Wednesday, October 28, 2015

WyldLife Wednesday: Meet the Parents

Written by Meredith Reed, WyldLife staff in Dallas, TX

Parent communication is key in so many facets of WyldLife and contact work is no exception. When we’re going to spend time with middle school kids, we have to communicate with their parents on the front end. Here are a couple of reasons why:
  • Middle school kids are typically clueless when it comes to their schedules. You may ask a kid to grab a burger on Wednesday night, and the kid says “Great!” But in reality, they’ve had soccer practice every Wednesday night for the last three years. Parents are still very much in control of their children’s schedule at this age.
  • When we contact parents on the front end, it communicates that we are responsible and that they can trust us with their children. It builds credibility. Otherwise, we’re just a stranger who shows up at their doorstep to pick up their kid...kind of creepy. Parents of middle schoolers need to feel good about the person their child is spending time with.
So what does it look like to contact a parent?
  • I usually mention something to the kids first. I invite them to do something with me and tell them I’ll contact their parents about it too. I ask them for their parent's phone number and email address.
  • A phone call to introduce yourself and ask to make plans with their child is always ideal. However, getting a parent on the phone can be hard at times, so sending an email or text message can be your “plan B”. I’ve found that text messages work especially well with my parents in urban settings.
  • When you call, introduce yourself as a WyldLife leader. Let them know you’ve met their child at club or another event. Then communicate your plan and ask if their child would be able to join you.
  • Let them know about other kids you plan to invite too. Parents will feel better, especially as they first get to know you, to hear their child won’t be going alone.
  • Remember that spontaneous doesn’t work well with this age group and doesn’t communicate responsibility and credibility to parents. Contact parents at least 1-2 days before you plan to hang out.
  • And when you pick up the kid, don’t just text them that you are outside. Go up to the door and meet their parents. This will go a long way with parents.
  • You could also give the parents the contact information of another WyldLife parent that is a fan. This way they could talk to another parent and get some first hand feedback from someone they can relate with. 
While it may be easy to understand the 'whys' and even the 'how-tos' behind contacting a parent, the reality can sometimes feel intimidating, especially if you’re a young WyldLife leader. If you’ve felt this, you are not alone. I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and I still have times when this step feels uncomfortable and I’d rather skip it. But we can’t. Part of building relationships with middle school kids is building relationships and trust with their parents. Parental trust is what helps WyldLife thrive!

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