Parent Engagement in a Pandemic

During this unprecedented time of the Covid-19 pandemic, with families nationwide stuck at home and out of work, it’s more important than ever for Head Start staff to connect with parents and children. The Parent Gauge engagement tool has several questions that can help programs identify changes in a family’s status through a relationship-building conversation with parents. These conversations can provide critical information about two particularly important factors in child safety during the pandemic: levels of stress in the family and medical care.

When it comes to levels of stress, many programs are concerned about how factors such as job loss, isolation, and illness can create dangerous situations in the home for both children and adults.

In addition to understanding the external challenges a family is facing during the pandemic, such as losing a job, staff members who have conversations with parents using Parent Gauge can look intentionally at answers of particular questions to understand the level of stress in the household.

  • Questions 4 and 8 in the Parent Gauge tool ask about discipline strategies that improve a child’s behavior (question 4) and whether a parent is communicating well with their child (question 8). Responses to these questions on the low end of the scale — not at all, not very much, somewhat — can be indicators of a strained relationship between child and guardian, especially if parents previously reported higher responses.
  • Question 13 asks about connectedness to other parents and adults, providing critical information on the level of isolation a parent is feeling.

These three questions in particular can give a staff member critical information about levels of stress that may be building up in a home during the pandemic. By following up during the open response questions, a staff member can tease out details that will allow her to understand the current struggle and identify ways to support families who need it during this time to ensure the physical and emotional safety of a child.

Another concern during this time is health and wellness. Not only does Covid-19 present an unprecedented health concern itself, but the closing of doctor’s offices and other medical establishments means it may be harder for families to access care for other health issues.

  • Question 15 asks specifically about regular medical care and question 16 asks about regular dental care. These two questions can be followed up on by asking an open-ended question about medical needs and care during the past few months.

Finally, question 21 asks about whether a parent feels the program has tried to meet their family’s specific needs. Parent engagement, especially during the time of Covid-19, presents a unique opportunity for staff to understand how they have done at responding to the rapidly-changing needs of children and families during this time, as well as to push to understand how they can improve in this area.

Not only does the Parent Gauge tool allow staff to build relationships with families during normal times, it allows programs to adapt quickly during unprecedented times, like those we are all experiencing now. Parent Gauge brings critical information to programs, and additional focus on particular questions during the pandemic, as described above, can help programs identify and focus in on changes in family needs.


Parent Gauge is a web-based tool that measures parent experience and the impact of your program’s engagement efforts.

Related Content