You care about the children you work with. You invest every ounce of effort, heart and skill into your work with them. You give all you’ve got to help them meet their milestones and make progress.
And you enjoy it all.
You even collaborate with colleagues, ask for advice and then reap satisfaction from the results of your efforts. But there’s one aspect that you sometimes wish you can avoid.
And that is being in touch with the parents.
That takes so much out of you. Emotionally, physically and psychologically. You know the importance, yet you shy away from this burden.
We get it, it’s hard. But for the sake of the child, it’s crucial.
After all is said and done, parents deserve to know about their child and know their child best. They have an internal intuition and have access to information that you don’t. They know the child’s history and what has or hasn’t worked in the past. They are aware of the child’s behavior outside of the school setting, and are privy to all the circumstances that are affecting the child in all areas. If parents are kept in the loop regarding the educational plan, it will ultimately help the child progress.
In short, they know a lot about the child and we need them on board to get that information and maximize the results.
So the importance has been established. Which brings us to the next question.
How do I go about this relationship? Parents can be so emotionally invested, it’s sometimes hard to establish good rapport.
So first, you need to make sure that your relationship with the parent is positive. Send pictures of the child’s work, create newsletters with the child, put together a video or slideshow. These consistent gestures establish that you are focused on the positive and are here for the good of the child. So when the conversations come up, you’r e on solid ground. You can even send home a pretty notebook that is designated for little snippets of communication between you and the parent.
“The level of parent involvement at school is not determined by parent interest or apathy. The level of parent involvement is determined by whether or not appropriate strategies and structures are in place to facilitate the participation of parents.”
(Milbrey McLaughlin, Standford University)
Knowing what might occur during the conversation will go a long way to make sure you keep it professional.
Yes, it’s normal for parents to get defensive. Yes, it’s normal for parents to be in denial. It’s their child. And as much as they are aware that their child needs help, it’s still hard to come to terms with it. So balance out the praise and the concern. Be gentle when talking about the work that still needs to be done. And yes, there still might be the parent that will think:
“She’s so negative. She’s overdoing it. She’s focusing on the weaknesses.”
How the parents react is out of your control. But you can try to give a balanced report with heightened sensitivity.
All good in theory, right?? Here’s a practical example of how the conversation should go.
Start with a Compliment:
“Shlomy has really been motivated to work on his focusing skills lately. He’s been cooperative with the exercises we do and I see that he has been able to focus for 1 or two minutes longer than a month ago.”
Discuss Concerns and Goals:
“His rebbe would like to see him be able to focus for 10 minutes of lesson time without disrupti ons. We are working on increasing his current 5 minutes to 7 minutes. We are doing this by practicing breathing in order to tune out the distractions of other students. We are also practicing using the bouncy band wrapped around the legs of his chair as well as good posture with hands on his desk.”
Validate Their Challenges:
“Change takes time and is not an easy process. But we will work together until he reaches his goals. And until that happens we are here for you and with you.”
Keep in mind:
Parents have a lot on their plate and can’t always commit to putting in the time. It doesn’t mean that they don’t care. Be understanding of their schedule and contact them at a time that works for them so they can be in the right frame of mind.
At the same time, consider your own boundaries as well. It would be unrealistic to assume that you can be available at all hours.
Yes, it takes effort.
But with the right frame of mind and with the tools in place, it can be so rewarding. And most importantly, so beneficial for the child.
As Jane Dee Hull, the first female governor of Arizona, once said:
“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.”
By: Esther Brodt, LCSW