MindMatters in Minutes. Sharing concerns with parents.

If you become concerned about a student’s mental health…

…you may need to discuss it with the student’s parents or family. But how do you do this effectively—without you blabbing your head off or the parents freaking out?

Having a clear, simple process can give you confidence and help you to frame the discussion as a positive opportunity.

The foundations for an effective discussion are laid well before the meeting itself. First there are whatever steps you have taken to build a positive and trusting relationship with the family, and what you already know about their particular needs and values.

Then there are the steps you take to prepare for the conversation, documenting your concerns—and discussing the situation with senior staff so you can get their insight, advice and support.

When you actually have the conversation, often the best approach is to be clear, open and nonjudgmental.

Sensitivity on your part can prevent family members becoming panicked or feeling blamed for the situation.

At the same time, having a positive, strengths-based approach can lead the school, student and family…

…to work together to resolve whatever issues might come up.

Just because you’ve initiated the conversation doesn’t mean you need do all the talking or have all the answers. In fact often the best thing you can do is avoid the temptation to offer advice and instead use silence to give the parent time to think and talk.

Often these discussions are the beginning of a process, not the end.

Check-in with how the parent is feeling about the concerns you’ve raised, and explore options and next steps—

Including possible referral to other staff or external services.

After the meeting, make sure you check in with the appropriate staff at your school, share how it went, pass on important information and seek support if you need it.

By following a process like this you can share your concerns in a way that makes parents feel supported, valued and optimistic—

And is possibly a significant step in helping a student.

So think for moment—do you feel like you could have one of these discussions with a parent? How would this process work for you?

And who on your staff could give you support?

And how would you involve the student?