Parenting is a daunting task for anyone, but it poses some unique challenges for people raising a child/student with mental health or special needs challenges. As a teacher, you will be an essential player in helping families to talk about mental health-related concerns.
A good relationship with parents is a great starting point for handling any observable academic or emotional problems during the school year. You can lay the groundwork for an excellent parent-teacher relationship by communicating with parents about the importance of working well together when there is a concern.
Parents need to know that they play a critical role in determining if their child needs extra help. Many children/students with mental conditions or physical needs qualify for additional school aid.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) makes sure that children with disabilities get the same free, quality public education as other children. (A disability is a physical or mental condition that limits a child’s ability to learn.) The law covers children through late adolescents (birth to age 21).
A child/student who has an academic or mental problem might be able to receive:
When a child receives services, it’s called “special education.” To qualify for special education, the child/student needs to be assessed. The key is early intervention.
Informing parents that their child could potentially qualify for special education services needs to be done on a timely basis. A child/student who may need extra help to reach milestones needs to be referred for testing. Testing for special education services can be arranged through the local school district or state’s early intervention program.
Parents can request a free test, even without a referral from their doctor. Here’s how:
When you need to talk with a parent about observable concerns, a calm and positive approach will likely yield you a better outcome. Here are some simple strategies to help you prepare for a meeting:
PAUSE AND PRAY BEFORE YOU CONTACT A PARENT
Before scheduling a meeting with the parent(s) to discuss observable concerns about a student’s behavior, take time to PRAY.
SCHEDULE A BLOCK OF TIME WITHOUT INTERRUPTIONS
Schedule time to talk with the parent(s) in a comfortable location where you will not be interrupted. Give the parent(s) at least one week’s notice.
SEND OUT EMAIL REMINDERS
A couple of days before the meeting, send an email reminder to the parent(s). Include what time the meeting will begin, how long the session might last, where you will meet, and any other details about the meeting.
WELCOME PARENT(S) WARMLY
On the day of the meeting, welcome the parent(s) warmly. It will help everyone feel at ease.
Make sure you make good eye contact with the parent(s) during the meeting. Sitting face-to-face helps keep the connection.
STARTING THE MEETING
Before beginning the meeting, offer a word of prayer, then share some positive attributes about the child/student. While expressing empathy, ask permission to share what you have observed about their child/student that concerns you (remember not to diagnose and tell the parent(s) that you think the child has i.e., anxiety disorder).
ASK PARENTS TO SHARE
Ask the parent(s) what they have observed at home.
USE OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS AND REFLECTIVE LISTENING
After the parent(s) answer(s) each question, repeat back to them what you have heard them tell you. Acknowledge the positives.
What I’m hearing you say is that Samuel enjoys playing with his younger brother. However, you have observed that he loses his temper and gets angry easily while playing with his brother, Timmy.
ASK PARENTS WHAT STRATEGIES THEY USE
Invite the parent(s) to share what strategies they have implemented at home to address the concerns.
DISCUSS A PLAN
After discussing the concern(s), work with the parent(s) to come up with a realistic action plan.
Use any resources on this website or elsewhere that would help with creating the action plan.