Five Ways to Survive the Parent Teacher Interview

There are some things about parenting that seem to go either one way or another. Either you are blessed with reasonable, flexible, and compliant kids and breeze through life, or you live in the other blessed land. One of heart palpitations every time the school’s name pops up on your phone. Two roads diverged at some point, I suppose.

Remembering the parent teacher interview

Why We Do It

There are many things I’d rather do than answer that potentially explosive phone call. An injury? An incident? Another panic attack? All potential treasures to behold… but if I’m honest, nothing used to top the anxiety, nothing made me want to stay home forever more, than the parent teacher interview. But, it’s necessary for all the right reasons, and with time I have learned that it is possible to attend one of these meetings without tearily hitting-up an ice cream machine on the way home. And you love your kids, so on we march.

Here are five ways you can survive and thrive through a parent teacher interview, even (and especially) if your kiddo is struggling.

1: Address Your Child’s Anxiety First

Sometimes when I have to find words to support my child, I find myself feeling better, too. In this case, you can empathize about the pressure they may be feeling and put their mind at ease. That’s because you’ve been keeping regular communication with the teacher and any hiccups have been dealt with immediately beforehand. The parent teacher interview is not the time for bringing up issues that have already been addressed regarding behaviour or other aspects of your child’s school life. Your meeting should have a broader focus and put as much emphasis on success that your child is having than the support they continue to need. So, reassure your child (and yourself) that there won’t be any embarrassing surprises. To ensure this is possible, do keep in good contact with the teacher by email, text or whatever works best to make sure these conversations are timely.

2: Reassure Yourself

When things are challenging for your kiddo at school, it can be difficult to walk through those halls with your nose in the air, feeling great. But the reality is, if you’re anything like me, you’re so hyper-focused on your anxiety about being judged by a teacher or malevolent ex that you can hardly keep your shit together just to get to the room (and your nose is probably pointing straight at the floor – just like your eyes).

The reality is that the fact that you’re showing up means something to this teacher. They’ve been putting a lot of hours in with your kiddo – in fact, they probably see more of your kid than you do. Remember, you’re not there to discuss your parenting, so judgment is off the table. You’re there to discuss your child’s needs and progress during the hours that the school is responsible for their care and development. The spotlight is not on you here – it’s on your child’s teacher.

3: Acknowledge the Complexity

We often forget that our children are entities of their own – entirely separate from us. As much as we can use our influence to coach our children into making good decisions, the reality is that we have no control over whether they make them or not. Once a parent understands this fully, it becomes easier for them to have some compassion for their own experience in this parenting thing.

A parent teacher interview

Whether there are challenges around academic performance, social integration or behavior, or any of the myriad of difficulties that can face our young children, it weighs heavy on the parent. We do ourselves a favor when we don’t add guilt to our cauldron of emotions. We have to honor our children’s right to agency as they get older, whether we like what that looks like – or not.

So, show up as a part of your child’s team. Show up as a curious investigator ready to help. Show up as tough love if you have to. But don’t show up embodying a victim of the teacher’s potential scorn. Just as above, the energy you use imagining judgment is stolen from your sense of calm and your ability to be objective and act as a problem solver.

4. Come to the Parent Teacher Interview With Questions

Your questions will help better inform your understanding of your son or daughter’s successes and challenges.

  • Where does he/she need more support?
  • How do we access more support?
  • Where is he/she improving or excelling?
  • Can we get a plan in motion?
  • What can we do to assist at home?
  • How is his/her education program plan supporting him/her? Could the program plan benefit from some changes?
  • Need more ideas? Click here

5. Show Appreciation

Let’s be real: the parent/teacher relationship can be challenging in some ways. If this is the case, it may be even more important to maintain regular contact with the teacher and to show appreciation for the things that they do for your child. Like you, teachers are often exhausted parents. A little thank you goes a long way because although all teachers should offer fair and equal treatment all the time – they are humans trying to regulate their emotions, also.

Successful parent teacher interview

You might thank them for:

  • The time they took with you today
  • The patience they show while working with your child
  • The attention they give to your child’s needs
  • Treating your child fairly
  • An email that they sent
  • The extras they do behind the scenes

The parent teacher interview is notoriously disliked by parents of children with challenges at school. These tips allow you to put them into perspective and make the most of the time you have with such an important and influential person in your child’s life.