Communication Tips When Working With Families Of Children With Behavioral And Intellectual Challenges

Communication is a key tool for a healthcare professional. No parent or guardian wants to hear how there is something negative going on with their child, whether that’s behavioral, intellectual, or health-wise.

However, as a mental health professional, it is your duty to ensure families have the information they need to support children with these additional behavioral and intellectual needs. The parents and guardians you work with are relying on your guidance, so they can assist their children to the best of their abilities, and remain informed of their progress and well-being.

Speak In Non-Technical Terms

Families want to know that you are taking the time to meet their needs, and part of that is knowing how to discuss complicated health issues, techniques or procedures in a non-technical way. By using terms the general public can understand, families can feel that you are being supportive, rather than talking down to them, even when they are uncertain about how to support their children who have behavioral and intellectual challenges.

Instead of using technical or theoretical terms, try clear, concrete details that families can hold onto — and do not require personal interpretation.

Remain Calm

Sometimes families struggle, stress levels run high, and things can get heated. However, as a mental health professional, it is important to remain calm and keep your tone positive. Never yell or scream at a parent or guardian. People want to be listened to, even if they’re struggling to communicate that to you. By remaining calm, you can assure families you hear and understand their concerns. Through supportive tones, you can build a rapport with families, so they know you have their best interest at heart.

Ask Questions

Be inquisitive and encourage family members to open up to you. Ask them about how they are feeling, what they are experiencing, and if there’s anything they would like you to know. Parents, guardians, and other family members might share some unknown details with you that could help in your assessments and plans going forward with your patient.

Actively Listen

Part of communicating is knowing when to listen — and when you’re asking questions, be sure you are hearing the answers. Families might not know how to most effectively communicate what they are feeling and experiencing, but as the healthcare professional, it is your duty to actively listen and try to understand the issues. Communication is a two-way street, and we need to be active listeners as well as excellent verbal communicators.

Ultimately, both you and the families you support want the best for the children involved. By using these three key communication tools, you can build a relationship with families who need your support. And by setting an example of excellent communication, you can help families build better relationships within their own lives, so they can begin using these tools themsleves for the better.

Pathways of Pennsylvania has been serving communities in Pennsylvania since 1981. Every individual has a right to lead a meaningful and positive life, and we are changing lives, one day at a time. Pathways of Pennsylvania is comprised of four companies: Children’s Behavioral Health, Inc., Pathways Community Services, LLC, Raystown Developmental Services, Inc., and The ReDCo Group, Inc.