I am lucky enough to have experienced therapy and intervention from both sides – as a parent and as a professional. I know how demanding it can be for families and children and I have seen (and experienced) the frustrations for professionals.
So how do we make it work?
These are some of my favourite tips for building an effective parent-professional partnership.
Leave your judgements at the door.
We can never know someone’s back story. Did they have a childhood similar to yours? Or perhaps they have different experiences in education? If we suspend our judgement and connect with the person for who they are, we can start to develop a respectful partnership.
It is okay to take your time.
It can feel like we are wasting time if we work on the partnership between the adults. But it is the exact opposite. Every moment that is invested into the partnership, will make the rest of the time spent in therapy more effective. Parents will feel more confident, ask questions and feel empowered to implement strategies at home. Relationship-based work is never a waste of time.
Be open minded and open to learn.
Parents are the experts in their child. Professionals are experts in their discipline. And when we combine those two things – wow what a team! We all need to be ready to learn from each other, not just gather information, but genuinely learn new ideas, new strategies and new perspectives.
Share your goals.
This is more than just providing a copy of your child’s NDIS plan. Goals are part of life. We have goals to be healthy, happy and safe. And we have goals to learn to tie shoelaces or say a new word. Parents, children and professionals all have goals for therapy sessions. Share them, shape them and be curious about what everyone brings to the table to achieve them.
Any new relationship takes time to develop. Would you propose to someone on the first date? The parent-professional relationship walks a thin line between building rapport and professional boundaries. Share simple things like pets, siblings or which school you went to. Don’t feel like you have to overshare but offer some information that enables conversation and connection.
When we ask questions, we can clarify what we are hearing or seeing. But we can also value the expertise of the other person. Feeling valued makes us want to contribute, engage and participate.
All relationships need boundaries. To build a strong partnership, it is worth setting the expectations from the start. How do you want to communicate (text, phone call, email)? What is a reasonable time frame to expect a response? What are the things that are not appropriate to do, say or ask? Parents may also need to set boundaries in order to manage their mental health, their personal triggers or their workload.
Effective, well-developed partnerships are key to successful outcomes working with families and children. Where professionals feel confident interacting with parents, families will be more responsive to supports. This creates an increase in demand for services and successful outcomes for children.