An important part of reducing stress is getting real–and that means being honest with yourself and the people around you, so that you don’t have to exert the effort to act or feel some specific way and you can have more real connections.
BUT, there’s a catch. Now that our kids are home 24/7, it can be hard, to say the least, to find the right balance of being honest and real with them. Up until this point, if your kids are old enough to go to school, or they go to daycare or preschool, many of us only spent a few hours in the morning and a few hours at night with our kids. It’s a lot easier to keep it together, and be patient and thoughtful with your kids when it’s for a finite amount of time. It’s a lot lot harder to be patient and thoughtful — and honest! — all the livelong day. I know my fellow parents feel this.
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So, today I’m happy to have my friend Judi Ketteler, author of the book, Would I Lie to You? here with us. In her awesome and thought-provoking book, Judi takes a good long look at being real and honest, and how we can embrace it to become happier and more connected to ourselves and the people around us. A big section in Judi’s book is about being real with your kids, about everything from Santa Claus to grown-up topics like divorce.
Judi, can you give us a quick run down on the kinds of benefits we see when we start being more real with ourselves and other people? What’s in it for us?
The biggest thing that is in it for us that I have found, and the research shows this is that it creates connection, like social connectedness. There was a study that asked people to predict how it would feel if they had to be completely real with everyone for three days. And people said things like it would be horrible. It would be the worst thing ever. It’s going to ruin all my relationships. But in reality, what they found when the researchers asked these people after it was over is that so many of them talked about how it created meaning and a sense of connectedness to the people in their lives.
And so we really mis-predict. Sometimes we think honesty is going to be really hard and really difficult. And it is sometimes hard and difficult, but we don’t take into account the connection that can come from it, that sense of that vulnerability, that connection. So connection is the first benefit.
The second thing is that we feel more aligned. So I talk a lot about this in the book, you know, the voice that you have in your head and then kind of what you’re showing to the world. And for me, those things often felt at odds with each other. And it wasn’t until I really decided to kind of dive into honesty and, was I really being the honest person that I wanted to be? It wasn’t until I really dove into those things that I was able to feel like it was a little bit more aligned, a little bit more reconciled with who I wanted to be and who I actually was being. So basically it creates a space for self awareness. This is the shorter way of saying that.
And then the third thing around kids is that being honest with our children helps our children to trust us more. Experimenters were telling kids about this toy and when they purposefully didn’t tell kids about some of the benefits of this toy and the kids discovered it on their own, the kids were less likely to then trust the experimenter in the next set of experiments. So, you know, does that completely carry over to parenting? I don’t know. But I think that there is something there that if we’re not real with our children, they’re not going to trust us as much
Interesting because they want the whole truth from us. Right. I mean, you can sense that they do, but we have something going on right now, which is this huge, big, scary pandemic. Right? And so we want to be real with them about it, but it’s like just the totality of it is a really, a lot for anybody to take in, much less somebody who’s, you know, still developing cognitively. On the other hand, we’re with them all day and we’re all stressed and we’re trying to get work done.
And it’s so easy to snap at them. And sometimes being real, when we’re feeling irritable, like would come across as, get away from me. Sometimes it’s like, maybe we’re feeling really sad or really overwhelmed, or we’ve just found out we’ve lost our job or somebody is in the hospital and we’re like super sad and it’s kind of a lot to dump on a kid.
So how does what we’re experiencing right now change the stakes when it comes to being honest with our kids?
That’s a great question. And it’s something that I’m thinking about a lot lately. Because you know, when I wrote the book, uh, I never even thought about what would a pandemic do? Like how would a pandemic change any of this? That never once entered my head. So, it’s not so much rethinking because I do think values are values.
But our behaviors are going to be different. So, you know, the first thing I would say is that it’s okay to say to your kids, we’re in crisis mode. We’re operating out of crisis mode. So our kids’ school has been really great about this. My kids are nine and 11, so they’re in elementary, fourth grade,and a sixth grader. And the school has been awesome. They’ve said, listen, don’t even use the words homeschooling. You’re not homeschooling your kids, your crisis schooling. Your job is just to get your kids through this. It’s not really to feel like you have to be teaching them or to feel like you have to be on top of them about everything. We’re just trying to get through this together.
And so different school districts are handling it in different ways, but I love the way our district is handling it, because it helped me think about how I was going to frame what we’re doing here at home. Not just around schooling, but around a lot of different things. So just kind of being honest, like, yeah, we are in a crisis. This is a crisis. This is something I’ve never seen before. You likely will never, hopefully will never experience this again in your lifetime. It’s unprecedented. So things are going to be weird. So I think just being super straight up about that.
And then I think, you know, this is it’s hard because my kids ask a lot of questions and it’s exhausting. How many questions they asked. Especially in the beginning.There is this tendency to just be like, just, I don’t know. I don’t know. Please stop asking. And so I certainly had moments where I just lost my patience and I was just like, I don’t know! I don’t know. I don’t know the answer. Just please just stop, stop asking. Just, can we stop talking about this please?
So this is going to sound really contradictory, but I think it’s important to answer your kid’s questions honestly, but then it’s also okay to get to a point where you’re like, I can’t talk about this anymore. Like I am emotionally spent. Let’s schedule another time to talk about this, but right now I can’t talk about it. Take a break. I’ve certainly had to do that. And I’m committed to answering my kids honestly, but there are times where I’ve just been like, I can’t, I don’t have any space left to talk about this right now. Let’s talk about it tomorrow. Or let’s talk about it tonight after dinner or whatever, because it’s intense.
Yeah. It is intense. I feel like I’m hearing some themes in here in terms of like how we can internalize or start to rethink about how we’re going to use honesty with our kids right now. And one is to be honest, but to do it within a context, like you’re saying, like this is a crisis, you know, you’re kind of putting a container around it. You’re not saying, we don’t know what’s going to happen in a scary way. You’re saying, at this moment in time, we’re not sure what’s going to happen. So you’re kind of putting a container around it. Which I think sounds really helpful for them.
So you can be honest about the facts within this container and somehow it makes it more digestible, but then it also sounds like you need to be honest with them, maybe more so than ever, maybe not, but really honest with them about where you’re at, and acknowledge that in this crisis, you are also having your feelings. Like, “I know that you have a lot of questions, but I don’t know the answer to those questions.” And letting them know that you’re feeling emotionally spent is helpful for them.
I’m always thinking that it’s so important for kids are looking to us to see how to react. And if they can see us acknowledging our feelings, even though we may feel in that moment, like we’re not helping them because we’re not giving them their answers, we actually are helping them quite a lot because we’re just like letting them see us think about where we’re at and communicate that to somebody else. And that’s a pretty important skill that we don’t necessarily think about a lot.
Yeah. I think there is this tendency to think, Oh, we have to, you know, people use the analogy of like on a plane when a plane is there’s turbulence, everyone looks to the flight attendant to see how he or she is behaving. And if they’re not freaking out, you don’t freak out. And I get that and that’s not a bad analogy, but it’s kind of doesn’t work right now. Because I’m probably gonna freak out. We can’t be expected to not freak out; that’s way too much pressure. So I think it’s completely okay to freak out, but to just be honest about it and be like, this is why I’m freaking out, or I’m very cranky because I didn’t sleep very well last night or, you know, I have a lot of work to do.
And like just being very honest about it versus trying to either pretend for their sake or just brushing off the questions. I’m actually think brushing off the questions with a, don’t worry about that is probably the worst thing that we could do. Maybe not so much for little, little kids who aren’t reading yet, who don’t really have a way to search the internet. But pretty much as soon as your kid has any kind of device and an understanding of how the internet works and that they can search and find things, you have to answer their questions. Because if you don’t, they’ll just find it. They’ll just find it. They’ll see it on social media.
So even things like my daughter plays Roblox and she texts with her friends, you know? So it’s actually, it’s a form of social media. Right? And so it’s okay. I mean, I, you know, I look at it with her. I, I trust her. We have a lot of conversations around it, but it’s easier for parents to sometimes think like, Oh my kid isn’t, they’re not on social media. They don’t do any of that. Well, they probably do. And they’re probably talking to their friends and they’re probably talking to their friends a lot more.
So it’s okay to be like, I can’t deal with this now. I can’t answer this. Now I’m stressed out. But the brushing off and with the don’t worry about it is probably the thing that I would not recommend. If you can’t deal with it at that moment. That’s totally fine. Be honest about it, but return to it when you can, because otherwise they’ll get the information from somewhere else.
Awesome. This is so helpful. And I feel like we’ve given everybody a lot of takeaways, but is there anything like, kind of overarching or just like super practical that we could walk away from this conversation and start doing later today?
Um, yeah. So there’s a few things that I’ve really been thinking about lately that I’ve tried to put into place in my life. And so one is very basic, but just looking at what is solvable about a situation and what is not solvable about a situation. So our power went out cause we had storms. There was actually a tornado that touched down not too far from where we live. We didn’t have damage, but our power went out for almost 24 hours. And I was lying in bed early in the morning, you know, the power had gone off the night before. And I was like, what am I going to do? Like somehow thinking that like I was responsible for turning the power back on. I was just like, how can I solve this problem?
What are we going to do all day? We have no power. We have no internet, we’re not going to have any devices. What are we going to do? And then I was like, okay, let me find a piece of this. That’s solvable. What is solvable is that I can get up and go to Kroger and get some ice and put it in a cooler and start to put the food in the fridge, in the cooler, you know?
So it’s like looking for the little piece of something bigger that’s solvable that helps me kind of get through this crisis mode. So that’s one thing that when I get really overwhelmed, I’m like, what’s the little piece of this that’s solvable. Because there’s probably something solvable in this crazy situation.
And then the other thing is something that, um, I, I hadn’t really applied it to this situation before, but it’s something that I started doing about a year ago and I abbreviate it to WIIA like, what if I’m actually awesome? I was traveling with this friend of mine, we work on projects together. He just has this really funny sense of humor.
And we had to go to LA for this project. Neither one of us wanted to go. And he was driving and I was like, Toby, isn’t this so scary, driving on these freeways? And he’s like, you know what, I just approach everything with wild overconfidence. He’s like, I just bring wild overconfidence to everything I do. I just assume I’m going to be awesome at it.
And like, he was kind of joking, but kind of serious. And it kind of flipped something inside of me that I was like, what if I just approach things with wild overconfidence? You know? So I started like trying to do this in little ways. And so what I’m trying to approach the situation is like, what if I’m actually awesome at a crisis? What if I’m actually awesome at getting my family through this?
What if I’m actually awesome at being honest with my kids? Instead of defaulting to, Oh my God, I can’t do this. I can’t do this. It’s like, what if I’m actually awesome at it? What if I just am wildly overconfident? And I don’t know, it’s silly, but it’s helped me in many moments over the last month. It’s helped me to just be like, Hmm, what if I’m actually awesome?
4) Well, I have to ask the obvious question. I mean, I totally love that, but okay. So how does this relate to self honesty? Just real quick? Like if, if we’re pretending, what if I’m actually awesome, is that honest?
You know, like here’s a little example. I can’t go to yoga, right? None of us can go to our exercise classes. And so I’ve been like moping around trying to do online classes, but I can’t do them cause the internet’s too slow. It keeps lagging. And I’m like, I just, I suck at doing all by myself. I just, I can’t do it, I can’t get myself motivated. I need a class, I need a class.
And then yesterday I was like, wait a minute, Judi, what if you’re actually awesome at doing yoga by yourself? And so I went outside and I did it on my patio and actually it was this great class. It was this great little class I had with myself. So I think it’s just kind of flipping a switch in how we think about something. So is it delusional? Maybe.
It’s not, if you end up doing something awesome. Then it’s great!
Right. And the thing is like my friend, Toby, he was awesome driving in that LA traffic. I mean, you know, he was like I’m just going to assume that I’m going to be great at this. And then he was great at it. So I don’t know.
I think what you’re talking about with what if I’m already awesome is kind of, it’s a reframe. It’s just turning your typical thinking on its head. And there are opportunities in this weird time that none of us would choose. And many of us are so excited to get out of as soon as we can. Some of us are more challenged than others and my heart goes out to everybody who is feeling really up against the ropes for any number of very, very good reasons. And yet there are still some opportunities. And maybe that is to start to try on things like wild overconfidence or why not?
Thank you so much, Judi. I loved having you and everybody who is interested in learning more about what honesty has to offer you and how to do it in a way that lifts you up and makes you be a better person–cause I know you care about that, beause you’re listening to this podcast in the first place–check out Would I Lie To You? It’s available wherever you’re buying books these days, which I hope might be your local independent bookstore. A lot of them are doing curbside delivery and you can also go check out more about it at Judi’s website, which is Judikettler.com
Daily Tiny assignment: Selfish Savasana
The best antidote I know to being crabby with my kids is alone time, so today’s tiny assignment is to take a selfish Savasana — tell everyone that you need to be alone. Go into a room that has a door and SHUT THE DOOR. If you have a yoga mat, great, roll it out. If you don’t who cares. You just lie down wherever you like and give yourself at least 10 minutes to do nothing.
When my kids were young, the would always come in and find me and crawl on me. Now they’re older and they could care less about what I’m doing, and now we have a dog who insists on stretching out on my mat or licking my face. This is why I’m saying to shut the door! We’re talking about being selfish here, after all.
Savasana–or corpse pose, is very grounding and restorative
It feels great to let your body sink into the floor and to keep your thoughts resting on your physicality instead of thinking about what you’ll cook for dinner, or what have you. You can roll up a blanket and put it under your knees, that feels awesome, maybe fold a towel and put it under the back of your head. And then just let yourself melt into the floor. But maybe your selfish savasana is getting into bed and reading or calling a girlfriend.
Just please don’t use the time to scroll through social media. It’s too easy to see something upsetting and our whole point here is to chill out. Everyone needs time alone, and that includes you! Maybe the only place in your home to be alone is the bathroom–you can lie in the tub, if you have one, or just take some me-time on the toilet. It all counts!
And then come back tomorrow for a loving reality check about why the hard days feels so hard–I can’t make those hard days go away, but I believe doing this will help them feel a little more manageable.