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Navigating relationships for our parents, services and schools – how do we ensure success?

The relationship between the parent and their child’s educator, the client and service provider, and even the parent and their child’s service provider can very often impact the success of a person’s life, learning and ongoing development. The relationship that is forged can create an environment of encouragement and achievement, or it can create uncertainty and strain.

From a personal perspective, I have stood on all different sides of the relationship equation. I’m a parent, I’m a teacher, and I have also worked in the disability field – providing support services to young people and their families. I know what it is like to feel uncertainty as a parent wanting the best for your own child, and to also feel the strain of living up to expectations of providing an exceptional service, and wanting to do the very best for the people you support.

I have had some amazing relationships with the people who have supported my own children – relationships that were positive and that felt like a partnership – where there was a sense of feeling safe, respected, and heard. And, I have also experienced some relationships that perhaps could have been better. Where that sense of uncertainty didn’t seem to go away, and where there seemed to be misunderstanding and break downs in communication.

Over the years, I have often pondered what goes into creating successful relationships within the parent / educator / service provider landscape, and my thoughts always seem to come back to these things:

  • Having a willingness to learn – we can all learn new things and every day is an opportunity to learn and experience a different viewpoint. We just have to be open to new ideas, and committed to learning from the mistakes that we will inevitably make along the way. The people we support are our very best teachers if we just take the time to tune into their needs (and pay attention to what they are telling us in the less obvious ways) and to share this with each other (parent / educator / service provider).
  • Having an attitude of collaboration – being prepared to work together, and to give of our time to create a positive working relationship is the first step in building a successful relationship. As parents, educators and service providers, our time is precious, and so when we give of it (to each other), we show that we are really committed to supporting a person in the best way that we can. When we communicate regularly, sharing our thoughts and ideas and listening to others, we also show that we are willing to have a cooperative approach in the support that we offer.
  • Having compassion and a willingness to move forward from difficult conversations or ‘upsets’ is so very important in the parent / educator / service provider relationship. There are inevitably going to be moments of frustration, moments of not knowing what to do next, or moments of disappointment when things don’t go as planned. If we can talk through these moments and find constructive ways to resolve issues and move forward, we build trust and respect. As hard as it is, sometimes we need to be able to leave the ‘ego’ at the door.
  • Being willing to listen and understand – when we listen and ask questions so that we can build our understanding of a situation, and then apply what we can, we begin to create environments of open communication, and successful working relationships.
  • Knowing that we can learn from other people’s insights – even if it’s different to what the text books tell us or to what we have experienced before. Everyone’s experiences are different, and we all have different strengths, weaknesses, and ways that we approach the world. Being open to other people’s insights, especially when they are different to what we know, shows our commitment to building positive successful relationships.

We’d also love to know what you think! What has made a parent / educator / service provider relationship successful for you in the past? Do you have any words of wisdom to share?

Written by Elissa Plumridge


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