Improving Communication: Tips for Parents & Educators

Communication Tips for Parents

Communication Tips for Educators

Listen. Don’t put up walls by assuming you won’t like what you hear. Try to keep an open mind even if your views differ from those of the educators. The better you hear and understand their point of view, the better equipped you are to challenge it if you disagree.

Listen. Don’t put up walls by assuming that you always know better than the parent. Be willing to take into account what works for them at home. The better you hear and understand their point of view, the better the chance for finding solutions that work for everyone.

Give educators a chance. You will probably never get what you consider to be the perfect plan for your child, but recognize when it’s time to give a reasonable plan a try. Just because you accept an offer, it doesn’t mean you can’t ask to make changes or try something else if it proves less than successful. Acknowledge their efforts.

Demonstrate to parents that you respect and value their unique expertise and their fundamental understanding of their own child and their child’s needs.

Ask for clarification whenever you need it. Be persistent in asking questions and expecting good answers to them. It is very difficult to be comfortable in your own decisions or confident in the opinions of educators if you do not understand what they proposing for your child and why.

Use language that is easily understood, but take care not to condescend or “talk down” to parents. They may not be fully versed in the same jargon you use professionally, and may need to have information reframed in a way that makes sense to them, but most people will tend to withdraw from a conversation if they feel they are being insulted for their lack of understanding.

Expect and be open to full explanations of the reasons educators have for recommending a particular course of action for the child. If they have a well-developed plan for how they believe your child should be taught, they will be able to explain the plan to you in a way that makes it understandable to you.

Be prepared to fully explain your reasons for recommending a particular course of action for the child in a way that makes sense to parents. A parent who doesn’t fully understand what you are proposing is very unlikely to agree to it.

Know your own emotional triggers. Do your best to think through situations that you know are upsetting to you and plan for how you can respond or calm yourself in the moment. Write down key points ahead of time so that if your emotional buttons get pushed you have something in mind to fall back on and help keep you focused.

Take your own emotions into account. You are the professionals, but that doesn’t mean your emotional buttons aren’t vulnerable too. Do your best to keep an objective viewpoint on comments you perceive as personal or professional criticism and not let the focus shift away from the child’s needs because of the adults’ feelings.

Ask for time for careful consideration of the options when you feel you need it. Educators often complain that parents agree with them at meetings and then go home and change their minds. If you feel you need more time to make a decision, don’t allow yourself to be pressured into instant action.

Don’t press for instant decisions from the parent. Ever wonder why parents seem to agree to things at a meeting and then change their minds as soon as they leave? It’s because they feel pressured to make a quick decision—sometime even if they might have made the same decision after more thoughtful consideration. If they feel pressured into it, it doesn’t feel like their decision. Give them time to come back with questions and gain more clarification if necessary.

Give things time to work. If you are frustrated by a child’s lack of progress or have reservations about a proposed program, it’s hard to wait to see improvement, but few techniques or strategies show dramatic change overnight. Most programs need time to test their effectiveness for an individual child. If the approach to learning is changed too often, your child may just become confused and you may not be able to identify what works and what doesn’t.

Recognize the urgency and frustration that parents feel about their child’s educational progress. If you sense opposition from parents about continuing to pursue methods or strategies, or trying new ones because a student is struggling, it is probably because every day that things don’t go well at school feels like precious time lost to a parent. Taking time to explore strategies may be necessary, but, in doing so, understand the parents’ impatience and acknowledge their concerns about showing progress.

Boil it down to the essentials and build from there. If you try to deal with too many issues, none get the attention they need, so prioritize. Focus on the most crucial points now and work your way down the list over time.

Keep in mind and be willing to acknowledge to parents that no matter how much you care about your students, the parents’ investment in their child will always exceed yours. Sometimes it is important to say the things that seem obvious.

Put the really important stuff in writing. Taking the time to write a formal letter to make a request helps you organize your thoughts and evidence, creates a clear record, and lets educators know this is an issue you take very seriously.