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‘Parenting requires a lot of unlearning, learning and relearning’

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
21 May 2022   |   4:04 am
Vivian Okoye is a firm believer, preacher and executor of parenting as the root of all sustainable development. An Optometrist by training, Vivian’s mission transcends her role as a Certified Child Psychologist, a professional Parents’ Coach, a Certified Neuro-Linguistic Practitioner, seasoned speaker and author.


Vivian Okoye is a firm believer, preacher and executor of parenting as the root of all sustainable development. An Optometrist by training, Vivian’s mission transcends her role as a Certified Child Psychologist, a professional Parents’ Coach, a Certified Neuro-Linguistic Practitioner, seasoned speaker and author. She is the founder of the Viviann Okoye Parenting Academy providing parents with the knowledge, skills and strategies to raise wholesome, balanced and responsible children.

She is also the convener of Parents’ Summit Africa, which has been dissecting issues on parenting, family unit in nation building and sustainable development. As the co-creator of the One Parenting Plan Away Experience, Vivian commits consistently to training and equipping parents to plan their parenting journey in a way that offers them the necessary skills and structures for raising wholesome kids, whilst building the lives of their dreams.

In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she speaks on her commitment to providing parenting education, coaching and counselling as an extension of patient-centered care that sees beyond the healthcare setting.

Tell us about your journey into parent coaching?
Prior to becoming a parent coach, my work was mainly in Clinical and Community Optometry. I also did a lot of teen/youth mentoring on the side. These two work experiences, to a large extent, opened my eyes to how much parenting choices and methods can determine a person’s outcome in life. Besides these experiences, I had series of personal experiences and observations that made me promise myself to do parenting better than how I was seeing people do it. I was determined to as much as possible ensure that my kids are not exposed to all the traumas that are associated with the typical ‘African Parenting’ style. I thought I had it all figured out until I became a parent.

I became a parent in 2014, but by the time my daughter turned one year, I found myself unconsciously repeating the same parenting patterns that I had promised myself not to imbibe, despite the promise I had made to myself. I found myself constantly yelling and even hitting my little human out of frustration and lack of skills to parent gently and positively. It took losing my second pregnancy to a complicated miscarriage in June 2016, to get me to pause and think about how I had been raising the child in my care.

This miscarriage had me in theatres five times in a space of six months. It was really a trying time but one I consider being the turning point in my life that led me to the path of purpose. During my recovery, I did a lot of reflection, one of which was a major reality-check on one morning in March 2017. That day, I decided to do all it takes to learn how to do parenting right.

First, this decision was just for me. To help myself and my kids, but the more I learnt, the more I realised how much many other parents like me needed to learn this and how much this knowledge would benefit us, our children and ultimately contribute to building better humans and society at large. This drove me to give it my all and pursue learning parenting and making sure that I spread the knowledge. This desire and passion led me to pursue relevant trainings in Child Psychology and Parent Coaching and subsequently building our parenting academy and curating parenting programmes.

What is the nexus between your various fields of practice?
The connection between all my works is that it reflects my duty and call to care for both the physical and mental health of individuals. The work that I do is geared towards caring for and raising the next generation of confident, trauma free, responsible and wholesome humans. This is borne out of my belief that it is a critical pathway to building a better world. The quality of humans we are and the humans we raise in our homes ultimately reflect in the society we have.

What really drives you?
Three things drive me; Love, Purpose and Fear. Love for God; this leads me to do whatever He asks me to do, which ultimately translates to my love for humanity and the passion to see humans thrive, clarity of purpose and deep conviction that I am sent to do this.

The understanding that I am sent to do this as my contribution to bringing answers and solution to the chaos in our world keeps me focused. A deep sense of fear of what would happen to the next generation, if I don’t give it my best shot fuels me for excellence.

Parenting is a salient issue in our society today, what do you think most parents are doing wrong?
A lot of parents depend on instinct; they do not take time to go through healing and build the necessary skills required for parenting, so they end up passing their unresolved traumas to their kids. Before you are called a Doctor, Engineer, Graphic Designer or even venture into any profession at all, we go through intense training. But, when it comes to the most important role we play in life, the role of raising a full-fledged human, we assume we can do it without any form of training.

Parenting requires a lot of unlearning, learning and relearning. This is where a lot of people miss it; doing parenting by default and not building skills to parent effectively and with calm.

What parenting approach, based on your experience, can effectively address juvenile delinquency?
The basic need of every human is to be seen, heard, and shown that they matter. It is easier to raise a wholesome, responsible human when these needs are met.

Most cases of delinquency are responses to unmet needs or resultant effects of childhood trauma and neglect.

Bearing that in mind, the best approach to address delinquency is to adopt a parenting method that makes a child feel seen, heard and know that they matter. This approach ensures that you raise a confident, trauma-free and wholesome child. People with such traits will hardly resort to delinquency.

Tell us about your parenting summit and what gaps it has been able to bridge?
Parents Summit Africa is a yearly event powered by the Viviann Okoye Parenting Academy, focused on training and equipping parents with the knowledge, tools, and skillset needed to take on the responsibility of parenting the 21st century child, and raising well rounded, balanced and successful children for societal change. As part of our goal of building a better nation and continent, we designed Parents Summit Africa to serve as a learning and judgement-free platform where parents can have frank conversations around parenting and the way forward for the family unit, the society, the nation and the continent at large.

This platform was birthed out of our belief that to change a society, we need to start from the smallest unit of the society, that is, the family. We figured that the best way this could be achieved was to educate and skill-up parents with valuable and necessary skills needed to raise wholesome and balanced children with the right mind-set, values, and attitude. I believe that we are at a point in our national history where our plans for change and development needs to slightly shift focus from just creating systems, institutions and policies to also creating plans and strategies capable of triggering significant changes in attitudes and mind-sets.

Over the past five years, we have hosted five summits and reached over eleven thousand families through this event. We have no plans stopping anytime soon because our goal is to change the world, one family at a time.

As a child psychologist, how has this boosted your activities?
Child Psychology opened my eyes to how a child’s brain works, how they think, as well as the things that drive their behaviour. This has helped my work with parents significantly, because when parents can’t make sense of what is going on with their children, I am able to give an evidence-based perspective and solution that can help them sort things out.

In some cases, I have to personally work with the children to achieve the desired result. To tie it all together, I’d say that being a child psychologist complements my work as a parent coach.

What is your advice to women, who bear most of the parenting brunt, how can they scale through?
Parenting isn’t exclusively for the woman, or man alone. Ideally, parenting is teamwork and communication as to how a couple want to parent as a team. This should happen during pre-parenting years or pre-parenting counselling sessions. One person cannot do it alone; it will definitely be exhausting. There is a reason God made sure it took two people – a mother and a father- to bring a child into the world. If you are already a mother and you discover that your partner isn’t on-board as much as you would love him to, I would recommend that you communicate with him. Have a conversation about your expectations and work out a plan that works for everyone.

If the problem is that your parenting styles do not seem to synchronise, I would recommend that you seek the help of a parenting expert to walk you through it as a couple. In the meantime, while trying to get your partner on board, do well to take advantage of the help available to you in the form of parents, siblings, in-laws etc. Delegate the roles that you can and make sure to practice some self-care to ensure you are not pouring from an empty cup.

How has being a parenting expert impacted in your work and family? How are you able to juggle through?
Working as a parenting expert and attending to needs of our growing community of parents’ places a huge demand on my time. However, a few things help me navigate the terrain. One of it is having a very supportive and hands-on husband who is always ready to fill in the gap when I’m not able to.

I also take the initiative of delegating and taking advantage of the immense support system that I have on ground that is, a supportive family. Finally, I have put systems in place to help me determine which ball to drop when I’m not able to juggle effectively. It’s not an easy or perfect ride but God’s grace sustains me.

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