Family engagement in mentoring programs

Learn why family engagement efforts can be helpful for mentoring programs.

Woman smiling and hugging two kids

Research from shows that parental or family engagement in a child’s education can improve child test scores, attendance, social skills, relationships, behavior and how a child feels about school. Family engagement goes beyond traditional school settings and is an important part of mentoring programs or other youth development programs. 

Why is it important to engage families in mentoring programs?

There are many positive effects when parents and families are engaged in mentoring programs. In fact, research has found that mentoring has an even greater impact on youth when families encourage the match and are engaged. Mentoring programs with strong family engagement programs allow families to:

  • Feel invited and included. We want to give families the opportunity to be involved in their child’s life and education. When we include families in mentoring programs, they feel like they are part of something that is important to their child. 
  • Tune in to what is happening with their child. We want parents to be engaged in what is happening with their child. Family engagement in mentoring programs helps parents tune in to their child’s life and feel connected to them.
  • Become invested in their child’s success. We want parents to recognize that their child is successful when they have several caring adults in their lives.
  • See their child being happy. What parent doesn’t want to see their child being happy? Positive experiences with their child are energizing, reassuring and can help reset stressful home situations. 
  • Interact with positive youth programs. When families are exposed to a program that has a solid foundation in youth development practices, they can mimic behaviors learned as well as strategies to help support their child in healthy ways. 

How do you engage families in mentoring programs?

Engaging families in mentoring programs is important, so how do you do it? Use these tips from Michigan State University Extension to help engage families in your mentoring program.

  • Start with intention. Start your program with an intentionality of involving families as you recruit mentors and youth. Before your program even starts, think critically about how you will engage families. 
  • Build a strong orientation process. Many mentoring programs have found success in holding an orientation session for youth and parents. This is a great time to set expectations for participation and explain why it is important for the youth to have consistent attendance to get the most out of the mentoring relationship. This is also a time to ease concerns—some parents worry they have done something wrong if their child wants or needs a mentor. Explain that we all need mentors—some youth naturally find mentors and some find them through planned mentoring programs. Supporting their child in the program is a sign of great parenting.
  • Set clear expectations. Families need complete information to make sure the program is the right fit for them and their child and to fully engage in the program. Explain the program goals, expectations and required paperwork. Offer to answer any questions at the beginning of the mentoring experience or throughout the program. 
  • Stay connected. If you are not successful in getting parents to an orientation session, make an effort to call them. Throughout the mentoring program, stay connected with families. There are multiple ways to stay connected through social media, phone, text, email or one-on-one meetings.  

MSU Extension’s Heads In, Hearts In family engagement resources

Michigan State University Extension has created a series of family engagement activities called “Heads In, Hearts In.” These resources contain simple, easy-to-follow activities where parents can engage with their children around a specific educational topic. Heads In, Hearts In activities will encourage families to use their minds (putting their “heads in”) to expand their knowledge and work, grow and learn together (putting their “hearts in”). 

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

Did you find this article useful?