Family Engagement in Uncertain Times

By April Hawkins, Marketing Manager

These days, finding the right family engagement message may feel like the quest for the Holy Grail. What do parents really want? How can schools rebuild trust when the pandemic continues to change the most basic aspects of education?

At Ready4K, we know that staying connected to families is a challenge that schools and districts are facing right now. And so, we set out last month to hear directly from parents who are receiving Ready4K’s family engagement program by text. We wanted to know what helps parents feel connected with their local schools and communities, and what they value most.

We texted Ready4K parents who recently completed surveys to invite them to answer some questions about how they use Ready4K family engagement, and what they need. The outcome was a group of touching stories, and valuable insights that can help everyone reach families successfully.

1. Parenting Tools

Naomi, Foster Parent in Hawaii

My husband and I are foster parents, and we’re both in our late fifties. We’ve had four kids since 2018, and they’re 2, 4, 9, and 13 now. Things have changed since I raised my birth children, and Ready4K’s family engagement helps me know what’s happening now.

Sometimes without the reminder to put your own oxygen mask on first, you don’t think of it.

The messages help me to remember, relax and refocus my energies on what is really important. Our two year old is all over the place sometimes. She likes to hide eggs around the house, and under towels. Some days, she breaks a dozen eggs. That gets really expensive. When she does that, getting a text message from Ready4K and looking it over is a reminder to me to stop, and take a breath.

I also like the self-care text messages. It reminds me that I’m important too. It helps me to relax and refocus my energies on what is really important. Sometimes I get caught up in the day and all the things that need to be done. Sometimes without the reminder to put your oxygen mask on first, you don’t think of it.

family engagement by text

2. Tips to Help Their Children Cope

Melissa, Illinois

I’m a school nurse and mom to a seven-year-old. Since my days are pretty busy, sometimes it’s easy to get lost when I need to get everything done, like cleaning the house, making dinner, and doing the laundry. The school recommended Ready4K’s family engagement by text.

These text messages bring me back to my kids and make the kids the focus so that I am there to help them rather than focusing on the logistics of life. Before, I was just dealing with an issue like someone having a meltdown. Now, I focus on them and try to be supportive of their needs. It gives more opportunities for positive attention.

I really see the impact on my son. He gets overly-emotional, and used to clam up. Now we talk more, and he’s more comfortable expressing his emotions with me and is learning the best ways to handle them. He’s learning how to use his words and express, rather than just act out. It helps him focus at school and remember – this is what we need to do here right now.

family engagement by text

3. Low-Lift Ways to Support Learning

Military Mom in Tennessee

My husband is in the armed forces, and often travels for work. I ended up leaving a high-stakes job to be a stay-at-home mom when my son was almost three.

This is something easy I can do today.

My mom took care of my son for the first two years. She was a teacher, and she already had him reading sight words. He knew his numbers, colors, and alphabet. After I took over, he lost a lot of the learning he had done with her. I felt really frustrated because I was home with him all day, but I felt like I hadn’t taught him anything. When I started getting Ready4K’s family engagement by text, I really liked having the easy win. I could say, “this is something easy I can do today.”

Ready4K made such a difference, and the messages continue to be helpful. They send simple ideas that you can implement on a regular basis. You don’t have to think about how you’re going to educate your child that day.

4. Self Care Reminders

Alesha, North Carolina

I’m an older millennial, and I lost my dad last year. I was a significant caretaker for him, and now I’ve taken on somewhat of a caretaker role to my mom. For me, the messages I get the most out of are geared towards self care. Sometimes I need to be reminded: Take time for you. Take a moment for you. I forget that.

One of the earliest messages was to look in the mirror and talk about feelings and emotions. That’s something I never thought of. When my son gets upset, I try to get a mirror and show him what he’s feeling. This lets him know that it’s uncomfortable, but it’s natural.

I’m a children’s librarian, and I was receiving Ready4K messages before I even became pregnant. Since people always have their phone in their hands, it feels like an organic way to stay in tune with your child’s development. People don’t have time to sit down and read and learn these days. These messages are in tune with the way people learn right now because they don’t require a full on seminar. They’re easily digestible and relevant.

5. Permission to Just Breathe

Latania, MI

Ready4K family engagement by text is helping me better understand my six year old grandson, who I’m raising. He has ADHD so he is very active and he loves being outside. The activities help him calm down, slow down and take deep breaths. I’m also in training to be a preschool teacher, and I can’t wait to use the messages with my babies.

I use the tips just about every day. I let him cook or help me with cooking, counting, cutting up potatoes, and letting him count things out. I utilize a lot of it in daily life. Repeating words and getting him prepared, taking him outside and talking about nature and stuff. I read to him.

One text that came in earlier when my mind was busy. “Parenting can be difficult during uncertainty. Stretch, breathe, clear your mind.” I heard it, calmed down, and took a deep breath. These texts are soothing. The messages help you stay focused and not let things bother you.

Finding the Right Message

Now that you’ve read these beautiful stories, we want to share some of the secret sauce that goes into building Ready4K family engagement by text. Staying connected with parents has become increasingly difficult. The pandemic has caused instability for many families. Others feel isolated school or childcare programs due to COVID-related policies. It is possible to bridge the gap by offering stable support.

Normalize the Need

We’ve found that focusing on parent and children’s emotional needs and basic academic support works wonders in building connections with parents. Acknowledging the complex emotions that come with parenting helps normalize them. Many caregivers have complex feelings and high expectations for themselves. Assuring them that they’re not alone can make a huge impact. Supportive messaging normalizes some of the insecurities and guilt that can come with parenting. This case study with Lee Antonello Elementary School shows how simple text messages can rebuild trust.

Reach Families Where They Are

Alesha shared in her story that parents prefer small snippets of information delivered by text because they have their phones with them all the time. We couldn’t agree more! We strongly encourage you to reach families by text because:

  • Text is the most universally used technology (98% of US adults under 50 use text)
  • It keeps your message short-and-sweet
  • Text is 400% more likely to be read than an email

We’ve tested this out in a series of randomized control trials. Text messages really do reach families who don’t typically receive emails. See the research behind family engagement by text.

Equity Grant now available

Finally, we are always here to help in connecting your families to critical resources. Thanks to philanthropic support, we are currently accepting applications for up to 100% off your first year of Ready4K Trauma-Informed. Organizations serving a high percentage of economically disadvantaged families are encouraged to apply.

Check out the grant to learn more.


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