Q: I have these parents who are always really hard on their teen. They won’t bring them to my program, it’s like pulling teeth to get permission slips signed and the teen tells me their parents don’t even want to hear about what they’re learning during the project. What can I do?
A: Last week we talked about parents who are unsupportive of your work as a youth worker. You’re an adult, you should be able to handle the criticism or disinterest in a professional manner. However, it probably bothers you a lot more when you have parents who are unsupportive of their own child.
What can you do when it’s a family dynamic? They aren’t your child. You’re just the worker. Maybe the parent has even said this to you when you expressed concerns to them about the youth. It won’t be easy and it may still not solve the problem, but here are three things you can try:
1) Encourage the youth to speak directly to their parents and offer to facilitate the discussion
Sometimes they don’t realize they’re being unsupportive. Parents need to hear it from their youth, but circumstances or previous experiences may hinder the youth from speaking to their parents openly. By offering to facilitate a discussion you provide the youth with the support they need, while allowing the unsupportive parents to hear directly from the youth, rather than from you or not at all.
2) Offer parent and youth programming
Schedule a father/son paintball excursion or a mother/daughter skating night. Find ways to engage parents and their youth in activities that foster relationship-building. This will provide more relational capital for the youth and their parents, providing the opportunity for open dialogue and a more supportive relationship.
3) Offer additional support to the young person
Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about unsupportive parents. Maybe they have their own hang ups, time constraints or several other children that require support as well. You can still provide a supportive role to the youth in your care. You won’t replace their parents, but you can give them the time and attention they need at this important time in their life. If you can’t, work to find a mentor who can be there for the youth in your programs that need a supportive adult around.
At the end of the day, you can only do what you can do when parents of your young people are unsupportive. Parents are adults (even if they don’t always act like it) and as such deserve your professional courtesy. If there aren’t any child protection issues like verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect, you don’t have a lot of support from the law. But you can use your professional position to support that young person to the fullest and help affect some change in their life, despite their unsupportive parents.
Question: How have you deal with parents who were unsupportive of their children? Please let us know in the comments below.
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