Working with families is a rewarding and challenging experience. Programs can provide support to professionals in ways that mirror the supports that professionals provide to parents. This process, referred to as the parallel process, occurs when similar practices are reflected in different parts of an organization, community, or system, as well as in the services provided to families. Explore this resource to learn more about the parallel process.
To learn more about partnering with families experiencing homelessness, explore Supporting Children and Families Experiencing Homelessness, Module 7: Building Relationships with Families.
Early childhood and school-age child care professionals benefit from support to stay motivated, avoid job-related stress, and be at their best for families. Support from peers, supervisors, technical assistance specialists, and others help professionals remain effective in supporting families experiencing homelessness.
The Parallel Process
Programs can provide support to professionals in ways that mirror the supports that professionals provide to parents. This process, referred to as the parallel process, occurs when similar practices are reflected in different parts of an organization, community, or system, as well as in the services provided to families.
It can be helpful for all early childhood and school-age child care professionals to remember the following:
- It is typical to feel deeply for children and families and need support to manage the emotions that surface when a child or family is in crisis or experiencing chronic stress.
- Professionals, who listen to parents, share the major challenges they endure, knowing that swift and easy solutions are rare.
- Practicing self-care — such as rest, healthy eating, meditation or mindfulness, and exercise — is an important part of being effective in your work.
- Staff may need to talk confidentially with peers, supervisors, or others to express their feelings and concerns. It is important to have a safe and non-judgmental space to reflect and share feelings about families, both positive and negative. Honest and careful reflection provides an opportunity for staff to plan how best to approach families from a genuine, strengths-based perspective.
- Professionals may have had similar experiences to those shared by families, and this may trigger uncomfortable emotions and the need for specific kinds of support.
- Participating in formal or informal professional development can increase understanding of these challenging issues and awareness of information and resources that are available. This can be done through staff meetings; in-service training; contacts with specialists in areas such as mental health, child development, substance abuse, and domestic violence; and working with children with disabilities or learning challenges as well as those suffering from trauma and experiencing homelessness
Early childhood and school-age professionals benefit when leadership and supervisors:
- Create opportunities for regular reflective practice and supervision
- Organize times for individuals to share experiences in a safe and non-judgmental environment with supervisors or peers
- Provide reassurance that honesty and self-awareness are important to successful work
- Organize occasions for ongoing professional growth
- Model behaviors that encourage self-care
These efforts can inspire individual professionals to model similar behaviors and create opportunities for families to grow. Professionals who feel well supported can better support families and children. And, families who feel well supported can better support their children.
Resource Type: Publication
National Centers: Parent, Family and Community Engagement
Audience: Family Service Workers
Last Updated: September 1, 2023