to clarify and get more information, and reflective questions about their thoughts, feelings, and interpretations. Pivot back to the child by asking how all this is affecting the child, the child’s behavior and routines, and the child’s interactions with the parent. Remind gently that their children need them more than ever at this time.
3. Keep things simple. Help parents think of ways to engage their children in enjoyable activities. Busy happy children make life easier and happier. Curriculum resources may be helpful, but stick to simple fun activities that families can do at home with what they already have. Expensive or unusual materials are unnecessary and can undermine parent confidence, so reassure parents that their children can learn just as well from simple things they already have. They can talk about pictures in their junk mail if they don’t have books, and they can play with things in the recycling bin instead of with a fancy play set. Offer ideas for making every day routines more fun and comforting: mealtime, bath time, bedtime, and other regular family routines.
4. Give positive feedback. When everything is changing, it can shake anyone’s confidence. Ask to watch or listen in when the parent and child are doing something together. Pay attention to what the parent does that is supportive (see “29 Things Parents Do that Support School Readiness.”) Can you hear a warm voice? Do you hear praise or encouragement? Does the parent answer when the child speaks or the baby makes vocal sounds? Reassure parents by describing what you noticed them doing and then linking it to their child’s development.
5. Work together. Collaboration with parents is even more important now. Ask parents what information or ideas they have and what they may want or need. Help them think about what activities they have enjoyed doing together with their children in the past, or even what they enjoyed as children, and help them plan to do some of these activities. Guide them to find materials they already have for the activities they want to do. Select one of these activities for a virtual home visit so you can give positive feedback.
Interested in Learning More?
A Guide for Early Childhood Practitioners
With this research-based and reader-friendly book, early childhood professionals will learn to put parents in charge of guiding their child’s development—resulting in strong parent-child bonds, healthy families, and improved school readiness.