This section offers you some basic ideas on how educators and parents may work together to introduce the topic of care to all children – regardless of the gender. We are sure that it will be useful for all pedagogues, working in ECEC services and in primary schools, to discover how they can involve parents in the work of overcoming gender stereotypes as primary ground for working on the issues of a fair distribution of care work.
Key factors for improving collaboration and developing a good partnership with parents:
Gender and diversity issues, as well all other issues and activities need time to prepare. For example: time to communicate the aims you want to reach, topics that you want to work on, problems you want to address; time to prepare a united position towards gender and diversity issues as a facility/school; time to communicate it regularly with parents. To complete your preparatory work, you will need a good PLAN.
For all topics of the ECECs/school life, it is very important to have regular and calm communication with parents. While testing the ECaRoM material with children, we discovered that all children are very accessible to the topic of care. Care activities represent a big part of their everyday lives and thus, it is not difficult for them to connect to and reflect on their own life experiences. Anyway, educators still need sometimes to explain to parents why care aspects should be promoted in early childcare institutions and the primary school and why it is important to involve equally all children (boys and girls) in the activities and lessons.
Involving parents in open discussions and decision making for the school/ ECEC life is always more effective, than involving them only as audience of school/ ECECs events or communicate with them only in case of incidents.
The plan has three main elements:
The plan will guide you and will ease the process of communication with the parents. We recommend developing and update the plan on an annual basis, to adjust to current needs and requirements.
Look at some simple steps to remind when an unexpected conflictual situation occurs:
Look also to our Tips and tricks – see the part, related to Work with parents.
Look to some additional tips, collected by project partners during the trainings for teachers or the test of materials:
At a training session, a childcare center director inspired by the project report said that her childcare center has a birthday box from which the children can choose one thing on their birthday. When they started with this, there were still two boxes, one for girls, which contained many pink toys, including a magic wand, and one box for boys, with e.g. action figures. They reduced to one box after a boy explicitly asked for a magic wand, which was not to be found in the “boys’ box”. This is a good example of how a small change in the childcare environment can give children more freedom to develop individually by softening gender norms. Parents evenings Parents’ evenings are a good way to get in touch with parents and engage in an exchange about the topic of boys and care and caring masculinities. Parents can be invited for this with parent letters or notices, preferably in the respective family language. During the evenings, for example, the ECaRoM materials can be shown or simply talked about the topic. In this way, the opinions, suggestions and perhaps also fears of parents can be heard and included.
If there are negative reactions or resistance from parents in the implementation and processing of gender equity in educational work with children, the following points can be supportive for pedagogies working with parents:
- Ask questions: Address parents personally. Where do the parents see concrete problems? Do parents know about the goals and the positive effects of addressing gender issues? By asking questions, you can make a connection and spark an interesting conversation.
- Listen actively: Show genuine curiosity about parents’ criticisms and concerns. Either you can already answer questions and resolve misunderstandings or untruths, or you may be able to discern which parents are even willing to engage in an exchange with you and who wants to remain unapproachable.
- Stay constructive: You are the expert for pedagogical work with children. Keep a clear and stable attitude and be convinced of your gender-reflective pedagogical work with children. Try to avoid generalizations and also address and concretize them with your counterpart.
- Do not forget humor: Stay calm and friendly. You cannot and do not have to convince all parents. Use your resources where you feel it is worthwhile!
- Build alliances: Involve colleagues and people in leadership roles in these situations (parent talk, pre-follow-up on parent exchanges, etc.). You can also boost networking between parents, groups or/and institutions.
- Keep calm: You don’t have to respond to everyone and everything. Bring your own point of view, but remember sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it. Slow down and take time to respond, even if your counterpart picks up the pace in the heat of the moment.
- Argue: Explain why gender-reflective pedagogy and an examination of gender issues is already important in early education with children. Don’t shy away from causing irritation among parents. Question what parents understand by “normal” and why.
- Persist: Know the importance of working with children on the issue of gender equity. Each confrontation represents a seed for change.
- Selfcare: Criticism and resistance from parents is not directed at you personally but reflects a societal problem. Nevertheless, dealing with the issue and especially with resistance can be exhausting and energy-sapping. Don’t forget about yourself, talk to friends and colleagues about worries and problems and don’t be too hard on yourself. Allow yourself breaks and to make mistakes.
- When children are sick, alternating between calling mothers and fathers (e.g. if a child has a fever, in most cases the practice is to call the mother first to come for the child and take him/her home).
- Birthday celebrations in kindergarten: parents always bring plates numbered by gender (e.g. X number of car plates for boys, X number of Hello Kitty plates for girls). The improvement could be that next time the children draw lots to see which plate they get or maybe swap between girls and boys.
- Training of parents on gender sensitive education may be useful for them to understand the pedagogical values of ECECs and so that the children do not get contradictory messages from the parents and ECEC services on gender related issues.
You can continue by choosing another section.