Mobilizing Parents and Caregivers

Our Bullying Prevention and Equity and Inclusion modules emphasized the importance of aiming efforts for change at the whole school. Such pervasive and far reaching change requires the involvement of all school community member groups (students, staff, parents and caregivers), engaged in a consultative, well-planned, conscious and transparent long-term process. When all members feel welcome and encouraged to participate meaningfully, and the whole school community is mobilized, it can lead to the development of a school culture that respects differences and embraces diversity through promoting equity and inclusion.

Full inclusion of parents and caregivers in all their diversity is a lofty goal. Many systemic, circumstantial and internal barriers impede their ability to participate in school-wide efforts to build a safe and inclusive school culture. (See Understanding Parents and caregivers.) This can result in the all too common phenomenon where a small number of skilled and self-confident parents and caregivers are actively involved, while the vast majority are absent and uninvolved.

There are no “magic bullets” that can guarantee positive results. School communities are as diverse as our society itself, and schools represent one small segment of parents’ and caregivers’ complex lives. Teachers as part of a team of school staff members can work in a myriad of ways toward creating a climate of trust and openness with their students’ parents and caregivers.

Through multiple actions and interactions schools can cumulatively instil the widespread belief that parents and caregivers have the school’s support and that the school is working with them, not against them, toward a common goal. Even at the secondary level, where schools aim to help develop students’ autonomy, building trust and facilitating communication with parents and caregivers in order to involve them in developing a safe and inclusive school culture remain critical. This is a staged process that will be long and slow with inevitable setbacks and challenges. Persistence is key to gradual and meaningful long-term change.

Preliminary efforts aimed at exposing the problem, arousing parents’ and caregivers’ concern and motivating them to become involved are most effective when they arise from and lead to a spirit and practice of collaboration and a healthy partnership. Diversity in values can be a strength when schools succeed in identifying and highlighting those universal and human values that resonate for most if not all families, cultures and communities. Finding and conveying this common ground can increase the likelihood that parents and caregivers will embrace and participate in propagating the school’s culture and values.

This broad vision can be brought to life through a wide range of simple, everyday actions, interactions and practices that emanate from the values and goals discussed in this module. (See Healthy Communication and Strategies for Positive Action.)