Preparing for a Parent Meeting After a Child Exhibits Safety Compromising Behavior
This post is Part 3 of 5 of a series that began with the dilemma of Handling a Child that Bolts during Church Programming. This post follows Documenting and Notifying Parents of a Safety Compromising Event. While the examples below pertain to the issue of bolting, many of the pointers apply to situations involving any type of unsafe behavior.
Begin crafting the solution
While ultimately the church staff should collaborate with parents in the development of an enhanced safety plan, it is important that potential solutions have been developed and thought through prior to the parent meeting. In some cases a church may need to contact medical professionals familiar with certain behaviors associated with some diagnoses as well as the church’s insurance carrier or legal counsel, depending on the severity of the behavior. In the meantime, unless potential viable solutions are prepared to propose, parents may justifiably interpret the called meeting as a not-so-subtle communication that the church does NOT want the child to remain in church programming. The best hope for a positive outcome is for the church ministry team to go into the conversation with the focus being on potential and prepared solutions, not the problem.
As with any concerning behavior, there is nearly always a pattern and ultimately a cause behind a child’s actions. See the blog post Addressing Aggressive or Unsafe Behavior for more on the A-B-C plan of documenting and analyzing challenging conduct. Craft the solution around ways to prevent the safety compromising behavior. Very often, the solution is relatively easy and may not even warrant a discussion with parents.
For many children, the answer to the problem is by assigning a one-on-one buddy. And by having the option for one-on-one attention, the child may participate in activities more suited to them and thus avoid the concerning behavior. For example, a child who runs off may “bolt” during a certain activity. If the child becomes more difficult to manage during say playground time or maybe during music time, then consider allowing the child to forego the planned group activity. By having a buddy, the child would be able to be away from the group and in a different environment. A less stimulating and more controlled setting may allow the child to avoid the activity that typically triggers the safety compromising actions. Keep in mind that buddies may be needed and available to both children with identified special needs and those without a disclosed or recognized diagnosis. The issue then becomes developing a buddy rotation for the child –and- gaining the mindshare of the parents.
Before sitting down with parents, plan for their anticipated questions related to the new arrangement. Think through all the details and ensure volunteers are ready to step in and start as soon as possible (volunteers do NOT yet need to know what child they may be helping. Confidentiality is important, especially before a parent conversation!). Keep in mind that simple solutions may yield positive results. It is important to work through the issues preparing for the forthcoming parent meeting with this frame of mind.
Stay tuned for the 4th post, Conducting a Parent Meeting after Safety Compromising Behavior in this series where we will offer conversation starters and good word choices for the dialogue between the children’s ministry team and the parents.
– Amy Fenton Lee
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