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Parents' Top Tips for Managing Interpersonal Conflict as You Advocate for Your Child

Parents share tried-and-true tips for managing conflict with others when advocating for your child.

By Kristin Stanberry

In the course of seeking help for your child with learning or attention problems, have you ever experienced conflict with someone at your child's school, in the community, or even in your own family? If so, rest assured you are not alone. The complexity, emotions, and energy involved in parenting a child with special needs can take a toll on you and your relationships with others. It's not uncommon for misunderstandings and conflict to occur.

The Collective Wisdom of Parents Advocating for Their Kids

We recently surveyed parents of children with learning and attention problems about conflict in their lives. More than a thousand parents responded to our survey, answering our questions and providing tried-and-true tips. That puts a lot of power - a strong, collective voice - behind their tips and advice, presented in this article.

We asked: Have you had interpersonal conflict with any of the following people when seeking help for your child with learning and/or attention problems?

Parents answered:
Family member (spouse, your child, another family member) 53%
Teacher (general, special education, resource specialist) 74%
School administrator (principal, school psychologist, etc.) 60%
School district administration (superintendent, special education director, IEP team) 36%
Doctors or other health care provider (or their staff) 18%
Others. Examples survey respondents shared include: parents of other children (e.g., "those with normal children"), coaches and scout leaders, friends, tutors, government agency personnel, psychiatrist/therapist/counselor, and members/leaders of a religious community 13%

How Parents Rate Their Own Conflict Resolution Skills

When we asked parents to rate their own conflict resolution skills, interestingly, their responses indicate that even those who are generally confident in their skills find that their ability to handle conflict varies in different situations - and with different people. Here is what they told us:

In general, do you feel you are successful in resolving interpersonal conflict?
Yes 72%
No 15%
I don't know 13%
How do you rate your skills in handling conflict?
Excellent 19%
Could use improvement 38%
Poor 2%
It depends on the situation/people involved. 41%

Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education, and consumer health/wellness issues. Her areas of expertise include learning disabilities and AD/HD, which she wrote about extensively for Schwab Learning and GreatSchools.