Empowering Parents

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While Family Program staff members can provide teachers and schools with educational material on deployment issues, the parent can work closely with the school in a two-way dialogue to help their child manage and cope effectively with feelings that may emerge in the school environment. Parents should reach out to provide more detailed information on their child’s specific behaviors, needs, and progress—but they may need Family Program staff to empower and encourage them to make connections in the school environment.

Encourage parents to maintain regular contact with teachers or counselors.

Research shows that children do better in school when their parents communicate with teachers and become active in the school community. Parents should be encouraged to communicate with school personnel because they are the best source of information and personal insight on their child. Every child handles stressful circumstances differently, and direct communication between school personnel and a parent can make a child’s experience easier.

Parents can build on the outreach efforts that Family Program staff have already initiated by working with the school in a two-way dialogue to help children manage their feelings and behaviors. Parents can let schools know what is going on at home; and if a problem is occurring on school grounds (e.g., bullying), the parent needs to know about it from the school.

Empower parents to promote school involvement.

Sometimes parents may need a “push” to get involved with the school. As a Family Program staff member, you can only advocate so much; however, you can empower parents who may not otherwise feel they have the authority or confidence to get involved.

Here are some techniques that a Family Program staff member can use to empower parents:

  • When a child does well in school or shows improvement, compliment the parent. How did they get that to happen? What does that say about them as parents?
  • Seek out parents’ advice. Have them teach a provider—and, in turn, a teacher—about their child.
  • For families at their wits’ end, ask, “What keeps you going? How have you managed to not throw in the towel?” The most important key to success is to engender hope; it means that change is possible.
  • Build confidence by reminding them that they have the resources and strengths to be effective with (and for) their children.

Parents can get involved by joining committees, joining school/district planning teams, or volunteering (e.g., as a lunchroom monitor, tutor, library aid, classroom speaker on a topic of interest, concession worker at school events). Parents can also look through school newsletters and visit the school’s website for other opportunities.

Promote frequent parent-teacher communication.

It will be important for the parent to have an open dialogue with school personnel about specific issues related to his/her child. Though some elements of a child’s growth and learning are primarily the school’s responsibility and others are the parents’, there are many areas in which responsibilities overlap. It is in this “gray area” that effective parent-teacher communication becomes important.

The following tips can be passed on to parents to help them build effective communication with teachers:

  • Be a partner with the teacher. Remember that you have just as much—and in most cases, much more—knowledge about your child than they do.
  • Get comfortable within the school. Chat with the teacher, join an activity or program for parents at the school (e.g., committees, PTO/PTA), and talk to people like volunteers or office administrators who spend time in the school.
  • Feel free to make the first contact with the teacher. Don’t feel compelled to wait to communicate until parent-teacher conferences come around.
  • Communicate often. You can arrange face-to-face meetings, make phone calls, and send notes or emails. Discuss with the teacher what problems need to be monitored—and be specific. Communicate weekly or daily, depending on the severity of issues or a child’s difficulties, and be consistent.
Click to open interactivity Pass a journal back and forth to track a student’s behavior patterns.

Pass a journal back and forth to track a student’s behavior patterns.

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