University of Illinois Extension

Communicating with Professionals and Other Helpers

Cammy Seguin, Family Life Educator

As a grandparent raising a grandchild, you have probably talked with lots of different people - your grandchild, other family members, neighbors and perhaps even professionals such as school administrators, social workers, or agency personnel. These communications may have been positive, or they might have made you frustrated.

Everyone shares some of the responsibility for communication. As the speaker, you may not have expressed yourself effectively, or the professional did not really hear your message. Or, maybe you assumed that the listener understood your situation when he didn't. As a listener, you may think you know what the speaker is saying, but what the speaker is really saying is entirely different. Or, there might be background noise that makes hearing difficult. All of these situations are barriers to good communication.

Communication involves more than one person. There is a sender and a receiver. We communicate verbally with words. The meaning of those words is determined by past experiences, tone of voice, and the speaker.

For effective communication, the sender must state his needs clearly, and the receiver must hear the message accurately. To be sure that she understands what was really said, the receiver should clarify with the sender what she thought she heard.

How well do you communicate with others? How can you improve your skills?

When you are working with professionals who are assisting you and your grandchild:

  • Become better acquainted with them. Try to understand their points of view even if you do not agree.
  • Learn about the details and choices available to help your situation.
  • Practice talking assertively to the professionals. Be firm and remain calm. Express your feelings, ask questions, and clarify what you heard.
  • Bring your list of questions so that you don't forget what you wanted to ask.
  • Note the name of the person you spoke to, the responses, and the date.
  • Thank the professional for her time and expertise.
  • If you do not feel that the information you received was accurate, ask to speak to someone else - perhaps a supervisor.

Good communication skills take practice. If it doesn't work out the first time, plan a new strategy. Practice in front of a mirror. In addition to what you decide to say, watch your tone of voice, body language, and facial expression.

Don't give up. Your grandchild's future is worth your effort.