Teachers are more used to age-appropriate tantrums and other shows of emotion from children. But, shows of emotion from families can be a different experience.
As a child care provider, at some point, you will encounter an upset family member. These encounters can be very upsetting and can make a difficult situation that much more stressful.
Trying to talk with someone who feels frustrated can be challenging. There are ways to help make the situation a more positive experience. Here are three tips to consider when you encounter an upset parent or guardian:
1. Keep Your Cool
Talking with upset family members, either in-person or on the phone, can be a stressful and frustrating experience. It can be easy to respond to emotional people with negative emotions of your own. However, keeping your cool is critical. If you respond in anger, it can escalate the situation. Even if it's a challenge, try to greet the person with a smile and respond with kindness.
If you still feel yourself becoming upset, or are having trouble remaining calm, consider asking the family member if you can plan a time to continue the discussion later. That will give everyone a chance to cool off.
Talking with frustrated families, either in-person or on the phone, can be a stressful and frustrating experience.
2. Remember to Listen
It may feel easier at the start of the conversation to disregard what the parent is saying and instead focus on how you're going to defend yourself, especially in situations where you feel personally attacked. However, when this happens, you lose the ability to listen closely to the other person. Paying attention to the family's concerns is important.
"They need to let it out, and doing that will make them feel better," Illinois principal Karen Mink told Education World. "If I become upset or defensive, it becomes a power play - and they feel helpless and lash out. It is better to show that I understand how they feel... even if their complaints might be out of my control."
During the conversation, try to ignore the anger at the surface and listen closely for the root of the problem.
3. Make a Plan
After listening to the concerns or complaints of the family, the next step is to make a plan for addressing the situation. You may not always immediately know how to best handle the problem, but that's okay. In these cases, don't be afraid to thank the family for bringing the matter to your attention and tell them that you will call them by the end of the week - or a similar time frame - with an update. Communicating your next step to the parent, even if it's just an update, will likely go a long way in appeasing any irritation.
For more tips on dealing with your children’s families, check out our Family Engagement course.