A teacher's interaction with parents is usually during the biannual parent-teacher meeting, in which parents often come in expecting to discuss the academic progress of their child.
However, teachers may find themselves in a situation where despite talking to a student, and involving the college counselor, a behavioral issue has not been solved. If the concerned student has confided in a teacher, the question of confidentiality arises. How does a teacher decide when a parent needs to be brought into the loop?
Most counselors ask students to sign a consent form that indicates that their parents, and in some cases the law, may have to be notified. These include:
Teachers and counselors can also talk to parents when they need the help of the parents in observing the student. This need may arise when the student seems to lack self-confidence, or is frequently absent from class. In such circumstances, parents can help the college establish the presence of a problem that needs to be addressed.
How do you talk to the parents?
In campus settings where a counselor is not available, the teacher can mention the signs of distress, anger, addiction, or any other concerns to the parents. More importantly, the teacher’s concern about the student’s behavior needs to be communicated in a manner that neither dwells into the personal details of the student nor judges or labels the student.
While communicating the challenging behavior to a parent, it is preferable to use neutral sentences such as "I have observed that the student..." or "I am concerned about the particular behavior..." etc. Teachers can also share anecdotes from their past experience with former students to help the parents understand that others have been in their shoes and that solutions have been found. For instance, to say "One of my ex-students had a similar problem and they could cope after seeking help from a counselor."
Consent of the student
When a student confides information regarding substance addiction, sexual abuse or ideas of suicide, the teacher, after providing emotional first-aid, needs to take the consent of the student before informing either the counselor or parents. Students will appreciate this measure and trust the teacher more. The rapport between the student and teacher remains. If a student refuses consent, and the teacher forsees danger to the student, the teacher can proceed to share details with the parents.
When a parent or a counselor gets a larger picture of the student’s concern or problem, it can lead them to work towards resolving the concern or problem in a manner that has a positive effect on the student.