a)plan coaching

Coaching for Parents & Navigating Unique Times

By a)plan coach, Jill Johnson

To any parents out there, you deserve a pat on the back.

In the past two years as an a)plan coach, I’ve been fortunate to connect with some amazing clients who are all trying to navigate unthinkable challenges brought on by the pandemic. In this time, I’ve provided coaching for parents facing their own unique set of obstacles.

I’m optimistic that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, but I also recognize that the ways in which we work and live have likely changed forever. In this post, I’d like to highlight some tips for parents trying to manage both the pandemic and post-pandemic eras. I’ll also touch on the role companies can play in fostering more compassionate cultures in this work-from-home era.

To anyone reading, I hope this is helpful, and I welcome the opportunity to continue the conversation offline.

About That Pat on the Back…

I wasn’t kidding when I said all parents deserve a pat on the back, especially after the two years we’ve just experienced. It hasn’t been easy for anyone. Through working with my clients on a weekly basis, I’ve seen parenting challenges firsthand:

  • A mom who opted to take our coaching call with the camera off because she was struggling to find time to breastfeed during a busy work day
  • An executive who had to step away to help her child with technical issues related to schooling from home

While pandemic life is extremely unique, the above examples are not. Chances are, as a parent, you’ve experienced similar situations.

My first bit of advice here is for parents to be easy on themselves. Then, be easy on others. Find the empathy and humor in this shared experience. As parents, it can be difficult to find the time to slow down and look around. But when you do, you’ll see that you’re far from the only one trying to parent their way through truly unique and difficult times.

That ability of all of us to show up with a little more compassion is what I see as a major opportunity within the greater challenge of pandemic life. That empathy and light-hearted perspective is the lemonade that we can make from a bundle of very strange lemons.

Quick Tips for Working Parents, from an a)plan Coach

More tactically speaking, what are some ways parents can be a little easier on themselves throughout, say, a workday from home? Some tactics that work for some of my clients (and myself) revolve around time management, priority reassessment, and even some structural changes that involve buy-in from employers (more on this in the next section).

  • Avoid back-to-back 60 minute meetings. Start using 50-minute and 20-minute meeting lengths to ensure 10 minute breaks.
  • Request that all meetings have agendas. This helps cut back on unstructured time, which means shorter meetings, and more time to tend to parent-related tasks.
  • Institute “No Meeting Fridays” and/or ask your colleagues and managers to embrace a structured tradition that gives you more focus-time.
  • Reassess deadlines and priorities. Not everything has to be finished today, especially not at the cost of showing up as needed for your kid(s).

Creating new goals and habits that stick is a cornerstone aspect of coaching at a)plan. While all of my clients have bigger picture goals, we also make time to ensure new, smaller habits, like the ones above, take hold. The results for my clients is that they programmatically carve out more time in their day-to-day work lives to be parents – in addition to being CEOs, founders, marketing professionals, and more.

Organizations’ Roles in Better Supporting Parents

Everything I’ve written up until this point can also be taken as advice for companies aiming to build strong, healthy cultures. In many respects, parents being kinder to themselves actually starts at the company level. Is your organization accommodating of employee self-care? Is this value exhibited by upper management? Are your managers trained on how to exercise compassion and provide healthy feedback?

Take the above example of “No Meeting Fridays.” This type of team or company-wide tradition helps embed self-care into the fabric of a company’s culture. And it communicates compassion from higher up in the company. This is crucial in building the trust required for employees to truly feel safe tending to important, non-work challenges – like parenting.

I encourage many of my clients to reflect closely on the organizations for which they work. With today’s talent shortage and greater push towards employee empowerment, organizations have had to adapt to attract and retain talent – for many, that means improving culture to be more compassionate.

How Coaching Fits into the Parenting Picture

As a coach, I know as well as anyone just how impactful coaching can be, both for individuals and organizations. To that end, I see coaching as both an everyday tool for parents, and a tool for organizations to ensure their managers are improving at their jobs.

1. Coaching for parents

As mentioned, many of my clients are individuals who happen to be parents. My work with individual coaching users can take many different forms. But the common denominators include building upon what’s working, setting goals, then creating plans to pursue and achieve those goals. For many parents, these goals revolve around balancing work and family, time management, and improving relationships while dealing with various challenges.

2. Coaching for leaders at organizations

People managers at organizations should be asking whether or not their leaders are well equipped to create trust and lead from a place of compassion. Far too often, managers aren’t actually trained in how to manage. Rather, they are promoted for technical skills, and expected to pick up the people-management skills as they go. This can be a costly mistake for an organization. 

Everyone, including parents, have unique needs and situations that call for empathetic leadership. At a)plan, we provide coaching for dozens of leaders at organizations looking to level up their cultures. What many organizations are realizing is that the ROI of coaching is competitive with just about any retention or training strategy.

Closing Thoughts on Coaching for Parents

This post is not an attempt to say that parents should be treated any differently than non-parents. Rather, it’s a reminder: Yes, these two years have been incredibly challenging. Yes, you are far from alone in experiencing these unique challenges. And yes, we all owe ourselves a little more compassion – both inwardly and outwardly.

As a tool to commit to that heightened level of compassion, I see a)plan coaching as one of the best solutions to make meaningful progress.

A version of this article first appeared on Jill Johnson’s site.

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