Episode 40, A Parent’s Guide to Having a Productive & Helpful Meeting at School
In This Episode:
Many different types of meetings occur in the school setting. For parents, the most common are parent / teacher conferences, IEP meetings, 504 meetings, meetings to address a specific concern and/ or gather information, and so on. ..
Each school has its own culture and each district and/or school has certain protocol, policies, and procedures that they follow. Usually, these are readily available either on the website, the student handbook, calendar or request from the school.
Regardless of the type of meeting that you are attending and where you are attending it at, having a few basic elements in place can make a huge difference between a productive and helpful meeting to one that is not.
As a disclaimer, I worked as a teacher and a school counselor for years in a wonderful charter school so I am giving you my opinion from my limited view point. Just like with any information, take what you need of this information and leave the rest. You may not agree with what I’m saying and that is okay. My intent is to provide some tips that may help you.
Sometimes meetings at school can involve some information and decisions that are heavy by nature. This can lead to a wide array of emotional responses.
Here’s some tips that I believe can help meetings at your child’s school be more successful:
BE ON TIME – this starts the meeting off with respect to the importance of everyone’s time, as well as afford you and the school the time allotted to focus on how to best help your child. Tardiness or last minute reschedules can really set a tone from the start. With this said, sometimes things happen. If you are late or need to reschedule, always apologize and try your best to not let it happen again.
ERR ON THE SIDE OF KINDNESS and RESPECT – You can’t go wrong with kindness and respect, even if you don’t feel like it is reciprocated. The old adage “You can get more bees with honey than vinegar” applies here.
CONSIDER YOURSELF AS PART OF THE “TEAM” - Viewing yourself as part of the team that is working together to help your child can create a different energy around the entire situation. Remember, the others on the team are people too that are in the field of helping children.
BRAINSTORM A LIST OF THINGS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO COVER - This will help you to prepare for the meeting and increase the chances that you get your questions answered and concerns addressed. In some cases, it’s helpful to send this to the person that coordinates the meetings, such as the school counselor or the assistant, to give them time to prepare. Be sure the email is written in an information seeking way that conveys kindness and respect. It may be helpful to write it out a few days before you send it to allow yourself time to edit the content to get it just like you want it.
SOMETIMES PARENTS BRING A PERSON TO THE MEETING AS PART OF THE TEAM – I’ve been in meetings with the child’s therapist, a friend of the family, a family advocate, and a handful of people that offered some other type of support in the child’s life. For this to happen, it is always best to let the school know beforehand. A letter of authorization that allows the school to discuss private matters about your child in front of the guest that you bring to the meeting will most likely be required.
ALWAYS STAY PROFESSIONAL – If you feel yourself getting upset, it may be helpful to excuse yourself to the restroom to engage in some calming practices before you return. Communicating while we are emotionally flooded can cause relationship ruptures that are difficult to repair. Remember, always err on the side of kindness and respect. It is everyone’s best interest to establish and maintain a good relationship.
FOLLOW-UP COMMUNICATION AFTER THE MEETING – It may be appropriate to send a thank you email to all of the participants that include a list of the key points that you took away from the meeting. This will help you to remember and have a list of important things that came up, as well as send a message to the school that you are involved and care about the situation at hand.
KEEP THE FOCUS ON YOUR CHILD – It may be tempting to get off track, especially if you feel emotionally charged about a certain issue. Keeping your focus on your child helps keep the meeting moving in the right direction, as well as supports productivity.
EDUCATE YOURSELF – It can be really helpful to learn about the process, whether it be IEP, 504, EP or another area. If you get an invitation for the meeting, look for a paper that accompies it that explains your rights and options as a parent. Beware of some of the information on the internet though, as there are some sites that depict school meetings as somewhat of a battle ground, and that is seldom the case, at least in my experience.
AVOID TRASH TALKING ANYONE IN FRONT OF YOUR CHILD – Sometimes, meetings are held as a response to a parent complaint. It is not helpful at all to say hurtful, degrading things about your child’s teacher in front of your child – even if you feel they are true. You can still convey that you are addressing a situation, but be sure it is done in a respectful manner. Remember, your child will need to go to class again, so it’s in their best interest for you to handle your concerns directly with the school, not in front of or through your child.
KNOW WHO IS AT THE MEETING – It may be appropriate to ask who will be at the meeting. Often, introductions will occur at the beginning of the meeting to let you know who’s on the team. If you don’t recognize someone, it can be helpful to ask for a round of introductions. Some meetings are small with just the parent and the teacher, while other meetings can get quite large with several professionals i at the table such as a teacher, speech language pathologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, resource teacher, exceptional education teacher, administration, advocate, school psychologist, staffing specialist, behavior analyst, and other such professionals depending on the needs of your child.
If you haven’t done so yet, be sure to check out episode Melissa’s Mantras. It’s with a lady that I really admire, that is an integral part of school meetings, both in a professional and personal capacity. In that episode, she really offers some helpful advice.
Episode 39, Understanding the Aftermath of Trash Talk
In This Episode:
Let’s begin this episode with a clear understanding of what I mean when I mention “trash talk”.
My definition of “trash talk” is when someone intentionally attempts to degrade someone by speaking poorly of them a manner that involves defamation, malintent, and purposeful degradation of another. This is also known as poor mouthing, vilifying (this is a stronger version of trash talking) and bad mouthing.
Things can slip out of our mouths in a blink of an eye. When it is truly trash talking is when it’s done by more than one comment. I’ve heard it used in the world of sports and politics and I think it also applies in the world of parenting.
In my experience, trash talking is most present in situations of divorce, but it can also be present in family members’ relationships, friendships gone poorly, other relationships with members of an organization or company, with teachers or administration at school – it can be present in so many places. It’s unhealthy and can cause lots of devastation. The bottom line is that it isn’t healthy for the person doing the trash talking, as well as their target, those watching (especially if it’s our children that are learning how to treat others in this world), and for our communities and ultimately our world as a whole. It’s just not respectful. There are healthier ways to convey dissatisfaction with another’s person’s action.
When a person uses trash talking as their default, it says a lot about them and their character. The quote “HURT PEOPLE, HURT PEOPLE” can apply here as well. Because people that aim to hurt people, really aren’t’ in a healthy space themselves. It’s a sign that they are in need of social skills, communication skills, or perhaps just healing from their own wounds if this type of behavior was done to them and they feel entitled to do it to others.
Where I’ve seen the most damage with this is in families of divorce and separation. It can leave children with wounds that are difficult to heal. Feelings of betrayal and confusion for the kids are not uncommon and can be very painful. I read a book, Divorce Poison, by William Morrow, a while back that really talked about these types of situation. Often children identify as ½ of one parent and ½ of another. When one of their parents is trash talked by the other, or by a family member, it hurts. It can feel like a personal attack. It can feel like “if my mom/dad is _____, then I must be”. This is painful for anyone, especially children because it can strike them in such an intimate part of their life. Just think, “What message am I sending my child when I speak like this?”. They don’t benefit from thinking or knowing how defective their other parent is, or whoever the trash-talk is targeted at.
If you have been the victim of trash – talk, you may know the feelings of betrayal, anger, and helplessness that this can bring. So, how do you respond when someone’s trash talking you? Do you just let it happen? Do you “fight” back? Do you let it bother you? Well, unfortunately there’s no cookie cutter response. It depends... don’t you love that answer? There is always benefit to choosing kindness and respect, with wisdom, even when people are not reciprocating it to you. Taking the opportunity to return the trash talking behavior just puts you at their level. And, if your kids are watching it really normalizes this type of behavior and teaches them that trash talking is acceptable. So always run it through the respect, wisdom, and kindness filter. It is helpful though to discuss with your child, and in some cases document what’s happening, if it gets to out of hand. Know when to seek professional assistance though, whether it is a therapist to help you heal from it and what led to that point and / or an attorney if it involves parent alienation. Putting positive energy into the situation can be so very helpful. Seeking support from a therapist can help you heal from this and help you with some coping and calming skills.
It’s important to mention that this podcast is not therapy, nor is it a substitute for therapy. It is also not legal advice. It is merely information meant for self –care and educational purposes only.
I view trash-talking as a betrayal. It can feel like a betrayal. Actually, it is a betrayal. Betrayals leave us with our guard up, to guard against letting it happen again. Some people refer to this as “jaded” or “burned”. I offer a type of therapy at my private practice called Gottman Method Couples Therapy that helps people heal relationships, even relationships that have endured betrayals. I help people heal from betrayals that involve infidelity, finances, trash talking and more. It’s not easy, but it can be done. “An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure” definitely applies here. The healing process involves regaining TRUST.
Carl Jung spoke to this I believe when he said “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
In This Episode:
Click Here for the Free Download: DISTRESS SCALE for Before / After Calming Techniques
Today’s episode is all about what it is like when a parent struggles with anxiety, as well as some options to heal from and some coping skills to get through the trying times.
My work has been greatly influenced by my work in EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing and reading books like The Body Keeps the Score by Dr Bessel Van der Kolk and Peter Levine’s Healing Trauma.
I think it’s important to begin with a discussion of what anxiety is and what it is not. Mental Health clinicians use a book to clinically diagnose Anxiety Disorder called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. At the time of this recording, we are using the 5th edition. Anxiety disorders can come in different forms. In this episode we’re going to look at symptoms and coping skills rather than a diagnosis. Anxiety can come in many different forms – Separation Anxiety Disorder (I see this most often with children and some teens) , Selective Mutism, Specific Phobia , Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia), Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia (fear of places or situations), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (what I see most commonly in my work) ,Substance/Medication-Induced Anxiety Disorder, Anxiety Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition and more.
Anxiety, like the range of emotions that we experience, are all part of the human experience. Give yourself permission to be human. It’s important not to judge them good or bad, rather look at the level of functionality that it has in your life. I listened to an episode of Marie TV with Marie Forleo, with Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love, where she talked about the function of Fear. Fear is ultimately at the foundation of anxiety. She had a great description of how it’s like fear is riding with her in the car – she puts it in the back seat, not in the front seat, not allowing it to control the radio or adjust the mirrors or grab the steering wheel. Ultimately, a certain amount of anxiety keeps us alive, keeps us from getting into situations that can hurt us.
Doctors Peter Levine and Bessel Van der Kolk describe anxiety as the smoke alarm in the brain. It goes off when there’s danger. When people have an unhealthy level of anxiety, perhaps one of the Anxiety disorders, its like to smoke alarm goes off on super sensitive mode. There’s a part of our brain called the Amygdala that serves as the smoke alarm. Our brains are brilliantly wired for our life experience. So much goes on in our brain to try to allow us to have the best lives ever. Lots of brain research has surfaced in the last 10 years, but more and more is coming out each day. All of the coping skills that I’m going to suggest may help you brain function at more optimal level during times of distress. Please know that these things are not like a light switch, but rather a dimmer, that can help one calm down slowly. If these things don’t seem to help, seeking out professional assistance from a mental health professional may help you get to the root of these fears on a deeper level. As a clinician, I’ve seen amazing progress with EMDR, EFT, Art Therapy, Play Therapy, and a body based therapy called Somatic Experiencing. These types of therapy surpass the limitation of words by incorporating the entire brain and body in the healing process. It can happen so quickly sometimes, it leaves me questioning if it’s really healed. Has the person really moved past and escaped from the grips of the Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, or whatever it is they are dealing with, or is it hopeful thinking? After years of working in this field and seeing long lasting change, I am certain that these types of therapy help- help people get their quality of life back. And, for parents it allows them to be fully engaged with their children and spouse if they are married. It can be truly remarkable! I think everyone can use therapy at one time or another in their lives, especially if they have a difficult situation in their past and/or their present, as well as their perceived future.
In this episode we’ll going to cover what that diagnosis means, but we won’t confine ourselves to that, because anxiety can be felt to the level of meeting that clinical diagnostic criteria, but it can also be felt without. It can leave us, as parents feeling unable to cope with stressful situations, feeling trapped and overwhelmed.
Also, if you haven’t done so yet, be sure to check out Episode 33, When a Parent Struggles with Depression. http://jackieflynnconsulting.com/33-when-a-parent-struggles-with-depression/
A Reminder: this podcast is not therapy, nor is it a substitute for therapy. It’s meant for informational and educational purposes only. If you need therapeutic support, look around in your area for a mental health provider that can meet your needs.
For parents, it’s especially important to heal and move past Anxiety. Children need a parent or caregiver to fully participate in life with them -to create healthy foundations of attachment and security. Anxiety can impede on that process. Even in uterio, the mother’s emotional state can have a big impact on the child’s development. In my EMDR training years ago, I learned that we have emotional memories from as far back as 6 months in the womb. Our children not only use us as a model of how to act, they also take on our responses to situations in a deeper way, in an unconscious way. Some of the types of therapies that I’ll bring up in a bit can help people heal from that. But, I do believe the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies here. If you are a parent experiencing painful and life limiting anxiety, getting help for yourself can benefit you and your children, your children’s children, and so on and so on. Not only is there no trophy for self-sacrificing and taking the hard road through this, there’s also a chance of having it affect people for generations to come.
Okay, so I know how tempting it can be to search on the web for your symptoms and do somewhat of a self-diagnosis. I’ve done that before with medical stuff. I was convinced that I had Hypothyroidism, but once I got to the doctor and had bloodwork done, it turned out that I was just low on iron and Vitamin D. As a clinician, I’ve experience people coming in convinced that they have a specific disorder as well. Sometimes they are on the right track, but many times they are not. That’s why we are going to cover awareness and coping skills today. For this reason, I’m not going to read verbatim, the diagnostic criteria. We are going to discuss it in a more practical sense, but if feel like you’re experiencing this on a deep level, then you may want to see a mental health and/or a medical professional. I’ve seen anxiety treated well with therapy, and sometimes through medication as an adjunct to therapy. I’m not a doctor, so I don’t offer education or advice on medication. However, your physician can be a great source of information. I often accompany my clients to psychiatric appointments or doctor’s appointments as part of a team approach. It can be incredibly helpful. If several professionals are helping the same person, it just makes since to collaborate as a team. It can be powerful. This is common especially with my clients with an eating disorder. Upon authorization from the client or their guardian, we can really discuss the treatment approach and support each other in ways that make a huge difference.
Anxiety can feel overwhelming; often leave us feeling out of control. Some things that people with anxiety experience are some or all of the following: exhaustion, even more tired than usual, focus and concentration issues, grumpiness and irritability, body soreness, sleep disturbance of then leaving one having trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep, restlessness, or sleep that leaves someone still tired upon waking.
Anxiety has some body symptoms too. I love Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk’s work and Dr. Peter Levine’s work. They really point out how the body experiences deep emotional experiences and can often hold it there. I’ve seen anxiety show itself as gastrointestinal issues such as constipation or diarrhea, sweating, nausea, feeling faint and much more. Each person is unique and has their own experience. But, the big take away is that it isn’t just confined to thoughts in the mind. It can make it hard to function, especially if you are a parent with tons of responsibilities and expectations. It can also take a toll on relationships at home, work, social life, and more... It can strain our child parent relationship and marital relationships for sure.
This episode wouldn’t be complete without a mention of trauma. Trauma can come to us in different sizes – Big T Trauma for those really startling situations and little t trauma for the smaller situations that still impact us. A big T may be from emotional and/or physical abuse, violence, war time experience – really intense situations. A little t may be someone laughing at you during a class presentation in 4th grade, gossip, and such... Since people experience stuff in such a different way, a big T trauma for one person, may be a little t trauma for someone else. And, visa versa. These traumas cause our smoke alarm to go off in our brain, sending the signal to release cortisol in our brain to keep us safe. If serve enough the alarm system becomes sensitive and releases those chemicals without as much threat when we are triggered. And, that can look like Anxiety, when our brain and body tries to keep us safe, even when there’s no real danger. It can be difficult to parent with Anxiety, leaving us on edge, not being able to fully engage in the present moment with our children. Or, keeping us from participating in certain social situations, staying home to take care of something that you exhibit symptoms of obsessiveness and compulsiveness over, or even the fear of going into a panic attack while doing something. Sometimes people go into a state of panic over the fear of going into a state of panic.
Years ago, I read Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Teens by Richard Carlson to my middle school class. In that book he used the metaphor of a snow globe. I think it’s such a great metaphor of how our brain works when inundated with feelings and thoughts. The coping and calming skills that we’ll cover helps those settle like the snowflakes in the globe.
Another important point that I need to mention here is the importance of naming the emotions that come up in certain situations. Dr. Seigel has a phrase, “If you can name it, you can tame it”. By naming our emotions, it allows our brain’s to process them in a more efficient way.
Before we cover calming and coping skills, it’s really important to mention the impact of nutrition and sleep. With good nutrition and sleep our brain functions at its best. This can’t be overstated. Nutrition and sleep make a big difference!
So, let’s cover a list of the things that help those symptoms of anxiety subside. I always like to start of with rating the level of anxiety. In EMDR and EFT we call it a SUD, Subjective Unit of Distress. From 0 to 10, how distressed do you feel? (these are described more in detail in episode 38 of Parenting in the Rain www.parentingintherain.com
If you are experiencing feelings of anxiety and it is limiting your life, as well as your ability to parent or function in the family in a healthy way, you may want to consider seeking out a professional mental health counselor. I have seen huge changes in my clients that led them to a better quality of life their entire family.
See the following for a list of books and products that I love and recommend. I have used and read all of them, which is the only reason that I would recommend them to you, as I take my recommendations seriously
Below Are Some Sites, Affiliate Links to Books/Products That I Love
My Parent Coaching Program - https://jackieflynnconsulting.simplero.com/products/52176-Parent-Coaching-Program
Labyrinths 20% off for calming, focus and connectedness. http://www.relax4life.com/JF.html
“When something bad happens you have three choices. You can let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.” Anonymous
This week’s episode is all about our experience with Hurricane Matthew in Florida. I invited my daughter Angel on the show to share her experience with it all as well.
We discuss what it was like to prepare for it, leave our home, arrive at a nearby safe place, worry about friends and family, wonder if we would have a home to come home to, and our delight in the fact that damage was minimal and our community survived. We also discuss what it was like to look at footage of the damage that Hurricane Matthew had in other places such as Haiti, Jacksonville, St. Augustine and more.
During our evacuation, we stayed at a hotel that accepted pets. It was quite the experience. The people at the hotel were super kind. We did witness a few people showing symptoms of stress and low tolerance, but overall people were overwhelmingly positive. My husband was at work the entire time, so it was just me, Tommy and Angel, and Max our dog. Our car was packed with stuff that we considered valuable.
Unfortunately, right after we returned home, I checked my email and discovered that someone had made 2 fraudulent charges on my card for apple watches. I received 2 “thank you for your purchase” emails! Needless to say, this increased the stress level. Damage was minimal with that as well. It makes me think of that movie, Identity Thief with Melissa McCarthy. That movie is so good. It’s not rated for kids, but it is funny and parts of it seem educational as it can give a glimpse into the world of credit card fraud.
We were so fortunate to see that we only had a fence panel blown over, but some of our friends weren’t so lucky. Lots of people lost power through it all. Luckily we didn’t, but my cousin Connie and her family did. Florida Power and Light has been working tirelessly through it all. Also, power trucks from all around has come to our community to help out. I heard that they made a tent city while they worked in shifts. It just makes my heart smile thinking about how people work together in a time of crisis. When times are hard, sometimes it can bring out the best in people.
We are immensely grateful. Now that it is over, we are getting back to normal. I’ve been putting things back on the walls and bookshelves at my private practice and the kids return back to school today. They’ve had 3 days off because of Hurricane Matthew.
The Parenting Skill’s Summit!
“I am so excited to finally shout from the rooftops that you can now register for the upcoming summit:
The World's Best Parenting Summit!!
We have some amazingly dynamic parenting experts who will be giving more of the awesome support you need to be the most rocking parent you can be!
This time around the focus is on finding your tribe, rocking your parenting, and raising healthy kids! We'll be talking about so many amazing topics, including how to raise healthy boys, how to encourage your young athlete, how to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life, move towards more authentic parenting, how to talk about sex with your child (for all ages), and so much more!
Check out the details here to register: http://bit.ly/WBPS2016 to sign up and get ready for the summit - which launched October 10th!
Feel free to share and let each and every parent you know in on this amazing FREE event!!”
Below Are Some Sites, Affiliate Links to Books/Products That I Love
Labyrinths 20% off for calming, focus and connectedness. http://www.relax4life.com/JF.html