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When your child's teacher gives you bad news
You’re so paranoid, you probably think this report card is about you…
I have been teaching for 23 years now and there is one thing I have discovered over time that always seems to baffle me- parents!

My training obviously prepared me for interacting with parents, but it can never prepare you for their reactions. One of the worst parts of my job is having to call parents in to discuss a child who has learning issues: whether these are severe learning disabilities or just plain milestones that have not yet been reached, it usually does not go well.  The responses vary from devastation and sheer disappointment to “how can we help”, but almost always with the underlying implication that I have just delivered bad news.

What I say vs. what you hear

It will go something like this: Me: “Little Timmy has (insert learning issue here) and I would like you to have him assessed so that we can ascertain where the issue stems from and learn how to help him be the best he can be.”  What the parents typically hear is this: “Timmy is a raging psychopath who just killed the family dog. You are bad parents and I am judging you because it is all your fault”.

Well I am here to tell you that it’s not; unless you have abused your child in some way (in which case you are a bad parent and should be ashamed), your child’s issues are not a result of bad parenting.

There seems to be a stigma attached to children like Timmy, who may just need an extra bit of help in certain areas. This silent stigma somehow means that he wasn’t raised correctly or that there is something wrong with his home life. This makes parents feel guilty and ashamed. They try to hide the fact that their child is not perfect, secretly feeling judged by others whose children seem  "normal" Let me just say, there is no such thing as a perfect child or family, those seemingly perfect children have flaws, you may not see them, but they do.

How to handle difficult news from a teacher

Firstly you need to break this cycle of guilt and shame and speak out about your child openly to others. You may be surprised to find that there are others in Timmy’s circle of friends who are also struggling with similar issues and you can support one another instead of judging silently.

So when your child’s teacher calls a meeting with you because she has concerns, remember that she cares for your child and only wants what’s best for him.

Secondly, Take her advice and do everything in your power to help your child get the tools he needs to succeed. Some things can be changed if caught early enough while others you will just learn to manage. I know that child psychologists and occupational/play therapy do not come free, so if it’s a question of finances, let her know. There are places that offer reduced fees for families who do not have the financial means to pay for these services and chances are your child’s teacher is aware of them.

Lastly, remember that this is NOT your fault, even if it’s a genetic issue, you do not determine your genetic makeup so it’s still not your fault. Your child’s teacher is not judging you and you need not feel ashamed. Every person is unique and every child has different strengths and weaknesses. Your child’s progress is not a reflection of your parenting skills.

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