Lisa Lambert is the director of PAL, a statewide, family-run, grassroots nonprofit organization based in Boston that promotes children’s mental health.
She writes a blog called Hold On, It’s Not Over, and last month wrote a great post titled “Family engagement is a two way street.” It describes the difference between parent involvement and parent engagement from a mental health perspective. It’s very similar to how I describe the difference in my book. Here’s an excerpt, though I’d encourage you to go to her blog and read the post in its entirety:
Family involvement is often unilateral. A program might develop family-program activities without parent input in order to help the program achieve its own goals. A school summons parents to hear their information, not to contribute their own information. A clinical team has recommendations for parents on how to improve family involvement. In each of these instances, the program assumes they are the experts about the child and the parents are the learners. There is a single approach for all families.
Family engagement, on the other hand, is a two-way street. A program works together with families to develop activities that promote goals that they share. They always seek family input when developing plans to increase family involvement. A school listens to and includes the input of families. A clinical team believes that each person, including the parent and youth, has expertise and information to share. All of them assume that parents care about their child’s progress and well being when planning interventions and treatments. They respect the differences of each family and understand that one strategy is unlikely to work for everyone.