It can be challenging.
Maintaining strong relationships with parents. You know it’s critical, but that doesn’t make it easy.
Parents are so emotionally invested in their children they can’t always see straight.
Using a few simple strategies can make all the difference, so here are 5 strategies to strengthen your relationship with parents.
1. Stop, Look and Listen
Whenever possible, stop what you’re doing and look at parents when they’re talking to you. This communicates that you’re really listening to what they have to say.
Let the parent finish speaking and then check your understanding by paraphrasing what you heard.
Paraphrasing can seem a little strange at first, but it’s actually reassuring for the speaker. It shows you’ve heard them, and it helps clarify their thoughts. They can hear what they told you and confirm it’s correct.
2. Get Curious
Try to understand the parents’ perspective, even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying.
You can do this by getting really curious about their thoughts and feelings. You might try saying something like, “It sounds like that was frustrating.”
It’s also useful to use open-ended questions to ask for additional information if you need it. Open-ended questions give people a chance to expand on what they’re saying rather than just saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For example, “What did you mean by saying he was mucking up?”
3. Respond, Don’t React
Often when we’re rushed or busy we say things in the heat of the moment. It’s OK to pause and consider your response first. It’s also OK to defer the conversation until you both have more time.
Get used to using ‘I’ messages. They keep you focused on how you’re feeling about the situation, rather than blaming, or focusing on what you want parents to do.
It’s important to keep your comments in the present. Don’t bring up issues from the past. If the issue keeps happening, move on to finding a solution.
4. Address Problems Now
We often have to raise concerns with parents, and it’s never easy. But problems don’t go away by themselves, so it’s important to address them before they escalate.
The most important thing is to be open and honest with the parents. Explain exactly what the issue is and why it might be a concern.
Check what parents think about the issue and whether they’re concerned about it. Ask if they experience the same kind of issues at home.
5. Work Together Where Possible
When you’re looking after children it’s natural that there will be concerns from time to time. Whenever there’s an issue, it’s important for you to work with the child’s parents, as a team.
Try to show an interest in the parents’ welfare as well as their child’s after all, the problem is likely to impact them too.
Offering solutions is a consultative process. Ask for parents’ opinions and then brainstorm as many solutions as possible. Once you’ve got some ideas, jointly evaluate the pros and cons of each solution to find what works.