Four tips for crucial conversations with parents
In my years as a school counselor, I coordinated and lead a lot of parent-teacher conferences. Lucky for me, I worked in a school with an amazing, dedicated team of teachers who came to those conferences prepared and eager to serve. It’s an important mindset to cultivate. However, I also talk with parents and teachers who encounter a very different environment. Typical problems include an unwillingness to listen, a need to be right or prove a point and a lack of sensitivity to the intentions and efforts of others. How can you best ensure that a conference starts on the right track, ends with an action plan for moving forward and doesn’t get derailed in between?
Here are some tips to create a positive environment during crucial conversations:
- Begin by clarifying what you really want to accomplish in the meeting. Are you sharing information and bringing someone up to date? Do you want to make a decision about services or placement? Are you creating a behavior plan or academic plan for moving forward? Make sure everyone is prepared for the goal and on the same page. Being blindsided as to the real purpose of a meeting creates tension.
- Ask yourself how you need to act to accomplish your goal? Calm and focused? Confident and prepared with the facts? Sensitive and empathetic? Take some time to create a positive mindset beforehand. Spend a few moments visualizing and anticipating the kind of meeting that you would like to have.
- Avoid the extreme choices of:
- Maintaining peace and harmony at all costs by withdrawing, not speaking up or not identifying what you think is the best goal and why.
- Being more concerned about making a point than making a difference. Being determined to win and express your opinion at any cost.
- Instead of looking for differences and either/or decisions, look for common ground and make decisions that incorporate everyone’s concerns. Anticipate and encourage cooperation and investment in a positive outcome on everyone’s part.
Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways. What can he do? Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend.
Have you ever had a friend that did some things that you disagreed with? Wyatt does and he doesn’t know what to do about it. Join Wyatt as he learns that being honest with his friend is the best and only way to solve the problem. A great story!
~Lynn Hughes M.Ed. professional school counselor, Ball Ground Elementary