Home Visitor's Online Handbook

Roles for Parents in Socializations

Home visitor with a parentSocializations provide a beneficial counterpart to home visits. While home visits provide intimate, highly individualized relationships and learning opportunities, socializations bring parents in similar circumstances together to share their experiences, watch their own and others' children at play, and have the chance to make new friends themselves. Parents have many roles in the socializations. They contribute to the planning, care for and interact with their own child, observe other adults care for and interact with their own children, and watch their child interact with peers. Parents may make new friendships that live only within the socialization time or that extend into their daily lives. They get to share ideas with and questions of each other, and sometimes with guests from the community.

Social networks may be defined as the connections among people who make a difference in people's lives. Members of a parent's network can include friends, relatives, coworkers, neighbors, or professionals. Their interactions with each other may involve emotional exchanges (e.g., reassurance or encouragement), material goods (e.g., sharing clothing, toys, etc.), services (e.g., running an errand or babysitting), or information (Cochran & Niego, 2002). Parents who have positive connections to friends and families and their local community are more able to meet their basic needs, achieve their goals, and successfully raise their children. They are better able to overcome obstacles such as unsafe neighborhoods, family violence, and homelessness in order to reach these goals.

Positive social networks directly affect children's development by giving them opportunities to interact with a larger set of safe and caring adults. When children have connections with other adults, they are able to experience a greater range of activities and may develop new interests, different from those at home. Children's close relationships with a variety of safe, caring people provide more opportunities to develop flexible thinking and understanding different points of view. The number of reliable adult friends in the social network of a family is positively associated with a child's happiness, more friendships with other children, and greater involvement in community organizations (Cochran & Niego, 2002). When families are connected to their communities, children are more likely to enter school ready to succeed (Halgunseth, Peterson, Stark, & Moodie, 2009, pp. 2–3).

How To

Socializations are most meaningful when:

  • A small group of families consistently attend together
  • You identify similar interests or concerns shared by your families and incorporate them into the socialization
  • You prepare parents to anticipate the socialization experience
  • You take opportunities to connect the children's experiences to their development and learning
  • You promote conversations among the parents
  • You introduce community resources, such as "Lap Time" at the public library
  • You provide a meaningful activity
    • One program took photographs and printed them out at each socialization. In the last 15 minutes or so, parents would paste the picture into an ongoing personal memory book and add written comments about the experience in the photograph. Families brought them home on Mother's Day or Father's Day and in the holiday season.
      • This activity could be expanded during home visits into a family portfolio. The home visitor and the family maintain a portfolio in the child's home that may include photographs, artwork, ongoing assessments, notes from the pediatrician, and important phone numbers.

Attendance at socializations can be challenging. Programs sometimes:

  • Arrange transportation
  • Provide a meal
  • Connect with families to ensure that the dates and times of socializations work within their schedules
  • Identify a few families and ask if they would mind arriving a bit early to help with arranging the room, distributing handouts, or assisting with preparations for the experiences or meal
    • Presenting these kinds of ideas to different families each time can help them feel more engaged in the overall process and help them offer a certain level of contribution to the whole group
  • Award points that can be used for items such as diapers, books, or toys

Experience It 

Listen as a program director talks about the teamwork required to plan and implement biweekly group socializations, including some of the challenges and rewards. While the focus is on the responsibilities of the staff, she also addresses the various elements of group socializations. Discover the benefits to the families of attending group socializations, including access to community information and resources, as well as the relief from social isolation for many of them. She also describes the bicultural experiences that recent immigrants gain from one another and from the home visiting staff.

In this video, Omar and his mother are at a group socialization stacking blocks that fit into each other and on a post. Omar's mother is very involved in his stacking, while the home visitor sits nearby offering encouragement.


What do you observe during the stacking activity?

Answers may include:

  • The mother sits next to Omar and the home visitor sits across from him as he manipulates the blocks.
  • The mother is turning the blocks so they fit on the post in order.
  • She hands the blocks to her son so they are placed correctly on the post.
  • The home visitor is making comments on what she sees happening, "Look, he's figured it out, how it goes together," and compliments the mother on how well he is doing with the stacking.
  • Omar is picking up stacking blocks, moving them in different ways, sometimes fitting them together, and placing them on the post.

What does the home visitor do to support the continuation of the activity? What does she do to enhance the parent-child relationship?

Answers may include:

  • She uses a positive tone.
  • She describes and comments on what the child does specifically rather than just saying, "Good job."
  • She talks to the mother and credits her for the accomplishments of her son.
  • She sits nearby but lets the mother guide Omar's activity.

What is Omar learning from this experience?

Answers may include:

  • Perceptual, Motor, and Physical Development 
    • Eye-hand coordination
    • Fine motor skills
    • Gross motor skills (e.g., stooping, standing, leaning over)
  • Social and Emotional Development
    • Self-esteem from his successes and acknowledgement from others
    • Pleasure with his activity and shared with both his mother and the home visitor
  • Approaches to Learning
    • Self-regulation and persistence by continuing to try when unsuccessful
    • Problem-solving
    • Figuring out how the pieces fit together and on the post
  • Receptive Language
    • The home visitor talks with him about fitting it together
  • Cognition 
    • Learning how objects fit together
    • Matching same-sized objects or colors
    • Noting the gradient of size from large to small as they fit on the post

What could the home visitor do to further enhance the parent-child relationship from this experience?

Answers may include:

  • Reposition herself so she is in the background and the mother and child are in each other's field of vision.
  • Pose questions to the mother, such as:
    • Who taught him to build so well?
    • I wonder what would happen if you let him do it by himself?
    • What has he done like this before?
  • Comment on what the child is doing:
    • He is very persistent and focused.
    • The two of you look like you have a plan for stacking those blocks.
    • He is really experimenting with how they go together.
  • Comment on what the mother is doing:
    • You're really encouraging him to stay with that activity. That will be very important for school later on.
    • You look really proud of his accomplishment.
  • Say to the child, "Show Mommy what you did."

What cultural considerations might there be in this interaction between mother and child?

Answers may include:

  • Eye contact
  • Role of the parent
  • Role of the "teacher"