Coaching Kids to Deal with Change

24 02 2013


Have you or your children gone through a significant change in your lives?  How was it handled?

I believe even in their short life spans, my children have already learned that change is constant.  Having switched schools twice in the last 3 years, we have had quite a few conversations about how the affects of the transitions have impacted them.  We were very open about the decisions to move and the reasons behind them and made the girls a part of the process.  We knew that there would be a sense of loss regarding friendships, teachers and the overall familiarity of the environment they had come to know so well.  In retrospect, I believe that because both girls have had previous experience with loss they also had an increased ability to cope with the recent moves to their new schools.

I’ll never forget the time we came back from a weekend trip to find that one of the girls’ guineas pigs had died.  My daughter was devastated and inconsolable.  It broke our hearts to witness her pain and not be able to protect her from it.  Following that came the time when my older daughter learned from her teacher that Santa Claus was a myth.  This was another huge blow and lesson in trust, loss and she learned that things are not always what they seem.  She was livid and broke the news to my husband on their way home from school in the presence of her younger sister.  We were all shocked.  Then, only months after this life altering news, the girls experienced the death of their grandfather.  They had managed to visit him during his short hospital stay and knew he had become extremely ill in a very short span of time.  They were present the morning I got the call from my brother and knew what had happened.  They attended the wake and funeral and dealt with their loss as we dealt with ours.  We talked about it and cried together – again there was no hiding from the pain and reality of another significant loss and another change to their lives.

In those instances there was little that we did to prepare oursleves or the girls for the changes they experienced, since we as parents did not / could not anticipate what was about to happen.  We did speak very openly about our feelings and theirs and encouraged them to express whatever they felt; sadness, and disappointment, even rage.  There were accusations and we did our best to stay calm, always leaving space to allow the feelings to be owned so that they could also be processed and allow space for new feelings to emerge.

Looking back I know that these harsh life lessons have been the true teachers for the girls to deal with more change that they will inevitably encounter as the future unfolds.  They are learning that they are different in every breath, and every moment is a new experience; an invitation to live fully.  The past is unchangeable since, as my daughter put it “there’s no magic clock that can make us redo something that we already did”. 


So can organizational change management theory apply to real life change situations?  Here are some common steps to facilitating change that I’ve adapted from the 9 to 5 version some organizational leaders use with their employees. The basic fundamentals are straightforward and transferrable:

  1.  Break change down into small steps. The big picture may seem overwhelming.  Be sensitive to where your kids are at and break things down into smaller pieces that they can grasp more easily.
  2. Provide guidance and training. There will be doubt and uncertainty.  Your ability to acknowledge and address the discomfort will have a direct impact on how the change is adopted.
  3. Allow time for practice. There’s always an adjustment period for any change and comfort comes with time and patience.
  4.  Learn with your kids.  Be honest about your own challenges with the new situation.  Getting to common ground regarding the change can help diffuse the tension.  If one child is having an easier time than another, ask for their help to share how they’ve managed to deal with things.
  5. Encourage and reward progress. Don’t wait until it’s too late, acknowledge progress as it happens.  A good day can simply look like more smiles than tears – it’s a start!
  6. Sympathetically deal with frustration.  The better your self control, the lower your stress and greater your ability to deal with your children’s angst.
  7. Maintain confidence in your kids’ success. You are their cheerleader and their champion.  Let them know you are routing for them and believe in their success.
  8. Help get them started.  Set them up for success however you can by stacking all odds in their favour.  (i.e. if there is change in one area focus on increasing stability in another.) You will all benefit and grow from the experience.


Although change and loss are symbiotic, it’s the loss of the familiar and fear of the unknown that create the most anxiety.  The girls know this and as a coach I can remind them that they have lost, and continued to thrive in a new reality.   And, no matter how frightening change may seem, we need it in order to evolve.



Priority Management for Kids – A Coach Approach

11 02 2013

“It’s 7:45 and the bus leaves in 10 minutes – hurry up please!”  I noticed recently how often I hear myself hurrying the girls along, reminding them to do things before it’s too late.  Needless to say, the girls and I very obviously have our own unique concepts of time and identify our priorities differently as well.  More often than not, I would also argue that the consequences of being late are much more significant to me than them.

  Urgent Not Urgent

Getting on the bus (me)

Not Important

Getting on the bus (girls)

You may have heard about teaching our children through logical consequences; a concept that has been promoted by psychologists and human behaviourists for several decades.  Is this theory still effective – what’s changed?

I know that when my kids are late for school or miss the bus, I jump into what that means for me:

  • later start to the day;
  • missing a meeting;
  • having to work later;
  • getting stuck in traffic….

All of the above happen to be pretty strong negative motivators, for me!  I know when I start to feel that flutter of adrenaline; my habituated response is to go into autopilot and take over – despite all of my fabulous coach training!  So its not the theory of logical consequences that’s flawed, it comes right back to my chosen behaviour.

I share with you what I consider to be the spiciest of all the NLP pre-suppositions: “Every action has a positive intention!”  I interpret this to mean that all our behaviour is valuable to us at some level – even if that behaviour is not the best way of getting the result we seek.   I know that yelling at my kids to “Hurry up” and frantically packing their back packs for them to get them out the door is not the best way to teach them how to prioritize or understand the consequences of their choices.  It also doesn’t put me in a very positive state for whatever I’m rushing to get to.  On the flip side, I trust that my children know that sitting in front of the computer playing a game when the bus leaves in 2 minutes isn’t the best way to get Mom’s attention, even though that game they’re involved with is quite fun.

So in those moments of conflicting priorities consider the following:

  1. Take a breath or two;
  2. Let your kids know what you consider to be urgent and important in that moment, and ask them what’s urgent and important to them.
  3. Ask them “by saying yes to playing on the computer what are you also saying no to?”
  4. “How can we get to common ground?”
  5. Ask yourself “What’s acceptable to me in this moment?”
  6. Make a choice.
  7. Breathe.
  8. Communicate the choice.

Choices may not always be agreeable to the majority, nor will there always be common ground.  However, we also have the right to change our mind when presented with new information and can always choose differently.

Regardless of the direct outcome, the true benefit in this approach lies in building more self-awareness around what we consider to be ESSENTIAL to us  – which opens up the possibility of having a different conversation with our kids!


Overprotective Parenting

2 02 2013

I confess, I am a borderline overprotective mother.  I wouldn’t go as far as saying I bubble wrap my kids but I have driven the occasional forgotten lunch to school and chased after  my children with hats and mitts on cold days.  I do not do my kids homework but I do follow their academic performance, where my main concern is knowing that they understand material they are learning.  I also have a great deal of respect and admiration for teachers and their vocation.  For this reason I share with you the following article about overprotective parenting from a teacher’s perspective.  Would love to hear comments, especially from my “teacher parent” readers – you know who you are!

Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail

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