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. Check out these ideas for encouraging parents to be more actively involved in the healthy habits of students.
3 Ways Educators Can Encourage Parents to Support Student Health at Home
“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
Start 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
- Provide health topics homework that requires parent-child discussion.
- Include assignments where kids are asked to shop for healthy foods or cook dinner with their parents/guardians.
- Encourage parents to make family time active by issuing a one week family activity challenge, or encourage kids to teach their families sport skills or active games.
More Tips for Family Engagement: Student Health Habits
This is just the tip of the iceberg. 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.
If you’re looking for more activities, ideas, and inspiration for encouraging healthy student habits, check out the Healthy Students category.