Belonging is not just the most important essential element for youth, it is also the most important for families. If a family does not feel a sense of belonging in your 4-H program, guess how long they will stick around? You guessed it- not very long.
Because of this, we have to be intentional with how we welcome and include new 4-H families into our organization. Some suggestions for doing so:
- 4-H Kick-off (or Expo, or Roundup, New Family Night, etc.) Many counties already do some type of event to kick off the start of the 4-H year. Use this venue to allow seasoned club leaders the opportunity to present mini-sessions on “What they Wish they Had Known as a New 4-H Parent.” In these types of venues make sure to designate specific individuals (not you, you’ll be busy) to serve as “greeters” to seek out new families and personally welcome them.
- Train club leaders to provide a welcoming environment. For many families, the local 4-H club leader(s) is the first 4-H representative with whom they come in contact. Make sure these club leaders understand the importance of their role in creating a welcoming environment for new families. You can find some great suggestions for doing so at: Getting Parents Involved
- Welcome Letter to New Families. You can see an example at: Letter to 4-H Parents. I love the fact that this is simple and not at all overwhelming.
- New Family Handbook. Check out some examples:
- Involve Them! Sometimes the quickest way to make someone feel that they are truly a part of an organization is to give them work! Indiana 4-H has a training series on how to engage parents. This is a great resource for club leaders or for your own self-education:
Do you have to employ each of these tools? Of course not! But do think about 1-2 ways in which you can focus on creating a welcoming environment for new 4-H families. And as always, if you have some tool you are using to acclimate new 4-H families to your programs, share your info in the comment section below!