Family Engagement

Inclusive Communication: Engaging Both Parents Equally

Inclusive communication treats both parents equally, fairly, and honestly. Simply telling providers to include fathers is not enough. Truly inclusive communication requires you to reflect on your relationships with both parents. By reflecting on these interactions with colleagues or supervisors, for example, you will begin to notice and understand patterns of communicating with fathers. It will also help you to see how your own values, behavior patterns, and/or biases affect your communications. This helps you to recognize and change when necessary.

Consider the following scenarios and reflect on the choices you might make in a similar situation.Father holding daughter

  • Example: Mikayla is not feeling well and has a low-grade fever. Her teacher, Andrea, knows she has to call one of Mikayla's parents to pick her up. She has two choices: call her mother or father. Andrea has a very good relationship with Mikayla's mother, but she is 45 minutes away. Mikayla's father is nice, but the few times she's seen him, he is often in a rush or seems distracted. He and Andrea never have time to talk about his daughter. But, he is only 10 minutes away. Andrea knows Mikayla really needs to be seen by a doctor. She has to make a decision. She chooses to call Mikayla's father first.
    Andrea: Hi, Mr. Jensen. It's Mikayla's teacher, Andrea. How are you?
    Father: Hi, Andrea. I'm fine. Is everything okay? Is Mikayla hurt?
    Andrea: Mikayla is not hurt, but she's not feeling well. She has a slight fever. I'm sorry to worry you!
    Father: I noticed she was really tired this morning. Not her usual self. Did you call her mother?
    Andrea: Actually, I decided to call you first. I hope that's okay.
    Father: Yes, that's fine. Do you need me to pick her up?
    Andrea: Yes.
    Father: Okay, but I need a little time to make arrangements to leave. Is that okay?
    Andrea: Yes, that's fine, Mr. Jensen. We'll take care of Mikayla until you can get here.
    Father: Thank you for calling me. I'll be there as soon as I can.
    What impact do you think Andrea's decision to call Mr. Jensen will have on their relationship? Would you have made the same choice? Why or why not?


  • Example: Mateo's parents are divorced, and Mateo lives with his mother. You have wanted to reach out to Mateo's father, Mr. Hernandez, but it has been difficult because their pick-up schedule is not yet consistent. Today, Diana, a family service worker, noticed Mateo pretending to be a builder. He put on a plastic construction hat, picked up a toy drill, and pretended to drill something into the wall. Diana knows that Mateo's father works in construction. She wonders if Mateo is imitating his father. She decides to share her observation the next time he comes to pick up Mateo.
    Diana: Mr. Hernandez, I'm so glad I caught you.
    Mr. Hernandez: Hi.
    Diana: I wanted to let you know that on Monday I noticed Mateo wearing a yellow construction hat. He was pretending to drill something into the wall.
    Mr. Hernandez: Really?
    Diana: Does he do this with you?
    Mr. Hernandez: Well, you know I work in construction. Lately, he has been interested in my tools. He even puts on my big construction helmet. We were pretending to build a table over the weekend.
    Diana: I had a feeling he was imitating you.
    Mr. Hernandez: [Laughing] I guess he was. That's great. Thanks for letting me know.
    Diana: You're welcome. It's been great to get a chance to talk with you.
    What impact do you think Diana's choice to share her observation with Mr. Hernandez will have on their relationship? Would you have made the same choice? Why or why not?


Creating a welcoming environment for fathers starts with understanding your daily options. Some questions to ask yourself in preparing to create a welcoming environment include:

  • Do I look for ways to encourage fathers to share their hopes, dreams, and wishes for their children?
  • How do I support the relationship between a father and his child in my daily practice?
  • Do I have contact information for fathers accessible so I can reach them as easily as mothers?
  • How can I connect with fathers more often?

Last Updated: December 3, 2019