As states try and determine the safest schedules to reopen businesses and schools, parents will want to think about an eventual transition back to normal and which family quarantine habits will be tough to break.
We didn’t have time to prepare when we were thrown into this traumatic change, but we can prepare for our journey out.
Lynn identifies the importance of bringing back structure, chores, and sleep routines to assist children. Robin references setting limits on screen time during school hours and uses this device. (Use our affiliate link for $20 off).
She shares how teens might feel even angrier and more withdrawn as this continues, and what to do about it.
Lynn asks what we are seeing in our families and how has this increased stress manifested in your family patterns. Who is being more rigid? Blaming? Emotive? Withdrawn? How can this experience be a teacher showing areas of family behavior that can shift.
We discuss how the pandemic brought some powerful revelations, like “It took a pandemic to make me realize blank.” Lynn references Jill Bolte Taylor’s book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey.
Lynn Lyons 0:00
When you look around your home, you’ve probably let some things go, as we’ve all been adapting to our new normal. That’s perfectly reasonable. We’ve been in the “just getting by” mode. But there will be a transition back to normal, and how that will happen for your family is worth some thought.
Now, we didn’t have time to prepare when we were thrown into this traumatic change, but we can prepare for our journey out.
So hello, everybody. Hi, Robin.
Robin Hutson 0:30
Lynn Lyons 0:32
How are you?
Good. It’s a beautiful sunny day.
It is a beautiful sunny day. I was out for a walk earlier today. And that just always makes me feel better. So, it’s nice that we’re seeing a little bit of sunshine.
Planning for The Next Stage
I think what we should talk about today— maybe we’re seeing a little bit of a hint that life is actually going to get back to normal someday. Maybe not soon, but I think we’re hearing conversations about that, and people are talking about that. So, I think it might be time for us to talk about what’s going on if life has been feeling really chaotic, and that it might be time to make some moves back towards some normalcy in your family.
I’ve been seeing a lot of things, and you’ve probably been seeing a lot of things, I just saw something today, actually, that said, “17 things that therapists are saying we’re allowed to feel.”
And I thought, wow, 17 things? That’s a lot of things that we’re allowed to feel.
Robin Hutson 1:35
I don’t know if I could list 17 emotions.
Lynn Lyons 1:37
Yeah, I don’t think so either. And if you’re four and a half, you definitely don’t have 17 emotions. You have about four at this point.
So I think maybe let’s talk a little bit about what we need to do to rein it back in a little bit because there was that adrenaline rush, there was that big, emergent feeling and we were really giving ourselves permission to do whatever we needed to get through: cereal for breakfast, bedtimes are all over the place. Forget about expectations with school and perfection.
And all of that stuff I think is still really valid. But what I’m thinking about now in what I’m hearing about with some of the families that I’m talking to, (because I’m still seeing all of my clients, virtually) is making sure that we’re not letting things go too far.
So, thinking about bedtimes, a lot of the kids that I’m talking to, particularly the older kids are turning into nocturnal bats at this point, they’re going to bed at three in the morning, they’re waking up at noon.
Kids are having disrupted sleep in terms of people sleeping in different places. And I think maybe we want to really talk about getting things a little bit back to normal in terms of bedtime in your house.
The other thing I think we’re hearing about too, is that manners, just basic manners of please and thank you and respect. Being able to rein that back in a little bit.
I think we’ve been a little bit in the wild, wild west a little, maybe somewhat. And you want to think about what the expectations in your family are that you normally have.
I also think it’s a good time to talk about chores with kids. I don’t know maybe some kids don’t have any chores. But I’m even thinking that if you don’t have chores in your family that this might be a pretty good time to put a few in place. So that kids are starting to maybe do their own laundry if they’re old enough, that you’re giving them some cleaning chores, some simple picking up chores, feeding the dog walking the dog.
I think making sure that we’re moving back into structure before we make this big leap back into normalcy, is gonna be a good idea.
Robin Hutson 4:02
So, you’re saying that we’re no longer in getting by that phase? It’s time to shower. It’s time to change our clothes every day. And it’s time to sort of assume more personal responsibility and hygiene.
Lynn Lyons 4:17
Yes, I was listening. There’s a funny comedian who said that it’s bad when your wife says to you, “When was the last time you showered?” And you say, “Well, what day is it? I can’t remember.” And then your wife says, “I actually don’t know what day it is either.” So yes, I think hygiene would be a good thing to tackle.
And again, this is such a strange time, and we are in our houses. So, I’m not saying that we should try and put back all the structure of a normal day. I know that a lot of parents are still trying to figure out the schooling thing with their job, and it does feel a little crazy in our houses for sure. But I don’t think we need to abandon or completely let go of those things that are gonna have to resume when this is over.
I’m just thinking as I’m talking to families and thinking about it is that if not, if, when there comes a time when we’re back in our routines and parents are going back to work, and I don’t think kids are going to go back to school this school year, to be honest, but when we start thinking about that, again, maybe even back to daycare or whatever, that we don’t want it to go from complete chaos to suddenly back into this structured thing.
I think that’s going to be too hard to transition. I also think it’s not good for kids. I think that there comes a time when it you know, this has gone on what we’re about a month in now here where I am in New Hampshire, that kids are really going to start craving that normalcy again. They’re going to start there, they need that.
It’s sort of like when you’re on school vacation, and after a few weeks, then people start to crave a little bit of a routine, I think we’re going to see kids getting more and more dysregulated. And more and more hyper and more and more off the wall if we don’t put some of that structure back in.
Robin Hutson 6:13
It’s true. Just today, I sort of had this epiphany as I looked at my teenage daughter, I was like, “You shouldn’t really have internet access right now because this is technically a school day, and we’re in the school session right now.”
She wouldn’t be using her phone, pre-quarantine at this point. So, I changed internet settings (Using this device; use our affiliate link for $20 off) on our family monitor and said, “You’ll have your internet access at 2pm when school’s over.” I was just bringing in that kind of normalcy.
Lynn Lyons 6:45
Exactly. I tend to think of it sort of that analogy that that around the holidays, like if you say to yourself, “Okay, so we’re in the holiday season. So, I’m not going to do all of the things that I normally do in my life. So, I’m just going to drink what I want. I’m going to eat what I want. I’m going to give up my exercise routine.”
I used to teach spinning, I taught spinning for 20 years until this fall, I finally stopped. And people would say to me, “Well, I’m not going to be at spinning class on Saturday, because it’s the holidays.” And I would say, “This is exactly when you need to come to spinning class.”
If we give it all up, then come the end of the holidays, you’ve let yourself get into all of these habits. You’ve dug yourself into a hole.
I don’t want parents to feel like they’re digging themselves into a hole of lack of structure that now they have to work really hard to get out of.
We just don’t want to let it all go. So, think about that.
Because we’re not we’re not in chaos.
We’re not in emergency anymore. We’re actually in sort of like the, it’s become more of like the boring, depressing part of this, not the chaotic urgency, emergent part of it.
So, I think we need to make that shift.
Robin Hutson 7:57
Otherwise, we’re just going to make it so much harder on ourselves.
Lynn Lyons 8:00
Yeah, it’s gonna be so hard.
And I think I think we can also really think about what are the things that we’re all already seeing in our kids?
What are the ways that we’ve that we’ve noticed that we’re sort of moving into this more long term, isolation, depressive state?
I’m seeing it in the families that I’m treating parents are talking to me about it. So, I think that’s something also that we really want to pay attention to right now.
Robin Hutson 8:31
Do you find that with the families that you’re seeing that the children are showing a lot of behavioral changes or reactions to this?
Lynn Lyons 8:40
I think that it depends on the age. I think with the younger kids, the upheaval in their routine of not going to school, of parents being home when they were not home, all of that kind of stuff. It was so different, that they were really off, so kids were having trouble sleeping. They weren’t able to.
And then we and then they were off for a while they had like this vacation while the teachers were all figuring out the online schooling. And then we put the online schooling in place. And so that was really disruptive.
So, I feel like the younger kids have been sort of been washed around in this boat with all these waves, and that it’s sort of settling a little bit for them.
Teens in Quarantine
Older kids actually are definitely moving into at this point is feeling more shut down. Parents are talking to me about being concerned about kids isolating in their rooms.
They’re desperately missing the human contact with their friends. So, there are episodes of being cranky, of being impatient.
Parents are telling me that their kids are being more disrespectful than usual. So, there’s a lot of what we’re seeing of— I’m not saying that kids are getting depressed per se— but we’re seeing behaviors that are more on a depressive side of things rather than that anxiety ramped up thing that we saw more at the beginning.
And so, I think we really want to pay attention to that. I think one of the greatest concerns right now that I’m hearing from parents is particularly with teenagers and preteens, too, but middle schoolers and teenagers is the isolation and that the parents are trying to engage them.
They’re trying to, you know, have family dinners. They’re trying to have game nights. And all of that is getting old for teenagers at this point. They’re just getting pissed off.
And parents are saying, “I’m trying to talk to them. I’m trying to do the things that you say Lynn, we’re trying to have silliness, or we’re trying to do this or do that.”
And the teenagers are rejecting them at this point. And that’s feeling really scary to parents, and it’s feeling really bad to parents. I think we can figure out some ways to do that. Tell people about that clip that you saw that you showed me because it was so great.
Robin Hutson 10:58
Oh yeah, I was just saying about it in relation to being a parent of a teenager of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig doing that great lip sync duet to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” from this movie that I now have to watch called The Skeleton Twins. But it’s fabulous.
And it just reminded me of staying at that silliness while someone is looking at you with such anger and disgust. And eventually, the mask cracks, and everyone is connecting in that space of silliness.
So yeah, it just reminds me of like, the times you really try and get everyone to sort of reengage. And sometimes it works, and then sometimes it doesn’t. But I think you know, as parents, we just know that the effort matters.
Lynn Lyons 11:43
Yeah. And one of the things I have a friend, Jeff, who is a therapist, like I am, he’s a social worker. Also. He lives up in Rochester, New York, and we were having a conversation about he works with a lot of teenagers. And he was asking his teenagers he was doing a survey with his teenage clients about what they needed from their parents.
And what he said, which I thought was so insightful and so touching is that when these teens were going through a rough time, the thing that they wanted was their parents not to give up. So even though they the teenagers were telling Jeff, we know we act annoyed, we know we act like we don’t want to talk to you. We know we act as if you’re just the most, you know, all this, this whole persona. But they definitely wanted the parents to keep coming back and keep trying.
And I think we should put up the link to that clip, because it’s so great.
And I think what we’re saying is that as these kids are sort of rejecting you as they’re isolating, that it is not a time for you to say, “Well, I guess it’s just best we leave them alone,” that you’ve got to keep trying. And it just can be a moment here and there.
You don’t have to play Monopoly together for three hours. You don’t have to have some big event. But just these moments of connection— of silliness— where you keep letting them know.
I was sort of saying it’s sort of like a border collie with a tennis ball, right? You just keep coming back and saying, you know, “Are you ready to play fetch? Are you ready to play fetch”, just so that they know that you’re there. And that the goal is to— you’ll see in this if you watch this, this video clip— to have them crack a smile, at least (or even just to smile and roll their eyes at you). That’s okay, if they do both at the same time.
Robin Hutson 13:33
Well, it’s like you talked about in the last episode, when you were giving guidance on how to help a younger child who’s having a tantrum. So, when children are really young, and they’re physically expressing this anger, and they might be pushing you away, or you know, a little three-year-old might be trying to punch you or something and you just hold them.
You know, as they get older that physicality transfers to eye rolling and sighing or how they convey disgust. And you just have to be that vanilla ice cream. Stay there with a smile even though they’re throwing it at you. And eventually because that they might say they want you away. But clearly your study that your friend did indicates it’s the opposite. Right?
Lynn Lyons 14:19
Right. They… and that’s hard because they will say the opposite. They will say “Oh my god, I wish you would just get out of here and leave me alone”. And they don’t really want you to go away completely.
Maybe they want their space for a little bit, but you just coming and checking in on them and you just making sure. And remember what we said last time, too, is that when you are showing silliness and when you are showing joy and when you are modeling for them, that you can still pull up some fun in all of this. That is so incredibly helpful for kids to see from you.
My mentor, my teacher Michael, gave me such a great thing to think about several years ago, I guess, but man, it was so incredibly helpful. I’ve shared it with so many people, that there is a difference between the things that, that impact you personally, and the things that you have to take personally.
And as you’re dealing with your kids’ mood swings and their irritation and their disdain and their eye rolling, you don’t have to take that personally. It’s going to impact you personally. I’m not going to say that you’re going to think “Oh, that was that was a great day when my teenage daughter rolled her eyes at me 17 times,” but you don’t have to take it personally.
And again, yeah, like you say, being that vanilla ice cream and recognizing that your goal is to be the steady person in this is just going to be more valuable than anything else I think that we can do for our kids during this time.
Robin Hutson 15:45
It reminds me (the benefit of being your sister-in-law and being a new mom with you there already being a mom to children who were older) is the mantra you taught me. “It’s not about me. It’s not about me, it’s not about me.”
And in those moments when my kids were young and would trigger me, I wouldn’t go to that place so that the reactivity was within them. And I was trying to be a neutral, safe sounding board not emotional, just comfort.
Yeah. And that’s the steadiness. And when we talk about, you know, when we talk about attachment, and we talk about styles of attachment, which can be a whole, you know, another discussion, but it is that, you know.
When we talk about secure attachment, that is that steadiness, right, that it’s not about you and offering that steadiness. And we do it in different ways with little kids and big kids, like you said. But we’re going to just keep showing up. We’re just going to keep showing up.
And we can give words to it, too. You can talk to your teenager and say, “I realize how hard this is for you. It’s hard for me, too, and that we’re going through this time and that you’re having all sorts of emotions.”
Perhaps your 15-year-old is having 17 emotions.
But being able to validate those emotions to let them know that it’s okay for them to feel what they’re feeling and all of that empathy that we want to give them.
But again, bringing it back to the beginning, right? Let’s rein in some of the permission in the chaos, it’s going to be harder to get them back on track.
Sort of, you know, I guess there are some, you send your kids off to grandma for a week, and they can do whatever they want, and they can eat whatever they want, and then you pick them up.
I remember once I went to… my son was with my parents in Florida. They actually came and picked him up and took him down to Florida a week early. He was in kindergarten, and he needed a little break.
They came and picked up, and I arrived at their house in Florida, and I was so excited to see him. I hadn’t seen them, and I ring the doorbell and he opens the door, and he looks at me, and he slammed the door in my face. (Laughs)
He didn’t want it to be over
Lynn Lyons 17:55
No, and because he didn’t want it to be over—because there was so much freedom and so much fun. And I think that when it sort of reminds me when this is over, and we say to our kids, “Okay, time to get back into our routine,” I think we were going to get a lot of doors slammed in our face.
But I think we just need to be thinking ahead a little bit about that.
I’ve also been thinking about the opportunities that this presents us. And I know that in the middle of this chaos, in the middle of so much uncertainty, it’s hard to think about this as a learning opportunity. But it’s what I do for a living and so I can’t completely get away from it.
I am really talking to the families that I’m working with and the people that I’m doing a lot of webinars and such, about what we can learn from this and to be an observer of your family’s patterns.
This is an interesting gift that if we can take advantage of it, if we can step back. And if we can notice the patterns that maybe have emerged or been amplified during this, I think some great shifts can happen.
Things that you might want to pay attention to is where is the rigidity in your family? And how has that served you or not served you? I think we’ve been enormously adaptable. I am amazed at what the educators have done to be adaptable during this in terms of getting feedback from the families and trying to change things on the fly.
But where is the rigidity in your family? Where has the reactivity shown up? Who’s the most reactive? How do people respond during those emotionally reactive times?
The other behavior that you might want to pay attention to, because this is an incredibly powerful and toxic one, is do you have a pattern of blaming in your family? Are there things that happen, and who in your family is the quickest to point the finger at other people versus being able to take responsibility for their own mistakes?
If that’s something that you can teach your kids during this and to notice this, you will be doing a great service to your family and the way that it functions.
We’ve also talked in the past, but let me just mention it, again, about this catastrophic, zooming into the future, sort of going down into the black hole.
One of the things I’m noticing now that things have settled a little bit, is that we’re moving into a little bit of panic about summer. I don’t know if that’s hit you, Robin.
Robin Hutson 20:47
Yes, yeah, we’re talking about, too.
Lynn Lyons 20:49
Yes. So, we sort of come to the realization that the school year is not going to be what we thought it was going to be and that we’re still sort of grieving the loss of that.
And a lot of ways, but particularly here in New England, where the summer is our dessert— man, we earn our summer— that we’re already people are beginning to panic about what it’s going to look like if we can’t do summer.
So that’s going to be that future zooming that catastrophic thinking, pay attention to who’s doing that.
And then the other thing that you can pay attention to, which we were just talking about a few months ago, is who checks out emotionally. Who disappears? Who can’t handle discussions about this? Who wants to shut down their own emotions or other people’s emotions?
How has your family become better at or are you seeing this shown, you know, is it amplified, that they’re not really able to express their emotions to put words to their emotions, who is trying to shut things down, who is disappearing, who is locking themselves away in all sorts of ways. Maybe in emotionally and physically as well.
So, Robin, can you think of any other patterns that might be amplified during this?
Robin Hutson 22:07
Well, I have a question.
Lynn Lyons 22:08
Robin Hutson 22:09
Sorry, you’re the therapist.
Lynn Lyons 22:11
Robin Hutson 22:11
So, let’s say then you think about your family. Certain things you just mentioned resonate: rigidity, reactivity blaming, or checking out.
So, you say, “Yeah, maybe I’m this, my spouse is maybe this, my kids are this. So, what do you do with that? What are you saying we do?
Lynn Lyons 22:31
So, let’s think about what the opposite is. Because we always want to try and pay attention to the opposite. So obviously, the opposite of rigidity is being flexible. So we have those ways making the wall of flexibility which I talked about in the past, but if you haven’t heard that picking a piece of wall in your house, getting some sticky notes, and really rewarding your kids, for when you see them being flexible, handling things that don’t go well. Being able to manage disappointment.
One of the lines I say all the time is that “I don’t like it, but I can handle it.” That’s that cognitive flexibility and that flexibility within relationships.
With reactivity, if you listen to Episode Three, we talked a lot about emotionally vomiting, and being reactive, and how we can talk to kids about being able to manage their emotions. By thinking about step one, you’re going to have the feeling you’re going to have the thought you’re going to have the reaction. And then step two, how do we manage it in a way that doesn’t do harm to ourselves or others?
I was talking to one little girl about the difference between being a screaming monkey and a baby panda.
Well, she’s four. And so, she’s having to share her parents, and they’re all trying to do school and that kind of stuff. And so, when she gets impatient or when she wants attention, she just has this ear-piercing scream that she goes into and of course it drives everybody crazy.
So, we talked about when she’s a screaming monkey and how that feels for her and feels for everybody and then gave her the alternative is. And I asked her, “What’s an animal you can think of that is very quiet?” And she came up with baby panda.
So, we just made a little chart. And we have that language for her parents to use with her. And so now when she is being a little bit of a screaming monkey, mommy can cue her to be a baby panda. And if she can switch from screaming monkey to Baby Panda, then she gets a lot of validation and a lot of praise. And I think they were giving her some little prizes as well.
Robin Hutson 23:42
Pandas are the hot animal right now? Literally.
Lynn Lyons 24:40
Yeah. Well, good for them.
Robin Hutson 24:42
All they needed was privacy. Go figure.
Lynn Lyons 24:44
Yeah. When people stopped staring at them, and they, they, they got to it. That’s right. Yeah.
Robin Hutson 24:50
One of the things that comes up that I hear in my conversations with my friends is— and actually I think you mentioned this, too— It took a pandemic for me to realize blank. Right. Like I think a lot of us are taking stock. And what did this pandemic make us come to see and come to understand? And that’s definitely a gift of learning something powerful, right?
Lynn Lyons 25:15
Yeah. And we hear that and other things like I’ve heard plenty of people say, you know, “It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with breast cancer that I realized blank or “It wasn’t until I lost my job that I realized blank.
I knew a woman once several years ago who was crazy busy, and she had just published a book. She was going from here to there, and she was rushing from one event to the other and she fell down some stairs and badly broke her ankle.
She was completely immobilized and had to cancel all her events. And now she is in a wheelchair for eight weeks while her ankle heals. And she said, “Boy, was that an eye-opening experience for me. Not only about what I was doing, but what I really wanted once that was taken away and how I was going to go back and pick and choose what I was going to keep and what I was going to get rid of.”
It reminds me to there was a book (called My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey) that was written several years ago about a neurologist specializing in strokes. And she herself had a stroke.
Robin Hutson 25:16
And oh, I remember that book you are talking about .
Lynn Lyons 25:49
And while she was having the stroke, she was observing and knew she was having the stroke. And then she talks with such eloquence about coming back online and figuring out what she wanted to bring back and what she wanted to let go of.
She had an understanding of her own thinking and her own patterns in a way that she had never had before. It was like she, you know, she had her slate wiped clean. And then she could go back and pick and choose what she was going to include again.
And so, I think thinking about that opportunity that we have now, and I —again, I am not saying that right now things are totally smooth and that all of you who have little kids and are working full time are going to have the you know, these moments of time to sort of think about the opportunities of the pandemic, you may not be there yet.
But if you can just—I’m planting a seed. I’m doing a little foreshadowing her, that this is going to give you an opportunity if you’re willing to take advantage of it, to see where the strengths and weaknesses are in your own patterns and in your family’s patterns, and to really see a way to shift them. That this could be pretty remarkable when all is said and done.
Robin Hutson 27:28
It’s also a great family conversation to say, what’s happening in our household now that we weren’t doing before? That you’re really glad we’re doing and that we should make a perpetual habit now?
Lynn Lyons 27:41
Yeah. Wouldn’t that be a great conversation to have? Yeah, I totally agree. What have we discovered? What are we doing in our family that we want to keep even when this is over? I think that would be a really great conversation to have.
Robin Hutson 27:56
We’re cooking a lot more. We’re cooking together too. So that’s nice.
Lynn Lyons 28:00
Yeah, my friend’s daughter just made bread for the first time. And it took— she said it took— six days. And it was awesome. A loaf of sourdough bread. She sent me a picture. It’s beautiful.
All sorts of things, people playing instruments, people singing. I was walking the other day. I don’t know if I said this to you before, but I was walking and there were all these families out walking, and I was thinking to myself that I hope these people who are out walking are recognizing how good walking feels. And I hope then when this is done, they keep walking. Because I think people don’t have anything else to do, and they’re taking walks. I hope they keep doing it.
Robin Hutson 28:35
And when you’re walking, too, I think people are friendly and acknowledging each other. In my neighborhood, we’re stopping and we’re waving in a way that just feels more sincere than before.
Lynn Lyons 28:46
I think so, too.
Robin Hutson 28:46
It’s another nice silver lining.
Lynn Lyons 28:48
Yes, we are here to help support you and feel connected. As we go through this. We know it will end at some point We don’t know when we are still dealing with the uncertainty.
As I said before we’ve moved into this place of sort of like, Alright, enough is enough.
Stay on top of your own good health. Go outside, let the sunshine hit your face. Do what you can to stay connected. And we will see you soon.
I think maybe sleep is something we really want to talk about, because I’ve got a lot to say about that. It’s nice to see you on the zoom screen, Robin.
Nice to see you.
Bye. Bye, everybody.
Robin Hutson 29:31
Thanks for listening.