A Family Contract

contractA contract is a mutual agreement between two parties consisting of an offer, acceptance, and consideration, memorialized in writing and signed to signify competence and adherence to the agreed upon terms. In Human Speak, it’s a piece of paper that says you get this, if I get that.

The point of a contract is to govern each of the parties wants and needs in order to move forward with the actual service or trade. This same principle applies to families, especially those with teenagers. Parents want to keep their teenagers close, protecting them from the harm of the outside world so they can hold onto their childhood just a tiny, bit longer. Teenagers want to “spread their wings” and are excited about inching closer towards complete independence. Thus, the conflict arises.

One such conflict arose during a recent Tutoring session with a new client. See, clients often call me for Tutoring but I quickly realize there is more than just an academic concern that’s creating the conflict. In fact, 80% or more of the time there is underlying conflict between the student and the parent or the student and the teacher, which is contributing the academic problem. So, we must address those relationships first before any book learnin’ can get done! And we did exactly that just the other week. The Parent, Teenager, and myself had a Family Meeting and hammered out the details of what each party wanted. It was cathartic, productive, and most of all sustainable.

The Family Meeting session looked like this:

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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

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Talkin’ It Out

TherapyTalk Therapy has gotten a bad rep ever since its Freudian days, but I’m a huge proponent of Therapy in all of its forms (ie: art, dance, music, play, group, home-based, and original couch-sitting). I’ve even undergone it myself because– let’s be honest–where else can you talk about yourself for an hour, right?!

As I work with more and more families, I’m finding this interesting trend: parents will openly allow their kids to go to therapy but they won’t see a counselor themselves.  I’ve wondered if this is reflective of our old school versus new school way of thinking about “talking about your problems to a stranger” but then it was pointed out to me by my sister– the Speech Pathologist–that what may really be going on is that parents are hesitant to start sessions for themselves because they believe that every thing their child does (whether appropriate, inappropriate, negative, or positive) is a personal reflection on them. Okay, perhaps mainstream society agrees with that hypothesis but the other side of the coin says that a child’s personality is determined at birth. So although environmental stimuli, norms, and cues will contribute to an increase or decrease in certain characteristics, a person’s underlying personality– that unique x factor that makes us, us–is already ingrained.

Albeit fascinating from a research perspective, on an everyday level parents don’t always have the support they need from one another, their community, or sometimes even their own family members to assess that prospect. Instead, parents oftentimes feel that everything they do is not good enough, especially when a child is having some real struggles. In that case, it’s good to have a neutral third-party, an objective point of view, to talk about the parent’s own concerns and receive guidance and reassurance. When I help parents navigate the IEP process, for example, I always let them know that this process will not only help them learn how to advocate for their child but for themselves. It’s a lengthy process but as the months go by I begin to see Moms and Dads take charge, become more assertive, and willingly stand up for their own rights as a parent of child in need. When those skills are realized, the denial goes away. It’s an amazing transformation.

I love helping families navigate a problem and figure out a viable, self-sustaining solution. This is what therapy, coaching, and talking to a trusted member in your community can do too. A skilled counselor, psychologist,  therapist, or trusted advisor can guide you through a difficult life moment and help you reveal solutions that perhaps you were unable to see due to that murky inhibition. It has to be your choice, but I can promise you it can be a good, eye-opening, positive (and not too scary) experience.

Check out our Family Meeting service, creative outlets that build a child’s self-esteem and confidence, and vetted child, family, and individual therapists and psychologists:

FAMILY COACHING

Terry Tutors: Helping You Open the Lines of Family Communication. Communication is the Foundation of a Strong Family Bond. Our In-Home Family Meeting Service is designed to allow each member of the family to be heard in a positive, productive manner.  With the help of a Family Coach, we teach you how to actively listen to each other and incorporate family rules, family schedules, and age-appropriate communication tools, such as The Feelings Wheel and The Thought Box, to jump start conversation on a daily basis.

CREATIVE OUTLETS

  • 1STAGE Repertory: Nonprofit theatre company whose mission is to immerse children in the arts while building their self-esteem and having fun!
  • Center Stage Dance LA: Dance Studio dedicated to helping children develop success, confidence, and self-esteem
  • Malibu Art Barn: Open art studio,  aiding in the emotional and cognitive development of children. Owned by Peter Tulaney, MFT
  • Ovation Group Productions: Children’s Musical Theatre Company, where differences are celebrated and everyone gets a real part!

FAMILY, CHILD, COUPLE & INDIVIDUAL THERAPY SERVICES

PARENT CLASSES & TRAINING

ASSESSMENTS

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Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

Collaborative Education: Let’s Get Our Act Together

working-together-in-progress-mdHold onto your hats parents, teachers, lawyers, support service professionals, and administrators cause I’m about to say something that will rock the education world as you know it: WE MUST ALL START WORKING TOGETHER NOW. It’s time to take a timeout from the sparring emails and nasty litigation to really think about the fact that our inability to communicate and get along with one another has a long-lasting and detrimental effect on the kids we are paid to help.

Steve Lopez, LA Times Writer, recently wrote an entire piece on this topic, highlighting LAUSD leaders and their failure to get along with one another. (Read his article here) Collaborative Education is not just a utopian ideal. It can happen. Look, if the US Government can get along with Iran (as reported here) I think we adults can get our act together at the round-table discussion about our students.

I know all of you truly believe that your primary focus is the kids but do your actions say that too?

To the Administrators buried in paperwork, always having to think of the bottom line: Step into a classroom on  a regular basis and remind yourself why you got into education in the first place. You could have chosen any career to use your talents but you gravitated towards education because you want to help others and make a real change. Remind yourself that it’s not all about dolling out the dollars. If that means taking a stand that is unfavorable in the eyes of the school board but will ultimately help your students then weigh that consequence. It might be worth it to take the heat if you can make a long-lasting change for the better.

To the Teachers who believe some things are above your pay grade: We know this country fails its teachers when it comes to earnings and you cannot live on happy thoughts and good deeds alone. However, when you demonstrate a lack of willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, it reflects poorly on you and the teaching community as a whole. If you’ve lost your edge and think it’s time to move on, then do. Why spend your days unhappy with the status quo? Find something else you love but don’t continue to teach the next generation that doing a job halfheartedly is acceptable.

To the Lawyers and Advocates who come stomping into the IEP Meetings demanding change: Take off your litigious-hat and put on your reasonable-cap. The crux of the law is reasonableness and although there are some educational atrocities happening that do need litigation, most of the roundtable in an IEP Meeting is comprised of those who are trying to provide the best service possible in the best way they know how. Don’t scare them. Help them. Help them so they can help the family that you’re serving.  That’s why you were hired. The legal profession has suffered enough name-calling, don’t ya think. Put your degrees to work as a leader for collaboration and change.

To the Support Service Professionals who have an overwhelming caseload: There are not enough SLPs, OTs, Ed Therapists, or School Psychologists. We know this and yet we continue to add more and more students to your caseload. This fact, however, does not mean that you get a free pass when it comes to adhering to the minutes allotted in the IEP for services. If there are not enough hours in the day, then you need to stand up for yourself and the students you’re serving to let your bosses know. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others who can help too. There are aides and other support staff that you may be able to call upon and train to help you with the less intensive needs of a student. People want to feel needed. So use that principle to your advantage.

To the Students: If you’re old enough to read this, you’re old enough to advocate for your own education. These meetings are supposed to be all about helping you. If something is not working or you have an idea that you think is better- speak up! Make your voice heard. Don’t let the adults sit at that roundtable and drum up countless goals that you have to meet if those just aren’t working for you. Say something! School is supposed to be a gateway to a better, brighter future. We need your input to help you open that door to success.

To the Parents: You have the hardest job of all. Not only did you have to decide what type of diapers, brand of food, and particular toys to buy all before your child went to Pre-K but you now have to decide what their schooling should look like too. You are the best advocate your child has and as such you owe it to your kid to be present at those Parent/Teacher Conferences and IEP Meetings. Don’t sign a waiver and then complain that your child isn’t getting a good education. If you’re feeling overwhelmed then turn to outside resources for help. There are a ton of good people out there who want to help you and your child. Ultimately, though, you are the President and We are your Cabinet. We need you to be an involved parent by becoming an active member in the PTA, staying on top of the homework situation, and making an effort to have a good rapport with your child’s teachers. Without you, we’re left in the conference room with a bunch a goals that may work only part of the time. We need you to help make them work not only in the classroom but at home too.

I know in our heart of hearts all of us chose our career paths in education because we truly and deeply love education; we love the doors it can open, what it can build, the hope it provides, and the lives it changes. All the degrees in the world and extra letters after your name, however, can’t hold a candle to the simple act of empathy. It is this ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes that opens the lines of communication and begins the listening process, one where each member of the team has a valued opinion that is heard and thoughtfully considered. When I speak to parents, this is often what they feel is missing in those meetings. When empathy is a top priority, however, you can feel a shift in the room. Your ability to actively listen to those sitting next to you will be heard louder than all of the finger-pointing in the world. So let’s get our act together, people. Our kids deserve better from us.

Resources that make collaboration a priority:

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Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com