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WRDSB parent committee now hosting virtual family engagement event

Much has changed since the school board’s Parent Involvement Committee (PIC) held its last public event in 2019, but the organization is looking to get back to it, albeit virtually.

Last year’s family engagement event was cancelled due to the pandemic. This week, the committee went online with the effort to help parents and guardians engage with their kids.

While it’s typically an in-person event that gives participants a chance to socialize while hearing from speakers about topics related to parenting, the ongoing COVID-19 situation has forced organizers to go digital.

This iteration, which runs through April 10, will be much lighter and refreshing, focusing on topics of resiliency and connection, says Waterloo Region District School Board PIC co-chair Beth Daniel.

“All the parents in the committee – there’s about 14 of us – the big topic was finding something light, something refreshing, something recharging. So the theme we picked is ‘engage, equip and energize.’ We wanted something light, not COVID or mental illness or anything heavy, but we wanted a new way of giving hope for parents. That’s why we’re focusing on connecting,” said Daniel. “We just don’t want them to dwell on the COVID pandemic. We want to focus just in general on what does resiliency look like? How do parents create hope and new possibilities? How do we [create] not just resiliency for our children but for ourselves – how are we resilient, how can we be resilient? I think we’ve been focusing on our children a lot but it’s also important for us to be resilient – and how do we do that?”

The family engagement event consists of three sessions, covering the likes of resilience, wellness, anti-racism and even comedy. In fact, the event kicked off Wednesday with a comedy act to lighten the mood, as Daniel says parents need to laugh which is good therapy in itself.

Today’s session (Thursday, 7-8:30 p.m.) features Dr. Jean Clinton who will discuss resilience and how to support your kids and yourself during these times. The final session takes place April 10 (9-11:30 a.m.) with Jonathan Hood teaching parents and guardians “how to thrive and feel alive” through a mental health and wellness session. This will then lead to the final speaker, Selam Debs, who will host an anti-racism workshop.

When planning the event started, Daniel says one of the biggest concerns the PIC had was whether or not people were burned out from virtual events and if they would even tune in for something like this.

“We didn’t know – there’s a lot of uncertainty whether to do an in person or [virtual event]. So, the challenge was just not knowing what that virtual engagement would look like, and if parents would be interested.”

Despite concerns, Daniel said as of the end of March, there were more than 1,000 registrations for the event.

Parents and guardians interested in taking part in any of the remaining sessions can do so online.

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