My 2.5-year-old daughter has an entourage. With more than a half dozen doctors, nurses and therapists, a respite worker and probably a few more professionals that I am forgetting, “Team Syona” is pretty big.
We’re lucky that we have really positive relationships with all of these people. It’s one of the few things that keeps life running smoothly.
I’ve had the opportunity to connect with many parents online, and on Friday I had a chance to meet even more parents and professionals at a conference held at WindReach Farm — a fully accessible farm designed for people of all abilities and ages. It’s close to Toronto, the surroundings are beautiful and the people are amazing. I promise I’ll write a full post about it when I go back to visit with Syona. Actually, I could probably write about 20 blog posts inspired by the conference. It was an incredible day.
I was really honoured when I was asked to participate in the conference. My workshop was focused on the parent perspective, so I decided to focus on how to build effective relationships with your child’s team. Most people attending were professionals, so the presentation was focused on sharing some insights with them. However, most of these tips can also be applied to the parent side of the relationship, too.
- Share how your child’s team can have an effective relationship with you. Ask them to share the same. What are the important things for your child and family? Share your comfort levels when it comes to pushing through tears during therapy and how much time you realistically have at home to follow up on goals.
- Set expectations, especially around communication. Ask your child’s team how often you will have appointments. How can you communicate between appointments? What communications method will you use? Phone? Email? Texts? Lay it all out. I personally prefer email since I’m usually on the go, plus it provides me with something to refer back to when I inevitably forget the fact that I had a conversation with someone. Be warned that many organizations have rules and limitations around this, so you might have to work within those restrictions (e.g. my emails about Syona often don’t contain her name or any other personal information because of privacy risks).
- Come up with a troubleshooting process before there is actually trouble. When a person is upset, 80 percent of our brain’s power is used up just trying to deal with that emotion. This only leaves 20 percent computing power, which often isn’t enough to solve the problem at hand. So it makes sense to come up with a process for dealing with complaints or contentious situations before they happen. That way, when they do arise, you can refer back to the agreed upon process. The old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” does not apply here. I’m not saying you have to have a solution to all possible problems, but do have something that you can refer back to in order to help at a time when tension, stress and deadlines might be at a maximum.
- Be professional, be yourself. Your child’s team is involved in your life in a really personal way. It’s easy for the lines between personal and professional to be blurred. It is up to you and your child’s team to figure out how you operate within that realm. However, I did find it helpful to be completely myself around them. Her team members know when we’re having a great day. They also know I am not supermom. I let them know when I’m having a tough day or am not ready to have a specific conversation. I always treat Syona’s team with respect.
- Set up a process to give and receive feedback. Though many of your organizations may have formal surveys or other feedback tools, it is great to have an informal meeting once in a while. Check in with your child’s team, ask them if there is anything they feel you could be doing better, share if there is anything more you need from them, ask them if they are comfortable doing the same. Goal check-ins could be good times for these conversations.
- Listen. Both families and professionals need to make listening a real priority.
There have been occasions where we’ve had professionals involved in Syona’s care that just weren’t a good fit, so we went through the proper channels and found someone more suitable. It was never anything personal, just a process that we needed to go through to ensure we had the proper support in place.
I really have to thank some of my online parent support communities like Ability Online and Three to Be’s Parenting Advocacy Link for helping me with the presentation. The parents that are members of these communities provided their insights so I could share them during the presentation. Though this post is written from the parenting side of the coin it is important to note that therapists and professionals can also use the above tips. They work for anyone, and they are all about communicating.
I’d love to hear your tips on how you built strong relationships with your child’s team. Tweet me @AnchelK.