STARS Power
At STARS Kids Life Studio, certified “Kids Life Coach” Bronwyn Bergen helps children find the confidence, inspiration, and motivation needed to become their best selves.
by Bill Donahue

Lorraine McHale remembers feeling as though she had been backed into a corner.
 
Her 10-year-old daughter, Lily, had been struggling to find her way: often feeling angry or anxious, perpetually late to appointments, wondering what was “wrong” with her. Although an official diagnosis of low-level anxiety and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) had helped to explain Lily’s struggles, the doctor’s recommended course of treatment—medication—made McHale uneasy.
 
“We didn’t want a Band-Aid,” she says. “Rather than putting Lily on medication at age 10, which she’d probably have to stay on for the rest of her life, we wanted to look for alternative methods that could help her cope with the things that were making her struggle. We wanted a solution to treat the underlying problem.”
 
McHale then had a serendipitous experience while scrolling through Facebook. A post from a Bucks County-based organization known as STARS Kids Life Studio suggested an intriguing path forward: Kids Life Coaching. After having a few follow-up phone calls, learning the results of an in-depth online assessment through the STARS Kids Life Studio website, and an in-person meeting, McHale and her family felt confident for Lily to proceed with one-on-one sessions with a certified Kids Life Studio Coach.
 
“Lily needed to learn how to manage her frustration and anxiety,” McHale says. “When she started seeing Bronwyn, they clicked immediately. Through their sessions together, Lily learned to manage her emotions. Now she doesn’t get angry anymore over anything.”
 
McHale is referring to Bronwyn Bergen, the founder of STARS Kids Life Studio and a longtime educator with Pennsbury School District. Bergen founded STARS more than a year ago, driven by the desire to help children contend with life’s many “curveballs.” These challenges may range from the emotional trauma of divorce, to trouble navigating friendships and family relationships, to mental disorders such as anxiety and ADHD.
 
Bergen felt drawn to Kids Life Coaching because it gives children the skills they need to make good choices and, in turn, become happier, more motivated, and inspired to excel. Bergen sees her role as distinct from a child psychologist or therapist, though she does work with those professionals, when needed; rather, she sees herself as someone who can help a child move forward with a sense of control and resilience.
 
“Child psychology or therapy delves into the past and identifies what may have caused a certain trauma,” Bergen says. “As a Kids Life Coach, I help them look ahead. I want to teach children to be proactive and then reactive. I want to give them a toolbox of coping skills and strategies, so if a situation does arise, they’re going to be able to assess the situation and say, ‘I know how to deal with this.’”
 
As an educator with more than 30 years of classroom experience, Bergen has taught children from kindergarten through fifth grade. In recent years she has witnessed an alarming trend in the classroom: children lacking coping skills, struggling with anxiety, or otherwise experiencing problems that may be hampering them from achieving their full potential.
 
She cites one incident in which a child came into a classroom looking so upset she thought the child had recently lost a family member. She went to the child and asked, “What is the matter?” She then discovered the source of the child’s distress: a stubborn zipper that prevented the child from removing a jacket.
 
“Childhood is becoming an increasingly difficult time,” she says. “Children are becoming more fearful, and that’s creating more anxiety, which is carrying over into their academic lives, their social lives, and their family lives at home. Even the simplest things can seem overwhelming. That’s why many kids need some guidance getting through it.”

‘Let Them Fly’
At STARS Kids Life Studio, every prospective family must complete an online assessment so Bergen can learn more about the child and determine his or her specific needs. Bergen then meets with the family in person so she can delve into any areas of the child’s life that may be “out of balance.” Then, if the family—and, more importantly, the child—chooses to move forward, she can create a custom program designed to help the child move past the obstacles standing in their way.  
 
A “typical” Kids Life Studio coaching program lasts 12 sessions, spread over several months, though some children may benefit from programs of longer duration. Bergen lays the foundation to help a child navigate problems that may once have seemed overwhelming or unmanageable. The ultimate goal: to help every child stand on his or her own.
 
“My goal is to arm them with these skills and then let them fly,” says Bergen, who is the only certified Kids Life Studio Coach on the East Coast. “Kids will be faced with a lot of external influences that are beyond their control, and I want them to feel they can do anything they put their minds to and be 100 percent confident that they can stand up for themselves no matter what challenges they face.”
 
Bergen loves teaching, but she says she feels “at my best” when she’s coaching a child one on one. At her peaceful Newtown studio, she has cultivated an environment in which children can feel safe and ready to engage in “constructive play” as a way to facilitate the learning of new skills. Much like every adult can benefit from reflective psychotherapy, Bergen believes every child can benefit from working with a Kids Life Coach.
 
“They can tell me anything, and they know I’m there to listen,” she says. “It’s a huge asset to have another person in a nonjudgmental space where the child can delve into anything they want to talk about and feel safe.”
 
This may explain why Kids Life Coaching is steadily gaining traction around the world. Although she has local roots, Bergen belongs to a global organization, The Kids Life Studio (kidslifestudio.com), which has a presence on six continents. In June 2019, she traveled to London as part of an international contingent of Kids Life Studio professionals who participated in an event at the House of Lords, where they engaged in meaningful discussions about the tools needed to build mentally resilient children.
 
As for Lily McHale, she has been meeting with Bergen for nearly a year, though their one-on-one sessions have been scaled back to just once a month. The sessions have helped Lily in virtually every aspect of her young life, according to Lily’s mother, Lorraine.
 
“Lily has really adapted,” she says. “She’s learned the value of writing lists, planning ahead, and following a bedtime routine so she can make herself feel comfortable and know what she needs to do for the next day so she can go to sleep without feeling anxious. It has made Lily feel so much better.”
 
Others have noticed remarkable changes in Lily, too.
 
“We recently went to a parent-teacher conference, and her teacher has noticed a complete 180 compared to where [Lily] used to be,” McHale adds. “Her grades have gone up, her study habits have improved, and she has a group of friends as opposed to being a loner. … One hundred percent, it has been worth the investment.”

STARS Kids Life Studio
Newtown, Pa.
(267) 981-2431
stars@kidslifestudio.com
kidslifestudio.com


Photograph by Heart and Soul Portraits

Hair Artist: Melissa Mount
@mstylist130

Makeup Artist: Stephanie Powers
@stephaniepowersmakeup
 

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life magazine, March 2020.