Supporting Single Parents

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Classroom Application
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Creating a community built on parent-teacher relationships is paramount to the success of a student’s educational experience. Engaging parents in the classroom community helps establish a partnership to develop students into lifelong learners. Some students grow up with both parents in the home, but many of our students’ family structures are different. According to the Single Parent Support Network, one out of every two children in the United States will have lived in a single-parent home at some point in their lives before the age of 18. Teachers must be inclusive of all types of family structures when it comes to supporting our students’ families.

Students living in single-parent homes may find it challenging to connect with particular environments, and their parents face the same challenges. Creating a culture that acknowledges and provides support for single-parent families is essential to foster success. Listed below are strategies to best meet the needs of single-parent families. 

Positive Communication

Communication is vital. See which mediums best meet your families’ needs for communicating. Remind (reviewed here) is a fantastic resource to send text messages to parents safely. Establish a rapport with all of your students’ parents by sharing positive updates from the classroom. Positive updates help to establish a connection with the parent. A weekly classroom update also provides the family information on events happening throughout the week. Use a resource like Adobe Spark (reviewed here) or Microsoft Sway (reviewed here) to create an organized update to communicate the events and expectations for the next week of instruction. 

Inclusive Language

It’s essential to use inclusive language with students in your classroom and your communication home to families. Remain broad, so as not to identify a specific student’s situation. It’s better to say, “Make sure this paper goes home to a parent, guardian, or your family,” instead of saying, “Hand this paper to Mom and Dad.” Keeping activities general, like asking students to write or create something for someone special in their life, also avoids identifying specific family structures. It’s essential to create a classroom community where all students and their parents feel valued and understood. 

Getting Parents Involved

Many parents, not just single parents, are busy and want to be involved in the classroom with their limited time. Find a classroom activity that doesn’t require much preparation for parents to participate in. For example, parents could share their cultural heritage in a quick Zoom (reviewed here) connection with the class. A parent volunteer could read the first chapter of a book for First Chapter Friday to entice the students to read a book. 

Diversify Your Classroom Library

It’s also essential to offer a diverse classroom library of books to help students understand the broad definition of family. Offering a classroom library with a varied selection is a fantastic way to raise awareness about different types of families. The books can appeal to any of your students’ family situations, whether they have single parents, divorced parents, two mothers, two fathers, or multigenerational guardians. 

Providing diverse classroom resources, assignments, and communication fosters an inclusive classroom community. Leading with empathy in our communication with families is imperative to the success of the relationships we establish in our classrooms. The most crucial aspect of supporting our students’ parents is reassuring them that you will try to do what best meets their needs. How are you supporting single parents in your classroom? We’d love to hear your strategies in the comments below. 

About the author: Kevin Bower

Kevin Bower has 21 years of elementary teaching experience, is a certified reading specialist, and teaches instructional technology to pre-service and practicing teachers. He has presented nationally, had his teaching practices cited in various publications, and published a collaborative article on infusing technology into the balanced literacy classroom. Kevin’s research interests focus on using technology to best meet the needs of students with diverse abilities.

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