Notes and Mentions
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Serena: Hey Everyone, I’m Serena.
Tina: And I’m Tina and we are the Mental Health Mamas.
Serena: Welcome to No Need to Explain, we are so glad you’re here.
Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.
Serena: We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as the parents of kids who struggle with their emotional health.
Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You’ll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: I’m wondering if we can talk about something today that’s been on my mind for awhile?
Tina: Absolutely. Of course we can.
Serena: So we are deep into fall now in the Northeast part of the United States and even though we’re deep into fall it feels like we’re just now settling into the school year. It’s been about two months in, but I’d like to take a step back to the very beginning of the school year and talk a little bit about how different this year has been feeling from years past. So Tina, did you used to do the first day of school pictures with your kids?
Tina: Yes. In fact, Facebook often reminds me of those days so long ago for me.
Serena: We try to do them too but sometimes it feels a little strange by the time my kids start school. Here school starts after Labor Day and in many other parts of the US school starts as much as a month earlier. I’ve lived in a lot of different places so that means that my social media feed is filled with lots of eager, smiling faces and some kids dodging the camera of course, long before my kids are even thinking about school.
Tina: Yes, I see a ton of those as well and what we don’t see are the people missing from those photos!
Serena: You’re absolutely right! So let’s talk about the people we don’t see, the people behind the camera supporting the kiddos.
Tina: Yes! Moms, Dads, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles…all sorts of people we don’t see who are having lots of feels about going back to school. Especially this year during a global pandemic.
Serena: Mmhm. There are always lots of feelings involved with heading back to school and this year, as you said, there’s even more I would say. There’s so much uncertainty and confusion, anger and frustration, anxiety and fear…I could keep on going.
Tina: Mmhm. And this year, like we said, is like no other any of us have ever experienced. I’m going to say that again. None of us have experienced this before. And because of that, no one really knows quite what to do.
Serena: It’s all so very different for all of us. I’ve witnessed so many, what you might think of as sort of the older elementary school kids clinging to parents like Kindergarteners because they haven’t been in the school buildings in a really long time. There are all sorts of brand new rules that completely change the landscape and culture of schools and again, just so many unknowns for all of us.
Tina: One of the things I’ve learned over the years of parenting is that sometimes “fixing” is not the best thing we can do for our kids even when it is exactly (and almost naturally) what we want to do. We see our kids struggle and we want to jump in and make it better. We know that our kids need to learn to work through challenges and solve problems on their own. And as we’d say in Massachusetts, it can be wicked painful to witness.
Serena: Yes, yes. I’m gonna go with incredibly painful. One of the tools I lean on in these times is validation. Validation is such a simple tool, but I will say it’s not always easy to find in the toolbox full of tools. In the words of author Kelly Corrigan, it might just sound like, “Tell me more.” It’s all about putting your own feelings aside and honoring your child’s thoughts and feelings about the situation.
Tina: Mmhm. I love that. Tell me more. Seattle Children’s describes the importance of validation in the following way, “Validation shows your child that they are important enough for you to listen to and understand. If your child does not feel heard or understood they may react by using emotions and behaviors to get you to pay attention. By using validation your child will feel that you take them seriously and you accept them. Your child may have less intense emotional reactions and be more willing to talk about their feelings.”
Serena: As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really come to appreciate the power of validation for me as an adult. What I know is that we all have a desire, as human beings, to be seen and taken seriously, and there are times when I share something with another person and I don’t need it fixed. I’m pretty good at this point in my life at fixing things on my own. What are your thoughts on that Tina?
Tina: Yeah, so I think you and I do that dance very well because we both understand that and there’s still times in my life where it happens that people want to fix. So my therapy situation this summer. The first therapist I had, there was very little validation and a ton of here’s how you need to fix it. And I really didn’t appreciate that. And so the second therapist I engaged with, I got the same results of getting ideas on how to fix things and it seemed so much more natural when she validated it and then challenged me to come up with things that helped. So that validation…immensely important.
Serena: There are so many times that I just need someone to hear me. I’m gonna share a little story too. Recently I was at the doctor’s office for an appointment. Initially I mixed up the time of my appointment and got there earlier than I needed to, so that part was my fault, but then I was left waiting way past my appointment time which all added up to a lot of time sitting in the waiting room. So it turns out that someone had made a mistake and not checked me in properly. Mistakes happen and I totally get it. When I asked the provider to verify my appointment time, her reaction was, “I can’t do anything until I get this paper”. I didn’t need to blame anyone or know who’s fault it was, I really wanted maybe an apology for my time spent waiting. I wanted to be treated as if my time was just as valuable as everyone else’s.
Tina: And it is my friend!
Serena: So let’s go back now to the people behind the camera, the ones sending the kids off to school.
Tina: Yes, there are certainly some themes that have been emerging as school districts across the country (our country, not sure what’s happening in your country for those overseas listeners) and how we’re handling this time in very different ways. There are some school districts that have maintained as much silence as possible on the current situation while others have tried to “fix” an unfixable situation or reassure parents.
Serena: Right. Some of the themes I’ve heard out there include, “The best place for kids is in school.” “Kids don’t get severe cases of COVID.” “Transmission rates are very low in schools.” “Transmission rates are rising in the community? Everything is fine.”
Tina: Hmm. Everything’s fine. Nothing is fine right now. And we’re not here to take sides or to make this political in any way. We are not here to declare things right or wrong because we don’t know any more than anyone else. What we do know is that when parents and caregivers push back on decisions made that they have no control over, there are a lot of feelings. When a parent asks how their child will be kept safe and the response is that everything is fine, that’s not helpful.
Serena: Yeah. It’s kind of like telling someone to calm down when they’re worked up.
Tina: Or relax. Relax. Just relax.
Serena: Relax. Right. Totally ineffective.
Tina: Yeah. So I’m going to repeat the definition that we shared earlier but I’m going to reword it just a little bit. Validation shows you that you are important enough to be heard and to be understood. If you don’t feel heard or understood you may react by using emotions and behaviors to get others to pay attention. By being validated you will feel that you are taken seriously and are accepted. You may have less intense emotional reactions and be more willing to talk about your feelings. Knowing that you are being heard and understood helps build the trust you need to share openly.
Serena: Yes, we all need validation! So, for all of you listening out there, we wonder, how are you doing? How has the transition back to school been? We would love to hear from you and know how you’re really feeling! You can send us an email right from our website!
Tina: Yes. And since it may be challenging to receive the validation we’re looking for right now, we want to provide you with a bit of a take away today.
Serena: Are you feeling angry? We hear you.
Tina: Are you happy your kids are going back to school? We see you.
Serena: Are you scared about what happens next? We are right there with you.
Tina: Are you anxious, ecstatic, terrified, confused, depressed, discombobulated, joyful, unsure, tired, or hopeful? We hear you. We see you. We are right there with you. And remember, all feelings are valid.
Serena: Please know that we are here and always happy to confidentially help you hold some of the hard stuff. Speaking of validation, we want to recognize that writing emails is not always the preferred mode of communication for some.
Tina: Yes, especially for extraverts like me who like to talk a lot! So we are offering a new way to connect with us. If you are using an Apple device, (or maybe this is true for Android users too, I’m not sure) Apple has a voice memo option. It is one of those apps that is preloaded on your phone. After recording your voice memo, you can tap the three dots on the left and share your voice memo by email. We would love to hear especially your voices!
Tina: And so podcast friends, we are, as always, grateful for all of you listening and supporting us. You can help us out by visiting Apple podcasts, leave us a review, subscribe and please share with others. You will find more content, interesting content, on our website, NoNeedtoExplainPodcast.com. And, as Serena said, we would love to hear you and we assure you anything we help you hold, which is often hard stuff, we will never share with others. Totally confidential.
Serena: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.
Tina: Thanks for listening!