PAM: Welcome! I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Sue Patterson. Hi, Sue!
SUE: Nice to be here again!
PAM: Yay! Sue is a long-time unschooling mom, founder of Unschooling Mom2Mom, and a coach. She has been on the podcast a number of times, as have two of her kids (Katie Patterson and Alyssa Patterson). And I am so happy that she’s back.
A few weeks ago, I invited listeners to submit questions for us to chat about. So, are you ready to get started, Sue?
SUE: I am ready!
PAM: Okay. Our first question.
“I love unschooling and I believe in the process. We are in our eighth year of unschooling in a state that requires a report of learning in certain subjects at the end of each school year. Having to track my kids’ learning for the school system is the one thing that I dread about unschooling. Will you talk about ways to keep track of our kids learning without it affecting their learning? Sometimes I am tempted to throw some school learning their way, just so I can include it in the report. I would love more advice on trusting the process.”
SUE: All right. Well, with the question, how can I do this without it affecting their learning? That’s easy enough. You just record it and don’t necessarily tell them what you’re recording. You’re just observing, you’re having interactions with them, and you’re gathering the data from that. And then, you translate that into the school-y talk that your state wants, or whoever is needing the report.
Sometimes people say, “Oh, I have to record all these subjects.” But, in fact, they only have to record four. They don’t really have to record it quite the way their mind immediately goes to. And so, get really clear on what you really have to do. If you live in Pennsylvania or New York, you’ve got a lot. But if you live in other places, you may not have to turn it in to anybody. You may just record it because someday, somebody might ask for it.
And remember that at any point you can say, “Oops. Sorry. Didn’t do that thoroughly enough. I’ll do better next time.” You can always do that. You’re in charge of your life. And so, if you feel like, “I’m so afraid that the government is going to come,” that is such a rare scenario. But if you do have to turn something in, maybe your state has an evaluator or you have to give information to a state that’s a little bit more restrictive, make sure you’re giving them only what they’re asking for.
Sometimes we, as parents, are submitting more information than necessary, because we want a good grade, because we want their approval. Well, let me tell you, they are never going to give you approval. I don’t care how much you submit. And, if anything, what I have seen happen is when people submit a lot, it allows them to kind of, “Oh, well, if you’re going to do that, why didn’t you do that?” And so, it might be better to just cover it in a more general way.
Sometimes what I’ve asked people to do is to look at the Department of Education website for your state. And then you can look up third grade, look up the language that they use, and just use their language, because then they’re seeing what they want to see. “Check, check, check. Silent, sustained reading. Got it.” Which just means they read a few things. So, try to not put too much on yourself and on that recording and be really clear about it.
And so, it’s really important to talk with other unschoolers from your area, because sometimes the homeschooling crowd tends to be a little overzealous in their recording, because they are still feeling like, “This is going to be my grade. I want to show how great they are. I want to show how much they’ve learned. I want to show how I’ve provided all these things.” Okay. Do that in a scrapbook or something that’s a little bit easier. Doing it for the governing body, keep that separate. Do whatever they need. Check, check, check, done. Now, how do we share? “Oh look, last year you went to this, this year you did this.” That’s a whole different area, right?
PAM: Yeah. I love that point to be very clear on what you have to do. And there are very good reasons to not over-explain
PAM: Overshare. Exactly.
What came up for me was really trying not to let it bubble into our lives and maybe affect their learning and their choices, because I’m subtly trying to get them to make more school-y looking choices.
Make the recording pieces as easy as possible. So, if you’re a writing kind of person, maybe you just set up a little app on your phone or have a notebook with you where you can just write super bullet points on what they actually did. Don’t get caught up doing the translation into school language in the moment, because that brings that school filter with you all the time. Just record what they’re doing. Or if you’re more of a visual person, just take a few pictures that will tweak you that, oh, they did this and they did this. Those are the nice reminders.
And then, when it comes time, then, on your own, sink into that translation piece. It becomes easier when you get in that mindset of what you’re looking for and you know exactly what you need to report on. So, if it’s only those four subjects or whatever, you’re just going to be scanning through your bullet point writing or your pictures, looking for those four things. And it’s much easier to get in that mindset and then leave it, so that you don’t bring it with you every day. If you let it be at the top of your mind every day, that’s when it affects what’s going on.
SUE: Do it at the end of the year, when you’ve got to turn in your end of the year evaluation, or you’ve got to write your thing for the future, whatever. But that’s the only time. I think, too, that that’s such a great point. And I think that you’ll be shocked when you start recording little things here and there, how much you have to work with.
So, for a lot of families, what we’ve done and you can do this for yourself, is that we have a Google document. We just create one that has columns. It has the four subjects you need or whatever number the requirements are. And then you can have it in a notebook where you just jot it down. “We went to the science museum,” and you put it under science and you also put it under language arts, because they read the stuff.
Or you put it under history because they talked about how, long ago animals did this. Or maybe it’s also geography, because the earth changed and the plants did this. And you could write it in all of those columns and then it will be easy for you to work with at the end of the year when you’re like, “Well, we did a little botany.” You just get to call it that, because that’s the wording that they’re looking for.
And I love the idea of not doing that educational speak, looking at the DOE all year long. Don’t do that, because that is too much.
If you’re looking at the requirements all of the time, that becomes your lens every day. And that’s when you can start feeling like you should start putting more schoolish-looking things in there, because you’re always looking for it. But truly, if you try it a couple of times, I’m sure you will find that just noting what you’re actually doing, you will be able to, at that point where you need to write the report, translate that into what they want.
SUE: And you can remember, too, that a year into it, you’re going to personally do a lot of learning. So, if you’re brand new at this and you think, “Oh my gosh!” All right. Know that six months from now, you’re not going to feel so oh-my-gosh-y. You’re going to be like, “Oh yeah, that’s a little of that. And a little of that. And a little of that.”
And a lot of people use Evernote as an app that you can have a folder for your subjects that you need. And that is an easy way to like, “Oh, look, he’s playing Minecraft.” Take the picture of him playing Minecraft. Put it in technology, put it in reading, put it in math, put it in critical thinking, put it in wherever you need to put it, so that when you come back to look at your folder, you’re like, “Whoo, look at all that stuff!” And you have plenty to work with.
PAM: Yeah. And I was thinking, too, if you’re having a bit of a hard time, if you see what your kids are doing or pictures of what they’re doing, and you’re having a hard time putting that into school-ish language, just like you were saying, ask your community. You can go to them to find out what the requirements are. You can brainstorm, “Okay. I’m having a hard time writing down what they’re learning from this.” Oh, you’ll get so many great responses.
SUE: We can put it in the show notes, because I don’t know it off the top of my head, but there’s a Facebook group that’s something like, What My Unschooler is Learning When …
PAM: Yeah. I’ve seen that, too.
SUE: Yeah! So, if you’re like, “I don’t know. They’re outside and they’re making a bike ramp,” you write that in there. And you just write, “I don’t know, they’re building a bike ramp,” and then you’ll get like 20 answers of the physics and the this and the that. And you’re like, “Thanks.”
PAM: And you know what? Even if you don’t have to record things, I think that’s an important deschooling step that helps you start to see all the learning that happens in all these activities. Okay. Okay. Our next question.
“If I am not yet comfortable, in fact, I’m extremely anxious about giving my kids (7 and 11), the freedom to play video games as long as they want, what can I do? I do give them longer chunks of time, but after two to four hours, I have them come off, at least for a while. I see my kids give up things they truly love to do, like draw, play outside, Legos, imaginary play, et cetera, because the vast options of games online absorbs them. What do I do if I can’t go radical?”
SUE: You don’t have to go radical.
PAM: I’m not so much about the label “radical.”
PAM: It’s not about trying to approach a label. It’s just focusing on what you’re doing and what is working for your family.
SUE: And I think a lot of people think, “I’m not doing it right.” Or, “I’m not doing it good enough,” or, “I’m not unschooly enough.” Remember, what this really is about is doing the most individualized approach that you could possibly do. So, it’s not going to look like mine or Pam’s, because the individuals involved in your family have different interests, have different scenarios, who have different baggage to unpack, all of that kind of stuff.
PAM: And, something really important to consider upfront is, is this causing friction in your relationship with your kids? If this is working reasonably well for everybody, it doesn’t need to be an urgent thing to be solved.
SUE: Right. To go radical.
PAM: It’s not about pursuing the label. It’s about the kids and the family. It’s about our needs, their needs, and peeling back those layers. So, definitely from the language, there’s more to peel back here, but if everything’s working for everybody right now, you don’t need to rock every boat to say you’re radical unschoolers.
SUE: There’s no unschooling police coming to your door to say that you’re not doing it well enough.
“We’re stripping your badge from you!” It’s not happening. But I do want to just say, and then we’ll get more about her question actually, but the word “radical” freaks people out, some people, and then other people are like, “I want it!” And remember, all it really means is that you are taking the unschooling principles that we have about learning and that we’re hardwired to learn and that it’s all around our life and incorporating that knowledge into how we deal with parenting topics.
And so, then all of a sudden, unschooling isn’t just an educational approach anymore. It’s a lifestyle. And so, it’s permeating everything, where we say “yes” more often and we partner with them to figure out, how are we going to navigate this life together? And that’s what this means.
So, a lot of people say, “Well, I’m not going to be a ‘radical’ unschooler.” Fine. Don’t call yourself that, but see what parts of your parenting could use a little of that partnership concept in unschooling, because you’ll find that, when you can learn to trust them and they can trust you back, you can move in the direction that is going to be less friction, like you’re talking about.
And so, whether you love “radical” or don’t love “radical”, set that aside for a minute, and then think about the topics and the concepts.
One of the things that popped out to me on this question is the 11-year-old, because, so often, parents feel like, “They don’t do what they used to do!” Well, because they’re not seven anymore. They’re 11.
And so, when you get into this preteen age, it’s not unusual to start being bored with the old way, not that interested in those old hobbies that used to be so fun in the living room. And now, they’re like, meh. I think that, recognize from a growth and developmental standpoint, kids move on and they don’t always hang on to the hobby that just warmed our heart, because that’s not their goal. So, I think that when they change their interests, go with it.
And the other part that I want to say is that, after two to four hours, you make them get off of there. I get that. We’ve been inundated in society with anti-technology and a bazillion articles written along those lines. They are not written with the perspective of learning how to manage your choices. If you always have someone else managing your choices, you never learn how to do it for yourself.
PAM: They’re not your choices.
SUE: They’re not your choices. And so, Alfie Kohn says, the way kids learn to make decisions is by letting them make decisions. And that means mistakes. That means missteps. And there’s goodness in that, because what that’s about is seeing, “Oh gosh, the sky didn’t fall. Oh gosh, I can step forward into something and pivot, because some piece of it didn’t work.” Or, “I don’t have to be so overwhelmed, like we were when we were school kids, so overwhelmed with the humiliation of the failure or the judgment or the shame that we can look at it and say, “This part worked. This part didn’t. This part did. This part didn’t.” And then, we can patch it together and figure out what our next step is going to be.
Whereas, if you had all that anxiety from your school experience of messing up, then your window gets smaller and you can’t problem solve.
PAM: Yep. Yep. Especially when you’re anxious and fearful about things, it feels like an all or nothing, a right or wrong. But there is just so much richness between those two opposites and we can get caught thinking that we have to choose one or the other.
SUE: We’ve been conditioned to think like that, that it’s all black or white. It’s all right or wrong. And you know, it’s almost never right or wrong. It’s always got a little of both.
PAM: I thought I would talk a bit about when I was anxious. So, right here, she’s talking about their choice for video games. But really, for anything that stretched my comfort zones and made me feel anxious, what helped me a lot was to dive into it more. We tend to step back when we’re anxious about something, because we don’t want to be confronted by it all the time. But it was so helpful for me to actually get more involved with my child and to see what it was that they were getting out of it, what they were loving about. It helped me deeply understand them and what it means to them.
And in fact, I did this with video games, with my eldest, and I’ll put a link in the show notes. These are going to be full show notes this week.
SUE: Right. We have talked a couple of times before, and you have done, what is this? 276 episodes?
PAM: Yes! So, I have an article I wrote for Life Learning Magazine many, many years ago. It’s called Everything I Need to Know I Learned Through Video Games.
SUE: I have that on the Unschooling Mom2Mom website. I think I linked to that one!
PAM: I bet you did. It is what I learned when I actually realized, three months, six months, this isn’t a big chunk of time in our lives. I can dive into this with them and see what it’s about for them. So, the article is about a lot of the stuff that I learned.
So, for me, the path forward when these kinds of situations arise involves learning about how unschooling works and understanding why people are making these choices. What is the value? Why are people saying “yes” more? What do we get out of it? How does that help not only their learning, but also our relationship? And also, understanding our child’s perspective, which is what I was talking about. And when we weave those things together and start to see how they connect, when we’re closer with our child, we see more unschooling and action. We start to understand how it works better.
And eventually, for me, every single time, I got to the place where that was a choice I wanted to make. It wasn’t because I should be a radical unschooler or I should let them do this. It was, I understood unschooling and my child more deeply and understood why I actually would want to make that choice.
SUE: You didn’t let fear make your choices for you.
PAM: Yeah, but you need to work through the fear. It’s not about ignoring it.
SUE: Exactly. It’s not like, Pam says don’t, so I’m not.
PAM: I’m not anxious! Yeah. That doesn’t work.
SUE: Yeah. One of the things I was thinking, where after two to four hours, they come off at least for a while, if that’s a natural thing for them to come off, then that works better. If you’re setting the timer and saying two to four hours, that just makes them cling to it more. And so, you have to be careful of that, that you might have held onto it tightly and you’re letting it go. And so, they just cling to it, because number one, they’re not sure if you’re going to change your mind and it’s going to go back to the old way, because they’ve seen you do that before, because we all have. I’m not being judgy. We’ve all been there.
And then to remember that that’s part of human nature that if somebody is limiting us, if somebody were to come to me and say, “Stop reading that book now. You’ve been doing it for two hours.” I wouldn’t like that. And so, the same reaction happens when you say to your kids and even when you kind of sugar coat it and you’re like, “Wow, it sure is nice outside. I wish we weren’t stuck in here with technology all the time.” Oh, you think you’re so subtle. But what they hear is, “Mom doesn’t like what I like. Mom’s judging me. Mom doesn’t get it.” All these things that keep the relationship further and further and further apart.
And so, when you can value the things that they value, when you can stand at the halfway mark and say, “I get it,” they’re a lot more likely to come closer to you, because you extended that to them instead of saying, “No, I’m over here. And in order to be good, you must come to my way.”
And so, that is problematic, because in our nature, we want to do our thing. We want to be independent. We want to move in the direction of our strengths and our interests and our curiosities. And somebody that says, “Yeah, but not now.” You’re like, “Get away.” And so, no wonder the kids react like that. And so, what I have found, because I have a six-year-old grandson, and he just loves my phone. He has got a bazillion apps on there. But I noticed that at a certain point, he starts to get a little antsy. I’m like, “You wanna go outside and swing?” “Yeah.” Because he knows he can come back to it any time.
When he knows that the flow and the rhythm is determined really by him, then it’s a lot easier to say, “Oh, I’ll try your thing. I’ll try your suggestion.” So, your suggestions can’t be, “Let’s do this worksheet on fractions,” because surprise, surprise, they’re not going to like that. But if you said, “Oh man, the dog needs a bath. Help me.” And they’re like, “Yeah!” Or maybe, they’re like, ugh. You’re like, “I just can’t do it. I only have two your hands and I need another set of hands.” But when you have been the person that listened to their needs and their wants, they’re going to be a lot more likely to listen to your needs and wants because you’ve modeled that way to interact.
I was reading the Bonnie Harris book, When Your Kids Push Your Buttons. It’s kind of a weird title for an unschooler, because for me, it’s like, well then disengage the buttons. And she talks a lot about how we bring all this stuff from how we were raised, all of these stories to our parenting, and nobody helps us walk through that. And really, some of us have had some troubling childhoods. Some of us have had some parents that have been critical and those can be things that are hard for us to overcome. “I can’t let my mom see how much my kid is on the computer or she’ll think I’m a bad mom.”
So, you’ve got to unpack your baggage. If you want to get to a place where you’re not directed by your fear and past stuff, you do your own personal work and you do like what Pam saying is dive towards it so that you can say, “Oh wow, look at all that critical thinking. Oh wow. He had to do some math stuff.” And you see that it’s not a monolith. They might be researching and they might be doing some various academic concepts and they might be chatting with friends and developing their vocabulary and making a story arc, so many things.
PAM: Yeah, that’s exactly it. And that’s what I discovered. That’s what that article is all about. That’s why it’s “Everything I Need to Know,” because there’s just so many pieces in there.
I love that you brought up stories and the stories that we may bring with us, because actually last week’s episode was all about stories, the stories we tell ourselves. So, that’s going to be really cool. If you haven’t listened to that one, I would recommend it.
SUE: It will be in the show notes!
PAM: I also wanted just to mention, like you were talking about, how those limitations can get in the way, because they’re going to cling tighter to things that they feel that they have less of a choice on. If they have an opportunity, they’re going to cling tighter to that and I’ll put a link to Pam Sorooshian’s article, Economics of Restricting TV Watching of Children. It’s about the diminishing marginal utility of things. And it just makes a lot of sense helping people understand when you’re doing time-based things.
And just one thing that came up to me is when you’re looking at time, so maybe you have this two-hour limit, and then you’re taking your kids out to play for a while. And then maybe they come back to it or not. But just one baby step that you can do that is more considerate and thoughtful about for your kids is noticing when your two-hour thing is, but when you’re going to them, not saying, “Your two hours are up,” but noticing where they are and what they’re playing. Let them finish the boss battle. Let them finish the level. And making it less about the clock and like you said, your grandson, you notice he’s getting antsy. He might be open to moving around and doing something else.
So, making it less about the time or the clock and making it more about the actual people involved and the situation. I think that can be super helpful.
PAM: Okay, question three.
SUE: We’re only on question three!
PAM: This one’s a little bit longer, but I’m going to share it, because of all of the different aspects.
“I find that as I move ever so slowly, haltingly, inconsistently toward less control and more freedom, I am confronted by much fear, some things which are valid fears and others, less valid. As I allow my son and seven-year-old daughter more freedom and access to online material, my son comes to music and videos that are sexually explicit, gang, drug-related, et cetera. My kids often listen with headphones, so I don’t know all that’s being said or sung. He toggles back and forth between video games and YouTubers, and many things expose him to more mature and inappropriate content.
He wants to stay up watching YouTube videos all night, if I’d let him, which unfortunately I cannot do. I’m just not there. That puts me over the edge anxious. We do talk about some of the things he sees and hears. So, I guess my confession is about my deep fears and confusion on my own toggling between safety and care for kids and creating a less controlling relationship.
I find as I try to let go of control, my fears are triggered and I react with anger, because I am afraid. What a confusing and disturbing cycle. Definitely not the positive, supportive environment my children can grow and flourish in. Yes, I do have a counselor I process my journey with, but that’s minuscule compared to the everyday moments with my kids.
How do I balance or navigate my own de-controlling journey, which is thick, rooted, fearful, at times anxious and reactionarily controlling, with my kids’ journey of freedom, play, and exploration?
My husband and I both struggle with control issues, so letting go of it is highly triggering. I’ve done a lot of work in the last three, four years, but the deep-seated control issues and reasons are not easily uprooted. It’s not as easy as, “Just let go more.” Sometimes, I wonder if I’m doing more harm than good as I let go of control only to get afraid and angry and pull back control. How confusing for everyone. I do talk with my kids about my struggles and understand the confusion it can cause. It sure feels like a very bumpy process, two steps forward, and three steps back.”
I just wanted to pop in with one thing. The very first thing that bubbled up for me in that first sentence was, rather than thinking about this as moving from control to freedom, try thinking about it as moving from control to connection with our kids. Because freedom, if that’s the kind of word that we’re using, even in our self-talk to ourselves, it feels like we’re not involved. We’re freeing them. We’re letting them off on their own. But that’s far from the truth of what we’re talking about.
So, instead of controlling our kids, we’re connecting with them. Because moving away from control absolutely doesn’t mean caring less about them. It’s not that we don’t care about your safety or anything like that. The journey from control to connection, for me, is more about the work of recognizing how capable our kids are. They can be our partner, right back to when we were talking about partners earlier.
And I do have a podcast episode, 240, where Anna and I specifically talk about how kids are capable and that could be really helpful to listen to. I have some more to say, but I’ll throw it to you, Sue.
SUE: Okay. And I am glad that you have a counselor to help you walk through having an angry reaction, because that’s probably how you were raised and so, we tend to fall back on the familiar. And so, don’t beat yourself up. It’s a process. It takes a long time to undo some of those really deep-rooted things, ways that we interact with our kids and expectations we have for ourselves, the expectations we have for our kids. So, with all of that, give yourself some grace.
And then the other part is, like Pam’s thing about leaning towards connection, here’s the problem. If you have been saying, “I hate that stuff you watch. That’s so disturbing. That’s not how people’s bodies really look.” All the things that are typical drive-by comments that we make when we are feeling that this isn’t going the direction we want it to go.
And she didn’t mention how old her son is, but I think that kids are curious. Kids want to know, “What does that mean? Why do they say that?” It’s a perfect opportunity for you to watch some of that stuff with him and to be able to say, “Wow. That was so unkind. What would you do if somebody said that to you? Or how would you feel if somebody said that to your sister?” You just start to have real, live conversations with them instead of thinking, ‘I must position myself as the authority, show my disapproval, so they will learn not to do it.’
It don’t work like that. If anything, what that does is they will learn not to tell you. And that is not what you want. What you want is for them to share it with you, so that you can bring some real life in, so that you can say, “Wow, Yeah. I think that people go to jail when they do that,” without being judgy, without being, “Oh, you always hate my guy. You always hate my this. You always hate my that.” Okay. If they’re saying those words to you, then you’ve got to zip it. You’ve got to say, “Show me what part you like,” and not like, “Prove it to me,” but more of a, “You are such a smart kid and you are so curious and the world is so weird and we live in a pandemic and you are figuring stuff out. I think that that’s so great. So, show me what part, educate me,” and that way, they will be glad you’re interested in what they’re interested in.
The other thing is to know that you might see gang violence. I can remember when my kids were little and I wouldn’t let Michael have a gun. Everybody gave their kids guns and I’m like, “No, no, no, we’re not doing guns.” We lived on a base. Some kids were shot because they pulled a gun, a plastic toy gun in the shadows. It looked like a real gun. It’s only gotten worse since then. And so, I was like, “No, no, no guns.” He would chew his toast into the shape of a gun. He was curious about it.
And then, of course, because we started as school kids, he went to kindergarten and at his five-year-old birthday, were all other little kindergartners, every single one of them gave him a Nerf gun, a water gun, this gun, and that gun. I’m like, I’m putting up the white flag. I give up.
And I will say he’s now 32, has no interest in guns, has never shot a person, all the things that you think, “Oh gosh! This is condoning it.” That’s a story that you’ve got to work through, because they know you’re not crazy about it. You’ve probably shared that multiple times. But there is something about it that they’re intrigued by.
So, a couple of times she said in here that she gets triggered by different things. Figure out how you’re going to breathe through the trigger, because when you can do that, then you can connect with him and he won’t have to hide it from you, because that is not the direction you want to go as you enter adolescence.
PAM: And as you’re connecting, when you’re leaving that open space, it goes back to the kids are capable. You may leave that space for them to share how, “He’d get arrested in real life doing that,” or whatever. You get to learn how they’re seeing the things. There are some things that may happen that go right over their head. We don’t know their ages. And it isn’t even age-dependent. It’s child-dependent.
So, they may not be seeing at all or noticing at all the things that are freaking us out or they may be seeing these things and it’s just fun and interesting for them. Maybe it’s a fun thing for them to pick out all those things like, “I would never do that,” but you won’t know that until you connect and have those open conversations. It isn’t about connecting so that you can go, like you’re talking about go and share all the things that are wrong, so that you can get them off your chest.
It’s more about being super curious about what they’re seeing, what they’re enjoying out of it, what they’re picking up, what they’re thinking about it. Those are the pieces that are so valuable and that really do help us move through these fears and triggers, because they are so much more capable than we give them credit for so often.
And I did want to say that I really appreciated the observation she made about how confusing it can be for kids to bounce back and forth. I thought that was really valuable. And it’s so helpful to recognize that pattern, as she said, and explore ways to move past it, to breathe through triggers, just to find little tools that are helpful for us to move through those, because that confusion can definitely erode trust.
And I was really curious about, they are listening, watching most of these videos with headphones on and to take little baby steps, like we talked about in the last question, maybe a baby step would be asking or saying, “Can you take the headphones off? I’d be really curious to hear what you’re listening to while I’m doing such and such,” because it may be that they’re putting them on, because they’re worried about invoking those fears. And because they know that then they may be told to turn it off or they can’t do that.
So, it’s super interesting to work through that stuff, because listening or watching, like you were saying, diving in more with them when we’re anxious and fearful truly helps to instead of step away to dive in and see what’s really happening. Because our fearful imaginings so often are so much worse.
SUE: Oh my gosh! We go straight to the catastrophe, right? They’re going to join a gang now, because they watched gang violence. Why would they? Sometimes they’re interested in that kind of stuff, because their real life is so not that. And so, they’re like, people live like that? Interesting. You can watch West Side Story and it doesn’t mean you’re going to join the Jets.
It just means story. This is just story to them. And you watched the Power Rangers or you watched Wile E. Coyote and you didn’t suddenly bring a bunch of TNT and blow stuff up. Remind yourself, just because they see it doesn’t mean they’ll do it.
And when you’re connected, that’s when you get to help them process it. That’s when you can have those conversations. But as we were saying, especially at first, when they can be wary of what we’re going to say or think or do, zip the mouth, as you said. Being quiet and just observing for a while, giving them the space to have their reactions and for us to see what they’re thinking and processing, and then just bouncing back with them, not with judgment, but with curiosity.
SUE: Because you know yourself that you don’t bring something to somebody that’s going to be judgy. So, kids are the same. And you may be thinking, no, but a good mom sets the boundaries and shows them, we don’t talk about women like that. We don’t do this or we don’t do that, that good people don’t. But if you can’t have a conversation without getting preachy, then don’t be surprised that they don’t bring it to you.
PAM: Yeah. That you’re not part of that exploration for them.
SUE: Not that it’s not hard. I mean, I don’t want to sound like, no biggie! Because we do all have our personal stuff and we’re terrified for these little humans that we adore. And I love what you keep going back to, that when we really believe and trust that they’re good inside, they’ll make the right decisions.
They’ve had modeling of love. All of these scary things are not going to happen, because the life that you’re creating is accepting and loving and, all right, we’ll see where it goes.
PAM: Yeah. And supportive. If they know that they can come and talk to you about things without feeling judged and shut down and shamed for what they came across, when they know they can have a conversation, you can help them process it.
SUE: And if you have had a traumatic childhood and you can’t do that, there are resources. There’s Sex Positive Families. That’s a great website that we can put in the show notes. She’s come and talked to my group before, Melissa Carnagey. And it’s all about embracing, without shame, and allowing kids to move through their questions and their curiosities.
And some of us have traumatic childhoods and we can’t do it. And then, let’s get you some resources that can and try to help you not make it so taboo, that you understand it’s just human nature to be curious. We’re just figuring our way, you know?
PAM: Yeah. I love that.
And sometimes there are things that we aren’t comfortable with for now, because nothing’s forever. This is the always/never thing again. You’re playing around with the path. Maybe if it’s not something we feel we can do right now, maybe we just choose to step back from it and maybe we ask our partner, maybe we ask a close friend, “Can you be around watching so that you can have conversations with them that aren’t charged while I’m processing?” There are so many possibilities. We don’t have to be it all and it doesn’t need to be all or nothing.
SUE: Right. Yeah. That’s a good point.