Initiating Difficult Parent Conversations – Talking Points
Ministry staff rather than volunteers should lead potentially difficult conversations with parents. In every sensitive situation involving children (not just special needs!), the parent dialogue should be started by a designated and equipped leader. In conversations associated with potential special needs situations, a volunteer with professional experience or familiarity with the terms and culture associated with special needs may be good to assist with the dialogue.
1) Explain the purpose of meeting is to better understand the child and to meet his/her needs so that the child experiences success in the church.
2) Quickly convey the desire to keep the child in church programming and to appropriately meet their needs.
3) Indicate an intent to partner with the parents to create a collaborative approach in facilitating the child’s spiritual formation.
4) Ask questions to discover the child’s likes, interests, dislikes, aversions.
5) Try to determine the child’s learning style (visual, auditory or kinesthetic).
6) Inquire about the type of class or setting the child is placed in at school.
7) Find out if the child has an IEP (individual Education Plan) in place with their school. The answer to this question may provide the most revealing answers and greatest guidance for the ministry staff. Most children with any diagnosis will have an IEP in the public school system.
8) Ask if the parents would be willing to share any of the IEP with you.
9) First talk about the positives and strengths noticed in their child. Follow up by discussing observed challenges and invite parents’ input to help the children’s ministry team successfully engage the child.
10) Ask the parents to suggest ideas for potential classroom or program changes that could help the child better learn about Jesus.
11) If needed, request a parent to accompany the child into the classroom and model how they relate and interact with their child.
12) Conclude an exchange by reiterating how excited and blessed the church’s ministry team is to work with and include the child. Convey the intent to make this a positive experience for the child and all the other students in the classroom.
– Jackie Mills-Fernald
Jackie Mills-Fernald is the Director of McLean Bible Church’s (McLean, VA) Access Disability Ministry
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