Family Engagement

Implementing PW–PBS in ECEC settings requires involving parents as part of the educational team 

Key Points: Children´s socioemotional learning (SEL) and the prevention of challenging behaviours can be optimised through positive family–ECEC partnerships. Parents significantly influence child development, and their insights during Programme–Wide Positive Behaviour Support (PW–PBS) implementation enable tailored approaches to meet each child’s needs. Working in partnerships with families at all tiers of the intervention is central to PW–PBS, ensuring continuity and consistency across contexts. Professionals are invited to cultivate skills that help enhance family engagement and create genuine positive partnerships.  Collaborative efforts between parents and professionals create a holistic approach to the prevention of socioemotional challenges and promotion of SEL. Moreover, by providing parents with PW–PBS training and resources, the family–ECEC synergies can be strengthened, promoting consistent, positive approaches that benefit children’s development and empower families as part of the educational team. 

It is expected that the impact of the PW–PBS approach can be magnified by positive parental involvement and by building ECEC staff capacity to establish successful partnerships, which reflects high-quality early education. Therefore, educational stakeholders should support a culture of participation by developing policies related to family participation and engagement which are fully integrated into the educational system and promote cultural sensitivity and inclusivity. This will help develop positive attitudes that favour participation in ECEC.

Voices of professionals and educational stakeholders from PBS–ECEC

“I think the best way forward would be if (…) a sort of mentorship could be established, which would oversee, maybe, you know, getting heads together. Because that is the hardest part. When I do early intervention in preschools, the hardest part is to get the parents and the preschool teachers and the managers to all, you know, sort of be singing off the same hymn sheet. So that is a challenge. So, I think one person is needed to gather those people up, if that’s the right way to say it, just one point of contact.” (L., Ireland)

“Parents are constantly informed in all aspects. During the PW–PBS implementation, they were informed about the educational practices and understood the intentions behind them. Parents were also asked for their input. (…) We use a platform to share with parents all the activities that are being carried out in the centre.” (M., Portugal)

“I think the school has to think about how to promote their involvement. If some families usually enjoy participating, others don’t feel comfortable, they often avoid this involvement. It requires diversification.” (C., Portugal)

“This is valuable input and one of the most challenging to implement because it falls outside the scope of the school’s jurisdiction in a way. Typically, parents who participate in training and programmes are those who are already interested in making a change. It requires a lot of effort to be put into practice.” (X., Cyprus)

What can be done to make a difference?

 Strategy: Build ECEC team´s capacity for positive and effective family partnerships 


  • Invest in ongoing professional training for ECEC professionals in building partnerships with families.
  • Create a system with organisational conditions (resources, infrastructure, and procedures) to build, enhance, and sustain a team´s capacity for partnerships.
  • Create open, flexible, and accessible communication channels for families and staff that facilitate dialogue (e.g. virtual meetings and evening social events). For example, ECEC teams should be provided with resources and materials, including plurilingual communication tools, informative brochures, and interactive platforms/apps that keep families informed about their children’s progress, upcoming activities, and ways to get involved in their children’s education.
  • Foster collaborative partnership between home and ECEC centres to help families build a supportive home-learning environment. Create a positive and non-judgmental environment where parents feel comfortable sharing their perspectives and concerns, and are acknowledged by their efforts to promote PW–PBS at home.
  • Clearly define the roles of all stakeholders and consider opening new roles for parents (e.g. advocates, supporters, organisers).
  • Offer incentives and recognition programmes for ECEC centres that demonstrate exemplary family engagement practices; recognising and celebrating successful family partnerships can motivate other centres to improve their approach.
  • Diversify strategies to engage families and support initiatives that are inclusive and consider the diverse and unique needs and circumstances of families, such as those with special needs from low-income backgrounds and/or different cultures.

Strategy: Provide services, activities and resources that facilitate and support family engagement throughout PW–PBS implementation 


  • Invest in a more systemic approach that promotes the involvement of all stakeholders. Involve parents’ associations and collaborate with community organisations and local agencies to establish strong networks of support for families.
  • Develop policies that provide guidance related to family participation and engagement fully integrated into the school system. These policies should promote cultural sensitivity and inclusivity in all aspects of ECEC, recognising and valuing the diverse backgrounds and experiences of families.
  • Allocate adequate funding and resources to implement these actions effectively, prioritising family engagement initiatives in ECEC systems and settings.
  • Invest in research initiatives that explore effective family engagement practices and evaluate their impact on children’s development; for example, conduct parent surveys to gather feedback on the effectiveness of PW–PBS initiatives and identify areas for improvement.
  • Develop comprehensive online learning platforms where parents can access PW–PBS training modules, videos, and resources while also providing other useful materials and workshops to support parental engagement in their children’s SEL. Additionally, the development and distribution of parental handbooks or leaflets that outline PW–PBS concepts, approaches, and resources for the practical application of PW–PBS in their daily interactions with their children.
  • Establish parent support groups focused on PW–PBS, where parents can share experiences, seek advice, and learn from each other, helping build positive beliefs, attitudes, and competencies that favour parental participation and inclusion.
  • Create opportunities for families to actively participate (e.g., empowerment programmes, workshops, decision-making processes). Additionally, recruit and prepare parent ambassadors who have experience with PW–PBS and can serve as advocates; ambassadors can share their success stories and encourage other parents to get involved.
  • Build collaborative teams to effectively support individual children with specific behavioural and socioemotional needs and involve families at all stages.

    What are the expected benefits and impact?

    1. Parents and professionals can create a collaborative partnership that benefits children’s socioemotional development. This partnership creates a nurturing environment for children’s wellbeing and a lifelong path to success. Effective family–ECEC partnerships work bidirectionally: ECEC settings and parents can share valuable resources, information, and strategies.
    2. Parents’ active involvement is indispensable for supporting and fostering children’s socioemotional development, as their guidance, positive role modelling, and emotional support create an environment that helps children navigate social interactions, develop resilience, and build essential life skills.
    3. Children’s growth benefits from enhancing family and ECEC centres’ concerted inputs – the capacity to create an inclusive learning environment in ECEC settings can be significantly increased and parents can complement (at home or in other social contexts) the efforts put in place by ECEC centres in the implementation of PW–PBS and the promotion of SEL.
    4. ECEC teams can build their capacity for effective family partnerships, leading to improved child outcomes, enhanced parental involvement, and robust implementation of PW–PBS. This results in (a) stronger partnerships between ECEC settings and families, which enhances the consistency of PW–PBS implementation across environments; (b) better parental support and understanding of socioemotional development and other educational processes and resources, enabling informed decisions about their child’s education; (c) tailored PW–PBS initiatives that better meet the needs of children/families; and (d) the development of a group of informed and engaged parents, contributing to a positive school climate that emphasises collaboration.

    What practices show the way forward?

    Diary app

    In a preschool in Portugal, an effective communication strategy with families was established using a diary app, resulting in communication efficacy and parental satisfaction. This app is used by parents and professionals as a two-way communication tool to share information about the child´s behaviour and wellbeing, the activities the child participates in, share practices and strategies that can be replicated at home, as well as programmes and activities being developed at school, among others. The leadership team uses this tool as a basis for the involvement of parents in the implementation of PW–PBS (e.g., sharing desired behaviours, and activities implemented to teach specific socioemotional skills).  Professionals need to guide and encourage parents to establish clear expectations and rules for positive behaviours at home. Consistency between ECEC setting and home practices helps children understand behavioural expectations across different environments.

    Coffee with parents 

    The monthly activity “Coffee with Parents” was developed in one ECEC setting in Portugal, which helped the implementation of the PW–PBS approach. The leadership team of this ECEC centre asks parents about their preferred themes on early childhood education and care, which serve as a motif for the monthly gathering of staff/teachers and parents (sometimes with a guest which can be a specialist in a specific area). These gatherings focus on a specific theme that can be related to SEL, child health and behaviour, pedagogical practices/programmes being implemented at the school, among others. These moments help participants share relevant information, build a sense of belonging and community, empower families to provide better care, and inform pedagogical strategies and choices of professionals. Additionally, this activity helps the leadership/staff engage parents and align parental behaviour with PW–PBS practices. This is very useful to support parents in, for example, displaying positive social and emotional behaviours, encouraging open communication, developing problemsolving skills to handle challenging situations, focusing on constructive feedback to their children´s behaviours, and in using positive language while avoiding using negative labels or punitive expressions when addressing behavioural issues. 

    Supporting evidence and resources

    Key Resources

    Needs assessment in four countries 

    Krousorati, K., Grammatikopoulos, V., Agathokleous, A., Michaelidou, V., Szproch, A., O’Brien, M., Barros, S., Araújo, S., Santos, M., & Sousa, M. (2023). PBS–ECEC transnational consolidated report: Research findings for developing the guide on Positive Behaviour Support in early childhood

    education and care.   

    A Guide for using PW-PBS in ECEC

    Krousorati, K., Grammatikopoulos, V., Agathokleous, A., Michaelidou, V., Szproch, A., O’Brien, M., Araújo, S., Santos, M., Sousa, M., & Barros, S. (2023). PBS–ECEC guide on Positive Behaviour Support in early childhood and care in European countries.  

    PBS-ECEC online modules

    PBS–ECEC Consortium (n.d.). Implementing Positive Behaviour Support in early childhood education and care [MOOC].

    Impact assessment study & recommendations

    Szproch, A., O’Brien, M., Araújo, A., Santos, M., Oliveira, V., Barros, S., Otero-Mayer, A., Michaelidou, V., Agathokleous, A., Krousorati, K., & Grammatikopoulos, V. (2023). Report of the PBS–ECEC impact assessment study and practice recommendations. Result 3: Transnational Report.

    Additional Resources

    Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) (n.d.). Family.

    European Commission (2014). Proposal for key principles of a quality framework for early childhood education and care. Report of the working group on early childhood education and care under the auspices of the European Commission. European Commission.     

    Foster, M. A., Lambert, R., Abbott-Shim, M., McCarty, F., & Franze, S. (2005). A model of home learning environment and social risk factors in relation to children’s emergent literacy and social outcomes. Early childhood research quarterly, 20(1), 13-36.   

    Gopalan, G., Goldstein, L., Klingenstein, K., Sicher, C., Blake, C., & McKay, M. M. (2010). Engaging families into child mental health treatment: Updates and special considerations. Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 19(3), 182.

    Hall, J., Sammons, P., Smees, R., Sylva, K., Evangelou, M., Goff, J., Smith, T. & Smith, G. (2019). Relationships between families’ use of Sure Start Children’s Centres, changes in home learning environments, and preschool behavioural disorders. Oxford Review of Education, 45(3), 367-389.   

    Kernan, M. (2012). Parental Involvement in Early Learning: A review of research, policy and good practice. International Child Development


    McKay, M. M., & Bannon Jr, W. M. (2004). Engaging families in child mental health services. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics, 13(4), 905-921. 

    National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (n.d.). Program-Wide Implementation.     

    Pugh, G. (2010). Principles for engaging with families: A framework for local authorities and national organisations to evaluate and improve engagement with families. NCB.    

    Rose, E., Lehrl, S., Ebert, S., & Weinert, S. (2018). Long-term relations between children’s language, the home literacy environment, and socioemotional development from ages 3 to 8. Early Education

    and Development, 29(3), 342-356.     

    Silva, I. L., Lourdes, L. M., & Rosa, M. M. (2016.)  Orientações Curriculares para a Educação PréEscolar. [Curricular Guidelines for Preschool Education] Ministério da Educação/Direção-Geral da Educação (DGE).     

    Skoog-Hoffman, A., Coleman, B., Nwafor, E., Lozada, F., Olivo-Castro, S. & Jagers, R. (2023, January).

    Building authentic school-family partnerships through the lens of social and emotional learning.


    Valley PBS (2011, April 26). 0 to 5 in 30 Minutes! – Parent Involvement. YouTube. 

    Wysłowska, O. (2020, September 23). Effective cooperation with families – how to prepare the “ground” for it?. Early Years Blog.