3.2 – Communicating with parents

MindMatters in Minutes. Communicating with parents.

While it’s great to have a strategy for engaging families, the success of that strategy really depends on the relationships between parents and individual staff.

But in high school you hardly ever see parents,and even when you do you may not have anything in common with them. So how do you form a good relationship?

It’s not about becoming best buddies.

It’s about building trust, empathy and respect so that you understand where each other is coming from and can work together to provide a positive, coherent experience for the student.

It doesn’t matter who you are, or who the parents are, you can build this kind of relationship using specific, learnable communication skills.

For instance, you can choose to take a strengths-based approach to your relationships.

For example, often the only time a family hears about a student is when they’ve done something wrong.

If you take the time to identify a strength—any strength—in a student and then make contact just to share that observation with the family, you can take a big step forward in building an effective relationship.

You can also put an emphasis on doing things that build trust. One way to build trust is to keep parents in the loop about what you are doing in the classroom or school office, so that they get a stronger sense of your professional competenceand feel like participants in their child’s education.

Another way to build trust with parents is to take the opportunity to demonstrate more subtle social skills such as sharing concerns, maintaining discretion and offering a respectful, non-judgmental attitude towards them.

Finally you can choose to develop your understanding of the parent community. It’s easy to make assumptions about what your students’ families are like, but there’s almost certainly far more diversity than you imagine.

When you get to spend time with a parent, try putting aside your assumptions and take the opportunity to practice techniques such as asking open questions, reflecting responses or using empathic silence. You might be surprised at what you discover.

See? That was some empathic silence right there. It was good wasn’t it?

So consider your own relationships with parents. How do you feel about them? And what could you do to make them better?