Monday, August 19, 2013

The Accidental Parent Coach

I wasn't ever supposed to be a parent coach.

Truth be told, it wasn't that long ago when I mocked the term "parent coach". If someone told me then that my career would head in this direction, I would have laughed and told them they were crazy.


You see, I always prided myself on doing real work with kids. Starting in '97, for ten years, I worked in residential treatment working with the hardest to reach kids and their families.  The kids struggled emotionally and behaviorally.  They were the kids who couldn't be safely managed at home because they needed therapeutic services around the clock.

That's how I became the kid expert. 

I'm talking about the kids many would just give up on. They had acting out behaviors, trauma histories, eating disorders, drug addiction, and the list goes on. These kids were often depressed, anxious, or struggled with attachment.  Usually, they were managing some combination of all of these things.

My experience provided me with opportunities to really get to know kids, what makes them tick, and how to help them make better choices, too.  I've watched kids on the brink of juvenile delinquency get it together and return home.

I loved that work with a passion.  At times, honestly, it consumed me. 

I have often referred to leaving that job as my worst break-up. I left the work because having a work-life balance was becoming painfully difficult. While I loved working with kids and families, I also wanted the time and space to have my own life and I no longer wanted to engage in a constant fight for balance.  I wanted work that wouldn't force me to choose and so I built a counseling business.

Honestly, that's where I thought my professional story would end.  I am still pretty happy sitting in my office working with clients and helping them build the lives they want for themselves.

At the beginning of this year, though, I started to notice things.

At first I was troubled. 

Then, I got tuned in and once I was tuned in, I couldn't look away.

One mother was coming to me crying because she felt criticized by other moms for not breastfeeding her daughter.  A father was feeling guilty that he allowed one kid to watch TV while he helped the other son with his homework. Another parent was feeling isolated because her daughter was having behavior problems on playdates so she was avoiding moms groups.  This only served as a temporary fix because then she started worrying about her daughter's socialization.

Literally, it was one thing after another!!!! 

I was becoming increasingly aware of the toll that this helicopter parenting era is taking on parents today.

They are often trying to find the best way to do something while worrying that they are doing it wrong.

They are struggling with competing values.  They want their kids to be able to play independently while also learning to make friends and follow social rules.

They want their kids to eat healthy and exercise while worrying that they are setting the stage for their children to have body image concerns in the future.

Just sitting in my office listening to this made me tired for them.  I won't even mention the blogosphere of information that makes me cringe with their versions of perfect, mindful, calm parenting.


It's all enough to make me want to shout "Being a good parent doesn't have to be accompanied by a side of worry and guilt. Your way can be the right way!  It usually is!! "

Shouting at your clients isn't really good for business when you're a therapist.

So, instead, almost on automatic pilot, my kid knowledge comes spewing forth as I help clients sift through their parenting challenges and work toward solutions.

One day, a client came to me with a question her friend had for me about her kid. Like light dawning over Marblehead, I realized that my kid knowledge was mostly sitting wasted and ignored.  While parents are sitting riddled with worry and doubt, I was sitting with my experience and possible answers.
That same day, while literally sitting at a red light, I decided to start a judgment-free business where parents could have their parenting questions and struggles addressed with simple, straight-forward responses.

No therapy.  No processing.  Just questions about their kids that I could answer.
So, what the heck is parent coaching anyway? 

In bare bones form, it is a consultation service where I get to know your concerns and questions and offer ways of responding. 

For parents of toddlers and pre-schoolers, this may involve helping you figure out bedtime, meal time, tantrums, or other behavior concerns.  For older kids, it may involve helping you navigate your child's weight and fitness, peer interactions, school performance, or internet usage. 

Parents of teens often need to address these same topics while also being mindful of the teen's need to separate and gain independence. Additionally, kids and teens are exploring their sexuality and sexual identity and that can be a tricky place for parents to navigate.   It can be a scary balance to find and I help parents clear the path.

I love the phrase "it's not like I was ever pulled aside and told what to do when my kid pulls a nutty in a restaurant".  You see, because of my experience, I was pulled aside and taught about things like this.

Better yet, I don't believe it's your fault when your kid is having her meltdown at the table but I do have some tips and tricks that can prevent the meltdown and I know to calm the situation faster.

Simply put, I want to help you help your kids.

If I am really going to do this and do it right, I thought it important for you to get to know me better with a more personal entry. I hope this wandering from my usual form and topics helps with that.

If you have a question, I am sure I can help.  Check out my website and contact me.

Thanks for reading. 

Until next time,

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