Coaching parents and carers

18 November 2019

How can we be good coaches as we serve parents and carers?

If you want to help parents and carers parent for faith, whether that’s as a children’s, youth and family leader, a church leader or a key volunteer, you need to adopt the role of a coach. Think about coaching a sports team. The coach’s job is to:

  1. position themselves so they are serving people well
  2. equip them to do everything they want to do
  3. help them grow in confidence through experience, mistakes and repetition
  4. inspire and challenge them to help them succeed.

What might this look like in your context?

You may have opportunities to coach on two different levels:

  1. Preparing the entire team as a group by teaching core skills
  2. Preparing the individual by helping each one progress according to his or her needs and position

Here are some tips to get you started on what your coaching might look like in these two different situations. For lots more detail and examples, see chapters four and five of It Takes a Church to Raise a Parent.

Teaching parents and extended families as a group

  1. Coach the ones who want it – focus on giving skills to the parents, carers and extended family members who want to learn more. Others may still be at an envisioning stage and that is okay.
  2. Coach through consistency in relationship – people need to feel seen, loved and cared for and have you consistently present in their lives to learn best.
  3. Break down and build up the core skills – don’t start with the big problems and complex issues. Teach parents key tools and skills that can be combined to tackle the more complicated stuff.
  4. Teach why as well as what – this gives people a greater understanding which allows them to experiment more and apply the skills better.
  5. The coach is the teacher and facilitator – help people learn by story sharing and mutual learning but try to avoid letting other individuals position themselves as the coach, as that can make people feel confused or unsafe.
  6. Have a pastoral heart and take a holistic approach – honour, encourage and affirm people who share wider issues. Listen well and help if you can or help them think through where else to go for help.

Tailor and equip individuals on their unique journeys

  1. Let them learn through their attempts, failures, successes and adjustments – each parent or carer will have unique family circumstances, fears and experiences. We need to encourage and help them as they figure out how to adapt the tools you are sharing with them, for their unique situation.
  2. Build on their strengths – we are joining parents on a journey that they are already on. Help them identify their strengths, build on them and adapt them to a faith context, rather than suggesting you are going to teach them something totally new.
  3. Let them learn at their own pace – come alongside people and help them. Encourage them with what they are learning and don’t rush them to learn something they are not yet ready for.
  4. Praise their progress and effort – celebrate progress and small steps forward, this communicates to parents that we are for them and with them.

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Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash