Article contributed by Family Services Therapist, Jessica Chacon.
At Open Sky, we live with the core purpose of activating the potential of the human spirit and by the belief that all people have the capacity to thrive. We apply this purpose and belief to our work with not only students, but families as well. Parent Coaching is a service through which families at Open Sky can more effectively activate their potential and thrive. By signing up for Parent Coaching, parents will enhance their own Open Sky experience through weekly 50-minute coaching sessions (via teleconference) with a Family Services Therapist.
A: The purpose of Parent Coaching is to support the parents’ growth along their parallel Open Sky process. Parent Coaching is focused on the parents, the family system as a whole, and the connection that the family wants to build with their son or daughter. It’s a prime opportunity for parents to learn, practice, and use the mindfulness, emotional regulation, and communication skills that their son or daughter is learning in the field. Parents can read about these skills in the Family Pathway, but Parent Coaching creates space to actually practice and implement these skills into their daily lives with guidance from a therapist. For some, learning these new skills is like learning a new language. Parent Coaching helps to make these skills more concrete.
Through Parent Coaching, we can focus on helping parents to take accountability for themselves, dive deeper into expressing emotion, process family history, and take steps toward forming healthier patterns within the family. The student starts to recognize the isomorphic nature of his or her parents’ efforts, and by watching them take steps toward change, the student becomes more willing and motivated to change as well.
A: Parent Coaching differs from the weekly student updates from the student’s primary therapist. With Parent Coaching calls, the Family Services Therapist focuses on the parents’ growth, on validating their stories, and on the family systems work. We collaborate with the primary therapist so that he or she can encourage the student by sharing what we’ve been working on. The collaboration also allows us to be on the same page in terms of how to best support the family with healing, reuniting, and eventually transitioning to life after Open Sky.
Other Enhanced Family Services, such as the Family Assessment or the Genogram, incorporate well with Parent Coaching. The Family Assessment is an evidence-based assessment tool that explores and explains the nature of family relationships. The genogram is an in-depth family tree that maps relationship patterns, mental health patterns, and family dynamics across generations. Parents can elect to utilize those services, which greatly inform the work that the Family Services Therapist does with them during Parent Coaching calls.
Family Quest™ is another beneficial Enhanced Family Service we offer. It is a 3-day, 2-night therapy intensive in the wilderness with the whole family. If the family chooses to come to Family Quest, Parent Coaching can be tremendously beneficial to their success. Parents will be a step ahead in knowing skills like the Four-line Feelings Check, the “I Feel” statements, and other tools that the child has learned. Parent Coaching bridges the gap between student and parent and gives them a common language. We can more easily dive into the work of Family Quest™ because as Family Services Therapists, we have already built rapport and established trust through the Parent Coaching sessions. We are more aware of the family patterns that exist and are able to support parents to a higher degree during Family Quest™.
A: The natural place at which a family’s patterns and dynamics have settled is the state of homeostasis that the family will come back to over and over again. So, simply reading about a new communication skill or becoming aware of a negative parenting style may not be enough to change a destructive pattern. Eventually, if new skills and insights are not utilized and implemented into daily life, the behaviors and relationships will return to the original place of homeostasis. A lot of effort and dedication is required to shift that. The more that parents are practicing new skills, learning about themselves, and making concrete and long-term efforts to improve the family system, the more likely it is for patterns to change, dynamics to improve, and that place of homeostasis to shift.
By engaging in Parent Coaching, parents can focus on their own health, story, and experience, rather than focusing solely on the student’s process and experience. By coming alongside parents, I and the other Family Services therapists help them to see and remember who they are, what are they passionate about, and how to be a good role model for their children. It’s like a lightbulb turns on during Parent Coaching—parents begin to understand more about themselves, about their child, and about the connection between them. Parent Coaching is a powerful service that contributes to transformation for the parents and the whole family.
A: It’s exciting to see what were once foreign and uncomfortable tools like sharing an “I Feel” statement become routine in the parents’ communication. It’s rewarding to see the growth parents make through Parent Coaching come alive during Family Quest and in reconnecting with their child at Graduation. I love to see parents start to experience the benefits of their hard work and recognize the power of being present in relationship.
For me personally, another rewarding piece of working with parents through Parent Coaching is the humility, compassion, and understanding that I gain in my own parenting. I understand that this “parenting world” is not black and white. There are no definite answers. I can take a step back in my own life and see that what these parents are going through is very challenging.
A: Parent Coaching is one of Open Sky’s Enhanced Family Services and is offered for an additional fee. Parents (or guardians) should first consult with their child’s primary therapist to see if Parent Coaching would benefit their family system and for fee information. Parent Coaching can occur at any point during the child’s time at Open Sky or even after graduation. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.