Out-of-School Time programs, by their very nature, are well-suited to encourage parental engagement in the lives of youth. For starters, OST programs are able to serve not just youth but the entire family through parent and family-centered programming. Secondly, the staff of OST programs are often seen as more approachable by parents, who may be disconnected from the traditional school setting.
Here we have ideas and resources for parent and family programming that could be offered as on-going classes or as a one-time workshop depending on the needs of your community. However, implementing the success of programming relies heavily on positive, consistent communication. We have detailed information and resources on our corresponding Parent Outreach page which we highly suggest be reviewed in conjunction with this section.
Parent Engagement Ideas
English Language Classes
Computer and Technology Classes/workshops (Basics, Using Social Media, Etc)
Job Searching or Resume workshops
Parent Advisory Committees
Financial Literacy workshops
Workshops for helping parents navigate the schools
Workshops on common parenting challenges
Family Engagement Ideas
Family Cooking and Nutrition classes
Family Fitness classes
Mental Health Workshops
Special Events for the whole family are another great way to get families involved in a fun, approachable and accessible way.
Tips for Success
Many factors are at play when getting your parents and families to engage in programming.
The Right Programming: First, make sure the offerings are in demand by surveying the needs of your community. Consider the content, the "what" and also the format, the "when and where".
Alleviate Barriers: Once you know what type of programming to offer, when you can, alleviate barriers to participation such as holding programming a time convenient to parents, offering transportation and childcare. Additionally, consider language barriers in both your communication of the programming, but also accommodations during.
Sweeten the Deal: Incentivizing participation can also bolster your success such as offering food or having giveaways. For examples, you could raffle off prizes, ideally donated by from local business partners. Be sure to check with your organization or funders, especially in the case of grant-funded programming. Certain restrictions or policies may apply to what you are able to use certain funding for such as for food, incentives or child-care.
Spread the Word: Advertise through multiple communications and reminders.
In addition to programming and events, there are other ways to keep parents and families looped-in to what is happening in your program.
A Welcoming Environment: It’s much easier for parents to engage when they feel as though their child’s program is for the whole family. Signage directing parents to appropriate areas and bulletin boards or other areas showcasing what’s happening in your program can help parents feel welcome. A Parent resource center with relevant information could be another asset to making your parents feel comfortable and engaged.
Encourage Volunteering: Parent and family volunteers are a win-win. Not only are families engaged but also you are more supported truly fostering the sense that your program serves in partnership with parents.
Parent Handbooks: Parent Handbooks can be referenced by parents throughout the course of the program. They are a great way to clearly communicate policies and expectations such as inclement weather, holidays, behavior, fees (if included), dress codes, pick-up and drop-off procedures. This way there are no ambiguities on certain matters.