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TishFish TishFish is offline
 
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TishFish
 
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Toxic Co-Parenting Situation
Old 11-03-2017, 04:37 AM
 
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TL;DR - One of my student's parents are "co-parenting" unsuccessfully and one of the parents has decided to use me as a sounding board/therapist despite repeated attempts to keep the conversation on the child's academics. Conferences are next week, and I need to know how to end this once and for all.

I have a student who was living with one parent (who had sole custody) last year. Over the summer, the other parent got joint custody and the child does MW with one parent, T/Th with the other and switches off weekends.

This is difficult for an un-organized first grader, but the child is handling it pretty well. He's happy and eager to please. He's a sweetheart and always trying to help his classmates. He has not complained about the situation except to one time tell me, "Mom and dad can't talk to each other because they always fight."

I have offered the services of our social worker to both parents, but they don't wish to pursue at this time. I send all class communications to both parents. Each parent has their own folder that only goes home on nights the child is seeing that parent (because I can't trust that they won't "steal" things out of the other parent's folder...). I use ClassDojo to send pictures of the child's work and updates on their behavior regularly and both parents see this.

However, I am now getting sometimes hourly emails from one of the parents. These emails will have nothing or very little to do with the child's school life. The entire email will be mud slinging at the other parent, venting, etc. They have said they "don't know who to turn to". These emails have sometimes come in the middle of the night (although I obviously don't see them until the AM). I am usually able to find some small nugget related to school that I will send a very brief, detatched kind of response to. The rest of the email I will ignore. I have mentioned multiple times that my concern is the child's academics and I will be happy to communicate with either parent on that topic only. I have reiterated that we have a social worker available to speak with the child if they are concerned about the child's emotional well being.

We have conferences next week, and I'm worried that the conference is going to turn into a therapy session. I made sure that both parents were signed up on different days. I already plan to say that the conference is to discuss the child's academic progress only, that we only have a limited amount of time, and that if they have other concerns they need to seek help elsewhere. I don't know if any of that will matter, though. When I have conversation with the parent and they voice concerns I say, "I hear your concern, and I'm here for the child's best interests." and try to steer the conversation back to an academic topic or close the conversation by saying I have other places to be. These conversations can last 5-10 minutes when the parent is picking up and there are other people around. I can only imagine how it will go when they have the floor all to themselves.

A lot of this is a vent - but if anyone has dealt with toxic situations like this I would appreciate any advice.


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Toxic parent
Old 11-03-2017, 04:51 AM
 
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I've had a few and they're awful. Can you have someone else like the P or a counselor sit in? Otherwise it's just the broken record "I understand your angst but I am not a family counselor. I can only address your child's needs."

Once I said "I'm not comfortable with hearing about your private life. Can we stick to just discussing Johnny's academics, please?"
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TishFish TishFish is offline
 
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Old 11-03-2017, 06:30 AM
 
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I was hoping to have someone there, but the conference is my last one of the night and our social worker is only there during regular school hours. The principal may be able to pop in, but can't stay the whole time because she has another obligation at that time.

I definitely think I need to use that second line at this point!
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Old 11-03-2017, 06:44 AM
 
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I think I would try to reschedule the conference for a time you will be able to have someone else join it. Having it at the end of the night is tough; it could be a verryyy long one.
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Old 11-03-2017, 07:59 AM
 
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If it's the last conference, principal could close off conference and walk parent out of building by telling parent that conference time has concluded.

In one building I worked at principal would announce that conference time has ended and the building is closing.


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Old 11-03-2017, 09:23 AM
 
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Set a timer for 20 minutes. Be pleasant, but be firm about your time limit and end the conference when it buzzes. Every time they try to sway you off topic remind them that conference times are 20 minutes and you need to stay on track. Offer your referral again for personal issues. Stay firm!
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Tl/dr
Old 11-03-2017, 10:16 AM
 
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What do these mean?

I would also resechedule that conference. When I have a tough conference like that I always make sure to have another scheduled after it. That way, they cannot go on and on.
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Old 11-03-2017, 04:14 PM
 
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I agree about the timer, but I'd set it for ten minutes.
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Old 11-03-2017, 05:19 PM
 
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TL;DR means too long; didn't read.
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Old 11-03-2017, 05:29 PM
 
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I'm sort of surprised that you are meeting with them separately although I can see why. I would be afraid that one would say you gave additional info to the other blah, blah, blah.

I'm a one child, one conference teacher but again it sounds like you are probably doing yourself a favor here. I've had divorced parents conference together before and I only had to redirect their attention once.

For this, I would say do not respond to the emails more than once every few days. If you are giving them a nugget each time then they are using you as a sounding board. I had a friend have this happen to her. The two were emailing her ALL THE TIME, to the point of ridiculous. I would also reschedule the conference to back up to another conference. With that, I would have someone come in to "get me" for the "meeting" at the appointed ending time. My teammates and I always help each other by popping in at the end of conference time to ask if teammate is ready to leave for our meeting.


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One Kid One Conference
Old 11-03-2017, 06:33 PM
 
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My policy was if there was no restraining order or other legal issue I only did one conference. If the conversation got tense I reminded both parents that one day they would be dancing at their child's wedding, holding the first grandchild etc. so getting along now is paramount. Be nice and put your child first. Usually it all turned out ok. Take on an in charge attitude and it will be ok!
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TishFish TishFish is offline
 
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One Child One Conference
Old 11-06-2017, 01:46 PM
 
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I am not sure of the entirety of the situation, but the two cannot be in the building at the same time from what I'm told. I'm not sure if there is an official restraining order, or just a history of the situation getting out of control.

For what it's worth, I always offer conferences to both parents in separated situations. My priority is making sure the child's educational needs are being met. I'm not willing to "favor" one parent over the other by only meeting with one or have to try to give a conference when the people in the room are just silently blaming the other for all of the problems instead of listening to me and working on solutions. I have had several parents who are able to both come at the same time and it's a non-issue or others that communicate with one another well and decide who will go. It's only actually worked out where I've had separate conferences a few times in my career.

I've spoken with the principal, who is able to come down for the second half of the conference to help "wrap it up". I did not respond to any of the emails from the past days and haven't received any more so hopefully there was at least some understanding that I was not the outlet for that particular set of frustrations.
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