In the RefugeesWellSchool research project, we attach great importance to parental involvement. Every adolescent is part of a family. Some family members are present alongside adolescents in the host country. Other parents and family members stayed behind in the country of origin or live elsewhere in the world. Near or far away, parents and family members have a fundamental role in the well-being and development of adolescents. We therefore find it crucial to involve parents, as primary caregivers, in our research aimed at supporting the well-being of their children.
Moreover, adolescents’ school trajectories often have important significance in the aftermath of migration or flight. For many families, they symbolize the pathway to a meaningful future in resettlement (e.g. Roubeni, De Haene, Keatley, Shah, & Rasmussen, 2015). This is an additional argument to strengthen partnerships between parents and schools, and to invite parents’ voices in the schooling of adolescents, navigating a future and identity on the bridge of the past and the present, from home, family and school.
Rather than merely informing parents about the research project, for the past couple of months we, in Belgium, have been exploring ways to partner with parents in the project. First we talked to the school partners involved in the implementation of the research. With each school we discussed how they experience and promote parental involvement, what thresholds they encounter and what they then find supportive. We learned building partnerships between schools and parents can indeed be challenging, with a myriad of practical issues that further complicate reaching out to parents. On the other hand we got to witness a broad range of well-considered, creative strategies designed by schools. We shared in success stories illustrating the transformative power of school-parent dialogue in the trajectories of adolescents.
Based on our discussions, we devised a tailor-made approach for each school, in which we try to involve parents in the project by being present as a research team at information evenings, parent-teacher meetings, etc. In addition, we developed different materials to boost project visibility and accessibility for parents. We designed an attractive poster for schools, made flyers for parents with short, comprehensible information about the project and translated it into fifteen languages. Finally, our RefugeesWellSchool website also came to include a page for parents. Here too, parents can easily access information about the project in fifteen different languages. Want to see for yourself? Check out www.refugeesweelschool.eu/parents!