When challenges come up that affect your entire family, it can be very difficult to resolve the challenges without some outside help. But who should you turn to for effective family coaching support?
Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place. I’m not just a parenting coach; I’m also a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a parent myself to two beautiful girls. I understand how important it is to know that you and your family will be in good hands.
Overview Of The Family Life Coaching Process
The support that I will provide to you and your loved one’s starts out with each person working with me individually – usually between 1 and 6 individual sessions. Some family coaches would focus on the presenting problem and help you and your loved one’s to come up with new agreements or strategies to address the issue at hand. The problem is this sort of approach only addresses the conscious part of the issue, and does nothing to address the subconscious parts of the issue that are ultimately responsible for the undesirable dynamic. This will become clearer in the example below.
When you work with me, we’ll talk over the phone or Skype and learn how to set a safe inner space to listen deeply to all the wants and needs inside of you. When there is some level of ease and willingness in connecting with this inner world, we will open the sessions up to the other family members involved in the family coaching. Similar to a conference call, we’ll all be live and in-person at the same time on the same call. Then we clearly set an intention for the issue we want to work with.
An Example Of The Coaching Process
Let’s say one of your children is failing 4th grade. Dad shows anger and says he can’t figure out how any child of his could be so stupid and unmotivaed. Mom shows worry about the child’s self esteem and about the escalating fighting between dad and child. The child, Ann, is acting rebellious and putting on an aire of “What’s the big deal. School is stupid.” The other child, Bill, is a few years younger and making sure to be as perfect as possible – straight A’s and never talks back.
We’d start our family coaching with individual sessions for both mom and dad. Underneath dad’s anger, we may find fear – fear of his child failing and also the fear dad learned as a child and has carried with him ever since. This fear is protected by layers of anger and driven achievment. We listen in deeply with compassionate presence to the wants, needs, and fears dad is carrying inside of him. Just by listening, dad notices he’s less angry and more compassionate to Ann.
In the individual sessions with mom, we may find that underneath her worry there are several layers – anger, fatigue, a desire to mediate and find peace, a desire to run away and not deal anymore, and more. We set the safe space for mom to listen deeply to all these desires and different feelings. There is no problem with the seemingly conflicting needs she is expressing. More inner voices speak up. There is room for them all. All are welcome. Through several sessions of feeling more able to be all of herself, to speak and cry and be heard, mom notices she is becoming less afraid of the conflict and more able to find her inner compass.
For the child, we may have her meet with me in individual sessions or I may coach the parents on how to handle their own emotions so that they can compassionately listen to the child. This is an individual choice dependent on the child, parents, and situation. Either way, we create the space for the child to be heard without attempting to fix, judge, invalidate, or recreate the child’s reality. After some time of being heard this way, the deeper feelings, needs and insecurities of the child are able to come out. We get closer to the core issue that is creating the need for Ann to fail in school.
It is also important for the sibling to experience compassionate listening. Just because their behavior is more ‘normal’ or ‘desirable’ does not mean that they are happy and feeling like their needs are met. So we create the space for Bill to be heard and to express any fears, needs, desires or judgments in a safe way. This may be by having individual sessions with me or it may be one or both parents who set the space for Bill to be heard empathetically without trying to fix or change his reality.
Then we bring the whole family together on a call with me. If someone is too young to participate, they are welcome to be quietly present. Or it may be less interruptive to have a young family member cared for in another space during our family coaching sessions. Either way, everyone – including the young child – will benefit from this work.
In our family call remember the safe space we’ve set in previous individual sessions. We open to each person holding compassionate listening presence while another family member is speaking. We’ve practiced this is in the individual calls and so it is easier and by now familiar. The fear Ann has of disappointing daddy and never being good enough is able to be heard. Dad hears it with his compassionate ears and realizes it is the same fear he felt with his own father growing up. He shares this with Ann. Instead of butting heads, the ground is laid for empathy. A bridge begins to form between father and daughter. Mom is relieved to see this. She shares her own fears and is heard deeply. The daughter expresses amazement that her mom, who seems so in control, secretly longs to run away sometimes. The daughter is able to admit she wants to run away too. Neither feels the need to run away in the moment of being heard and compassionately witnessed. A bridge begins to form between mother and daughter.
This work can continue as long as it feels helpful. I have yet to find a limit to the usefulness of listening compassionately to myself or to another. As long as your family wants this support, I’ll be there for you.
Theoretical Frame Work
A core premise of this work is that wants/needs that are not listened to and acknowledged will find other ways to draw attention to themselves. These ways usually look like acting up, dropping out, throwing a tantrum, failing at school, picking fights, eating too much or not enough, numbing with TV or shopping, or a host of other undesirable outcomes. When wants/needs are listened to with compassion and without attempting to fix them, the acting out behaviors often fade away. Not because we made them go away, but because they are no longer necessary to draw attention to the wants/needs.
At any point in time in these family coaching sessions, the presenting issue may start to spontaneously resolve itself. This means that something more desirable is happening without anyone doing anything directly about the issue. In this case Ann’s grades may improve without anyone directly trying to fix her grades. There may just seem to be more space and willingness to do and help with homework. There may just be less resistance. Ann might find she’s able to remember her work easily where previously no matter how hard she tried she would forget. It’s hard to say what exactly would shift, but when the underlying wants/needs are heard, they stop standing in the way of success.
Are you ready to find success in your family? Contact me today to get started.
by Kassandra Brown, Parent Coach