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What could be more powerful for parents than being provided with information, skills, resources and tools to support them as a family unit and educators for their children?

Educational programmes or sessions for parents to enhance their knowledge and strategies so that they can contribute to their children’s wellbeing are being offered as parent workshops by schools, community centres, libraries or other institutions with a focus on family support.

If you are a parent, have you ever attended any seminars, group discussions, hands-on activities or guest speaker sessions at all? Or has the school where you work or your child goes ever organised any of those yet? Were they well received and attended? Any parent workshops can be valuable opportunities for parents to connect with each other and share experiences or challenges.

Why are parent workshops important?

Parent workshops are not only crucial for building supportive communities and strengthening the bond between educators and families, but also for promoting positive parenting practices such as fostering positive parent-child relationships. If parents are well equipped with the knowledge and tools on how to support their children in school and how to navigate the complexities of parenting, then their children are far more likely to be successful and achieve well in school and at home. Henderson and Mapp (2002) state that ‘regardless of family income or background, students whose parents are involved in their schooling are more likely to have higher grades and test scores, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behaviour, and adapt well to school.’

Parent workshops might provide:

  • Valuable information and practical strategies to enhance parenting skills.
  • Age-appropriate guidance to enable a better understanding of a child's cognitive, linguistic and emotional behaviour.
  • An open and supportive communication between parents and children.
  • A cultural understanding to foster an inclusive environment for families with diverse cultural backgrounds.
  • Community building through sharing the same experiences and challenges.
  • Crucial skills for parents to navigate modern life challenges such as social media, mental health and wellbeing.
  • Information on how to identify and recognise early signs of social, academic or emotional challenges in children.

According to National PTA (2000) ‘The most accurate predictors of student achievement in school are not family income or social status, but the extent to which the family creates a home environment that encourages learning, communicates high yet reasonable expectations for the child’s achievement, and becomes involved in the child’s education at school.’

How to organise parent workshops?

Organising parent workshops that are informative, engaging and responsive to the needs of the community might require considerable planning, communication, effort and skills. Henderson and Berla (1995) argue that ‘When parents are involved at school, the performance of all the children at school, not just their own, tends to improve. The more comprehensive and well planned the partnership between school and home, the higher the student achievement.’

Following these simple steps might alleviate some potential difficulties when organising parent workshops:

  • Identify the topic or the area of special interest or concern for parents through surveys or meetings.
  • Define the objective of the workshop and outline expected outcomes.
  • Set the date and time and consider different time slots to cater for busy work schedules.
  • Find a suitable location that has the necessary facilities for seating, displaying audio-visual equipment etc.
  • Consider any relevant cost that might be incurred.
  • Outline the schedule for the workshop.
  • Secure knowledgeable and engaging presenters or facilitators.
  • Promote the workshop on the school’s notice board, in the newsletter, on the school’s website and other leaflets.
  • Provide a registration list to gather attendance and contact information as well as handouts.
  • Collect feedback from participants and follow up with emails and additional information.
  • Evaluate the success of the workshop.

Overcoming language barriers at parent workshops

Many schools strive to create more inclusive and accessible workshops for families of diverse language backgrounds who do not speak the language of instruction in the school. Overcoming these language barriers is essential to ensure that all parents and carers participate actively and benefit from the information shared.

Providing multilingual materials and presentations in multiple languages accommodates diverse linguistic needs. Some schools hire professional interpreters to provide real-time translation; and, why not even recruit language volunteers from the parent community or the staff to offer language assistance and facilitate communication? Using interactive and visual content helps convey important messages without a language barrier. Parents who speak the same language can be grouped together to discuss matters and learn from each other even if the main presentation is in another language. Interpreted presentations can be recorded and then shared with families so they can access them at a later date. Most importantly, schools and institutions should be aware of any cultural nuances and differences in communication styles in order to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for families and carers.

References:

Henderson, A.T., and K.L. Mapp. 2002. A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement. National Centre for Family and Community Connections with Schools, Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.

Henderson, A.T., and Nancy Berla. 1995. A New Generation of Evidence: The Family Is Critical to Student Achievement. Washington, DC: Center for Law and Education, 14–16.

National PTA. 2000. Building Successful Partnerships: A Guide for Developing Parent and Family Involvement Programs. Bloomington, Indiana: National Education Service, 11–12.

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