Resolving Challenges Between Parents & Staff
It is natural for there to be communication challenges between parents of children in residential placements and the teachers and daily living staff. For parents who have had to be highly involved in the care of their children, it can be agonizing to give up their role as the primary caregiver on a day-to-day basis. Turning the care of a high-need, vulnerable child over to complete strangers is particularly hard in the beginning, but does get easier as parents have a chance to get to know the staff. Just as divorced parents may disagree as to the “best” way to care for their children, it is understandable for disagreements and communication challenges to occur between parents and residential staff. Issues such as diet, visitation schedules, phone call frequency between parents and children, clothing, and cleanliness standards can be potential sources of challenge when parents and staff have different priorities.
The “bigger” issues around managing self-injurious or aggressive behavior, educational approach, etc., are typically addressed more formally during IEP and other educational meetings. Here we are talking about the “smaller” but no less important issues that come up.
Each school has their own unique set of rules and also a different culture. This means that families are included in the day-to-day life of the school – and their child’s daily life — in varying degrees. Sometimes parents have to accept their child’s school’s rule of only one facetime or skype call per week, even though they may advocate for more with the school’s administration and work toward change.
Some parents struggle with menu options, such as the amount healthy vs. junk food, which are bound to be different than what was served at home. It can be difficult for parents to give up control over their child’s eating, activity level, and other health habits. Other parents may get upset about toys, books, or other belongings getting lost, or clothes that don’t match or are worn by roommates. Most parents acknowledge that it was a challenge to figure out which issues to discuss with staff and advocate for change, versus what to let go. This is not always easy. When parents find themselves feeling angry about some issue, it helps to talk things over with a spouse or trusted friend first before decided if, when, and how to bring this up with residential staff. Parents learn to ask themselves “what really matters” to help them choose what issues are worth discussing. Keeping in mind the “big picture” of:
- overall care of the child
- the quality of relationships between the staff and the child
- accepting minor mistakes and human imperfections
are important in helping parents make these decisions.