Parent buy-in for counseling services can be challenging in many communities. Some parents comes with preconceived ideas about counseling and what school counselors do. Our roles and the mental health field are constantly changing and it is our job to educate our school community about what it is we do and how we can help. Let's see how three Confident Counselors get parents to support and buy-in to counseling services.
Explain it as a health need
Everyone that we work with (i.e., teachers, kids, parents) has been shaped by their previous experiences, cultural beliefs and norms. This may cause some families to be resistant to counseling services. One of the concepts that I always make sure I talk about is the parallel between mental health and physical health.
I explain that similar to a child needing a tool to help with a physical health need (e.g., glasses, a wheelchair), there are tools that their child may need to ensure that they have success socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. Allowing their child to have access to these tools (counseling, therapy, medication), may be exactly what the child needs to excel! I have found that explaining it in this way can help to break down the stigma around mental health.
Talk to families at Open House
Back to school night is a great time to display pictures, literature and data that show the effectiveness of your program. Sometimes parents need to visualize the scope of services that you provide and see that you have a data based program that yields results.
Set up a table with a tri-fold display to showcase pictures of events that you have hosted in years past. If you can, include colorful data charts that show clear academic growth from your programs. Include business cards, ASCA standards, an about me page, volunteer sign up sheets, a tip sheet with advice for parents and helpful flyers that you may have collected from mailings and conferences. Having tangible resources to take home will remind parents that you are a valuable source of support.
If you are short on time, I have a ready to print display kit with an editable "meet the counselor" brochure and display board images. If you really want to jazz it up, leave out a handful of social emotional coloring brochures to show the range of topics that you support. Parents can take them if they have a specific concern and are wanting to support their student at home as well.
Communicate about Your Services
Throughout the school year, I look for opportunities to communicate with families about my school counseling services. These opportunities allow me to educate parents about what I do as a counselor, which increases buy-in. Here are a few communication methods I use:
- Send out a fall newsletter with helpful tips for the back-to-school season and info about counseling programming.
- Create a "Meet the Counselor" brochure to give to all new families.
- Take a photo each time I do a classroom lesson and write a caption explaining the content of the lesson. Post the image and caption on the teacher's Class Dojo page.
- Create a school counseling Weebly website with information about my counseling programming and links to free resources for families.
- Use our school Twitter account to send out Tweets about school-wide programming.
- Create a display at Open House and Parent-Teacher Conferences. Have free resources available at the display for parents to grab. Hang out at the display, when available, to answer questions.
- Send out a Sign-Up Genius form before Parent-Teacher Conferences to allow families to sign up for a time slot to talk with me.
- Send out a newsletter in November to highlight ways the school can help during the winter months (ex: food pantries, clothing closets, holiday help, free medical care, etc.)
How do you help parents buy in to counseling services at your school? Share in the comments below!
Need more ideas? Check out this post on Creative Ways You Can Involve Parents