Sunday, October 18, 2015

Ideas for Connecting Disconnected Senior Parents

Sunday, October 18, 2015
  If you are a consistent reader of my blog, you may have read an earlier post that I have a high school senior. So in exactly ten months, I will be the parent of a college freshman!  I can't believe my baby girl is leaving to go to college and we will have an empty nest (something I have only fantasized about after raising kids for the last 28 years...evil laugh). My kid has a long list of schools that she is interested in attending; however as we all know, you must make a plan to visit the campus. Although she has good intentions,  I have found out that my daughter doesn't always follow through on her responsibilities. Now that we are in October, I really have been pushing her to apply for scholarships, retake the ACT, and go on a college tour...um, it is not working so well (sigh).  Okay Morton, I thought, you have been a high school counselor for 16 years...how would you help these types of students??? 

Believe me, it is more difficult being a parent of a high school senior than just being his or her school counselor! Since my daughter is a dual enrollment student and I have taken a new job in our district, we both have become disconnected from all the senior news at her high school which puts us at a disadvantage.  In essence, she has been missing her senior meetings, the school counselor visit into the English class, the college lunch visits, the trips into our college and career center...well, you get my point.  Now, I truly understand how parents and students can feel disconnected from school and how important it is to keep them connected during the senior year.  So now that I feel like a disconnected parent (sad face), I have to find ways to reach out to the school and hope the school will reach out to me!

Helping Disconnected Senior Parents and Students

Okay, I admit it!  I have complained about disconnected parents and students.  I wondered why they could not reach out to me and take care of business (I have 500 students for crying out loud!).  However, I am feeling rather empathetic toward our disconnected parents because it is easy to loose touch with everything going on when you are out of the loop.  For example, it is like binge watching your favorite show for two weeks and not staying abreast of current events or going out of town for vacation and being overwhelmed when you get back in the office.  You don't mean for it to happen this way, but other things require your immediate attention. The majority of our
parents really care about what is going on in school and want to be a part of the process.  The problem, as Prince pointed out in one of his songs, is "this thing called life".  Parents have so many daily obstacles that many of them do not have the time or energy to go to a high school assembly or meeting.  Also, many parents do not realize they are disconnected and count on their teen to inform them of what is happening and even keep on track. In fact, I didn't realize I was disconnected until this month and I started a plan to make a change.  

My Plan

First, I had to recognize that I was disconnected as a parent.  When I realized I was disconnected from my daughters' school, I looked for ways to find out information that I had missed.  Fortunately, I have the knowledge to find out the information I need; however, many parents don't have this luxury.
As school counselors, it is important to get out information to parents and not expect them to get it from their teen.  Here are some examples of information that may be helpful to parents from high school counseling departments.

12th Grade Action Plan for Parents
20 Questions to Ask Your School Counselor
36 Questions to Ask on a College Visit
12th Grade Resources
College Fair Checklist

Second, I had to find out what we missed and future events.  Asking questions and having accurate information is imperative at this point.  However, if parents don't know what events have happened or will happen in their students' senior year, they may become frustrated and start putting the blame on others (um, you).

If there are parents that you haven't heard from during the senior year, make attempts to reach out to them. Sending out a parent survey may be a helpful way to find out the needs of your parents.

Brookwood High School Senior Survey

Third, I had to do my research and get accurate information.  Since we are not at our old school, we must go the extra distance to get information about college fairs, application deadlines, scholarships, testing, and senior events.  Again, many disconnected parents don't know what they don't know. Here are some college resources you can share with your parents on your website!

Big Future Scholarship Search
Cappex Scholarship Search Site
College Essay Guy
College Planning for Students With Disabilities
College Raptor  - Retaking the SAT/ACT.
College Ready - The college application.
College Scoop  - Information for parents about college entrance.
College Tidbits - Provides information for parents and students about college.
Fastweb
FinAid - Financial aid information for parents.
Mapping Your Future
Next Step U
Parents Count Down to College Coach - Tips to make the college essay pop.
Parents Guide to Financial Aid
Plexuss  - Resources for students and parents.
Scholarships 4 Students
United Negro College Fund

Fourth, I have to get involved.  Making an appointment to meet with our counselor and college representatives is imperative. In the past, I would reach out to parents that I had never heard from and make a personal invitation for them to come in.  Another great idea is to think outside the box about how you can get information to parents who are not able to come into your office. In the past,  I have made presentations in community centers, churches, and for civic organizations.  Another method, that I love, is the recorded online presentation!! Here are some great presentations to share!

Big Future Applying to College Videos
Brookwood Counseling Parent Center
College Checklist Podcast
College Ready Video on Scholarships

College Week Live - Students and parents can join live chats with representatives.
ECampus Tours - Students and parents can view college campuses online. 
How to Host a Financial Aid Community Event
Financial Aid Kit
North Tahoe High Counseling Recorded Meetings and Tutorial
Saginaw High School Senior Presentations

 Top Ways to Engage Your Parents

This section includes some ideas of how to engage the parents who cannot come in during a evening parent night or during a daytime conference.  Also, I have included some suggestions from Ryan Stevenson and Dr. A.J. Metz

Another idea is coffee with the counselor
1.  Offer meetings and information sessions during times that parents are available.

Senior Parent Breakfast-check out Burlington High School Senior Parent Breakfast Series.
Have one night per month for parent late night appointments.
Conduct an online conference or a teleconference-this can be great for parents who work out of town.

2. Utilize as many modes of communication as possible:

a.  Create a blog to get out information to parents and students.
b.  Design a comprehensive website for students and parents. Here are some examples:
 
          Anacortes High School Counseling Center
          North Tahoe High Counseling Blog
          Northview Counseling
          Novi High School Counselors Blog
          Pikesville High School Counseling Blog

c.  Send out text message reminders for parents and students. 
 
3. Use Technology and Useful Tools

a. Creating Invitations for Parents and Students - Smilebox

b. Creating Handouts for Parents:
Handouts by the Middle School Counselor
Brookwood High School Senior Bulletin

c. Making Appointments for Parents -  check out seven free tools for making appointments online.

d. Produce your own online presentations:
Any Meeting
Fuze
Go To Meeting
Google Hangout
Join Me
Zoom

Get more Ideas!

Find out more ideas from the #SCCHAT 

Promoting Your School Counseling Program #SCCHAT

The State of College Admissions Counseling with Patrick O'Connor