Research Paper By Silvia Piaia
(Life and Parenting Coach, ITALY)
Whenever people take the initiative to change their lives, an alarm sounds and the saboteur will awaken.
I decided to write my research paper on this topic due to my own personal experience and will focus on this research paper on a coaching style that follows the ICF competencies and ethical guides. In order to build a bridge to explain why coaching can be powerful for parenthood, I also leaned on the book written by Henry and Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl, and Laura Whitworth about Co-Active Coaching, called by Stephen Covey as “The bible of coaching guides”.
I see parenthood in 3 stages: prenatal, parenting and grandparenting
The paper will focus first and mostly on prenatal coaching and extend to paternal and grandpaternal coaching in the end. Prenatal coaching refers in this paper not necessarily to the traditional preparatory course for labor but to a wider meaning, including all kind of topics which might arise(or not) while preparing oneself to be a parent, labor and those topics one might not even think about.
I will first look at the coaching aspects who can be supportive in prenatal coaching, then have a deeper look into what co-active coaching is and how it can be supportive.
I was lucky to study in full immersion at ICA when I got pregnant. Working on myself through coaching made me realize how wonderful it would be to prepare myself and my partner for this new adventure by using coaching where we needed some clarification.
We are lucky to be new parents in a time where one can reach information wherever and whenever they want. The internet in the form of websites, videos, social media, social groups, etc. together with a rich amount of book materials can help parents and grandparents find the way towards their wish of parenting. On the other hand, this huge access to information can trigger some big insecurities in a world which are already showing insecurities per se.
I already was preparing myself and the baby for labor by following Hypnobirthing techniques in order to be sure that my body and my baby will lead the birth. I had the full support of my partner and we seemed to have quite a clear idea about most typical topics parents think about while preparing themselves to become parents for the first time. It was at this time that we discovered that there was too much information on the outside world which confused us. Luckily, I could use the peer coaching sessions to clarify my doubts and fears and used my coaching skills on my partner and on us as a couple to make sure to involve him a 150% in the whole process. I was lucky to have the support of my peer coaches also after the birth of my son, which was a very tough time and threatened to make us forget our own, authentic way. Thanks to coaching we were able to find our path again and this is why I want to give my support on to other (future) parents and grandparents.
Coaches support the coachees to reach their full potential. They challenge coachees to pursue their fulfillment in spite of the circumstances, in spite of the voices all around offering all kinds of advice, and in spite of the coachees’ own inner saboteur.
They are turning their ear to hear below the surface, listening actively, and getting curious while maybe supporting something to emerge which the coachees might not be conscious about or are avoiding.
Co-active coaches support the coachees in choosing their life, not just reacting to it. They keep them moving and motivated, check-in on the process, explore the learning the coachees made, uncover what they want in their life, support in balancing circumstances and possibilities, and in making life-giving choices into action.
Every coachee is in a unique life and the work situation has unique goals and desires, abilities, interests but also unique habits of self-sabotage.
Coachees, especially as parents or grandparents to be, are in the particular situation of a life-changing adventure: having kids or becoming parents of parents. Especially for those expecting their first child, the unique amount of information available can be overwhelming. If we add the huge amount of sometimes unwanted and even bad advice of those around us (family, friends but most of the time people we barely know), this wonderful new chapter of their life can be very demoralizing and can lead to insecurities not only about this whole new topic but suddenly, driven by the inner saboteur, also about all the other aspects of their personal and working life.
In order to get the most out of a coaching session and path, the physical and relationship environment is very important: it has to be a safe, courageous place, a “dynamic springboard of support”. Coaches must use confidentiality, trust, speak the truth, be open and offer spaciousness in order to support the coachees in being able to fight the inner saboteur and to find the courage to explore boundaries out of their comfort zone. Just in doing so, the coachees can explore their deepest desires and beliefs and are able to commit to change-making choices aligned to their own, authentic being, in this case being a parent or grandparent at their full potential.
Values are not morals nor principles, they are not something we have or don’t have. Values are basic and fundamental beliefs that guide or motivate attitudes or actions. They help us to determine what is important to us. If the coachees’decisions are not based on their own values it activates the voice of the saboteur causing frustration, boredom, indifference, anger, resignation, persistent justification, self-betrayal, or martyrdom. To know what their values are can function as a map for the coachees to know where they are and where they want to go. Values help them to make choices for a more fulfilling life.
As an International Coach Academy student, I focus on the ICF competencies and ethical standards when operating as a coach. While all competencies are important in a successful coaching relationship and environment, I will deepen those which are even more effective in prenatal and parenting coaching. This does not mean that other competencies should be avoided, it just means that during coaching sessions they are happening in a more instinctive way.
Among all the ICF competencies the following are core principles to create the right environment to support a parent to be in their journey: co-creating the relationship, communicating effectively, facilitating learning, and results. Especially for parents to be, who are overwhelmed with information and advice and are trapped in a circle in which they don’t know anymore what they believe and want, these competencies are very crucial in the support system the coach will offer them.
Establishing Trust And Intimacy With The Clients by creating a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust and showing Coaching Presence by being fully conscious and create a spontaneous relationship with the clients, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident, helps the coachees to relax and to be optimistic in finding their own way through the information storm.
As we pointed out, prenatal (but also parenting) coachees are flooded with the information they even might not want and are longing for somebody telling them which one to follow. Basically, they are looking for a kind of friend who tells them openly what they should do, what they think might be best for them. It is very important that the coach communicates directly and openly with the coachees and establishes the ground principle that a coach is not a friend, not a counselor, and is not giving any advice or leading the coachees to any point or information. The coachees are not getting “rules to be” but are being supported by the coach in finding “their own rules to be”. It is therefore important that the coach focuses completely on what the clients are and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires, and to support the client’s self-expression. It is also important to challenge the coachees in looking beyond their boundaries by asking powerful questions that reveal the information needed for maximum benefit to the coaching relationship and the clients, while always keeping in mind to communicate effectively during coaching sessions, and to use language that has the greatest positive impact on the clients.
Coachesintegrate and accurately evaluate multiple sources of information and make interpretations that help clients to gain awareness and thereby achieve agreed-upon results. They create with the client’s opportunities for ongoing learning, during coaching and in work/life situations, and for taking new actions that will most effectively lead to agreed-upon coaching results. They also support the clients to develop and maintain an effective coaching plan and hold attention on what is important for the clients by leaving always the responsibility with the clients to take action. Coaches bring a context to the coaching relationship that includes deepened learning and action that moves the coachees forward in life. Without accountability, coaching has not happened, even if coaching skills have been used.
Most of these points are core aspects of co-active coaching and will be therefore discussed deeper in the next chapter How core principles and contexts of co-active coaching can be relevant to prenatal and parental coaching.
How core principles and contexts of co-active coaching can be relevant to prenatal and parental coaching
In co-active coaching, coaches and coachees are “active collaborators in a relationship”.We talk about “an alliance between two equals with the purpose of meeting the coachees’ needs”, they are co-operating.
The focus is aimed at the whole person and coach and coachees are collaborative and active in moving forward, while the coach evokes and encourages transformation by “taking a stand for the greatest possible impact from even the smallest action”. Coachees on the other hand still choose the topic, action, and goals they want to achieve.
The co-active model is based on 3 core principles: fulfillment, balance, and process.
Fulfilment-coaching, as described by Henry and Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl, and Laura Whitworth, looks at what it would take to be fulfilled, not just in the future but today. It is an exercise of choice, not something which will simply just happen. It is not always necessarily about being happy or positive events in life: “Living a life of purpose, mission or service can be intense, sometimes heart-breaking and exhausting, and at the same time fulfilling”.
Fulfilment-coaching is personal and constantly evolving, it is about the bigger picture, the coachees’ full, resonant life, being completely in the process of living with an emphasis on the being state versus the smaller picture, action, goals, and accountability.
Balance-coaching is about choosing a life that is in action, aligned with a convincing vision.
Coachees may feel trapped, lost in a vicious circle. In Balance-coaching the need for different activities is not the starting point, but to restore the flow, to get into action on today’s issues working with the big picture.
In their book about co-active coaching, Henry and Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl and Laura Whitworth offer a Balance-coaching Formula as follows:
Perspectives– The coach supports the coachees by observing the limiting perspective, naming it, exploring the impact (the tone of the voice, the posture), and naming the topic. The topic has always to be neutral, the reaction to it is the perspective and therefore already subjective.
Choice – The coach’s support consists in not only deciding between perspectives but it does more: it supports the coachees in affirming the power of choice itself by no longer being victims of circumstances.
The Co-active strategy is the bridge between awareness and action, it includes attitude to and the emotional state that motivates and supports the action. The coach encourages the coachees to push the edge of possibilities by moving from conversation into reality.
Commitment sustains coachees on their way. It is not simply just choosing but taking action, taking control of the choices in their lives. It is the moment where yes and no questions can help. The coachees can say yes to commitment, to themselves, or no to old believes, self-betrayal, the reaction to the demands of others.
As described by Henry and Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl, and Laura Whitworth, “in general, fulfillment and balance focus on moving forward. Such coaching is directed, intentional. It is about generating, creating. Coachees are looking ahead, determined to make something happen. Process coaching is focused on the internal experience, on what is happening at the moment, to enhance the ability of the coachees to be aware of the moment, and to name it, it supports the coaches to immerse themselves in the flow of life”, in the here and now. The combination of going forward while going also more deeply into the experience makes it a powerful journey.
In Process-coaching the coach senses turbulence under the surface, names it, and explores it with the coachee who experiences it. At this moment a shift happens, energy opens up and the clients have access to new resources. The movement has happened.
They are looking ahead, determined to make something happen. The coachees get the support to find a way out of a trap full of information which might include also irrelevant aspects to their unique parenting style. On the other hand, Process-coaching is focused on the internal experience, on what is happening at the moment, and therefore enhances the ability of the coachees to be aware of the moment and to name it. It supports the coachees to immerse themselves in the flow of life and information by choosing what is relevant for their own and unique path as a parent or grandparent and affecting also their personal and working life.
The 5 contexts of co-active coaching: Listening, Curiosity, Intuition, Forward/Deepen and self-Management
Coaches who listen effectively are able to articulate directly and clarify important aspects for the clients and therefore create awareness and impact leading the coachees to acknowledge what is important to them.
By using upright curiosity, a coach creates trust and therefore challenges the coachees to step outside their boundaries. Using powerful questioning and homework inquiry may lead to action making choices.
Intuition helps coaches to intrude into a deeper aspect, if necessary, so it is important to make sure to have the clients’ permission. Once they have been granted it, they can support the coachees to gain accountability, setting goals and structures by using brainstorming, requesting, and challenging.
Coachees, on the other hand, can use their own intuition when exploring and discovering crucial aspects for goal settings and the making of action.
A very important context in coaching is the coach’s self-management. It helps to look at the bigger picture of the clients without letting personal aspects to intrude. Coaches who are able to gain the coachees’ trust are the ones who show their human part by noticing and naming when they are aware they missed the focus on the clients and by doing so reconnect to the main picture and goal of the session.
How are listening, curiosity, intuition, deepen, and self-management important in prenatal and parenting coaching?
Especially when coachees are exploring their infinite possibilities of being a parent, coaches have to be prepared to face a lot of vulnerability. Nothing else more as becoming parents can be so overwhelming and trigger so many insecurities and self-blaming and self-criticism as parents. Therefore, a trustful and non-judgemental environment, as a coaching session can give, is very important. By listening carefully to the clients, using intuition, and letting the clients use their intuition, coaches support the clients in exploring deeply the whys of their beliefs and experience whatever emerges gaining access to new resources and letting movement and life-changing actions happen.
I focused this research especially on prenatal coaching because among the three-pointed out stages of parenthood it is the most life-changing experience in someone’s life: everything is new, from pregnancy to birth to being first-time parents, but coaching can be powerfully helpful also to parents who have one or more children and to those parents who are expecting their second or third (or more) child, want to bring a change in the flow of how things went the previous times and seek support in leaving the trap of always returning circles.
A group I like to focus on as a coach is what I call the third stage of being parents: becoming parents of parents, the grandparents.
As parents, we always fight with what we think is wrong or right to do, with self-blaming feelings and self-criticism. It doesn’t stop after the birth of our first child and not after the birth of other children and surely it doesn’t stop when the kids are growing up or already adults: we always want to be there for them, helping them. Many times we want that so much that we trample on their right to be themselves and to make their own life choices. We forget how difficult it was for us to recognize what was right for us and our new family and how unwanted advice made us insecure, sometimes even suffocated us. In our love for our children, we tend to want so much to be there for them that we don’t recognize how sometimes we ignore them as individuals. In the case of parents becoming grandparents, it might be even more difficult for their children to deal with them as grandparents and in-laws, because most of the time the respect and sometimes fear of hurting prevent them to speak directly to us, thus creating slowly a poisoning relationship.
Therefore, I strongly believe that a coaching path with a neutral, non-judgemental, and supporting person like a coach can benefit all kinds of parents in all stages of parenthood.
Yes and No: make the coachees think about what they are saying yes or no in their lives.
OOPS – “Overly Optimistic Planning Syndrome: creating an abundance of possibilities to build a motivational fire that powers the move into action. Done to expend the range, not to overburden by consciously choosing”.
Reframing a perspective/situation: helps coachees to see things differently and, as a result, come to different, more empowering conclusions or feelings about the event or experience.
Visualization: using the power of the coachees’ own imagination to see, feel, and experience something in their mind without actually experiencing it.
Meta-view: make the coachees’ look on the situation or event from above (an airplane, helicopter, the top of a mountain, a platform, etc.).
Metaphor: asking the coachees to describe a situation or event with a metaphor. It can give the coach an insight into their unique perception of their situation and their goals.
Wheel of Life: a tool for the coachees to visualizing all areas of life at once to see where they most need or want improvement
As for all coaching situations, especially in coaching parents, grandparents and those to be it is very important to be aware of this group’s high vulnerability in coping with insecurities and new worlds they couldn’t imagine before. By listening actively, carefully, and from the heart what they say and don’t say we as coaches can support coachees in finding their own unique way of being parents and grandparents and empower them to be themselves no matter what. The learning and results they reach can help them even healing poisoned relationships which may have become problematic only due to the new roles they and their environment are experiencing. Coaching is about ACTION and it is never too late to set out on a coaching path.
Whenever people embrace the initiative to change their lives, commit to it by taking action, the internal saboteur knows that his downfall has come.
HypnoBirthing: A Celebration of Life (German Edition) by Marie F. Mongan
Co-Active Coaching: The Proven Framework for Transformative Conversations at Work and in Life by Karen Kimsey-House, Henry Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl, Laura Whitworth (English Edition)