Your Guide to Navigating Parent Relationships [Episode 57]

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Here's What to Expect In This Episode:

If you had to think of three things that you didn’t receive much training on in grad school, but has become a huge part of your job, I’ll bet that parent relationships would be on the list.

Working with parents of high school students is not always a walk in the park and it can really take a toll on you. While many parents are super supportive, and view you as a partner, others can be quite the opposite.

You may have experienced angry phone calls, unrealistic demands, or even threats, (speaking from experience here!) that leave you feeling totally defeated. I know it hurts when a parent doesn’t recognize that we just want what’s best for their child!

So, how do you build positive  relationships with parents, while keeping your focus on your students? You’ll hear three of my best tips for navigating parent relationships in today’s episode.

Don’t forget to sign up for one of my free live workshops, where you’ll learn three practical ideas to bring your high school counseling program back to life in the new year! Learn more, and sign up here.

Submit your Reset for Success Challenge gameboards! Send a picture via Instagram @counselorclique or email: lauren@counselorclique.com. You could be the winner of a Counselor Clique tumbler, $50 TPT gift card, and custom sticker pack!

Topics Covered in This Episode:

  • Why it can pay off big time to be an over-communicator
  • Making a list of all the places where you broadcast new information and announcements
  • How to ask for feedback from parents, and what to do with that information
  • Asking for help to navigate parent relationships when you need it 
  • A reminder that you may not see eye to eye with every parent, and that’s okay!

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Read the transcript for this episode:

You’re listening to Episode 57 of High School Counseling Conversations, and we’ve got something big going on this week.

Join me for the first of three free live workshops to kick off the new year. If you’re looking for some actionable steps to start 2023 off right. Join us for three practical ideas to bring your high school counseling program back to life in the new year. Yes, it’s a mouthful.

There’s still time to sign up for Wednesday’s kickoff. Just go to counselorclique/workshop to get your link to show up. Let me describe who this workshop is for and see if you see yourself in one of these scenarios. This workshop is for you if you’re a new school counselor, still trying to find your way through a crazy school year.

It’s also for you, if you’re an experienced high school counselor, just looking to reignite that flame for school counseling that you once had. I’d love to see you there if you want a refresher of some practical strategies to take into the new year with you. And then this workshop could also be a win for you if you’re looking for some support and instruction to boost your confidence as a high school counselor.

Whenever I do a live workshop, there’s always so much energy in the chat. Yes, it’s just me on video and you come and chat along with us. It’s one of my favorite ways to connect with y’all. So sign up for one of the three available times and I can’t wait to see you there. It’s counselorclique.com/workshop.

Now let’s get into talking about parent relationships. This is a topic that I know a lot of counselors want to talk about, but I know, every situation can be so different. How do we manage the parent relationships and keep everyone happy, while truly keeping our focus on our students?

It’s probably a piece of the puzzle we never imagined would take up as much brain space and time as it does, right. I definitely didn’t have as much training in my grad school program on working with parents. I don’t know that many of us actually do. Working with parents of high school students really reminds me of a customer service job is that okay to say/

You’re putting out fires, answering phone calls, trying to do it all with a smile on your face. But what do you do when these ‘customers’ feel entitled or just downright mean? It can really take a toll on you. Especially since you got into this to help high school students and you never saw this turn coming. Let’s talk about some tips for navigating the parent relationships in your workplace as a high school counselor here in Episode 57.

High School Counseling conversations is a podcast where we talk about exactly that a casual potpourri of school counseling topics intended to grow us as school counselors, but also give us space to enjoy each other’s company. I’m Lauren from counselor click and I’m sharing my experiences and perspectives as a high school counselor.

No topic is off limits. And I’m certain we’ll cover it all. I’m your high school counseling hype girl here to help you energize your school counseling program and remind you of how much you love your job. Whether you’re just getting your feet wet as an intern, or you’re nearing retirement, you’ll feel like you’re just popping in to catch up with your school counseling. bestie. Let’s go.

Here, here’s your first tip as we start this thing out. Be a better communicator on the front end of things. Dare I say it be an over communicator. When I can have some clear systems in place for how I communicate in my role as a high school counselor. I’m more confident in my delivery of that information. Let me explain to you what I mean.

You know, when you get that parent email that says we’re really disappointed, we didn’t know about XYZ, insert into XYZ, things like that one specific scholarship, this parent information night, the signup for the individual meetings, I’m sure you’ve been there, and you know what I’m talking about.

As managers of all the information, it’s good to have a standard response with some confidence behind how and why you do what you do. Think of all the places you’re already putting out information. This is a great time to systemize those information outputs if you haven’t done that already.

Like I mean, make a list for yourself so that every time you have new information to put out into the world, it’s going out to all 10 of those same places. And when I say 10 I’m not exaggerating. Here are some of the ways I was communicating my announcements to parents and students: school announcements, phone blasts home, social media, maybe that’s Facebook and Instagram. That’s what it was, in my case.

Mass emails to parents and students, Google Classroom, a school website and a school counseling website. Even the marquee board out in front of the school, text message blast to parents and students. I kid you not that’s 10 places right there off the top of my head, take the same announcement and blast it into all of these places every time.

People all have their own chosen means of the ways that they prefer to receive that information. And you really are trying to cater to them all. Yes, that is awfully nice of you. So when you get that XYZ email saying that they didn’t know about it, instead of being sassy like you want to be, train them to look in all of these places. I will admit though, it’s hard not to be sassy when you feel like you’ve communicated everywhere except skywriting, and a carrier pigeon, am I right?

I feel like when you over communicate the happenings, expectations and important announcements on the front end, there’s less disappointment, resentment and hopefully mean spirited emails and phone calls that come your way. If one person in your larger department is doing all the communication for your team, make sure that they have that list to hit up all the places when making the announcement.

If everyone is contributing to the Information Management, like they’re all managing different pieces of it, it’d be worth touching base to make sure we’re getting everything out there to all of the places every single time, it’s so much, but it’s worth it to not deal with the crazy calls on the back end.

Okay, now for the second tip, ask for feedback from parents to see your blind spots, do a survey at the end of the year to see if they know what they need from your high school counseling department. They may very well have no idea what they actually want or need. But at least you can know that.

Also take this with a grain of salt, you may get some harsh feedback or some feedback that you weren’t expecting. And you may discover that they’re not connected to any of those 10 ways that you’ve been communicating the information. So maybe some of the information you learn from doing this survey is that you really need a revamp of your whole PR strategy because they’re actually not informed.

By doing a survey of your parents, you may find some gems in there who would also be great additions to your school counseling advisory council. So that is a positive thing that can come out of doing that communication piece. If you want to hear more about advisory councils and who should be on your advisory council team and why go back and listen to episode 17 and 18 to hear about the stakeholders that I always want to involve on my advisory council.

Putting out a parent survey has made my skin thicker. Some parents decide this is an opportunity to come at you from behind the screen. Cool, cool. You have to know that you’re gonna get some of that going into it. But you’ll also get some great feedback too. I know it.

You may find that parents need more education on what you do as a high school counselor or how to access your services. Putting out a survey is a great practice to instill at the end of your school year so that you can anticipate some needs of next year or you can brainstorm some goals that you might want to address.

Are you participating in the reset for success challenge this month? Grab your game board at counselor collect.com/reset and fill in the code words mentioned in Episode 55, 56, and this episode, 57 hint is at the end after you’ve listened to the episode. Once you’ve decided on your action step for each episode, you’ll be able to submit your game board as your entry ticket for a big giveaway.

You’ll not only have prepped yourself for this new semester, but you’ll also have a chance to win an Arctic tumbler mug, a 50 LR TPT gift card and an exclusive sticker pack. Join the reset for success challenge now. counselorclique/reset. Now back to the show.

Moving on to our third tip. Ask for help navigating the parent relationships when needed. No one says you have to do this by yourself. You may need a column backup bring in the reinforcements if you need them. Two episodes ago, Episode 55. I talked about a few different administrator relationships that I had. My best administrators were the ones who backed me up and showed me their unwavering support, especially against an angry parent.

I want to remind you, you do not get paid enough to go into a meeting alone where you get destroyed and rip to pieces. I don’t know that anyone gets paid enough for that. No one deserves that. If you’ve had it happened to you, my hand is in the air, you know that you will never do that again.

Advocate on all accounts to bring someone with you to a meeting that you know may get heated. If it’s not the assistant principal, then let it be your principal or bring your department head or just another school counselor. It’s extremely helpful to have somebody else there to step in when your brain gets frazzled, or you feel attacked or overwhelmed by a situation.

It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for someone else to be there. You’re not weak to ask for help. This is important. Let’s talk about the dreaded ‘call me’ email or voicemail. This is an important part of navigating the parent relationships in a school. Does this make anyone else’s blood pressure immediately rise? You run through every scenario in your mind.

Some of you might call back right away just to get it over with I may be filtering through my brain thinking of how bad could this situation possibly be? While still trying to gather all the information that I can. I’ve probably made this situation into something bigger in my mind that I just need to dive into and cross it off my list. Nine times out of 10 I’ve worked it out to be something way worse. But you usually have an idea of what level the issue is based on who is leaving you that message.

I’ve called in reinforcements for a phone call back when I’ve gotten one that was actually threatening. I will never forget my principal calling the parent back on speakerphone with me in the room. I felt so supported when he let me and the other teachers who worked with this student know that if that parent ever contacted us again, he would handle it. It was a covering for me that I just really appreciated.

Again know and admit when you need help, even when it’s not you in person, and it’s just an email or phone call. It’s not just an email or phone call if it’s going to make you so stressed and anxious. I’ve been a part of plenty of awkward parent conversations, uncomfortable parent and student interactions and situations where I’ve had trouble navigating those parent relationships altogether.

I’ve definitely wanted to sneak my way out midway through a conversation like Schmidt from New Girl. When all else fails, give yourself some grace. What’s that funny meme, like you can’t make everyone happy, you’re not a taco? You will not be everything to everyone. This is going to hurt the people pleasers out there who are listening and the natural helpers that we are as high school counselors, we want to help everyone. We want to be the peacemakers. And we naturally want people to like us.

It hurts when a parent doesn’t recognize that we’re on the same team for their student. But just like anything else in customer service, sometimes people have bad days. And unfortunately, they take it out on you. This is not an excuse to be a punching bag for other adults. But perhaps it’s a way to give someone else grace for the times when maybe they aren’t thinking clearly about their words or their actions.

We happen to be on the receiving end of that conflict sometimes and it can be hard to be the receiver of that and not take it personally. I want you to leave this episode remembering, you may be trying your darkness, but somebody may decide that you’re just not their cup of tea, and you don’t have to be.

Keep doing your job and keep your chin up. You’re helping students every day and you’re making a difference whether those parents want to see it or not. I hope this episode was an encouragement to you that parent relationships can be sticky as a high school counselor.

I wish they were easier and though some are a joy and very rewarding. The realness is that some are really difficult and can take up a lot of our energy.

The last code word for the reset for success challenge is sparkle. This is the last of the three episodes where you’ll find a code word for that challenge. So it’s time to submit your game boards. Send me a DM or an email with a picture of your completed game board to enter the giveaway. I’ll see you this week at our first live workshop. Come back next week as we talk about navigating some team dynamics with your school counseling team. I’ll see you then.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode of high school counseling conversations. All of the links I talked about today can be found in the show notes and also at counselorclique.com/podcast. Be sure to hit follow or subscribe wherever you listen to your podcast so that you never miss a new episode. Connect with me over on Instagram, send me a DM at counselor clique, that’s C-L-Q-U-E. Thanks so much for hanging out with me. I’ll see you next time.

Connect with Lauren:

Cheers + Happy Listening!

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