Skip to main content

House Calls Podcast
How Do We Connect With Our Kids?
With guest Dr. Becky Kennedy,
Clinical Psychologist, Author, and Mom

Description

Missed school. Kids at home during working hours. Delayed social skills. Too much screen time. Did the pandemic do a number on your parenting? (Not that it was easy to begin with!) Dr. Becky Kennedy, known as the “parent whisperer,” burst onto the scene in the nick of time, with a book-load of theories and advice, as well as some U-turns on recent parenting practices. No more time outs and no more sticker charts, says Dr. Becky. Instead, she makes the case for starting by seeing the good inside our children through building connection. On a practical level, that includes looking past kids’ “bad behavior” to understand the struggles that lie behind it. Join Dr. Becky and the Surgeon General (also a parent) as they explore how we can help our children navigate their lives by teaching emotional coping skills and providing understanding, support, boundaries, and clarity. And it’s not just kid stuff. Dr. Becky finds the parents need parenting too. After all, nobody likes a time out, right?

Connect with Dr. Becky Kennedy

More episodes

Transcript

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Hello and welcome to House Calls. I'm Vivek Murthy and I have the honor of serving as U.S. Surgeon General. I'd like to introduce you to Dr. Becky Kennedy, psychologist, author, and parent. We believe conversations can be healing. And today we'll be talking about parenting and exploring this question: How do we raise humans through connection, not consequences? I'm excited for you all to listen to this conversation with Dr. Becky Kennedy. Dr. Becky, as she is known, is a clinical psychologist, bestselling author, and mom of three. During the pandemic, she came to prominence when parents suddenly found themselves at home with their children and in desperate need of guidance. Dr. Becky is also the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, “Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be.” And she hosts her podcast, “Good Inside with Dr. Becky.” She's been named the “Millennial Parenting Whisperer” by TIME magazine. As a parent of two young kids, I was curious to speak with Dr. Becky about so many parenting questions. Parenting is one of my greatest joys, but it's also one of the hardest things I've ever done. What I find fascinating as both a parent and as someone who cares deeply about social connection, is how her approach really comes down to relationships. Ultimately, how do we see behavior as an expression of needs rather than a source of our identity? And how do we see the person behind the actions and opt for a connection over correction. As you'll hear in our conversation. We go deep into what it means to parent and how we can see our kids more fully beyond their behaviors. We talk through real life scenarios like meltdowns and fights, and about why it matters to teach our kids how to embrace getting things wrong. In the last part of the conversation, we answer some questions from our online audience. And finally, we discuss how to talk to our kids about tough things happening in our world and in our lives. For me, this conversation was empowering. It gave me a better sense of how to approach challenges with our kids and an appreciation for how those challenges have something to teach us about ourselves as parents. I hope you enjoyed this rich and hopeful conversation. As always, the team at House Calls is eager to hear from you. Please take a moment to rate and review the podcast and send us your ideas for episodes at HouseCalls@HHS.gov

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Dr. Becky, thank you so much for joining House Calls.

Dr. Becky Kennedy

I'm so excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Well, I must confess, when I was reading what you've written and watching some of the videos that you've put out there, I was partly looking at it, you know, as Surgeon General, preparing for this wonderful conversation we're about to have. But really, I was looking at it as a parent myself. You know, of a four and six year old who had all these questions that I was looking for answers to. And your work has just been incredibly illuminating. And it was helpful to me and I know has been helpful to so many parents out there. So first, I just want to say thank you not just for this conversation, but for everything you've been doing over the last few years for parents.

Dr. Becky Kennedy

Well, thank you for saying that. That's such an honor to hear from you. And yeah, these ideas really like they light me up inside, they help me become a better parent. I always say, I like talking about regulation, resilience, all these things, not because I'm an expert in them, because I'm trying to build them in myself and in my kids. So, the fact that now I have a platform to just kind of do my personal work and meet other people, you know, that's a win win for me, too.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Oh, well, that's very humble of you to say. But, you know, I know that this last couple of years in particular has just been such a tough time for parents. And it wasn't like parenting was a walk in the park before COVID came along. But I think the added stresses of the pandemic and having to deal with uncertainty and with stressors in your own life as a parent and trying to figure out how to manage your children and still, you know, look out for the the signs that you need to see to look out for and not miss important things. This has just been, I think, tough for so many parents. And I'm curious, you know, in your if you I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about how you started walking down this path of becoming, you know, such an important source of information for parents. Because I know this was a recent transition for you as well.

Dr. Becky Kennedy

Yeah. So I've had a longstanding private practice. And in that practice, I generally did work with adults in intensive psychotherapy. So adults who came in with a variety of struggles. But to me, there's always a common theme. Even though no one says this explicitly, which is the things I learned earliest and wired early on into my body to adapt to my childhood environment, were put in place to protect me, but now, you know, really work more against me than for me. And that's why I have things that we call symptoms. And yet, even though I know I'm stuck and I know I want to change, I'm having trouble living my adult life in the way that feels best to me, you know, can you help? And so I love working with adults in that context. And then as I became a parent myself, I realized, you know, it wasn't the child therapy that I personally enjoyed doing the most as much as the work with the parents so that they could shift even small things in their family home where their child was living the majority of their hours, rather than in my therapy office. And so I then quickly started working with parents side-by-side to the therapy I was doing with adults. So it would be like a parent coaching appointment, therapy appointment, parent coaching appointment. And one of the things struck me has like, wow, the way I was taught to work with parents is a complete odds with the work I think is, you know, effective with adults in psychotherapy, like the principles are different. The things I'm saying to parents to do with their kids, I would never say the equivalent to an adult. And it just kind of struck me in a session. I was trained in timeouts, I was trained in sticker charts and all that stuff really lit up, at least the left part of my brain, you know, logic and linearity. And there really was a session literally in my New York City office where I said to these parents, like I'm sorry, I don't believe anything I'm telling you right now. They were like, What? And I was like, I know. I'm telling you how to do a timeout and your kid's hitting. And prior to right now, like, everything made sense, but something just kicked in and I was like, wait, this this can't be the way. I was like, I don't know really what to tell you instead, but, like, I kind of feel like this really isn't it. And, and then, you know, I offered them a refund. They were like, you know, very overwhelmed. They're like, What are we supposed to do? I was like, I don't know, maybe come back to my office in a few weeks and they, to their credit, never came back because it was a very bizarre session. But I really then went to my computer and I said, Well, what do I know about adults? What do I know about wiring? What do I know about attachment and internal family systems and the body and experience and regulation? And what if I took everything that I know helps adults rewire that I know, changes the course of an adult's life and kind of reverse engineered that to parents so we could wire kids early on with patterns and processes that would actually not only help then, but actually help for the rest of their life instead of set them up to have to rewire like all of us are doing. And that's really what led to all the ideas that are now in “Good Inside.”

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Well, gosh, there is so much I want to ask you about. I'll tell you that one of the places I want to start, just an insight that you you frame very clearly and eloquently, is that behavior is not about identity, but that it's an expression of need. And I found that very powerful when I read that. I mean, speaking of, for example, the timeouts that you've talked about and sticker charts and other things, these are all things that, you know, we have tried with our kids, you know, from time to time. And I will just take timeouts for a moment. They've never felt good. You know, for me as a parent to to institute for my child. And if for so many reasons that I can go through. But when I remember reading that line, that behavior is not identity, it's an expression of need that that really spoke to me because, you know, I think so many times it feels like we're trying to control and shape the behaviors as our primary outcome. Where is there something deeper happening inside? And as a parent, I find myself struggling to understand what is that? Like, what does my child need? Is this timeout actually doing anything for them or is my raising my my voice actually registering to them? Or is it just increasing fear that they have inside them and contributing to their insecurity? So, I wonder if you could just spend a moment talking about that, that really sort of what I found to be a critical principle there about behavior is an expression of need.

Dr. Becky Kennedy

Yeah, and everything you're saying resonates with me so much. That’s happened in the session, I was like, Wait, I know there's all this data and it's real data about timeouts and this and evidence based. And literally, I had this, this moment, I was like, Well, I'm going to cry. And what about the data in my body that's like, this is so wrong. Like, I if my husband ever gave me a timeout when I was, you know, struggling with him or took away my iPad or gave me stickers, I was like as humans are just, right, like, we laugh, we're like, oh, my goodness. It's like my relationship with my partner would not be in a good place if that's what my partner was doing to me. So that's, you know, I appreciate scientific data so much. I'm a huge lover of science and evidence. I just think humans are complicated and we need to be critical of the evidence we consume. Be a little skeptical. So yeah, in terms of behavior, as a sign of what we need, not as a sign of who we are, which is a huge, you know, huge difference. You know, take the example of you said you have a four and a six year old. So they're playing, you know, I don't know, they're building something with blocks. And your four year old has you know, the set of blocks your six year old wants and they grab it or they hit them, right? Yep. Happened yesterday. There you go. Yeah. This stuff happens in my house, too. Exactly. Because we have humans as kids, right? They act all types of ways. And so if I look at that as a sign of who my kid is, and I think this is our natural inclination, probably because in our worst moments, our parents looked at us as kind of who we were in the behavior rather than what we needed. So it's just kind of, again, wired into us. I'd say something like this, like, All right, think what's wrong with you? Like, and then we go really far, like, is my kid a sociopath? Like, are they going to be in jail forever? You know? And what kind of person hits their brother and brothers are supposed to love each other. Sisters are supposed to love each other. And then I might give a time out. Because what's happening in the moment is my whole perspective has narrowed like my son became the hit. The hit became my son. And I want to have no more hitting. So I collapse that behavior into the identity. I punish my child because of this behavior. And, you know, that's kind of at least for then the end of that. But there's there's a lot of problems here. Number one, I really do believe that as humans, we are all doing the best we can with the resources we have available in that moment. And I think there's just an evolutionary truth to that. Like as animals, we don't we don't work against ourselves. So what would be going on for a six year old if they were doing the best they could where that resulted in a hit? Well, then, if I do something, I call it the most generous interpretation. And I think this is the muscle we have to build for ourselves or our partners, definitely for our kids. What's the most generous interpretation of that behavior? It's actually a shorthand to separate behavior from identity, I might say. Well, sharing boxes like is kind of hard or whoa, those are the blocks my older kid got for their birthday. And now their younger sibling, they came in and saw them using them. I guess if I saw my friend, you know, I don't know, reading the book I was in the middle of reading. I'd probably be pretty annoyed too and be like, Hey, you took my book. Or, you know, it's hard to manage frustration. It's hard to manage anger. The problem isn't that my kid is angry, or the problem isn’t that my kid is frustrated. The problem, and here it goes back to need, is they don't yet have the skills to manage frustration. And so I always think there's like a simple equation. In order to manage a feeling, our skills have to be greater than the feeling. And kids are born with all the feelings and none of the skills. So for the first many, many years of their life, just developmentally, they have the feelings, their skills are way behind. And then when we send our kids away, like this is what I always found interesting about timeouts. Like, what's my six year old doing in their room to build frustration, tolerance skills so that the next time their brother does something, they're not just hitting, like, I don't know about you, but my kid is not Googling, like how to take a deep breath when frustrated and teaching themselves that skill while they were sent away. They just feel ashamed. They just feel like a bad kid. They just feel threat because in an attachment system, distance right means less safety. And so actually all that does is fear and threat and feeling like a bad kid. All it does is actually only increase the likelihood that my child's going to engage in that exact same behavior down the road. Now, if instead, in that moment, I'm like, Oh, right, this is a sign of what my kid needs. This is kind of what they struggle with. I think there's like almost always when our kids act out a two step process we take. Number one is we have to contain the emotional fire. And I think this is something parents need to do, need to like, first of all, just be taught like we're not taught anything is like when your kid is hitting, you're not doing much to make a lot of progress. You're just containing the behavior. If you're a fire in your house, you're not fireproofing your house during the fire. Yeah, you got to fireproof, but not during the fire. During the fire, you just have to contain the fire. And then so I might step in and say, I'm not going to let you hit your brother. It looks like your brother has toys you want. I get it. It's frustrating. I'm going to sit in between you. There's another way to let him know. We're going to get through this together. Something like that. So I'm setting a boundary, I'm containing the hitting so it doesn't keep happening. But then at night, this is the key thing. I think I'd want to think this. Okay, if behavior is a sign of what a kid needs, what would my kid need if that situation came up again, to not hit? And I guess I think, wow, they probably have to know what to do when they're feeling frustrated. They probably know what to do when they want something and don't have it in their own hands. Right now, I think this is where we can get really honest with ourselves and be like, I don't know how good are any of us at controlling our emotions when we want something that someone else has, it's just hard. So then maybe I'd sit with my son the next day and say, I'm going to play a game with you. It's a weird, weird game we don't usually play. I'm going to have your favorite blocks and I want you come into the room and it's so annoying, right? When someone has your favorite blocks, it's so annoying. And I want you to take a deep breath and I want you to step away from my body, like all the way toward the wall, You know why? Because if you step away from someone when you're mad at them, you're not going to hit them. If you step toward them, you might hit them. Right? So let's practice this and parents will be like, Is my kid really going to do it? They really will because kids like feeling masterful. They like learning things. They like feeling like good kids who need to learn, not bad kids who need to get sent away. And that goes back to that need. They need my help. They're struggling with this emotion. And the answer isn't to send them away or add shame or add punishment or even to not have the emotion. We all have all the emotions. The answer is to learn skills, to manage those emotions. And as parents, we're actually the person who has to really teach them those skills.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

This is really powerful. I like that two stage process that you talked about and taking the time when the situation isn't acute and things aren't blowing up to actually practice techniques with them that can help bring some calm to them or help them manage a difficult situation later. And, you know, one thing you're saying that also I think really hits home to me is sometimes as parents, we're trying to help our kids develop skills that we ourselves may not really have. And I think in that way, I mean, I certainly in the last six years found parenting to be not just revealing about kids, but revealing about myself and particularly about the gaps that I have. And sort of the my my own sort of shortcomings, if you will. I'm curious, like, one of the things you have really laid out is that this process of parenting is not only a process of self-discovery for us as parents, but a chance for us to also think about our own lives, our own skills, our own connection. And I wonder if you could say a little bit about that for parents out there who are worrying they may not have what it takes to be able to get the give their kids the skills and tools they need? Y

Dr. Becky Kennedy

eah. So there's so much to say about that and I think that's my favorite thing about this approach is parents always tell me they're like, I have grown more than my kids through this “Good Inside” approach and not from a place of what's wrong with me, but from a place of, Oh, I can feel so much more empowered in almost every area of my life. That's like a cool opportunity. So yeah, so let's say as an example, you're very triggered by kids whining, which most people of course don't like whining. Nobody is like a fan of whining, right? But let's say you're very triggered by it. You know, you're like, Yeah, when my kid whines, I just I say the things I told myself I’d never say. I just I scream. My tolerance is zero. And then just you start by reminding yourself the answer isn’t, okay, Dr. Becky, so you're telling me I'm going to get to a place where I like whining? No, but there's a lot between liking and being triggered, right? And so much of our own childhoods they play out in the moments we’re triggered with our kids. And that's that's in some ways a hard truth. I actually think it's an empowering truth because when we realize some of it is our own circuitry, to me it doesn't mean it's our fault. It means we actually have an opportunity to change. Because I don't know about you. I don't want to depend on my five year old changing for me to change. That just feels like a very powerless bet, you know. Yeah. I'm like, I'm not going to put faith in, you know, my five year old to change the direction of my life. Like I think I'd bet on myself first. So my kid comes out, they're like, Oh, chicken for dinner. I don't like chicken. You know, or can you can you get me water? I'm so thirsty, right? That like, Oh, and that, like, horrible sound as parents, right? So, if we take a moment to reflect on, okay, there's something about whining, probably even beyond the sound that really evokes, like a shut down, almost “there's a danger in my house” response because the only reason I'd say what is wrong with you, or you're so annoying, or go to your room if you're talking to me like that is because my body in some ways thinks there's a threat, right? That's the only reason it would do that. And so then if I reflect a step further connecting our childhoods to our kids and I say, okay, well, there must be something whining represents to me, right? And I think whining represents like total helplessness, right? Because I know that's when I whine too. I still remember when my favorite coffee place was shut down and I thought it was still open and I needed coffee and I was just like a whining puddle, you know, outside because I felt so helpless and I wanted something badly. So then if I asked myself, okay, well, what did I learn in my house growing up about when I felt really vulnerable and really helpless? Did I grow up in a family that would have recognized that? Did I grow up in a family of, Oh, I'll give you something to cry about? Or pull up your bootstraps. Or there's nothing to be upset about. Because if I did, then I had to almost learn in my own body whoah, like feeling helpless and feeling powerless and expressing that is just really not safe. And so now I see it in my kids and here's, here's I think the really crazy thing is like we think we respond to our kids and I think we're responding to our kids or their whining. We're responding to the lessons we've learned about what our kids behavior represents. Hmm. And that predated our kids existence. Right. Right. And so then if I am like, okay, well, how do I turn that? I always ask myself, how do I turn an idea into action? Because I, I like to be very practical. And I'd say, okay, well, I wonder what would happen in the next week if I almost embraced my own helplessness and situations a little bit more, just a little bit to kind of close the gap between what my body thinks about helplessness and whether it's safe and then how it ends up acting that out on my kid. And so I would. Like, if someone was in my practice, I'd be like, I want you, and let's say this person had a partner, I want you to go. And instead of saying, You never come home from work and you don't even help with the kids at night, I'd want you to say something a little bit more, yeah, I’m in need of help. Like, I feel really overwhelmed at night. I feel really overwhelmed. And I know I've criticized you for not coming home. The truth is, I think I could say it more effectively. I really need your help at bath time. I really, really do. And I would bet a lot of money that the way you end up responding to your kids whining, which is a symbol of their helplessness, is actually going to be a lot less intense because you almost embraced a little part of that quality in yourself during that week. So, you know, I know for me, like my oldest who's 11, like he's always speaking up for himself, like, and I know that sounds good, but it can be annoying, right? Like, but why can’t I have a sleepover? Why? I want to have a sleepover. My friends have a sleepover. And why can I stay up later? And why can't I have more screen time, blah, blah, blah. Right. It's like always and it it can be triggering to me. When I reflect on myself, I was such a people pleasing kid like I was, you know, I looked at the world like, who do I need to be to make everyone else happy? And what do people want of me? Much more than what might I want for myself? And it struck me a couple of years ago that like I was always very triggered by this. And again, it's not about liking it, but I want to say to my son in that situation, Hey, I answered you. You're not having a sleepover. If you want to keep asking, write it down on a piece of paper. You know, that's okay. But I wouldn't say that I'd end up saying to him like, What is wrong with you? Why can't you make my life easy? Like take no for an answer one time. And I just felt bad, like you said. Like you just feel bad as a human. You're like, I didn't like the way I showed up. And so I was like, Okay, I'm going to take on an experiment this week. And I was like, it was, you know, a number of years ago. But I remember I was like pregnant with my third child and I was like, you know what? If someone doesn't give me a seat on the subway, I'm going to ask them to get up. That's a way, instead of being like, Oh, I'm just going to take what people give me, I'm going to like ask for myself. And there was a time at a grocery store where I want to return something that like gone bad and the manager was like, No, we don't have the receipt. And I was, you know, I made the argument for like, hey, like, one second, I'm a customer here all the time. And I had this couple of days where I really like stood up for myself a little more. And it was amazing how with my son, it wasn't obviously a 1 to 1 conversion, but I did find myself just able to interact from a more grounded perspective because I wasn't kind of like acting out my own childhood patterns like on him.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

That is really interesting. Okay. And, you know, building what you're saying right now, it's sort of clear that your connection to yourself and your connection to your child, that cultivating that is really critical to being able to be effective at, you know, shaping behavior, shaping resilience. And that's one of the things I really liked about your writing is you focus a lot on the power of connection and how fundamental that is to parenting as one thing, if you can talk about this concept of connection capital that you write about, which I found to be really interesting.

Dr. Becky Kennedy

Yeah. So going back to this other model of parenting that we are both speaking of, that we've all tried or has even been given to us, I think as like the truth. Like when your kid does this, you give a time out. And if you're working on talking, you know more kindly to your sibling, every time they do it, you put up a star and after three stars, they get this, you know, I don't know, whatever they get. Some prize. Every time we interact with our kids that way, we look at our kids as their latest behavior. And I think most of us at every age, I would say, all of us, we actually feel most connected to people when they see us as a whole person rather than our latest behavior. Right? So if I were to have some big reaction to my husband, let's say he said, oh, you forgot to get toilet paper today. You said you were going to get it. Seemingly innocuous, but we all know if I had a bad day and my husband said that to me like, I'm not going to say, Oh, you're right, I forgot. I'm going to say, like, you’re so hard on me or why don't you get the toilet paper for once? I’m just going to be reactive and if he looks at me and my behavior, he'd be like, Go to your room. Right? That's what we say to our kids, right? Go to your room or, you don’t get TV tonight. And if he took a deep breath and said, Becky, whoah, like the way that you just reacted to me, it was like not okay. And also, you must have had a really bad day to have that reaction. And maybe we can each cool down and just like I could hear about that because that seems really important. He's connecting then to the person under that behavior. Right. And so how does this relate to our kids? Well, definitely in the moment, I'm a big fan of, yes, setting a firm boundary, which again goes to like, I won't let you hit. Something like that. But always, always, always, I think we can connect to our kids and there's multiple benefits of connecting to our kids. Number one, it just actually feels right. Like it feels good to see your good kid under their struggle. And also, connection is key to helping kids feel safe. All right. Kids are oriented by attachment. They need to connect with their parents, their caregivers, their sturdy adults to navigate the world. So every time we have disconnection, we actually add to their threat system, which only makes them more reactive, which makes them more likely to do all the behaviors we're trying to get them not to engage in in the first place. And I like this idea of connection capital because again, I'm a visual person. I love metaphors as a way of understanding human behavior and these complicated things. And every time I think we ask our kids to do something they don't want to do, my image is like we draw down on the connection bank account, right? And we have to do this all the time as parents, right? Put your shoes on. Come to the table. Time for dinner. Can you clear plate? Can you, you know, you know, clean up your room. Like these are all things we ask our kids to do that they don't inherently want to do. And so we're pretty big on drawing down on the connection bank account. I always think, Well, we better be even, you know, better at depositing into that account and connection in all types of moments is really how we deposit in. So one way is connecting to your kid when they're struggling, right? Being present, right? That doesn't mean allowing the behavior. That means stopping the behavior and connecting to the kid underneath. Another way is just proactively, when times are calmer, connecting to our kid. I think a big way to do that is playing with our kids without our phones around. It's like actually that simple, right? Saying, Hey, I know I've been distracted, you know, I know my phone's often around. I’m going to put my phone in the other room. I only have 5 minutes. I know it's probably not going to feel like enough time, but it's better than nothing. You pick the activity and I'm just, I'm here. I'll play any role, you know? I'll play that game you want to play whatever you want to do and just giving them our full attention is a way of connecting to them. Naming what they're doing before we make a request is a really powerful way of connecting to them before we draw down on that. So instead of saying, Hey, come on time, take a bath, saying you look like you're really into that drawing. Oh, tell me a little bit about it. Oh, that's interesting. How do you think to do that? Oh, oh, it is time to take that bath, sweetie. We can pick up the drawing again in the morning. Like, I promise the likelihood of your kid going to take a bath is so much higher, right? Just like it would be for us. Like if I was sitting on the couch and enjoying a book, and my husband was like, we got to go to dinner. I'd be like, What? And we said, Oh, you're really enjoying the book. Tell me about it. You know, we do have to leave for dinner. I'd be like, Okay, you see me as a person. Now I'm more likely to get up and do something you know you want to be on time for. So I think there's all types of ways as parents, we can think, how can I deposit into that account? How can I show up? How can I put my phone away for a few minutes? How can I be present? How can I notice what my kid is interested in? And even in like 10 seconds of doing that, it really builds this bridge between you and your kid. And if you think about that, even the visual of now the bridge is a lot stronger. Now they're going to be much more likely when I ask them to essentially walk over the bridge from their side to my side to do something that's a priority in my life right? Like, Hey, we got to get to bed now. They're going to be much more likely because of the way I've kind of built the bridge in their direction before that.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

This resonates so deeply, what you're saying, because I do think that not just kids, but even adults, so many of us are are starved for human connection. You know, and even if we experience it in some moments of our life, we may not feel it in all moments. And it really affects us as beings who are made to be connected to one another. And what I think is really powerful about the example you shared, for example, of if you're reading a book on a couch, for example, and somebody, your husband said, Hey, it's time for dinner right now, versus if he paused and said, Hey, it sounds like you're really interested in that book. To me, that's like such a, you know, short, but powerful moment where, you know, he is helping to reflect a need that you have as opposed to just telling you what he needs you to do in that moment. And I think the point about time is really important. The fact that it doesn't have to take a lot of time to be able to pause and to reflect the need or interest that somebody is expressing in that moment, like you were saying earlier, the they need behind the behavior, if you will, and that just changes people's attitude. I’ll lastly say, there's something I often, have they've said over the years that I feel like in my own experience just meeting folks from around the world and working with people from different cultural backgrounds and such, regardless of where people come from, I find that people all have at least three common needs. Like they all want to be seen and understood for who they are. They all want to know that they matter and they all want to be loved. And we all need those three critical elements in our life. But I think one of the things you're helping really underscore is that our kids need that, too. And being able to take even a few seconds, like you said, 10 seconds to reflect that, can go a really long way to helping build a solid connection and communicate effectively with them.

Dr. Becky Kennedy

Yeah, I think that's exactly right. And again, I think that we've just been given this model of child development that's all about, okay, when my kid does X bad behavior, do Y thing and it it misses the person and we connect to a person like there's a person who's struggling under every, quote, bad behavior. And I do feel like we've been given, like, this raw deal as parents. You know, you have a baby, you're like maybe told how to buckle them into a car seat. And you were like, go do it, you know? And you're like, why would I know how to do this? And the kind of most prolific, you know, kind of literature, at least, I think, in America about kids, is all about behavior shaping. And behavior shaping and behavior modification misses all of those needs you just met. And then it just perpetuates a cycle where then kids just act out more because they're looking to be seen. They're looking for attention, not attention-seeking, but like, yeah, connection-seeking, which is what humans need from an evolutionary perspective. And then those behaviors are just seen as, quote, more bad behaviors. They get more punishment. And we're just like in this horrible cycle where nobody feels good.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

That's right. And I think in, you know, thinking about parents, I think what's so tough for parents out there right now is a lot of them were raised with a very different way of parenting, right, themselves. And on top of that, they're dealing with extraordinary stressors right now, which sometimes make it hard to just pause, you know, and reflect on what you're doing. And and I think it can be incredibly lonely to try to figure this out on your own as a parent. My gosh, I can remember countless late nights spent like searching on the internet at 3 a.m. when our kids were going through some crisis or another trying to figure out what to do. And it's just it can be really tough and really lonely as a parent, which is why I think what you've done in helping to build a community of parents who can talk through these types of issues and work on them and learn from one another is so incredibly valuable.

Dr. Becky Kennedy

Well, thank you. And when we built our membership platform, you know, internally, there were all of the group of us building it were all parents. And, you know, we're like, we know what parents need. Like, how does this not exist? You know, you need trusted information, right? Where, you know, you have a question, going to Google just doesn’t feel good. You're getting some like SEO optimized article, you know, that's not even meant to help you, but you meant to like, I don't know, sell an advertisement. That's not that useful. And I think, you know, when you started this podcast, you said, you know, maybe you had questions for me more professionally and some part of you also was like, well, I'm also a dad, you know, and like, okay, maybe we could use this to answer some of my questions. I found the most incredible thing on our platform where there's members from within, within a week of launching, we are on every continent but Antarctica, which I don't think we'll ever I don't know if we’ll ever get there. So six continents feels pretty good. Over 30 countries. And what's amazing to me is through all the differences and the global differences and cultural differences and socioeconomic differences, racial differences like one parent's struggle, when you really look deep down, like it always end up being everyone struggle, like always. There's something so global and so many people tell me in the community section of the membership, wow, like this is the opposite of social media. Like just reading these posts and saying, wow, like you find that hard and your kids doing this and your kid is hitting and your kid is growling when they're upset. I thought, I thought something was wrong with my kid and I have trouble staying calm and I tell myself what I want to do as a parent, but it doesn't always happen like there's such healing, which means we're in a safer place to actually do the learning from community and realizing, wow, like this thing we're doing every day, parenting, right? It's the hardest job that we do in an unending way, as soon as we start it. I think it's it's just a really hard job. And there are things we can do and there's resources we can get. And this is what I think the membership does, but I want to be honest, like, I think we can make things that feel impossible, feel hard, but we can't make things that are hard feel easy. It's just like nothing about our membership makes parenting easy, but it makes it hard instead of impossible. And hard is like much more preferable when you have especially a community go it through, than impossible.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Yeah, that's so true. And I think as human beings we we can sustain so much challenge and faced down such tough odds when we're together, when we feel like there are people who have our back and we have support. But when you're alone, gosh, even what seem like everyday challenges can feel utterly overwhelming. There something actually that you had written that I remember I noted down in my copious pages of notes that I took when I was going through your materials. But, and this really stuck with me because you were talking about kids here. But I feel it is so is so true for adults. You said, “Happiness requires safety and safety requires not being overwhelmed and frightened by the feelings inside, which is why it's so important for us to learn how to regulate our emotions. And that's the key to resilience.” And that just really stuck with me because I certainly want that for my kids. You know, I want them I know that despite being the overprotective father that I'm certainly guilty of being, that I can't protect them from all adversity. And I don't want to I want them, in fact, to be able to face adversity. But with, you know, the tools to to manage the difficult feelings that may come up to to, you know, deal with frustration when it may come up and fear when it may arise. But I find often that with adults that many, many of us are also trying to build those skills, too, because we may not have gained them to the full extent that we wanted early in life, but but I just found that to be such a powerful lens through which to look at it, that happiness requires safety, and safety requires not being overwhelmed by emotions, which requires emotional regulation.

Dr. Becky Kennedy

Yeah, and I think so many different ideas come together with this one, right? Where I think a common refrain, you know, is like, don't you just want your kids to be happy, or don't you want your kids, you know, don't you just want your kids to be happy? And I remember someone in my private practice years ago saying this Doctor Becky, Don't you just want your kids to be happy? And we're being like, No. And then something interesting happened. She was like, You want them to be unhappy? And I was like, Well, this is something we do as humans. We say like, I don't want one bucket. And then we assume it has to be the polar opposite bucket. No, of course, I'm not wishing unhappiness on my three children. But the more we focus in the early years, unquote, making our kids happy, the more we limit their ability to tolerate the entire range of emotions that they will have for the rest of their lives. Because I never had an adult in my private practice come and say my parents were so amazing that they figured out by the time I was an adult how I would never feel frustration or jealousy or sadness. I've never felt those feelings because my parents got rid of them, right? Like that's never happened. As an adult, we feel all the feelings. Like we feel jealous and we feel frustrated and we feel sad and we feel left out and we feel less than. And I would argue that the stakes are higher because now we're adults and like we're responsible for a lot of areas of our life. And so either by the time our kids become adults, they've developed coping skills for the range of emotions that will inevitably come up in adulthood, or they kind of feel just as raw and unprepared for those emotions as they did when they were two. So let's take a four year old doing a puzzle. Right, which is a good example of like the intergenerational work and resilience work. So inevitably a four year olds doing a puzzle. And guess what? Puzzles are inherently really hard. They require so much, right? They require frustration-tolerance, they require a lot of flexibility. It's like, wait, I’m gonna put this piece down because it seems not to be working and try something new. That's so hard to do. But if I look at this from a resilience-building perspective versus a happiness perspective, I'm going to do something very different. If I prioritize happiness for my four year old, I'd say, put that piece down. And here, let me just let's do this piece in this piece. And, you know, we avoided the tantrum and now we're done the puzzle. But if we go back to this idea of circuitry and what's in us and our kids, probably really happening, I would argue, is I see my kids start to get frustrated and my body feels frustrated or uncomfortable watching them get frustrated. And then I do the puzzle for them, not really to help them just so I can go back to feeling safe and calm myself as a parent because I don't want to cope with the tantrum that might happen. But let's fast forward to, I don't know, my kid's 25. My guess is my 25 year old kids really not doing puzzles as like for a living at least, you know, but God bless them if they are and they're at some job, I don't know. And they're looking at their computer. And actually, I never thought about this. There's some puzzle in front of them, probably not literally, but they have to figure something out. And what does their body know about that moment where they get to, Oh, I don't know what to do next or Oh, this isn't working. This is a direct connection from their relationship with puzzles at age four, right? Because their body scans themself and says, okay, do I know how to cope with this feeling or am I just looking for the quickest, quickest exit to this feeling? And probably at age 25, they can't go to their boss and say like, Hey, can you just do it for me? Or if they did, it probably wouldn't work out that well, right? But if that's what they've learned from a parent, like someone else is just going to step in and make this all go away, then that's not going to be incredibly adaptive at age 25. But if going back to the puzzle as a parent, if I can, to myself, wait, Becky, this is a good moment with my kid. It's not going to be pleasant. It's not going to be enjoyable. But this is like long term helpful. Like, if I can even tolerate my kid's frustration without fixing it for them for like 30 extra seconds, I'm actually buying myself 30 seconds, probably more when they're older of sitting in front of a computer and say, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, I can work with this. Let me take a deep breath. And that's like that's hugely beneficial. So what would that look like early on? I might say, oh, you know what? Maybe put that piece down. Puzzles are so tricky. I don't know about you, but I'm just going to take a deep breath and tell myself, Oh, this is hard and I can do hard things. This is hard and I can do hard things. And even if my kid has a meltdown, they're absorbing the way I responded to their frustration that gets absorbed directly next to their own frustration. And let's say, of course, this isn't one time, but this is, you know, the next time they do a puzzle or the next time they're trying to draw a flower or open Play-Doh or whatever they're trying to do, that's hard. If my kid senses that I can tolerate their frustration, then that’s the foundation for them to be able to tolerate their frustration. And then that's the foundation for being a 25 year old who can tolerate their own frustration.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Oh, wow, that's very rich right there. So, like, because I think what you're pointing to is the the power of modeling the behavior right there in the moment for your child as opposed to directing your child on what to do, which I think is such a it's such a nice twist, I think, on on how to approach that moment of frustration with your child. That's great. I love that. I love that.

Dr. Becky Kennedy

Yeah, you know, going back to the happiness and resilience thing, I often picture feelings like all the different feelings we have in like a jar and they're all there, right? And then the only reason feelings take up more and more space in the jar and kind of push other feelings to the bottom is because those feelings don't have like a cushion around them. They don't have a way of getting managed. And so they take them more and more space. And so if we picture this from our kids early years into adulthood, like what I hope for my kids is that and not to say I'm like perfect at this, it's a hope. It's not something I'm perfectly executing, let me be clear, is that frustration and jealousy and being sad, like by the time my kids become 18 and older, that they've developed kind of various cushions for those feelings. And so those feelings don't take up the whole feelings jar, you know, they feel frustrated and they say, okay, I'm allowed to feel frustrated. This doesn't mean I'm stupid. This doesn't mean I'm not going to figure it out. Something I could say to my kids a lot. Frustrations on the pathway to success. It means you're on the pathway like you're on it. Like keep walking, you know. And then the irony about happiness is the more of our feelings kind of have coping skills, then you could picture that feelings jar as they get older, the more space there is for our kids to feel happy because they won't be happiness won't be crowded out by frustration or by sadness. It actually has more space to emerge. And so I think there's this big paradox that the more early on we focus on allowing the range of feelings. That doesn't mean allowing our kids to hit. If my kids started hitting me while doing a puzzle, I wouldn't be saying, Oh, amazing. Embrace the frustration. No way. I’m going to say, I’m not going to let you hit me. You seem to be having a hard time. We're going to get through this together, right? Something like that. But that actually allows for the emergence of happiness later on, because my kids have developed really strong coping skills.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Yes. That is great. Well, you know, one of the things we did after back in anticipation of this conversation is we asked folks online if they had questions for you. And I wanted to dip into a few of those audience questions right now. So one of them is about meltdowns. The person asks, What's the best response to meltdowns in public? Just leave them? Let them cry loudly and shush them? What should I do?

Dr. Becky Kennedy

So, I think the best response to a meltdown in public is probably in line what's going to help a meltdown in private, right? So often in public, we just struggle with our kind of vulnerability to what we think other people are thinking about us. Right. So I'll give my favorite strategy for there. So I think an overall question that we need an answer to as a parent is what is my job when my kid and then fill in the blank? Okay? And if we can't answer that question for ourselves, we obviously won't be able to do a good job because to do a good job, you have to know what your job is, right? What is my job during a meltdown? And I actually have an answer to this question of what I think. I think a parent's job is to keep their body calm and keep their kids safe. Now, if you hear what's not involved, there is ending the meltdown and safe can mean a lot of things. It can mean physically safe and emotionally safe. So here's an example. You're at a birthday party and your six year old comes to the pizza and cupcake portion of the birthday party. The birthday parties I have generally have pizza and cupcakes. And they want to sit next to their friend who's the birthday girl. And the seats are taken by that girl's cousin or something, whatever. The seats are taken. And your kid just oh, I want to sit next to, you know, Annabel and whatever the meltdown, it's like horrible meltdown. Okay, step one, remembering I'm going to do my job whether I'm in private or public. But I think the little tweak I'll give as an answer for public is we assume other people are thinking like the worst thoughts about us are Becky's such a bad parent, how could her kid be having a meltdown. She's awful. Her kid’s awful. I always think if I'm going to make up the thoughts of other people because we do make them up, we never hear them. We just make them up and respond accordingly. If I'm going to make up what other people are thinking about me, I might as well make it work for me, period. So when I'm in public, I picture other parents saying to me all the time, Becky, you do your thing. Oh, Becky, I've been there too. Becky, this is not a barometer of your parenting or your kid. All kids struggle and you just do the thing that you think is right. I actually picture this and it's so helpful, right? So I think that's step one for everyone to like really try that out. It's really empowering to picture yourself having a cheerleading squad instead of like a firing squad, essentially, which is what it feels like. So step one. Step two. Okay, what's my job? Keep my body calm and my kid safe. Okay, so first step is going to help you keep your body calm because if you picture everyone cheering you on, you're not going to feel awful as a parent. But I also tell myself often during any meltdown, nothing's wrong with me, nothing's wrong with my kid. I can come up with this. Hugely, hugely helpful. And then if I'm keeping my kids safe, obviously, if my kids like starting to hit people, I’d use that “I won't let you. I'm not going to let you hit.” But in public, there's often this other element. Like I do think for my six year old, having everyone in the class witness their like out of control behavior, I know for me, if I was in a situation which does add more fuel, to my shame, it would make me even more disregulated. And so in that situation, I probably am going to carry my kid away. But this is key, and our kids feel the difference, not because I'm embarrassed about my kid. I'm going to carry them away because I need to protect them. Because like they feel so out of control and they just need containment. And I think every adult here, if you were at a party with friends and you were just going around saying awful things to everyone and things that you wouldn't actually say. I hate you and you're awful. And f you, you know, if you did have someone who's like, Becky, I'm not going to carry you away, like, because, like, you are going to thank me later for helping you, right? That's, so I pick up my kid, and this is key, and I'd say something in this sturdy voice like, You're having a hard time. I'm picking you up and I'm carrying you to the car. I'm carrying you to the other room. You're not in trouble. I'm going to stay with you. We're going to get through this together because again, that's a way of keeping my kids safe. I'm staying calm. Then I go somewhere where I can wait out the meltdown. And that's what you do with meltdowns. They're emotional fires, and we don't have fire extinguishers in this metaphor and we wouldn't want them because, again, the problem isn't the frustration. We don't want to extinguish frustration. The problem is that my kid has not yet learned to cope with the frustration, and this way of containing them is a really important first step.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Got it. I love that. That is great. So let me get to one other question here. And this is actually a question that I have, you know, as well, which is what do we do when our kids are scared about being wrong?

Dr. Becky Kennedy

So for example, they won't answer a question or they won't participate in class or they won't like.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Exactly. Exactly. And might like I'll give you an example of my son who when he listens to this in a few years, if he does, is going to hate me. But just to say that, you know, he's very smart and I know a lot of times he'll know the answer to questions, but unless he is sure that he has it right, he's scared to answer. And that's true in school. It's often true at home when other people are around and it's even sometimes true even just when it's me and my wife, Alice, you know, asking him a question. Like he loves math, for example. But if he does an answer, if he's not 100% sure of the answer, then he's reluctant to say it. And so we're trying to figure out how do we tell him that it's okay to make mistakes? We learn from our mistakes. So, hey, we're wrong, too, you know, all the time. Totally. But but what advice do you have?

Dr. Becky Kennedy

So I have a couple a couple ideas about this. And this is one of my favorite topics, actually. And, you know, one of the things I think about, big picture, is that kids who have a lot of like early quote “success,” and I say quote, meaning like the way that like probably our society defines it. They, you know, they're early readers. They, you know, do well on tests. They make the soccer team. I know this might sound odd, but those are the kids I, I worry about. If I had to worry about a bucket of kids long term for their confidence and resilience, way more than I worry about the kids who are like average readers or like getting things wrong in class because going back to our original point, and I don’t know if you thought about it this way with your son, this is a good example of where behavior collapses into identity but from a, quote, “positive” way. If if my identity is defined as the person who is quote “smart,: but smart is defined by getting things right, then anytime I'm in a situation where I might not get something right, it's actually an identity crisis. No wonder I don't want to answer because like, we don't like to have our identity in question. Our identity is how we feel safe. So the work then is how can I actually help my son separate getting anything right from feeling like a good, worthy, smart person, right? Because that's another example where those two things have collapsed into each other. So I have a couple ideas. After this podcast, I’m going to send you my confidence workshop because I think it's going to blow your mind and it's going to give you so many ideas about like, Wow, that looks at confidence in a totally different way and gives me so many ways to intervene with my son. But before that, a couple of things. So one of the things I think about, especially when there's high performing parents and I would argue you're like a pretty high performing human being, I think everyone would just agree with that. So there's that.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

It doesn't always feel that way, but ok.

Dr. Becky Kennedy

It doesn’t. It's true. It also doesn't define you. You you know, you're a person who has many accomplishments. You're not your accomplishments. But we even without all that, I think like our kids are flooded by our capability. So as much as we say to our kids, I get things wrong too. Here's my kids, like first couple hours of the day. It's like they they're trying to put their clothes on. They're trying to tie their shoes. And they see us go like, bloop-bloop-bloop, right. Just figure it out. We cook food, we toast food. We never spill when we get the milk. We can reach things. We are saying, Oh, here's what that word means and here's some math thing. Like we just do it because it is easy for us. But kids, especially kids who are high performing and start to a little bit rap their identity around that they notice in their environment like, wow, look at my parents who figured everything out and way more effective than telling kids, “I make mistakes,” is modeling struggling with something every single day. And it might seem like you have to act it out a little bit. And sometimes we do. But I've never heard kids call out their parents on this. So when my kids are in that pre reading stage, when I know they have their letter sounds and they're just like, I know they're going to kind of start to put it together soon. I'm extra mindful when I read them books to just like mess up a couple words, and be like, Oh my God, it was like way too fast. Well, let me go back. Sorry. One second. I never turn to them after and say, by the way, when you read, it's okay to make mistakes because it just takes away the magic of the moment. Like, just, like just trust that the experience matters, right? But like, imagine if you I don't know about you, but like, I'm not a great cook. I'm not. And if I was like, I want to really learn how to cook. And there was some professional chef around me all the time, who like always did everything right and never burned the garlic and like, never messed something up. And then they were like, Oh, you go try. I'd be like, Yeah, yeah. Like, I don't know about that, you know? But if I was watching myself around someone be like, Oh, I burned the garlic, It got too hot. Okay, well, I can salvage this. I can figure it out. Good chefs mess up garlic. If I just witnessed that, like, that would massively impact my mentality when I went to sautee broccoli with garlic for the first time as an example. So I would say, if you have a kid like this, step one is just start to model mistakes and let the experience speak for itself and do something I call realistic regulation. So maybe you're tying your shoe and like you actually mess it up. Don't then say, Oh, actually I know how to do it. You just do this and this. Oh, figured it out. Because that's not a kid's way of learning. Like, struggle with it, a little bit. So I think that's number one. Number two, is something that I like to call doing a 180 on perfectionism, which has helped my daughter so much. So it might be saying to your son, Hey, you know what we're going to do, you know, maybe you're doing some math homework or whatever. You're doing something mathy in your house and say, I have a really weird thing to tell you. Okay. Do you know that a kid's job, like their job is to learn. That's one of their jobs. And do you know that when we get things right, like our body kind of celebrates, like oooh that felt good, but do you know that we don't learn anything? We literally learn nothing when you get something right. You learn nothing. And we're a family that really loves to learn, and your job is to learn. And so here's the thing, like, I'm going to give you some math questions and I, I need you to do your job. And every time you do your job, which is going to look like at first not getting it right, this is going to be so weird. I'm going to give you a high five and every time you get it right, I'm going to be like, Oh, was fine, but like your brain didn't really grow. So I don't know if I have to tell your teacher you didn't like really learn and that's your job, you know? So there's a way to kind of add some playfulness. And in a way, what you're saying to your child is you can develop good feelings about yourself in a different way than the box you had limited yourself to. So, now we're going to have as a family a way to like, embrace getting things wrong. And kids who really like to who are very high performing, they look for markers of success, right? They kind of know what they're supposed to do. Your sons look to get something right. And so what you're really also doing is giving a different way to look for a marker, right? And to even name that as like, wow, you just learn something new. You just learn that like sometimes we need multiple steps, sometimes we have to slow down. That's amazing. That's going to help you so much in life. And then you're really kind of emphasizing the process of learning instead of the product of getting something right. Yeah. How do you think you would respond to that?

Dr. Vivek Murthy

I think he would respond really well. In fact, I'm going to try it out tonight when I get home and and when I see him, in fact, I'll try to with both my kids. But I think you're right, because I think he and this I feel like I identify with this because I felt this way as a child, as well, that I was also scared to get things wrong. And I felt like I had built an identity, you know, around myself as somebody who knows how to do certain things well. And so getting something wrong was not just about feeling bad about getting that question wrong. It was actually a threat to my identity. Right? And so and that felt much more existential than the question in front of me. I like this approach that you're talking about. And I'll say, I know our time is drawing to a close, but I want to sneak one last question in here that I've been thinking about and that we hear from other folks all the time, especially in this moment. You know, as you and I are talking today, there are big and tough things happening in the world. There's a massive conflict in Ukraine that's happening. We are still in the midst of a of a pandemic. There, hurricanes and floods and droughts and wildfires all over the country that are plastered all over the news. And so young people are reading about this and hearing about it, you know, each and every day. And it's raised the question of how do we have conversations with our kids about bad things that are happening in the world? I love the one of the sort of principles that you have laid out is tell the truth, you know, when it comes to how we talk to our kids about life, big things, small things in particular in this moment when a lot of parents are trying to figure out, how do I talk to my kids about the tough things that are happening, whether it's the things we described or gun violence that happens in their communities or other difficult things in life? Yeah. How do you suggest we approach this as parents?

Dr. Becky Kennedy

So the way I’d start is the way I try to start answering any questions. I like to have a framework to understand before we intervene, and I promise you that pause is worth it because then instead of saying, How do I talk to my kid about Ukraine or about gun violence, we have a framework and we can just then apply that framework any time something uncomfortable happens, which is really efficient rather than solving every single problem that's different when it arises. And I think the biggest principle that I think about with kids is that information doesn't scare kids nearly as much as being alone in the absence of information scares kids. So going back to evolution and attachment, kids are helpless, right? Our kids are helpless for so many years. It's like amazing our animal species survive, right? Because they need us for so long and so because they're helpless in their early years, two, six, you know, ten, they're looking around in their environment, always saying like, what's changed? What's new? What do I notice? And they notice way more than we do. We know that kids perceive even more than adults because their survival depends on it. And then the question is only Do I have an adult who comes and is present with me and explains things to me with everything I've picked up on, but don't yet understand? Or do I pick up on everything? And I don't understand it and no one talks to me about it. And so I just have this kind of free floating confusion and anxiety right all over my body. And I think we know that as adults. If you're in a workplace and you hear rumblings of, I don't know, layoffs or we're moving or the CEO is changing, okay, think about how that feels versus if you hear that and then someone even tells you the worst thing that you could hear, hey, we are going to have a round of layoffs and we will tell you next Tuesday. And at least you have a system, right? Kids need a system. So what I would say to parents is, first of all, remember that your kids are probably perceiving more than you think. They're probably picking up on when we say funeral, death, cancer, funeral, death, cancer or Ukraine bomb Russia, they're like, I don't usually hear the word Russia and Ukraine. Why am I hearing it over and over when my parents look worried and scared? Like, so then the choice is, do I want to leave my kids alone with all of those perceptions or do I want to talk to them? And I very much recommend the latter over the former. And then, it's about coming up with words that are more real words than they are euphemisms. Euphemisms always get us in trouble with kids because they just add a layer of confusion, right? Saying to a kid, you know, our great aunt, whatever her name is, you know, went to sleep for a long time, is much scarier to a kid than hearing, you know, she died of cancer. Dying means when our body stops working. Cancer is a type of sickness that's different than the types of sickness we've seen in our family. No one gets cancer from being around other people who have cancer and cancer is, you know, whatever we might fill in the blank with, depending on the type of cancer it is. Like we end up not saying cancer because we think that helps our kids, but saying cancer actually helps our kids understand that when their dad later says, Hey, I'm going to stay home from work, I'm sick. But they don't think their dad's about to die because they use the same word as we use with someone who did die and never came back to the holidays. Right. So, I think that's the framework that matters. Our kids probably perceive something. We don't want to leave them alone with it. And talking to them with real language matters. I also think this general intro helps to say no matter what the topic is, Hey, I want to talk to you about something that we're probably all going to have some big feelings about that that might be hard to talk about. And one of the things you can know about this family is we can talk about hard things together and you can know when hard things happen. I'm going to be honest with you, because I know we can get through them when we talk honestly to each other. And so it's a little bit of like a preparation and there's something really powerful as a parent of like hearing yourself talk your values is like, right, I'm doing something that I believe in, right? And it'll give you the confidence, think to take the next step.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

That’s such good advice. And I love that framework for how to think about talking about tough things, whether they're something happening in your family or something that's happening around the world. Dr. Becky, I want to thank you so much for this conversation. There is so many wonderful principles that you laid out here. And I know that of the many things I'm taking away from this conversation is just a sense of hopefulness about the fact that there are frameworks and tools that can help us with these tough parenting challenges. A sense of empowerment as well. Because with those tools and strategies comes a you know, ways to approach some of the challenges I think a lot of us have been grappling with. But also, I think the fact that you're helping build a community of parents who have each other, you know, during these times that can feel really lonely, I think is absolutely invaluable. So I'm so grateful to you for this conversation, for everything that you've been doing to help parents all across the world. I appreciate you.

Dr. Becky Kennedy

Well, thank you for your service, for everything you've done. And this was such an honor to connect and look forward to connecting, hopefully another time soon.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Thanks for joining this conversation with Dr. Becky Kennedy. Please join me for the next episode of House Calls with Dr. Vivek Murthy. Wishing you all health and happiness.