Be not afraid of growing slowly; Be afraid only of standing still. (Chinese Proverb)
Teenagers and tweens go through a series of transitions. Transitions are a natural progression of youth and growth experiences as they mature into young adults and beyond. In fact, there are numerous transitions, from job loss to marriage, but the ones I want to focus on are those that are encountered by the clients I work with, teenagers. Youth experience an educational transition as they move from middle school to high school and again as they move to college. A secondary transition that occurs alongside the educational transition is an identity transition. A life skills coach is an invaluable resource in helping teenagers navigate these transitions. The coach provides purpose, connections, empowerment, and successfully helps the teen navigate these transitions to create resilience and confidence as the young client grows in maturity. The life skills coach asks challenging questions, teaches them the tools to make personal choices and develop their autonomy. This coaching is not therapy. It is about helping youth to learn the skills they need to be successful and to help them gain confidence in their own capability to create their own solutions. It is important to remember a life coach is goal- and future-focused and not a therapist.
Each life transition disrupts established routines as new ones must be established. The life transition then shapes the long-term life trajectory of the youth. It is beneficial for youth to have a coach to share this journey and ensure that a positive outcome is found in each life transition. The two most common transitions for teenagers are education and identity.
Youth experience an educational transition from middle school to high school. This educational transition involves a move from one school to another, a larger school which includes a larger student body population, new learning environments, and change in academic expectations and social interactions. This change from middle school to high school is even more challenging as it occurs when youth are experiencing changes physically, cognitively, psychologically, and at social levels, all which are life transitions that will shape the youth’s trajectory. This educational transition along with biological and social changes can affect the teenager’s self-esteem, confidence and self-worth. Life and skills coaching can be utilized to create mental toughness by having the teenager participate in goal setting, defining their principles and values and creating a personal mission statement. As for the skills part, the life coach helps teach time management skills, organizational skills, and if needed, develop communication skills for self-advocacy which are often required in high school. The life coach helps the high school student achieve academic success by helping the student write SMART goals and the objectives to make the goal a reality. This helps to encourage autonomy and the teenagers will gain the self-confidence to create their level of academic success. The life coach is responsible for holding the teenager accountable to their academic goals and helping to realign a goal that has been difficult to obtain.
An identity transition is occurring concurrently with this educational transition. Middle school to high school, teens experience a number of physical and psychological life transitions, from puberty, to dating, to having to re-establish friendships and networks. As the teenager moves from middle school to high school, friends are scattered and often the teenager has to forge new friendships. This disruption to the teenager’s social network impacts who they are and how they see themselves. The life coach in this role provides the reality that change is always occurring and helps the teenager gain mental toughness to deal with this transition. The life coach is helping the teen develop goals to help them establish a network of positive social connections and to monitor the progress of the attainment of these goals. The second role of the life coach in this partnership with the teenager is to know when the youth’s identity transition and desire to belong is not developing and the youth’s well-being is compromised. The life coach’s role then involves referring the youth to an appropriate professional for counseling, as the role of coaching is to work with non-clinical teenagers who are forward thinking and goal-oriented. It is a great benefit for teenagers to have a life coach during this transition because there is a consistent check-in of how they are progressing through this transition and, if required, professional intervention can be done early.
There are four distinct areas the life coach focuses on to help the success of these transitions. The first is empowerment. The coach facilitates the teenager’s empowerment and control over their transition. This is done by helping the youth find their intrinsic motivation which promotes their autonomy to make decisions guided by the challenging questions put forward by the life coach. Together the teenager and life coach are defining goals and objectives which encourages confidence and competence in the teenager. The teen will gain a sense of accomplishment that encourages and empowers the youth even more, resulting in positive risk-taking, assertive youth. Second is purpose. Purpose inhibits impulsive decisions and is guided by a mission statement, goals, and objectives. It creates focus for the teenager. By having the teenager create their mission statement, goals, and objectives, they are more reflective on their actions, which promotes self-awareness. The third is creating connections, specifically healthy relationships where the teenager feels safe and can express their creativity and thoughts with no judgments made on them. This encourages critical thinking, and prepares them for the adult world. The last concept is forward thinking toward the future. The life coach creates accountability and thereby ensures the teenager meets their goals. By meeting their goals, they gain confidence and will accept new challenges and be more willing to leave their comfort zone to experience the growth that success creates.
By Desiree Panlilio, BSN, Owner Encouraging Teens LLC
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