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Talking with Your Child’s Teacher On Sensitive Topics

As parents, there are times when we have to have “difficult” conversations.  Here are a few pointers for having potentially difficult conversations with your child’s teacher.

Q:  If you fear your child might have a learning disability (maybe s/he needs reading help or you fear s/he might have dyslexia), how do you approach the teacher without looking dramatic?

A:  Make an appointment to visit with your child’s teacher.  At this appointment, privately, calmly, and without undue emotion talk with the teacher about your observations that make you concerned that your child might have a learning disability and ask the teacher if s/he can provide insight into the situation.  Perhaps your child does not have a learning disability at all.  Your child’s teacher is likely an expert in assessing such issues and can provide you with wise counsel.  If, in fact, there is a learning disability, attention deficit disorder, or some other difficulty, you can and should calmly ask your child’s teacher what you can do to help your child learn and be a constructive contributor in the classroom.  Do not react with undue emotion about your child’s difficulties:  no human is perfect, and part of life (even for children) is learning to play to one’s strengths, strengthen one’s weaknesses, and work around those weaknesses that can’t be adequately strengthened.  With that in mind, seek to partner with your child’s teacher to chart a course for improvement for your child.

Q:  If think your child has social issues (maybe s/he has a hard time making friends or eats lunch alone), how do you approach the teacher without looking like a helicopter parent.

A:  Make an appointment to visit with your child’s teacher.  At this appointment, privately talk with the teacher about your concerns.  Ask your child’s teacher if s/he observes your child interacting well with his/her classmates.  Ask the teacher if s/he can provide insight into the situation.  Perhaps your fears are unfounded and your child is actually quite social . . . only avoiding his/her classmates when you are present, perhaps in an attempt to spend time with you rather than his/her classmates.  If, in fact, your child is shy, being bullied, or otherwise not connecting well with his/her classmates, you can and should calmly ask your child’s teacher what you can do to help your child with his/her social relationships and potentially protect him/her from further bullying.

Q:  If you feel your child has anxiety about school or another student (or perhaps even says s/he “hates” school), how do you approach the teacher?

A:  Make an appointment to visit with your child’s teacher.  At this appointment, privately talk with the teacher about your concerns.  Ask your child’s teacher if s/he observes your child interacting well with his/her classmates, if there are academic difficulties, or if there are other problems or experiences that might be anxiety-producing for your child.  Questions need to be focused on the source of the anxiety.  By finding the source of the anxiety, an appropriate response can be formed, with you and your child’s teacher working together on the solution.

Q:  If your child really dislikes the teacher and feels picked on, how do you discuss this issue with the teacher?

A:  Make an appointment to visit with your child’s teacher.  At this appointment, privately talk with the teacher about your concerns.  Be tactful and non-accusatory.  Rather than say, “My child dislikes you and thinks you’re mean”, you might say, “My child loved his/her teacher last year and just hasn’t gotten to know you well yet this year.”  Brainstorm with the teacher on how to nurture relationship between your child and his/her teacher.  For example, you may say, “My child loves being a helper.  Are there times during the school day when you could ask him/her to pass out or pick up papers for you?”

Q:  If you fear your child might have ADD or some other medical condition, how do you bring this up with the teacher?

A:  Make an appointment to visit with your child’s teacher.  At this appointment, privately talk with the teacher about your concerns.  Tell the teacher what you are doing to have your child’s health assessed; what risks, symptoms, or complications may manifest in the classroom; and how the teacher may best respond to those risks, symptoms, or complications (if you have insight on these).  For example, you may say, “We have an appointment with our pediatrician next Tuesday.  I will let you know what we learn at that appointment.  Since there have been a few seizures at home, I assume s/he could have seizures in the classroom too.  We don’t really know much about seizures right now, but I think if you keep him/her away from sharp edges and other things that might hurt him/her while s/he’s seizing, that would be much appreciated.  I want to keep you in the loop as we move forward so that you will know what is going on, what you can expect going forward, and be able to respond appropriately if something happens in the classroom.”

By following the tips above, you can gracefully have potentially difficult conversations with your child’s teacher.

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