The days full of anger and frustration seemed to be outweighing the days full of joy and satisfaction. My kids and I were locking horns over screen time every single day. I was struggling to get them to follow any limits, complete chores, or finish homework before getting on their devices. I was at my wit’s end and worried that our relationships were deteriorating into dangerously negative territory.
Seeing my desperation a friend of mine recommended that I “talk to someone.” Therapy didn’t seem like the right fit. I didn’t need emotional healing, I needed a practical solution in the here and now. But my friend corrected me, she meant a parent coach, not a therapist. I was puzzled. I had heard of life coaches and executive coaches, but not parent coaches. She told me that like other coaches, parent coaching could help support me to make the positive changes I so badly needed.
I was ill at ease enough to look into it. After doing some research I decided to contact a parent coach. From the very first call, I felt relieved that I had someone to help me. Coaching, I learned, was going to help me get in touch with my parenting priorities and values around screen time. It was time to block out the noise of the internet searches, parenting books, and advice from family and friends and tune into what I really wanted for my kids and my family, and not just about screen time. Combined with her expertise in child development, we would get me to a better place. I wasn’t sure I could fit coaching into my busy schedule but I set aside one hour each week for 10 weeks and it was worth it. For the first time, in a long time, I felt hopeful.
With the guidance from my coach, I was able to see that some things were actually working for screen time at my house, even in spite of the challenges. While they were on the screen more than I wanted, they were using it to learn new skills and connect with friends playing games that were interactive and collaborative.
We spent one session formulating my dream. The ideal family life that I was longing for without all of the tension and struggle around technology. We spent a session talking about my strengths as a parent and my children’s strengths. I am really good at talking with my kids about things and making sure they know how I feel. They do well when rules are clear and they have a voice in decision making. Then we used the strengths to design the steps I would take to make my present day to day match my dream.
I engaged my boys in conversation when I wasn’t feeling charged or anxious and we were able to come up with some screen time parameters that worked for everyone. I had homework and there were times that I had to step out of my comfort zone. But each week I took a small step towards creating limits and boundaries around screen time making sure my kids were part of the process. It wasn’t perfect and it didn’t resolve everything, but it made life easier and I felt the joy return to our household and in my relationships with my kids.
Coaching is also about engaging in self-care because it is an essential part of generating the high energy and focus that is required to be a parent. It is so easy to let it go when there is barely enough time in the day to maintain a balance between work and family. I came up with the self-care that works for me. It felt doable, just 10 minutes a day to take a walk, meditate, or write in my journal. On days when I followed through (not all of the time), I was more patient with the kids.
While having a better screen time balance in my household was the reason I sought out a parent coach, I came away with so much more:
1. I have a better understanding of my parenting style, new confidence, patience, and presence in my parenting.
2. I finished coaching with a stronger connection to my strengths, values, and priorities for my family and can draw on those when making difficult parenting decisions.
3. I learned to take care of myself and how that increases my energy reserves and patience to parent from a more grounded place.
4. I try my best, even in the hardest situation, to find a positive frame and look at what is working in my situation as a way to approach the next inevitable parenting challenge.
I am grateful to my friend for introducing me to parent coaching. In this day and age when so many people are raising kids without the help of extended family around, and now so many of us are isolated from our regular communities due to COVID, it is nice to know that there is a resource out there to help.