Family Engagement 5 is the last in a five-part series. Links to the previous segments are below.
Given what we know about the barriers and facilitators of family engagement related to sex education, schools can focus on two main efforts:
- Provide parent materials that address the barriers to parental engagement and encourage parent-child communication at home.
- Increase school and teacher confidence to communicate with parents about sex education.
By using strategies that address these two main goals, the home-school partnership that supports and protects students can be strengthened.
Strategies to Provide Parent Materials
- Lose-dose, self-directed delivery of information to parents can be effective. Send information in multiple formats, multiple times, in clear language that is at a grade 6 reading level.
- Prepare and deliver comprehensive sex education courses for parents. These can run in parallel to the school-based sex education for students. Remember: Many adults did not get a good sex education, so they lack confidence in their knowledge.
- Develop question and answer materials for parents to model how to support them in delivering accurate and rights-based information to their children.
- Provide fact sheets about sex education and relationships that are developmentally appropriate beginning in the lowest grades and continuing to graduation. Inform parents about what students need at each age, to help them navigate their development into sexually healthy adults.
- Create short videos on relevant topics for parents who want to talk to their children about bodies, puberty, relationships, consent, and sexual behaviors. These can model how to use teachable moments to begin a conversation.
- Create a sex education lending library for parents. Include books written for parents as well as books written for students. Feature a new title each month and encourage parents to check them out to read themselves or with their children.
- Point parents to a self-paced, online class for parents, such as “Preparing Parents for Puberty.”
- Publicize trusted, quality sex education websites for parents to visit as they wish. For an example, visit “How to Teach Puberty Education at Home,” a series for parents who want to teach their children about puberty.
Strategies to Increase School and Teacher Communication
- Establish positive parent-teacher relationships at the beginning of each school year. Identify how communications will happen and be consistent. Communicate positive news more often than negative news.
- Share information via a variety of methods: in-person meetings, conferences, texts, emails, websites, parent portals, open houses, written materials, and phone calls.
- Adopt sex education curricula that include family engagement materials and strategies. Visit Puberty: The Wonder Years to see how families are engaged in puberty education.
- Assign a contact person for parents and caregivers who have questions or concerns about the school sex education program. Notify parents how to reach the contact person with questions or concerns. Equip the contact person with the information and training to respond effectively to concerns and controversy.
- Implement a careful process for notifying parents about the sex education instruction prior to implementation each year. Include information about the content of the lessons, parents’ rights, and the option of removing their child from instruction at their discretion.
- Insert succinct and useful information about sex education in each newsletter that goes home with students.
- Make a presentation to the parent-teacher association at the school. Overview the school’s sex education program followed by a question-and-answer time.
- Invite students to interview their parent or other trusted adult about their values related to sexuality and relationships as part of their homework assignments. Require an adult signature to indicate the assignment was done. However, be sure to maintain family privacy by not requiring them to report what is discussed, only that they had a conversation together.
- Conduct a home visit prior to the annual sex education lessons. Talk with parents about any questions they may have.
- Implement comprehensive sex education sessions for families to encourage intergenerational dialogues.
- Hold a panel discussion with representatives from local agencies that can provide information, services, and health care for sexual health.
- Conduct and parent/guardian survey to identify what they want taught to students in each grade. This can guide program planning and improvement.
- Make a presentation to the school board about the results of the parent/guardian survey and the school’s sex education program. This will build support for the program.
These strategies and more can address the barriers to developing the home-school partnership that will support and protect students as they learn and grow into adulthood. These additional resources can help educate parents about sexuality and provide more family engagement tips. All the time and effort committed to family engagement will result in positive outcomes for students. After all, safe and healthy children are central to our goals!
Articles on Family Engagement:
- Puberty Tips for Parents, Puberty: The Wonder Years
- Family and Community Engagement, US DOE
- Best Practices for Family Engagement in Sex Education Implementation, WISE Toolkit
- Engaging Parents, UNESCO CSE Implementation Toolkit
- Promoting Parent Engagement in Schools to Prevent HIV and Other STDs Amon Teens, CDC
Resources for Parent Sex Education:
- The Sexuality Wheel, Teaching Sexual Health
- The Circles of Sexuality, Dr. Dennis Dailey
- Answers to the question, “What is sex education?”
Be sure to read the other segments of this series:
- Family Engagement 1: What Parents and Teachers Want
- Family Engagement 2: Common Clash Points
- Family Engagement 3: Benefits of Family Engagement
- Family Engagement 4: Barriers and Facilitators of Family Engagement
- Family Engagement 5: Strategies for Family Engagement
- 6 Tips for Establishing a Positive Parent Teacher Relationship
- Establishing Healthy Parent-Teacher Relationships for Early Learning Success
- Parent-Teacher Communication: Strategies for Effective Parent Inclusion & Engagement
- Ways to Build Trust Between Parents & Teachers
- Tips for Avoiding Parent-Teacher Conflict