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No one looks forward to rough conversations…well, a few probably do, but they are usually difficult people themselves (and probably don’t belong serving in youth ministry). If you haven’t experienced it already, the time will come when you will need to have a difficult conversation with a parent. Maybe you’ve experienced one of these situations:

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> a parent continually picks up their kid late from youth ministry events
> their kid is a severe discipline problem that needs to be addressed
> a parent hangs around a youth ministry program too much (without being a ministry leader)
> a student is a danger to him/herself or others
>a parent is too critical (and gossipy) about the ministry

There are dozens of different scenarios that may trigger the need for a tough conversation. Some situations will be really uncomfortable while others will be cataclysmic. Here are a few basic “do’s and don’ts” to consider before you enter into a confrontation with a parent:

DON’T LET THE DIFFICULT CONVERSATION BE YOUR FIRST CONVERSATION
A healthy youth ministry will make it a priority to build positive relationships with parents. This is a tough task when the first time a parent hears from you is during a confrontation. Make the effort to create connection with parents. Even if the connection is superficial, it’s still better than beginning a relationship with a difficult conversation. Work to keep your parents informed, get to know a little bit about them, make yourself available to answer questions, and affirm their son/daughter when you talk with them. Your primary job description may be to teenagers, and usually where most youth workers invest their relationship “capital”, but a ministry to parents is essential. Be sure to save some of that relational capital for parents.

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DO BE SELF-CONTROLLED
Difficult conversations require a high degree of control. When passions are running high, words can easily become careless. Hurtful words are like atomic bombs and require a messy clean up system and usually result in a horrific, lasting memory. You don’t want to go there. If you are facing a situation that makes you angry, wait for the conversation until you can gather yourself and your emotions. If a situation makes you sad, wait until you can be (genuinely) hopeful before talking with the parent. The positive element about tough conversations is that good things can result from them and being under control helps ensure a positive outcome.

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