So this week is HSM Summer Camp. I’m going to be up front with you, I have nothing to do with the planning of it. But the week before we head out, its all hands on deck fro answering questions for students, leaders and mostly parents. For the most part, summer camp runs smooth, but there always is the dreaded “putting the cabins together” and not everyone is going to be happy with everything. That is okay, it is part of it.
All this last week, I would say I spent a good 2 hours on the phone with upset parents. These parents were not out of control; they were just worried because they were looking out for the best interest of their child. My phone calls with parents were great and it got me thinking about how we as youth workers deal with parents and some things we need to keep in mind.
When dealing and communicating with upset parents we need to:
Listen- I have heard of horror stories where parents don’t feel like the youth pastor actually listens to them when they are upset about something. I think one of the most important things we can do is just to listen. Stop talking. Hear them out whether they are being rational or not. Most people think they will get backlash right back so when we don’t respond and hear them out, it automatically lets them take their guard down and allow you to say what you need to say in a loving but clear way. Parents want to know they are being heard.
Affirm – Whether you think so or not, how they are feeling is a real feeling to them. We may not agree with what they are feeling or why they are feeling it, but regardless, it is how they feel. Saying, “I can see how you can feel that way” or “I understand where you are coming from” shows that you are listening and hearing what they have to say.
Inform – Remembering that their feelings are very real to them, we still need to explain why something is a particular way. If it was an oversight, we can apologize and fix it if necessary. If there was a reason you made the choice they are upset about, this is where you would lovingly explain to them why it is that way.
Encourage – We are to partner with parents. We want to listen to them, affirm their feelings, inform them, and then encourage them. If you do the first 3 things, usually the end of the conversation is much different from the upset beginning. It allows us to cool down the confrontation and then turn it into a conversation about the most important thing (and the reason why they are calling you so passionately) their child. We are to speak life into their family whenever we can.
Granted, some conversations don’t always end so nicely. Hopefully you will be able to figure the best way to represent Christ with a passionate parent. But I feel remembering these things while talking with an upset parent will help us get through a difficult conversation and turn it into an encouraging one.