The Art of Holding Space – Integrated Parent Support Services at EDGE

It’s what loving parents do – holding space for their student, without trying to fix or impact the outcome. It means walking alongside in unconditional support and includes: 1.) Allowing a student to make a poor decision 2.) Restraining from giving unsolicited advice. A complex practice that cannot be mastered overnight, but rather evolved through experience, it is unique to each parent, student and situation. It can be difficult to navigate, especially when parents’ perspectives for the student overlook what the student thinks they need.

One of the main purposes of EDGE coaching is to help students build a better narrative identity.  In recent years, psychologists Dan McAdams and Kate McLean developed the concept: “Narrative identity is a person’s internalized and evolving life story, integrating the reconstructed past and imagined future to provide life with some degree of unity and purpose.” EDGE staff partner with parents to help them navigate their student’s evolving life story by not only providing coaching to their students, but to parents as well. EDGE parent coaching has an inward focus, guiding parents to examine the messages and motives inadvertently projected onto their student. Asking parents to reflect on: “Am I communicating wisdom or worry?” or “Am I communicating advice or anger?” 

EDGE parent coaching is more than just answering the “What should I do?” questions and instead focusing on providing parents with the tools and pathways to discover their own answers. Brian McKenna, founding member of EDGE Learning and Wellness Collegiate Community, is currently serving as the EDGE Parent Coach. Brian inspires and motivates parents to become healthier, happier and more connected in their relationships. With over 27 years in the field, he possesses extensive knowledge and experience in helping others endure challenges and achieve their life goals. Brian is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor with an Adolescent Treatment Endorsement in the State of Illinois.

Sometimes parents get discouraged because their student seems to resist their attempts to parent them. Other times, parents do not seem to have it in them to emotionally engage their student because it is exhausting. McKenna says, “It can be hurtful to experience rejection and exhausting to repeatedly rescue a loved one, but it is critical to hold space for the student’s negative reaction or to resist requests to rescue them.” Loving parents learn how to hold space for their student’s unpleasant emotion (i.e., unhappiness, anxiety, anger, etc.) and sit in the uncomfortable feelings, without reacting or rescuing. 

There’s tremendous value in finding a different way to demonstrate love, allowing their student to feel everything, not just what parents want them to feel. Supporting a student in their own growth and transformation requires not fixing their problems or overwhelming them with advice before they are ready. McKenna describes, “I often tell our parents to picture themselves taking a walk with their student, looking forward to what’s ahead instead of getting tripped up by the past. Allow the student to lead the journey and make their own choices, only giving gentle guidance when solicited, and making them feel safe even when they make mistakes.”  In the words of Joseph Campbell, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to find the life that is waiting for us.”

About EDGE Advance

EDGE Advance is a transitional program for neurodiverse (Autism Spectrum Disorders – ASD) young adults. Utilizing a clinically integrated coaching model, the goal of EDGE Advance is to create a path for emerging young adults to develop the habits and skills necessary to lead autonomous lives of purpose.

Contact Us:
63 East Lake Street, Suite 310
Chicago, IL 60601