It is appropriate and important for the child that providers talk with parents about developmental or behavioral concerns. Yet, it can be difficult to think about approaching parents with a concern about their child. Parents may react in different ways. Some parents might feel relief and be grateful for the chance to share and problem-solve for their child. A few parents might be insulted or angry and fear for their child’s safety and health.
Talking with parents about their child’s special needs is an opportunity for providers to ease a parent’s loneliness, provide hope, and advocate for the parent and child.
In addition to using Basic Communication Tips, the following techniques can help broach a potentially sensitive issue:
- Jot down a written record of the child’s behavior that you have questions or concerns about.
- Think ahead of time what you want to say and what your needs are, and what the parent and child’s needs might be.
- Rehearse with fellow care providers or teachers what you plan to say to a parent.
- When you schedule a time to talk with a parent, let them know the topic you would like to discuss.
- When you meet with a parent, be specific, describe what you see, give examples.
- Avoid jumping to conclusions about the child. (For example, “Johnny’s ADD!” or “She needs medication!”)
- Ask the parent questions so you can understand his/her perception of a situation. Listen closely with an open mind to a parent’s explanations.
- Give the parent contact information about reliable programs, services or financial resources you know about for children with special needs. (For example, the CSHCN Coordinator at your local public health department.)
- Ask parents if there is information about their child that they want to remain confidential.