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Make New Families Feel Welcome

Holding out a helping hand when families first arrive at the school pays off in increased involvement and a stronger parent group later on.

by Patti Ghezzi
Welcome New Families

Every September, families at Oakhurst Elementary gather on campus for a casual cookout. As kids devour hamburgers, moms and dads new to the community get a chance to chat with longtime residents. “It’s a really good time,” says Beth Thompson, PTA copresident at the Decatur, Ga., school. “I think it goes a long way to get parents to mingle.”

Holding a casual back-to-school event is a great way to connect with parents. It establishes your group as fun and family-friendly. And it gives you, as a leader, a chance to connect in a personal way with people who are new to the school. Those newcomers can be a terrific source of volunteers, but first impressions are key.

General Outreach

You’ll have the most success if you reach out to newcomers as soon as they arrive. That’s when they will be most in need of information and school connections. Frame all of your contact in terms of what you can offer them, not what they can do for your group. You’ll have plenty of time for that later, and if you lay the groundwork, you’ll have a much more receptive audience.

Provide information about your parent group in the registration packet for new families. A single sheet with contact information, some key dates, and a short list of your accomplishments will do. Be sure to state clearly that your group is friendly and welcoming to everyone. And don’t include fundraising on your list of accomplishments; say “purchased six computers for the computer lab” rather than “raised $12,000.”

Establish a welcome committee. A simple phone call to newcomers offering information about the school and community can make a big impression. Don’t try to sell the person on getting involved; simply let her know that you’re calling from the PTO and give her contact information in case she has any questions. Give this task to someone who is naturally friendly and outgoing.

Get More Parents Involved

Host a School Family Night and get more parents to connect with your school. Our FREE SFN planning kits make planning and organizing your event a breeze. Order yours now.

Reach out to new families as soon as they appear on your radar screen, whether it’s at the pool over the summer or at the pediatrician’s office. Consider carrying business cards with your group’s contact information. Tell people to use them “if there’s anything we can do to help.”

Become a source of information about the school, such as pickup and drop-off points, paying for school lunches, and any other information new parents need. Make good information the first thing you offer new parents.

Touch base with new families as the school year progresses to see whether they have questions or concerns that you can help with. Even if the questions are more teacher- or administration-related, you can steer them in the right direction to find answers.

Remind your kids to make an extra effort to reach out to new students. Encourage them to invite new classmates to your home, which gives you an inside track to get to know their parents.

Don’t assume that your school is welcoming just because you are a close-knit community. Sometimes it can be harder for a new family to feel comfortable in a small school family than a big school that gets flooded with newcomers. Make an extra effort to assure families that your parent group is open to everyone.

Around School

How a school building looks, the procedures for visitors, and the attitude toward visitors can all have a strong effect on newcomers. That initial impression can determine whether a parent feels comfortable enough to return or decides to avoid the school whenever possible.

Make your foyer as warm and welcoming as possible by painting a mural, hanging a sign, or brightening the area with plants.

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Comments

  1. Posted by - audy shar on Apr. 01, 2013

    I saw this Great website to meet new families.
    LUBUB.com
    Try it
    Its Great

    Go to LUBUB.com
  2. Posted by - Patty on May. 31, 2010

    great ideas
  3. Posted by - Yvette Sanders on May. 15, 2010

    I'm taking on a new PTO position for next year, trying to get organized in advance. Thank you for excellent information that will help me plan Membership for Fall 2010!
  4. Posted by - Taryn on Oct. 03, 2008

    What a lovely set of ideas! Thank you!
  5. Posted by - Colleen on Sep. 15, 2008

    Thank you for all of the wonderful ideas to help make a PTO more welcoming, to encourage more participation and to make volunteering fun! Your website it incredibly helpful to PTO Co-President!
  6. Posted by - Lisa on Sep. 02, 2008

    School starts tomorrow and this was timely reading. Although we already do a continental breakfast on the first day of school, there were other ideas I plan to incorporate this year. I'm so glad your magazine and website exist. As PTO President I don't have all the answers so its nice to have somewhere to turn for help and ideas. Thanks!
  7. Posted by - LouAnn on Aug. 30, 2008

    Right on the money-when your first child is entering school, you really feel like an outsider. It would have been great to have greeters/information that first day. I hope my PTO will be able to manage that task!
  8. Posted by - Christina Soddano on Aug. 27, 2008

    Being a minority mom I can relate on some of the points about feeling welcomed! As a pta president reading this article just gave me more ideas on how to make parents become more involved. Thank you.

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