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A Safe Space for Parents?

I was frazzled. It was early in the day and my plans were starting to unravel. Unclear exactly as to how this was going to play out – I nervously called the number I was given. The robotic voice on the other side affirmed I had dialed correctly. That’s good. Now I was listening to classical music. Here we go – the wait game. What happened next surprised me in a very positive way, and relates to what I have to say about this topic of a safe space for parents.

“Are you in a safe space?” (Ummm…HUH?) That question caught me completely off guard. Both in its simplicity and also in the mindfulness. I should clarify, I had dialed the roadside assistance number for my car and that was the immediate statement made from the person on the other end. Another clarification – I’m inside my own head a great deal of the time and I think a lot. So, like most things, this got my brain whizzing. What a WONDERFUL way to approach advocacy for children!

I’ve attended and heard (through both academic and family channels) that a wide variety of school meetings can be challenging and sometimes very intense. When you add in the emotion of the situation, things can get ugly very quickly. If you’ve ever been involved in one – stop and think for a minute. Go back to the beginning of this particular meeting in your mind. Think back as everyone gathered together to sit. Consider whether the meeting would have been different if one of the people involved in leading the group had openly asked everyone… “Before we start, do each of you sitting here feel we are meeting in a safe space?”

Don’t laugh! It is a fabulous question to toss out to the group. Why? It does wonders to clear the air of any misconceptions or misinformation BEFORE words can be exchanged. Even in positive encounters, there will be judgments that have been made or held by each attendee. Every single person comes to that table effectively stuck in their own inner dialogue.  Cycling over and over and over. Thinking on what they want to say. How to say it. What will others say?  What happened before? How they feel about the person(s) and the situation. What will happen at the end? Maybe even a grocery list pops in there. What’s going on in another situation that has nothing to do with this meeting. None of this mental garbage is focused on NOW. At the start, someone asks a VERY UNCOMMON question – if the table is a safe space for each person.

Now also consider if someone asks what the question means. YES! How safe do you feel bringing up your questions? How safe do you feel sharing input? How safe do you feel receiving information? These are just off the top of my head, of course. What if the person felt attacked? Coerced? Interrogated? Ignored? It can happen. Even to the most forward-focused and positive players in the setting. If safe space issues were brought up BEFORE the meeting – this would give that person time to be heard. How different would that meeting have ended? Try it and see.

Written by Heather Lascano

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