#29 Decision Coaching Tips for College Bound Families Transcript



Kirsten Parker  00:00

We didn’t realize that when we say things like know what you’re thinking isn’t true, you shouldn’t feel that way. Don’t worry. That’s all invalidation. And it’s so well intentioned, but it immediately promotes our defensive walls to come up, because we’ve just been told that what we’re experiencing is wrong. And we do it to ourselves, and we do it to our loved ones. And so when my client was telling me what happened, she said, I wanted to tell her no, you’re beautiful. You’re wrong for feeling this. But she didn’t. She just validated her that she was like, of course, that sounds really hard. And then her daughter felt so seen and so hurt and so supported.


Lisa Marker Robbins  00:40

Your family with a college bound teen has what can feel like a mountain of decisions to make they relatively short span of time, what colleges to visit, what’s your budget, what major aligns with your teens wiring, when to take the AC T and SATs? How to Prep for those tests? what classes to take in high school where to invest time in high value extracurriculars, it’s a lot. My guest on episode 29 is Kiersten Parker, her specialty is providing a framework to successful people for making decisions that they can trust. Her advice and tips in this episode are certain to move your family in a positive direction on your college bound journey. I’m Lisa marker Robbins and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation. It is my pleasure to welcome Kiersten Parker to the podcast, we’re at a stage of life with these college bound families where they are facing maybe more decisions their stage of life with maybe more decisions than they ever have to make. And so Kiersten is a decision coach, and I thought who better to come on and guide us to help over thinkers get out of the overwhelm and trust their choices. She has her master’s degree from Yale has a decision Coach, and we’re here to benefit our families on how to get over that overwhelm, make great decisions and have less conflict in the process. So Kiersten welcome to the podcast.


Kirsten Parker  02:30

Thank you so much for having me happy to get into this conversation. Yeah, I


Lisa Marker Robbins  02:34

you work with people of all ages. Right?


Kirsten Parker  02:37

Now, it’s mostly people like 30s and above their pretty much career or transitioning into their second career.


Lisa Marker Robbins  02:44

So this is our audience. The parents are the age group that you work with, but you don’t work with teens. But as we were talking, I’m like, oh, gosh, this could totally benefit everybody. So when somebody comes to you for decision coach, and like, what’s the driver in that? Why do they seek out a decision coach,


Kirsten Parker  03:04

usually, they have a big decision to make, obviously, but they also know that they haven’t made the most intentional, authentic choices. Over time, I work with a lot of successful people, a lot of hardworking, ambitious people, lots of overachievers. And to reach a certain level of success. They’ve often made decisions based on what looks the best, or what sounded the best, or what people advised or what was expected of them. And it worked up to a point. And now they’re entering a phase where they know they’re capable of success. They know they’re capable of doing the things, checking the boxes, getting the degrees, getting the accolades, whatever. And now they’re ready to see how it feels. to really find out what they want to get in touch with what do I think? How do I want to feel? Where do I want to be? And make decisions from that place, which is usually a new stereo unfamiliar place. So I help them get in touch with what do you think, what do you want? And how can you handle the immense fears that naturally come up when we start making decisions in a new way that’s like, counter to everything we’ve done for decades, right?


Lisa Marker Robbins  04:19

I always say this college bound journey and all the decisions that need to be made along the way. It’s really while the student is at the heart of it. These aren’t really family decisions, which adds another layer because it sounds like you’re doing a lot of work with an individual whose choices are probably going to have a ripple effect on the others. In our group. A lot of the parents are people that you just described like their high achieving, they’re successful in so many areas of their life. They want to do really well by their kiddos for sure. They’re going to resource a student in paying for college. So there’s one decision how much am I even going to pay for this? We’ve got it aside what the college major and career is, which is the work that I do, and those colleges that can get them to where they want to be. So there’s many decisions and really a relatively short period of time, most of our clients are being intentional from like 10th grade kiddo up till that senior year when they’re applying, and then later in the senior year making the choices. So there’s probably additional layers, I’m throwing you a curveball of having multiple decision makers on this journey together. I mean, that could really induce I think, I know from my family’s stress, and arguing communication issues. Yeah. So how do you start the work with these families when they’re facing? I mean, obviously be great if we could ever get everybody early in the process. But that’s always the reality. So they’re facing these decisions. What are your first steps?


Kirsten Parker  05:53

Well, I think my first steps, sounds like they align with your first steps that you walk people through, which is really getting clear. With like, what are we thinking? What do we want? What are we feeling like really just opening up that direct line of communication with yourself, which in itself is not the easiest thing to do, when there tends to be a lot of noise around our own thoughts? So answering the question, what do I want? It can be a very complicated, overwhelming question. So I help people get clear on that. And help them see that they actually know more than they’re confused, overwhelmed brains might be suggesting, I help them get clear on their vision of who they want to be. Even if they don’t know the exact job title they want. I help them get clear on their core values. So what matters in this season of your life, which does not have to end? Yeah, I love that


Lisa Marker Robbins  06:49

they’re in flux, right, I do the same thing. So inside my launch course, we actually have a values board exercise, it’s drag and drop, but it’s to get centered in on those core values. And I say inside the course, like prerecorded, this will change over time. Yeah, their seasons your life change, but it’s with where you are, right now, with those core values, I could see a parent doing the core values of how they’re trying to set their resource and set their child up for success. They’re operating off of one set of core values, and their student is operating off of another set of core values. And I think that’s part of where we oftentimes are getting like friction in the family tip advice in that kind of a case.


Kirsten Parker  07:39

Yes, that’s and it happens all the time with people I work with, because like you said, they’re they’re individuals who are making decisions within some kind of ecosystem. So it’s like their family, their marriage, their team at work. So those values seemingly butting up against each other or being misaligned or, or just not even this, just the same can sound like a problem. So what I advise is coming up with joint core values for the decision making, it sounds a little wacky, but I promise my husband and I did it for the wedding, we planned and it worked like a charm, where we did it when we were removing. So it’s taking how to think about core values, which you’re teaching people. And then you’re applying that to okay, what are the just two or three core values we want to agree on, for how we’re going to make this decision. The examples of that can be respect, transparency, patience, authenticity.


Lisa Marker Robbins  08:38

So there are as individuals, we have core values that we live by, in this case, let’s just say we’ve got a mom, a dad and a teen. So they’ve all three might have different core values for living out their life. And I teach that you might have one set of core values that are guiding your life. But those values of what you want in a career might look like what your top five are doesn’t mean that you’re not a person of integrity, or you don’t value family time. But the decision on that future career, that family time thing might come in, it might not it just you’re operating slightly differently. So treating each one of these almost like a project, because the college boundary is a project. And what you’re doing is you’re working with somebody on a decision making on something that’s a mini project, and even that project has its own set of core values.


Kirsten Parker  09:33

Exactly, because that’s the common language you can agree on. Because I’m never going to totally understand how you see the world. I’m never going to want the exact same things as you and vice versa. So how do we bridge our communication so that we can talk about something from two entirely different perspectives? And if we agree on and we keep it simple, like two or three Max, right, you can have two core values that you agree on from the get go of how do we want to make this decision? What is the quality of this process that we want to have? And it’s, and you can probably liken it to if you have people like visiting college campuses, that could be really stressful kind of throw spaghetti at the wall rushed, frenetic process. Or you could think in advance, like, how do we want this trip to go? Do we want to feel relaxed? Do we want to be structured? Or do we want to kind of take it go in the flow, it’s, it’s that attitude. It’s like planning with intentional with intentionality. But using the language of core values, so that you already even if a conflict arises, you have somewhere to anchor back to, it’s like, remember, we agreed that this matters to both of us this core value of patience, or respect, or whatever it is,


Lisa Marker Robbins  10:51

or we’re going to be flexible this time, or we’re going to be rigid and adhere to the schedule or Yes, remember, we said we were going to be very planned. So we do have to go ahead now and leave to be at the next place. If your core value you agreed was to be scheduled and loved by the schedule, I love, you use that word intention, having a lot of intentionality. We teach that all the time. And that’s one of the seven habits of highly effective people is Be intentional. And the two that we really anchored to inside of launch is being intentional. And beginning with the end in mind, which you also referenced.


Kirsten Parker  11:29

Yeah. Which is different than deciding how things need to go. And being in control of everything in advance, which people I work with. And I’m sure lots of your parents can relate. We’re control enthusiast, we love a plan. We love, being able to predict things and troubleshoot and prevent surprises and failures and feelings from happening. But that’s something that I insist people put into the plan is, if we plan in advance, some surprises are going to come up, and things that look and feel like failures and mistakes will be encountered, inevitably at some point. And we’re going to have feelings because we’re going to be humans. If we plan on that in advance. It’s like it’s premature acceptance, you don’t need to know what surprises are going to happen. You don’t need to know how things are going to feel, you just need to know that you are going to feel things and things will happen that you can’t control or predict. But that level of acceptance, especially when you’re working on a team. So like your college bound kid and your call college bound parents, you agree together, okay? We can’t actually control or predict everything. But we can anchor into what we know matters, that end in mind that we’re starting with. And then we can agree on here’s how we want to deal with these things coming up with these core values. That creates such structure, such flexible structure, but such support for the process. And that allows you to anchor Yeah, yeah. And that allows you to be more present allows you to be more connected allows you to hear your own thoughts more clearly. So that you can actually make conscious choices that serve you makes all the difference.


Lisa Marker Robbins  13:11

And even that being intentional, you’re anchoring back to what is the end that we have in mind that we’re working to achieve. I mean, one of the things and we’re getting ready to go at the time that we’re going to publish this episode, we’re heading into a college list building challenge, and trying to help everybody make those decisions to get clear on things like financial fit, what’s our budget? Where will that money come from? What is even reasonable? So many people go into this and they don’t even know like, what does college really cost these days? We know it’s expensive, but we don’t really know all the things, then we’ve got academic fit, you know, realistically, where can I get in what fits how I even learn things like that social fit. That’s a big one for the teens, as you can imagine. And the parents tend to downplay that. So and then my part of that is the career college major and career fit. So we’re getting ready to head into that. And I love that that challenge through the month of August 2022. And if families this is why we’re going to lead with this episode, if families can just get intentional and go back to these core values. And as you’re talking, I didn’t even think about this before, but there’s probably a set of core values for the financial fit. There’s a set of core values for the social fit, and everybody having a voice in that and like you said, keep it at two to three max for each one of those. But that’ll help guide this intention that we’re building the college list that fits the student but at the same time, the parent as well and the parent priorities.


Kirsten Parker  14:54

Yeah, because there are so many unknowns. By Design. Humans are meant to read reacts negatively to uncertainty. Worse, we’re more designed to act to react with fear to it. So we have to focus on what we do know, there’s so much more room when you add in that intentionality to feel like you have control that your feet are on the ground that you are anchored into that destination point of what matters. The destination point might not be one specific college with the exact parameters that you’ve predefined. But you know, so much more than you do. Without thinking about it when you don’t think about what matters. What are the core values, answering all those beautiful questions you help people answer, it feels like you don’t know anything. And then you’re just overwhelmed with unknown. So I love that you help people kind of arm themselves with their own self understanding, and really valuable information. Because those are the knowns that really count.


Lisa Marker Robbins  15:55

I think you’re right, there are so many unknowns, but they do know more than they think they know. So obviously, what I’m coaching on is stress inducing. And I know some of the work that you do is helping individuals, in your case, adults who are navigating life, identify their stress state and how that’s affecting them. So go ahead and unpack some tips for our adult listeners who have got a teenager who’s trying to spread their wings and become independent, what do you have available to us to help us navigate just the stress of it all?


Kirsten Parker  16:34

validation, I think is the most underused tool at our disposal. Validation requires awareness and acceptance. And for people who are very goal driven, very well meaning, but usually bias towards action. Validating like things like just sitting back and observing your own state and accepting what you feel is not super attractive. A lot of the time. We like fixing problems, we like doing things, we like being in motion, feeling like we’re making progress, attacking that goal. So I say that to validate if there’s if this isn’t in anyone’s wheelhouse, necessarily, or even very attractive. But I promise, because we can always be aware of our stress state in that we know we’re stressed. We know what that feels like. If you add in that tiny little step of making it part of your process to just validate. Yeah, I’m stressed right now. You don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to condone it, you don’t have to rush out of it. It’s really inserting that micro step of like checking in with, okay, this is what’s happening. Even if I don’t like how it feels there might not be anything necessarily wrong with the fact that I feel this way. Hmm. That in itself is grounding to your nervous system.


Lisa Marker Robbins  17:57

Right? Yeah, it’s not wrong. It’s not necessarily all bad. Yeah,


Kirsten Parker  18:01

it’s just what’s happening. But that micro moment that you insert helps interrupt the stress cycle from just churning. And it empowers you to make a more conscious choice about what you want to do next, say, I’m stressed? Do I want to launch into a conversation right now where the stakes are really high? And I’m going to demand a lot of answers and decisions? Or do I maybe not want to do that right now? Is this not the state I want to be in to have that particular conversation? If we’re not paying attention to that it’s just so easy to launch into things, not necessarily conversations, but that’s a prime example for what we’re talking about. It’s, it’s easy.


Lisa Marker Robbins  18:46

I’m thinking like it my kids are all young adults to adults now. But as a parent, you want to help relieve that where our heart is for our kids. And we will relieve those things. As I think about what you’re saying, about check in with yourself and validate what just okay, I’m feeling this way. There’s nothing necessarily wrong. This is just information. I’m aware of it, I’m going to accept it. I’m going to kind of sit with it instead of doing something right now. I see a lot of times parents get those cues from their teen. Something’s wrong. Yeah, they’re either shut up in their room or they’re overwhelmed or they’re having a breakdown. And as you’re sharing that I’m thinking, we want to immediately as parents sometimes go, oh, gosh, something’s wrong. And get in there to talk about it or try to fix it or do something because we love our kids, which is what all of this is about. We’re trying to be loving, but just validate their feelings and it’s okay, it doesn’t necessarily mean something’s wrong with your team.


Kirsten Parker  19:53

100% I’ll never forget when I was working with a client who was a mom of a teenage daughter We were talking about validating her own feelings. But of course, it’s a communication super tool as well. So if it’s if it’s a tool that helps you connect with yourself, it’s a tool that helps you connect with other humans. That’s how it works. So she came to a session one time, and she was just she was in tears because her daughter was having acne from the masks. And it was this just terrible situation. And of course, she wanted to fix it immediately. She wanted to say, No, you’re beautiful. But we don’t we don’t realize that when we say things like know what you’re thinking isn’t true. You shouldn’t feel that way. Don’t worry. That’s all invalidation. And it’s so well intentioned, but it immediately promotes our defensive walls to come up, because we’ve just been told that what we’re experiencing is wrong. And we do it to ourselves, and we do it to our loved ones. And so when my client was telling me what happened, she said, I wanted to tell her no, you’re beautiful, you’re wrong for feeling this. But she didn’t. She just validated her that she was like, of course, like, that sounds really hard. That’s cool. Period. And then her daughter felt so seen and so heard and so supported, and they stayed on the same team, they never lost connection. And I think that’s one of the big friction points that makes decisions so much more dramatic and stressful and drawn out than they need to be is this when they’re involving more than one person. It’s disconnection, reconnection, constant disconnection, reconnection, so I offer that as like maybe save yourself some disconnection and just up your validation throughout the process. I love it.


Lisa Marker Robbins  21:34

That is a great note to end on, validate their feelings. So they are seen and heard, it will help calm the stress because we’re we are in a stressful decision making zone. And let’s let’s do it with intention and do it correctly. This is the perfect episode to kick off our college list building challenge and the month of August. I know that you have a checklist that we’re going to be sharing in the show notes. It’s six essentials to simplify decisions and get out of overwhelm this instance and we’ll drop it in the shownotes because it sounds like it’s more pure gold. Where can people find you if they want to stay in touch? Because I’m sure you’re dripping nuggets like this all the time?


Kirsten Parker  22:19

Yes, well, you can hop on over to my podcast, the decision masters podcast we talk all about how to make these conscious decisions that feel good are authentic and aren’t more stressful than they need to be. So decision masters podcast and you can see what I’m up to at your son parker.com I always have some kind of upcoming workshop or some kind of deep dive that I’m helping people focus on answering a really valuable question or changing a lifelong habit for the better. So if you’re an Instagramer you can follow me at at kp coaching


Lisa Marker Robbins  22:56

at kp coaching. Perfect. So Kiersten, thank you so much. It was, like I said, pure gold to have you on and a great way to kick off what we’re going to do over the next month.


Kirsten Parker  23:07

Thank you so much for having me. I hope that it was a valuable conversation for people. Absolutely.


Lisa Marker Robbins  23:15

I love the wisdom that Kiersten brought to our conversation and the relief her tips can bring to you. So what’s this week’s college bound challenge I want your family to tackle before the end of this very next weekend. I couldn’t agree with Kiersten more on how important it is to identify your values before making decisions. This is an early activity inside my launch Career Clarity course for teens and young adults we ID values before even beginning to research careers and the majors that lead to them. As a family, I want you to sit down and identify only two to three values that you all can agree on together that will serve you well and guide you in the decision you might be facing on the college bound journey in front of you. And as about us begin to integrate this into your decision making practice in all areas of your life. If you’re a busy successful parent like me, you’ll appreciate the clarity having clear values will bring this episode actually kicks off our August series. I’ve not done a series before. In this one we are breaking down how to identify what matters to successfully build a college list so your family will know where your teen should visit and ultimately apply. So stick with me through the next four episodes, and you’ll come out empowered. And while we’re in the series, I’m also running a college list building challenge for families like coaching videos, family conversation cues, and weekly worksheets and the college bound challenge will drop throughout the month. It will give you the expert guidance your family needs to get aligned and building the perfect list that fits your unique family. If you want to join me inside the challenge, I’ve linked to the registration page in the show notes. And you can also find it at courses dot flourish coaching co.com forward slash college dash list dash challenge. That’s a mouthful, so just head over to the show notes and click through to join me on the inside. Registration is only open until noon on August 10. So you don’t want to delay. And as always, I hope you’ll share the podcast and my resources with other families on the same journey as you while you’re at it, it would mean a lot if you’d rate and review the episode to see you next week, my friend when we kick off what it means to find academic fit for your teens college list.