As counselors, we know that parent engagement and involvement is important. We also know that it can be tricky to find ways to get parents involved in their child’s social-emotional learning. One way to help bridge this gap is by hosting a social-emotional learning family night. I have found that hosting a night like this is a great way to get students and their families excited about social-emotional learning topics. Another thing that makes a night like this powerful is that you can tailor the night to meet the specific needs of your school. Regardless of the topic and activities you choose, here are some tips to help you out!
What To Do Before a Family Night
Pick a Topic
This is a great chance to advocate for social-emotional learning and to encourage SEL at home. Some examples of topics are Mindfulness, Coping Skills, Bullying Prevention or Friendship. If you have a character education theme of the month or year at your school, you could do a family night focused on that theme.
Pick a Date
When choosing a date, you will want to make sure that you consider other school events such as concerts and sports.
Just like most things in education, collaboration is key! I have found it to be very helpful to work with the administration and the PTA to make the event a success. My administration has been helpful in advertising for the event, and the PTA has donated materials and sent volunteers to come to help the night of the event.
Make sure you get the word out! This can be done in many ways – sending an e-mail to parents, sending home a flyer, posting flyers around the school, mentioning it to the parents you see or work with, and even using the sign in front of the school to remind families that the event is coming up.
If you are able to provide incentives for families to come – such as dinner provided, something free for them to take home, etc., make sure you let them know!
The Set-Up of the Event
If desired, you can start or end the night with a brief presentation about the topic. This can help set the stage for what they are learning about. This can be a PowerPoint presentation or even just an informal talk that you give.
During the event, I have found success with having stations that the families travel through together. The stations can have different information or activities to help families learn about, and practice, the topic you are covering. It works best when these are interactive and are something the families can participate in together. Letting families travel through the stations at their own pace, and in no particular order, is a great way to keep the flow going and to make sure the families are engaged at all times.
Ideas include sorting activities, a snack, an art station, a reading station, etc. It can also be a great idea to involve any organizations that relate to your theme, such as the local library, a community involvement organization, etc.
You can provide written instructions at each station, but it is also nice to have someone volunteering at the station to help families know what to do. This can be a PTA member, a staff member, or a volunteer. If you know older students looking for volunteer hours, this can be a great opportunity!
After the Event
One way to gauge how your event went is to have a short survey available that parents can fill out. This can be just a few short questions that won’t take long to answer.
If you have the funds available, it is great to give the families something to take home to further enforce the SEL topic you have chosen. Examples include friendship bracelets, a book, or a poster to hang on the refrigerator. Doing this can set the parents up for success as they try to support their students’ social-emotional learning at home.
Follow up with the kids who were at the event. During the week after the event, follow up with any students you see who were there. This can be a quick question in the hallway of what they enjoyed from the event, or asking how they are practicing the topic at home.
The great thing about these social-emotional learning nights is that you are giving the families an opportunity to spend time together while learning about a valuable topic. Taking time and effort to plan this event also communicates to the parents, staff, and students that social-emotional learning is important.
If you like the idea of hosting a night like this, but don’t have the time to plan and organize it all, I have materials for a family mindfulness night in my TPT store. This mindfulness night has been the most successful family event, but I would love to hear which events have worked best for you! Drop a comment below and let me know.