• Effective parent communication tips in youth activity centers

Tips Every Coach or Teacher Should Know Before Communicating with Parents

Effective parent-instructor communication in youth gymnastics and activity centers is an art. Great parent/coach relationships take patience, practice, and balance. Your goal as a youth activity center owner is to not only keep your students’ parents informed about what is happening inside your classes each week but also keeping them ahead of events, competitions and updates to policies & procedures.

You may already have an effective class management software in place to help you manage schedules, billing, and attendance but you should also be utilizing these tools to improve communication and transparency between staff and parents.

5 Tips for Effective Communication with Parents in Your Youth Activity Center

With all that you have on your plate day-to-day, how should instructors, directors, and owners of youth activity centers build these critical relationships with parents and families?

1. Create positive interactions with clear and frequent parent communication

Turns out, they were right, first impressions really are important. Just like you’d approach meeting a new co-worker, business partner or networking contact, make an effort to let your best self come through in your first welcome email, announcement or newsletter that a parent receives after registering or participating in a trial class. Personalize your followup with notes about their child’s activity, skills or experience. While you don’t need to go out of your way to make a new best friend out of every parent, you do want to establish a good relationship with them right from the start.

2. Make technology your new best friend

Weekly paper newsletters, thumbtacks, corkboards, and stickers on leotards are on the way out. All candidates for a great #ThrowbackThursday. Today, owners, administrators and instructors can text, message or email blast a student, parent or class with just a few taps, swipes or clicks with a program like Jackrabbit. By tapping into your Parent Portal and updating class schedules, milestone and skill progression, and account notices, you can save both parents and staff hours of manual communication in their week.

3. Collect detailed family and student information and utilize it as often as you can 

During your interactions with parents and students, take great notes and store them within your Jackrabbit Families, Students, and Class Notes. Share them with your staff and be sure that people refer back to them before crafting personal communication. Not much is worse as a parent than feeling like you’re having to repeat yourself over and over or that your student’s program doesn’t know what’s most important to you.

4. Be sure that updates to class schedules, skills and events are communicated

When the rubber meets the road, there are other things that students and support systems at home need to know about. Be sure you’re utilizing the tools within your class management programs to inform parents of locations and times of events, competitions and meetings; skill progression and at-home-practice tips; attendance or makeup updates and instructor substitutions or additions. Details change often, and parents can and will handle it well if they know you are doing your best to keep them informed.

5. Encourage parents to take advantage of their Parent Portal

Only a small fraction of your students’ time is spent in your classes or with their instructors and coaches. With that in mind, it’s often crucial that parents are reinforcing positive messages and skills at home. By keeping your Parent Portal updated with new skills, important messages and information on what you’re covering in class, families can make your program a part of their everyday communication. Utilize your weekly communication to remind parents to check their Portal frequently – the most successful gymnastics gyms, swim schools and dance studios often make Parent Portal interaction into a monthly contest or game to keep everyone involved.

How to simplify communication with parents in your activity programs

One of the most beneficial aspects of teaching or coaching gymnastics, dance or swimming is the level of engagement parents of young athletes have. Parents of today are hyper-invested in the success and happiness of their students and understand that open lines of communication with their instructors and office administrators is critical to the learning outcomes children leave classes with.

Effective instructor-parent communication is essential for both the teachers and the students to thrive and be successful. There are three important elements to keep in mind when creating clear and effective communication with parents.

1. Be crystal clear and transparent

From the first email or message you send at registration or enrollment, let parents know why, when, how often they’ll be hearing from you. Then, keep them informed on exactly how you and your staff prefer they get in touch with you. Remind them that you value their time, understand their chaotic schedules and will do your best to accommodate their families – just like you hope they’ll do for you. The initial welcome email is a great time to let parents know what your office hours are for in-person meetings, too.

2. Make sure parents know when they’re expected to take action

One of the most important roles of the teacher or coach is to ensure that their classes and programs are the right fit for each student enrolled. With that in mind, there are certain times when you’ll need your parents to be an extension of your classes and take action. One of the most important times is when their student or family has a scheduling conflict and needs to miss class. Do they understand what your makeup policy is and how to utilize it? This may require parents to work directly with your front office or communicate with you via the Parent Portal to accommodate their student’s makeup classes.

3. Respond to parent concerns with empathy and understanding

I get it. It can be difficult to communicate clearly and effectively with parents who may not be giving you the same courtesy, but hey – you’re a champ, no one can handle upset or concerned parents like you can, #amiright? When a parent approaches or emails you with a problem or concern, listen carefully, restate the issue so they know you heard them and then, respond empathically. Remaining diplomatic can help you get a resolution quicker and whatever you do, do not engage in an argument with the parent – your customer and one-time advocate.

Use class management software to communicate more effectively in your business

There are a variety of different apps and class management tools on the market today that make it easier for youth activity center managers and directors to provide parents with student information, class updates, event notifications and more. Having a solid and strong software in place to assist in communication and business operations can save you valuable time and free you up to handle the growth of your business or parent relations when they call or stop in.

When searching for a tool to run your front office, look for apps that streamline:

  • Student and family information collection with online registration and waitlisting

  • Class scheduling and management of class requests, attendance and schedules

  • Enrollment and admissions software that helps you easily access and provide information regarding tuition, class openings and more online or in your Parent Portal

  • Financial and billing software that allows you to manage tuition payments in person or ePayments in your Parent Portal. Find a tool that integrates with your Quickbooks Online.

If your current business operations software isn’t the right fit for your school, consider investing in a solution that is able to grow and scale with the needs of your program. A class management system that focuses on client success and important integrations will help lighten the workload for your office staff and free them up for better communication with your parents and students.

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About the Author:

Emily Smith has been passionate about children and families for most of her life and has been uniquely involved in the education and business side of the child care and activities industries for over 10 years. She is currently leading the Marketing team at Jackrabbit Technologies, parent company of Jackrabbit Class, Dance, Cheer, Swim, Care and Dojo editions. Emily has served as an Executive Director for three national child care organizations, been an active consultant and national speaker on child care sales and marketing and was actively involved with the marketing and enrollment of her centers for most of her career. She has extensive experience and a vast knowledge of successful sales & marketing systems, methods, strategies and techniques that she has brought to the development of programs, systems and to her consulting with child care and activities centers on best business practices.

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