Hi Mark! Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?
I’m married with four teenage children, so that keeps me busy! We live on the south coast of England in a small town called Worthing and it’s lovely living by the sea. Originally, I’m from south London and I still call London my home even though I’ve lived away from there for over 25 years. My parents came to London from Jamaica in the late 50s and I’m very proud of my Caribbean roots.
I’ve been a career coach for adults for 10 years but I’ve also been providing career advice and guidance for young people in schools and colleges for the past 20 years.
I’m heavily involved in a local church where I often play saxophone in the worship band. I love sport, especially football and I’m a huge Manchester United fan, like my dad was when he arrived in the UK.
What led you to the coaching industry?
When I was employed as a careers adviser, I went on a short introduction to coaching course for six days. I loved the principles of coaching and the approaches that I was introduced to. I loved the fact that it focuses on the individual in a holistic way and felt it was the missing skill in my toolbox. This prompted me to sign up for a coaching diploma and the rest, as they say, is history.
You mentioned that you work with young people, can you tell us more about what this involves?
I love working with young people and discussing their hopes and dreams (or lack of!) with them at the beginning of their career journey. I spend three to four days a week going into a range of schools across Sussex but also, in this new world we live in now, some of my work is from home by video call. This means that I’ve had the flexibility to work with schools across London and the south east.
I conduct one-to-one guidance sessions with students who are going through a transition, for example taking GCSEs or A levels, helping them to be aware of their options and make good decisions about their future. My work may also involve running small group sessions, attending parents evenings or giving an assembly talk. In addition to having a knowledge of the options available to them, I am able to use my coaching skills to help them move from where they are to where they want to be.
What would you say is the first step someone should take if they’re unhappy in their career?
I think the first step is to talk to someone. This could be a colleague, friend or relative. The main thing is that it needs to be someone who you can be open and honest with. A simple conversation can help you to gain clarity and help you to decide what the next best step is.
It sounds simple, but many people are afraid to express concerns about their career because they’ve invested so much time and money into following a particular path and they may feel they are letting themselves or other people down if they feel it’s not right for them.
What should someone expect from a coaching session with you?
They should expect us to start by taking a step back and delving into what makes them tick. We look at an individual’s values, personality style, skills, experiences and passions because understanding oneself is vital before we start to look at possible options. I ask lots of questions and, at the end of each session, the individual will have devised a clear action plan for their next steps.
There will also be interesting and fun tasks to complete in between sessions, all with the aim of helping an individual to understand who they are, what they want and how to get it.
What is one thing you wish more people knew about coaching?
Coaching results are down to the individual rather than the coach. You see, coaching isn’t about telling people what they should do. Yes, I may have specific knowledge and expertise in careers, but coaching is about asking insightful questions to help an individual to identify their own evaluated solutions. This is far more empowering. Sorry, I think there’s more than one thing there!
Finally, where can our readers find out more about you?
As amazing and life-changing as it is, raising a family doesn’t come without its challenges. The saying ‘it takes a village’ couldn’t be more true. Many parents and caregivers rely on a support network of friends, family and, at times, professionals.
We want to explore the role of youth coaching in this village, who it can benefit and what to look out for if you’re looking to hire a coach. We spoke to personal growth and wellbeing coach Anita Sharma who works with women and children.
What are the benefits of youth coaching?
Explaining that the pre-teen and teen years can present many challenges that some young people don’t yet feel equipped to deal with, Anita tells us why youth coaching offers a unique element of support.
“Many of the children I work with are surrounded by loving, caring adults, yet find it difficult to get the support they need because they are growing up in a time and culture that radically differs from the experience of the previous generation.
“Whether it’s exam stress, social anxiety or learning to deal with the overwhelm caused by social media, today’s young people have more pressure on them than ever before. As a parent, it can be hard to know where to turn for advice and support when your child is struggling.
“Seeking help from someone objective, outside the family, might feel difficult but many of those I work with say they wish they’d done it sooner. Parenting is hard work and it’s ok not to struggle alone.”
Anita highlights that in her experience, it’s not just the child having coaching that benefits. By developing their confidence, emotional regulation and change in behaviour, coaching can help to improve relationships throughout the family and in school.
What are young people needing help for right now?
As Anita points out, when generations change, the issues they face change to. Talking about the concerns younger clients are raising in sessions, Anita explains how emotional regulation is embedded into the foundation of her work while anxiety, building positive relationships and self-esteem are concerns coming up right now.
“Not fully understanding emotions, the impact they have and how to manage them can lead to self-destructive behaviour and negative beliefs, which is not only hard for the young person but for the family around them too. As a result the foundation of my work always begins with working around emotional regulation.
“Over the last few years, I have found that most of my work has been centred around coping with social and/or academic anxiety, building positive relationships be those friendships or other relationships and also building self-esteem and confidence.”
What advice would you give to those looking for a youth coach?
As a care-giver, entrusting your child with a stranger can feel daunting at first, but working with someone unbiased and non-judgmental could be exactly what your child needs. Anita shares her advice for parents considering hiring a youth coach.
“Make sure you understand the difference between coaching and therapy/counselling as many people confuse the two. An ethical life coach should signpost you to an organisation that could support you if they believe that your child is in need of more specialist support.
“Also, keep in mind that life coaching isn’t a licensed profession and therefore anyone can refer to themselves as a coach. As a parent, you will want to make sure that the youth coach you choose holds relevant training and experience. Check if they are accredited through a recognised organisation. Finally, being a parent myself I would also make sure that the coach holds an up to date DBS check.”
If you’re feeling ready to expand your village, you can find a youth coach near you using our search tool.
In some cases, managing these expectations can lead to stressed-out children and teens, confused family dynamics and aggravated behaviour. But, with the help of a youth coach, young people can gain confidence, learn healthy self-expression skills and effective emotional coping mechanisms.
Youth coaching often comes across as quite an ambiguous term, due to lack of clarity of what it actually entails. Far from being limited to sports activities, youth coaching can encompass many personal development opportunities for young people.
Life Coach Directory writer Katie chatted to Julian Brunt, Life, Youth And Educational Coach, whose expertise lies within coaching for young people and educators. Not only does youth coaching provide valuable benefits for the individual receiving the coaching, but it can also hugely impact family life, in a positive way. As Julian notes, “Youth coaching has a strong collaboration focus. Family roles and dynamics might need to change and coaching can mediate and support more appropriate relationships.”
At times, parents can unknowingly blur the lines between parent and child relationship towards friendship and this, in turn, can cause responsibility stress and role confusion for the young person. Understanding your relationships and relationship boundaries is key to developing healthy connections with people later in life.
Julian reflects on a past client coaching situation when he worked with a boy of 13. “I was able to support him in developing his own independent learning strategies whilst supporting his mother to let go of some of her previous roles. This accepting or handing over of responsibilities can be experienced as a team building and trust exercise for families.”
Not only did the young person benefit from clarification on the relationship between mother and son, but he was also able to develop strategies that supported his own individual method of learning and shaped the way he will grow into an adult.
Specialising in mentoring young people towards success and personal development, Julian uses a cognitive approach to youth coaching. A teen, whose behaviour could be construed as destructive in a family dynamic, can benefit from coaching as a form of expression and internal reflection.
Julian says, “Reactionary aspects of teenage behaviour can bring confusion and emotional suffering on all sides. In a household with a strong patriarchal dynamic, the oldest daughter of 15 was struggling, the whole family at a loss. Being able to understand how her father’s expectations were being misunderstood brought them closer which allowed her to enjoy some of her roles with her siblings.”
“Effective communication is the key to maintaining a happy family dynamic – the coaching process models the listening skills and respectful approach to others and situations that may be out of habit in the home.”
Whilst every young person may respond to certain life situations differently, youth coaching can tailor key personal growth journeys for each individual, enabling them to gain essential life skills to tackle the stressors that come their way and move forward.
For young people, life can feel like a never-ending roller coaster of expectations, emotions and pressure coming at you from every direction. Barnardo’s reported almost half of children and teens aged 12-16 admitted to feeling sad or anxious at least once a week, with nearly one in four feeling negative at least once a day. For 16 year olds, an overwhelming 70% felt sad or anxious each week.
The main causes? Teens cited school (65%), worrying about their future (42%) and problems at home (31%). When asked, three in four young people said they thought it would be helpful to have access to a professional or counsellor at school to talk to when feeling down or upset.
With so many young people feeling overwhelmed and stressed, talking to a youth coach can help provide an emotional outlet to help them work through ways they can tackle their problems, develop life skills and improve their ability to manage stress – all while helping direct and encourage personal growth.
How can youth coaching help?
A branch of life coaching designed to encourage personal development while providing an outlet for stress and anxiety, youth coaching focuses on developing life skills whilst managing stresses and expectations that they are experiencing (or may soon be coming their way). Tailored to meet each individual’s needs, youth coaching can:
Encourage confidence building and self-esteem
Our feelings of confidence and self-esteem can be greatly impacted by our relationships and friendships, as well as our positive thinking. Our mood, the way we behave, even the way in which we carry ourselves are all affected by our self-belief and self-confidence. When we struggle to believe in ourselves and to feel confident, it can negatively affect friendships, school work and lifestyle choices, as well as our mindset.
A youth coach can help challenge feelings of low self-esteem and low self-worth to help build a more positive mental attitude, re-frame negative thoughts, and encourage the development healthy coping mechanisms.
Help set and achieve goals
As teens progress through school and college, it can feel like the expectation for them to already know what they want to do with their lives can be overwhelming and may seem like it comes out of nowhere. If it seems like they are feeling overwhelmed, are unsure of what they want to do or where they want to go in life, or if they’re struggling to make the choice between college, apprenticeships, university, and beyond, it could be worth talking to a youth coach.
Youth coaches can help talk through their options. As an impartial outsider, some young people may be more open to hearing and exploring the options open to them with someone who isn’t a relative or teacher. They can also help young people to figure out what motivates them, where their passions lie, and how they can channel these to discover what they really want to achieve with their lives and careers.
Teach healthy stress management
Stress can be a natural, healthy reaction when we are under pressure. However, when we start feeling overwhelmed, or feel stressed frequently, this can lead feelings of anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and other negative symptoms. A youth coach may be able to help young people identify what areas of their life may be causing their stress (school, relationships, exams, worrying about their future) and can introduce them to healthy coping strategies to help them learn how to identify and manage signs and symptoms of stress.
Provide an emotional outlet and safe-space to talk
Seeing a youth coach can give young people an additional outlet to talk about things they may not feel ready or able to talk about with you as a parent, or with a teacher who knows them well. Some teens may feel more comfortable talking to a coach as they can offer impartial, trustworthy support and guidance without the risk of feeling judged by loved ones. This can allow them the chance to vent and talk more openly about school, family life, friends, exams or worries about their future.
Considering hiring a youth coach?
It can be easy for tweens and teens to lose their sense of who they are and where they are heading during periods of transition and high pressure. Losing signs of the path ahead, or trying to find the path that is right for them can be tough, making everyday problems seem even bigger and more taxing.
A youth coach can help young people discover what is most important to them, what they really want to do, and where they want to go in life. With their help and guidance, teens and young adults an feel more prepared, can develop beneficial life skills and discover coping mechanisms that can work for them when challenges arise in the future.
It’s important to discuss the idea of youth coaching with your teen before getting started, to discover if they would be happy and willing to talk with someone. Try to find someone you are both happy, comfortable and confident for them to speak with, as this can help build a better rapport between the professional and young person.
Sessions typically last 30-60 minutes, with the number of sessions and frequency varying depending on individuals needs. Common coaching methods used during youth coaching sessions can include:
Journaling – Writing or drawing their thoughts and feelings in a private or sharable journal or sketchbook.
Interviewing – Speaking in person together, allowing the coach to pick up on their responses and body language.
Games and activities – Trust and relationship building activities, exercises and games designed to help young people learn how to express themselves.
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) have launched ‘Scroll Free September’, a month-long campaign to help us negotiate a happier relationship with our phone and social media.
While the initiative is aimed at everyone, it’s especially looking to target young people after their 2017 #StatusOfMind report revealed some worrying statistics. Some key findings from the report include:
- 91% of those aged 16-24 use the Internet for social networking.
- Rates of anxiety and depression in young people have risen 70% in the last 25 years.
- Cyberbullying is a growing problem, with seven in 10 young people experiencing it.
Their research also revealed that young people who are ‘heavy users’ of social media (spending more than two hours a day on social networking sites) are more likely to report poor mental health. Issues of sleep, poor body image and FOMO (fear of missing out) linked to social media usage were also highlighted in the report.
Despite these statistics, there were positives to be found too.
“Social media has prompted a revolution in peer-to-peer interaction and sharing” says the report. It went on to explain how social media can be a tool for self-expression, helping young people put forward their ‘best self’.
We know from personal experience, just how positive social media can be for well-being, when used in a healthy way.
And this is the key thing. The aim of Scroll Free September is not to make us give up social media for good, instead it hopes to encourage a little reflection. It offers us all a chance to consider which aspects of social media we miss, and which we could really do without.
If you’re not ready to go cold turkey, the campaign offers up other options to try:
Social butterfly – Take a break from social media at all social events.
Night owl – Take a break from social media every evening, after 6PM.
Busy bee – Take a break from personal social media accounts when in school or work.
Sleeping dog – Give up social media in the bedroom and improve your sleep.
It seems like even social media companies themselves are recognising the damaging effect too much screen time is having on us. Facebook and Instagram are currently rolling out updates to help users manage their time better on the app, with push notifications and monitoring tools.
Social media can have so many positive effects, including connection, support and self-expression. But it’s important for us to acknowledge the negatives that often come alongside excessive usage.
Taking some time away from the screen can help us build a better relationship with our phones, reconnect with the ‘real world’ and encourage us to be more mindful of our time online.
The first few weeks of university are often emotional. You’re excited to be in new place, the next chapter of your life – for some, the first time living alone. But this change can also bring feelings of anxiety, nervousness and you may feel homesick.
Before we hit our twenties, we’re making choices that can affect the rest of our lives. Most of us will feel happy with our choice, after riding out the often-turbulent first term, we settle into our courses, our new routines and our new friends. But there’s a number of students who do not feel this way. They can’t shake the feeling that they shouldn’t be here – whether the course or the whole aspect of university is wrong – continuing is simply out of the question.
If you’re unsure of university, you’re dreading each lecture or think you should be on a different path, that’s OK. You don’t need to follow those around you. Dropping out doesn’t make you a failure and it is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, recognising your unhappiness and making the change is admirable.
So what can you do?
Listen to what your thoughts are telling you
If you don’t feel ready to be at uni, you don’t like your course or you feel you’ve made the wrong decision, the best thing to do is talk to someone. University is a big decision – it’s at least three years of your life and tuition fees are expensive – if you’re unsure, talking to someone you trust can really help.
The more honest you are with yourself now, the better and remember, there’s no rush to get a degree! If you take a year or two out, that’s fine, there’s actually no age limit on further education.
Talk to someone
Talk to a friend, talk to your parents. If you’re away from home, the last thing they’d want is for you to be far away, and miserable. You can also talk to your course tutor – they can help you recognise whether it’s the course itself that’s not right, or something else.
If it’s the course, depending on the time of year, you may be able to switch courses. If it’s more than that, consider speaking to the Student Services team, they can talk you through the process of leaving, if that’s really what you want to do.
Is there something you want to do instead?
You don’t need to know right away, but if there’s something you’d rather do, consider it an option. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to work straight out of school, nor is there anything wrong with taking a year out.
Consider other courses
If the course you’re currently studying isn’t what you expected, but you still want to study, consider the other courses available. Start with those running in your university – if it’s in the same department, it’s not normally too much of a problem for you to change.
If the course you want is at another uni or in a different department, you may have to wait until the new term or next year. Remember, while it’ll take some research and conversation, you’re not stuck and you do have options.
Look for work
If you’d rather head down the work route, that’s totally fine! Some people have had enough of education and the idea of earning some money, moving out and starting to build a life is more appealing. Finding out want you want to do in life is tough, and it might take a few jobs for you to know, but getting a job is a great way to develop life skills and develop as a person.
Take a year out
Sometimes a year out is the best option. After being in education for most of your life, you’re allowed to take some time to relax and process everything that’s happened so far. Whether you want to work part-time, go travelling or learn some new skills, go for it.
A year out also gives you the time to explore research courses and attend open days. Even if you’re not ready for uni just yet, a gap year can help you learn more about yourself so when the time comes to enrol again, you’re more prepared.
Often, the most talked about aspect of body image and confidence is how adult women are affected. But, a recent survey conducted by Girlguiding suggests that this is perhaps not the most pressing body image issue.
The survey, which questioned over 1,500 young people, revealed that 36% of girls between the ages of seven and 10 say they are made to feel that the way they look is the most important thing about them. Not only this, but 47% of girls aged between 11 and 21 said that the way they look “holds them back”. These results reveal a worrying trend in body image amongst girls in the UK; looks and image are perceived to have a higher value in society, than other qualities such as personality or intelligence.
Girls are feeling under more pressure than ever to care about the way they look. But what can parents do to help combat this? We explore some ways to promote body confidence and self-esteem, to help a young person in your life.
Communication is key
There needs to be an open and honest flow of communication between you and your child, with the focus being on support. Often, if someone tells you they are worried about the way they look, or they wish they had bigger feet or thinner legs, the general knee-jerk reaction is to tell them to “stop being silly”. But, we need to remember that body image issues aren’t silly, particularly to young girls. Take their concerns seriously; instead of dismissing them, remind them of the things that they love about themselves. Explain that everyone has hang ups about their body – but we love everyone because we are all different.
Talk about it
Talk to your child’s school. Is positive body image something they cover as part of citizenship education or as an area of personal development? Have they noticed anything in your child’s behaviour to suggest that there may be a confidence issue? Talking about body image raises its profile as an important subject, and can encourage positive feelings towards it – before confidence issues can become a problem.
Model a positive body image
It’s key to tune into your thoughts and feelings about your own body, and when you may be modelling negative body image. Be careful not to use negative language such as ‘fat’ or ‘diet’, but try to train yourself to talk positively about your body, and other people’s too. Although this can be difficult if you struggle with your own body image, try to remain strong and positive. Children, and especially girls, are impressionable – they can be easily swayed by people that they love and trust. Teach them to be comfortable and confident with their developing bodies, and positive body image will follow.
Read last week’s blog for tips on how to tackle your own body image.
Feeling confident and positive doesn’t always come easy. There may be times when we feel great, but then there are times when we feel terrible.
Many of us – whatever age, gender, shape or size – will have moments where we feel low, unhappy and stressed. But there are ways you can manage these moments. Learning how to cope with the situation and knowing what to do to pick yourself up is an important skill.
Below we explore the ways some of us here at Life Coach Directory believe you can stay confident and positive, even when you’re having a bad day.
Wake up early, make your favourite breakfast and take your time
One way to get yourself out of a funk is to treat yourself to a slow morning. It may seem like a struggle, but getting up an hour early and jumping straight in the shower is a great way to boost your mood. Have a large, cold glass of water as you’re making breakfast. Enjoy your food in the garden, taking in the sunshine or listening to your favourite music. Try not to look at your phone, emails or computer – save that for the work day.
Make a list of the things you love about yourself
This may sound a bit strange, but we don’t compliment ourselves enough. Often we will shy away and brush off any compliment we receive, but we should embrace them! Instead of focusing on the things you don’t like, stand in front of the mirror and focus on the things you do like. Write them down. If you like your eyes, make note of what you like about them. If you don’t like your stomach, forget about it – instead, recognise your great smile, your long legs or even your personality.
The thing to remember is that everyone has insecurities. That person you admire will also have moments where they feel low and self-conscious. Smile, laugh, stand tall and be happy and your confidence will follow.
Reflect on your achievements
Take a moment to reflect on your achievements. These don’t have to be big – not everyone has started a business or climbed a mountain – but recognise what you can and have achieved. You may have graduated from university, been offered a new job, passed your driving test or simply helped a friend in a time of need. It is important to reflect on the things you are proud of, so that you don’t forget your abilities when times get tough.
Seek inspiration and leave your comfort zone
If you’re feeling uninspired and in a bit of a rut, get out of it. It is important to live a happy life and the first step in the journey is to be happy! If you dislike your job, want to learn a new skill or go on your dream trip across America, do something about it. Happiness is a key player in the journey to wellness and you deserve to feel great. Talk to a friend, family member or a qualified life coach and ask for advice. If you are unhappy in work, look for a new direction. If you want to learn a new language, join a class. If you want to run that marathon, sign up, train and go for it – your path isn’t set in stone, so change it!
On any given day, children go through many different emotions. They may feel sad, angry, exhausted, anxious and elated.
According to Kate Hurley, an adolescent psychotherapist, helping children regulate their emotions can stop them from internalising them, which in turn leads them to explode.
Parents and guardians can help kids identify with their emotions. It may take a huge amount of effort and time, but it’s doable. Here are a few ways that you can:
A feelings chart
It can be difficult for a child to identify their emotions. Hurley suggests a feelings chart could help with different faces that portray different feelings. “Be sure to point out how different parts of the face appear when experiencing different emotions (e.g. ‘down eyes’ = angry).”
You can talk about what it means to experience these differing emotions. For example, what does it mean to be surprised, or even sad?
Once you think your child has a good understanding, take pictures of them pulling the different faces. Not only is this a great activity, it can help them identify what they are feeling at any time of the day.
Buckets and beanbags!
Children also find it hard to understand what exactly causes their feelings. Hurley suggests the use of “feeling buckets” to help talk about what actions trigger the feelings.
Find five to seven plain buckets and some bean bags. Label each bucket with a feeling that your child experiences on a regular basis.
You can then explain a situation to your child, they can drop the bean bag into the bucket that best describes it. Hurley gives this example: Sarah forgot to bring her homework, and she doesn’t want to go to class. How is she feeling?
Talk about the situation and then talk about the possible solutions. So in this case, Sarah may talk to her teacher about her homework.
With unemployment rising, job availability falling, and thousands of students graduating this summer, the competition for work is at an all-time high.
Increasing numbers of employers have been dissatisfied with the standard of graduate applicants attending interviews. Many graduates simply do not have the right skills to prosper in the work environment, rendering a large portion of the young population virtually unemployable.
Due to the fact that the UK education system is traditionally exam-focussed, important skills such as communication, negotiation and common sense often get side-lined in favour of academic achievement.
This leaves University graduates with big gaps in their skill-sets, which puts employers off and greatly reduces the chances of finding a job.
In a bid to reduce unemployment levels and increase the skill-level of the UK’s workforce, a number of international companies have grouped together to support the launch of fifteen new ‘studio schools’.
Employers including Disney, Fulham Football Club, the BBC, Hilton Hotels and Ikea will be supporting the new studio schools, which aim to combine academia with practical training and work experience.
Pupils attending the schools will do at least four hours of weekly work-experience with their sponsor companies, as well as sitting academic classes according to a nine-to-five schedule, reminiscent of an average working day.
The studio schools will hold around 300 pupils each, making them significantly smaller than other schools.
Pupils, all aged between 14 and 19, will be offered GCSEs in English, maths and science, as well as A-levels and vocational qualifications with practical skills. All pupils will be encouraged to apply their knowledge to everyday life in order to prepare them for life after lessons.
There are already two studio schools in operation in Luton and Huddersfield and 11 more are set to open by September 2012.
Officials estimate that by 2014, 10,000 pupils will be enrolled in studio schools across the UK.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said: “Studio schools benefit both business and young people – they are a brilliant way for employers to become involved in helping give young people what they need to get good jobs.”
We all want the best for our children’s education, but often the pressure of making decisions can be overwhelming. To find out how a life coach could help you to make important education choices for your children, please visit our Parent Coaching page.
View and comment on the original BBC News article.