Friday, February 14, 2014

Parent Coaching and Relational Aggression: Case Study Part Four

Discovery into Dream

Our goal today was to finish up the discovery phase, continuing to flush out the family strengths. 
If time, we'd start to create Celia's dream.

One exciting part of my work with Celia is that our coaching sessions paralleled her daughter's start to high school.    As we went along , we both could see Elaine's growing maturity.   It was pretty cool to bear witness to this transition.  

Elaine enjoyed her first day of high school!   One of the girls who had been mean to her happened to be in her art class.   Celia proposed that Elaine keep an open mind, perhaps the girl had changed and matured.   Elaine basically said,  "no way."   But Celia still felt that she had planted a seed.   It was important to Celia that Elaine not feel resentful and filled with revenge.  Rather, she wanted Elaine to focus on her own happiness.   (By the way, it isn't a given that I would support a child befriending a bully, but in this case it was important to Celia.  Celia felt that high school was a fresh start).  

Because Elaine is great at art and loves it, Celia hoped that this class would build her confidence.   On the other hand, she worried that having a girl who had bullied her in the class might hamper the joy her daughter felt while doing art.

There were so many family strengths that we had a rich and lively discussion!

I decided to move into the dream stage with a visualization.   (Again, I wouldn't do this with every parent, but it seemed a nice transition in this particular case and I felt Celia would enjoy it).  I had Celia close her eyes and imagine a time that Elaine had felt unfiltered and pure joy.  

Little was I to know, this visualization would become one of the pillars of our coaching together.   Celia visualized  Elaine doing art and also the joyful feeling that she gets right after a horse race.   Celia imagined Elaine transferring this feeling of joy to her general joy of school and life.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Parent Coaching and Relational Aggression: Case Study Part Three: Session Two

This is my favorite part of the coaching cycle--the discovery session.  This is a chance to talk about and celebrate the many strengths of the family!    

Celia was very excited.  I could tell this from her voice and her eagerness to fill me in on the week.  She had gotten a chance to talk to her son about the bullying in his past.   He conveyed that he hadn't told her, not out of a lack of trust, but rather because it was something he thought he could sort out by himself. 

 He told Celia that he always felt that she was very open and that he could talk to her about anything.   His girlfriend took part in this conversation and told Celia that she was amazed at how caring she was and also that she is constantly striving to be a good parent.   

It was clear, that the conversation had enriched her relationship with her son and also with his girlfriend.  Plus, it was a huge relief to not be wondering why her son hadn't turned to her in his time of need.   This gave her hope that her fears about her daughter shutting the door to communication may not come to fruition.

As I found out the strengths of each family member, the family as a whole, and the supportive people in their world, I found myself amazed and honored to be coaching Celia.   In fact, there hasn't been a single discovery session where I haven't had this huge feeling of honor to be working in this way with parents. 

  Celia told me that Elaine had a huge amount of strengths to draw from and was very resilient.  I think it was very delightful and empowering for Celia to delve into the amazing strengths of her daughter, Elaine.

At the end of our call, I asked Celia again about the strengths she had found within to be such a wonderful parent when she hadn't had a model for it.   She said that because of her challenges, she had to parent very consciously.  She went to classes, took in a lot of information and tried to create her own family rituals.   

I wanted Celia to really embrace her strengths, so I gave her a homework assignment to
really embody her ability to persevere and thrive despite some challenges in early childhood.  I wanted her to really take notice of this and celebrate herself.  

In our next session, I will share with you the creation of Celia's dream.

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Dance Moms (and Dads)!

My Dance Moms and Dads!

I'm sure some of you have seen the show Dance Moms.  The moms sit outside the studio glaring at each other, competing with each other and each one thinking that their child is the best dancer of all.   Ugh!

My child has been dancing since she was two.  Just like the Dance Moms on television,  I have logged my time sitting in a dance studio watching my child leap, spin and stretch.   

However, unlike the show Dance Moms, my fellow watchers (both moms and dads with an occasional grandparent thrown in) are a fun and sympathetic lot.   I have cried, laughed, complained about my child, had some of my greatest parenting challenges laid out for discussion and, best of all, enjoyed watching EACH child dance and move in their own unique way.  

Isn't this a better vision?

Love my dance moms and dads!!!

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Parent Coaching and Relational Aggression: Case Study Part Two: Session One

This session is the Intake.   The main task of the Intake session is to get more information on the problems and challenges.   I asked questions that help clarify the challenges and dig a little deeper.  By the end of our chat I had a deeper understanding of what the bullying looked like, how Celia, Elaine and Elaine's dad Sam dealt with it, and also how various teachers had helped (or NOT helped).  

Another thing that came up in our session is that Celia also has a grown son from her first marriage.  Although the son is a star athlete and a very compassionate and amazing man, he did reveal to his mother that he had been teased as a child over his weight.  He hadn't told her about it back then.   This really sat with Celia.  She wondered why and worried that she somehow wasn't approachable.  Would Elaine come to her in the darker moments?
I also do something which I call LISTENING FOR STRENGTHS.   

It is one of the best things I've learned in my parent coaching program.   There is always amazing things in every situation.  To listen for and point out these strengths, without ignoring the challenges of course, can already get the change process rolling.   Parenting is rife with experts telling you what you are doing wrong, so the focus on what you are genuinely doing right is kind-of amazing!

Celia made this task VERY easy.   She mentioned that she and her husband loved sailing, but that their daughter did not enjoy this activity and often stayed with a friend while they went sailing.  They both realized that, despite their joy of sailing, they did not want their final years with their daughter at home to be focused on an activity that their daughter didn't enjoy.  They sold their sailboat and bought a camper.  They enjoyed many summer adventures as a family and sometimes Elaine even brought along a friend.   

I thought this was a great example of the way that Celia and her husband Sam made family life a priority and created a safe and nurturing environment for their daughter.

Celia also explained that she had a very difficult upbringing, even spending time in the foster care system.   I appreciated her telling me this, but I also took note that this was something to talk about later---how did Celia become such an amazing parent when she didn't have positive role models growing up?

Finally, Celia said something that was amazing to me.  Although a group of girls had been mean to her daughter consistently through grade school and middle school, Celia hoped that Elaine could move on from this.  Her hope wasn't for Elaine to get revenge or to show them up, but rather that she grow in compassion and be open to the idea that people can change.   

Wow, in my opinion that is super mature.   I don't know if I would be able to have such an open and non-judgemental outlook if it was my daughter being bullied.  

I assigned Celia a homework assignment (usually in the form of a suggestion).   I asked her if she would be willing to talk to her son and get more information from him.   I thought it might help her to find out, from the adult perspective, why he did not come to her for help when he was a teenager.   

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Children and Stress: The Reset Button and Simplicty Parenting

This picture depicts our feelings after the busy holiday season.  After Hanukkah, Advent, Christmas and New Years Eve, we were exhausted.
We are still paying the price.  
Going back to school after the holiday season, Mira has been off.  All the signs we are seeing have led my husband and I to believe that she is suffering from stress.   
The stress could be related to many things--job changes in our family, an upcoming trip to Europe, looking for schools for kindergarten,  too many things on our plate.  But, if you ask my opinion,   I think a lot of it stems from coming down from the busy holiday season.   I have noticed that many of my friends are in the same boat.  
One friend of mine talked about setting a "Reset" button.  I LOVE that concept. 
And that's exactly what we've doing--spending WAY more time at home, cutting down on our schedule and trying to be as peaceful and serene as is possible.    We are already seeing the stress level go way down.  
I was telling another friend about our recent family stresses and she suggested I read the book   Simplicity Parenting  by Kim John Payne and Lisa Ross.  
I felt a huge sense of calm as I read the first chapter of the book.    I also, admittedly, felt a sense of shame (a parent coach with a stressed out child--gasp).   
 Our life is filled with too much stuff, too much of everything--toys, social engagements, activities.   In part, this is because of my own personality and that I thrive on activity and busyness.  But, on a good note,  I am always striving for balance and this book helped me see that the holiday season put us way off kilter.     It helped me see the need to simplify while ALSO honoring my love of activity.     I am not going to be a simple person or parent, it is just not my personality, but I can still become very conscious of the daily choices we make.   
One of the best concepts in the book is that you can always RESET.  What this means is that any time you have a child of any age who is suffering from stress (no matter the age), take three days to be with them.  No school.  No sports.  Nothing but enjoyable time with the family.  This can reset any stresses and also has the added benefit of time--so that some of the things stressing out your child may come out naturally over the course of those three days.  
I am definitely tucking this one into my brain and I hope we will use this strategy often.    
Below you will see the website that has more resources on Simplicity Parenting and of course a link to the book.   
I would love to hear from you.  Has your child had challenges recovering from the busy holiday season?  What do you think of Simplicity Parenting.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Parent Coaching and Relational Aggression: Case Study: Part One

Do you have a daughter or son who is experiencing relational aggression or bullying?

Do you need some help and/or ideas to help your child feel empowered?

Is it painful for you to watch your child experience relational aggression?

Are you unsure if you should let your child work it out or intervene?

Does it bring up memories from your past?

Do you feel hopeless?

When a young person experiences relational aggression, the parent can have a variety of feelings, most of them painful.  No one wants their child to feel hurt, lonely, left out and sad.

As an expert in the field of relational aggression and a new parent coach, I started to have a hunch that Parent Coaching could really help parents feel empowered around this topic.   

Enter:   Celia and Elaine (names  and other identifying details have been changed and both mother and daughter have agreed to this blog series--confidentiality is always upheld in my Parent Coaching practice). 

Celia  had a great relationship with her daughter and Celia described a rich and nurturing family life.    However, at school Elaine had been the object of teasing from a group of more popular girls for many years.    She was now about to enter high school as a freshman.   Elaine had developed a thick skin, on the outside, not really caring about the teasing.  She also had a small but tight group of friends that stuck closely together.   Elaine also had a rich life outside of school in competitive horse racing.

Celia's hope for her daughter was that she enter high school open to new friends and experiences.   She also hoped that her daughter would turn to her if things got rough.    She wanted to keep the lines of communication open. 

I thought that working with Celia would be a wonderful chance to see if parent coaching can help parents handle the ups and downs of friendships.  What I found was surprising and delightful and, yes, empowering.    Come along with me as I share our eight session coaching process, one each week.   

Please Note:   In our eight sessions, we focused on other topics too, but I have only included the work we did around this topic.   

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Parent Coaching for Healthy Families!

Is your family healthy and thriving and you want to make sure it stays that way?

Is your child transitioning into a new school or new developmental phase?    

Are you wondering if you are doing it "right'?  

Do you just generally wish you had a cheerleader?

Are you looking for creative ways to honor the passage of time?

These are all reasons that happy and healthy parents and families hire parent coaches.

I think there's a perception that parent coaching is only for parents who have reached the end of their rope.  

I consider myself happy and healthy (depending on how challenging my four year old is being of course).   As part of my training for parent coaching I had three rounds of coaching and I am about to have one more.   Here's what I worked on:

First Series (8 Sessions):   The main issue that I worked on during this coaching series was how I could feel more productive and organized with my days.   It's over a year later and I am STILL using the amazing strategies my coach and I co-created.    This coaching series, in such a simple way, really changed my life and alleviated so much stress.   I now have a great balance between production and relaxation.  

Second Series  (8 Sessions):   During this series I worked on my "date nights" with my husband, moving out of parenting an infant and into having a rich relationship of our own again.    One huge realization that I had during this time was that "date nights" were not fun for us.   Since we live in a small town, we would go out and run into people we know WITH their kids (making us feel like we should have brought ours along), or we'd go somewhere where I knew everyone (the extrovert) and  bobbed around in my usual social butterfly way while my husband sat back and observed.   However, I still felt pressure to have these date nights and "try" to have fun.  In contrast, my husband and I ALWAYS have so much fun when we are exploring something new in the city.  We both love interesting food, music and adventures.    Despite all the experts who say that you should have a date a week to  have a good relationship, we've opted for less dates but higher quality.   This has really worked so much better for us and our relationship is thriving with carefully selected outings to the city.

Third Series (8 Sessions):  During this series I worked on nutrition with my family and with myself.    Having this intention helped me in so many ways, especially cutting down on sugary foods and realizing what I was already doing really well.

Future Coaching Series:      I will be working on several challenges--1.  Balancing extracurricular activities with down time.    2.   Getting some insight on my own feelings of annoyances with my daughter's challenges on making decisions.      3.  Handling a very recent increase in whining.  

Here's a great article about Parent Coaching.

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Creative Crossings. Peggy Rubens-Ellis, M.Ed. Certified Parent Coach

Creative Crossings. Peggy Rubens-Ellis, M.Ed. Certified Parent Coach