Understanding Parents and Caregivers

Parents and Caregivers bring a myriad of individual and collective strengths and challenges to the school environment. Fostering parents’ and Caregivers’ active participation in building a safe and inclusive school culture can lead to many rewards. At the same time, parents and Caregivers can face obstacles to their involvement and it is important for school communities to find ways to overcome those hurdles.

This section explores factors that might impinge upon all parents’ and Caregivers’ participation, as well as examining added obstacles faced by parents and Caregivers from marginalized groups, for example: single parents or Caregivers, same sex parents, trans parents, immigrants and newcomers and parents from ethno-cultural minority groups.

In this section, we build on discussions about the impact of racism, sexism and homophobia presented in our Equity and Inclusion module (See Equity and Inclusion/ Understanding Sexism, Racism and Homophobia, and Racism, Sexism and Homophobia). We highlight some of the overarching systemic barriers that may create additional challenges for schools attempting to reach marginalized parents and Caregivers. It is worth noting that many of the same factors that serve as barriers to equity and inclusive education for our students may also result in marginalizing their families.

Barriers may be external, practical and material, as well as internal beliefs, feelings and attitudes. Naturally these two categories are artificial divisions created to facilitate discussion, as internal and external obstacles for parents and Caregivers are completely interconnected.

This section of the module speaks to parents’ and Caregivers’ experiences, offering glimpses into the realities many families bring into the school community. The remainder of the module speaks to ways that schools can factor in this knowledge in order to enhance the goal of facilitating parents’ and Caregivers’ participation in building a safe and inclusive school culture.

It is sometimes easy to dismiss parents and Caregivers who are absent or who present challenges. When we keep in mind some of the factors that can impede parents’ and Caregivers’ positive involvement in preventing bullying and inequity, despite their best intentions, we are better placed to design strategies leading to positive constructive interaction.