The chaos and challenges brought on by a struggling teen or young adult can represent an opportunity for personal growth and increased competency for parents. A critical role for the family coach is to help the parent build - or rebuild - a bridge of understanding between herself and her struggling child. The coach aids this process by assisting the parent in seeing the child at the most common and basic level, that of feelings, and asking the parent to relate to those feelings rather than the behavior.
By relating, we mean finding in one's own experience times of similar feelings.
While parents today are faced with a myriad of behaviors that they never dreamed of in their own adolescence or young adulthood, there are no new emotions. If we simplify human emotions to mad, sad, glad, lonely or scared, we can better understand the motivation behind most actions. The same emotion that is driving their child's aberrant behavior was doubtless felt at some time in the parent's past.
I simply cannot understand Julie. She throws herself at any boy
who looks twice at her. She dresses inappropriately and she will do
anything to get attention. I'm afraid she is getting a reputation for
being 'easy' at school. This is so unlike the way I was bought up
and behaved. I just can't relate to this child.
Why do you suppose she acts that way?
Like I said, I haven't a clue.
Well, let's try separating the child from the behavior. While she is so
unlike you on the outside, and in her actions, in what way on the
inside, emotionally, could she be at all like you?
What do you mean?
I'm wondering about how Julie feels about herself. Do you think she
has any of the same feelings you had when you were her age?
I doubt it. I was so painfully shy around boys that I just sat home
most nights, afraid a boy would call and afraid one wouldn't.
Did you want boys' attention but just didn't know how to go about it
the right way?
Yeah, that's about it. You know, I was actually boy crazy, I guess.
At least I thought about them a lot. I just didn't know how to
compete with the other girls, so I just didn't … Wait a minute, are
you saying that Julie may feel the same way I did but just handles these feelings in a different way?
Isn't that what you are saying? How can you let Julie know that you
can understand how she might be feeling?
The coach who guides his clients into these waters will be introducing them to a whole new way of understanding and relating to their teenager or young adult. However, relating to how a young person is feeling does not necessarily mean condoning how they are behaving. Like acceptance, relating can be accomplished without agreeing.
NOTE: The International Coach Federation will hold its 2008 Annual International Conference November 12-15 at the Palais de congres de Montreal in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Over 1700 conferees are expected. For more information, contact the International Coach Federation website at www.coachfederation.org.
About the Author: Bill Valentine, Redmond OR, 541-504-4748, email@example.com and his accredited coaches of Next Step Coach Training give "real life" condensed snapshots of what Coaching is about. Next Step For Success, is a parent and family coaching consortium offering nontherapeutic, skill-based support for parents of struggling teens and young adults. Next Step Coach Training offers accredited certification training for coaches. www.nextstepforsuccess.com