Getting Parents to Attend Your Next Head Start Parent Meeting
One of the most lively discussions this week on The Gravely Group Head Start LinkedIn group was ignited by a seemingly short, simple question. A question I’m sure many in Head Start have asked before…
At my head start we have been given us the task of coming up with some type of program etc to entice our parents to attend the parent meeting. Any ideas? Very low turn-outs.
Here at The Gravely Group, we talk a lot about Parent Involvement. In fact, it’s one of our three building blocks to The Secret to Head Start Success. We all know that getting parents involved is hugely important in the long-term. However, we often struggle with getting parents to that very first meeting.
In the week since the original question was posted, there have been 26 comments with a lot of great advice. I’d like to compile some of the most common tips for breaking the ice with parents and encouraging their first step into the door.
The most common answer by far was providing food at the meeting. One participant simply wrote, “Food. Food is the answer.” Time and time again, this strategy has tested true. “Feed them and they will come,” writes another poster. However, keep in mind that while providing food may get foot traffic, your ultimate goal should be to start building a relationship once they are there. Most people don’t feel comfortable in a room full of strangers. Have a specific plan to make them feel welcome.
Transportation & Child Care
Often, simple logistics can get in the way of a parent attending a meeting. While this requires more planning than just providing food, the benefit is that you may be able to get parents who are interested in volunteering, but who are unable to attend because of transportation or child care concerns.
As we know, parents have real day-to-day concerns when raising their children. Ask them what they’d like to learn about. For example, how to get a child to bed on time? How to balance work and family? How to deal with misbehavior? By providing speakers on topics that are relevant to them, it will make the session much more interesting and productive.
Empower the Parents
By including parents in the decision-making process, you form a true partnership with parents and families. Everyone wants to feel like they are a part of something important and meaningful. Parents will be much more engaged if they feel they have a voice.
Don’t forget to have fun! Many of the people involved in the discussion mentioned that some of their most-meaningful breakthroughs with parents happened in a less formal venue like a local park. Or maybe the children could do a little performance for the parents, as one participant suggested. It doesn’t matter who you are – children, adults, parents, or teachers. Everyone likes to have fun.
I’d love to hear your comments below! What are you doing in your program to encourage parents to attend the next meeting or event?