Parents, grandparents, and other family members are assets to the 4-H program. One of the best things about 4-H is that it promotes (and welcomes) family engagement! And there are benefits of family involvement- Duerden et al. (2013) found when adults were involved in youth programs, it strengthen family relationships and improved parent-child communication and bonding. Family involvement is a win-win-win for youth, adults and volunteers!
Make them Feel Welcome– Just like you would do for youth, make adults and other family members feel welcome!
- Encourage them to participate in get to know you games, or introduce them to other adults associated with the club.
- A parent meeting at the beginning of the club year is a great idea to help new parents feel like part of the group.
Communicate Clearly– Communicating with parents is essential. In fact, in a survey of new 4-H families in Florida, communication with the club leader was a major factor in whether or not the families returned to the program the following year (Hensley, 2020). Try these strategies to build strong communication with families.
- Set up clear lines of communication with parents by asking them how they prefer to receive communication. Some clubs use social media, texting apps (like GroupMe or Remind), or email. Find a method that works for your 4-H families.
- Make sure the club schedule works for everyone and that the location is accessible for all.
- Give each family a copy of the club program calendar, and ask another parent or club officer to send out reminders before meetings.
Help them Learn 4-H– 4-H is a large organization and has something for everyone, which is great! But it can also be a little overwhelming when you are new to the program.
- Explain the club cycle, such as when things normally occur during the year (service projects, fundraisers, competitions, awards programs, camp). That way, they can plan ahead and set goals for engagement.
- Ask a seasoned 4-H family to mentor a new 4-H family. This can help them learn about the program, and identify things that their children will want to participate in.
Discover their Skills, Knowledge & Interests– New 4-H families may think that they need special training or experience to contribute to the club. As a volunteer, let them know that we all “learn by doing” and everyone has something to contribute!
- Use the parent interest survey to find out how the adults might be willing to serve.
Identify Tasks and Make the Ask–
- Make a list of things that you need help with, then write each item on an index card (one item per card). Ask each family to select one or two items they are willing to be responsible for by writing their name on the back of the card.
Make Individual Asks for More Complex Tasks–
- Reach out to parents individually (when they are not distracted) and share some of the tasks you need help with that are a little more complex. For example, you may need a parent to help train club officers, teach parliamentary procedure or work with the service learning committee. Provide any resources they may need (such as an officer handbook or service learning guide) and let them know that the 4-H office will provide support for them in this role. If the task requires a level II background screening, then be upfront about that.
Duerden, M. D., Witt, P. A., & Harrist, C. J. (2013, Winter). The impact of parental involvement on a structured youth program experience: A qualitative inquiry. Journal of Youth Development, 8(3), 1-17. Retrieved August 31, 2018, from jyd.pitt.edu/ojs/jyd/article/view/88.
Hensley, S. (2020). Florida 4-H Retention Study.