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Making the most of parent relationships
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Making the most of parent relationships

The research is pretty clear: Parent involvement in a child’s life delivers some impressive benefits. For pre-K through high school, student learning can be bolstered by active parent engagement. Attendance and behavior improve when parents are actively involved.

Even at the college level, emerging research shows parents are getting more involved. As their children’s financial supporters and trusted confidants, parents can play important roles in college life, influencing students on where to attend school, supporting their children in the transition to independence and addressing academic and health issues, alcohol use and more.

With so much to gain from parent involvement, we’ve pulled together a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing as you consider new ways to engage parents in their children’s education.

Parent Orientation
Just as students learn their way around a new school and meet their teachers, schools may also wish to hold a special orientation session for parents. But, students aren’t the only ones who want to learn more about you!

Let parents experience a typical day for their children. Show them where their children will spend their time, give them a taste for what they’ll be eating, and introduce them to the adults who will work closely with them. Explain your safety and security policies and outfit them with Reflective Lanyards and a ‘Parent ID’ to demonstrate the steps you take to secure your buildings.

Don’t miss the chance to collect key information from parents, such as contact information and preferred contact methods. End the orientation session by distributing logo’d Metro Lane Tumblers. Chances are, they’ll put them to good use while driving their children to school.

Communication Guide
Develop a communication go-to for families in your school. Hand it out and publish it on your website. Include the info parents want to know: key contacts, communication policies and expectations. Be clear about when you will contact parents and when parents should contact you. Help them understand that you are building a partnership between home and school – and that teachers can be more successful when parents are invested in their children’s education. Distribute the guide in a Recycled Translucent Window Folder and include your business card inside for any question that may arise.

Parent Center
Some colleges and universities are creating parent support centers, giving parents a designated contact on campus for questions and concerns. This office can also help bring parents into the academic sphere by engaging them as experts on panel discussions, links for fundraising, parent resource panels who can answer questions for other parents, or hometown hosts for open houses for prospective students.

If this is something your school is considering, researchers say it is important that staff in this office has the time and skills to answer parent questions, respond to needs and address concerns. Promote your school’s parent center by distributing logo’d Back-to-Back Photo Frames with your parent center contact information. Parents can add a photo of their child and have contact info handy should they need it.

Parent Assignments
For K-12 students, parents can play a critical role in helping their kids learn. However, most don’t have the benefit of formal training in educational pedagogies. How can you help engage them in the learning?  The National Center for School, Family and Community Partnerships at Johns Hopkins University encourages educators to make family members a part of the lesson! The idea: Develop lesson plans that require students to interview members of their family for assignments related to classroom work. The assignment makes learning more family-specific and relatable. It also helps parents better understand what their children are learning at school.

Just like alumni, parents can be important resources in helping schools (and students) succeed. Get creative as you find new ways to engage them as your partner in the learning process. Good luck!

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