How Do You Achieve Successful Parent Communication?
Schools often complain – and wonder – if parents even pay attention to what the school is sending home. The short answer is – maybe not. But there are ways schools can strengthen the likelihood that parents do read and internalize them. The solution lies in better communication.
Principals do put in a lot of time and effort relating to communication methods. Get more fruit from your labor by ensuring these six things are present:
A study of 2,000 Americans by OnePoll showed that 80% of Americans see themselves as ‘creatures of habit’ and have set daily routines. Parents have routines to keep their family unit running properly and get all of the things done in a day. Having set routines for when parents receive information allows them to schedule time to read it each week. If the school sends out the weekly parent newsletter every Thursday morning, parents can set time at their lunch break or over dinner conversation to read the school communication. These routines create engagement, familiarity, trust, and internalization. Additionally, routines and repetition of messages within parent communication can build behaviors and mindsets, along with showing parents that it is important to the principal that the school is communicating regularly and frequently.
School leaders also require routines. Routines build accountability and time for school leaders to focus on sending out communication. Communication with parents is an essential element to a successful school, but proactive communication can fall down the “to-do” list of a principal fairly quickly. By setting protected time in your schedule for communication builds a routine, which allows parents to set time aside and truly hear what is being communicated.
2. Many People, Many Methods
People receive information best in different ways. The Pew Research Center found in one study that most adults use a wide variety of traditional and online sources when they are seeking news information. It’s not a surprise that parents do the same thing when seeking out information about the school. When sending out communication to families, send it in many ways (social media, website, paper copies, email, etc.) Some parents will only rely on one method, but many parents will benefit from seeing the communication sent out many times through different methods.
One interesting data point is from a recent Gallup poll that found, “sending and receiving text messages is the most prevalent form of communication for American adults under 50.” Make sure to add a “texting” method to your parent outreach. Check out Possip’s texting platform for one idea on how to do this!
3. Context Matters
To quote Teddy Roosevelt, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Parents won’t care about the information you put out unless they have context behind why it’s important and what that the school’s purpose of sending out communication is. Providing context for parents helps school leaders give a clear message and get parents support. When hosting events, give parents context on the event and why it is important for them to attend. Make sure to link parent communication to student learning and provide context around why certain initiatives are important for learning.
Another important time to provide context is around rationale to changes you are making at the school. A change may be made based on parent feedback or a need you see on campus. Give parents context around that so the communication has more clarity and purpose.
4. 3 Times In, 3 Times Out
How often are you thinking about or talking about a topic or event in your day-to-day? Communicate with that frequency to parents. Oftentimes, we think we have communicated about an idea or event because WE internally have. You may have talked about an event 10 times with your staff, created an agenda for the parent meeting, seen the planning work in action, or gotten sponsors lined up. All that has happened, but we send home one or two reminders about it to parents. We have internalized it but parents have not. As much as you think about the event, meeting, or thing to communicate, message it to parents that often.
5. Get Kids Fired Up
If you want parents to hear about an event, get students excited so that they help communicate at home. Having some kind of student reward or incentive for parents attending events is a fun way to do this. For example, the grade level that has the most parent participation gets a free dress day or a pizza party. When students are fired up about something, there is no holding back their excitement and ability to be home-to-school connectors!
One additional fun idea to get students excited is to have a “school news team” where students get to read over the weekly parent newsletter and make a news show about upcoming events, meetings, or important school happenings. This has two benefits because it can be posted on YouTube for parents and gets students excited about events.
6. Make the Personal Ask
Parents listen to people, not paper. Engaging parents in a personal conversation about those things you’re most focused on is important. The personal engagement doesn’t always have to come from the principal. It can come from a teacher, a fellow parent, etc. When parents feel they are personally valued and want to contribute or participate at school, it matters. Making the personal ask builds rapport, facilitates a deeper understanding of the importance of parent participation, and will increase the potential to have parents truly listen and hear your school’s message.