Looking to Engage Parents? Look to the Kids, First!
Posted May 12, 2011
“The persistence and enthusiasm of a child can propel a family toward healthy activities,” said Jodie Fishman, a trainer with Bodyworks—a program of the Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—and one of We Can!’s multiple federal partners. “It is important to harness that enthusiasm and coach kids to encourage their whole families to participate in healthy activities.”
Having children serve as “recruiters” is just one piece of advice offered by Fishman during a February 16, 2011, We Can!® webinar on parent engagement that drew 63 attendees and featured 2 other speakers. Fishman also cited practical incentives (such as providing gift cards from local stores, free healthy snacks at trainings, and options for childcare) as ways to draw parents to participate in We Can! programming.
Like We Can!, Bodyworks is designed to help parents and caregivers of adolescents improve family eating and activity habits. It uses a train-the-trainer model to distribute free toolkits through community-based organizations, state health agencies, non-profit organizations, health clinics, hospitals, healthcare systems, and others.
The program includes one six-hour training module for trainers, and ten 90-minute weekly sessions for parents and caregivers.
Of course, getting a family to an activity is only half the battle: Keeping them involved is the other half.
Fishman uses the following techniques to increase retention:
- Learn participants’ names as soon as possible, showing them that they are an important part of the mix.
- Call families between sessions to get to know them better.
- End weekly sessions by having parents express what they liked, and would like to cover in the future. (Bodyworks trainers call this “two loves and a wish.”)
“Getting participant feedback is crucial,” said Fishman. “By listening to what parents find helpful, and where they still need help, we are able to make our programming relevant and keep our families engaged.”
One way for you to stay engaged is to keep your eyes open for upcoming We Can! webinars. They cover an array of topics and provide a way to learn about other exciting programming activities and tips from We Can! site leaders.