We are kicking it off with a bang and I am interviewing Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, an expert on how to deal with stress and burnout and one of my favorite people who has so much wisdom to share with us – affectionately known as Dr. Z., she is an Author of Mommy Burnout™, TEDx Speaker, Podcast Host of The Dr. Sheryl Show, Media Contributor, Consultant, and Entrepreneur.
If you’re feeling stressed and burned out dealing with remote learning, chaos, and uncertainty, you are for sure going to want to listen to this episode!
Scroll down to read the full episode transcribed.
What You Will Learn:
- The 6 hallmark Signs Of Mom Burnout (oh my gosh – yep, my hand is raised!)
- What to do when you feel like you’re failing as a mom (been there!)
- How to take care of yourself, especially when navigating remote learning and all that we are dealing with around COVID – what Dr. Z shares is soooooo helpful!
- How to say “no” – Dr. Z shares with us a script we can use!
- The choices we make that cause more stress and burnout for us as moms and what to do instead to restore peace and well-being.
Where To Find Dr. Sheryl Ziegler:
- Website: https://www.drsherylziegler.com/
- Her Mother/Daughter Puberty Course: Start With The Talk
- Her book: Mommy Burnout, How to Reclaim Your Life and Raise Healthier Children In The Process
Find more encouragement, wisdom, and resources:
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And here is the episode typed out!
Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. If some days you doubt yourself and you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’ve ugly cried alone in your bedroom because you felt like you’re failing. Well, I just want to let you know you are not alone and you have come to the right place.
Raising tweens and teens in today’s world is not easy. And I’m on a mission to equip you to love well, and to raise emotionally healthy, happy tweens and teens that thrive.
I believe that moms are heroes, and we have the power to transform our family and to impact future generations. If you are looking for answers, encouragement, and to become more of the mom and the woman that you want to be welcome. I am Sheryl Gould. And I am so glad that you’re here.
SHERYL: Sheryl, you are the number one go-to when it comes to talking about and dealing with stress, burnout, and mental health. I’m so happy to have you on here today, especially with what we have going on with COVID-19. We’re quarantined. We’re overwhelmed. Moms are dealing with e-learning. Everybody’s home. There are messes everywhere. And then some moms are dealing with working from home and are stressed out.
Today I want to talk about both your book – I just want to say I am like a self-care junkie. I have so many books about self-care. Your book is one of the best that I have ever read. And honestly, when I read “Mommy Burnout,” I was thinking, “Oh, maybe this is for younger moms.”
Then I read it, and I’m like, “No, this is applicable to no matter what age your kid is.” You share so many great stories and research about all the common challenges that we navigate as moms. I was saying, “yes, yes. Oh my gosh, that’s me. That’s what I go through.” What I really like, I just want to touch on this for our listeners, is you raised my awareness, you shined the light, and you did a deeper dive into what really goes on with us.
I love the chapter. “I know my mom is just trying to help.” I’ve never read that before, and how do we navigate that with our moms when we’re parents. You also talked about the pressures that we feel with social media, which I know so many moms are feeling, especially right now, and our kid’s performance and how that can actually create burnout and what we can do, and then marriage as well, and what happens with us.
So thank you so much for your book. I want to weave in your book and what you also share with the challenges that we’re dealing with, with COVID 19.
Dr. Z: First, I wanna say thank you for the kind words. I promise I didn’t put her up to that!
Truly the journey of writing this book, for anybody who knows people’s journeys, or has written books themselves, is a very long process.
I have three children right now. At the time, I had my first child, and I write in the introduction I shared with people that I went through infertility struggles. It took me a while to get pregnant with my first, and then I had her, so that was, for me, a lovely, glorious, amazing time. I had been waiting so long, and then I had a second.
Throughout the process, I’ve run a private practice in Denver, and I have been hearing women say very similar things to me. They would come in, and the initial session would be really for their child, but they just come in, and I kept hearing the same things over and over.
Things like “I am so exhausted all the time.” They would say, “Is this it? This is the fairy tale? I got the husband. I got the kid and the house. Is this it?”
They would cry. They would say, like so many moms say, “I’m just not good at this. I’m not a good mom. I don’t know what I’m doing.” I just noted it, and I started working with a lot of moms at the time. I didn’t personally resonate with what they were saying until I had my second, and then when I had my second child, I literally felt like I was underwater, drowning.
I remember my son was maybe 15 months old. I was on the phone with one of my girlfriends. I said, “I can’t even unload the dishwasher.” I remember I was standing in the kitchen and the dishwasher, and I was trying to unload the dishwasher, and I couldn’t. He was over there taking things out of the dishwasher, crawling around the house, then my other daughters – my daughter was two and a half when I had one.
My daughter was two and a half when I had my son. They were both pretty young. This was a long time ago, and it was almost ten years ago. I felt like people need to know about this. I cannot be the only one. I know I’m not because my clients are talking about it. But I don’t see this anywhere else.
SHERYL: You share six signs of mom burnout. And I certainly identified with all six, and I’m sure most moms will identify with them as well. What are they?
DR. Z: When we look at burnout – I want to tell people that it’s not about young moms. It’s about all moms. I want people to know also that are listening that burnout is not just a term like “I’m so burned out.” But that came from the 1970s. When they started looking at employee burnout, they were looking at ER, Doctors, and nurses. I’m sure we’re going through a burnout crisis right now in our medical system.
What I did was basically, when my agent saw this book, she said, “This is great. We’re going to publish this, but you need to define the problem. What is the problem?” I was calling it the way Betty Ford called it in the 1960s.
The problem has no name, so I had to search for what am I talking about. She said, “don’t just describe it. Name it. What is this?” So the best thing I can come up with, which I think is really consistent, is burnout. When you look at classic symptoms of burnout, you’re looking at the physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion from caregiving.
People say they’re exhausted. That’s the physical part. The emotional part is, “I’m not good at this. I’m not doing a good job at this.” Lots of us feel that way, especially right now. Some days, we might feel like we did a pretty good job. And some days are like, “that was a disaster.”
It’s interesting. One of the key things is cynicism. That’s like nothing’s ever gonna change. That is a hallmark symptom of burnout. So what happens in an employment setting? We get like, “my boss sucks,” or “this place is never going to change. I need to get out of here.”
When you’re a parent, you can’t just be like, “I’m going to get out of here.” So what happens is we create the story that it doesn’t even matter what I do, it doesn’t even matter what I say, these kids are just going to do whatever they want. There’s this deflation of not wanting to be invested anymore.
Those are some of the Hallmark symptoms. There’s also a loss of motivation and passion and prolonged exposure to stress. Those are the proper definitions. I think right now is a perfect example, this prolonged exposure to this stress. Even my daughter last night was just lying in bed in tears. And I said, “what’s going on? What’s wrong?” And she’s like, “when is this gonna end? I can’t do this anymore. I need to see my friends.” And I get it. I get it for the kids and for all of us as well.
SHERYL: I love what you’re saying. Especially thinking about how we’re feeling now with failing as a mom. I hear that in my community, how moms just feel like they’re failing. They’re feeling unmotivated and they’re feeling exhausted. They’re wondering, “When is this gonna end?” That cynicism. And that has really set in. What would you say to the mom right now that she feels like she’s failing.
DR. Z: The very first thing I would say is you need to lower that bar. We have all set the bar so high for ourselves. And now we got a new title to add to the cape, which is home educator, whatever you want to call us. We have got to lower that bar.
I just did it myself for my seven-year-olds in first grade. I just decided I’m not just lowering the bar. I am just totally shifting the bar. I’m moving it aside because of what I was doing to myself in terms of trying to wrangle a first grader to pay attention to these online things as he’s rolling around the floor.
Some days I just was like, “did you do anything today? Did you learn anything today?” People always say, “you’re so good at handling stress.” I’m just good at knowing when I’m hitting the tipping point. Then I rein myself in. I would say to the mom right now who feels like she’s doing a poor job, the best thing you can do is put everyone’s mental and emotional health first, and put yourself first – you have to come first.
This morning, I really practiced that I came first. I said good morning to everybody, and then I was like, “I’ve got a couple of things I have to do.” Because I knew that if I didn’t, they would be on my mind. Then I’d probably be more irritable trying to sneak it in.
We have to come. First, we have to put our oxygen masks on, first refuel that tank, and then lower that bar. For elementary-age kids, the most important thing they can do is read. If my kid reads independently for 30 minutes a day, it’s a home run. To check everything else is a bonus.
My middle schooler – if they do most of their zoom calls, they’re doing what they have to do, even if they have to spread it out. In the middle of the day, as soon as I’m off this call, we’re all outside, we’re going outside, I don’t care what’s going on. That’s more important.
Prioritizing that my kids will remember this experience not as scary or overwhelming, but rather as this really unique time. I’m not trying to fluff it up. But what I’m trying to say is I don’t put academics first. It’s going into week seven. This is so long.
I was way enthusiastic and zealous in weeks one and two. And after that, it’s been shifting every week. So just shift and lower the bar. That’s what I would say to every mom.
SHERYL: I have moms say, “I feel like I’m slogging throughout the day.” That is how I felt in the beginning. Like, “Oh, I don’t have to do anything, I could just hang out and have fun and cook.” And now it’s slogging, so lower the bar and shift your focus.
DR. Z: Absolutely.
SHERYL: In your book, you give a prescription, and you do a lot of research. You give a mom a burnout prescription plan. One of the things that really struck me in your prescription plan was where you talk about having boundaries. I don’t think moms are very good at that. Can you share how we do that? Where do we start, especially with what’s going on now?
DR. Z: It’s so interesting. Setting boundaries for women, in particular, is such a challenge. A perfect example of this, I wish they were listening, I had a family that I saw on telehealth last night, so I’m still doing all my sessions with my clients. There’s a teenage daughter, and I was talking to her about setting some boundaries. And then, all of a sudden, the mom came in and said, “I’m terrible at this. I am not a good model for this at all.”
I have found that to be such a huge task to take on for so many people. It’s not just women, and I think women more, but even men have a hard time. I can’t think of exactly where in the book I set boundaries for people. I talked to them about it.
I would say around boundaries is that one of the first things that we have to get really, really good at is first asking for help. And then accepting help. That’s probably one of the biggest things that I see. Because it’s hard to set a boundary. When you don’t know what you need, you don’t know where the limit is to what you need. Then when someone gives it to you, all of a sudden, you feel guilty.
I have so many women who will say that. Like we’re all in this, but everybody’s stressed out, how am I gonna ask you to do something, you have your own kids and your own stresses? I hear that all the time. There are so many things that I could say about this, but the combination of learning how to say no, learning that you are still a good parent, you’re still a good neighbor, or a good community member in your school.
How many women do I know everybody listening can relate to this? You get stopped in the car line, and somebody says, “I was just wondering, do you want to co chair the auction?” “Do you want to start a community garden?”
All of these things and women are standing there frozen. It’s stressful. So fight, flight or fear kicks in. And they’re like, “Um, yeah, I guess I could do that. Maybe if I had some help.” I feel like women who are proud themselves will say, “at least I said I would need some help.”
I will tell you that one of the best tips that I got, I don’t know if I wrote it in the book or not, was a was from Tiffany Dooku, who wrote: “Drop the Ball.” She talks about how she says no. And so that’s part of setting boundaries is learning how to say no. She does one of these, “thank you so much for asking. I really appreciate that you thought of me, right now, I’m directing all of my time, or most of my time to blah, blah, blah. I sit on two nonprofit boards. I can’t do that now. But once again, I really appreciate you thinking of me.”
She basically says, No, and she sandwiches it with how she’s allocating her time, thanks the person, and closes that up. End of story. I have been practicing that. It took me to the whole other level to just practice it that way.
SHERYL: I love that. It’s like you need a script. I also say if I’m thinking about saying yes, sometimes I say yes, if I feel my energy’s high, and then I regret it later. But I say, “let me think about that.” Even having a response back is so helpful. Because you’re right, we get caught in the moment, or even somebody wants to make you feel so happy somebody but then totally stressed,
DR Z: Totally stressed. And I will say, “let me think about that.” I have found that we women do that, again, more than men. And so it leaves that door cracked. Let’s say an assertive person is asking you to do that – we tend to cave.
Within three seconds, we know whether we want to do something or not. I will tell you, for anybody listening, even though I’ve talked about this, I’m constantly practicing it. I feel so much more confident. The more and more I do it, the more natural it feels for me.
Also, if I say yes to something that I really want to do, I think that the people that are receiving the yes, know I’m really passionate about this and really interested in this. So it also helps enhance the experiences that I do choose to get involved in.
SHERYL: Being assertive. When you said that, I thought if it’s three seconds, if my guts are telling me, I probably should say no and use that script that you’re talking about.
DR. Z: Right, because we women are these processors. That’s what I talk about a lot in the marriage chapter. We like to process things, and then we like to talk about them from five angles. I could get off this call and then call you again and be like, so Sheryl, what do you think about this?
I wanted to talk about it from all these angles. And we can talk ourselves in and out of things very easily. What I say to women, I just went through this last week with another woman who got asked to do get more responsibility at work. I know she’s in a great space in her life right now. I said, “you’re flattered. But don’t take that job promotion right now.”
We will often regret the “sure I’ll do that.” But very, very, very few times do I ever hear: “I said no. I kind of regret it.”
That’s very unusual. And usually, if you say no to something, especially if it’s volunteering your time, they’ll certainly take your yes, down the road. But it’s harder to reverse it to say yes, and then go, “oh, you know what, actually, I really don’t have time for that.” That just leaves a sour feeling with people.
SHERYL: And it causes anxiety for us.
DR. Z: Yes.
SHERYL: I like the guilt part that you’re talking about. And maybe moms are really relating to that because I know I’m looking at this as an opportunity during this whole thing to strengthen my “asking for help” muscle, and we have a new puppy too. So I really have to ask for a lot of help.
But I always notice I have this little low-grade guilt feeling. It’s just there, and I have to coach myself around that. This is what I can do. I can help with the puppy. This is one I can’t. Everybody has to step up. And it’s working really well, but it’s strengthening that muscle – strengthening the “no” muscle. It’s not listening to those guilt voices. It’s being able to receive. Those are all really, really good points.
DR. Z: They really are. We hear about it, we read about it – mom guilt is so huge right now, and I still find it fascinating. I’m open to other people’s ideas. I’m trying to think of what the best word is that we could replace with help because, at the beginning of this pandemic lockdown, it’s me who instantly is like, “I will rearrange my schedule and figure things out so that I can be there for the kids, I really value education. I like this kind of stuff.”
And so it was like what I had to say was, “okay, so these are the ways that you can help me.” It’s not like my husband wouldn’t really say to me, “I need you to help me out with the kids.” I would laugh. It’sstill the default. Is all on me. And then I have to ask for help.
What I think about your puppy situation, I’m sure it’s not literally your puppy. It’s the family’s puppy. Right?
SHERYL: I think it’s that belief, that core belief of like, it is my puppy. It is my responsibility to do this. It falls on mom, but we’re creating that. It’s like a co-creation.
DR. Z: Systemically, that is the way families continue to operate, no matter how advanced we think we are. And it’s 2020. There are still these gender roles that exist so much. And the reason why I’m even bringing this up is besides the fact that we’re all trying to figure out how to “ask for help” and receive the help. That’s an issue.
But the second thing that’s really huge is just when we think about burnout in parenthood. Even last week, I always had men reaching out to me and saying, “why not daddy burnout? Why did you just write a book about moms and women?”
The truth is that my experience of them is different. And it doesn’t mean that dads are not involved and that they don’t love their kids and all of that. But the stress that women feel in their role as mothers. If every parent in the country that dads would weigh, they would be concerned about academic failures or losing traction. I don’t think that would be one of their top stressors.
But I do think it is a top stressor for the majority of moms; they’re worried, “Is my kid falling behind? Can I really teach math? What’s gonna happen next year?” And that’s why we’re feeling so much stress because we feel we need to keep them up. And so the priorities in terms of stressors are just really different for men and women, is what I find and the research finds.
SHERYL: That’s so interesting. And you talk about performance and our kids. You have a whole chapter on that, how that can cause burnout for us. Can you touch on that? Because this is a time when we are feeling stressed about our kids getting their homework done and what’s going to happen next year if we don’t. And yet, what I find is, as moms, we can be carrying that more than our kids. We think it feels loving, and it feels caring, but then we’re caring more than they are, and we’re carrying that weight. So what would you say to the mom right now, that’s listening, that’s feeling a lot of responsibility around their kids getting their work done?
DR. Z: I actually titled one of the chapters, “I Just Want What’s Best For My Child.” And it’s this chapter that’s all about all these choices and how choices are actually making us feel more stressed. That’s the one thing I have found that what we’re going to call this generation, which probably will be like the lawnmower/snowplow parenting generation right now. I know that these places come from love.
However, they’ve really gone awry. And so what I would say right now is, if you’re stressing out about your kid falling behind, and that’s keeping you up at night and causing you anxiety, you have to remember, you have to go back to the basics. What does my kid need right now? And am I providing it?
Number one, they need physical safety. That’s number one. We’re in a pandemic, and we’re all trying to avoid spreading and getting COVID-19. So are you doing that job? It’s not foolproof and perfect, but are you basically sheltering in place and doing all of that so you can? I’d say that the majority of parents, they are doing that. Their kids aren’t going to school, their kids aren’t playing with other people, and they’re staying home for the most part check.
Number 2, am I providing a loving, calm home environment? We have to manage their anxiety. I think a lot of parents are sometimes to the detriment of themselves because we give this whole “I want what’s best for my child” become the martyr syndrome, where we’re like, “oh my gosh, I’ll give you my last waking breath. I’ll do everything for you. I’ll work till three in the morning.”
I’m really not exaggerating in a lot of cases like, we feel this overwhelming sense of like, I will do everything. The amount of flashcards sales and academic workbooks, all those things are through the roof. Now, I even noticed that at Target, there’s a section now in the book section. That’s all workbooks. And that’s because they’re flying off the shelves because we want what’s best for our children.
But I would say if we really evaluated right now what’s best for our children, their academics would fall somewhere, maybe four or five, even six, it’s not a top priority. But yet mentally, that’s what we’re focused on.
SHERYL: We’re all in the same boat. Every kid. And it’s going to be like you said in the beginning, good days and bad days. And it’s also going to be such a mix of good stuff that’s happening, but also challenges around all this and to normalize that.
DR. Z: Absolutely. I think it’s much more important that in the day, you spend some time talking to your kid about how they’re doing and if they’re connecting with friends. Rather than saying, “Did you do your math? Did you do that math packet?” Every kid’s in the same boat. And even the ones that started off strong, they’re losing steam, the ones who started off slower, maybe they’re getting a little bit better. I think in the end, we’re all human, and it’s all about balance – there are different peaks. I talked to people all over the country the same week by week; some weeks, people were angry, and some weeks, people were depressed. Some weeks people are like, “I can’t do this anymore.” In the beginning, lots of us had great intentions. I really believe that.
SHERYL: And it can change hour to hour.
DR. Z: Totally, totally, The halfway point of my day, and I’ve had a good morning so far. I don’t know what’s gonna happen this afternoon.
SHERYL: It can be the same with our kids. So I want to get to questions. But I want to ask you before we move to questions, what is one thing that you would say right now? That’s so encouraging what you just shared. But do we have any other encouragement for moms right now?
DR. Z: I think one other thing that I would add right now is that we are all in this grief cycle stage. I really want people to have that terminology. Because I think it’s so helpful. So if you’ve got four or five people under one roof, and when we talk about the grief cycle, we’re talking about at first denial, and denial still comes and goes.
So we’re talking about denial, then anger, then bargaining, then depression, and acceptance. And then they’ve recently added finding meaning which I think comes the next year 2021 or 2022, and we’ll make meaning of this.
I want people and moms, in particular, to just remember that. I really believe we’re grieving our lives and all the experiences. Every time I look at my calendar, I get that sinking feeling. It was supposed to be regionals in gymnastics. It was supposed to be the talent show the other day. There’s that feeling of what we’re missing. I think if people can, first and foremost, think of it as grief, it allows you to be a lot more empathetic with yourself and with other people.
And number two, know that we can go in and out of grief cycles. As you said, Our to our day-to-day and under one roof, people can be in different stages. So if you’ve got a senior in high school, they’re all over the place; they’re your bargaining, “please, I promise I’ll stay home if we can just have a job this summer. Or if I can get to graduate across the stage.”
Just knowing that even though you’re all experiencing the same things, we might be in different stages, and just slowing down to pause and think about what stages are my kids in? What stage am I in today? What stage is my partner in today? It can be really helpful in reducing tension and increasing empathy.
SHERYL: That is so helpful because even yesterday, my husband, he’s not a yeller at all. And he raised his voice. I went in there, and I’m, I said, “I can’t take the puppy. I’m working on going to a call right now.” And he was like, “I’m working too!” We were both in that anger and that frustration. It wasn’t just a puppy.
We’re all packed in together. I just can feel that, and then my daughter, when she’s feeling sad, that is so helpful to look at it that way. Rather than “gosh, she’s so grumpy. And I can’t believe he just yelled at me”, we can’t get away. We’re all stuck together.
DR. Z: Absolutely, and you can, on a light level, on a surface level, say, “oh well, you were stressed at that moment, and your husband was stressed at that moment, and just move on.” But really, what you were both grieving at that moment was your freedom. The freedom to simply work.
I just cannot simply work. I think everybody can relate to this. That’s listening. If you’re a mom, remember, when you brought your newborn home, you’re so excited. But then there is that “I can’t even take a shower. I cannot even finish a meal, or my body is not mine anymore.”
So anytime there’s change and transition, we have to mourn what we’re leaving behind. We eventually accept what’s coming, whether that’s positive or negative. That’s where we’re at right now. We’re not in full acceptance, but some people they’re trying to accept, “this is my new normal.
Then things happen. And you’re reminded, I can’t even work. I cannot even type off an email without some kids screaming, somebody walking into my office, whatever it might be. So it’s not just stressing irritability. It’s also grief.
SHERYL: Yeah. Thank you, Sheryl. That’s so helpful when you talk about that, for us to be more aware of that and how that’s showing up with our kids and with us. Well, let me move to questions right now.
This is a mom that reached out when she knew I was interviewing you. And she wrote at one o’clock in the morning because her daughter, who is almost 16, she’s doing well, but her daughter’s sleep is getting out of control. She disrupts all of them. She says she can’t be the sleep police for a 16-year-old because she’s asleep by 10. And she refuses to battle with her during the day about naps, etc. What do you think she should do? Sleeps a huge one right now.
DR. Z: I think it’s huge right now. Just an overall sense of monitoring teenagers is huge right now. So, I want to say a couple of things. I will say that, for anybody listening, I have probably heard more stress around having a teenager in quarantine than having toddlers.
I think there are a couple of things with these teens. Number one, and I know this goes into a little on another question. But number one, I think teenagers need to be told pretty much straight up what’s going on.
Because what I’m doing is building a case. “So we are in a pandemic. Pandemic means that in order to not continue to spread it, we have to stay home. I know this is really difficult. It’s difficult for all of us.”
So number one, this is the week that I’m finding teenagers are wanting to either leave the house or sneak out of the house because they cannot take not being with their friends or boyfriend or girlfriends anymore. So that’s number one.
Number two. Last night, I had to negotiate with a kid. Last week alone, he was gaming one particular game for 24 hours last week. I bet that’s pretty average. I don’t know what the average is. But it sounds outrageous. They kind of feel like all the rules have gone out the window. We’re just surviving.
“So I’m going to just do whatever I want. I’m going to stay up as late as I want. I’m going to sleep in as late as I want.” What I would say to parents of teenagers right now is I think it’s really important to set those limits and say, “Yes, we are in unusual times, let’s revisit everything. Let’s revisit your technology contracts if you’ve got them. And if you don’t have one great, great time to just make a new one.”
I think it’s a great time to say, “Here’s why I can’t have you up in the middle of the night. Here’s why sleep is important to all of us. If we are exposed to this, our immune system needs to be as strong as it can be. Sleep is important. Eating healthy is important.”
Those are all the things I would tackle. Not just from an “I’m your parent, let’s set the rules,” but also from a really logical place. We’re in a pandemic. It’s not our job to sit at home and binge on Netflix all day and play video games. That’s not part of it. Part of it is to keep ourselves as healthy as we can be should we be exposed. We are in the healthiest position, and we can fight it. I would position it that way.
I’ve said that to a couple of kids who stared at me through the camera and been like, “I never thought of it that way.” So that’s my angle on it. Just teach them from a public health perspective why the rules are there. You’re not being cruel, but here are the limits. And here’s why.
SHERYL: You started out when you were saying that validating is hard.
DR. Z: Yes.
SHERYL: And then they are apt to hear the why. And then set those guidelines with them.
DR. Z: Absolutely, you got to stick to your guns. I’ve had lots of examples of parents saying, “what should I do? They sneak out. What am I going to do? This is punishment already as it is, what could I possibly do?” And so I said, “You’re right, you’re probably not going to take away their technology, you could limit it, but you’re not going to take it away fully. You can’t say, Well, now you’re missing out on a party, there are no parties.”
The way I would present it in case anyone’s in the situation with kids pushing boundaries is I would just say, “let me explain to you what would happen if daddy or I, in particular, were to get COVID-19, let me explain to you what that would look like.” And either scenario, one where it’s so bad that you’d have to go to a hospital and the impact that it would have on the family, or scenario two, you might not be in the hospital, but you’d have maybe 10 to 14 days to be so sick and then being quarantined in your room. So what would life be like, without maybe a parent who can’t generate income or a parent who can literally not take care of the family?
Teenagers will get that. We sometimes don’t give them enough credit. They will get it but talk to them that way straight up. Let me tell you how devastating it would be to our family. I’m not talking about death. But if I got COVID-19 and had symptoms, this is what our lives would look like. Are you willing to take that risk? Because you cannot resist the temptation to hang out with a friend for an hour? That’s the way I would put it to them.
SHERYL: I love that, Sheryl. Thank you. Because I know moms are reaching out to me and saying my kids snuck out, what do I do? So it’s very helpful. Thank you for talking about what to do about that.
Here’s another one, how much should we be telling the kids about how dangerous it is? You touched a little bit on this. I want them to be scared enough to follow all the protocols but not scared enough that they lose sleep at night. So how much do you tell them?
DR. Z: Yeah, I’m pretty comfortable with this because I’ve been practicing with not just my own kids, but lots of other kids. I’ve been doing a lot of segments on this. I actually haven’t wavered from where I started, which is, first and foremost, if a kid is asking you more questions, even if today, they just say, “Well, how many more people are infected? Or what’s the death toll?” The first thing I would say is, “what have you been reading? What do you know? What do you know about it?”
Always start with that. Turn that question right back around on them. Because a lot of times, adults might ask big picture questions. But kids generally have some sort of agenda, like they actually want to know one particular thing. I would first say, “it’s a really good question. What have you been reading? What did you hear? Did you hear something?”
Because they’re likely to say, “Well, I was on a zoom call last night, and someone said that a million people have died in our country. Is that true?” Well, let’s talk about it, and you don’t have to go rambling about every aspect of everything. Like, they basically heard X, Y, and Z. And you’re going to clarify – I would stick to the facts. I would stick to what they want to know and not overshare. That is where most parents go awry.
They overtalk. They overshare. So answer their specific questions pretty factually. I think it’s really important right now to find sources that are comfortable for you that you can even share with your kid. Whatever you’re comfortable with: the New York Times, or the Washington Post, or CNN or MSNBC, whatever you’re comfortable getting your information.
Maybe it’s just universities, follow Johns Hopkins and Stanford, or we’re only going to listen to Dr. Fauci, whatever it is. But I would just say to them. We’re going to get our sources from these public health experts. This is what they say.
And if kids shouldn’t be scared, because if you’re doing what they’re telling us to do, your probability of getting infected is very, very low. I would say to them it’s kind of simple. It’s hard but simple. If we do these five things that they’re telling us to do, the probability of us getting this is extremely low to not even possible.
I would give them real-life examples. If daddy goes to work, and he starts allowing more employees to come in, and they don’t take these precautions, all of a sudden, our probability goes up. So I think at any age, from probably five and up, I can hear some version of this. And it actually is good because it gets them bought into why it’s important to listen to this and not have to go through a second wave.
I’ve already started talking to my kids about we’re doing this because I don’t want to be a part of the problem with this second wave that they’re predicting could come at the end of this year. I want to do this once and hopefully not have to do it again. They’re pretty on board with that.
That’s exactly what we wanted it.
SHERYL: That’s another one you could say to your kid if they’re sneaking out. If we’re sneaking out, we’re not taking precautions. We’re just making this go on and on and on. So that’s a good motivation to thank you. I love that Sheryl. Tell them where to find you.
DR. Z: So you can find me at my website, which is Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, https://www.drsherylziegler.com/, and there you can find I have a podcast called Dr. Sheryl’s Pod Couch. I have a newsletter that comes out twice a month. I will say people really love it because they’re just called Notes From the Couch. And they’re my session notes essentially made into a story that we can all relate to. So it’s great because they’re usually a mix of a bunch of people, but they’re really what’s happening in my therapy sessions week to week, so a lot of people relate to them. So you can sign up for that newsletter.
And throughout this time, a lot of people have hopefully completed some things they wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to take this class that I teach called Start With a Talk, which is a mother-daughter puberty class on the social, emotional, and physical changes that happened in middle school, essentially leading up to it. I finally recorded it. So that’s going to be an online class that I’m going to be offering. It should be on my website, probably by the end of the month. So by the end of May. I’m really excited about that. So all the things I do can all be found on https://www.drsherylziegler.com/.
SHERYL: Wonderful. Thank you for sharing that. I love your podcast. I get your newsletters, and you talked about the last one is all about the stages of grief, which was very helpful.
DR. Z: Today’s is about regression.
SHERYL: Oh, I haven’t checked my inbox. I’m gonna check it.
DR. Z: For people listening today, my podcast was released, and Sheryl is my guest. She and I had a great conversation about social media and managing that even during a pandemic. So for anybody who wants some really good ideas about what to do, you can check out my podcast today because Sheryl’s my guest.
SHERYL: Yes, thank you for sharing that it was so fun. I’ll share that, and I’ll share all the information also your book. I’ll share the link for that as well. Thank you for what you’re doing for moms and daughters around puberty because that is so needed. And especially at that time and to be able to bond, we don’t know how to talk to our daughter’s going through that whole –
DR. Z: And your daughter is not asking you the questions that are on their mind. So that’s why this class is so special to me. I have truly been doing it for seven years, almost seven years. And the girl’s questions are actually the sweetest part of it all. I have kept and gathered every question that the girls have asked me. So that’s going to be a little bonus Q&A.
The greatest thing is that now it’s something you could have at home. They’re there by segments. So it’ll it could be hygiene. You could just watch hygiene with your kid, it’s maybe 20 minutes, and then you could be done. Then there are female genitalia, menstruation, and then bullying and friendship issues. I try to take all those things that I’ve gathered from all this, all these years of doing this, and then they’re just 20-30 minutes segments. I feel like it’s gonna be great. And it’s called “Start With The Talk.” Because I always tell people, it’s just the beginning. You got to keep these conversations going and going.
SHERYL: I know, and giving the tools because if we didn’t have our moms or parents talking about it, we don’t know. Even if we did, it’s so uncomfortable. Thank you so much for being on here and sharing all your wisdom. And I love all that you’re doing to help us navigate through parenting.
DR. Z: Absolutely. Well, thank you. I love being on, and I hope everybody stays healthy and sane. We will all get through this.
SHERYL: We will get through this together. So thank you, Sheryl.
DR. Z: Thank you