I'm a parent coach. I help parents dealing with sibling conflicts, tantrums, and transition issues get better at helping kids.
- Alana Lopez is a parent coach and psychologist based in Cleveland.
- She helps parents become the parents they want to be through one-on-one and group coaching.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Alana Lopez. It has been edited for length and clarity.
As a parent coach, I help parents become the parent they want to be. I listen to challenges and work with parents to learn helpful familial skills. Parenting is tricky, and we all need a listening ear or helping hand on our journey.
I work directly with parents and other caregivers — such as grandparents, nannies, and teachers — in coaching sessions. I don't work directly with children, but I may observe parent-child interactions in person or via Zoom if it supports the coaching process and family goals.
How parent coaching differs from other disciplines
Parent coaching is not therapy. Therapy focuses on addressing mental- and emotional-health challenges, such as depression and anxiety, that significantly impact someone's daily life and overall well-being. Coaching focuses on improving parenting skills through specific goal-setting and skill-building work. Coaching helps parents bridge the gap between where they are now and where they want to be.
I have specific training in neuroscience, conscious parenting, and conscious discipline. I use trauma-informed approaches, which means recognizing and acknowledging the role of trauma in parenting while offering a safe and healing environment. I incorporate mind-body-heart exercises to help parents get more in touch with themselves and their children. From all this experience, I can help make big parenting topics like attachment, brain and body science, and emotional regulation relatable.
What to expect in a session
Parents come to me for specific problems — they might want to learn how to create healthy bedtime routines or how to set screen-time limits — or for more involved ones, such as strained communication or navigating a life change like a divorce.
During the first session I chat with parents about why they chose to become parents, what their parenting style is, and what matters most to them in raising their children. I talk through current parenting challenges, and we choose which areas to work on within the larger problem, called coaching targets.
Targets can include improving communication with a child, using effective discipline approaches, understanding and managing tantrums or meltdowns, or improving sibling relationships. Together we decide how to measure progress, such as by using before-and-after ratings or by noticing changes at home such as less stress or smoother days.
We might explore big ideas, like how the brain and body work, or attachment styles. I offer opportunities to learn about and try out new parenting skills, such as delivering effective instructions, acknowledging feelings, or having quality one-on-one time with a child. We practice these new skills through modeling, activities, and role-playing.
For example, if a child is having a hard time going from playing with their toys to eating dinner, we can work on how to make this transition smoother, such as joining their child in play on the floor to connect before letting them know it's time for dinner. I might also brainstorm fun ways to transition to the dinner table, like skipping or counting how many steps it will take.
I offer friendly nudges, check-ins, and encouragement to stay on track, as well as resources to extend learning, like online articles and videos, podcasts, and books.
For families, one size doesn't fit all
It's important to learn about a child's temperament: how they react, relate, and experience the world. I call it "how does a child roll?" It's not a one-size-fits-all approach. Different things work for different children — even within the same family.
Honoring who a child is can be one of the most important parts of parenting. For example, some children respond positively to praise, while others may feel pressured by it. Some children jump right into new situations, while others need time and space to check things out first. Coaching can help parents discover these differences and how to adapt to them.
I've seen how powerful a few changed words or simple actions like taking a breath before responding can change a family's life. I'm grateful for the chance to help and support parents on their journey. Working with parents has validated my thesis that creating better parenting habits can shape the next generation. When parents grow, children grow.
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