We believe that bringing together parents of children who are part of the linking programme will enable them to better support their own child’s experience of linking by having more confidence to respond to their child’s curiosity, questions and reflections on identity and other issues which may emerge during the linking journey. We know that there are not many opportunities in society for adults to meet other adults who they otherwise wouldn’t meet and parent/ community linking can enable this.
During the summer term 2018 6 areas of the National Network engaged in work with parents and communities. Those involved were Bolton, Calderdale, Kirklees, Pendle, Rochdale and Bradford.
The activities looked different in each area but included parent choirs, led walks around local communities, family culture and identity workshop, art workshops, community clean up, Refugee Week event, family soft play session, football game (Dads/ family groups).
Things to consider….
It is enough for the linking work to be about supporting parents to support their child and to feel confident in encouraging their children’s curiosity and exploration of identity through the process. An assembly for parents where the children share their linking journey can be really important.
Recognise that there may be a typical parent who will engage in the work and that barriers of work, childcare, language skills, confidence etc will impact on who participates but that the sharing of the experience of those who do participate via the school playground, social networks, social media etc will mean the impact is wider. Don’t be disappointed if numbers for an activity are small.
Recognise that the impact will be greater if the school values and commits to the work and the process (this may be through the promotion of opportunities, the provision of space and resources, support via staff time).
Relationships are of utmost value in this work and the foundations for whatever follows so focussing on the experience of the adults involved and the support needed for them to begin to build relationships with each other (bearing in mind key contact theory principles).
The importance of creating opportunities/ planning activities which support parents to engage and get to know each other not just participating in something alongside each other (ie. Softplay session with mixed groups of parents sat together and activity of basic introductory questions, sharing lunch together before watching football match).
Don’t underestimate the challenges/ barriers for some parents to feel confident enough to attend and participate – not everyone is comfortable coming into school or sitting around a table taking it in turns to talk. Activities which allow people to chat but take the focus of conversation/ forced or perceived forced sharing is important and needs thought and consideration.
Are there any bigger events which you could participate in? Maybe a family picnic at school as part of the Great Get Together?
Things we’ve learnt….
- The importance of process – making sure we understand what we’re doing and why and then communicating that well to others
- The importance of welcome – we can’t underestimate the difference that a warm welcome, a well thought out space, heating, light, seating, refreshments etc makes to how people feel
- The importance of relationships – people’s commitment is often based on the relationship they have with the person who has invited them and how the invitation has been communicated
- Commitment – a small group of committed individuals is more worthwhile than a larger group of people who can’t commit to the process
- The importance of time – the need for interactions to be given enough time and frequency to become meaningful
Why we should do this…
- We will hopefully enable people to have a meaningful encounter with someone different to themselves, to see life through someone else’s perspective but we might even enable people to understand themselves differently, shift their views about people who are different to themselves, develop new skills and confidence, and perhaps even create some longer-term friendships with people they otherwise wouldn’t have met or interacted with.
- Opportunities for people to come together and interact well need to happen on a much bigger scale to ensure that communities thrive but we don’t have to worry about that yet, we can start small!
- It can and does change people’s lives
Contact Liz at The Linking Network if you would like to explore running some parent linking or community engagement in your area firstname.lastname@example.org
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