Parents play an important role in supporting the health and well being of their children at home and at school. Research shows that when parents are engaged in their children’s school activities, their children tend to get better grades, choose healthier behaviors, and have better social skills. Parent engagement in school is also associated with helping children avoid unhealthy behaviors. Parents can be effective advocates and bring about positive changes in their children’s school. Equipping parents with the knowledge and skills to support a healthy school environment is a key strategy for improving their children’s overall health and academic success.

A Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model for healthy schoolsHelping parents who  see changes they would like to make to help their children and improve their local schools is the mission of Families Leading Change.

Children enrolled in K-12 spend about 1260 hours in school each year. Children spent between 900 and 1000 of these hours in school-based instructional settings. As parents, we want to know that while in school, our children are encouraged to make healthy choices, are motivated to achieve positive academic outcomes, and develop a social and personal identity that promotes self-confidence and emotional well being. In a perfect world, parental involvement to help all children achieve these goals flourishes. Reality, however, shows that parental engagement in school-based activities may be undermined by a variety of barriers that inhibit and block parental engagement in their child’s school.

What do we mean by parental involvement in school? Parental involvement includes strategies, resources, and time that parents commit to support and/or improve the academic sphere of their child’s life. Parental involvement may refer to:

  • Establishing home environments that support learning,
  • Facilitating effective communication between school and home,
  • Helping the school and supporting students,
  • Learning at home,
  • Participating in school decision-making processes, and
  • Working with other stakeholders (i.e., students, school staff, community) to strengthen the school.

In addition to the school-based and home-based parent involvement activities listed above, parents also play a key role by communicating expectations concerning academic achievement to their children. A parent’s positive attitude about education and parenting practice of sharing expectations about educational attainment help children cultivate academic and career aspirations. Parents can also plant seeds for their children’s academic aspirations by showing them how schoolwork connects with current events and careers. Parents can also promote their child’s success in school by discussing learning techniques with their children.

Does your school PTA/PTO offer any parenting training that help parents learn how to use these strategies with their children and with their children’s teachers? If not, this may be a great area for a Families Leading Change mini-grant. See these examples of previous FLC-funded projects to see how other parent groups design projects with their local schools:

You may also want to explore ways to work with your child’s school to promote healthy eating and life style choices through a Families Leading Change mini-grant. Are there ways that your school could easily improve the meal and snack options available to children during the school hours?

Parent/school teams can use the Parents for Healthy Schools Guide to:

  • Learn what parents should know about the school nutrition environment and services; physical education and physical activity; and managing chronic health conditions in schools.
  • Guide the way they work with parents by using the parent engagement framework—connect, engage, and sustain.
  • Learn how to use and share the resources developed for Parents for Healthy Schools.

Although there are many aspects of a healthy school environment, Parents for Healthy Schoolsfocuses on the school nutrition environment and services, physical education and physical activity (i.e., comprehensive school physical activity programs), and managing chronic health conditions in schools by providing health services. These three areas are particularly important because of the effect they have on the health of students now and throughout their lives. In addition, all three topics have clear actions that can be taken at home and in school that will help students make healthy choices.

Here are examples of Families Leading Change mini-grants funded in 2017 that addressed nutrition, physical activity, and/or managing chronic health conditions:

So, what are you waiting for? Have you submitted your Families Leading Change mini-grant yet? If you have questions, contact anyone of the people listed below who can help you with your mini-grant application.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parents for Healthy Schools: A Guide for Getting Parents Involved from K–12. Atlanta: US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2015.  Download: Request by e-mail: CDC-INFO ( Call toll-free: 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636); TTY: 1-888-232-6348

Kantahyanee W. Murray, Nadine Finigan-Carr, Vanya Jones, Nikeea Copeland-Linder, Denise L. Haynie, Tina L. Cheng
Sage Open. 2014; 4(4): 10.1177/2158244014558030. Published online 2014 Nov 18.