Cooperation with families of children with disabilities - the second part

Last week, Branislava Zivanovic wrote about the importance of the family as the first environment in which a child grows up. You can read the text here. The following text guides us through the process of a child's growing up and offers suggestions for strengthening the partnership between parents and teachers.

We need to know that a parent, by definition, has certain expectations of their child, and consequently - of us too. They have the right to have a "blurred" picture, great ambition, misunderstanding of the dynamics of the child's development, the need to soften or overemphasize things, fear of the future. The justification for that is constant - lifelong care for the child's future. We, as professionals, must be tolerant, patient, and even ready to occasionally endure certain inconsistent and overemphasized reactions of parents. They all stem from their fear, increased worry, insecurity, sadness, frustration, and a whole series of other emotions that change. No matter how much society has opened up to differences and proclaimed equality, we are all aware that theory and practice do not match. One does not live from good wishes, and good deeds are remembered.

That is why it is very important that we try to develop a partnership with the parents and families of children with disabilities. We should insist on what the child can master, what they are able to adopt, praise the parents for their work, find methods and forms of work in which the child will be successful as much as possible. On the other hand, first of all they should listen well to what they say, follow their reactions, show respect, so parents, with chosen words and with a lot of tact, patience and understanding should be told that the most important thing is for their child to be happy and satisfied and to develop self-esteem, and that they should never be pushed beyond their limits, as this produces frustrations and unwanted behaviors. If certain truths are presented to parents in a professional but close and empathetic way, they will find it easier to accept everything. Don't forget that our actions ruin their dreams and hopes and they always experience that they are "punished", guilty, responsible, inadequate and much more, which is certainly not true, because sometimes things happen for no apparent reason, but to all of them it is a small consolation.

Until the third - fourth grade of primary school, there are not many conflicts and disagreements. Smaller children accept their peers better, are less prone to criticism, are more tolerant, more inclined to provide help and support, and parents still have hope that a miracle will happen. On the other hand, it is also a period when the child shows progress and the difference between the children is smaller. The older the child, the greater the challenges. They also notice that they are doing some things differently, that they cannot make and achieve, they are confused and scared. Classrooms, teachers, subjects, contents are changing and they are becoming more and more insecure. Classmates begin to train various sports, go to competitions, private lessons, birthdays and parties, and have less and less time to dedicate to friends with disabilities. Parents notice that and become sad, even angry, and they induce all those emotions on their child. As a reaction, changes in the child's behavior most often occur. At that moment, parents need even more help and support. They expect understanding and comfort from us, but not false hope. They are under constant stress and we must understand that they are occasionally too tired and without hope. They feel socially and parentally inadequate, and in fact they invest far more effort and effort in the child's progress than parents with an average child. They have their own ways of adapting to constant stress, but occasionally they "lose their breath" and feel suffocated by too much burden.

Of course, both parents and families differ from each other. Some will even show a dose of aggression and anger caused by frustration, while others will almost give up everything and stop having any demands. We must be the voice of reason and easily and tactically guide them, direct them, listen to them, give them advice, help them perform their mission as successfully as possible. Adequate assistance to parents and their adaptation requires us to understand each individual parent and their assessment of the difficulties and challenges they face, as well as dynamics and interactions within the family itself. Different parents react differently, and we must be ready to respond adequately to that.

Our mission is: to show respect and appreciation of parents' views, their thoughts and expectations, to show interest and willingness to provide support, not to judge and review, but to show compassion, and not pity. Always start the conversation with what is positive and what represents the success of the child, and only then point out the difficulties. Let your main thesis always be the child's well-being. Try to use affirmative sentences such as: "It is important that he or she is happy. The most important thing is to progress. See how he or she adopted this and that, so we will slowly continue...'' In this way you open the space to slowly guide the parent through the processes of the child's growing up, so when they gain trust in you, you can more easily give advice, recommendations, orientations.

Tact, patience, empathy, expertise and addressing not from the position of power, but from the position of a partner, greatly simplifies relationships. 

I understand we are just people who have their worries and problems, their doubts and frustrations, their limitations, temper and character and it is not always easy for us to refrain and accept "attacks" or different behaviors and demands of parents, but when a situation frustrates you, and maybe even insults you, just ask yourself: What would I be like if I were in his place? The answer lies in sincerity.

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