Effective Communication between Parents and School

Both parents and schools play a critical role in the emotional well-being of a child, especially one suffering from a mental health challenge. However, in order for both parties to help the child effectively, open and consistent communication is necessary.
For many children, a mental health diagnosis will not impact their school experience or academic performance. For others, however, academic and social challenges may exacerbate their struggles. In addition, certain treatments (medication, therapy or both) may impact a child’s behavior and in these situations, a collaborative approach is most effective for the child.
Below are some considerations when building a communication plan between you and your child’s school.
Parents’ role
A child spends most of their day in school. Yet, there are many aspects of their life that extend beyond the classroom. As a parent, you have insight into your child’s struggles, doctor appointments, behaviors and more.
When parents share information about their child’s struggles, the school can put in effort to nourish the child’s emotional well-being and flex up or down depending on the situation. Be sure to choose a communication style and timeline which suits your lifestyle and aligns with the school. Clear communication with the school may help:
  • Bypass triggers – If the school knows what may aggravate your child’s challenge or why academic performance is suffering, they can step in and assist where needed.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations – In some institutions, the bar for academic expectations may be high and this can be complicated for children who have trouble managing the pressure. Even simple test and homework accommodations can relieve academic pressure.
Generally, the more you are comfortable sharing, the greater benefit your child will feel. Consider sharing:
  • Strategies to support your child with their struggle
  • Critical medical information
  • Upcoming appointments occurring during school hours
  • Your child’s strengths and areas of interest – these can sometimes be used to engage the student in activities
  • Past and current interventions, therapies, or tutoring
  • Formal assessments and their results
If you are not sure what to share, talk with your child’s mental health professional.
Strategize Together
Most importantly, the goal of open and consistent communication is the ability to effectively establish a strategy, together.
  • Set up a meeting with your child’s school
  • Identify the issue at hand
  • Brainstorm possible strategies to resolve the issue
  • Evaluate the pros and cons TOGETHER
  • Decide which strategy is most fitting
  • Put strategy into play
  • Follow up – most plans need to be refined and tweaked for effectiveness
Sharing personal information about your child’s challenge is not easy and building a system for communication and collaboration can be complex. Keep in mind, that regardless of the outcome or how the information is received at your child’s school, an established communication protocol will benefit your child.
If you feel that your child’s school is not being as supportive as you would like, or you are unsure of next steps, consider speaking with a mental health professional for guidance and strategy.