How to have a good relationship with your child's school
Everyone is a month or two into the school year, the dust has settled and first day jitters are long gone. So now how do you deal with problems that arise? Maybe you aren't getting the services you need or you have a less-than-understanding general education teacher. How do you maintain your sanity, keep your child happy and also keep a good relationship with your school district? If there were a magic formula I promise I would be sharing it but since there is not here are a few tips:
We all know that issues involving our kids can infuriate us like no other. A bad email home, a poorly handled situation or a sobbing child can give even the most level headed parent visions of storming into the school will arms flailing and a lawyer following closely behind. The best thing you can do for yourself and the situation is give yourself five minutes to calm down and focus. Figure out the best way to deal with what is happening, what immediate action you need to take, if any, and who is your best ally in solving the problem. No matter what their role, people respond better to parents who are not yelling and screaming and making demands about their rights. Giving yourself a few minutes to think clearly before you react can greatly improve the outcome of your situation.
Seek to understand
My husband is a principal. Did I mention this before? "Seek to understand" is his favorite phrase to use when dealing with complicated situations that come up. I don't know about you but when I find out my child has been wronged my first instinct is to let the Mama Bear claws come out and start demanding someone's head on a platter. But I have learned to ask for all of the details BEFORE I react. For example, if your social worker calls you with an issue, before you react by saying "fix it right this second or I'm pulling my child out of school." Ask the social worker to detail out the situation in writing. Let them know you want to know what happened, what was done to correct it thus far and what the current status is. Once you have all of your information then you can work through what is happening as a well-informed part of the team.
Okay this one can be difficult. I'm not saying you need to bring a home-baked pie to every IEP but I do think you have to try to start out optimistically rather wearing your army fatigues. If you start out a relationship with a new teacher/therapist/specialist determined that they are not going to do a good job then neither one of you are going to get anywhere. Remember that their days often aren't easy either and there is a reason they went into this profession. Maybe you will be the one to remind them what that reason was. I always make sure to send a positive email whenever something good happens and I truly think this brings more cooperation when I bring a negative situation to their attention. Making yourself the rational parent rather than the ready-for-a-fight parent will benefit you and your child in the long run.
Decide when enough is enough
With all of the above suggestions, I know there are situations that are not rectifiable. I know that all too often our kids do not get the services they deserve. I think as parents we have to decide what our limit is. Do we keep fighting with people who won't bend or do we look for other options like a different placement, a different school or homeschooling? I have been making my way through the special education system for 14 years and I have no desire to recreate the wheel anymore. The people who understand my daughter the most are the one's I go straight to when there is a problem. I have a great relationship with our school system but it is definitely a two-way street. I'm sure there has been a district or two in the past that was pouring champagne as we pulled away for the last time :). How do you most effectively deal with your child's school? Do you have a good relationship or not so good?
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