as i've been thinking about this, i keep noticing how blessed i feel to have good relationships with the parents. i can think of times, especially in my early years as a youth worker, that it just wouldn't have occured to me to get to know the parents of my girls, especially being a volunteer. now, a little older and hopefully wiser, i can't imagine not getting to know the parents of my girls.
below are a few things i've learned as a volunteer working with parents:
- introduce yourself. send a letter, email, or make a phone call to get started. make a point to meet them in person.
- make yourself available. be sure they have your phone number and email. let them know you're available as a support and resource for them and their student.
- help them connect to the larger ministry--make sure they're in the loop on total group events, upcoming outings, etc. (i can occasionally be absent-minded about this)
- remember that they're trusting you with the most precious thing in their life. as much as you love the kids in your group, you'll never feel about them the way their parent does.
- remember that you're not the parent. don't try to be one. and don't criticize the parent's choices to the student. instead, be the student's adult friend and a good listener. when appropriate, you can sometimes help a student see their parents point of view.
- i have a friend who's a school teacher who tells the parents of her students, "i'll only believe half of what your child tells me about you, if you'll believe only half of what your child tells you about me." the idea being kids can sometimes exaggerate the good and especially the bad about the grown ups in their lives.
- partner with the parents--encourage them to help their child's spiritual development.
- tell the parents ways you see their child growing up--if you have a reason to praise a kid, be sure you let the parent know too.
if you do these things, when things go well for the kids in your group, the celebration is even bigger. and if things go wrong, the kids have a group of adults around them who can work together to love and nurture them into better places.