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Tips in Discussing Sensitive Topics with Parents About Their Child

Being a home tutor isn’t just about giving lessons to students. Of course, while you will be in charge of helping them achieve their academic goals, a home tutor isn’t limited only to that. They can also become a student’s confidante and even have close relationships with the student’s family. Because getting to know the student is important in tuition, as it helps tutors adapt their teaching better for the student’s benefit, sometimes students may also share to the home tutors matters they don’t want to openly talk with their parents.

However, as some of these issues may also concern the parents, tutors can also discuss these with the parents. Talking about sensitive topics may be stressful for both the parent and the home tutor, especially about issues such as bullying, eating disorders, and learning disabilities. It’s inevitable that there might be tension on both sides as well as emotional sentiments. Blaming may even happen. However, it’s better to discuss with the parents these issues at the earliest possible time rather than letting it fester.

We’ve gathered some useful tips for tutors that can help them make discussions about sensitive issues easier for both sides.

1. Don’t discuss issues in front of the child

There are many reasons why tutors and parents should refrain from discussing issues in front of the child or even when they are within earshot. Before there can be any discussion, make sure that the child is far away or isn’t present at all. If the child is within range, the discussion will only cause tension to arise between the child and parent, instead of helping with the problem.

The student may feel defensive and embarrassed, whereas the parent may get mad and do or say something that might embarrass the child. Unfortunately, there can be instances wherein because of this, other problems may arise between the parent and child. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how the parent may react. The discussion may not move forward and help resolve the issue, instead both parent and child may focus more on their feelings.

2. Discuss at the right place and the right time

Since discussions of sensitive topics shouldn’t be done in front of the child, that doesn’t mean that it can be done at random. When reaching out to parents to discuss such topics to them, make sure to set the right time and place such as finding a place and time wherein both of you wouldn’t be distracted or disturbed while still talking.

The place should also allow the parent and tutor to speak freely without the fear of being overheard by someone that knows the child or shouldn’t be included in the conversation. Remember that some issues to be tackled are private and something that the child doesn’t want others to know. Don’t choose places inside the house where anyone can walk into, such as the living room, dining room, patios or decks. Also avoid the child’s work area or places where crowds may gather.

Additionally, also pick a time wherein both parties don’t have to rush to talk about matters. If the parent or tutor is distracted with catching up to their next appointment, they will not be able to fully focus at the topic at hand.

3. Be careful with your words

This doesn’t mean that you should speak dishonestly or sugarcoat matters when it shouldn’t. This simply means to use words carefully so the parent will not misunderstand them and cause a commotion.

When speaking to the parent about sensitive issues, use words that point out how the child is feeling and how it is affecting their behavior. Let the parent understand that you understand why the student is feeling this way, and you can also discuss with them how you, as a home tutor, is dealing with the issue and seek feedback from them.

In addition to this, don’t immediately delve into the issue or what happened. Ease the parent into the topic the same way students should be eased into lessons. Breach the topic carefully and speak honestly so the parent doesn’t have to read between lines. This helps the parents understand the issue quickly and lessens the misunderstanding that may arise. As such, by doing this, it will also help both the tutor and parent keep their negative sentiments from clouding their judgment.

For issues that the tutor may not fully understand, don’t hesitate to ask the parent for help. Aside from not making matters worse by dealing with problems wherein you’re not the expert, it will also show the parents that you respect their opinion and value their assistance in matters that should involve them.

4. Speak clearly

It’s always important to speak to parents clearly and be specific if you want them to know something or if there are matters you want to discuss with them. In cases like this, it helps the parents understand that they are not alone in dealing with the issue and it’ll be a team effort to solve whatever issue the child is also dealing with.

By openly talking about the issue with the parent, and not about the negative behavior that may have resulted from the issue, the tutor will be able to remove the emotional aspect of the discussion. This will help both the tutor and parents to think objectively about the issue. In solving the problem, it’s good to discuss ways to solve it logically and rationally. However, still be ready for some parents to react negatively and interpret these issues as bad news instead of finding a way to solve it immediately.

5. Invite solutions to the problems and issues

After you’ve laid the issue out in the parents, let the parents have a time to fully process the issue you’ve just opened. This time can also be used to think of suggestions to help solve the problem.

There may be some parents that will act hastily and punish their child immediately without tackling to solve the problem, but if the tutor will discuss the topic correctly, this can lessen the chances of parents acting harshly and thinking irrationally. As such, encourage the parents to think of solutions also and let them understand that you are also there to provide help in any way you can. The parent may even take it upon themselves to find the solution to their child’s problem.

6. Don’t wait until it’s too late

While some tutors won’t immediately tell the parents about issues that may raise concerns about the child, prolonging the discussion will only be harmful for both the parent and the child. Not only will the issue be harder to raise to the parent when it’s been around for a long time, the issue may also dig deeper and cause more harm to the child than when it first started.

When something the tutor deems serious springs up, don’t hesitate to immediately set a time and place to discuss the issue with the parent. If the student has confided in you about their eating disorder or anxiety, it’s important to bring this topic up to the parents. There can often be a negative stigma around eating disorders and since it takes time to develop, victims may also take time to be detected. As such, when left alone and untreated, they can harm the child’s organs and, in some extreme cases, cause death. The same goes for anxiety. It can be the small things at the beginning but it will gradually grow and may cause impairment on the child when they grow older.

Tutors should also be mindful of the child’s words. Sometimes, students will not directly tell the tutors about their problems and in some cases, pass it off as a joke. However, it’s better to take precautionary measures than regret not helping them later on.

7. Consider the parent’s perspective

Because tutors spend more time with the students, it’s not surprising that tutors may also only see the student’s side of the issue. Tutors tend to sympathize more with the student because of the time both spend together. However, as it’s supposed to be a team, tutors should also consider the parent’s point of view and their opinions. If tutors want to help with dealing with the sensitive issues arising, they should also check with the parent and consider what they have to say or what they plan to do.

Since parents know their child more than the tutor, it’s important to also ask them or their opinions. The parent’s observation and explanation can assist in solving the problem.

8. Prepare yourself for emotional moments

It can’t be helped. In instances wherein sensitive and, possibly, heavy issues will be brought up, there can be an array of emotions that will also surface. Discussions such as will definitely trigger tension and possibly emotional outbursts, too. This can especially true for parents who have no idea that this is happening to their child and feel like they failed to notice.

Be prepared to not only support in solving the problem but also supporting the parent in moments like this. Reassure the parent that there can be a solution and reiterate that you are there to help them. By having you around, they can have an outsider’s perspective, making the solving process easier.

Conclusion

Discussing about sensitive issues regarding the child can be a daunting task for every tutor. There may be many that fear it, especially if the issue is heavy. However, tutors should remember that its always better to help raise awareness about the issue rather than waiting for it to play out. Help the parents create a plan as to how you can both help tackle and solve the issue. There’s a main objective in tuition and that is to help the child improve – academically or otherwise.

Interested in becoming a home tutor? Check out FamilyTutor, the best home tuition agency in Singapore. We offer a wide variety of over 200 subjects such as Math, Science, and many more to students from pre-school to over university level.

Carelle

Carelle

Carelle is a teacher who has been through the ups and downs of the teacher and learner life. She wishes for every learner to gain educational satisfaction that will help embody the people they want to be in the future.

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