School Counselors: Engage Parents with a Family Check-Up

By Laurel Lisovskis, BSW

Part 6 in our Share the Wealth series. Click to read other Share the Wealth posts.

School Counselors: Engage Parents with a Family Check-UpLooking for a way to gently guide parents who want to play a bigger role in their child’s academic experience at school this year? For school counselors getting geared up for the year, the Family Check-Up is an excellent tool for connecting with parents. It’s a simple assessment for parents to evaluate areas of strength and interest that may improve the chances for a student to have a successful year. This tool is geared toward middle schoolers, but I have used it with kids as young as 8 and as old as 16. The beauty of the Family Check-Up is that you can administer it in one to three 30-minute sessions, and if needed, you can even complete it over the phone.

The Family Check-Up looks at the child’s grades, behavior, attendance, peers, and healthy decision making. The assessment consists of a short interview and a short survey. Questions for parents focus on how they feel the school can help their student, perceived barriers and strengths of the student, the family support system, and the school support system. Answers are compiled, scored, and plotted on a spectrum that can be shared with the parents. This scale is divided into three areas: family, student, and parenting. Depending on the level of interest, different topics can be drawn out and addressed based on the counselor’s feedback.

The family section focuses on things like family stress or general support the caregiver receives. In the student section, areas for discussion include behavior, attendance, and homework completion. In the parenting sections, the feedback looks at positive behavior support, monitoring school success and peer relationships, limit setting, and parent-school connections.

As you go over the results, the parent can pick and choose which areas of interest to pay attention to. Areas of strength can be pointed out and reinforced. Areas that are challenging for parents can be addressed by a wide variety of resources. Within the Family Check-Up, parents can find simple brochures on things like supervision, knowing your child’s friends and peers, and encouragement. Tools for family negotiating and communication are provided, including suggestions for blended families. Community resource suggestions are also referenced.

Parents can focus on as little or as much as they wish, and you can easily direct them to tools that are very straightforward and empowering. Plus, it’s a simple and caring way to build rapport with parents that can help make interactions they may have with school staff, including teachers, more useful. Give a baseline of support right off the bat, and reap the benefits of positive, easier, and friendlier interactions all year long!

For more information on the Family Check-up, check out the book Intervening in Adolescent Problem Behavior by Thomas J. Dishion and Kate Kavanagh or write to Kevin Moore, Ph.D., at the University of Oregon’s Prevention Science Institute.

Laurel LisovskisLaurel Lisovskis, BSW, is in her second year of graduate school working toward clinical licensure in social work at Portland State University. Her field placement is at the school-based Bethel Health Center, an innovative program that brings services directly to students and families at school sites. Her intern experience includes doing individual and group therapy, as well as traditional social work roles. Laurel also works within the clinical setting to streamline integrated care services. With over ten years of expertise in counseling, she lends a unique perspective on the connectivity between mental health and the well-being of middle school students.

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