- lack information;
- lack skills and power and are dependant upon the staff and administration to take action and make decisions;
- are isolated from their peers and from community resources.
Parents and caregivers always have the right to take action to ensure that their children’s rights are respected. And – it is important to recognize that in all interactions, no matter what the power dynamics at play, all players belong and have the right to be treated with full respect and retain their personal power.
“My child is being picked on and you couldn't care less. My child told me you’re not doing anything about it. What kind of a teacher are you? You don’t care about my child!”
The parent is behaving aggressively, and this is likely to trigger feelings of anger or fear in the teacher. At the same time, as a newcomer to Canada, the parent may feel very vulnerable. They are trying to find their way in a new society and culture and within the school system, and likely lack information, power, support and resources. (See Social Factors of Vulnerability).
Internally, we can try to be aware of these complex power dynamics in order to stay open to them and the story they bring. Remembering the context of their life can help us connect with our empathy. (See Alliance-Building.) As a response, we can blend together and express some of these elements, while at the same time being clear about our own boundaries and limits. For example, we might say something like:
“I’m so glad you came to talk to me about this. I can see that you are angry and upset, and of course it’s very upsetting when your child is being picked on. I’ll need to ask you to speak calmly and quietly. That way I can have a conversation with you about the best way to make sure your child stays safe.”
(For more discussion of ways to respond to anger and conflict, see Dealing with Anger.)