Sunday 16 June 2019

The panic room: navigating the Change of Mind process

Jill Barrett offers advice to parents and guardians on how to navigate the Change of Mind process

Stock image
Stock image

"Let there be no panic in the house" an old boss of mine used to say, Fawlty Tower-esque chaos raging around us. It may seem a challenge to keep your head when, as the saying goes, "all about you are losing theirs", but during this testing time in your teenager's life this is the goal you must aim for.

Today I had the luck to attend a presentation by Enda McNulty of McNulty Performance. Highly successful as a Gaelic football player, Enda went on to pursue Psychology in college and now works with companies, sports teams and individuals worldwide, helping them to achieve positive personal and professional transformation. He told a story of growing up in beautiful Slieve Gullion in South Armagh. One day, whilst standing brushing his teeth, staring out the bathroom window, the window shattered in on top of him, a carnage-causing IRA bomb having been detonated close to his home. He described his shock at realising that shards of glass were embedded in his face and gums, as he began spitting out blood and running out to the sound of his screaming sister pelting up the road. She had witnessed the bomb going off as she walked home from school. But one thing stood out for him above all else.

Amongst all the chaos, his mother remained solid and calm. She told her children everything would be alright as she gathered them into the safety of an inner room and quietly went to the kitchen to make them tea. He recalled vividly the sound of the whistling kettle and the contrast of his mother's approach, against that of the storm that had been created, and the calming effect of her demeanour on the people around her. He learned from the best. McNulty's personal ethos is all about positive psychology. We can be energy vacuums, sucking the life out of any hope, optimism and generous thinking about our child's future or we can act, speak and simply 'be' in ways that are hugely supportive of good decision making at this time.

It may seem a little mercenary to say that these are adults now and we must let them make their own decisions, for better or for worse. After all, you know your own children, so you should know if they need help, right? In coaching we learn to turn statements, that we might be tempted to make, into questions (or at least a curious statement). So, we might swap "I'll tell you what I think/you should/you'd be great at..." for "I'm interested to hear what your thoughts are/if you didn't have to worry about getting a job at the end of it, which course would you choose/what careers do you most like the sound of and why?" And even before these, a very simple inquiry: "What can I do, if anything, to support you in making your decision?"

Thereafter, if we are invited to help, let us make sure we are informed. In asking for help, our children are relying on us as 'mentors' that have enough life experience, skills, and knowledge to help them in their decision. But if we can't give them the facts they need then we need to say so; opinions are based only on our perception. If that's the basis on which we're encouraging our children to make decisions, we are on shaky ground. If we don't know the facts, we need to refer them to some other human or resource that can help provide some! So, as well as the nice open questions above, some suggestion-based questions might be:

■Have you completed a career interest profiler, for example on

■Do you think a(nother) chat with your Career Guidance Counsellor might help?

■Have you had time to check out career profiles on,,, and

■What about a chat with a few people working in the careers you are interested in and/or the co-ordinators of the courses you're thinking of?

Head still fried? Check out: 'The CAO: A guide for parents and guardians' on

Irish Independent

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