Involving parents in your school counseling program and in the school in general can often get overlooked. I remember the story of a principal who had a student absentee problem. When she dug deeper, she realized that students were missing school because they didn't have clean uniforms. So, she at her parent nights, she had a local laundromat wash uniforms. She also provided babysitting services during the event. These Confident Counselors have some more creative ideas to get parents involved and comfortable in their school community.
No pressure book clubs
I love no pressure book clubs! I work with my PTA to purchase books that will eventually live in the library for check out. I encourage parents to read the book but I also provide a short summary each book club meeting so that parents can participate even if they don’t have time to read the book. One of my favorites is The Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.
Create a safe space with needed events
I’ve found the best way to engage parents is to get them into the school and show them that school is a positive and safe place to be. My most reluctant parents are the ones who did not have the most positive school experiences, so it’s important to let them know that it’s not the same for their child.
I try to do this by offering programs that can help. Our Clothing Swaps really helped. We asked for donations starting 2 months before the event and then started to sort by size and type (e.g., pants, skirts, shirts, outerwear) so it was easy to display the night of the big event. When advertising, I made sure to emphasize how swapping clothes was good for the environment and I invited families who were needing of clothes as well as who did not. I also employed student helpers to work as personal shopping assistants.
We worked hard to break the stigma of the event being solely for people with need and truly made it a community event. It was great to see everyone getting along, picking out clothes and “shopping” and it really helped to show parents how hard we worked to make everyone feel included.
Make Monthly Newsletters Personal
Sending out monthly newsletters that are personal! The other day I needed to call a parent and when I said who was calling she replied “oh you send out all that information with the pictures of the dogs!” Sometimes I wonder if parents really read my newsletters, but this gave me hope. In each newsletter I try to include: what we are doing in class, discipline tips, important dates, book recommendations, and of course pictures of my dogs. 🙂
Keep Them In The Loop
The best way I have found to engage parents is to keep them informed about the skills I am working on with students. We use Class Dojo school-wide, so about 85% of our parents are connected on the platform. Each time I present a classroom lesson, I take a quick photo of lesson materials and write a description about the skills we worked on in the lesson. I post the photo and description on the teacher’s Class Dojo Story page. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from parents about these posts!
Another easy way that I engage parents is by providing them with easy tools they can use at home. During parent-teacher conferences, I set up a table in the main hallway and provide helpful resources that parents can take to utilize at home. A favorite resource that I share with parents is a list of 25 Ways to Ask a Child: How Was Your Day?
Share in the comments how you get parents engaged!