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December 20, 2023 15 mins
If you’re having a little trouble imagining the future world our kids will be living in…you’re not alone. In the a time with perhaps the most rapid changes in all of human history, how do we equip our kids to be ready to roll? Our guest is Mental Health Expert Dr. Heather Tedesco, co-author of RAISING A KID WHO CAN: Simple Strategies to Build a Lifetime of Adaptability and Emotional Strength. With her co-authors Catherine McCarthy and Jennifer Weaver, they offer 10 essential principles for raising emotionally strong and resilient children.
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(00:02):
Welcome to Get Connected with Nina delRio, a weekly conversation about fitness,
health and happenings in our community onone oh six point seven Light FM.
Good morning, and thanks for listeningto get connected. If you're having a
little trouble imagining the future world ourkids will be living in, You're not
alone in a time with perhaps themost rapid changes in all of human history?

(00:25):
How do we equip our kids tobe ready to roll? Our guest
is mental health expert doctor Heather toDesco, co author of Raising a Kid
Who Can Simple strategies to build alifetime of adaptability and emotional strength. With
her co authors Katherine McCarthy and JenniferWeaver, they offer ten essential principles for
raising emotionally strong and resilient children.Doctor Heather to Desco, thank you for

(00:49):
being on the show. Thank youvery much. Doctor Heather to Disco is
a licensed applied psychologist with a PhDin social psychology. She has a private
practice in Washington, d c.Where she works exclusively with parents to help
them raise kids who can thrive whilemaking parenting less stressful, more effective,
and more enjoyable. So we're ina time, as you know, doctor

(01:10):
Tedesco, where anyone can google alot of these things, separation, anxiety,
How do I make my kid listen? How is this book designed?
And how do you hope parents useit? Yes, that's exactly why we
wrote this book, because there isso much information out there, and a
lot of it's high quality, butnot all of it, and it's really
difficult to figure out which it's whichand incredibly time consuming. And for years,

(01:33):
our families that we worked with hadasked us, you know, where
where is the cliff notes to parenting? Where is the you know, sort
of the travel guide of parenting ifyou will, that tells you, you
know, kind of things that youcould use right away if you just have
a few minutes, things that youcould dive deeper, if you really want
to think about, you know,kind of how you're going to raise your
kid and be really intentional. Andso that was our goal, was to

(01:55):
create a new kind of parenting book, and so we really combed through the
research. We come from three differentbackgrounds, all in mental health complementary and
so we had to have the highestquality information, but we wanted to present
it in a new way, andso we made the book really easy to
skim. We put it, youknow, kind of into ten chapters.

(02:15):
You don't have to read them straightthrough. You can jump in and jump
out. We included a lot ofvery concrete strategies if parents just want to
know what to do if their childis struggling in some way. We included
things that parents can use to kindof assess their child and assess themselves,
which is something that we do allthe time when we work with families,
but can be hard when you're readinga book to know, you know,

(02:38):
kind of what applies to you.And then we illustrated all of it because
we know that, you know,kind of we need a little humor and
we need things to be you know, a little bit easier on the eyes.
So the book is presented, asyou say, in these ten essential
things every kid needs to thrive,and we'll get into them. I wonder
in general, so much of thesetopics are based around practice and routine and

(03:00):
repetition. How long does it takefor a kid's brain to become hardwired with
practicing these things. It's a greatquestion, and the latest research indicates that
a brain does not reach adult maturityuntil about age thirty. Certainly we can
get habits in place far faster thanthat. Some of it depends on the

(03:22):
child, and frankly, some ofit depends on the parents. Things like
consistency matter. But kids adapt andrespond quite quickly, more so than we
adults do. So if parents canjust start, you know, kind of
being intentional about using some of thesestrategies, they should see changes quite quickly,
within you know, days or weeks. So the first thing on the

(03:44):
list actually made me think about mycat, because the first thing on your
list is rest, recreation, androutine. And I've heard that if you
have a stressed cat, playing withthem helps them relax, and they also
prefer a routine. How does aroutine help a human relax? A routine
can frankly relax the brain because ourbrains are constantly trying to figure things out.

(04:06):
Uncertainty is something that can stress thebrain, and so when there is
some predictability, such as with theroutine, it can allow the brain to
just sort of, you know,let go of that sort of constant what's
next. And while we talk alot in the book about the importance of
being able to tolerate uncertainty and teachingour kids how to be flexible, and

(04:28):
adaptable. We really believe that havingsome basic structure is really good for kids
and it's good for families. Ontoattention and self control even for adults.
Why is attention and self control sohard to master? Well, we all
have frankly, some genetic differences inour ability for that, but we can
all increase our attention span. Andit's a really relevant topic because we are

(04:53):
learning more and more that the effectsof technology seemed to be to affect our
attentions been and to be shrinking it. And yet we also know from a
huge amount of research that having selfcontrol, being able to direct your attention
is strongly linked to a lot ofstrong outcomes as adults. So it's something

(05:15):
that we all need to need topractice. Frankly, one of your suggestions
for kids who struggle with self controland attention is to teach them to imagine
their future selves. Can you givean example and why does that work?
Absolutely well? One of the thingsabout kids is that they are very much
in the present and it takes youknow, kind of brain maturity to be
able to both look backwards and lookforward, and so it can help by

(05:38):
predicting difficulties. For example, ifyou have a young child who struggles every
time you go to the playground withleaving. Then you might say to them
before you go to the playground,you know, hey, we're going to
the playground today. I know itcan be really challenging to leave the playground
because it's so much fun there.Let's think about something we can do so

(05:59):
that we know when, you know, the signal is that it is time
to go. Something like that.With older kids, you can help them.
You know, it could be aroundan exam or you know, kind
of reminding them that while they reallyare having fun, you know, playing
Xbox right now, their future selftomorrow is sitting in that in that science
test will appreciate that they do somestudying right now. Our guest is doctor

(06:21):
Heather Tedesco. She's the go toparenting resource for many Washington d C.
Families. She is a sought afterspeaker for schools, community organizations, and
businesses. She's co author of thebook Raising a Kid Who Can simple strategies
to build a lifetime of adaptability andemotional strength. You're listening to get connected
on one O six point seven lightFM. Imina del Rio Tolerating difficult feelings

(06:45):
when you tell a kid to calmdown, it makes them more angry sometimes,
and you tell them to cheer up, they get grumpier. Why why
is that? It's because you know, we all want to be understood more
than we want anything to be solvedfor us. And the thing about the
difficult feelings, we parents have anemotional response to our kids' emotional responses.

(07:05):
We hate to see them in distress, we hate to see them have these
difficult feelings. And yet what ourkids benefit the most from is not us
trying to fix those feelings by cheeringthem up or by you know, kind
of telling them it will be okay, and you know, trying to sort
of soothe over the feelings. Whatthe research tells us they really benefit from

(07:27):
is our calm presence to allow themto feel those feelings. And we have
in the book and Illustration and ananalogy of using the idea of hard feelings
as being a tunnel not a cave, because nobody really wants to feel those
huge, difficult, painful feelings,because kids in particular don't know yet you
know, whether they're going to endand if they're going to get stuck there.

(07:49):
But what we know is that ifwe just sort of you know,
sit with the kids and you know, ask them questions or just be present
with them. The feelings pass andthey move on, and so you know,
if they can tolerate those difficult feelings, they can come out the other
side. And so we'll sometimes sayit's like the weather. You know,
you can't you can't change it,you can, you know, just sort

(08:11):
of wait for it to pass.It's sort of a version of just shrug
shrugging it. Yeah. Absolutely,It is so psychological adaptability. We're jumping
ahead a little bit. So weteach kids about routine, and then stuff
happens. This person isn't my friendanymore. I lost at this game when
I've always won that game, orsomeone's let you win that game. My
mother, who's always happy, isn'thappy. How do you help your kids

(08:33):
to see the gray? It's reallychallenging, and you know, one of
the things that we do is wecan point out, you know, sort
of the uncertainty that exists. Oneof the things that we parents sometimes get
in the trap of it's feeling thatwe have to have answers for all our
kids' questions. And you know,sometimes it's good to say, truthfully,
I don't know. I don't knowwhat's going to happen tomorrow. I don't

(08:56):
know how it's going to go whenwe, you know, meet this new
person. I don't know what itwill be like when you try out for
the school play. Owning the uncertaintyis one way that we can do it,
and then another way that we cando it is to you know,
ask our kids, you know,sort of questions that broaden their horizons.

(09:16):
If they're seeing things in a veryspecific way, then we can say,
well, what about this or whatabout that, and just help them to
see that there are alternate possibilities.There was a point you made in the
book that was so true. Youknow, we tend to attribute our own
actions to a situation with someone else'sto their personality. Can you give an
example, and how do we helpa kid reset that default when we're not

(09:39):
around to help them do that?Yes? Absolutely, this is I'm a
social psychologist by training, and thisis a classic finding in social psychology that
we see our own mistakes and negativethings with the full context. We know
that we are good people. Youknow, I'm a good person, but
I said something mean, I didn'tget enough sleep and I'm having a really

(10:00):
bad day, so I snapped atmy husband. Whereas you know, if
the reverse is true, then youknow, or if it's a stranger in
particular, it's hard to give themthat benefit of the doubt. We may,
you know, I may think thatthe person in the grocery store who
you know, kind of cut infront of me in line, it's just
rude. Instead of having that sameidea about maybe they're having a bad day,

(10:20):
maybe something's going on with them,And how do you get a kid
to sort of think of that first? Yes, we talk about this.
One strategy is to kind of playthe we call the benefit of the doubt
game, where you can even makea game out of it with your your
kids. You know, you're you'redriving down the road and somebody cuts you

(10:41):
off. You may have an emotionalresponse to that and get frustrated, but
you can quickly sort of say toyour kids, hey, let's each come
up with a reason why that mighthave just happened. It could's a brand
new driver and they're just not thatgood at driving. It could be somebody
you know, you can make thesevery outlandish It could be somebody you know
having a baby and they're just likeracing to the hospital as quickly as they

(11:03):
can. By demonstrating to our kidsthat our initial sort of assumptions are not
necessarily the only explanation, we canreally help them start to see people in
a context rather than as you know, kind of make it all about them
as a human being, onto buildingindependence and you cide a really interesting study

(11:24):
in the book from a psychologist wholooked at kids in a particular small town
in Vermont who found that the distancethey were allowed to travel by home from
themselves has shrunk significantly since the nineteenseventies. Parents have dramatically reduced their children's
freedom to rome. And there's nothingwrong with wanting to keep your child safe,
but how might that translate or impacta child's preparedness emotionally in other areas.

(11:48):
Yes, we know that we wantto keep our kids safe, and
we also know that there are consequencesto our over protecting them. And the
biggest one, I think is howI makes our kids feel. Because they
recognize what we see sometimes as aloving concern and protection can read to them

(12:09):
as a lack of confidence in them, and it also can translate to them
to make them begin to doubt themselvesmaybe I can't do it, maybe this
is really scary, or maybe thisis too difficult for me. There's a
real, you know, kind ofeffect on our kids when we don't sort
of keep our natural protective desires,you know, in proportion. On the

(12:31):
practical side of this, or thepractice side. One of your suggestions to
mitigate this is to not attend everyone of your kids games or practices or
performances. Yes, it's true,and I know it's difficult for parents sometimes
to think about that, but ithelps kids report back what happened. It
allows them, first of all,to write the story, which sometimes is

(12:52):
good for them. They may writea slightly different story than what we would
see, but it's one that's helpfulto them to you know, kind of
have find their own voice. Andit also gives, you know, a
little bit of a signal to ourkids that we do have lives outside of
them. And of course we parentsall know that, but if we work
too hard to be so on topof every single thing that affects our kids,

(13:16):
it can you know, kind ofaccidentally decrease the independence and increase,
you know, sort of the sensethat adulthood is just all about serving kids.
Finally, motivation. One way parentstry to motivate is by rewards and
punishments. Why should parents be carefulwith those? Well, there's a whole
lot of research on intrinsic motivation,which is that self motivation, that drive

(13:37):
that we have to do things.And the great news is that we don't
have to as parents, give thatdrive to our kids. Every human being
is born with us. But whatwe know very clearly from the research is
it giving rewards to things that arealready motivated the kids are motivated to do
doesn't have a neutral or an effectof increasing the motivation. It actually subtracts

(14:00):
it, and it makes that samebehavior that they wanted to do on their
own dependent on the rewards. That'sone of the downsides. Other downsides,
even if it's something that they're notintrinsically motivated to do, if you reward
your child to do something, thenthey very quickly, you know, both
require that reward and they actually requireyou to keep upping the ante. They

(14:22):
acclimate to it and they need more, and it sets up a situation where
it becomes very you know, kindof a tug between the parent and the
child. When what we really wantto be doing, obviously, is to
be encouraging our kids to find theirown motivation. There is so much more
in the book. Doctor Heather Tedescois co author of Raising a Kid Who

(14:43):
Can simple strategies to build a lifetimeof adaptability and emotional strength. Thank you
for being on to get Connected.Thank you so much, Nina. This
has been Get Connected with Nina delRio on one oh six point seven light
Fm. The views and opinions ofour guests do not necessarily reflec the views
of the station. If you missedany part of our show or want to
share it, visit our website fordownloads and podcasts at one o six seven

(15:07):
lightfm dot com. Thanks for listening.
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