5 Steps to Advocating for your Child

5 Steps to Advocating for your Child

photo credit: Ben White on Unsplash

It’s a new school year and your intense brain child has a new teacher. How well does your child’s teacher understand your child? Does your child’s teacher know what his or her needs are yet? How do you develop trust in someone who has just begun to know your child? Or perhaps you are a professional, meeting an emotionally intense child for the first time and you are wondering how to best meet his or her needs. 

Recently I sat down with a new adolescent client and her mother. I paused before saying, with as much compassion as I could muster, “As a parent, I am asking you to trust me knowing that you are meeting me for the first time. It is essential for your child to feel she can be open with me as her therapist and I need you to know I will come to you with any pertinent information.” I can only begin to imagine how difficult it is to trust a new person especially when it comes to your child.

As a former educator, I believe a significant step in building that relationship and trust is starting the year with open communication. Beginning the year surrounded by adults who are one step ahead in understanding your child, is setting your child up for success.  I am of the belief, you know your child best. Yes, schools, therapists, and helping professionals are part of your child’s team, but you are in the best possible position to advocate for your child and it’s important to do so at the beginning of the school year.


But this may raise a few questions for your family, what is the best way to advocate for your child, and when is the best time to have a conversation with your child’s teacher? These 5 steps to advocating for your child at school can benefit you, your child’s educational team,  but most importantly your child.

1. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Meeting with educators as a parent of a child with an intense brain can be raw, real, and scary. I recently visited with a friend who mentioned she cried throughout this meeting. However, she ‘has it down to a science’. She knows her child and knows within 90 days of the start of school, life is going to get really hard. Even though the teachers won’t see this side of her son in the first few months of school, it’s important to her to risk feeling vulnerable so that everyone understands what her son will need and that she wants to be involved in his education.

2. Create a team of caring individuals before there is a crisis. My friend also mentioned that it’s important to her to create a team of people who care about her son prior to a crisis happening. This gives the school an opportunity to create a supportive environment. This team is available to step in when you are not, and knowing what your child needs prior to a crisis benefits everyone involved.

3. The timing of this conversation should be dictated by your child’s needs. It is never too early and it’s never too late. For some children, it’s best to have this conversation before school starts.  For others, it may be best the teacher has an opportunity to know the child first. Make it your journey. Another friend shared with me that she wants the teacher to have a chance to know her child before sitting down together. Her son has anxiety and is very good at hiding it. As his mother, she knows it’s her job to advocate for him. Doing so, allows the teacher to be aware of the signs of her son’s anxiety and an opportunity to intervene based on his specific needs.

4. Establish an open line of communication. Is it better for you to communicate via email or phone? Do you want to be contacted during the day or is it better to contact you at the end of the day unless it’s an emergency? In the words of Brene Brown, Clear is kind. Be kind to yourself and the educators working with your child. These are important questions to consider and there is no right or wrong answer. Do what’s right for you.

5. And as always, be kind to yourself. If you have had an opportunity to read my previous blogs you know it’s important to me to advocate for your self-care. This is no different. Meeting your needs first puts you in a better position to meet the needs of your child. You can find suggestions for your self-care and that of your family here and here.

Whether you are reading this as the parent of an emotionally intense child or a member of a child’s educational team, we are here to support you in navigating this school year.  You can set up a parent coaching consultation here.

Be well,

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Jeanine Long is a Mad to GladTM certified parent coach and psychotherapist at Samantha Moe and Associates.  Her heart is highly tuned to families’ emotional needs and she uses her yoga background to compassionately lead everyone to a calmer place.  She loves spending time with her three amazing nieces and nephew in Wichita, Kansas -- time outdoors -- or with her nose in a book. Find out more about Jeanine’s work at www.samanthamoe.com.

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