Don't Forget The Parents!
A blog post from NGPF Fellow, Kerri Herrild:
There are many reasons why I would not enjoy teaching elementary students. One is that I like it when students can blow their own noses, tie their own shoes and zip their own coats. Another reason is that I don’t have to worry about sending home cutesy newsletters and calendars peppered with ClipArt to parents. By the time students reach the high school, let’s be honest, we don’t communicate with parents very much unless there is a problem to report.
Despite this trend, I have found that our Personal Finance classes give us the perfect opportunity to get parents involved. Through my years of experience, it seems that many parents would rather talk to their kids about sex than money. (Did I just say that in a professional blog post?! Yes, and I say it directly to my students too!) As parents, we often feel that it is our job to protect our kids from all things negative in life. Therefore, we don’t want to share financial concerns, debt problems or money mistakes because we don’t want the kids to worry about something they can’t control. Yet, we are always telling kids that mistakes are okay as long as we learn something from them.
That’s why we NEED to have our parents involved in Personal Finance. Parents really are our students’ first teachers of money issues and habits. We need our parents to see that it is okay to let students learn from the mistakes they have made. In reality, most teens know if there are financial hardships in a family, regardless if it is directly spoken of at home or not. I believe that it is our responsibility as financial educators to encourage parent involvement.
Here are some strategies and benefits to make this happen.
- Send home regular emails about the topics and activities being covered in class.
- Have students write down financial goals and send those home to the parents to prompt discussion of monetary expectations. (Many students have no idea how they will pay for college, and may expect their parents to take care of it for them!)
- Ask students to interview an important adult in their life (doesn’t have to be a parent) about a particular financial issue that they struggle with. The student can then do some research on best practices in dealing with that particular financial challenge, and in turn, have a lesson they both benefit from.
Benefits of parent communications:
- Students and parents are “on the same page” when it comes to who will pay for what in the future.
- Students can feel valued as young adults who are taking on a serious family role in helping deal with financial issues.
- Parents can feel more confident that their children will not repeat the mistakes that they have made.
- Parents love having a specific topic that they can ask their children about instead of just, “How was your day today?” We know what detailed answers they give to that!
- Parents talk to parents, and class enrollments go up, if your class is not required
So the next time you are doing something meaningful in class, send a quick email home and see what kind of response you get from parents!
If you are looking for a great project that incorporates home communication, refer to this podcast and activity!
About the Author
After graduating with an education degree and spending 7 years in an elementary classroom, Laura made the switch to the non-profit world and loves interacting with students, educators and business professionals across the country. She is passionate about all students having access to high quality education and views personal finance education as one way to ‘level the playing field’. When Laura is not locating or creating high quality educational resources, you can find her mountain biking or searching for the best ramen in town!
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