The end of the Easter holidays draw nigh and I feel a huge amount of sadness as I’ve loved having time with the kids, and with friends. I’ve enjoyed the lazy mornings and unstructured and unhurried nature of the days.
I’m also looking forward to getting back to work, clients and writing.
Over Easter I’ve spoken to a number of parents who have asked me if I would work to support their children and the answer has been ‘yes’.
I’ve been a teacher for over half my life (how scary is that!) and have also done a lot of one to one work with children and young people over the years, whether as part of the PhD research, or working with Hope House Children’s Hospice supporting siblings, or doing group or one to one support work with young people in schools.
I was involved with Antidote (who work for Emotional Literacy in Schools) and SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning in Schools) and was lucky enough to work with groups, schools and leaders in the field and so know that children and young people are resilient and resourceful and given the right time, space and support can make their way through most of life’s problems.
A pivotal moment in my life as a parent was when one of my sons spoke in confidence to an adult who wasn’t me! I know it sounds really obvious, why wouldn’t he? After all, I’d been that other person to other people’s children, so why was I so surprised that he wanted to talk to someone other than me? Well, because he always had talked to me, so it was a bit of a shock to realize that the inevitable move away from me, had started. Ouch!
When I teach the Masters course in Education for Chester University we study Erikson’s 8 stages of Development and the key task for children as they get older is to break away from the family to find their own identity so that they can eventually become adults who can live their own lives. Which means that my son talking to someone else about his problems is completely normal and a good sign as it shows he’s developing normally and can trust other people; it doesn’t mean it was easy for me as his mum.
I felt sad and a bit like I’d done something wrong. Rationally I know I hadn’t, I can apply the theory and feel sad at his first steps in growing away from me.
So where am I going with this? Well I guess it’s to say that I know it’s not easy as a parent when your child needs support, but won’t lean on you.
All our children go through school issues such as bullying and friendship problems. Some kids I’ve worked with over the years self-harm, and refuse to go to school. Other children are carers at home, live with people with addictions, have parents who are divorcing, have sick siblings or know the family have money problems. All kids have times (just as we all do) when life feels overwhelming and just too much.
None of these problems are easily ‘fixed’.
When I divorced, the kids had no say about that, they couldn’t change the facts, but they did need emotional and social support with coming to terms with it. In a coaching room, neither the child nor I can stop the bully, but we can think about strategies to deal with it and I can acknowledge their feelings about it.
One of the benefits of getting older is that we know we can survive crises as we have before, young people just don’t have that history to draw on.
When I work with young people I listen and empathize but I also really focus on getting them to ‘control their controllables’ as my amazing friend Laura Finn would say. We can’t change the fact that legally you have to come to school, but we can focus on how to make it work better for you. We can’t change the fact that grandad died, but we can talk about him and think about how best to mourn him. We can’t change the past, but we can look for the learning from it. We can’t change other people, but we can change our responses. We can look at what is going well with your life. We can focus on your strengths to build your self-esteem.
Coaching isn’t for everyone and it certainly isn’t for every child, and it only works when they want to try it, when they opt in. However when it works, it really works. One girl has overcome a fear which was effecting her subject choices, a teenage boy has upped his aspirations and is looking at long term career choices, another girl has learned strategies to cope with a family member with addictions, and another younger boy has realized that he has more friends than he thought!
I feel really lucky that my son had another adult around he could talk to and that he chose to talk to her in confidence. Anyone working with young people has a duty of care to pass on information if they think the child is at risk of harm or is causing harm, but other than that, everything is kept confidential. I hope that my boys always have those people in their lives who can support them when they need it from someone other than me.
I hope that your kids don’t need support right now and that all is well in your life…but if you or anyone you know needs a bit of backup for your kids, like I do with mine, you know where I am.
Hope the new term goes well.