poking the bear…
One challenge that many of us face in the Vision Therapy room can be frustrated and emotional parents. While it’s rare that these feelings are directed at us, we often are left to manage them simply because we ask questions that evoke such responses. Lots of times, helping parents through the understanding process can be as difficult, and even more so, as helping their child. Even if parents appear to be angry, remembering that their concerns are to be handled seriously, and not taken personally, is a good strategy for navigating these conversations. During our weekly staff meeting this morning, we reviewed how these conversations are to be handled, and reminded all therapists that by the time many of our patients arrive at our office front door, they have seen several other specialists and have had some level of engagement with their local school district. More often than not, this engagement entails some level of fighting for their child’s needs. Once you’re in ‘fight mode’, it’s tough to turn it off, particularly when it’s your own child’s future that hangs in the balance. So often, the mere mention of their child’s struggles is enough to cause the hackles to stand on end, and with it, the ‘mama bear’ instincts. Although not always easy, my feeling is that our office does a fairly good job at managing and respecting these situations, and as a parent I can certainly empathize with these folks. But as I learned today, you never truly understand what it feels like, until you’re the bear that gets poked.
My son is 9 years old and finishing up the third grade. He is a great kid with a huge heart and an even larger sense of humor, and like most kids his age, he will at times find pleasure in pushing other people’s buttons. He loves his family. He loves his friends. He loves his video games. He even considers his older sister to be his best friend, which I give him immense credit for because, well, I’m the dad of that same teenage girl and she can be difficult.
My son goes to after school care and, of late, he has been having a lot of challenges with the caretakers. There has been a of negative reports given when he is picked up and his frustration continues to grow. As I investigated further, I discovered that the ‘rules’ that he is being accused of violating seem to vary from teacher to teacher, day to day, and even hour to hour. He is being reprimanded today for something his friend got away with yesterday. On top of this, there is one caretaker in particular that seems to derive some sort of pleasure out of bullying the kids when she’s in a bad mood. Can you see my hackles rising?
I want to pause and state that generally I’m a fairly easy going person and I don’t rattle easily…until you mess with my kids.
At lunch today, I met with the director of the after school program and had an unpleasant conversation while taking a stand for my son. I’ll spare you the details, but at the end of it all, the problem is solved. I realized afterwards that although it was a negative experience, there was a lesson in there which applies to my dealings in the VT room.
Instinctively parents will fight for their kids. It’s just what we do. And when that instinct takes over there’s usually a reason for it, and it needs to be respected. After all, there are few bonds stronger than that of a parent and child, and our job is to nurture that bond, not threaten it. We need to listen carefully, be as helpful as possible, and support them through any means available to us. That is what they need, and that is what will help them see that we care. That’s really all it takes.
And never, ever, ever…poke the bear.