When parents or caregivers approach us with a concern, whether it pertains to a bullying situation, or to their own experiences and needs, empathy is an important response, both internally and in what we express.

Parents and caregivers may approach us with a great deal of emotional intensity, particularly when their child has been bullied or excluded. This may result in a situation of conflict, or in expressions of anger and frustration. Parents and caregivers may blame us or accuse us in some way. Of course, these are moments when it becomes particularly important for us to practice awareness and openness, to be willing to questions ourselves, while being clear about our boundaries, obligations and rights.

We can also make the mental and emotional effort of imagining what the other person may be experiencing. We can remind ourselves of how difficult it is to see one’s child suffering from bullying or exclusion, or to discover that one’s child has engaged in bullying behaviour. We can remember that there is much we may not even know about this parent’s or caregiver’s identity, background or history, their own experiences with bullying or trauma.

We can be cognizant once again of the awesome and often overwhelming responsibility parents and caregivers delegate to us as teachers. We are charged with caring for and ensuring the safety of someone who is likely the most precious person in their lives.

Saying it

Here are phrases that express empathy toward parents and caregivers:

  • "I can see this situation is very upsetting for you. It must be so difficult see your child in pain."
  • "You seem to be finding this difficult to talk about. I know it can be hard to raise issues when your child is involved. Please let me say how glad I am that you’ve come to talk to me about this."