Now that I’m the age of my students’ parents, I’ve discovered something I wish I had embraced years ago. It’s changed how I see and communicate with parents. This one shift has allowed me to communicate more confidently with them.

Rather than seeing parents as superior by the nature of their relationship to their kids vs. my role as a leader who sees them once or twice a week, I see them as peers who are fellow influencers in students’ lives. Of course, they are still superior because of their role as parents, however, we are peers in that we both want the best for the students.

Before making this shift in thinking, I would preface suggestions with, “I’m not a parent so I don’t give parenting advice.” Now I talk openly and confidently about issues parents are having with their students. I don’t push my opinions in where I’m not invited to give input. However, when I’m asked, I share freely ideas that may be helpful.

What I’ve realized is, even if the students have older siblings, this is the first time parents have raised this specific kid through adolescence. Each kid is unique which can make parenting more difficult and confusing. As youth workers, we also might know more about their kids in certain areas. Students will reveal information about themselves to us parents are completely oblivious of. Oddly, we can also ask a student to do any chore and they’ll happily do it – that goes to show they relate to us in a different way. When we brag on how awesome students are to their parents because of this, we might throw them for a loop… leading to more confusion.

Making this shift in how I see parents has made me a much better youth worker. This is because I’m getting to know not just the students, but the families behind the students. I’m also becoming friends with the families. Ministry has never been better. I’ve learned their back story and developed a well-rounded understanding about the people I minister to.

I’ve told parents for years that, regardless of what their kid says, I’m not off limits to them. What I’ve come to realize is that I need to also treat parents like they’re not off limits to me.

See parents as peers, even if you’re much younger and don’t have children. Just do it relationally and with a sense of humility and self awareness. Your ministry will be so much more effective and less confusing/frustrating because of it.

Also published on Medium.