I was reading Brian Berry’s post on a recent parent summit they did at their church in San Diego. It was a training day to help explain the vision of the work, look at their values, and evaluate the impact of what they are doing (visit his blog for more info and ideas). Here in Littlehampton we recently held our very first “Parents Evening” to start to get feedback on how things are going amongst our children’s and youth work. It was a good start, but it’s clear we need to get better at communicating with parents and other ‘stakeholders’ about what we’re doing and get some more support!
That experience made me realise that youth workers don’t do much to engage with parents. Of course there is always a bit of contact with parents, but it is normally just to get forms signed, to explain an upcoming trip, or possibly when their kid’s behaviour has been awful! In church settings there may be slightly more crossover because the worker (or team) will see the families in another context (perhaps the Sunday service). Overall though, youth workers don’t have much to do with parents.
On one level, I understand it. The workers are often highly skilled people, specialists in dealing with and relating to teens. To develop links with the wider families could compromise the trusting relationship with a young person. “Will the worker talk to mum about that?” might be a valid concern for some young people. It’s also likely that the workers really don’t have the time to invest in the rest of the family.
However, the more I think about it, the more I believe that workers should engage with parents far more in both church and community settings. The benefits far outweigh the difficulties. Through years of running activities in a community setting, I found talking with parents was an incredibly useful exercise; I would get feedback and comments on the group, I would hear about wider issues affecting the family that informed the work I was doing with the young person, and our project and team became far more known and trusted as a result.
There are a number of ways to get more involved with parents. How about getting parent representatives on a management committee, or volunteering? Why not do like Brian has done above and host regular opportunities for parents to feedback and learn about the work? Perhaps you could even do home visits to families every so often!
So what about you? Do you do much work with parents and families? What form does it take and how does it work? Let us know in the comments!