Parent engagement in schools is defined as parents and school staff working together to support and improve the learning, development and health of children and adolescents.1 Parent engagement in schools is a shared responsibility in which schools are committed to reaching out to engage parents in meaningful ways, and parents are committed to actively supporting their children’s and adolescents’ learning and development.1
Studies have shown that parent engagement in schools can promote positive education and health behaviors among children and adolescents. Research shows a strong relationship between parent engagement and educational outcomes, including school attendance2 and higher grades and classroom test scores.3 Parent engagement in schools has also been identified as promising protective factors for adolescent sexual and reproductive health risk behaviors and outcomes, including ever had sex, early sexual debut, frequency of sex and pregnancy/birth.4,5 In addition, when students find their school environment to be supportive and caring and their parents engaged in their school lives, they are less likely to become involved in substance abuse, violence, and other problem behaviors 5,6 that are associated with HIV and STD risk.7,8
Framework for Increasing Parent Engagement
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that schools use the following framework to increase parent engagement in school health:1
- Connect with parents by building a positive relationship and communicating the school’s vision to work together with parents to guide children’s health and learning.
- Engage parents by providing a variety of activities and frequent occasions to fully involve parents including providing parenting support, increasing communicating with parents, creating volunteer opportunities, supporting learning at home, encouraging parents to be part of decision making in schools and collaborating with the community.
- Sustain parent engagement by addressing the common challenges to getting and keeping parents engaged such as scheduling conflicts, transportation, making parents feel welcome in the school and supporting teachers in building relationships with families.