Communicating with Families


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  • Recognize that the self-esteem of family members is integral to the development of the child and should be enhanced by the family’s positive interaction with the 4-H program. Include family members in decision-making about their own child’s participation and educational experiences. Promote an environment in which family members are valued as primary influence in their children’s lives and as essential partners in the education of their children.
  • Encourage a regular exchange of information and ideas between 4-H club leaders and families, between Extension staff and volunteers as well as 4-H families. Plan ahead so that you have time to greet and visit with families as they come to the 4-H activity or meeting. Make adults feel as welcome as the youth. Help them to feel welcome by actively asking them to help in some way or involve them in conducting the activity. If possible provide for gradual and supportive transition process to your program/club especially for the children who are first timers. It is very important to assist first time 4-H parents as the are very apprehensive about all of the rules and regulations they have heard about the 4-H program. Make it a priority to touch base at the end of each meeting and before each major county activity to make sure all of their questions are answered and to reassure them. Encourage 4-H leaders to plan and conduct regular conversations with families concerning their children and the progress that they are making in their projects and activities. These are in addition to the contact with the family members at club meetings. This helps both the leader and the family. They can learn about their questions and concerns, what progress is being made, and particular questions or challenges they may be experiencing. Any extra efforts your or your volunteer 4-H leaders make will help you and the family build a trust and comfort level that will be very valuable throughout the career of the 4-H members.
  • Refer to NebFact Communicating with Families: Building Relationships Danish proverb…”Who takes the child by the hand takes the mother by the heart.”…if you keep this in mind you will recognize that families want leaders and 4-H staff to pay attention to their child and to treat them in a special way. Pay attention to the little things… members are recognized for their efforts/accomplishments, members are given responsibilities in the club, have the opportunity to ask questions and explore new options. Make sure the meeting ends when you said it would. Make sure the family knows that the child was upset during the activity like a day camp or had challenges with a project that the club is working on. If you don’t, families may think you are too busy or not motivated to really care for their child Make personal contact…. at community events (instead of mingling only with your friends). If it is comfortable for families and your club is not too large meet at the homes of the members so that everyone in the club gets to know all of the families better and to engage the family in club activities. Connect with them as individuals, not as Jacob’s dad. Listen and respond carefully to show you are really interested in what family members are thinking or feeling. Good eye contact and other nonverbal clues Kind words and deeds Encourage them to elaborate…. “tell me more” Try not to interrupt them. Give them time to respond to your questions. Respond to their questions or concerns…share some resources/websites, magazines, publications, hotlines. An example might be the child-youth website, State 4-H or county office websites. If you don’t know the answer to their question, say so ... Let’s work together to find some information to your problem or concerns.
  • What are ways to treat family members with respect ? Greet family members when you see them Use their proper names, Mindi, not that Linder or 4-H lady or Sam’s Mom. Pronounce and spell their name correctly When you address letters say “Dear Family Members”, rather than “Dear Parents” Use materials in the home language of the families Families are busy and there are many things going on…deaths, illness, job changes, money problems, divorces, etc. When family concerns are shared…they usually need someone to talk to and someone they can trust. Keep the information confidential…unless it involves neglect or abuse. Identify strengths of each family and build on that. Provide lots of positive feedback to the family….even if it’s little progress steps. Avoid labeling children…Sarah comes from a broken home, rather Sarah comes from a supportive family where her grandmother is very involved in her life. Encourage ways to promote family involvement through open houses, meeting agenda/activity sheets, volunteering with programs or hobbies, family nights, asking family members to help or by encouraging family members to become involved with club activities. The Volunteer Profiles has a wonderful survey instrument that you can use to find out parents interests and strengths. One way to get family members to a meeting is to have the members prepare the meal or a snack and invite a family member to come and enjoy the meal with the family members of the other club members. If you have not had much family involvement this might be a way to begin to have more family involvement. What are ways are you involving family members? What are some ways that you are building relationships with families?
  • What are some of the feelings? Families who feel tired, guilty and frustrated may need support…if they are approached and have support they can do a better job of parenting and their children will be more successful in the 4-H program. Guilt is a common one. When people feel guilty they often withdraw or become angry. Guilt can mount when their child doesn’t win a purple ribbon and the judge explains why. It might be expressed by: Being late dropping off or picking up their children or not coming to the meeting Talking to the child immediately and ignoring the leaders or other adults at the meeting/activity Not allowing the child to speak out at the meeting or event Possibly doing the project/exhibit for the child Talk nervously about everything but their child and their 4-H projects…the weather, what’s happening on main street, gossip, etc. Being overly critical of how events or contests are run Any others?
  • They need to know your expectations….so give them written policies and review with them. In some cases the policies need to be signed. An example might be policies covering overnight trips, appropriate conduct, use of photos, etc. Appreciate them… thank them often for doing a good job, for bringing their child to club and county activities, for referring another family, for their smiles, for paying for their fees on time, for donating supplies or refreshments for club meetings or picking up their county exhibits on time.
  • I messages are effective ways to communicate with families. Use them to communicate positive messages as well as to initiate communication about concerns. Using I messages takes blaming or accusations out of the opening of the conversation. Use the Feeling Word bank for both pleasant and unpleasant feelings. Try to expand your vocabulary by using more of the words listed to express your feelings. By expanding your feeling word vocabulary you will become more effective in your communication with others.
  • There are four typical responses to I messages. The first, which may surprise you when it happens is compliance. The person does what you ask. Respond with gracious acceptance. Praise them and thank them. Resistance is when the person blames you or someone else for the problem, attacks your ideas, criticizes you or gives excuses. Respond with feedback and state your request again. The emotional response is hard for many people to handle. They start to cry or get mad. Respond with feedback and restate your request. The last response is when people respond with their own needs, without acknowledging yours. Respond with respect for them and going for a win/win solution.
  • Communicating with Families

    1. 1. Communicating with Families Presented by Extension Educators Debra Schroeder and Mary K. Warner Extension Assistant Leah Miller
    2. 2. <ul><li>Extension professionals will be able to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Strengthen communication skills </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop proactive family relations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use “I” messages when communicating with families </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use a variety of techniques to communicate with families </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evaluate and use social media to communicate with families </li></ul></ul>Objectives
    3. 3. Sharing <ul><li>What techniques do you use to communicate with families? </li></ul><ul><li>What are some the greatest challenges you have? </li></ul>
    4. 4. Open Communication <ul><li>Set up an environment where families feel valued as the primary influence </li></ul><ul><li>Positive self-esteem of family members is important to the development of their children </li></ul><ul><li>Include family members in decision making </li></ul>
    5. 5. Open Communication <ul><li>Regularly exchange information with families </li></ul><ul><li>Greet and visit with families as they come to 4-H events, programs and day camps </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage families to stay for meetings and activities </li></ul><ul><li>Invite families to become involved in helping with </li></ul><ul><li>4-H meetings and events and set up a gradual transition for new families </li></ul>
    6. 6. Examples of Tools You Can Use <ul><li>Websites </li></ul><ul><li>4-H Club constitution and calendar </li></ul><ul><li>Newsletters </li></ul><ul><li>Calling trees </li></ul><ul><li>Email </li></ul><ul><li>Printed meeting agendas </li></ul><ul><li>Job descriptions for volunteers </li></ul><ul><li>Text messages </li></ul><ul><li>Social networking </li></ul>
    7. 7. Building Relationships <ul><li>Show that you really care about each child and family member </li></ul><ul><li>Make personal contact through face-to-face communication </li></ul><ul><li>Treat families as individuals </li></ul><ul><li>Listen and respond carefully </li></ul>
    8. 8. Building Relationships <ul><li>Treat family members with respect and consideration </li></ul><ul><li>Honor family confidentiality (unless it involves child neglect or abuse) </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on family strengths </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage practices that promote family involvement </li></ul>
    9. 9. Understanding Families <ul><li>Important to understand the stress that families experience with 4-H involvement </li></ul><ul><li>What feelings do families and volunteers share? </li></ul><ul><li>Stress is greatest for first time families </li></ul><ul><li>Leaders/volunteers may feel </li></ul><ul><li>jealous of families </li></ul>
    10. 10. Understanding Families <ul><li>Give written policies to families and clarify if needed so that they understand. Some policies need to be signed. </li></ul><ul><li>Say “thank you” often </li></ul><ul><li>Just as you reach out to families, they will reach out to you </li></ul>
    11. 11. “ I” Messages <ul><li>I feel…(explain feelings) </li></ul><ul><li>When you…(explain behavior) </li></ul><ul><li>Because…(explain why) </li></ul><ul><li>Could we…(explain solution) </li></ul>
    12. 12. “ I” Message Responses <ul><li>Compliance </li></ul><ul><li>Resistance </li></ul><ul><li>Emotions </li></ul><ul><li>Needs </li></ul>
    13. 13. Identifying Your Communication Strengths <ul><li>A self-evaluation activity </li></ul><ul><li>Responses are confidential </li></ul><ul><li>First set of responses applies to </li></ul><ul><li>beliefs and second set applies to actions </li></ul><ul><li>Rank each statement as strength, requires growth or does not apply </li></ul><ul><li>Set a goal for yourself </li></ul>
    14. 14. What is Social Media? <ul><li>“ Social media is a shift in how we get our information. It used to be that we would wait for the paper boy to throw our news on the doorstep (or in the flowers) and we’d read the paper, front to back, with our morning coffee before going to work. Now we get information, 24/7 and on the fly, from anywhere. In the more traditional senses, online, on our phones and through the social platforms. Social media allows us to network, to find people with like interests, and to meet people who can become friends or customers. It flattens out the world and gives us access to people we never would have been able to meet otherwise. Gini Dietrich” ~ Arment Dietrich, Inc. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    15. 15. Social Media Revolution <ul><li>Social Media Revolution </li></ul>
    16. 16. How to Get Followers? <ul><li>Follow others </li></ul><ul><li>Be active on your pages often </li></ul><ul><li>Respond when others comment on your activity </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide comments to those you follow </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Repeat yourself </li></ul>
    17. 17. Accept and Prepare for, Negativity <ul><li>There is a fine line in social media regarding negativity. Some organizations are stricter than others when it comes to allowing negative dialogue to occur in their space. Always try to engage the conversation publicly – be responsive, offer help to ease the situation. Trying to control the dialogue through aggressive screening and selective posts is generally not effective or recommended.” - social media GUIDE , National 4-H Council, Spring 2011 </li></ul>
    18. 18. Prepare , Prepare, Prepare <ul><li>“ Ensure that you also have an escalation plan in place should information or conversation on your page illicit an unexpected response. Determine who will have the final say in responding to a crisis on your page.” - social media GUIDE , National 4-H Council, Spring 2011 </li></ul>
    19. 19. Proactive Family Relations <ul><li>Be prepared </li></ul><ul><li>Be clear </li></ul><ul><li>Stay neutral </li></ul><ul><li>Clarify confusing </li></ul><ul><li>statements </li></ul>
    20. 20. Points to Remember <ul><li>Treat families as partners </li></ul><ul><li>Relate to families as individuals with their own attributes and problems </li></ul><ul><li>Listen carefully to what they say about their children and respond with interest </li></ul><ul><li>Help families feel good about their children and therefore about themselves </li></ul>
    21. 21. Points to Remember <ul><li>Discuss positive aspects as well as challenges with families </li></ul><ul><li>When discussing challenges, also bring in positive points about the child </li></ul><ul><li>Attempt to jointly solve the problem </li></ul><ul><li>Families naturally are anxious for their child. Their demands come from a deep concern: that their child be safe, loved and attached to them , as families </li></ul>
    22. 22. <ul><li>Extension is a Division of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln cooperating with the Counties and the United States Department of Agriculture. </li></ul><ul><li>The 4-H Youth Development program abides with the nondiscrimination policies of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the United States Department of Agriculture. </li></ul>