I think schools and sports clubs have done an amazing job of getting their curriculums online to motivate children to stay engaged with their sporting and learning development. You’ve also been dealing with a vast quantity of emails and phone calls from anxious parents. Schools and sports clubs are definitely not shut!
In this great juggle, it is important that we don’t lose sight of connecting with our parents in meaningful ways because they’re your workforce at home during this shutdown.
We all want better outcomes for our children and young people at this time and this requires increasing the contact we have with parents.
In order to see gold star parent engagement within this first month of the Covid-19 shutdown, I would suggest you would do well to be doing three things in the week leading up to the Easter holidays before people start to move into holiday mode.
The first thing to do is send out a questionnaire to parents to find out how they’re feeling about things right now. During this time we desperately want the kids that we serve to be the best version of themselves throughout this whole ugly pandemic. A questionnaire will give you the knowledge to better understand what’s working and where the tweaks need to come after Easter.
I know asking the parents is a risk, but the fruit of asking parents far outweighs this.
The questionnaire will give you an insight as to how your staff are communicating with the children and the impact that communication is having on your students. It’ll also highlight where parents are struggling and where the gaps may be. It is going to allow you to eavesdrop on views which are only spoken in parent WhatsApp groups.
It only takes one member of staff half an hour to set up a questionnaire using free Google Forms or SurveyMonkey and another couple of hours analysing the results. There is a list of potential questions below for you to adapt and edit.
Parents Online Assembly
The second thing to do towards the end of next week is to have an online parents meeting. I know you are pulling extra shifts to get everything online so that your kids can keep engaging in your programs but giving parents the ‘hug’ of a meeting at this point is going to help you in the long term. Holding a large group Zoom call to allow the parents to see and hear from you is a massive win as they’re feeling very disconnected and as though they lack full understanding of how to support their kids.
An online parents meeting will give you the opportunity to reassure the parents that any feelings of uncertainty or anxiety are completely normal and that it’s natural for them to have questions during this time. By giving parents this virtual support you’re recognising that for many, this is a time where they’re having to juggle lots of responsibilities and facing financial uncertainty. You can talk about your expectations of parents at this time, as well as address the main themes which come out in your parent questionnaire. As you look at those themes be encouraging and supportive. It will also be an opportunity to express some of the ways you are going to be changing following the feedback from the parents’ questionnaire. Nobody is getting it 100% right at this time and the meeting would be a great place to humbly explain how you are going to grow in this uncharted world after Easter. You might want to open the meeting up for questions – if you do, keep it short and snappy, and make sure the person who chairs the meeting is good at talking to parents.
Lastly, put a date in the diary now for a high-quality parent webinar in the first couple of weeks of next term. Why do you need to do this? Right now this new world is novel, it’s frustrating and it’s causing anxiety, but if the models are all to be believed in the next three to six weeks it’s going to get worse. At the start of the next term (or when next term should have started), parents are going to be really feeling the tension at home. Anxiety levels are going to be higher, the challenge of keeping children engaged will increase and this horrible bug is going to start to affect households. Most people are going to know someone who has been seriously ill with it. This is the time when parents are going to need your support the most and so putting on a parenting webinar will be a lifeline for many.
In hosting a webinar filled with high-quality content, you will be helping parents navigate the challenges that come with children who have been locked in for a month, helping parents feel normal about all the emotional challenges they’re experiencing. Giving that level of support to parents will directly and positively impact the young people in your care.
I know it’s not easy. I know your workload is massive and some parent bodies are hard work.
However, by implementing these things you will be supporting your parent body, which ultimately means you’re getting better outcomes for your young people during this time.
If you have any questions on how to make these work or if you would like to join the growing list of organisations using me to deliver parent webinars in this challenging time, please do get in touch.
Potential questions for parents:
[Don’t use them all, 6-8 questions in total are all you need]
What have been the challenges of these first few weeks for you as a family?
This is a terrible pandemic, but what have been the opportunities for you as a family at this time?
Parents, what are your concerns about the coming months?
How helpful do you perceive the feedback is for to you child on their progress during in shut down?
How easy has it been to motivate your child to:
- Do school work?
- Engage in staying active?
How many hours of school work is realistic in your home during shut down?
What could [inset your institution name] do to best support you as a family in the coming weeks?
Please ask your child(ren):
What do you miss about attending [inset your institution name]?
What are the challenges of staying active at home?
What are the challenges of staying engaged in learning at home?
What can your parents do to best help you in this shutdown time?
What has been the most enjoyable way to connect with people from [inset your institution name] over the last few weeks?
How have you found doing schoolwork at home?
How has the feedback on your progress been in shut down?
Do you have any questions for the staff at [inset your institution name] this time?