The vast majority of parents love their kids & would do everything they can to help them. Some may have a misguided way of showing it. They may be uninvolved, negligent, or just concerned with other things.
It’s pretty likely that they may have other priorities… for example, they're trying to get their own life together. Or, they’re working really hard to provide for their loved ones.
The key to talking with families who don’t appear to care is to speak to that part of them that really does. It’s also critical to meet them where they are in a relatable & authentic way.
1. The Power of Your Voice. Make Contact by Phone...
Most teachers will try the one phone number on file, but then give up and send an email instead. Or even worse, they just don't bother.
Don’t stop there, you must take additional steps to reach out.
You may have to talk to their neighbors or other relatives. You may have to wait and speak to whoever picks up their child after school - perhaps there is an older sibling that you didn’t know about?
Whatever it takes to get the parent on the phone is worth doing. It can even be life changing.
Most parents who are difficult to get ahold of are never actually contacted. So when you go out of your way to track them down, they’re typically humbled and truly appreciative - especially if you approach them in the right way.
2. The Only Path: Respect...
Remember a couple of things here: keep it light-hearted, tone of voice, slow cadence and allow them to speak.
You will want to use this call as an investment in future conversations. Don’t blow it. You want this discussion to go well so that they will be open to speaking to you in the future.
You want to make them feel special, heard and appreciated.
3. No Posturing. Be Careful About Intimidation…
The wrong tone or too much edu-speak during a call can make a parent go on the defensive. This is not our mission.
Somewhere along the line many educators have acquired the brutal habit of intimating— or demanding —parents to do something in response to their call. Many even condescend to make suggestions. I do not recommend this whatsoever.
You want to have your ducks in a row before making your call. It’s likely that this parent’s own school experience wasn’t the greatest. Remember this when planning your call. The ideal approach is to be positive and upbeat. The last thing this parent wants to hear is about the long list of why their kid is struggling.
4. Let Them Know How & When They Can Call You or Email You...
Most parents who fall into this category don’t receive these types of personalized, open communication invitations from their kid’s school - Personalized!
These hard-working folks need reminders that you really do have their kid’s back and are genuinely looking out for them.
End your conversation by leaving the door open for any kind of future communication - in whatever way is easiest for this parent.
It does mean that sometimes we have to go the extra mile to speak to our families, but we all know it’s worth it. After all, isn’t it possible that we created this communication reluctance from adopting the wrong strategy for reaching out?
The best time is now. Find another way to make the connection.
That’s all I have for now.
Thanks for reading.