Last week, our May Talks on Tuesdays webinar presenter, Jeannie Odachowski, presented about Approaching Families About Early Mental Health Care. Something she said really stuck with me and I’m still thinking about it over a week later. She talked about “wondering” with families – encouraging service providers to wonder with the parent about why the child might be behaving a certain way. I really love this idea of “wondering” together because it seems very collaborative and non-threatening. It’s a joint effort to consider a child’s behavior without judgment – which is probably exactly what a parent needs when he or she has a child with challenging behavior. I think we can use this idea of wondering with a parent for many different aspects of early intervention: we can wonder with parents about what they would like their child to learn to say, about why a toddler doesn’t like to get messy, or about how to help a child walk flat-footed. The open-ended nature of wondering fits in well with a coaching interaction style too.
Wondering = Open Curiosity
Another thing I like about “wondering” with a parent is the curiosity embedded in the act. Wondering about something is like opening a door and allowing yourself to admit you don’t know. The door is open for you and the parent to look for possible reasons and contributing factors to why something is how it is. It may be a natural path toward a solution too.
Wondering = Self-Reflection
Wondering together could also lead to more “why” questions which could guide a parent through self-reflection. For example, if a parent says “He only eats macaroni and cheese” you could reply with “I wonder why?” then pause to see if the parent fills in the gap. Your wondering could trigger her to reflect and share information about her family’s everyday interactions and activities, which is what you need to know to help craft meaningful intervention strategies.
Wondering = A Tool for Pausing
Wondering like this could also be a great placeholder for service providers to use to trigger a pause after a parent has expressed a concern. Many of us say that it’s so hard not to jump right in and share our ideas or solutions to a problem. Wondering with the parent first could be that step that reminds you to wait and find out what the parent thinks first. Teaching parents to wonder could also be a great tool that reminds them to pause first, consider what they know, then use that information to understand the child or a challenging situation. It builds on the idea that the parent probably has the information within herself to solve the problem; pausing to wonder allows her time to consider her own understanding, or at least acknowledge what she needs to know or do to reach a solution.
Try it out this week and see what wondering does for you. Take note of how parents react and what kinds of information you learn. It’s a simple strategy that could really make a difference…I wonder how using it will help you? 🙂
What are the benefits of “wondering” with a family? How has it worked for you?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!