How can you solve communication problems with parents? Speak to anyone who spends their days with kids, for example, a teacher, a troop leader, or a sports coach. Absolutely any group that evokes the feeling you are attempting to herd a bunch of cats. In truth, those people will tell you; “that it may be hard, and there may be challenges, but it’s amazing to see the kids grow and evolve into amazing young people.”
Now, after you sit down with a nice cup of tea and reveled in the delights of molding today’s youth, ask that same person, “What they hate? What they loathe? What they really, and honestly despise?” They will sigh, look you in the eye and say “parents.”
It doesn’t matter where you are or what you do; there are always parents who just seem to drive you insane.
The parent that sends, what seems like 300 single sentence text messages in 10 mins, or the parent that must speak urgently to you about some inane thought while you dance around them as you set up your room in the spare 5 mins before activities start. Or, the ones who complains about every single thing, but never offers, one, solitary, teeny, tiny, helpful solution.
These are the parents that make you want to throw your hands in the air, scream in their faces and move to Tibet. Honestly, you know that it would never work, as you need WIFI and really don’t think you could fall in love with hairy yak’s milk in your coffee.
So, what do you do? What can you do? Before you drive to your nearest camping shop, buy your body weight in creamer and change your name to Tenzin?
Solving Communication Problems with Parents. Breathe.
When you see that parent making a beeline for you, as you struggle through the door, with your arms filled with supplies, and you know they will never offer to help. When you head to the bathroom and before you even sit down, your phone beeps nonstop. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Breathe.
Try it, think of the most annoying parent in your group, the one that drives you to distraction, and before your head explodes, just close your eyes and take a deep breath, in and out. Feel any better? When you breathe in, your heart rate slightly quickens, then as you exhale, your heart rate slows. Repeating these deep breaths will naturally bring your heart rate more in sync with your breath. This leads your brain to release endorphins, yup those “happy” chemicals, that have a natural calming effect, and this will help you create a composed environment that will help you engage in successful communication with that parent.
Solving Communication Problems with Parents. Break down all communication barriers.
This may seem just to add more work to your day, but honestly, it’ll save you a lot of trouble. Come up with three or four ways of communicating with your parents. I can hear you all screaming, “that’s just overkill, I don’t have the time,” but with the joy of the internet, smartphones and the “cut and paste” function, you can blast parents on multiple platforms with just a click, so there are no excuses for them not to be up to date with all group communications.
Create a closed Facebook group just for parents, download a team communication/group app that allows you to share photos, the team calendar, and messages with your parents, and let us not forget e-mail! If you want to go crazy, print the emails and hand them out during face-to-face meetings. That way everyone’s included, and there are no excuses they didn’t know what was going on. If after all of that, they are still giving you grief move to idea number three.
If you can’t solve communication problems with Parents. Delegate.
Sometimes, we don’t get on with someone.
Michael Karson Ph.D., J.D. is a professor at the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology, who states that “you need a somewhat flexible strategy to cope with annoying people.”
If you have a parent that, no matter what you do, you can’t get through to, delegate communications to a trusted co-leader/second. This flexible strategy will help resolve the blockage that comes between you and that parent by removing you. Solving communication problems with parents, isn’t a time to become egotistical.
Now, it’s worth clarifying that delegation is not just handing off communication and making a run for it. It’s a careful and thoughtful process in which communication begins when you, communicate the message to your co-leader, it continues as you monitor its’ progress to the parent, and finally ends with receiving a response.
This can make all the difference between transforming you and your group into one that is highly productive and successful, rather than one that’s consumed by animosity, confusion, and aversion.
Identify why the parent triggers such an emotional response from yourself.
Is that parent whiny? Do they expect you to do everything for them? Do they appear lazy? Are they combative? Carl Jung, a founder of modern psychology, said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
Most of the time, we hold others to a standard we impose on ourselves. When you can name what it is you dislike so much about others and identify why it resonates so deeply with you, you can finally accept it.
Instead of seeing that parent who needs every single bit of information about an event, as an annoying, time-wasting, pain in your rear, try seeing them as an asset who can help you keep the group on schedule, use their OCDness to your advantage. Include them in the planning, give them jobs to keep them busy.
Instead of seeing that parent who “helicopters” over their own child, and telling them to back off, which may end in indignant eye rolling, ask them to assist all the children in the group, tell them they could “really help you out” by keeping an eye on all the children.
Each parent in your group is unique, just as their children are. As we mold the children into better versions of themselves, we can attempt to use the parent’s behaviors to be an asset rather than a hindrance. Ask them to take on a suitable role in the group. Ask their opinion but give them limits to work with. Remember, some people can’t help being who they are, just as you can’t help being who you are most of the time.
Finally, we realize that there is more to life.
Even though you may deem that your class/group/meeting should be the number one priority in everyone’s life. Realizing that you’re just a single piece in the life of that family, no less significant than any other realities of daily life, can help remove the stress of communication.
As a leader, do everything you can to make sure your communication channels are open, and if someone doesn’t respond don’t take it personally, people are busy, we run out of time, kids get sick, life happens. If you can establish open and effective channels of communication, chances are that the children in your group will, too.
In the end, witnessing good communication skills between parents and leaders, will benefit the children you work with for their entire lives. Solving Communication Problems with Parents, allow you to use the adversary to your benefit. See it as a teaching opportunity. Use it to improve yourself, and you never know, worst case you might come to love yak milk, after all!