Try to understand parents' individual needs and build rapport and relationships with them from the beginning so they feel comfortable and connected with the program facilitators. Look for ways to make virtual connections easier and less stressful for parents, including minimizing technology barriers.Advice from Maria Tena of Touchstone Health Services for TPP programs working to engage parents and caregivers virtually
A switch to virtual programming over the last year has made it more challenging for TPP programs to engage parents and caregivers. But Touchstone Health Services in Phoenix, Arizona—a TPP20 Tier 1 grantee replicating Making Proud Choices, Positive Action, Safe Dates Active Parenting of Teens (APT)TM, and Positive Parenting Program® (Triple P) curricula—has successfully transitioned many of its programs to virtual implementation and adapted its parent and caregiver engagement strategies.
It took time and iteration for Touchstone to achieve these successes. When schools in the community first transitioned to virtual learning, Touchstone staff distributed a flyer to parents and caregivers that explained the availability of virtual classes. Unfortunately, the flyer alone didn’t compel parents and caregivers to join the program.
Touchstone enlisted the schools’ parent volunteer coordinators to connect with parents and caregivers and gather insights into their barriers to participating. The parent volunteer coordinators discovered that technology difficulties—such as not having a computer or not knowing how to use a computer—were the main reasons why parents and caregivers didn’t get involved.
To address these barriers, Touchstone set up a system that enables parents and caregivers to borrow school iPads to participate in the workshops, created technology guides to help families use the virtual workshop platform, and offered families one-on-one technology support as needed. Touchstone also held regular meetings with parent volunteer coordinators to determine recruitment strategies and convenient workshop schedules.
Since its TPP20 program began in August 2020, Touchstone has engaged more than 125 parents and caregivers in its virtual APT and Triple P workshops, both of which rely on family involvement. Many parents and caregivers experienced a learning curve in using the virtual platform, but they also expressed interest in continuing to build their technology skills.
Most importantly, many parents and caregivers who participated in Touchstone’s TPP programs shared positive feedback:
- "The program has helped me understand my teen and I learned how to deal with conflict. Thank you."
- "I have been able to use the activities at home with my children and that has helped a lot."
- "This is a great program! It has helped me communicate better with my children and to talk to them about how to stay healthy."
- "Thanks to this program I learned to establish rules and consequences at home. This really helped with my family functioning."
For more ideas on how to virtually engage parents and caregivers, TPP Program grantees can refer to the Strategies for Engaging Parents and Caregivers Tip Sheet and Increasing Access to TPP Program Activities in a Virtual Setting Job Aid.