Healthy Communication

Professionals whose work involves contact with the greater public will inevitably encounter a broad range of personalities and characters among their clientele. As teachers and other school staff members, we are no different. Our students’ parents and caregivers represent the broad spectrum of humanity. Contact with parents and caregivers is bound to range from experiences that are inspiring, helpful or pleasant, to those that are challenging, difficult or unpleasant.

Daily work life will necessarily include anticipated, structured encounters that we initiate, such as Parent-Teacher Interviews or whole school initiatives or activities. There will also be instances when parents and caregivers contact us unexpectedly and we are called upon to respond to their concerns. These concerns may be directly related to situations involving bullying and inequity.

In all situations when we have contact with parents and guardians, we may need to respond to their concerns related to situations of bullying or inequity that involve their children. We can do so in a positive and constructive fashion, keeping in mind the concepts, tools and strategies related to healthy communication that were discussed on our Bullying Prevention module. (See Healthy Communication.)

This section reviews these concepts, tools and strategies and applies them to the distinct context of interacting with parents and caregivers. In so doing, we will need to pay attention to the power dynamics in any given situation, in order to meet our goal of respectful power-sharing with parents and caregivers. (See Sharing Power.)

Ultimately, all contact with parents and caregivers offers potential opportunities to build or strengthen an alliance founded on a healthy partnership aimed at working together in the best interests of our students. (See Alliance-building and Building Healthy Partnerships.) Being mindful of the distinctions between passive, aggressive and assertive communication as we apply the concepts, tools and strategies related to healthy communication will help us meet our goals. (See Escalating and De-escalating Bullying.)