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Building a Good Relationship with Parents/Caregivers

Michael Flahive ., Ph.D,CCC

August 9, 2010

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Question

What can you suggest when a parent responds negatively when asked if they understood the instructions/explanation by saying something like, "You are making me feel stupid."?

Answer

This sounds as if the developing relationship is off to a rocky start. My first inclination would be to go back to square one, providing a quick overview of "how I'd like to work together for the benefit of the client". If there is acceptance of the premise, revisiting the working relationship and need(s) for good communication can be rationalized. I'd once again be careful about the language I'm using in going back and forth while appreciating that keeping the parent informed is a terribly important professional goal.

The clinician in this case may be the target of misdirected anger at whatever the clinical issue is - I suspect our colleagues who work in acute care or otherwise medically challenging workplaces can attest to this possibility as representative of what humans do, sometimes.

What can be done is to demonstrate our focus on the individual receiving service. I have had situations where the early going was challenging and while I continued to be conscious of the relationship, I believe it was the parent (or family member) who ultimately changed their perspective. Had I earned their trust? Perhaps. Did they begin to move past the initial hurt? This may be the more likely explanation. In this instance, keep the faith and continue to provide your best service.

This Ask the Expert was taken from the course entitled: Counseling in Communication Disorders by Michael Flahive by Michael Flahive, Ph.D., CCC SP/A.

Visit the SpeechPathology.com eLearning Library to view all of our live, recorded, and text-based courses on a variety of topics.

Michael Flahive is a forty year member of the profession, holding clinical certification in both speech-language pathology and audiology. He is a university professor who has provided clinical services across his work career. Areas of interest include counseling, aural rehabilitation, issues of professional preparation and the applications of technology in our work. Flahive is a Fellow of ASHA.

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