How to Get Parents On Board with Healthy Changes

September 19, 2013

iStock_000012076767XSmall“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Getting parents on board with healthy changes at school is a frequent question at our workshops across the country. There’s no single best answer, but as a leader of healthy change for kids, there are a few best practices you can begin using today…

  • Start where you are…with yourself, with a friend or colleague, or with the school wellness team. Is there at least one “health champion” parent who stands out in the community, who might also serve as a kids’ health advocate in the schools? Do you know which parents are most supportive of other school activities? Or maybe you are that parent, reading this, and wondering where exactly YOU can start to help create healthy change in your school or organization…read on.
  • Start the conversation…about the health-academic achievement connection. You already know studies show kids who make healthy eating and activity choices perform better in school than those who do not. But do parents understand that connection? Show how important it is to your school or organization, through ongoing communication in multiple ways:
    • Provide verbal and face-to-face communications
      • Talk about one healthy change at a time with parents during parent-teacher conferences, school events, and in school media on local access television or radio.
    • Promote written communications
      • School and classroom newsletters, emails, and web sites can easily include a healthy tip or action ideas for parents to use at home with the whole family.
      • Signs, door banners, bulletin boards, classroom artwork supporting healthy messaging.
    • Establish open lines of communication
      • Parents need to know that their comments and suggestions about health and well-being of their children matter.
      • Appoint someone to serve the role of “parent liaison”. This person would be in charge of two-way communication-receiving parent suggestions and following up on the suggestions in a timely manner. It could simply start with phone calls and email to route parent suggestions to appropriate school personnel; and progress to suggestion boxes, parent surveys, and focus groups.
  • Incorporate the healthy change into homework

This is just the tip of the iceberg, friends! Because every school/organization is unique, strategies to get parents on board with school health must be unique as well. Parents get involved when they believe their actions may improve their kid’s learning and well-being. For many, the barriers to getting involved overshadow their desire or ability to support school health in the first place. Barriers like schedule conflicts, lack of transportation, lack of child care, and language barriers, just to name a few. While we can’t cover all these in one blog post, what we can do is direct you to online resources for further information, beginning with updated resources and tips on the HKC Connect with Community and Family page.

In addition, if you are an administrator, educator, or youth leader check out CDC’s Parent Engagement Strategies, the National Center for Family and Community Engagement with Schools, or National Network of Partnership Schools. The Harvard Family Research Project also has the Family Involvement Network of Educators or various family involvement resources and publications.

If you are a parent wanting to create or support healthy changes at school, Parents for Healthy Kids and Rudd ‘Roots Parents are great places to start.

We would love to hear the unique ways that work for your school or organization to get parents on board!

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