Handling absentee parents

some kids are left to fend for themselves
Need advice (a script) for calling a parent? Find that here.

In many ways, an under involved or absentee parent is more difficult to handle than a helicopter or snowplow parent. These are the parents who don’t come to open house, they don’t have a working phone number, and they don’t care if their child does their homework or not.

More often than not, under-involved parents are under involved because their own lives are so over-involved.

They struggle to sustain themselves and their children. Often times, these parents work multiple jobs to support their families or struggle with addictions. Sometimes these parents are children themselves who are raising their younger siblings.

The result of this type of parent is obvious. If the parent doesn’t care—or doesn’t have time to care—about the child’s education, then the child likely won’t care about his or her own education.

Usually, these are the students who struggle most with academics and discipline, which leads to a frustrating cycle. The student is struggling so you try to contact the parent, but the parent is unreachable and your in-school interventions aren’t working so the student continues to struggle.

Email often isn’t an option for these parents. If a phone call results in a, “this number is no longer in service,” try a letter. Sometimes snail mail is the only form of communication that gets through.

Don’t send a letter home with the child, or a grade sheet that requires a parent signature. That parent will likely never see it, although (magically) it does come back signed.

Also, in dire situations, don’t send a letter in an envelope with the school emblem on it. These kids are smart. They see something coming from the school and they’ll make it disappear faster than free brownies at lunchtime. Make sure to include in the letter that you are concerned about the student and it would be a great benefit to them if you and the parent could work together to improve the child’s chances of success.

this number has been disconnected

Sometimes a parent cannot be reached at all, or the parent does not want to be reached.

In this case, you can take the situation to a guidance counselor or assistant principal, or you can attempt to continue to work the issue out individually with the student. A one-on-one conversation can be very useful in these situations. You might want to tell the child that you’ve tried to contact home to discuss the current issues and were unable to make contact. You’re likely to hear a response something like this, “They don’t care what I do.” You’re response is, “Well I do, and we’re going to start making some changes now because I am determined that you are going to be successful.”

Want to learn more about absentee parents? Check out this New York Times Article – Absentee parents: How it affects your child’s studies.

More afraid of actually having to talk to a parent than not being able to reach one? Check out this script for calling parents.

Make sure to share, tweet, and pin to spread these ideas to all the future and new teachers who might need the advice.

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A Teacher's Guide

I am a National Board Certified educator currently teaching in Virginia. I have taught the following: English 9, 10, 11, and 12 (on academic, collaborative, and honors levels); Dual Enrollment English; Mass Communications, Yearbook, Newspaper, and Communications Technology. I have experience in five different school systems, four in Virginia and one in Maryland. I served as my school’s 2019 Teacher of the Year and was a top five finalist for the Teacher of the Year for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. I am passionate about recruiting and retaining quality educators in our public schools. Let me help you find your path to changing lives through teaching!

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2 Responses

  1. June 4, 2019

    […] For tips on how to handle absentee parents check out this recent post. […]

  2. June 14, 2019

    […] Sometimes these students are more supported than those with under involved parents. […]

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