When you think about how to support working parents, chances are you think about childcare. But what about parents with older kids? Especially with the youth mental health crisis impacting working parents, it’s more important than ever to think proactively about how to address the many challenges employees are facing at work AND at home.
One such challenge working parents face, especially during COVID, is managing their children’s education. We’re now seeing gaps in foundational knowledge, deficits in executive function skills, lagging social skills and/or increased social anxiety, and a host of other issues that can be traced back to being out of the traditional school environment. Time and time again, parents are having to step into the role of guidance counselor, executive function coach, or what many call “the homework police.” On top of everything else, these parents and students now also have a very tense family dynamic. At school, students are struggling. At work, parents are burnt out and distracted. And at home, everyone is stressed.
Just as coaching for adults in the workplace is a vital tool for professional development, reducing burnout, and increasing strategic and creative thinking, coaching for teenagers is an effective solution for a family in this kind of crisis.
And here is a critical opportunity for an employer to take a major source of stress off of a working parent’s overly full plate, reduce burnout, and retain or attract talent.
Working parents are deeply concerned about their children’s emotional, personal, and academic growth, with good reason. And consider this: virtually 99% of our clients are speaking to us to arrange support for their kids during work hours. In our increasingly remote work environments, we cannot ignore the overlap of family and work stressors.
Offering coaching for students can be an effective way to reduce stress in a family system, the brunt of which is often borne by working mothers. In addition, while awaiting mental health services like therapy, counseling, or a neuropsych evaluation, a coach can help a teenager get their academics under control while also building social/emotional skills, confidence, and resilience in the face of challenges.
Signet’s academic coaching approach uses basic principles of life coaching to improve academic skills and performance. Unlike subject-specific tutoring, academic coaching addresses skills that apply to any subject, such as motivation, organization, completing assignments, studying effectively, and generally “meeting one’s potential.”
The role of the academic coach is to understand where a student is coming from and to guide them toward figuring out their own solutions. They’ll show up and say, “What are we working on?” “What’s the problem?” “What do you think?” The ultimate goal of these sessions is always to empower the individual. Students with executive function challenges have spent their entire lives having neurotypical people tell them how to do things. Academic coaching may very well be the first time someone has ever asked them for their opinion on how to solve a problem. The results are powerful! Students come away from academic coaching feeling a restored sense of purpose, confidence, and self-esteem.
In addition to helping manage a student’s shorter term challenges – like catching up on homework, managing time, and planning ahead for bigger projects – Signet’s coaches help students renew their sense of personal agency, take ownership of their academic and career paths, and build the skills to foresee, avoid, identify, and resolve challenges on their own.
Our coaching is built upon three foundational concepts: mindset, vision, and values. Starting from these first principles is key to both sustaining the impacts of coaching and applying the processes and principles learned in coaching to other aspects of a student’s life, now and in the future.
At Signet, we strive to demonstrate and impart a growth mindset with our students. We want them to see that learning anything well takes time, experimentation, iteration, and struggle. “Failure” isn’t something to fear; it’s part of the learning process. One of the most valuable ways to incorporate these ideas into the process of behavior change (like learning a new way of taking notes, for example) is to reflect on what went well and what didn’t go well, and whether there is anything the student would like to do differently the next time. In this way, students start to see that one challenge is not the end of the journey, that they can learn and adapt, and that if they hadn’t struggled, they might never have hit upon the creative solution they eventually found.
Vision is often the key to motivation. If a student can develop an inspiring vision for the future – whether for years down the line or for next month – they have something they can tap into when the inevitable challenges come up. They also have direction that they can take steps toward. Instead of doing things because a parent or teacher told them to, they understand that being engaged in a particular class connects to their own goals for themselves. And the process of developing a personal vision is empowering, too: students build an awareness of their own habits, thought patterns, aspirations, and fears as they explore and commit to an exciting and realistic future self.
Vision is what a student is aiming for, but it is their values that will determine how they move towards that vision. When a student learns to check in with how people, behaviors, pathways sync up with their values (or not), values can also provide an important decision framework that students can apply to school, career, and beyond.
Working on these three pillars is a key part of a coach’s longer term work with a student to restore their agency, build resilience, and cultivate problem solving skills. Parents tell us how watching their student go through the coaching process has brought a sense of relief, a reduction in stress, and a collaborative dynamic into the household. Eventually, parents are able to hand the reins back to their kids with confidence and focus on being a supporter instead of a task master. And at work, their attention is no longer divided.
If you want to learn more about helping your employees access coaching services for their school-aged children, connect with us here. Tell us your story, and we’ll develop a customized program that’s the right fit for your team.