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Hey Coach, Am I Starting Today?

As featured in Healthy Living Magazine, May 2011

Hey Coach am I starting today? Many students have asked this question of their coach. A coach’s job is to be on the sidelines, watching their players hone their skills, make and learn from their mistakes all while cheering them on! As parents we all have the opportunity to become “coaches” for our students. So, if that’s true than what we need are coaching skills to work with our kids as they walk their pathway from high school into college.

As a parent, watching your child succeed makes you feel good. In their transition from high school to college there is a place for parents to be a part of that process. So let’s look at five ingredients that will make you not only a good coach but also a parent who will be finding the right balance in helping their student move toward their future.

  1. Being a strong motivator. Phrases such as, “You can do this” and “I believe in you!” although simple, carry a strong message of support. Don’t forget this time can often be scary and confusing for students. What if they make the “wrong” decision, go to college, not go to college, travel, or go into the service. It is motivating to hear someone believe in you.
  2. Listening between the lines as well as to what is directly shared by your student can be a powerful tool in helping both parties understand each other. Take advantage of the time you have together. Capture these moments, whether driving in the car together, on a hike, skiing or sitting at home.
  3. Formulating different strategies of getting information out of your teen is key. Questions and comments from parents to their teenagers are often thought to be more about nagging then really listening, the right question or comment can open up many doors to communicating. So, what’s the right thing to say or ask? Ask them how all of this feels for them. Stressed, anxious, excited, are all possible answers, and if they need help or are feeling overwhelmed with the college process, they may not ask for it; but if you listen you will know. Often times, empathic comments will provide an opening for dialogue!
  4. Helping them to create goals for themselves. Help your student stay organized, and support them by teaching them what realistic expectations look like relative to their goals. They will begin learning how to prioritize, and will gain new life skills if you know when to stay out of the way, but always letting your student know your offer for assistance is there for their taking! Many of their decisions leading to their freshman year in college will be challenging. For most students and yourself there will be a level of “commitment” never experienced before. Ultimately they will have to learn to advocate for themselves, make choices and maybe sometimes fall short of their goal.
  5. Learning how to balance your involvement vs. being in control of the process is key. Your student needs to be invested as well as take on this responsibility-this is about their choice, their future and what they will ultimately make of it.

This is a time of growth, for both you and your teenager. Work on listening, motivating and encouraging them, while letting go of them as they move into this next phase of their life. Coaching is a hard job, but then so is parenting, and the rewards from both are life changing.