Focus on the family-child relationship


Strong parent-child relationships link with positive learning and social outcomes for children. Staff efforts to strengthen these relationships can help.

Parents need to know that their relationship with their child is valued and supported by program staff. Sometimes they worry that their child may feel closer to program staff than to them, or they may feel that program staff judge their relationship with the child. When you share observations of positive parent-child interactions, you provide reassurance that the relationship between them and their child is the most important.

When you tie families' efforts to make progress in their lives to the positive effect it has on their children, it reminds them how working toward their goals benefits the entire family.


  • Share observations of parent-child interactions that demonstrate something positive about the relationship.
  • Share what you learned about the child from your observations of family-child interactions.
  • Welcome families to visit and volunteer in the classroom.
  • Talk with parents about the things you see them do and say that are responsive to their children's individual temperaments and that positively impact their development.
  • Acknowledge how a parent's goals positively affect the child's well-being, as all family goals ultimately do.
  • Discuss information in conferences that reinforces how much the family means to the child (e.g., pictures the child draws that includes family members, acting as one of the family members in dramatic play, etc.).


"I noticed when I arrived that Sam ran over to you and hugged your leg. I can see he is really connected to you."

"I understand you are concerned that when you pick him up at the end of the day, he often seems upset or angry. I wonder if it is his way of saying how much he missed you all day. He manages his emotions all day and then gets to let go when he sees you. Maybe it's his way of saying how glad he is that you're back. "

"Since you have been reading stories at bedtime together, he is spending more time with the books I bring on our home visits. Today he chose the book about dinosaurs. Would you like to borrow that book to read at bedtime this week?"

"I think Jayda knows that this is important to you. She sees you going back to school, and it makes school that much more exciting for her because she wants to be like her mom."


Reflect on a time when you used this practice with a family. What did you say or do?

Reflect on a time when this practice would have helped you build a relationship with a family. What would you have said or done?