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Reaching the
Hard-to-Reach Parents

Parents are busy people. Many are overwhelmed. Even when you offer a parenting event, many of these people don't come. How can you help parents who are so pre-occupied that they don't get much needed advice about raising their children?

In order to help answer this question we've identified three groups of parents you work with.

1 • Parents who are eager for more
These parents are with you and will participate in most anything you offer in the area of parenting. They want more and you can go out of your way to provide them with extra tools. For more ideas click here.

2 • Parents who don't see the need for help yet
These parents feel like they have everything under control, and maybe they do, for the moment. They have the tools they need to do the job and don't want more input right now.

3 • Parents who are too busy or overwhelmed to get help
These parents care about their kids but they've given up, or they feel like their children are just bad kids and family life seems rather hopeless. Sometimes these parents have other responsibilities that rob them of time for parenting and the task of raising the kids is pushed off onto others like the school or church.


Solutions for Groups Two and Three

Below is a growing list of suggestions to help parents who don't typically seek help. We'd love to hear your ideas and we'll continue to add to this list.

1 • Understand the cycle of need. Parents often go through a typical cycle. Everything seems to be under control. Then a crisis happens drawing energy from other things to the parenting issues in order to regain control. Either the equilibrium is restored or a new sense of "normal" is established. Parents then go back to doing what is urgent or routine. If you're offering regular parenting events and activities, and if you're continually reaching out to all parents, you'll attract new participants in your parenting program as they find themselves in the "need help" part of the cycle. So keep planning events and continue to invite all parents to come to them.

2 • Among the choices for parent help, offer short events requiring just an evening or one weekend. Many parents who feel overwhelmed experience the time crunch and don't want to commit to something long-term.

3 • Offer longer term parenting help. An eight-week class or thirteen-week parenting elective might be just the thing that helps a parent who feels like there are no simple solutions. Some parents know they need a lot of help and are willing to sacrifice their other activities for a season in order to focus on parenting. A longer term event can be attractive because it gives more time to learn new skills and develop new supportive friendships.

4 • Promote events appealing to the needs of hurting parents. You might use words like "hopeless," "survival mode," "others don't understand my situation," "when doing the best I can isn't working," or "overwhelmed" to describe the problem. Be sure to offer hope by talking about new ways to approach common problems. Emphasize the reality that many parents experience the same kinds of obstacles and there are real and relevant solutions available.

5 • Use a testimony approach to promotion by having a parent share about his or her own feelings of frustration and how a parenting class or small group helped. This feeling approach doesn't talk about actual technique but identifies with the felt needs that parents have.

6 • Make the invitations personal by talking about practical solutions you think might work with a particular son or daughter. After all, teachers and youth workers work with lots of children and can often see what a child might need. Sharing those specific observations can bring hope to a parent who may be resigned to the status quo.

7 • As you have success drawing parents in to parent training, please tell us what worked and we'll add new ideas to this list. Send them to

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