First, understand that your role as a parent is unique. No-one knows and loves your child the way that you do. You are the expert on your child. And while you may not have all the answers, you want your child to be successful in school and in life. Your passion, as a parent, can help you communicate brilliantly, and sometimes, it can overtake you.
Step 1, be mindful of your emotional pressure gauge as you work with your child’s school
If you expect to have difficulty when meeting with school personnel, your mind and body will be primed for battle. How can you communicate successfully if you are on the verge of overflowing in anguish and outrage? Don’t let your mind go there. Keep thoughts of past (or present) problems at school, worst fears, and other negatives from creeping into your mind. Focus positively on your goals and the view that the school wants to do their best for your child Keep telling yourself that you and your child will succeed.
Step 2, Prioritize and Plan
What’s the most important thing that needs to be accomplished for your child? Make a list of the issues, questions and possible solutions. Rank them. Decide if there are any you can pass on and which one(s) must be addressed. Plan how you are willing to give and take in order to achieve the higher goal. Map out what you need to say and practice, if that helps.
Step 3, Actively listen to understand the other person’s perspective
If you don’t understand what someone is saying tell him or her. Be direct:
“I just don’t understand what you are saying. Can you explain it in a different way or give me some examples?”
“Is there something you can show me, in writing, so I can fully understand?”
Keep asking and wait for responses until you do fully understand. Resist any temptation to answer your own questions or put words into someone else’s.
Step 4, Clarify your statements if you see a puzzled expression on someone’s face and ask for clarification in return
Paraphrase, or restate so that you and others are clear in your understanding. Often, the process of clarifying one’s understanding provides an opportunity to clear up a misconception or correct misinformation that could be critical to finding a satisfactory solution for your child. So, don’t overlook the value of this technique.
Step 5, Have options in mind and offer them for discussion, as needed.
As a parent, you’re in a good position to present alternative solutions that might not have occurred to those who work for the school system.
Step 6, You’re only human
If someone has been particularly helpful, acknowledge their efforts. Sometimes, especially when frustrations arise, acknowledging what has gone well, and how hard everyone has worked sweetens the air a bit and makes it possible for everyone to feel better and push towards the finish line!
If, by chance, you make a mistake or cause offence say you’re sorry. Making an apology says that you’re only human and helps to humanise what is often a formal process and sends the message that you can be forgiving of others’ mistakes. “Please and thank you” also go a long way in keeping conversations civil, and not surprisingly helps everyone say “yes”
Talk the Talk
So, in a nutshell, when talking with education staff at your child’s school, you’re likely to be successful if you can:
- Keep your cool
- Focus on the positives
- Be clear about your goals
- Ask questions
- Keep focus on meeting the child or young persons needs
- Present options in a collaborative way
Our team are here to help in complete confidentiality.