I do a month-long budgeting project in class that includes some parent encouragement. The unit starts with a short paper that has students evaluate their current source(s) of income, state 2 short-term goals, 2 long-term goals, and their overall thoughts on their personal money management. At that same time, the students create an Excel spreadsheet in which they are to enter every bit of money coming in or out of their lives for a one month period. The month ends with a second paper reviewing their spending and savings habits, reflecting on their goals, and stating what changes could/should be made.
Here is how I encourage parent involvement. I email a letter home to the parents introducing the project and encouraging them to talk to their students about it. I lay out the importance of discussing financial expectations, and parent involvement. Then at the end of the unit, I send most of the completed projects (both papers and the spreadsheet) home to the primary address with another letter asking parents to review the project and discuss it with their student. Every semester I have a few students who write about money problems that their parents have, or other similar personal issues. I do not send those projects home out of respect for the student and maintaining their trust. After the others are mailed out, I simply pull those students aside and hand them their projects explaining why theirs did not get sent home.
I have done this for 10 years and I have only had one negative parent response. A mom was embarrassed by their personal financial situation and didn’t think that I should be asking for that information. Other than that, I have received dozens of thank yous and positive responses. It gives parents a way to start a conversation based on real spending and saving patterns.
I think the biggest thing to keep in mind is maintaining the student’s trust. I make sure they understand that I have seen just about every financial situation there is to see, and I am not here to judge. I spend a lot of time explaining that everyone’s situation is different and that’s okay as long as we can apply the concepts learned in class about saving and planning how we spend.