Thoughtful and strategic communication with parents and caregivers is critical to providing information and resources to help them as they make the best choices to support the children in their care. Based on research, the practical tips and guidelines below will help you reach and connect with the parents and caregivers in your community.
The following guidelines are based on three recommended strategies from the Early Childhood Communication Efforts in Colorado report, which was endorsed by the Early Childhood Leadership Commission:
Tips and Guidelines to Engage with Parents and Caregivers:
- Use resources already created, and build onto pre-existing campaigns, such as awareness months.
- Connect parents and caregivers to activities that are happening locally.
- Be sensitive to disparities in digital skills and connectivity.
- Use trusted messengers such as child care providers and teachers, school staff, pediatricians, and libraries to deliver messages.
- Take advantage of teachable moments as opportunities to communicate information.
- Create opportunities for parents and caregivers to share information with each other.
- Create content designed or accessible for mobile use (such as phones and tablets).
- Create regular two-way calls, texts and emails.
- Use social media to amplify your message.
- Use research-based, evaluated, quality messages before creating new content.
- Build on existing metaphors and slogans rather than creating new structures.
- Include benefits to parents and caregivers upfront; involve them in understanding why this information is beneficial to children.
- Use the general public reading level of 5th grade to create appropriate language for messages.
- Avoid using jargon and acronyms. If using acronyms, spell out the acronym the first time it’s used in a communication.
- Include actionable steps for parents and caregivers.
- Develop proactive and strength-based messaging that empowers parents and caregivers – provide guidance on what to do, not what not to do.
- Develop messages for caregivers that are representative of various family structures like fathers, kinship caregivers, foster parents, and others that provide care for children.
- Include messages that are culturally appropriate and inclusive.
- Provide materials in multiple languages that are appropriate for the community.
- Include pictures that are representative of diverse family structures.
- Consistently include parents and caregivers in testing or developing messages before creating materials to ensure cultural relevancy and accessibility.
- Evaluate messaging strategies identified in the beginning; continuously improve on feedback.
- Use two-way feedback loops allowing parents and caregivers to continue to shape ongoing messages.