Teens and parents becoming engaged as a family

Beyond potlucks, family engagement through club involvement is important.

Beyond potlucks and picnics, consider how to involve parents in clubs and community groups. Family involvement during high school years continues to be optimum for student success. Out of school time, community and school organizations such as 4-H, provide opportunities for family engagement. Teen leadership, community service and other experiences through 4-H and out of school clubs often provide an arena for teens and families to engage.

The February 2013 Expanding Minds and Opportunities publication collected over 100 articles on out of school time and best practices. Family programming is addressed in multiple articles in the publication. Looking at family involvement for teens, it makes sense that when parents are involved, youth consistently experience positive academic and social outcomes.

So how can afterschool and community clubs create engaging and quality family programming? Ask! Yes, sometimes it is as simple as asking a parent to volunteer or help at an event. Michigan State University Extension recommends surveying or connecting with teens and parents to discover interests, desires and how they would like to be involved. Value the voices of both the teens or youth and the families. Establish a family council which includes parents and youth who reflect the club or community group. Create a family handbook which can also be a resource guide of talents. You might discover the quiet dad is a fiddler in an Irish band or a mom is an accountant for a local bank and has a repertoire of other community connections. Think about how your family programming can use social media to connect families, youth and club activities.

Moving forward, think about how your group can bundle activities together such as filling out college and financial aid applications. Providing resources to connect the parents and teens to future goals is just one way to build family involvement.

A parent who has had previous negative experiences as a volunteer may not be as eager to become involved. Financial concerns may also be an issue, such as fees and costs affiliated with volunteering may hold back entire families. Work schedule and transportation may also be family concerns. All families may not have computers or smart phones, so consider how you are going to connect or reach parents.

Involving families will help teens and parents interact as “people,” by expanding opportunities to discover new interests and create new traditions in their communities and in their families. Just like when the teens you work with were toddlers, it is vital for their academic and future success to be involved in activities which support their interests with the help and consideration of their family.

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