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For many educators, it’s not easy to make calls home to parents. 

For one, it’s hard to find the time. 

But it’s more than that. Picking up the phone to call someone you don’t know can be intimidating… especially when the person on the other end has a different set of shared experiences. 

It’s tough when you are calling to share good news. When you are calling to share news that’s less than positive, the anxiety can be overwhelming.

As we work to help students and families navigate the challenges of a global pandemic, we will be forced to have more difficult conversations. We’ll have no choice but to push through that fear and pick up the phone.  

The key to feeling more comfortable with difficult conversations begins with the way we approach those conversions, with how we choose to feel about them. 

Difficult conversations are only difficult when we frame them that way. 

If, instead, we use the term “challenging conversations” or even “collaborative conversations,” we can begin to embrace real opportunities to build true, authentic connections with families.

Challenging conversations can actually result in deeper relationships, assuming they’re handled with respect. That means using a tone of partnership, language that is free of big words and judgement, and a commitment to active listening. It might also mean meeting parents where they are, showing vulnerability and empathy, and recognizing anger and emotion as signs of love. 

We can make challenging conversations easier by intentionally preparing for them. Have a challenging call on your calendar? Here’s a few ways to make it easier.

#1 Give parents a heads up

Schedule the call. And, schedule it at the convenience of parents. Along with that, give them an idea of why you are calling. It’s respectful. And, it gives parents a chance to center their emotions and collect their thoughts.

#2 Identify your emotional state

If you are having a lousy day, reschedule the call. If you don’t, parents may pick up on your hurried tone or your annoyance and think it’s directed at them. Plus, your fuse may be a little shorter than it normally is… and we don’t want that. 

#3 Remember ‘it’s a conversation’

This isn’t a lecture. Present the issue with two or three points and then, do the most important thing you can… listen. And, ask questions. You’ve got the expert in the student right there on the line. Make the most of it.

Taking the time to prepare for challenging conversations will help you feel both more confident and more calm, whether talking on the phone or in person. Take these steps and you’ll find that your conversations with parents feel more productive. What’s more the connection between the home and the school will continue to grow. 

My latest professional development workshop,Challenging Communications And Conversations, is designed to give you and your staff the tips, tools, and techniques they need to help face their fears around difficult conversations. Reach out to me on my website, if you’d like to learn more. Contact Patricia. While you’re there, consider downloading my Playbook for Clear, Effective & Meaningful School Communication.

Patricia Weinzapfel

Patricia Weinzapfel

Author, Educator, Journalist & K12 Communications Expert

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