Coaching Young People
Adolescence can be a difficult time for many young people and result in a turbulent time for the people around them too. So parents and guardians have been looking for support and professional help to manage the additional stress and worry caused by the global pandemic, months of social distancing, disruption to learning and exams, plus financial and health worries within the family.
If approached by a parent or guardian, it is important to first clarify if the focus will be towards coaching young people or the parent. Parents and guardians can often seek professional help for themselves if they are questioning their parenting style, feel unable to answer difficult questions or if they are starting to experience conflict within the home.
Their need for support does not necessarily mean the parent feels the child is not doing well, but they may themselves want support to navigate the changes taking place. They may still see the body of a child and remember their first steps or scraped knees, the cuddles and the bedtime stories. The parent can see the relationship of dependence coming to an end, so they need to come to terms with this change in dynamics and make space for their child to explore and experiment.
Many parents can also feel lost or disoriented, because the young person can on one hand want to keep the feeling of comfort, security and confidence they get from being at home, however they can also dream of the freedom they perceive adults enjoy.
The 4 types of changes in adolescence:
Physiological – Puberty and hormonal changes
Psychological – Their interpretation of the changing world around them
Emotional – Distancing from parents and the importance placed on friendships
Social – Integration into social groups that are no longer those of children but not yet adults
From Socrates to Aristotle
In 470 BC, Socrates claimed that young people were ill-mannered and lacked respect for authority. Aristotle further defined the period between 15 and 21 years old as characterized by passions (the most important of which is sexuality), impulsiveness and a lack of self-control. Other factors included courage, idealism, a taste for success and optimism.
Young people in a positive situation
Most adults have a golden view of the past or feel that “in my time life was better” and consequently for young people the feeling is “life is worse”. However, several health and well-being indicators show positive trends for the youth of today doing well, if not better, than the previous generations. If we base our assessment on the entire adolescent population and not on clinical samples, young people are in a rather positive situation. They would display a sense of personal well-being, quality relationships with parents and siblings, plus a feeling of being happy. They would have high educational and professional aspirations, an optimistic vision of the future and desire to find a partner and have children.
Discovering our parents’ limits
If we go beyond these relatively positive results, we will have to admit that during adolescence, there is a transformation in the relationship with parents. The figure of parental authority, more or less idealised, is reduced to more human proportions. Thus, the image that we have of our parents contains not only their qualities and strengths, but also their defects and weaknesses. In adolescence, we become aware of our parents’ limits. As a parent, it is good to remember that we made the same observation at their age.
The need for more support, fewer ultimatums
In adolescence, the young person becomes able to understand that their parent has emotions, fears and hopes. They note the latter is not reduced to the status of parent. The parent understands that they are no longer a child, but is becoming a person who is about to build a world of their own. For that, they need more support than instructions, orders or ultimatums.
The power of communication
This new understanding between the two generations is rooted in good communication. The quality of family relationships is a driving force in the socialization process of all young people as they grow up. It is fundamental for them to feel a sense of belonging within the family and mutual respect. Warmth and affection within their interpersonal relationships will also have a positive effect on adolescents. All of this contributes to a positive self-esteem and positive attitude towards the future.
Symbols of success
Students in Canada were asked a question about the future as part of a research study to identify the values young people think about. In order of importance, are the six statements made by the students when asked this question:
Later on, you will think you have succeeded in life if you…
- Have a united family
- Are happy in your relationships
- Are successful in your work
- Make a lot of money
- Get involved in your community
- Are important and influential
The family value
A recent survey validates how much value “family” is associated with happiness among young people and appears to be at the heart of their concerns. And many teenagers say (even if they do not demonstrate it) that the family is their most precious anchor, even when it is dysfunctional and especially when they are going through difficult times. Parents need to be reminded of this.
The search for a goal that makes sense
Another Canadian study argues that the family is their only place of permanence. If they do not feel helped, supported or encouraged, young people feel that their efforts are useless. Boys are reported to be less influenced by family than girls, however fathers would have a greater impact than mothers in terms of a boys’ success.
Work and self-esteem
Interest in part-time work during studies is palpable for all young people, because their participation in the world of work allows them to acquire autonomy. Without neglecting the acquisition of skills and increased consumer freedom, they say they are serious about work. It represents something concrete, it is not virtual and work is seen as a positive means of developing their self-esteem and personal identity. Even if we say that sometimes work is hard, it is still one of the best activities to gain self-confidence, blossom as an individual and grow.
We know how important it can be for people of all ages to feel a sense of belonging within their family and some parents or guardians may now be looking for some ideas to help maintain or build mutual respect between different generations. However, changing relationships within the home can bring real difficulties, especially around the festive period, so one approach can be to use role-play to explore any existing warmth and affection within these different interpersonal relationships and help the family members rewind the clock to a more positive time.
Other approaches could be to use a range of creative tools, stories, metaphors and games to bring your sessions to life. But remember, some young people may initially feel uncomfortable within themselves or even struggle to open up and communicate how they feel when around other family members. So in this situation, you may wish to encourage them to move freely within the space and slowly build their confidence by using creative tools or games.
To support a more creative approach to your coaching sessions and help you explore the changing relationships within the home, we have developed a virtual card game specifically for coaching young people and an ebook with insights into how best to coach young people and fully support their parents or guardians. Check them both out in our online shop:
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