Parents as Partners, Engaged and Involved

Parenting children requires involvement and engagement. In my time as an educator, social worker, and Director of Family Partnership, I have had the privilege to have attended workshops, conferences ,and read articles on the benefit of being an “engaged” parent as contrasted with that of an “involved” parent in relation to a child’s education.  One of the best distinctions I have comes from Larry Ferlazzo, an Education Week blogger, who has described parent involvement as often more of a “doing to” while engagement is more of a “doing with.” This difference changes the approach and the manner of partnership.

Engagement and involvement are both beneficial to the success of the child. An interested, participating, caring adult can be the one thing that will make the most difference in the life of a child. I feel it is most effective to meet each family where they are in the engaged/involved spectrum and move forward in respect to our collective ability to access programs, resources, and networking aimed at the students’ overall ability to achieve the greatness they are capable of.


Larry Ferlazzo., (2014) Education Week: Response: The Difference Between Parent “Involvement” and Parent “Engagement.”

Today’s Family Partnership blog post is brought to us by Rochelle Garrett. L. Rochelle Garrett, MSW, CSW, is the family partnership director for Partners for Education at Berea College. Her role is to engage parents in students’ academic endeavors, and involve the family holistically. She provides the vision and leadership for the Partners for Education work with families. Rochelle has almost 25 years of experience in social work, schools, and education. She has worked in public school systems as a Family Resource Center Director and as a GEAR UP staff member for more than 10 years. Rochelle also served as an adjunct professor of Social Work Education classes at Eastern Kentucky University. She was associate director of Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Enhancement to Mentoring program. She is a Families and Schools Together (FAST) certified trainer. The first in her family to graduate from college, Rochelle holds her bachelor’s degree in social work from Eastern Kentucky University and a master’s of social work from the University of Kentucky. Before her entry into the public school and college systems, Rochelle was an individual therapist for the Comprehensive Care Center.

Protective Factors: Developing Social and Emotional Competence of our Children


Our children and youth are learning to navigate their emotions, trying to understand other people’s emotions and exploring how to handle these emotions in social settings.  When we can assist them in this process, it helps to make our family strong. See below for some specific ideas to help children and youth develop social and emotional competence.

Offer play and other tools to explore emotions

For younger children, games and books that are centered on learning about emotions are important parts of developing socially and emotionally competent.  This can help children think about emotions before they are in the middle of experiencing them and find expressing them difficult.   For older children, a journal or music can be effective tools for deeper emotional expression.

Check out this link for ideas:

Offer words and remember to listen

When your young child is clearly experiencing strong emotion, offering language to help them express what they are feeling may be exactly what is needed.  As they grow and are able to express themselves, encouraging them to discuss their feelings and being ready to listen allows them to work out social and emotional difficulties in the safety of your family.

The following article from AhaParenting offers concrete examples of phrases to help offer words and phrases to help your children express how they feel.

Encourage empathy

While it is important for us to offer empathy to our children, it is equally important to help them think about how other people might feel.  This both helps with a self-awareness and empathy.  Important questions to aid this are:

  • How do you think that made her/him feel?
  • What would you feel if you were in that situation?
  • What would you do in that situation?
  • What do you think might help him/her?

When reading books or interacting with friends, helping your child consider these questions can encourage empathy.

More resources

If you are interested in further exploring teaching social and emotional skills to your children and teenagers, explore this great resource guide by Edutopia.

Lasting impact

Social and emotional competence in children are the building blocks for self-control and caring for others.  These skills follow us throughout our lives and impact our relationships in school, work, college, and with our family.