Talking about sensitive issues regarding a child is stressful for both the parents and their tutors. Sensitive issues can be related but not limited to: bullying in school, eating disorders, learning disabilities and so on.
There will be tensions flaring in both sides, as well as confusion and inadequate sentiments because they may blame each other for contributing to the issue. However, do not delay important communication with your student’s parents.
Let me show you ways to bring sensitive issues across to your student’s parents here.
Time The Discussion When The Child is Away
Before you discuss things with parents, make sure you time it during the time the child is far away.
If your student is within hearing range or if they are in the room with you, it can create tensions between the parents and the child.
Your student may become defensive over the issue, while their parents would either get mad at the child or make them feel embarrassed. You may even inadvertently cause tween problemsbetween the parents and their child.
Regardless of what they will react, discussions may not go forward because they will feel more focused on each other’s feelings.
Pick The Right Time & Right Place
When you do reach out to them to discuss a sensitive issue, make sure to set it up at the right place and at the right time. Find a place where you can talk in private without being interrupted by the child or anyone else.
The place should also allow you to speak without being overheard because there may be a chance that someone who knows your student or their classmates can hear it. Unsuitable places are: void decks, outside of your student’s school or on their corridor outside their home.
Pick a time when both parties are not rushing to or from another appointment. If the parents’ mind is distracted, you may not get the attention the issue warrant.
Always stay honest and be open
Use focused words that will point out to parents what their child is feeling and how it is influencing their behaviour. Let the parents know that you acknowledged what your student is feeling even if it is not done in the best way possible. You can then explain how you are dealing with the issue and seek to get useful feedback from them regularly.
When you are speaking about a sensitive issue, don’t immediately tell them what happened. Broach it carefully and use direct phrases that will not cause the parent to read between the lines. This helps you both in dealing with the issue without negative sentiments affecting your judgement.
If the issue is something you can’t understand because you are not the subject matter expert, don’t hesitate to ask for the parent’s help. It will show to the parents that we respect their assistance and opinion. A good example is if you suspect your student shows signs of ADHD, it is okay to suggest to the parents’ to seek a professional diagnosis.
When speaking to parents about any issue, it is best to always be specific about what you want them to know or discuss.
Let the parents know that you are in this situation together and that you will work with them to solve whatever issue is affecting the child. Openly discuss on the sensitive issue rather than focus on the negative behaviour that resulted, you will be able to remove the emotional aspect of the discussions and let the parents think constructively about what can be done to solve the issue.
The discussion should be seen as a practical way to come up with a solution. However, it is important to take into consideration that some parents may react negatively if they interpret your bad news as something that shows your displeasure towards their children.
Invite the parents to suggest solutions
Once you discuss the issue with the parents, let them take their time to process what you told them and inspire them to suggest possible solutions to solve the issue.
Some helicopter parents may jump the gun and punish their children immediately, but if you do it right and if the parents receive your news positively, they may be able to provide you with possible solutions. They may even take charge in finding the solutions themselves if the situation is really serious and requires their attention.
Tackle the issues when they first develop
Sometimes, prolonging the discussion regarding sensitive issues can be harmful to all parties and it will become harder to raise the issue at a later date. If something comes up with the student that looks serious, don’t hesitate to bring the issue to their parents’ attention.
For example, if a student confided in you about their eating disorder, you should be on high alert. A eating disorder takes time for it to be fully developed and it is usually associated with stigma hence victims often go undetected. If left untreated, the disorder may impair organs functions and even lead to death.
Listen to the parent’s point of view and opinions
As tutors, we only see one side of the issue and that is usually the student’s point of view. However, if we want to help them deal with their sensitive issues, it is important we also check with their parents if they know something about what is bothering their children.
Their observations and explanations can definitely assist finding a solution for the issue at hand. Hey, who knows the parent may already be taking steps like listening to parenting podcasts to resolve the issue themselves.
Be ready to deal with tense or emotional moments
Sensitive issues will definitely trigger tension and emotional outbursts, especially once parents realise there is something wrong with their children that they didn’t know.
As their tutors, do your part in reassuring the parents that everything will be alright and offer them a different perspective about how things can be done. When they do make an outburst, be there for them and wait for them to control their emotions and let them feel you are with them.
Sensitive issues regarding children is always going to be a minefield every tutor will experience once in a while. But, instead of fearing it, create a plan that will help you and their parents deal with it positively.
With these tips above, you will be able to deal with any sensitive issues with your students and get the right help with from their parents.
For more tips on how to communicate with parents, here are some: