When you notice that a child is experiencing a period of stress, the first thing you want to do is discuss it with the child’s parents. This conversation can be challenging, as content can be misunderstood on both sides.
These 5 strategies will help you facilitate a productive conversation about a child’s stress:
1. Begin With Strategies
When parents are called to a discussion, they may experience uncertainty or even fear. Approaching them with examples of strategies you have already used and others you are planning to try will demonstrate your proactive stance. Guide the conversation while making it clear you will incorporate their input. Offer information and resources that can help the child and the family cope with stress, such as self-care tips, counselling services, or parenting classes.
2. Explore Child’s Perspective
Dealing with a stressed child can be upsetting, and the conversation between parents and educators may veer off topic. Focus on working together to understand the child’s perspective to prevent unnecessary digressions and reduce tension. Invite parents to share their own observations and concerns about their child and encourage them to ask questions. Above all, show empathy for both the child and their parents.
3. Partner With Parents
Connect with parents using ‘I’ statements to help them understand that you are on their side. Instead of making accusations or placing blame, use “I” statements to share your observations and feelings. For example, “I noticed that your child seems to be having a hard time with transition times.” It’s easy for parents to feel judged or even attacked, so it is essential to create a sense of trust and define a working partnership.
4. Brainstorm Together
Work with parents to brainstorm about their child’s stress. Share your observations and ideas, while making sure to ask for the parents’ feelings and beliefs about the situation. Be sure to document your conversations with parents as well as your observations of the child. Ask about effective strategies they use at home with their child and work together to apply those in the classroom.
5. Check In Consistently
The initial conversation with parents about a child’s stress may leave everyone feeling unsure about how to proceed. Check in regularly with parents about the child’s progress. This will enhance communication and cooperation. Continue to share observations about the child’s behavior and any concerns you may have about their well-being.
Having difficult conversations with parents does not have to be uncomfortable. Focus on connecting and working together for the child’s benefit and overall mental health.