Emotions are always involved in raising children and working with a family. Whether they are celebrating a child's successes, worrying about how to pay bills, or showing anger at the child's behavior, we can expect that parents will have feelings about what is happening with their family. No matter how professional program staff are, emotions are also part of how we react to the families we work with in our programs.
Rather than getting in the way of the work, try to understand that these emotions, both positive and negative, can be seen as parents' and staff's passionate concern for the family. Sometimes sharing emotions can be uncomfortable, but it is also a way to deepen the partnership with families. Even when parents and staff have very different ideas about what a family needs, they all want what is best for the family. When our shared goal is positive outcomes, families and staff can work together to determine how to resolve disagreements, share worries, and celebrate successes.
- Accept and acknowledge parents' emotions, both positive and negative.
- Reframe parents' emotions as passion for their family.
- Listen for what's behind the emotions and work with parents to understand them.
- Genuinely acknowledge and accept these feelings.
- Recognize and remember a family's passion from past conversations, and then build on it to provide focus when setting goals.
"It is so important to you that your child succeeds. All of these small successes with potty training don't seem enough when you are still facing wet laundry at the end of a long day. I want your child to succeed too, and we can work together to make sure it happens!"
"Last time we talked you were very concerned that she is not learning the alphabet as quickly as the other children in her classroom. I wonder if you have thought more about that."
"I can see that you're upset that the bus was late this morning. You've told us that it is important to you that he gets to school on time and that you can get to your class at the college on time."
"I understand why you are upset about him getting bitten today. We're sorry he was hurt and want to reassure you that no skin was broken. We cleaned the area and put on a bandage. We gave him lots of hugs. We know his safety is the most important thing to you."
"You certainly want what's best for Jayda. What about you? Are there things you would like to do?"
Reflect on a time when you used this practice with a family. What did you say or do?
Reflect on a time when this practice would have helped you build a relationship with a family. What would you have said or done?
Last Updated: March 1, 2018