A new way to help young people thrive, grow, and be happy

Being young can be a challenge sometimes - from the playground politics and scary monsters of the early years, to later getting motivated and organised for study, fitting in at school, navigating the perils of social media, and weighing up future choices. There is always something that might make a young person feel stuck.

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In the last two years, the pandemic has exacerbated many of their existing issues and added a whole new raft of potential stumbling blocks.  A 2021 survey by NHS Digital found that nearly 40% of 6-16-year-olds and 50% of 17-23-year-olds felt that their mental health had worsened since 2017. Their new challenges include fear of infection and long covid; fear of further restrictions on socialising and schooling; unease settling back into social environments; lack of exam credibility and uncertainty over future exams; and the subsequent impact on university places and careers. 

As adults, we all have a vision of the happy lives we want the young people around us to lead, and when we see they are struggling we want to help, so that they can continue to grow in a positive way.

I want to introduce you to something which enables them to do just that, often fostering rapid change and resilience for a young person going forward.


Life coaching for teens and young people

This little-used and little recognised resource is life coaching. You may have heard of life coaching in the adult world, but for young people, youth coaching it is very rarely offered as a solution. And yet its power with them is no less significant.

What is life coaching?

Life coaching is all about helping people get what they want, more quickly 
than if they tried by themselves. It is very effective when someone is stuck, because it is not advice. Rather, it is a series of questions that help a person find their own answers, so that they grow stronger as an individual.

It works on the premise that we have all had different experiences in life, so all see the world differently as a result, and when we are at a loss, we need to find what works for us, rather than what others - with all the best intentions - might tell us will work. It provides thinking space for someone to articulate what is in their head, so that they can break it down and achieve it one step at a time.


How is coaching different from counselling or therapy?

Coaching is all about taking action. It is not a conversation to find peace if you are upset, or to examine the past to find reasons why. It is harnessing an energy of frustration and desire for change to improve your life in the future. And most importantly is about getting what you want, rather than focusing on what you don't want in your life - and once you can express this, you begin to "unstick" yourself and your brain starts looking for ways to make it happen.

And if someone is in the right place to take this action, it works really fast.

a teen studies using their laptop, an unsure look on their face

How do children and teenagers and young adults benefit from coaching?

Life coaching increases the options we can offer young people when they want to grow and improve themselves. Of course, talking of any kind can be important and of use - for many, counselling, therapy and finding peace are the right option. But for those who seek practical solutions, coaching is a welcome surprise that shows them their strengths and gives them the confidence to trust in their own abilities in the future.

This is partly because coaching focuses very much on the positive, in particular reminding young people of what they are good at. This is so often lost in the competitive world they live in, with the tendency to speak and think negatively, to blame themselves and only see problems and what they can't do - all of which holds them back.

Once they lift themselves out of this, the possibilities are endless as they seek new ideas to move forward, knowing they have the strategies to tackle their anxieties about anything - be it their approach to their studies and exams, their time management, confidence, motivation, work-life balance, health or relationships.

And we can further enhance their positive feelings and self-belief with the addition of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques. These involve using our senses and our bodies to make change, undoing and removing internal blockages that we are carrying but are not aware of.

Our brain receives millions of pieces of information every second, and each event that happens to us has a sensory representation on the internal wall of our mind in terms of pictures, sounds and feelings. If you can change one element of that, you can change how you experience something - from being bullied, to seeing spiders, to how you feel about your parents or the impact of covid.

NLP exercises are fun and a bit whacky! And from as young an age as three or four years old, you can create your own change, without having to talk in detail about the issue that is bothering you.

So life coaching helps young people grow, trust themselves and love themselves in a way that is quite unique. And the speed with which it can turn young lives around, never ceases to amaze me. Very often, a teenager with a long-standing issue will return for their second session brimming with confidence and wanting to apply their strategies to another area of their lives, as they are already successfully addressing what they came for initially. They will continue to apply these strategies right throughout adulthood. 


What can I do to help my teen thrive, grow, and be happy?

As grown-ups we are always watching the young people around us for signs of discontent: a child is afraid to go to bed at night, or won't go to school; a teenager can't get down to work and is always on the sofa; a teenager is doing so much work that they never rest on the sofa; there is a sense that something's not right with a friendship group.

Often this discontent can start to cause friction within homes, as parents try to second guess the problem and advise young people on how to address things - and the children push back.

This is not because they don't want to change. They just may not be able to do it in the way that works for the adult. It's important for us to remember this around any young person - whether it's your child, your student or an acquaintance.

In this situation, focus on the great job you have done so far in parenting or teaching them, and then help them continue to grow (and grow yourself!) by changing how you approach the matter. Give them space rather than your opinion. Very often I hear parents lamenting: "They say I always talk about myself!". You're not, but by sharing what works for you, that's how a young person can sometimes hear it.

Try showing them that you are listening to their problems by resisting the urge to advise. Instead, repeat the problem they are telling you about, repeat what you understand to be the issue and watch them open up and give you some more about it. If they say things out loud, not only do you get more clues about what's going on with them, but they also start to process things and grow into working out the way forward for themselves.

You know the young people around you best, and starting to apply this technique may well get you a long way in helping them. But if they continue to struggle, and you can see they do want to take action to change, giving them the option of letting somebody new and independent help them find the answers may be the solution to renewed growth, trust and love in your family or friendship group.

Young people have a natural enthusiasm. They have youth on their side; they respond quickly to new ideas when they are shown the way. Life coaching and NLP give them the chance to rapidly turn things around in their lives and achieve the happiness we all want for them.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Cambridge, CB1
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Written by Jo Thompson, Life/Youth Coach and NLP Practitioner
Cambridge, CB1

I work with adults and young people who are stuck. I help them free themselves from blockages, frustrations and anxieties so that they can get what they want and be who they want to be. In these uncertain times, I have been helping my clients prove to themselves that they have the answers to embrace change, and turn it into their opportunity.

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