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COACH'S CORNER:

The Coach’s Corner is a section of the newsletter devoted to family coaching, and the use of coaching skills in working with parents of struggling teens and young adults in their homes, or while they have a child in program. Coaching in this case can be either an alternative to residential placement when appropriate, a resource for program staff or as an aid in supporting families of young people transitioning home from wilderness or residential programs. The COACH’S CORNER welcomes submissions regarding Coaching (such as essays, research, articles, news, etc.) from anyone.

The Coach’s Corner was started by Woodbury Reports, Bill Valentine, Founder of Next Step For Success, and the accredited coaches of Next Step Coach Training, with “real life” condensed snapshots of what Coaching is about.



FAMILY COACHING AFTER RESIDENTIAL PLACEMENT: REBUILDING THE EMPTY NEST

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Posted: Apr 20, 2009, 08:43

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By Bill Valentine PsyD, CC

In the previous essay on young adults returning home from residential placement or elsewhere, we outlined three areas, past, present and future, needing a parent's attention in facing the prospect of an out-sized chick crowding the nest.

Ask the right questions and demand the answers. Both parent and young adult need to use this teachable moment to learn from previous choices and actions. What happened in the "real world"" What was the plan for independence? What went wrong? What could have been different? Were there extenuating circumstances out of anyone's control? It is critical that this debrief happens before the young adult returns home. Parents need to model how mature adults accept setbacks while learning from after-action study. The young adult must understand that this focusing process is not about placing blame. Instead, past mistakes are used as place holders for new choices and strategies. Without this deliberate attention on everyone's part an "Oh well" attitude is likely to creep in with its attendant ennui and paralysis.

Get clear on your - and society's - expectations of the young adult. First be upfront, again before the young adult comes home, about parental expectations for how the home will run and each individual's role in that dynamic. We use a Home Contract for younger children transitioning out of an emotional growth school or program residential placement. In this situation, we strongly advise that home expectations for the young adult are spelled out, literally. Age-appropriate rules for curfew (if any), household chores, use of appliances, parents' cars, visitor guidelines, etc., should be articulated and agreed to by both parties. Some of our clients have balked at the suggestion of a Home Contract for their young adult based on the belief (often first voiced by the young adult) that such a deliberate spelling out of home rules is treating them like a child again. On the contrary, the adult world expects more, and has more rules, than what most young adults are used to. Home Contracts model the real world's expectations for adult accountability.

Is the return to the nest a lack of will or a lack of knowledge? The return to the home should be treated by parent and young adult as a regrouping and preparation for a new beginning whether from residential placement or elsewhere. The young adult and her parent often need to be coached to view this pull-off to the shoulder on the road to independence as a fork in the road. It is time to look at, and perhaps re-draw, the map. Most young adults have gotten to that stage in their lives without a great deal of planning and focus. Goal setting is a valuable exercise and learning experience for anyone, but especially so for a young adult who has suddenly found himself back home without a plan or a clue. Coaching young adults and their parents on goal setting begins with envisioning the preferred future. It is critical that this process of seeing where one wants to go is as rich in detail as the young adult can make it. Parents and coaches can supply encouragement, support and a dose of reality, but it is the young adult's ability to dream in living color that will ultimately provide the internal motivation so necessary to survive and succeed in today's challenging environments. Beginning with the vision, then, the young adult will need to set up goals and undertake actions. We use a stair-step method for setting and reaching goals. With the vision placed at the "top of the stairs," goals leading to the vision are then arranged in chronological order. Action plans containing initiatives lead to each goal. For many young adults, and a few of their parents, this is the first time they have been exposed to "planning your work and working your plan."

With all this attention on the young adult it is all too easy for parents to be swept up (again) with meeting their child's needs while forsaking their own. The caretaking role is seldom helpful for growing children and can be downright inhibiting for young adults trying to fly on their own. Our view of parenting relies heavily on the concept of parent as role model. Especially for young adults, it is critical that when they look at the adults in their lives they see healthy humans who can love unconditionally while maintaining clear conditions on all of their relationships. The fledgling can take up a lot of space, physical and emotional, in a once empty nest. Parents must keep alive their own Technicolor visions of life after Junior in order to assure that when Big Bird takes to the sky again it will be a time of celebration, pride - and relief.



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