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When a family experiences a traumatic event together & If your child says “nobody likes me”

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Show Notes

:037 Robin reads the first of three listener questions in the episode. the first question. A mom asks how to help her six-year-old son who says other kids hate him.

Lynn provides guidance on improving social skills as a life-long challenge, learning to take criticism, and learning to play with more flexibility.

12:06 The second listener question involves a family who experienced a traumatic accident while hiking together when a boulder crushed their daughter. They are trying to help her overcome her PTSD and flashbacks from the accident.

Lynn discussing how to create mental distance from the event, avoid globalizing the event, and how to support the family’s different preferences of healing.

26:40 Robin reads the 3rd listener question about encouraging flexibility in a 4 year old.

27:07 Lynn teaches parents how to encourage flexibility in their children using the wall of flexibility and uncooked spaghetti.

31:44 Robin and Lynn discuss the Annie’s Mac and Cheese stage of parenting

33:42 Robin mentioned Lynn’s book Anxious Kids Anxious Parents that she wrote with Reid Wilson.

Season 2 begins with new name next week

33:06 Lynn mentions this is our last episode before we launch Season Two next Monday, 8/31/20 with a brand-new name. If you are a subscriber, it will be a seamless transition. Make sure that you subscribe on whatever platform you listen to the podcast on.

And also at 8:30PM on Sunday night, August 30, join us on the Mom’s Retreat Facebook page for a live Facebook get together where we will give have giveaways and share announcements about new content coming for Season 2.
So please join us this Sunday, August 30th at 8:30PM. See you then!

Episode Transcript

Lynn Lyons  0:00 

What do you do when your family experiences a trauma together? How do you recover? How do you move on? And how do you support yourself and your children as you get past a very terrifying event? And we’ll also talk about a very common problem, something that parents hear a lot from their kids. What do you do when your child says, “Nobody likes me”?

Hi, I’m Lynn Lyons. I’m a speaker, a psychotherapist, an author, and an expert in anxiety. And I’m here with my sister-in-law and producer Robin. Hi, Robin.

Robin Hutson  0:31 

Hi, Lynn.

Lynn Lyons  0:32 

How’s it going today?

Robin Hutson  0:33 

Good. I have the first listener question for you.

Lynn Lyons  0:36 

All right.

Robin Hutson  0:37 

We have three today in this show. So, here’s the first question.

When your child says kids hate him

“My six-year-old is extremely outgoing but is also very sensitive. He tells me that his peers say they hate him, don’t like him. But the way that he describes it, I feel like it may be that he’s thinking they feel that way rather than them actually saying it. I’m struggling with how to help him build his self-esteem in socializing.”

Lynn Lyons  1:01 

Okay, the fact that you’re paying attention to this when he’s six is really great. And a lot of times parents sort of talk through this like, “Oh, you don’t feel that way.” Or “Oh, that’s not true. Or “Oh, don’t worry about that.”

And then they’ve got this 12-year-old who’s really struggling with these thoughts. So, kudos to you, Mom, for really saying, “Alright, I want to be proactive with my little guy.”  It’s also great that he’s outgoing, because that means that he’s willing to put himself out into situations and that he’s got this temperament where he likes people, and he wants to engage. So, all of those things are great.

Externalizing a self-critical pattern

What I would do with him is that I would think about parts. And you know how I love parts? I love being able to pull out the worry part and have a conversation about it. And I don’t know that you would want to call this particularly a worried part.  I would want to call it his automatic, self-critical part. That’s not really the language we would use for a six-year-old. So, I would talk to him about his bossy part or his mean part.

Or you might even give it a name. And then you, Mom, say to him, “Oh, that part, Tony, he says that kids don’t like you. I’m tired of him making up stories.” Because one of the things you want to help him recognize is that what he thinks and what he perceives, is not always the go to. So, when people get older, I say to people all the time, “Just because you think it doesn’t make it so.” Or “Don’t believe everything that you think.”

Anxiety is a storyteller. It comes up with this narrative, and then you get pulled into it. So, we want to help him differentiate between what he’s noticing about the people around him and what this part —we’ll just call it Tony. (I don’t know why I said Tony. Sorry, to all the Tonys out there.) But what Tony says to him and to say “It sounds like when you’re with your friends or when you’re hanging out with kids that sometimes you’re not sure what they think, or it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on. Or maybe they do something that hurts your feelings.”

The other thing to pay attention to is that if he’s rigid and he likes things to go his way. He tends to want to be sort of the leader, and other kids are pushing back against that. He also might interpret that as kids not liking him. But once we start talking about Tony, and you start asking him, what do you think this part of you, let’s call him Tony, what do you think we should say to Tony, and you start helping him push back a little bit against this automatic response that kids don’t like him, then you’re going to help him get some distance from it and come up with some different language. That’s part one.

Focusing on Social Skills not self esteem

And then part two is just pay attention that maybe he needs a little coaching with social skills. Like if he’s not quite sure when to back off, if he’s outgoing, if he sort of goes in too big and he sort of in kids are sort of like, hey, it’s not your turn or something like And at six, he’s not supposed to have all these social skills. So, you really want to help him through that.

But I would talk about this part of him that is saying things to him and I, Mom, I would have a talk with Tony. So I’d pull out Tony, you know, do a little, pull it out and then “Say, hey, Tony, why are you saying this about my little guy here?” and then maybe he’s going to be the voice of Tony, so you can get some information about it.

I will tell you that the language of the building self-esteem, that’s sort of like, no offense, but it’s kind of nails on the chalkboard to me, because this idea that our goal is to build kids’ self-esteem— that’s sort of like a 70s and 80s thing.

And there’s a lot of research on programs that were designed to build self-esteem, and they really sort of crashed and burned and didn’t give the results that we wanted it to have. So, you really want to think about I want to build his social skills or I want to build his ability to not listen to everything that he thinks. Those will increase his confidence in his self-concept, like maybe better self-esteem is the end product of this. And that would be great. But that’s not what I want you to focus on.

Robin Hutson  5:07 

Not sounding harsh, but you know, obviously, as parents, we all want our children to be likable and to find a connective community of friends. But if the mom is observing that there are opportunities where he’s invited to play, then maybe it’s definitely Tony and he is really second guessing himself.

But what if, in fact, there are still some personality traits that are rough around the edges that is making him more challenged for other kids to find he’s just not that easy to play with right now. So, what would you say to the mom, then?

Rough around the edges in play

Lynn Lyons  5:41 

Number one, don’t freak out about that. Because remember, he’s six. So, he’s not supposed to have it all figured out. And I wouldn’t hover. I wouldn’t offer too much language but talking about some of the things that he can learn to do and coaching him a little bit with that is really fine. It’s really okay for you to say, as a mom, “I noticed that James got really mad at you when you wouldn’t take turns,” or “I noticed that sometimes it’s hard for you to listen when somebody else is talking. And so maybe we can practice that a little bit.”

You offer it in just sort of a suggestive way. Like, “I’ve noticed that blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And it’s all about teaching skills. And social skills, we get a little nervous about teaching those because we’re afraid that we’re going to be insulting or afraid we’re going to hurt their feelings.

One of the great models for teaching social skills that has come about in the last few decades is the way that we teach kids that are on the spectrum.

And I’m not saying that this kid is on the spectrum, but one of the things that’s great about the models that they use with social thinking is that they’re really straightforward.

They really just say to kids, “If you do that, then you might hurt somebody’s feelings. And it’s such a skill-based, very direct, very supportive way of just saying to kids, “We know that this is hard. Let me just tell you some things that work and some things that don’t.” And it’s really okay to talk to him that way, just in a very loving, supportive way.

And then if we’ve got Tony over there, then we can get Tony to be quiet so that your little guy can learn what he needs to learn. Yeah, so it could be both.  Robin, you’re right, it could be that he really is misinterpreting things because he gets intimidated. Or he doesn’t know how to manage it, it could be that he’s really sensitive to any kind of pushback he gets. And then the other thing may be is that he may be doing things that you’d like to say a little rough around the edges that he needs a little help with. And it’s perfectly fine to just coach him with that.

Robin Hutson  7:41 

The other thing, I don’t know this, but if this little guy is an only child. I have enough of an age difference with my kids that my firstborn was an only child for a long time.  Up until this age, and if he has this kind of need, he’s on a playground now or he’s suddenly in an environment with other kids, his need for wanting to come in and play and connect could just… he’s like not playing it cool. And that’s also a skill of learning how to read the room and ease into it.

Lynn Lyons  8:12 

Right.

And I think sometimes, you know, when kids are little, like when they’re toddlers, and you’re, you know, you’re with your friends, and you’ve got a bunch of two year olds or a three year old, we’re in there saying, “No, don’t throw sand!” or “You have to let him have a turn.” And then when kids get a little older, we sort of stopped doing that. And maybe he just needs a little bit more of that.

Confusing criticism with rejection

There’s another possibility. And again, I don’t know this. You said he’s very sensitive. If he has a hard time taking any kind of criticism, say constructive criticism, even noticing in your family that if you say, “Hey, I need you to not do that,” Right, that that’s really hard for him? That’s something that you want to talk to him directly about.

Because being able to take criticism or being able to be corrected is a really important skill for him to develop. And you want to help him differentiate between it is okay for me to correct you, and that’s very different than me hating you or me not liking you.

And so sometimes when kids are really sensitive to criticism, that’s something that happens between parents. So, a parent might say, like, “Hey, I need you to get off that table, because that is not safe.”

And then the child will say, I think we had a question about this a while ago, actually, Robin, and then a child would say like, “I’m the worst kid ever, or you hate me, or you probably wish I wasn’t even born,” and the parents are like, “No, no, that’s not it at all.” And they sort of get sidetracked by that.

You really want to focus on “I am correcting you, and I am giving you some information that you need. And I know sometimes that feels a little a little difficult, but it doesn’t have to do with hating or not liking or being mean.” And in that may be a part of what’s going on too.

So, I feel like we’ve taken this question, and we’ve given you all sorts of possibilities, Mom, and we don’t know your kid. I don’t know which one it is. So just take whatever seems like it fits the best with your kid. And it could be a combination of these two just to just to make it more complicated for you. Because, you know, because parenting is complicated.

We’re lifelong students of social skills

Robin Hutson  10:15 

Since I’m your sister-in-law and have been parenting in your presence, you know, since the beginning, one of the things that’s been really helpful when I talk with my children about these types of skills, where we hit walls is, I just also admit, we’re lifelong learners. So, we’re always finessing and fine tuning these skills. And it’s absolutely appropriate to not have all the answers, and we will keep talking about having good, positive social interactions when you’re six. And when you’re 16. Even when I’m 60. You know, it’s just part of it.

Lynn Lyons  10:49 

Yeah. One of the things that my clients hear me say all the time is I say, “Look, I am way older than you and I had to have this very same conversation with myself the other day. I was talking to actually a client of mine who’s a young woman who is delightful. And like many of the anxious teenagers and young adults that I see she’s super self-critical. She was telling herself a story about herself and sort of getting wrapped up in her story.

And that’s what anxiety does. It creates this narrative that then you get pulled into, and I was telling her the other day I was hiking down a mountain. I was by myself because my husband was farther back behind me. And I started thinking about something, and I started being catastrophic about it. I started getting pulled into this scenario.

And then I just realized here I am on this beautiful mountain hiking down this trail, and my anxiety, my worry and I are having this terrible conversation in my head. Because there wasn’t anybody around me, I said out loud, “Lynn, you are telling yourself a story.” And then I just kept hiking, and I just I just interrupted that.

And it just happens to all of us. So, I just tell you that because I say that all the time, Robin, then this is I’m working on the same things you are. I say to my clients all the time.

When a family experiences a traumatic event together

Robin Hutson  12:06 

Okay, we have another question. This one’s a little more complicated and intense, and I really feel for this family.

As many have during the quarantine, we’ve taken many family hikes. On a hike in May, our girls were standing in front of an old shaker dam for a photo, and it collapsed. Our oldest was basically crushed by an enormous boulder and broke her pelvis in five places and her foot in two. She’s also an elite athlete hoping to run in college. She was in a wheelchair for 10 weeks and is now walking with crutches.

Yes, she’s lucky to be alive and not paralyzed. But here’s my question. She has a history of anxiety and panic attacks. And she sees the accident often when she’s trying to fall asleep. How do we get her past this? And us, since we’re all there pushing a thousand-pound boulder off of our girl, how do I get her to go on another hike someday, or even allow any of us or her friends to go into the woods without worry? She’s terrified now.”

Lynn Lyons  13:07 

As a parent, when you read that, right, you can put yourself into the shoes of this family. And what a terrible event that must have been. How scary for everybody. And I’m glad that everybody’s recovering physically and working hard at recovering emotionally from this.

So here we have a trauma. And let me just say that I am not a trauma expert. There is a lot of great work on trauma. But the reason that I feel qualified to talk about this is because I am more qualified to talk about incidents of trauma as opposed to chronic trauma that results in complex PTSD.

So, we’ve got some post-traumatic stuff here based on a single incident, and just in general, the one thing that we know about this is that the earlier that you address it, the better. We don’t want it to go on for a really long time. So, it would be this was, what, two months ago, three months ago? Let’s see, May, June, July, so about two and a half months ago. It’s not like it’s gone on for years.

What we want to do with this, Mom, is we are trying to prevent the development of a more long-term PTSD reaction. There’s going to be some trauma reactions at the beginning. So, as you said, sort of reliving the event and you reliving the event. All of that is really normal.

What you want to focus on now is that you want to pay attention to whether or not you and your family are accommodating her anxiety.

Now, one of the things you said that’s really important is that she has a history of anxiety and panic attacks. So, she already knows how to do anxiety. So, she already knows how to take content that she experienced, and then tell a story about it. And she knows how to get her body going into those panic attacks and get her fight or flight system really going. So that makes it a little trickier.

But there’s some opportunity here. Because the one thing that is helpful, well, there’s several things that are helpful. But one of the things that’s really helpful is for you all to recognize that having those memories come back, seeing that at night before she goes to bed, all of that is normal.

And as time passes, the goal is to have you and her differentiate between then and now.

When we have a traumatic event, then it hijacks our body, it takes over and our body sometimes can sort of get stuck in a lot of ways in the moment of the trauma. And so good trauma work helps you to move from then to now and to help your brain and your body differentiate between what happened then and what happened now because the traumatic memories keep invading your present.

So being able to explain that to her, if nobody has talked to her about it, I would seek out some help from somebody who can help you with this single incident trauma. And talk to her about the process that your brain and your body go through. So, you normalize it a little bit for her, and that you really want to make sure that you’re not accommodating any of the anxiety that she might be having around this.

Now, she is not a little girl, so you can’t force her to go on a hike. But I think if you can put it in the context of, we’re giving your brain an opportunity to relearn.

And these memories are going to come back, and you’re gonna feel some hesitancy, but we’ve got to lay down some new tracks in your brain. We’ve got to allow you to have some new experiences, so that the prominent memory of what happened isn’t impacting so much.

It’s a process but you should start it sooner rather than later, for sure.

The other thing that’s important about this is when you say, “Here’s my question, how do we get her past this?” Well, it’s always going to be a part of your history. It’s always going to be there.

How do you get her to go on another hike someday without worry, right? Anytime when you’re dealing with something like this, that you’re trying to get rid of the memory, or you’re trying to get rid of the worry, it’s gonna backfire.

Get distance from the traumatic event

We want to get some distance from it, and we want it to be not so powerful. But my goal wouldn’t be to have her go into the woods without worry. My goal would be to have her go into the woods with some worry, because, of course, she’s going to have some worry. And how does she recognize and how does she understand that that’s a normal thing. That after you have an accident like this, that, of course, you’re going to have some worry when you go into the woods.

But she is globalizing. So, the woods didn’t cause the accident. Going into the woods wasn’t the accident.

But what happens with trauma is that we globalize it a little bit. So, we’re looking for cues that connect us, and it happened in the woods. We want to talk to her about how she’s going to recognize when that worry, when that fear, pops up that it’s okay. It’s to be expected. We want to allow her to have a little bit of distance from it.

Because that’s when we’re talking about dealing with anxiety, when we’re talking about dealing with depression, when we’re talking about dealing with trauma, we always want to work therapeutically. When I’m working with people, I always want to work to create some distance. So, time does that. We also have to get her a little distant from this so she can look at it from a different perspective.

These are skills that she needs in general. So, this is something that you really want to work on with her is that how is it that her thoughts and her feelings don’t hijack her body in a way that shuts her down and has her avoid.

Let me just sort of sum this up by saying that you and your family went through something really, really awful— really, really traumatic. But, the goal at this point is to not have it globally define all of your experiences, or all of her experiences. That it was something that happened.

I can see in the words that you wrote that you are grateful that things weren’t much worse, of course, but we want to make room for that. We want to allow for that. But we don’t want to accommodate that and have her fear and her anxiety and her worry determine the decisions that she makes going forward.

So, take your time with it. If you need professional help. I don’t know that if you went to see somebody about this who’s really good with trauma, I don’t know that it would be a long-term thing. In fact, I would think it wouldn’t be a long-term thing.

But think about it concretely that she needs some skills to manage the fear and the worry when it comes up and some skills to help to get some distance from it. It’s not going to go away. Don’t have that as your goal because that’s not realistic. But being able to help her develop those skills of when those thoughts and feelings come up, you’ll get there and maybe talking to somebody would be a good idea, even as a family, but it is not an impossible problem to solve. And you’re smart, and you’re wise to be thinking about how it is that you can help her with this.

Robin Hutson  20:22 

I have a question, Lynn.

Lynn Lyons  20:23 

Yeah.

Robin Hutson  20:24 

Because I know you talk about depression and positive expectancy. But this is somewhat the opposite. Because I think that when really bad things happen, it makes us anxious that more really bad things will happen. The mother is talking about this and the 16-year-old daughter, but her siblings were there, too. This didn’t happen to her siblings, but it was still traumatic.

But if that if that sibling showed up a year from now as a client because she had developed a lot of anxiety as a result of that incident, when we’ve experienced as a family something really bad happening, how do we look at it from every person’s perspective?

Secondary and Vicarious Trauma

Lynn Lyons  21:08 

It wouldn’t be that much different because some people would call that secondary trauma.  The boulder didn’t fall on the sibling, but she was still there and witnessing and feeling that sense of helplessness and terror. One of the things that happens in the body in the brain, when you go through a trauma like that is there is an experience in the moment that you may not survive, and that you feel incredibly helpless.

And so, siblings, the siblings that were witnessing it, they wouldn’t have felt that they weren’t going to survive, but they would feel incredibly helpless as the parents were. So that’s what you would want to address. And again, it really is about making sure that you don’t go global with this because when people get in trouble with trauma, and I’m talking again about a single incident trauma, not about chronic trauma of being chronically abused or something, but when people experience a singular trauma, the way that it becomes problematic is when it bleeds out into the rest of your life in impact.

And even like you’re saying, Robin, that then you begin to expect or look for that happening again. Now, again, to think about that, that amygdala, that alarm system of yours, got triggered during this. And when a trauma happens, the brain is impacted in a way that now it is going to be hyper vigilant for things happening in the future.

And so, explaining all of this and giving psycho-education to people who witness trauma and to family members who experience a vicarious trauma watching their sister get crushed by a huge boulder. You want to make sure that they are not globalizing it to all areas of their life.

If I were to give you an example, say a child gets attacked by a dog, and then it would make sense that they would globalize that all dogs could potentially attack them. Which makes sense, of course. And when we look at the primitive brain, the brain says, “Well, yes, that was a dog. It barked; it growled. And it had four legs and a furry tail. And now any dog that I see is potential danger.”

Healing from a traumatic event as a family

That system is set up to protect us on purpose. It works that way. And so, what then the therapy has to do is come in and help them differentiate between a situation that happened with a dog and all dogs. And that takes some work because, remember, the brain is designed to make those connections. So, we are trying to just do a little bit of disconnection: all dogs aren’t dangerous.

Being able to talk about that and to be able to talk about the ability to separate from it a little bit, not ignore it, not deny it, not invalidate it, not completely compartmentalize it, but to separate it a little bit, and to help them differentiate between what was the dangerous situation that happened and how can I move forward into other areas of my life. And you may have a very similar conversation with a sibling, for sure.

Robin Hutson  24:06 

It’s interesting because the process that you talk about in your books of externalizing your worry, we are now going to have this worry character that they call this this whole incident is Shauna. If everyone acknowledged that they could be looking for worst case scenarios in their thinking of something, and they collectively shared a name with it and talked about it, and were able to own it and say, “Yeah, I just applied for this college, but I’m not going to get in and they’re going to close down.” Everyone else can say, “Well, I think that’s your Shauna lens.” Let’s all acknowledge that. We’re gonna look at it this way first, but let’s remove that film off of it…

Lynn Lyons  24:45 

Right.

Robin Hutson  24:45 

 …and support each other through it. It can be very powerful that way.

Lynn Lyons  24:49 

Very powerful. The other thing, too, is that some people find it very helpful when we’re talking about it openly and when we’re using a name like that so that everybody collectively knows they went through this experience. And they’re sort of acknowledging it with each other. But they’re also saying we’re not going to let it define us. That’s a really powerful thing to do. Because you feel supportive, and you’ve had this collective experience.

The other thing, too, that’s interesting about helping people with trauma. And there was some research about this that came out, I think it was after 911, actually, is that some people really want to talk and process their trauma. It helps them to say, this is what happened and to relive it a little bit.

And there are other people who don’t want to do that. And one of the things they found is that if you are somebody who doesn’t want to talk about the specifics of the trauma, and somebody says, “Well, you have to. It’s important for you to go over it again. It’s important for you to talk about it.” That’s not helpful.

So, it really is okay in a family if somebody says, “I don’t want to talk about this,” or “I don’t want to tell this story again.”

There might be somebody else in the family who, you know, that’s something that they talk about. Maybe they write about it. Maybe they have a writing prompt in 11th grade, and they write about that event that happened. And it really is okay for both.

If somebody is saying I don’t want to talk about it, and you’re seeing a lot of symptoms, then we might want to look at that. But if somebody says, I’m able to process this, I don’t need to tell the story over and over again. I’m doing okay with it. It is okay to trust that. And that’s something that people didn’t really, at least a lot of people, didn’t think that that was okay. But they found after 911, that it really was okay.

Robin Hutson  26:40 

Promoting flexibility in kids

This is what the next listener writes.

“I love the idea of encouraging flexibility for my four-and-a-half-year-old. We’ve started a wall of flexibility that you reference in your book. I need some models of what conversations sound like that validate big feelings and then transition to encouraging flexibility. How does encouraging flexible sound? Should I wait until big feelings subside and then work together to create a plan that involves flexibility?

Lynn Lyons  27:07 

Okay, so great question. And I’m so glad you’re using the wall of flexibility, because that’s one of my favorite go-tos. So, I’ll sort of work backwards a little bit on this. In the middle of the tornado, it’s hard to put the plan into place. And it’s hard to come up with the language. So, either before or after. So, we really want to front load this, we really want to be proactive.

There’s an episode where your child has big feelings and isn’t being as flexible as you want. And in that moment, they’re not going to learn anything. So, you have to have laid the groundwork ahead of time. And again, this is where that parts thing comes in handy is that maybe you’ve talked about Rigid Robbie, right? Or Stuck Sam, who gets really stuck on things? You talk about it and you come up with your wall of flexibility. And then when it happens, you can reference Stuck Sam, and he knows exactly what you’re talking about.

So, he’s four and a half. So, he’s just learning this. You’re gonna give him a lot of wiggle room, and you’re going to talk him through it. You’re going to help him put words to his feelings. Because remember, emotional literacy is so important. Helping a little four-and-a-half-year-old be able say, “I feel stuck,” or “I’m mad because this didn’t go the way I wanted it.”

And you can give him that language. So, the first thing I would do is I would validate those big feelings, right?

“It looks like you’re really mad. And I understand. It’s so hard when things don’t go the way you want them to go. And we all have a Stuck Sam that shows up and says, “I want things to go this way. So, I understand you have those big feelings. Now let’s think about how we could be flexible in this moment.”

Now if he’s four and a half. It’s going to be hard for him to say, “Gosh, let me think about that, Mom. Well, I could do this, or I could do that.”

So, you want to give him some choices. You want to give him the language. And then once he gets the hang of it, he might be able to come up with some of the choices himself. So how does encouraging flexibility sound? Well, it sounds like this, “I know right now that you might feel a little stuck.”

And I talk a lot about being cooked spaghetti and uncooked spaghetti. So, and I have kids in my office I have them pretend to be a piece of uncooked spaghetti. So you can imagine I’m sitting here in my chair right now, sort of straightening my arms and legs and making all my muscles tight like a piece of uncooked spaghetti. And then we pretend being a piece of cooked spaghetti. I often give kids uncooked spaghetti and have them try and tie them in a little circle in my office, or I have parents do it at home. And, of course, the pieces of spaghetti break into all sorts of little bits. So, giving him a visual like that and then being able to say, “It looks like right now, that you’re kind of a piece of uncooked spaghetti. And I need you to be cook spaghetti.”

And I have said this 1,000 times. There are families that I don’t see for, like seven years, 10 years, and I run into them somewhere, and of course, I don’t remember their names, but I say hi. And I remember their faces, and they say, “Oh, it’s so good to see you. We still talk about uncooked spaghetti in our house.”

“I know that you’re having big feelings right now. And I need you to be a piece of cooked spaghetti.” Or let’s think about how we can handle this giving him visuals and giving him things that means something to him that illustrate the difference between being rigid and being flexible in his little four-and-a-half-year-old mind.

Robin Hutson  30:28 

Wouldn’t also with a child that young, it’s also helpful for the parent to say, “I think I’m going to be a piece of cooked spaghetti in this moment, because I expected this to happen and something else did. But you know what? So, what.”  Then you can pull those moments and talk out loud about being flexible yourself.

Lynn Lyons  30:49 

As you’re going through the day, you know how I have that thing at the dinner table where I say what’s the unexpected thing that happened to you today, and you can adjust that. So, you might say if you have trouble who’s dealing with difficulty with flexibility, you could say to everybody “Go around the table and say what was a time when you had to be flexible today. Tell me about your cooked spaghetti moment,” which is really the same thing.

What unexpected thing happened to you today, and how did you handle it? That means that you’re able to manage probably some big feelings and then you are problem solving and being flexible. You come home from work or whatever and you say to your little four-and-a-half-year-old “Boy, did I have to be cooked spaghetti today, you wouldn’t believe what happened to me,” and they love hearing those stories. So, you just make it a part of the conversation. And if you have a four-and-a-half-year-old, you should really be good at being cooked spaghetti because, man, it is so much easier to parent when you’re cooked spaghetti than when your uncooked spaghetti.

Robin Hutson  31:44 

While you’re cooking spaghetti with butter.

Lynn Lyons  31:46 

Yes, you’re right. This is the kind of spaghetti that only comes in the blue box.

Oh, do you remember that? We used to get Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese, and for a while they had this flavor. It didn’t come in the purple box. Maybe it was a green box. But it came with like little specks of parsley in it. And so, my kids, when the specks of parsley would be in it, they would say they wouldn’t eat it— even though you can’t even taste the specks of parsley— because it wasn’t the kind without the specks of parsley.

So, I did this whole thing where I had a magic spell that would erase the parsley from their tongues. We could still see it with our eyes because I didn’t have the kind of magic that would get rid of it from their eyes. But I did have the kind of magic that would get rid of it from their tongues. So even though they could see it, they weren’t going to taste it. And they totally bought it.

Robin Hutson  32:35 

That’s awesome.

Lynn Lyons  32:38 

Oh, those were the days.

Robin Hutson  32:42 

I cooked mac and cheese by Annie’s for lunch today for kids. So, I’m still in those days. I’ve always loved your visual of the cooked and uncooked spaghetti because I think it’s so helpful for kids to understand. It’s just one of the many things that you mentioned in your book Anxious Kids Anxious Parents that you wrote with Reid Wilson. Everyone should read that book. I’ll put a link to the book in the show notes.

Lynn Lyons  33:06 

This is our last episode before we launch Season Two next Monday with a brand-new name. If you are a subscriber, it will be a seamless transition, and we don’t want you to miss a moment. Make sure that you subscribe on whatever platform you listen to the podcast on.

And also at 8:30PM on Sunday night, August 30, join us on the Mom’s Retreat Facebook page for a live Facebook get together where we will give you new information and giveaways. So please join us this Sunday, August 30th at 8:30PM. See you then!

Robin Hutson  33:43 

8:30 Eastern!

Lynn Lyons  33:44 

8:30 Eastern!

Robin Hutson  33:45 

And we’ll launch our new name.

Lynn Lyons  33:47 

Oh yeah, what Robin said.

Robin Hutson  33:51 

Alright Lynn, thanks so much. Bye bye!

Lynn Lyons  33:53 

Okay, bye

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