Toolkit for Schools: Engaging Parents to Support Student Mental Health and Emotional Well-being
This toolkit was created to help raise parent awareness about school connectedness and its role in supporting student mental health and emotional well-being, and why family engagement both in and out of school is important. It is a resource for CDC Healthy Schools partners, education leaders, and other collaborators.
Partners and schools can use this toolkit to let parents know how healthy and supportive school environments increase resiliency and improve students’ overall health and academic achievement. This toolkit includes background information, sample social media posts, social media graphics, and newsletter text.
Information on school connectedness and family engagement in schools
Sample text you can use in newsletters, emails, and more
Feeling connected to family and friends is an important protective factor that can reduce the effects of stressful life events and promote necessary skills for social and emotional development among children and adolescents. These positive connections are important for good mental health and emotional well-being
School connectedness is another protective factor and reflects students’ belief that peers and adults in the school support, value, and care about their individual well-being as well as their academic progress.1 School leaders can enhance school connectedness by working towards a healthy and supportive school environment.2 This approach will also help students develop the skills they need to:
- Recognize and manage emotions.
- Set and achieve positive goals.
- Appreciate the perspectives of others.
- Establish and maintain positive relationships.
Additionally, students who feel more connected to school are:
- Less likely to engage in risky behaviors (alcohol or drug use).3,4
- More likely to engage in positive health behaviors (physical activity and healthy eating).4,5
- More likely to have higher grades and test scores, have better school attendance, and graduate high school.6-8
Why Family Engagement Is So Important
Parents and families have a powerful role in supporting their children’s learning, health, and well-being at home and at school. When parents are engaged in their children’s school activities and initiatives, children get better grades, choose healthier behaviors, and have better social skills. Students who have parents involved in their school lives also are more likely to avoid unhealthy behaviors and they are less likely to be emotionally distressed. Schools can work with parents to educate them about connectedness, engage them in creating healthy and supportive schools, and reinforce the skills taught at school in their home. When school staff and families communicate, student health and learning can improve.
Healthy Students are Better Learners
Healthy students are better learners, and academic achievement bears a lifetime of benefits for health. The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model is CDC’s framework for addressing health in schools. The WSCC model is student-centered and it emphasizes the importance of each of its 10 components in supporting the connections between health and academic achievement. Social and Emotional Climate and Family Engagement are two WSCC components schools can use to promote positive health behaviors.
- S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). School connectedness: strategies for increasing protective factors among youth. Atlanta, GA: Author. Steiner RJ, Sheremenko G, Lesesne C, Dittus PJ, Sieving RE, Ethier KA. Adolescent Connectedness and Adult Health Outcomes. Pediatrics. 2019 Jul;144(1):e20183766. doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-3766. PMID: 31235609.
- Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). What is SEL? website. https://casel.org/what-is-sel/
- Steiner RJ, Sheremenko G, Lesesne C, Dittus PJ, Sieving RE, Ethier KA. Adolescent Connectedness and Adult Health Outcomes. Pediatrics. 2019 Jul;144(1):e20183766. doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-3766. PMID: 31235609.
- Weatherson, Katie A, O’Neill, Meghan, Lau, Erica Y, Qian, Wei, Leatherdale, Scott T, Faulkner, Guy E. J. The protective effects of school connectedness on substance use and physical activity. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2018;63(6):724-731. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.07.002.
- Neely, Eva, Walton, Mat, Stephens, Christine. Building school connectedness through shared lunches. Health Education. 2015;115(6):554-569. doi:10.1108/HE-08-2014-0085.
- Niehaus, Kate, Rudasill, Kathleen Moritz, Rakes, Christopher R. A longitudinal study of school connectedness and academic outcomes across sixth grade. Journal of School Psychology. 2012;50(4):443-460. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2012.03.002.
- Rosenfeld, L., Richman J. and Bowen G. (1998). Low social support among at-risk adolescents. Social Work in Education, 20:245-260.
- Niehaus, Kate, Irvin, Matthew J, Rogelberg, Sandra. School connectedness and valuing as predictors of high school completion and postsecondary attendance among Latino youth. Contemporary Educational Psychology. 2016;44-45. 54-67.