Parent Engagement is Important to Student Success

tool kit
At the Council of Ontario Directors of Education (CODE) it is our goal to offer resources that will help families as they guide their children in learning skills that are essential for success at school and throughout life.
CODE has produced a series of resources with input from parents across Ontario. We invite you to scroll down the page and read a short description of these resources then follow a link to learn more and access the resources for any or all of the topics that have been covered to date.

Parent Tool Kit: Relationships
What parents can do to help their children develop healthy relationships

tool kit

Copies of our newest Tool Kit and Guidebook were delivered to all publicly funded school boards during the fall of 2014. Extra copies may be downloaded and printed without infringement on copyright.

We hope that you, the parent, will find this useful in conversations with your child. There are six sections in the Tool Kit, which can be explored in any order. They are:

  • BE A MENTOR: emphasizes the importance of empathy, modeling and positive parenting in building and maintaining healthy relationships
  • BE INVOLVED: gives tips on how parents can be involved in supporting children's appropriate use of social media
  • BE A ROLE MODEL: highlights importance of building positive and inclusive relationships
  • BE A LEARNER: focuses on the mental health and well-being of young people
  • BE A COACH: focuses on ways to deal with conflict and prevent bullying
  • BE A GUIDE: focuses on how to build resilience in children

The tips and suggestions throughout this package have been provided by parents from across the province, as well as educators, students, and experts in children's development including Mary Gordon, Dr. Bruce Ferguson, Dr. Jean Clinton, Dr. Debra Pepler and Children's Mental Health Ontario.

These booklets were produced with support from the Parent Engagement Office at the Ministry of Education.

  • Parent Tool Kit: Relationships: What Parents Can Do To Help Their Children Develop Healthy Relationships (Tool Kit) - Download now in PDF Format

A Guidebook for Parents and Schools
to support the use of the Parent Tool Kit: Relationships


The accompanying Guidebook is intended to help in developing parent workshops on important topics as outlined in the Tool Kit. We hope that Parent Involvement Committees (PICs), School Councils and other parent groups will find this helpful when working with school leaders in encouraging their students to succeed, and in building positive school climates.

  • A Guidebook for Parents and Schools to support the use of the Parent Tool Kit: Relationships (Guidebook)
    - Download now in PDF Format

Please see the MORE INFORMATION FOR PARENTS section for a look at how three parent groups used the Guidebook to host informative workshops.

Parents and educators: for more information, success stories and additional resources, please see below:


The Tool Kit and Guidebook were intended as resources to help you as parents and guardians, as you guide and encourage your children in learning skills that are essential for success at school and throughout life.

How can parents find the answers to the many daily challenges of parenting? Over many months, parent representatives shared their concerns about the complex issues facing today's young people. Parents, students and educators across Ontario have worked together to create this resource.

The Tool Kit is a collection of ideas, tips and resources for you to support your children. It is intended to build upon the many good things parents are already doing. In addition to the creative suggestions given by parents, we are grateful to have been supported by professionals with expertise in areas such as children's mental health, conflict resolution, development of empathy, building of resilience and prevention of bullying.

We hope that you will find these resources useful. We thank the many parents, PICS, experts and educators that have contributed to this project.

Several Parent Councils and PIC groups have organized events based on the Building Healthy Relationships package. Here are their success stories!


Workshop #1 – Two Ways to Connect

Bouncing Back: Building Resiliency in Our Children
Near North District School Board
Parry Sound, ON/online

This was a parent-focused open conversation led by the Near North District School Board Mental Health Lead.

The presentation had been tailored to address input offered by students, Principals, SAC Chairs, and PIC Co-chairs. The presentation was an interactive conversation offered both in person and online as a webinar. We had 40 parents attend face-to-face, and ten parents attend via webinar. This format helped to address the diverse needs of families throughout our large geographic district. The parents that attended in person enjoyed a meal prepared by our high school culinary students as a way to highlight their talents. Child care was provided.

For parents who could not attend in person, the workshop was available by webinar from home. The presenter's voice could be heard, and the PowerPoint presentation was visible. An IT person was on hand for the evening to assist in case of issues. Note, unfortunately the presentation was only available to homes with high speed internet connection. Due to the success of the presentation, the PIC is looking at bringing other topics of interest to parents in a similar format.

For more information on this presentation, visit

Workshop #2 – Working from the Tool Kit

Building Healthy Relationships – Parenting Now
Ottawa Catholic School Board
Ottawa, ON


  1. Introductions of participants — Leader
    a. Name
    b. School/Council Member (y/n)

    c. Age(s) of children
  2. Ice Breaker — What do you think about when you hear "Building Healthy Relationships"?
  3. Overview of Took Kit — Leader
  4. Resources for Parents: Tool Kits and Guidebooks

    Ottawa Catholic School Board (10 Minutes)
  5. Navigating the Tool Kit (10 minutes). Each group reads one section.
    a. Be a Mentor — Building Relationships
    b. Be Involved — Digital Media
    c. Be a Role Model — Diversity
    d. Be a Learner — Mental Well-Being
    e. Be a Coach — Conflict and Bullying
    f. Be a Guide — Resilience
  6. Share an idea that resonated with you and share one or two of the ideas with group (20 minutes). Leaders can expand ideas by adding research information.
  7. Follow up: What can we do with this Tool Kit to help our children and/or our school communities?: (10 minutes)

    a. What one thing did you learn?
    b. What one thing will you change or do differently?
    c. How can you share this information with more parents?
  8. Highlight References in Tool Kit (2 minutes)
  9. Wrap Up (2 minutes)

Workshop Report from Parent Discussions

Twenty parents with children from grades k-12 attended the workshop. Four groups of five parents were formed; these are the highlights after reading sections of the Parent Tool Kit.

Building Relationships – Be a Mentor

  • Best gift is being there for your kids and giving your time as a parent (driving, sharing meal times, talking and connecting with your child)
  • Help reduce stress (i.e. when transitioning from event to event). Solution could be reduce activities to 2 per week, play outside, walk with child, walk to school
  • Look at friendships and relationships
  • Embrace positive parenting: enhance the positive and avoid the negative things

Digital Media – Be Involved

  • All children are now using some sort of digital media
  • We need to educate our children on how to use social media and help children know the difference between friends and acquaintances (e.g. Facebook and what one writes, not to share passwords, report cyber bullying)
  • We must empower our children to ensure they understand media and know the basics so they can use the media safely
  • Be involved; have your child show you what and how they use social media
  • Help children to deal with disappointment and failure and that they can learn from this and try again the next day

Mental Well-Being – Be a Learner

  • Talk with your children about mental illness (example if a family member has an illness) to reduce stigma and encourage our children to feel safe so they can talk to parent
  • Parents need to support their child
  • Trust instincts so we can address issues right away and talk with our children
  • Promote well being in the home; give children the opportunity to try different things that they like
  • Encourage friendships with other children: this supports our children positively
  • Use available resources in own community to support our children with their own mental health

Resilience – Be a Guide

  • Encourage our children to help others as it helps them build self-confidence
  • Help our children with setting realistic goals that they can attain
  • Guide your child encouraging them to know their strengths
  • Give children responsibilities, this will help them develop realistic goals and know themselves
  • Help them to deal with disappointments and failure, learn from these experiences
  • Self-regulation is important because it helps children to become aware of their own emotions
  • We have to be able to manage emotions in life — this is not easy and we must teach children how to do that
  • In order to learn effectively, we have to be CALM, alert and ready

Workshop #3 – Inspired by the Guide Book

Let's Talk! Parent Council Round Table Event
Lambton-Kent District School Board
Chatham/Sarnia, ON

In order to best accommodate the parents in our sprawling board, we held our event at two separate locations on the same night. We invited members of PIC, School Councils, and other interested parents to come out, and had a robust attendance at both of our locations. Hosting the two locations and saving many from a long drive was much appreciated by our parents.

We then broke up into three groups for introductions and roundtable discussions on important issues facing School Council groups:

Table One: Fundraising

Many schools and parent council groups are bogged down in fundraising efforts and needs, so this session was mainly a brainstorm. Attendees shared ideas, successes, challenges, and resources around fundraising. The discussion often veered into related territory including the socio-economic make up of schools, equity, fair practices and the need to come up with a fair way for schools to share dollars.

Significant take-aways:

  • Fundraising can be a huge burden on parents and students must never feel like fundraising is mandatory
  • Rewards for fundraising lead to inequity and "othering" of children
  • A sister-school system should be set up to pair prosperous with poorer schools
  • Fundraising should be capped at a certain number each year, and schools should always inform parents of where money is to be used

Table Two: Parent and Student Engagement

How do we get parents out to events? How do we keep parents informed of what's happening in the school community? How do we keep students engaged with their own studies and community? The animated discussions among groups at this table often included venting about frustrations in trying to keep parents informed, in working with administration, how to use Social Media effectively and the roles parent council groups take in engagement.

Significant take-aways:

  • Many parent council members are frustrated with unanswered efforts to keep parents engaged
  • We must look at new ways to get parents "in the door," especially when it comes to marginalized populations, remote areas
  • There is no such thing as over-communication. Use social media whenever possible to "go where the people are."
  • Make sure students feel included in the decision making process regarding their lives and education

Table Three: Current Issues and Concerns in the School

This is where the heavy issues came out. Everything from mental health, bullying, cyber-responsibility, resilience, and strategies for parents was discussed, along with some ideas for resolution, improvement, and how bodies like PIC can help.

Significant take-aways:

  • Equity is lacking in our schools – e.g. issues of language, diversity, socio-economic differences and how all of these things work to "other" our children
  • Parents cannot help students with homework/learning success if they do not understand the curriculum
  • Identify and nurture leadership opportunities for students
  • Parents and students alike are frustrated by "singular" focus in schools (e.g. numeracy, technology) and would like to see a more well-rounded curriculum.


Your Board has sent copies of the Tool Kit and Guidebook to all schools. Each school should distribute copies as they deem most effective. Some schools will give packages to School Council or other parent groups; others may choose to have additional copies printed for distribution. Additional copies of The Tool Kit may be printed and distributed freely without infringement of copyright.

In the Guidebook, there are suggestions for activities that can be used by School Councils or parent groups to learn more about the ideas in the Tool Kit. (See p.6 and p.13. Also, p.14 includes a workshop to introduce the Tool Kit to parents.)

Suggestions for sharing these resources:

  1. Work with school and system leaders to support parent groups or School Councils to review Tool Kit and determine how it can be used to meet the needs of school communities. This can be done over the school year if broken into sections (pg. 6 and 13 Guidebook)
  2. Reserve copies of this resource for your Parent Resource Library or school library
  3. Advertise in school newsletter
  4. Add link to resource on school/board website and/or link to this web page:
  5. Make resource available at open houses, parent-teacher interviews, etc.
  6. Help to organize events, workshops and/or parent group activities as suggested in the Guidebook (p.9, p.16)


Your Board has sent copies of the Tool Kit and Guidebook to all schools. Each school should distribute copies as they deem most effective. Some schools will give packages to School Council or other parent groups; others may choose to have additional copies printed for distribution. Additional copies of the Tool Kit and/or Guidebook may be printed and distributed freely without infringement of copyright.

Research shows that healthy relationships among students, parents and staff help to create optimal learning conditions for everyone. School communities in Ontario have been working hard to create positive school climates where all learners feel safe and welcomed. There has been a focus in School Improvement Plans on building safe and accepting schools.

We hope that the Parent Tool Kit will be a useful resource to support your school community's goals. A Guidebook For Parents and Schools provides activity ideas for Parent Involvement Committees, School Councils and parent groups. Please see the MORE INFORMATION FOR PARENTS section for workshop ideas and success stories.

How can educators use this resource to help parents support their children:

  1. Add to School Council agenda and review the Tool Kit to determine how it can be used over the school year (See suggestions in the Guidebook on pg. 6 or introduction workshop p. 14)
  2. Reserve copies of this resource for your Parent Resource Library or school library
  3. Share copies with school staff (including guidance and/or support staff) or place a copy in the staffroom
  4. Advertise in school newsletter
  5. Add link to resource on school/board website
  6. Make resource available at open houses, parent-teacher interviews, etc.
  7. Host events and/or parent group activities using Parents Reaching Out (PRO) grants on related topics as suggested in Guidebook

Thank you for your commitment to parent engagement in your school community!

All comments were received from parents after various information sessions and their own use of the Tool Kit

"I attended the seminar on this resource at the PIC symposium and was impressed with what I saw. I certainly hope they are being used in our schools!"

"I love the Parent Toolkits! Our Trustee showed the toolkits at our last meeting. I would love to figure out a way that we could have the Toolkits presented at one of our Parent seminars. Hopefully we can discuss that for the future."
- (CODE: Please see our sample workshops in the MORE INFORMATION FOR PARENTS section and refer to the Guidebook for ideas)

"Encourage parent support groups for high schools. Many parents have difficult issues but have nowhere to turn. Sometimes just knowing that others are facing the same issues helps!"

I'm really impressed with the tool kit which is why I was rereading the information at the start of another school year!"

"I was just reading the healthy relationships booklet on the weekend. Does your group have the ability to support workshops? Is it possible to develop a webinar for parents to access?"
- (CODE: Please see webinar example from the Near North workshop under the MORE INFORMATION FOR PARENTS section.)

"It's so hard to know that my child is hurting and I don't know how to help. It's only when I hear other parents expressing that same feeling that I realize I am not alone. I guess sharing our concerns is the first step in finding ways to help our children…"

"I am eager to increase parent partnership with the school and hope to promote some of the suggestions for 'parent engagement' in the Guide … However, in the section on anti-bullying, you assume that the unhealthy relationships causing pain for our children are always due to peer bullying. In my experience, much of the grief for students is because of treatment by the adults at the school. "
- (CODE: The opinions and recommendations expressed will be taken into consideration as CODE continues its work with the main priorities of making schools more inviting and making students feel more accepted.)

"I liked the resources at the symposium – how does one get the energy back to the school?"

"We had Dr. Wayne Hammond present to us on resilience. He offered us common sense – no need to look for experts – get back to be present with your kids … Accepting our children and ourselves is so important."


BE A MENTOR: Building and Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services - Stepping Stones for Youth Development

Unicef - Making Meals Meaningful

COPA (Centre ontarien de prévention des agressions)

PBS - This Emotional Life: In Search of Ourselves…and Happiness

PREVNet - Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network

Mary Gordon - Roots of Empathy

TED Talks - The Power of Empathy

TVO Parents - Teaching Kids Build Healthy Relationships

Debra Pepler, Wendy Craig and Dilys Haner - "Healthy Development Depends on Healthy Relationships."

World Health Organization - Providing leadership on global health issues

BE INVOLVED: Relationships in a Digital Age

Media Smarts - Tip Sheet Building Your Brand

Prevnet - Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network: Helpful information about cyber-bullying

Parliament of Canada - Social Media: An Introduction

Facebook - Minors and Privacy

BE A ROLE MODEL: Helping Children Thrive in a Diverse World

COPA (Centre ontarien de prévention des agressions) - Fostering Safe, Inclusive and Accepting Schools: Bullying Prevention Guide – A Resource for Parents and Schools, (Toronto: COPA, 2013)


PFLAG Canada - When Sons and Daughters Come Out

Marsha Forest - Inclusion Is the Future, 1994

The Canadian Child Care Federation - Resoure Sheet #35

Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion - Sustainable solutions for inclusion

Ontario Ministry of Education - Realizing the Promise of Diversity: Ontario's Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy, 2009

Dr. Michael Ungar - Making Positive Changes (Citation)

Dr. Michael Ungar - I Still Love You: Nine Things Troubled Kids Need From Their Parents (book)

We All Belong - A Multimedia Tool Kit for Parents and Schools

BE A LEARNER: Understanding Children's Mental Health and Well-Being

Children's Mental Health Ontario - Community-based mental health services for children and youth

Children's Mental Health Ontario - Find a CMHO centre in your community

Parents for Children's Mental Health - Support and advocacy for families navigating the mental health system

Child and Youth Mental Health Information Network - Providing information about children's mental health problems for Ontario families

Kids Help Phone - Helpful resources on a wide variety of topics

ConnexOntario's Mental Health Helpline - Free and confidential health services for mental health and addiction issues

Health Canada - First Nations and Inuit mental health services

Mental Health 4 Kids - Mental health service and support directory for South-Western Ontario

BE A COACH: Resolving Conflict and Preventing Bullying

Ontario Ministry of Education - Accepting Schools Act

Kids Help Phone Safe and anonymous helpline for youth

COPA (Centre ontarien de prévention des agressions)

Safe@School - COPA-OTF joint initiative on bullying

Wendy Craig, Debra Pepler, Joanne Cummings - Bullying Prevention: What Parents Need to Know

London Anti-Bullying Coalition and York Region Anti-Bullying Coalition - A Parent Guide for Addressing Bullying in Publicly-funded Schools in Ontario

Ministry of Education - Safe and Accepting Schools Act

PREVNet website - Promoting Relationships and Ending Violence Network

TVO Parents - Social and emotional health resources

Change the Culture on Cyberbullying - (YouTube Video)

Bullying We Can All Help Stop It - A Guide for Parents

BE A GUIDE: Help Children Become Resilient

John Hoffman - "What Is Self-Regulation"

Mary Sue Williams and Shelley Shellenberger - Keeping on Track: Alert Program Companion Game

Oxford, Elgin, London/Middlesex Student Support Leadership Initiative - Bounce Back

Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative - Supporting parents and educators

Dr. Stuart Shanker - Self Regulation (download)

Parent Engagement

Ontario Ministry of Education - Information for Parents

Ontario Ministry of Education - Supporting Parent Engagement

Ontario Ministry of Education - School Council Checklist for Parent Involvement

People for Education - Supporting Education in Ontario Schools

Washington State Family & Community Engagement Trust - Supporting parents and students

National Network of Partnership Schools - Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships

School Climate Surveys - Sample surveys are available in 22 languages

Student Achievement

Ontario Ministry of Education - A Parent Guide

Reading and Writing with Your Child, Kindergarten to Grade 6 - Keeping on Track: Alert Program Companion Game

Converser, lire et écrire avec votre enfant - Guide à l'intention des parents

Doing Mathematics with Your Child, Kindergarten to Grade 6 - A Parent Guide

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Your Questions and Comments

CODE invites parents to send your questions and comments to us.

Click here to submit your questions or ideas.

Thank you for your commitment to parent engagement in your school community!

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