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Communicating With Parents

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  1. Communicating With Parents Peggy Kemp – KITS – University of Kansas Beach Center on Disabilities

  2. Barriers • Structural • Policies, staff turnover, hours of operation, caseloads

  3. Greatest Barrier – InterpersonalQuality & Content • What is said • What is not said • How and when such messages are exchanged

  4. Answer Talking with families in ways that promote trust, respect, and a sense of equality • The words we say must convey to parents our respect, our understanding, and our sincere desire for them to join us as partners • Effectively conveying this message, overt time = parents more likely to trust and become more willing, active and confident

  5. Dance of Partnership Janice Fialka (p. 128) Entering into a partnership with you demands that we let go of our dreams and begin to build new ones.

  6. Early Childhood Professionals • Frequently don’t possess the communication skills needed to invite parents to join them in the dance of partnership ant to make parents comfortable, not only in actively participating but in often leading the dance themselves

  7. 6 Ideas Worth Trying • Create opportunities for informal exchange • Acknowledge child and family strengths • Solicit parents’ opinions and ideas • Seek Understanding • Demonstrate Caring for the Whole Family • Acknowledge and Respond to Feelings

  8. 1. Create Opportunities for Informal Exchange • Not just at assessment, IFSP • Frequent opportunities during everyday interactions of early intervention • Frequency of communication = quality parent-professional relationship

  9. What are informal exchanges? • Not meetings/ time to discuss specific issues or make decisions • More like the daily chats with colleagues and friends • May seem pointless, insignificant but Brief interactions over time = stronger relationships

  10. First Step • You must believe that the time taken from other activities to engage in informal exchanges with parent is time well spent. • Second, we must adjust our work to create such opportunities

  11. Home Visits Ideal • Beginning of visit before on-task conversations or a few minutes at the conclusion of visit • Responsibility of interventionist • Parents need specific invitation to engage in chit-chat • Parents need “go ahead” and responsiveness

  12. Classrooms = trickier but doable • Adjust schedules to ensure greatest flexibility during arrival and departure • Sufficient staffing to free up teacher • Have centers ready at entry, parents joining children for a few minutes, teachers chat • Maybe at end of day • Practitioners initiate

  13. Not as effective • Home school notebooks, notes, e-mail, occasional evening phone calls = tend to be child centered • More effective – face to face

  14. 2. Acknowledge Child and Family Strengths We ask: “What are your biggest concerns with your child?” “What would you like to work on with your child?” “How can I be of most help to you right now?”

  15. Unintended Implications • Parents lack competence without our help • Parents can always do better than they are already doing • Children are similarly – and continuously – DEFICIENT

  16. Damage to Partnership • A true partnership cannot happen if parents perceive themselves to be in a one-down position or if they believe professionals don’t recognize strength they bring to table ESPECIALLY DURING EARLY YEARS

  17. Damage to Partnerships • Parents are adjusting to child’s special needs • Learning ropes of service maze • Confidence and self esteem may already be shaken • Recognizing and acknowledging family and child strength can do much to communicate respect and equality

  18. Critical • Demonstrate sincere caring about their child • Recognize child ability • Believe in child potential • Dedication to child’s future development Value the child

  19. You may be the only one.. • Who can, like the parents, look beyond what this child can’t do and fully appreciate what he or she can do • Share hopes, celebrate success • “ You’re the only one who talks to Luke, everyone else talks about Luke to me”

  20. Everyday interactions with parents • Compliments abut the child.. Not just at assessment or IFSP or reviews • Transcend specific developmental skills to general child characteristics Ex: “He’s just chock full of energy, isn’t he?” “ What a happy baby she is” “She may not quite be getting it but look how she’s concentrating!”

  21. Don’t forget – Compliment Parents • Not big productions but less obvious, well timed sincere compliments • Recognize the parent's contributions to the child's growth, development, general well being. • “Just look at how he’s responding to your voice” “ Your so good at figuring out what he wants”

  22. 3. Solicit Parent’s Opinions and Ideas • You don’t have to have all the answers! • Many outcomes aren’t yours to solve. Our tendency : “ What Terri needs is ____” “One way of addressing the issue is to ____” The best approach is “______”

  23. Agreed Upon Action… Really? So we offer a solution and then.. we attempt to obtain permission to proposed solution “How does that sound to you?” “Is this something you would like to try?” AND Parent agree… we have mutually agreed upon plan.. Or do we?

  24. Next Visit = Surprise • Agreed upon plan not put in place • Parent doesn’t show or cancels • Parent doesn’t contact recommended resource • No follow through • So… we push some more.. = more parental guilt

  25. Lack of “follow through” = Who is at Fault? Often we are the ones at fault • Solutions wasn’t acceptable to parents in first place • Wasn’t consistent with values/beliefs • Didn’t have time, energy or resources • When decision offered is accept or reject only = only bad parents would reject

  26. True Partnership • Encourage more active participation in solution seeking • Postpone jumping in with solutions ourselves until after we have asked parents for ideas “Let’s see if we can figure this out” “What have you been doing? “How has that been working for you.” “What do you think it would take?”

  27. Where do my ideas come in? • After you have asked parents' ideas first. • If parents opt for your solution ask” • How do you think this will fit into your already busy schedule”, “ Do you see any potential difficulties in implementing this idea?” “ In what ways might we need to modify this solution to make sure it works for you, your child and the rest of your family.

  28. 4. Seek Understanding We may never truly understand another person’s point of view, we can demonstrate a desire to understand where they are coming from – what’s important to them and why.

  29. Concerns and Priorities – Surface • Dig deeper • Express interest in achieving a more complex understanding of their perspective • More complete understanding = more effective services

  30. Don’t ask – Why is that important to you! • Better = “In what ways might it change things for Joe or for the rest of your family, if we succeed in teaching him to play with toys himself?” • “Can you provide me with a picture of what it might look like if we were successful? What specifically can you envision Joe being able to do?”

  31. May require time • Might require a few extra minutes • Might require a longer more intense conversation (RBI) • Multiple conversations over weeks and months

  32. Requires listening • Says – I know what you are thinking is important to you and I value your input. Also requires good body language • Look relaxed like you have time to listen • Use open ended questions • Bring up the issue

  33. Embrace Silence • Resist urge to jump in with solution • Don’t fill silences your self to make them feel better

  34. Disagreement • Resist urge to convince • Makes parent feel judged/interventionist doesn’t approve of what they want or what they are or are not doing with their child • Redirect energy toward understanding rather than attempting to be understood

  35. People don’t resist change.. They resist being changed • Parents more likely willing to listen and consider another point of view once they feel as though they have understood and that their opinion is respected • Perspectives often makes sense once its fully understood on both side of a disagreement

  36. 5. Demonstrate Caring for The Whole Family • Parents expect us to be there for the child in earliest contacts..we need to explain why we want to talk about family • How do we convey that we adhere to a family-centered approach and care about well being of entire family

  37. Written materials upon Enrollment = NOT ENOUGH • We can’t just write about our philosophy • We need to show through personal interactions that demonstrate caring for all members of the family “How do you feel?”

  38. Parents may not want to “spill their guts” now or ever • Not always about problems • Don’t assume families having difficult time coping • Don’t assume child has negative impact on family

  39. Message • Show parents we recognize potential impact on the family, that we care about them as well as the child and we are prepared to attend to needs of the family as a whole

  40. Easy, non threatening, and quick • Attend to information we have about parent's personal interests and family activities or events “How did the camping trip go?” “ Did you have a good visit with your in-laws?” “How did your interview go?” “How is your mom”

  41. Working Relationship – not BFF • Recognizing they are individuals with interests, roles , responsibilities beyond their child • In conversations consider whole family not just child you are serving.. Before finalizing any decision – ask is the best solution for all? • Demonstrate consideration of all family members time, energy, resources, • Use Ecomaps, RBI – Begins relationship

  42. 6. Acknowledge and Respond to Feelings • Handle parental expression of feelings and emotion appropriately. • Strong emotions accompany realization of delay/disability • Strong feeling often become elephant in room • Emotions in the open – frightening proposition for parent and professional

  43. Level of Intimacy • Far beyond that found in most professional partnership, but family-professional partnerships remain incomplete without this level of intimacy • Janice Fialka (p.140-141)

  44. Gift of Compassion • We often fail to give the give because professionals are no more comfortable responding to parents’ strong emotions than parents are in expressing them in the first place • Study = of 13,145 verbal behaviors and 2,155 sequential patterns of verbal behavior less than 1% = accepts feeling instead “fix”

  45. What do you hear? Parent “ Oh God, I really want her to be able to walk, you know? And, it’s like she’s not even sitting up yet”. Professional “Let’s get her on the sofa and work on sitting”

  46. What do you hear? Parent: “Do you think he isn’t talking because I’m so depressed?” Professional: “At least he is in early intervention now”.

  47. Why does the professional say nothing or fix? • May not view acknowledging parent emotions as their responsibility • Lack confidence in their ability to say the right thing • Fear that they may say something wrong and make matters even worse

  48. Failure to Respond Sends a Message • Feelings are foolish or unimportant to you • Feelings of “less then” are valid

  49. Imagine the detrimental effects of such messages on relationship • Parents feelings are real, sometimes strong • Ignoring them will not make them go away • We must acknowledge the elephant in the room

  50. What do we say? • First resist urge to make parents feel better “Things aren’t as bad as they seem” “Look on the bright side” • Sends message: their feelings are unreasonable