Q. What is ‘parent coaching’?
A. I try to help parents understand how to respond to their children, adolescents and adult children. There are better and worse ways to respond to children, depending on where they are developmentally. The personalities of all those involved in the parent-child relationship play a role, and I help parents navigate healthy and helpful ways of relating.
We relive our childhoods through parenting our children. It’s not uncommon that we identify with our children and we see ourselves in our children’s experiences instead of seeing them. Therapy helps parents develop an understanding of the difference between identification and empathy. Identification is when you see yourself in the other, and empathy is when you see the other for who they really are and can connect with that person’s experience in an authentic way.
Parents can receive coaching individually or together. Sometimes helping parents with their roles involves family therapy. Also, I often refer parents to participate in carefully screened parenting classes available in the community.
Q. Can you help parents who have a difference of opinion about a parenting issue?
A. I help parents who have disagreed and find themselves in conflict because of those differences of opinion. Each parent draws from how they were raised. For example, some parents may choose to be permissive because their parents were strict while others may follow suit and raise their children as they were raised. Sometimes when parents come in, their child isn’t doing well and parents are wondering if they’re part of the problem. Therapy helps parents to co-parent in a unified fashion; it helps parents identify what they’re doing that could be contributing to their child’s behavioral problems.
Q. Why do parents need coaching and support?
A. Sometimes, a parent needs guidance on how to reinforce rules and set boundaries for a child. Life circumstances can make parenting even more challenging, such as when there’s a divorce or there’s a child or teen in the family with a genetic or developmental disorder. Internal and external factors, such as illness or job loss, can affect a family unit, and it’s important not to weather the storm alone. Addressing challenges can help parents gain tips for maintaining children’s emotional well-being. In families where there’s a disability or illness, all family members are affected. Attending to each family member’s needs early can prevent problems from growing and needing more intervention.
Q. I made mistakes with my children when they were growing up and the relationship with my adult children is strained. Can therapy help me repair the relationship, or is it too late?
A. It is absolutely not too late. In the moment that the parents are able to be with their adult child and listen to their child’s complaints, healing can begin. They can upgrade their relationship from a parent-child relationship to a parent-adult child relationship. When parents and their adult children shift to a more adult relationship, parents listen more as a peer and less as an authority figure. This process serves as a bridge to shift the relationship into more of an adult relationship. It’s healthy for adult children to be able to tell parents what didn’t go right for them. It’s normal and healthy for everyone to talk about that honestly.
We know parents can’t do a great job all the time or in every area. When they can talk about this, the adult child can release their resentment and hurt and the parent can release their guilt from the past. It’s a tremendous gift to invite your child to do this with you. Parents can initiate an open conversation with their adult children by saying, “I want to hear from you. I know I wasn’t a perfect parent.” This is a good thing for the adult child-parent relationship.