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(202) How (and Why) to Get Our Kids to Talk to Us About Anything

"I want them to come to me with ANYTHING."

"I don't want my kids to hide things that they need help with."

As our kids grow up, we want them to be able to come to us to talk about anything that's worrying them, so we can support them and guide them.

And as it turns out, supportive parental relationships like these are a protective factor for kids' mental health issues.

So what do we need to do so that our kids will come to us when they need help? That's what we're talking about today.



Sara Olsher:
Hello everyone, we are back again, talking about the protective factors for kids mental health. And I have Danielle Bettman here today, she is a parenting support coordinator for mighty and bright and she is a parenting coach through her own company, I will let her tell you a little bit about herself again. But today we're gonna be talking about open communication and how we can basically create a foundation where our kids feel safe to come and talk to us right now, you know, at the age that they are, but also how we can build a foundation so that when they're older, and they're in middle school, or they're in high school, and something scary is happening, and they don't know how to handle it, that we can be that go to person for our kids. So Danielle, welcome back.

Danielle 0:47
Thank you. Yeah, I'm so excited to talk about this. So I am a parenting coach with my company parenting wholeheartedly. I'm positive discipline certified, as well as have a degree in child development and teaching certification from birth through third grade. And I'm raising nine and eight year old daughters myself. So I'm doing exactly what I'm preaching at home as well. And when I ask families, their goals, parenting wise, one of the most common threads that comes up is I want my teenagers to come to me with anything I want to have open and honest communication built up. And I know that that starts now. I can't just build like ask for that credibility when they're 18. And things are very high risk and big problems, you know, big kids big problems. That is a goal that I have to be laying the foundation, the foundation and groundwork for now. And I love when parents say that because it means that they're really truly looking at parenting as a relationship. And and it is so critical. It is a big part of a child's mental health. And so I'm so excited to talk about it. 

Sara 2:03
Yeah, I think that's a really important point, Danielle, that like parenting is a relationship. And I think a lot of parents can underestimate just how big of an impact they can have, I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do everything perfectly like we we tend to focus on like, oh my gosh, like I am solely responsible for them, and I can totally screw them up. But the positive aspect of that is you can do so much like there's, there's so much of an impact that you can make on your kids by focusing on the positive by focusing on building your relationship with them. And I think being able to have open communication with them really does, it's it lays the foundation for the whole future. Not even just like middle school and high school, but like what kind of relationship you want with your adult children, which, you know, I have a very lucky to have a fantastic relationship with my mother. And that has been my goal with my daughter the whole time is how do I make it? Like What Did my mom do? So that she's my best friend, now that I am, you know, an adult. And so much of it comes back to open communication. And we joke that she used to give me these talks every two weeks about, you know, something that she wanted me to be prepared for in adulthood. And some of them were a little bit weird. And others were like, you know, just very foundational, like, this is what a boundary looks like sort of conversations, but wow, willingness to share her own vulnerability with me and what her own experience of her own life with me that vulnerability made me feel like she was willing to talk to me about everything. And that made me feel safe to talk to her about things too. Oh, wow.

Danielle 4:06
What a role model to learn from not not all of us were as lucky

Sara 4:09
right now. I know. I know. And I think there's so many people who come to Mighty and Bright because they weren't raised in that way. And you know, our generation is really focused on doing a great job raising our kids because maybe we weren't raised that way. And the world is such a different place than it was when we were kids that even if it were raised that way. We are sort of having to reinvent the wheel in a way. Like how do we raise kids in this digital age when you know, there's so many scary statistics that we are not going to get into because we know you already know them. But so how let's talk a little bit about communicating with our kids and how we can create that foundation.

Danielle 4:57
Yeah, yeah, I mean, communication is our delivery. A system, it's the everything that comes out of our mouth is the way that we discipline and the way that we influence and the way that we cultivate a relationship. And it's the thing. And you know, how much direct instruction have we gotten about how to create open and honest communication? directly if you haven't been to marriage counseling, or like, like, it's still a skill set that we are trying to master as adults and be learning for the first time. So, of course, it feels like something that is so simple and foundational yet really difficult when we think about like, the actual how of how do we do this? And it does come down to the model that we provide our kids like, we're kind of the template of what is, you know, appropriate, what it how do we deserve to be treated? How, how do we treat ourselves, I mean, there's a lot of it that comes down to what we're doing without words. But our words can be really, really impactful when we're really mindful and intentional about them. And the created safety that we have within our parent child relationship comes from not only how we react to the things that they share with us, but also how we react to what other people say, when we're around our child. Like if we talk about other people behind their back, then our child sees that and is like, oh, then I'm not safe enough to share with them, because they're going to talk about me with someone else. Or, you know, other things that can undermine that relationship that we might not understand. Like, in this digital age, I think there's a big, untapped area of like consent with sharing about things online about our kids. And, you know, once they get old enough, they really need to be able to consent to that otherwise, it really undermines the trust, we're trying to build up with our kids. And if that's something that's important to us, you know, it's kind of a multifaceted thing to look at that is a little complicated. 

Sara 7:12
Yeah, I think what's important to note right here is that there is an opportunity to repair when you're doing things that you maybe regret, because I think a lot of us have shame that's associated with making mistakes. And, and some of us deal with shame by basically being like, Oh, I don't like that feeling. Don't want to talk about this, just gonna ignore it. But I'm, really recently my daughter is she is now 12, which I seriously can't believe. And she is in middle school, and they are doing projects that require them to Google themselves. And my, I've always been kind of careful about the things that I have shared. I have like two pictures of my daughter and I that that I share as part of mighty and bright. But when she Googled herself, she found pictures of herself as a baby on Twitter that I did not even remember that I had shared. And she said this to me. And I said, wow, you know, I'm really sorry, because I think, as grown ups, we didn't necessarily think about what the impact was going to be on our kids when we were sharing these things and kind of the early days of blogging, and you know, I will delete those if you would like me to. And she said, No, what's okay? And I said, Is it really okay? And she said, No, it's kind of not okay. And I said, Okay, and so I downloaded all of these pictures that I had literally no idea were out there and deleted all of the posts. And that built trust between Shia high because I was then willing to make a change of something and admit that I was wrong admit that I've learned in the last 10 years and remedy the situation in a way that was respectful to to her and respectful to me because it's not like I'm deleting our memories. I downloaded them all. You know, what was even Why did I even do that? I have like no recollection. We I was proud. I was proud of her and how adorable I was and right. And so I just want to make sure that there's a lot of pressure we get as parents when we're reading on the internet about like growth mindset and you should never say this to your kids because it's going to ruin them for the rest of their lives.

You know, like I said that yesterday.

You know, it's never too late to do things differently and apologizing Is and showing that you're willing to apologize is seriously one of the best things that you could do for your kids because it shows them that you don't have to be perfect that if the person that they love most, their parent is willing to admit that they make mistakes, and they're, they're sorry about it, and they're not you're you're modeling to them that you don't have to be overcome with shame every time you discover that you made a mistake. 

Danielle 10:27
Yes, it's not the mistake. That's the problem. It's how you handle when you're faced with what to do with that mistake in the past, like, then they they really judge you on that not on, you know, oh, I can never trust you again. Because you did that 10 years ago. It's like, No, I'm basing my trust off of you now, based on how you react now, right? And that's where we always have an opportunity to learn more and do better every single day that we are parent because we get better and better as we figure this out as we go.

Sara 10:55
Absolutely. And I think I think a lot of us feel guilty too. Because maybe our initial reaction, when our kids come to come to us with something is maybe not how we wish we would have acted. I mean, how many of us yell at our kids or have yelled at our kids, like 100% of us have lost it? Okay. So if you yell at your kids, we are not here to tell you, you are a crappy parent. No. Like, this is the hardest job ever. It's just a matter of like, Oh, I wish that I had acted differently. And I am willing to go to my child and say, You know what, I really wish that I hadn't said that. I'm sorry. You know, Can we can we try this again? Yep. You have so much power in that.

Exactly. Yeah. There's that's why my podcast is called failing motherhood.

Sara 11:49
Yes, then it's because so many of us feel that we are failing it and we're not You're not failing, right? But, but having those conversations where you're getting to know your kids a little bit better, that you're willing to share your own stories. Let's talk a little bit about the benefit of of having Converse deeper conversations with our kids.

Danielle 12:11
And I think I think a lot of parents have really good intentions of, you know, wanting to talk about deeper things and wanting to have like, know, about their kids and know about their day. And, you know, most parents will ask how was your day and you know, some standard things like that, but then they feel stuck, when they don't get a good answer. Or when they do have the time and they try to strike up a conversation. And the child is not responding or engaging in that conversation the way that they thought, then they start to kind of give up after a while, and then they kind of chalk it up to oh, well, it's their age, oh, well, it's their personality, and then, you know, you can go years without truly being able to put the work in to kind of dig deep into this conversation or this connection in this relationship. So we do just need structure as silly as it feels, you know, like, we should always naturally know how to be connected to our partner, we should, we should just always naturally know how to feel connected to our kids. And that's just not the way it goes, we need some prompts, you know, to be able to strike up a new conversation with our partner, if we've been with them for you know, 10 plus years. And we can have a lot more fun conversations when we talk about something that we never would have thought of to talk about. And so we're just kind of bringing that same energy and rejuvenation into your parent child relationship, so that you're catching the times when they are the most receptive to being able to either talk about deeper things or just talk to you a little bit longer in general, and then bring in or infuse kind of new prompts and new light into some of the things that you talk about so that the conversation takes on a new life and you bring it you know, bring in new things and bring up concepts that maybe you wouldn't have had a chance to address before. And now you do. And there's a lot of power behind just that added level of intentionality.

Sara 14:10
Yeah, I love that. I think there's so much pressure to do all the things in the world that sometimes the creativity for having some of these conversations is just not there, no matter how much we feel like, we want to do it. It's just the mental load of all the other things that we're doing is not there. And, you know, we get into this pattern of just kind of like talking about the same thing over and over again, or the business of life, you know, like, oh, yeah, did you do this? Did you do that? And not? Oh, yeah. I mean, conversations that maybe would help us get to know our kids a little bit better.

Danielle 14:47
Yeah, yeah. I mean, there's never a loss of directions we need to give them or that needs to get take care taken care of. So that's why it does take just that added level of structure to make sure that we're going above and beyond those conversations, yes,

Sara 15:01
yeah, we keep our door open or cards at our dining table. And so when my daughter and I are eating dinner, we will pull a card and have a conversation about, you know, whatever is on the card. It's been really fun. And, you know, I think when you introduce tools to your kids that they enjoy, it takes some of the load off of you, because you aren't like making them do it. It's the same with the with the weekly and daily calendars that mighty and bright has. And the same thing with the door opener cards. Like, if if your kid is enjoying this process, they're going to hold you accountable to it. And it's not like when I say hold you accountable to it. It's not like, you know, cleaning the bathroom, either. It's like, Oh, I forgot we were gonna do that good call. This is fun. And I had fun the last time we did this, so Yeah, happy to do it again.

Danielle  16:01 
Yes, we just did them last night and uphold the car that was like is your does your life feel too busy or not enough. And I and it was a such a good conversation, because we could all kind of share what that looked like or felt like right now, in ways that we just never would have been able to communicate. Without that specific prompt in a space that was really neutral and safe. You know that nobody had their defenses up. And we weren't trying to make a point and convince someone of something. So it was just really helpful.

Sara 16:33
Yeah, I love that. That card is a great example of how these are like, not one time conversations, either. Because, you know, some things are like, Would you rather be a dinosaur or a bird? And, you know, there's only so many times you can have that conversation. But when when you have have prompts about things that are kind of like changing over time, you also get to see kind of check in, answers are changing. And, you know, that's also kind of cool to see how your kids answers change and develop over time.

Danielle 17:11
For sure. For sure. Yeah, yeah, that's what we all want us a peek into their world, right?

Sara 17:15
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, one of the other things that we include in month, two of the Raising Resilience Program is a magnet that kids can bring to you when they are worried about whether they're going to get in trouble. Or they are, they're just afraid to tell you something. And the magnet basically serves as a reminder to both of you like to the kid number one that like, okay, my parent promised me that I could come to them with things and that they weren't going to get mad at me. And it's a reminder to you that okay, your kid is gonna say something that maybe you're not gonna like, yeah, pick a preemptive breath before. Say. And I saw this concept a long time ago, there was a dad that had given his child a piece of paper and basically said, Bring this to me if there's something that you're worried about my reaction. And I love that so much, because there's so many times that our kids make mistakes, and they realize that they've made the mistake or that they're in over their heads. And they don't know how to approach us with it. And and that magnet is basically a reminder to us that to remind us that it actually takes quite a lot of bravery sometimes for a kid to come to you with a mistake that they've made that they're risking getting in trouble for this decision that they've made. So I just really love that that part of it. If your kids brought you that magnet before

Danielle 19:04
they have my oldest brought it to me the day after I introduced it when we had gotten it in the box. And thankfully, it was a light hearted reason she had forgotten her water bottle at school. And this was something though that was like happening over and over that week. And so it wasn't the first conversation we had about forgetting things at school by the time this Day rolled around. And so I it, it was a good example for me of like, okay, then she's, she's realizing how much responsibility we've been talking about of how important this is. And she remembered the card right away to be like, Oh, this is a good time. Because no one ever said to her mom this. This will help you know, ease it over and I can trust her to not overreact. So I didn't I was like, okay, yeah, what are you how are you gonna solve that problem? She's like, how Gotta get I'll get it tomorrow. Okay, sounds like you know what to do. And I don't need to sail into a huge lecture, you know about responsibility or about all these things because she already knows, she knows by recognizing it and being able to bring it to me that, you know, there isn't another lesson I need to teach at that point. So it was, it was really good for us. 

Sara 20:22
And I love that actually, that kind of reinforces that when they are bringing you that, that you've already done a good job teaching them that lesson, because they're having an emotional experience. Because they'll know, ya know, that lesson, they don't need a lecture, they've made a mistake. And now they either need help solving it, or they just needed to confess their sins. And I love that too. Because this, this method also lays the foundation for when they are in high school, and the stakes are really high. You know, like, what happens when your kid is at a party that they somehow ended up at? And they're scared? Yeah. Do you want them to figure out how to get home with some kid that's been drinking, or drive home themselves? Once they realize they're in a bad situation? Or do you want them to call you and you say, no questions asked, I will be there to get you. Because the difference is, your kid already knows they made a mistake they got into a situation that is less than ideal. They don't need a lecture, they need to safely get out of that situation. And you're laying that foundation for like how you as a parent can help them get out of that situation.

Danielle 21:50
Right? Yeah. And that can be life or death at that point. Yes, yes, absolutely.

So I think it's so important that we are approachable. And it's the pressure is not that high to do everything right the first time just to reiterate that this open communication is as much about vulnerability and making mistakes, as it is, you know, having the right answer. Like you could have you can think on something and say, like your answer doesn't even need to be an answer to begin with. You know, if you're gonna ask you a question and you don't know the answer. It's okay. Just to say, You know what, that is a great question. I need to think on it and come back. You know, you don't have to be perfect. You don't have to have the right answer. You just have to be willing to have the conversation. Right? 

Sara 22:44

100% Yep.
All right, families, you got this. If you have any questions about open communication or anything else, we have the ability for you to ask questions. You can go to mighty and and click on the button that says ask a question, and we will answer it. Thanks so much for being here.