Life Coach – Death of a Parent
Jill Y., California
I am a newly licensed teacher and will start my first lesson this Friday. I am teaching my close friend’s daughter and her classmate. Both of them are 11 years old. My friend will be in class with her daughter for sure, but the other girl’s mother just passed away early this month, and the father will not be able to be with her in class due to his work. I already agreed to teach both of them. However, after reading many emails from the Forums, I am questioning my decision.
Elaine F., South Carolina
IS there someone else who can be the Life Coach? A friend? A relative? Your friend? I would be tempted to try and do this, cause I know music could be a solace for her—— but I have learned that without Life Coach it is impossible most of the time. So I no longer do it. But I’d be SO tempted.
And is there chaos in the family now due to the recent death? I would imagine so!! Sounds like a lot going against the chance of success….. sadly.
And, the other question: Is she in a space where she can take something new on?
Jill Y., California
Thank you for your reply!
I talked about my concerns to my friend. It would be so hard to have a relationship conversation at the first class. I do not want to mention how important the role a parent plays in the child’s piano learning journey, because the girl’s mother just passed away, and she would attend the class by herself. My friend is willing to help her as much as she can. Also, the girls are best friends to each other, so it might help to some degree. Still, there will be so much I have to avoid talking about, and there is no one who can really make sure she practices every day. I heard that the girl is angry because her mother passed away, so she talks back nowadays. Her father feel sorry for her, so he just spoils her and let her get whatever she wants.
The reason the father wants her to take my lesson is that she needs to be surrounded by people who love her, so it is a good idea to take piano lesson with her best friend. I could not say no to the girl because I do not want her to feel that there is one more thing against her. I know things might end badly without a life coach. Sadly, I could only do the best I can.
Sandy L., Nebraska
As Elaine mentioned below, perhaps a family friend or relative could serve as the life coach, coming to class, and supporting both father and daughter in the method at home.
I currently have a grandmother who is acting as life coach for her grandson and granddaughter. She is at their home each day, practicing with them before school. She is also the one who takes them to and from school, and often is with the entire family in the evenings. It’s not so drastic a situation as yours–simply a family where both parents work and grandma is very involved. They have been my students for nearly a year, and are doing very well.
I think a tremendous benefit in this particular family is that the mom and grandma continue to communicate about the lesson and what the children are learning, and the parents participate at home. When the children play accompaniment songs, the parents love to sing with them.
Even when someone else acts as the life coach and does so very well, I think the buy-in of the parent is critical. If the father is unsupportive or doesn’t understand the method, I think that would make it more difficult for the child. I think conversations with him would continue to be important, even though he is not the one at the lesson. Nonetheless, I would not want to give up on this girl, if at all possible. Can you meet with the father in person and explore the options?
Jennifer L., California
I think this sounds like an amazing opportunity. From the little I know of the circumstance, reading your messages, I would give it a shot. I would approach this class with as loving and open a heart as possible, while being very clear about boundaries and appropriate behavior in class.
I would also do my best to keep my own emotions completely out of it and recognize, if there is rudeness or unruly behavior, that it’s not about you. Just set the boundaries, be clear about what the rules are, and come from your heart.
If this child’s father is, in fact, giving her very little in the way of boundaries, she most likely has some anger around that as well as the loss of her mother. Not that she would be able to articulate that. But kids need and want boundaries. If you provide an environment in which there is a lot of love and ALSO some very clear boundaries, it might feel like a real safe haven for her at this painful and challenging juncture in her life.
The no coach thing, of course, is an issue. But I think I’d give it a try, even if she was only able to have a part-time coach.
Of course, I don’t have all the information. There may be other factors that make it look like a relatively certain disaster. But this is my intuitive response to your messages.
Patti P., Hawaii
I would try to keep lines of communication open with the father even though he cannot attend lessons. a perhaps he could come at some other time just to have a meeting with you so he understands the importance of his support, especially at this difficult time for both of them.
Perhaps the other family could sometimes have practice sessions with her? Even over Skype if they can’t in person. I think the girls playing together would help with motivation and keeping her on track. I would think she will need tons of encouragement from every possible source.
I hope you will post how things go periodically.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
I would definitely take this student as she will have a rough road ahead, and music can be a healing balm for her.
I have a suggestion – call the dad and ask him if there is anyone he can think of who might be willing to make a commitment to being her life coach for piano in order to help her through this difficult time. A family friend, a neighbor, extended family member, teacher, anyone with a desire to help out in a real, tangible way, who has the time to commit to what you ask. The person would in effect be receiving free piano lessons if they desired to keep up with the assignments. Ideally it would be a female that perhaps your student could come to trust and confide in.
In my life I have found that people are basically good and generous at heart, and they desire to make a difference to someone, especially when that someone is hurting. Sometimes we just need to reach out to others and make more human connections. An open conversation with dad would be an opportunity to share how music can make a difference in her life. If nothing else, he will appreciate the time and thought you have taken for his daughter’s benefit.