After families, early childhood services and schools hold the most significant relationships for children, so establishing strong ties to a child’s school or service is important. Former school psychologist Anthea Rees says, “Connecting with your child’s school or early childhood service is important because schools and services provide the opportunity for children to build social networks that help them feel cared for and connected, and it’s important that families are part of these networks”.

Working collaboratively to care for children is the best way for schools, early childhood services and families to support children’s positive mental health. This collaborative approach allows for strong connections between key figures in children’s lives and the sharing of important information related to children’s healthy development.

Positive relationships between families and schools or early childhood services can support children’s mental health by creating a sense of community and helping children to feel they belong.  Family involvement with services or schools shows children that the service or school is important and that it is a safe place for them to be, which can have a positive impact on children’s learning as well as social and emotional wellbeing.  In a positive community, everyone has a place, every voice is valued and everyone has something to contribute.  “Talking to your child regularly about their life at school shows them that that you are interested in what’s happening in the classroom, in the playground and with their friendships”, says Anthea.  “Asking open-ended questions like ‘what was the funniest thing that happened at school today?’ rather than ‘Did you have a good day at school?’ will help start a conversation that can help your child understand that their school life is important.”

KidsMatter Component 3, Working with parents and carers, supports families to connect with their child’s school or service. Support can come from conversations with teachers or other staff, or from making connections with other families. Being connected to schools and services helps families to stay informed not only about what children are learning but also about their social and emotional wellbeing. Families and schools or services can then work together to support a child’s educational and mental health and wellbeing needs.

“There are many things that families can do to establish good relationships with their school or service”, says Anthea. “It could be as easy as saying hello to your child’s teacher at pickup time, or reading the newsletter to stay informed about what’s happening at school. If you have a little more time, volunteering in your child’s class is a great way for you to connect with school and demonstrate to your child that school is an important part of their life.”

Get involved

Most schools and services will welcome offers from families to help support activities. Usually there are regular opportunities to get involved:

  • help in your child’s classroom or on school excursions

  • offer to be the grade parent liaison person

  • join in a weekend working bee 

  • staff a stand at the fete

  • share something interesting with your child’s class or group about, for example, your work, culture or hobby

  • join the school or service council

Make contact

  • introduce yourself to your child’s teacher or room leader and make a point to say hello regularly

  • make contact with other parents and make arrangements to meet up informally

  • attend information sessions whenever you can

  • attend school or service social events 

  • respond to school or service satisfaction surveys with constructive suggestions eg more child care for parents to attend meetings