Fighting the good fight

Parents' top tips for managing conflict as you advocate for your child.

By GreatSchools Staff

It’s inevitable: If you’re a strong advocate for your child, you’re eventually going to clash with someone. It might be a teacher, the principal, or even your spouse.

The complexity, emotions, and energy involved in parenting a child with special needs can take a toll on you and your relationships with others. So it’s natural that misunderstandings and conflict will happen at some point.

We surveyed parents of children with learning and attention problems about conflict in their lives. More than a thousand responded to our survey, providing tried-and-true tips for dealing with discord.

You're probably familiar with some of the advice that follows — and you may be using many of the strategies described. Yet, if you're like most of us, you will benefit from frequent reminders to help you stay on track. And you might pick up some new ideas or insights to add to your relationship repertoire.

Savvy strategies to prevent conflict

The best way to handle conflict is to avoid it in the first place. We asked parents for tips for advocating in a way that encourages cooperation from their child's team, rather than consternation.

Parents answered:

Resolving conflict and restoring relationships

If all your attempts at avoiding problems fail — which, at some point, is bound to happen — try these parent tips on restoring your relationship with the team.

Parents answered:

Building a support system 

No one should walk this path alone. Having support is the key to managing the myriad practical and emotional details that being an advocate entails, parents said.

We asked parents who they turn to when they clash with a member of their child’s team. The vast majority said they get support from their family (with lots of shout-outs to spouses) and friends. Others turn to fellow parents of kids with special needs, and around the same number rely on a therapist. Another great source of support and information, many parents reported, is books and websites.

Learn from your experiences

We asked parents about the one thing they wish they’d known when they first started advocating for their child. The number one response was: Trust your instincts! “When I listen to my gut, I know I will always be my child’s best advocate,” said one mom. Other parents said they wished they’d been better versed in the law and in their child’s specific disability.

“Don’t be intimidated by authority figures,” said another parent, while several wished they’d known more to “document, document, document.” Last of all, one parent offered this advice to newcomers: “Be prepared for a long, hard journey. Develop patience and persistence.”