The Science of Parenting

Parenting Amid Threats to Safety | S.12 Ep.3

September 14, 2023 Season 12 Episode 3
The Science of Parenting
Parenting Amid Threats to Safety | S.12 Ep.3
Show Notes Transcript

Ideally, every family and child would have a safe and consistent home environment. When that’s not the case, parents are often forced to make hard decisions for the wellbeing of their children. Listen to today’s episode where we discuss approaches for protecting kids and a framework that provides hope!

-  Iowa Concern Hotline: (800) 447-1985
-  Your Life Iowa: Call (855) 581-8111 or Text (855) 895-8398
-  National Hotlines Link: https://www.apa.org/topics/crisis-hotlines

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Mackenzie Johnson:

Welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast where we connect you with research-based information that fits your family. We'll talk about the realities of being a parent, and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks. And I'm a parenting educator.

Courtney Hammond:

I'm Courtney, I'm a person in long term recovery. I have two beautiful children, two and 13. And I'm also a peer recovery coach at CRUSH Recovery Community Center and a parent partner for children and families of Iowa.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Right, you're doing all the cool things. You just got all the cool things to say in your introduction. A mouthful. Well, you said it all, you did great. So back for episode three of this season where we're talking about parenting through challenges. And Courtney and I, when we were talking through this scripted outline, she's like, Mackenzie, you did not warn me about today. And I was like, well, because our topic for today is kind of heavy, I'll be honest. We're talking about parenting as the title being parenting amid threats to safety, and whether that's threats to your safety and/or your child's safety. And I think, you know, on the podcast, we've so often talked about stress and a lot of time, it's like this normative, like getting our kids to activities or just tantrums, these normative things that happen. And sometimes there's more, right? Some families experience more than just like those normative kind of daily stressors. And so we do want to talk about, how do you parent when there are legitimate threats to your safety. So a few examples, right? This could be domestic violence, this could be related to substance use, or dangerous neighborhoods or bullying, access to dangerous things nearby, or even just like prior exposure to violence, you know, even in your childhood, and how that trauma can create, you know, when that trauma comes back up, I guess I should say, can create threats to safety. And so we know that not all listeners will have this experience. And we think it's an incredibly important topic.

Courtney Hammond:

So if you're a parent who is parenting or has parented in dangerous circumstances, we want you to know that we see you, and you're doing your best to raise your child. Our mission on today's episode is to offer practical strategies to help you on your parenting journey now.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And if you're a person or a parent who does not have these kinds of experiences in your life, we hope that you will listen to learn more about other parents' experiences, and that you'll possibly find some ways to support or assist other families who are experiencing these challenges. So we are, we're just going to dive right in. So you know, you're like, okay, here she goes. But, you know, we're laughing but you know, this is a serious thing. But it's important, you know, we're acknowledging that for some of our listeners, you're like, yeah, I know, threats to safety. I live it on the daily or I grew up in it. And so it can be scary and oftentimes not talked about, right? And I mean, even guilty, right? We have 12 seasons, or this is our 12th season of the podcast. And so often we're talking about, like I said, those normative, the normal kind of everyday stress and not talking about this kind of bigger picture stuff because not everybody experiences it. And it's important for us to, yeah, it's nice for you to give me strategies for a tantrum. But like, what do I do when my kid is literally unsafe at home? What does parenting look like in the middle of that? So I guess it's kind of where I want to start. So, you know, I'm all about that research and reality of things. And so I've been digging into the research naturally like the nerd that I am. But Courtney, one of the reasons you're here with us is because you are an expert, and you have lived experience in a lot of these things. And you've been so gracious to be so vulnerable with us and sharing kind of your experiences. So I mean, yeah, we just want to start by talking about reality. Like, what's it like to be parenting in dangerous circumstances?

Courtney Hammond:

Yeah. So I will start off saying I'm completely grateful for everything I have experienced in life. Was it a choice? Yes, but I'm grateful for the lessons I've learned. You know, one of my biggest realities I had to come to at an really young age is that I did have an unsafe environment and raising a child as I'm a child was an unsafe experience itself. So when my daughter was six months old, her dad and I got into a little domestic dispute, and it ended up DHS got involved, and I had to hand over my beautiful six month baby girl at the age of 19 to DHS. There was a lot of fear driven on both sides. I'm grateful for DHS stepping in and doing the things that I could not do for myself and that was get out of that situation. You know, when you're a young mom and you have these challenges, they can be a huge life changing experience. You can either go on and do better things, or you can keep doing the same situation. And I, at a very young age, I was just trying to do what I thought was right. Your baby's covered in your own blood, and you're like, hey, what do I do here? My only choice, and that was not my only choice, but one of the biggest choices I ever made was to go ahead and just give temporary custody to my grandma and to have DHS involved. Without them, I have no idea what would have happened. But at the time, that was my safe experience. That was my only way to safety. And that was a huge, it was a huge decision. But I'm glad I went through it. And I've learned.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay, so I want to highlight some of the things I heard you say in that. So one, you were a teen mom, right? And that in itself, right? Learning how to parent and all those things in that situation. You were in domestic violence. You were experiencing domestic violence while you're caring for your six month old. And yeah, then having law enforcement and DHS involved in the situation. And yeah, so how do you make, I mean, this is rhetorical, how you make those decisions to keep your child safe. And yeah, ideally, keeping you safe. Right? That's what we would have wanted out of that situation. But it does, that sounds like an incredibly difficult decision. Yeah. When I asked, you said fear kind of drove part of that. Can you tell me more about what you mean?

Courtney Hammond:

Yeah. So being a baby or a child or an adolescent who was exposed to the system at a very young age, I kind of already, like my thoughts of what happens when DHS gets involved in the child's life, was just unrealistic. But again, it was my mom's reality, my reality.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So also your lived experience as a child who had been involved with DHS, and okay.

Courtney Hammond:

Yeah, it was a huge like, oh, my goodness, do I have a choice? Like what happens next? But then I'm looking at the big picture at 19 years old, newly out of high school with a child? Well, no, I was 18. I was 18. So I hadn't even turned 19 yet. When I just wanted to have a family, this is what I thought it looked like, this is what I thought happened. Now I know why my mom didn't get out of her domestic situation, you know. Everything that I was taught had really played a huge role into that decision. And at the end of the day, I might not have been happy about it. But I look back now and I'm like, thank goodness. Because at the time DHS was the only safe place, me and my grandparents, that I had.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And that will make it incredibly, I mean, I don't want to say I can imagine, but to make an impossible decision about. I had this experience and it was really hard for me when I was like, yeah, when I was involved with DHS when I was a child, and then, you know, I either have to choose that or choose this situation, which is also unsafe

Courtney Hammond:

And I think what was important was at that time in my life, I had to realize that I was not the safest person for her to be around either. I hadn't gotten to substances at that point in time of my life. I hadn't like done anything super detrimental to my health or my well being. But just being in that relationship was unsafe. Yeah. And I knew the safest way for me to be able to leave that situation was not to have to worry. And I don't want to say like, hey, I didn't want the responsibility of caring for for my baby. her, but at the time, at a young young age, it was easier for me to address the situation and move out on my own versus having to do it with a baby. Yes. And for me, it was just I did not like it. I had a lot of fights. But when that case ended, I was in my own home, you know, I had the support of DHS. I had my grandma and grandpa's full support. And it was just like such a good experience. It wasn't a great experience, but it was a good experience to learn.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And at the end of it, and well honestly, part of what I hear in your story is the way even though the situation was far from ideal, right understatement, far from ideal, that you found ways to protect your child. And even though a lot of people were like, and parent your child, right. Even though it wasn't like having your child in your custody, that you were being her parent and caring for her by protecting her from this dangerous situation.

Courtney Hammond:

this, I wouldn't be able to share my experience with other women who are experiencing the same issues. Don't live in that fear driven of a domestic abuse situation, you know, and suffering. So I share, I share openly just so other people don't have to feel so alone.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. And thank you again for being willing to share your story and vulnerably of this kind of experience. And yeah, you are, you're a survivor. And, you know, you're a parent. And all of those things were coexisting, they're happening at the same time. And that's exactly what I hope we can kind of speak to in this episode, in particular of, yeah, parenting is not happening in a bubble, right? Like it's happening amid these other things. And so one of the strategies for this episode is this idea called harm reduction. And that's part of what I hear in your story. So harm reduction is defined as related to a substance use disorder. Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Okay, so when we're talking about it in the scope of substance use disorder, that's the definition. I want us to consider this concept of harm reduction, specifically for parenting. So that little at the end, where it was the negative consequences associated with drug use, I want us to just kind of think, associated with blank. You can fill in the blank. So the negative consequences that might be associated with abuse, with a dangerous neighborhood, with access to substances in the home, or whatever that might be. But it's strategies for reducing the negative consequences associated with whatever that dangerous thing might be. And so ideally, we would always be in a situation where we can always provide the safe, stable environment, and can always provide for what our kids need. And that there's lots of us not living in the ideal. So that's just not always the reality. So here comes harm reduction, and opportunity for okay, it's not the ideal, but how can I reduce the negative consequence? That's what I want us to focus on. Sometimes we can change the situation. Often, it's not as simple as just like, Yeah, I'll just change it, right? Like you were talking about, it wasn't as simple as just get up and leave, far more complex. And so when we are in these cases, let's focus on reducing harm. So you actually have another scenario that you had talked about. You talked about giving birth during COVID. Right? Yeah. And how you want to practice harm reduction in that. So can you give us that example?

Courtney Hammond:

Yeah, so I got pregnant in December of 2019. So that means my whole entire pregnancy experience was through the whole entire COVID pandemic. Giving birth to Liam in August, right in the midst kind of the heat of the pandemic was a really, especially just being six months clean again.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, you're still fairly new in your recovery.

Courtney Hammond:

It was an experience. I laugh because that's my way to cope with things and not that I'm like, laughing out, but I have to laugh at myself a little bit. So during that, you know, I had to lower my expectations of like, All right. And so as we think about threats to safety, hey, I don't have this beautiful elaborate birth and all this, you know, great things because actually, it was a harm reduction in place to make sure that COVID wasn't spread inside the hospitals. I wasn't able to have the skin to skin directly at birth. They took it, you know, they had done a lot of the preventative COVID procedures, masks in the hospital during labor and delivery. No visitors. It was an experience and then leaving the hospitals you know, I had to promise or agree with the pediatrician that Liam wouldn't have any human interaction that wasn't inside the house for 72 hours just to ensure that the safety so me setting boundaries with family who I, for some reason, felt weird giving boundaries given the circumstances of my situation. I had to have them wear masks, wash your hands. No touching or holding baby was a huge thing. You know, the whole, hey, "I'm a baby don't touch me" sign that was on the car seat. Yeah, that was me. You know, so the harm reduction there was limiting everybody who I let in my personal space. And so I wanted to show off this beautiful healthy baby I just gave birth to but it just wasn't that simple. It was a lot of continuous preventative care. A lot of prevention when it came to outside exposure. Masks were hard to come by. They were fairly expensive in August of 2020. Yes, and in short supply. So I made do with what I had, you know, the cloth masks really were kind of a huge, you know, maybe they weren't the best but they gave me peace of mind and they were harm reduction. They created a barrier between your cough or your spit or anything next to my little baby. And so yeah, it was. It was interesting to have and it's been, it was interesting that whole rest of the year really. Oh yeah, a lot of, you know, don't touch him, don't touch my baby. Yeah. especially for a newborn, COVID was a threat to safety, right? You couldn't even see, COVID, that was like a crazy thing. Like, oh, no, was it on that surface? Like, you know, adults in the air can go outside? You know, it was?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Like an abstract threat. Yes. And so yeah, the ideal would have been like, ideally, I wouldn't have had this threat to my child's safety. And that wasn't the case.

Courtney Hammond:

Nobody could control it. Yes. And then coming out of active addiction, it's like, you know, I just did the best I could. A lot of not anybody touching him was it.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And that was how you reduce the potential harm, right? That's the exact definition is strategies aimed at reducing the potential consequences associated with COVID. Right. And so I'll give another example that actually is a really, basically universally taught parenting strategy. I'm fairly certain we've said it at least once before in one of our podcasts episodes, but this idea of if you're feeling overwhelmed when caring for your baby, that it's better to set the baby down, right? Like, if you're overwhelmed, and not sure you can regulate and get it together, better to set your baby down, than potentially risk hurting them. And that's harm reduction. Right? So ideally, I'm always regulated and can always respond to my baby's cry, and soothe them. Like, that's ideal.

Courtney Hammond:

I'm glad you can.

Mackenzie Johnson:

That's often not my ideal, right? And so my harm reduction in that and that we teach to basically all parents now is, if we're overwhelmed, or out of sorts, or, yeah, not in control of our emotions, the harm reduction is that it's safer to set them down, so that I don't actually accidentally hurt them. And so yep, not ideal maybe that my baby had to cry for a few minutes unattended and unsoothed. And it was less harmful than if I would end up hurting them. So, there is a lot of harm reduction, parenting, and actually a lot of the parenting education we do, we are teaching not to the ideal. In the reality of these moments, it's okay for us to say good enough, right? It was good enough parenting to not hurt my child because I'm overwhelmed. And so thinking about this idea of harm reduction amid whatever threat to safety a family might be experiencing, right, like domestic violence, or, you know, we even talk about living in a dangerous neighborhood. If you live somewhere where there's maybe gang violence or a lot of crime or just violence in general, that harm reduction, alright, ideally, you would live somewhere that's safe. That might be, changing that is not as simple as it might sound. And so maybe your harm reduction is not letting your child play outside in your yard. And it's not ideal and it reduces the potential negative consequences of something. So I just thought this idea of harm reduction was really important as we think about threats to safety. It'd be great if we could always know the environment is safe, but that's just not always gonna be the case.

Courtney Hammond:

So harm and unsafe situations happen even in the best of places. So the best best harm reduction strategy I can come up with is just to be vigilant, make sure you're monitoring. You know, it's that piece of harm reduction that I think we all use, and don't think that we really have, you know, that's yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. That monitoring, right, well, that's a term I use all the time. I love the idea of like, right, we have to monitor our children. But I even think like, I could literally have every baby proofing product ever produced, and I feel like there's so many, but you could have every single one, and your child could still get hurt. Right? And so it just happens as vigilant as you might be. But we'll do our best to monitor. And yeah, so that's harm reduction. Yeah, that in itself.

Courtney Hammond:

Some people do harm reduction, they don't even know what it is.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Right? How do we reduce the likelihood of negative consequences? And so yeah, sometimes it is small things like my child getting a bump on the head. But right, of course, the darker, uglier side of not having any kind of baby proofing on a small scale, right? Like child injury is actually one of the leading causes of death for children. And so that is a huge potential negative consequence. So that's harm reduction, our monitoring. Thinking of baby proofing in our parenting sometimes. What are the guardrails, if you will, right? I've got a baby gate in my house still, and my kids are not babies. But that is, yeah, what are the baby gates? What are we, whatever our situation is, how can we kind of protect some guardrails around it?

Courtney Hammond:

And I think it's healthy to have those parenting guardrails, those baby proofed things in our teaching of being parents or our journey, or even with this kid to that kid, you know, you have to learn how to protect yourself and your emotions and protect your babies, essentially, too.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And, yeah, and what I may be worried about protecting my children from might be different than yours, right. And that could be based on our lived experience, on our values, whatever it is, right? But we go back to our beliefs, like we believe every parent is an expert on their own kids. And so that we find ways to help protect them from negative consequences. And it's okay to say, you know, it's not ideal, but it's good enough. Okay, so this episode, right, we're coming in, you came to listen, and you're like, hey, this is a little heavy, y'all. But actually something literally called Hope, like the framework we're going to talk about is called Hope. So amid thinking about threats to safety and harm reduction as a potential parenting strategy, if you are in an unsafe situation, there's this research. It's actually related to ACES, which is an acronym that stands for adverse childhood experiences, typically, kind of in the realms of neglect or abuse or household dysfunction is actually what they call it. But violence is an example. So there's this framework, like I said, called Hope, and the research is showing certain positive experiences can basically help counteract the potential negative consequences from that kind of childhood trauma. So there's four things in the Hope framework identified that are key experiences that can help break the cycle of trauma for future generations. So four things. One is positive relationships, two safe and stable environments, three, engagement, kind of that feeling you matter, but also opportunities to develop social and emotional intelligence. Okay, so we'll dig into these four. But basically, these are four things that are key positive experiences that can help counteract negative adverse childhood experiences.

Courtney Hammond:

It only takes one consistent, caring adult to change the outcome. So even though you don't have to have

Mackenzie Johnson:

Courtney and I, we've been texting a little bit between episodes and stuff, when we record. And she texted them all, it's kind of a fluid thing. You gain some, you learn me the other day, it's like, Mackenzie, I'm learning this stuff. And it's kind of like what we talked about on the more, but it takes one consistent, caring parent to podcast. And so that idea, right, that was one of your takeaways from the stuff we've been learning. And yeah, I think that's so powerful and so relevant here. Right, as we think about, you know what, yeah, ideally, we'd live in a safer neighborhood. Or ideally, I wouldn't be an active addiction, or ideally, there wouldn't be violence near us. But that we can say, yeah, I can help build positive relationships, like helping my child find that one consistent, caring positive adult can help change your life and that these change the outcome of these. four things, right, and one of them is relationships, that these four things can help counteract it.

Courtney Hammond:

And I think it takes a real big parent or a big parent, like a real mature parent to say, you know what, hey, it's okay, I'm not these right now and take a break. And I'm referring back to when my six month old daughter had to be intervened. It was okay that I wasn't all four of these for her. But as long as I'm building towards these four in the future, and I can gain and gain and gain you know, it's okay. Everyone's successful looks different.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And that you were practicing that harm reduction. And that in the process of that, your child hopefully was with someone that could be in that caring, consistent adult category. And then that was beneficial to her and what you could offer. Yeah, and I always say there's a lot of words there. I'm the mature parent, the humble parent, the intelligent. There's a lot. You started to say something, I interrupted you.

Courtney Hammond:

Oh, I always say, oh, Lexi, she's such a good kid. She's so responsible. And I was like, I honestly didn't do any of that. You know, my grandma, grandpa really stepped up to the plate. And they made her that mature, responsible, really kind hearted human being. I have played a little part of it with the neglect. But in our experience, thankfully, you know, I had the other caring, loving, consistent parent and person and adult that helped me when I was unable to.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, helped you and helped your child. And I say, and I feel like you're sharing things that I'm like, oh, they're such good fit to lead into the rest of the season. Yeah, there's a reason Courtney's here. She's got good stuff to share. But I do want to go back to this whole framework, and some of the four things. So relationships, one of them is about that whole, caring, consistent adult. And so it talks about relationships with parents, but also with peers, right, like their friends, and family members. So positive relationships, again, caring, consistent adults. There's also environments, right? And so having a safe, stable place to live, learn and play. So having a safe environment, those things can help counteract those negative experiences. Engagement. So how do we create feelings that our child matters, right? That they can believe that they matter to the people around them and matter to their community, or matter to their child care, or whatever that group they could be a part of. And then finally, opportunities where kids can develop their social and emotional intelligence. So particularly when they get to play and interact with peers. So I do want to say, right, there's four things and I even think of in the examples we've talked about, before, you might as a listener, if you are parenting amid some kind of threat to your safety before you shame spiral around one of them, like, gosh, I don't provide that or I haven't been, or there was a time in the past when I really wasn't providing that very well. And I want us to pause and reflect and feel that, okay, you can recognize that. And these are not like, get all four and check all the boxes. And that's the only option, right? Even if you're like, you know what, one of the ways I can help my child, like you were talking about, Courtney, it was like, there was a different, consistent, caring adult and that helped my child. Yeah. Or she was in an environment that was safe and stable in a way that your environment wasn't at the time. And so even if it's not all four, you can say, you know what, even if I'm not doing this, some of these other things are, that's not the thing I can provide right now. Look, I am helping them get opportunities to learn and play with their peers. That's beneficial, right? Yeah.

Courtney Hammond:

You know, I don't think you have to hit all four every day either. Like Mackenzie said, it's not a checkbox. Like, oh, I had relationships. Oh, I had a good environment. No, I think it's a super huge picture. Some of us hit on them. Some of us still some days, this gets mad. Some days, I don't get mad. And that's okay. That's what we covered in the last podcast was like that good enough parenting piece. Just as long as we try to strive to every day hit one of these marks, I think is a win. Sometimes I don't, but as long as I hit one of them, then I'm still winning, I'm still successful, I'm still a good parent.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Right? And we're working again on the lifelong perspective of it, right, over time. And yeah, there might be times when certain of these aren't maybe going so well, right. Thinking about living in an unsafe neighborhood where there's a lot of violence or in your home, right? If there's domestic violence in your home, then yeah, you're probably not going to say, yeah, this safe, stable environment we're providing. But the cool thing about this Hope framework was when your reality is that there are components of your life or aspects of your life that are a threat to your safety or your child's, it's often like, well, what can I do, right? Like, what do I even do? And I thought, okay, here are four things we can do. Even if you can't get all four, you have ideas to pick from, if you will, like, alright, so the environment isn't our strength right now. But even though we might, my child is maybe experiencing some harm and trauma from what's going on. Not ideal, but I can still have a positive relationship with them, right? I will work to provide that part. Or I will work to provide interactions with other adults, even if I'm not the one who can provide the stability right now. So I think that's really important for us to, you know, make sure that we touch on. So the goal is not shame of like, get these four. The goal is when you are living the less than ideal. When you're parenting amid threats to safety, here are things even if you can't control all four. Here are some options of I can't maybe get my child out of this unsafe situation, but I can find some of these things. So our strategy that I wanted to touch on today, it's a little different than what we usually do. But as we think about how we care for ourselves and our child and our children when there's danger, we want to share a resource of just hotlines, right. So places that you can call that you can get resources or, you know, learn or even just talk and process whatever kind of the threat to safety that you're experiencing. And so one I want to share actually is from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and that is the Iowa Concern Hotline. It's available 24/7. And so you know, calling this could be even related to financial questions, farm questions, stress questions related to your mental health. But that is, again, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that number is 1-800-447-1985. So that is the Iowa Concern Hotline. Another one, an important hotline, we wanted to shout out was the Your Life Iowa Hotline. And so this one you can actually call or text, which I think is great. I know sometimes calling on the phone feels a little overwhelming. A text can feel a little less scary to do. And so also, there are some situations where you literally maybe can't talk on the phone, right. And so it's important to have that text option available. So for calling, that's 855-581-8111. And for text, it is 855-895-8398. So that is Your Life Iowa. Those are just two that are kind of specific to Iowa that we're sharing. We know that some of our listeners are not here in Iowa. And hopefully you know that your state has some resources you can access. But we also wanted to share a website, which we will link in our podcast description of this episode, a website with a link to lots of national hotlines. So this is from the American Psychological Association, the webpage we're linking to. And it lists a wide variety of available hotlines nationally, from gamblers anonymous to domestic violence to suicide prevention, or people in crisis with suicidal ideation. And so there is a lot of resources, we hope those continue to grow. But hotlines are an option for a potential resource for you when there are threats to your safety. So thanks for letting me give that little commercial, Courtney.

Courtney Hammond:

I love it. I mean, honestly, like, because you think nobody ever really knows, like how do I vent, who do I call. And not a lot of people think, hey, I'm gonna call this hotline, you know, they're there to be utilized.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Well, and sometimes we don't even know that there is a hotline for a specific thing we're experiencing. And so there's hotlines for human trafficking, and there's hotlines for Narcotics Anonymous, and there's a lot of different places that we can call. So that's kind of our strategy for today is if you are parenting amid a threat to safety, that there are resources that can hopefully help you. So this now brings us to our Stop. Breathe. Talk. moment of the podcast episode, where our producer Mackenzie comes in, asks us a question about our episode. So what do you got for us today, Kenz?

Mackenzie DeJong:

Hello. So you all talked a lot about how in that Hope framework, you don't have to be, we don't have to be perfect. I think that's always the thing, right? It's like, we don't have to be perfect. We don't have to get it all right. And maybe we're working on one thing. So my question for you all. Actually, I have to sidenote, when you keep saying Oh, like an acronym? I know. I thought the same thing. the Hope framework, I want it to be like each is something. It's not that. Anyway, so the four pieces of hope are not H O P E, they are our REEO. So REEO is actually the REEO framework. Relationships, environments, engagement, and then that opportunities for social emotional. It really could be the REEO. Anyway, I know. That's how my brain works. So we have those four, back on track, of those four, what is one thing each of you are like, this is what I'm doing well right now? And what is one that you're like, this is something that I want to work on? Or I am working on?

Courtney Hammond:

Way to ask us questions, Mackenzie.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I know it's like it's her job to do it. Okay, I have mine, or do you want to go first, Courtney? You're like not? Not that.

Courtney Hammond:

You have to say it first.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay. So one that I actually I'm like, yeah, we're doing that. So the environments, right, so my description says like safe, stable places to live, learn and play. So I will say that, I feel like that's going well. But I also want to acknowledge that it's not necessarily like, I mean, obviously, I have a role in that as their parent. But there's also like a level of privilege. Like, I didn't have to fight very hard for that. I would say that's mostly the way I grew up and that my co-parent grew up. And so providing a safe space, honestly, I would say, sometimes I take it for granted that we're able to provide that to our kids. So, yeah, so that safe, stable environment for our kids, I would say is there like we are all fortunate to have. And then one that I'm working on building, I think, in part, the age my kids are, is this idea of engagement. So feeling like you matter to other people and the people in your community, and figuring out what that looks like. Right? So, you know, I'm hoping we're doing a good job as parents, that they feel that within our family. That they feel like they matter to us. But yeah, what does it look like in the bigger picture? How are we sprinkling in or helping them create relationships with other caring, consistent adults? And I even think, like, in preparation for the teen years, if it does come to a place where my child doesn't, I mean, it's entirely possible my child just might not want to tell me something or might not want to talk to me about it. They're embarrassed or uncomfortable, or, like, that's possible. And so I always think of that, who are going to be the people they can go to? How do we help facilitate those relationships now? And so that's something I feel like I'm still working on. Yeah.

Mackenzie DeJong:

And I was just saying, I should have specified like, I'm not thinking you have to have big, great ideas. It can be even like a smallest thing. Okay.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I went all the way in.

Mackenzie DeJong:

That's, like, what things are you solving all the world's problems with? It's like, a baby gate. Right? You have a baby.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, we have a baby gate. All right, Courtney, what do you got? What do you got?

Courtney Hammond:

Okay, so I'll probably have like, I don't want to say I have like two for each because my kids are so so different in age that they have to be different. So for my son who's two almost three, I would say probably the development of social and emotional intelligence. So like, interacting with him cause I did just change daycares. I'm trying to get him more well rounded when it comes to socialization because he is a fancy little boy. You know, teaching that be nice. We don't hit our friends. You know, we love our friends. Just so he gets that social interaction. And then the one thing I know that I'm doing good for him, is making him feel that he's important. Our engagement. Yeah, that's one thing I know that I will not fail at. He's my last baby. I love him so much. And I think there could be like, hey, you know what, Courtney, you deserve a break. You don't need to engage with him all the time, too. So, I mean, you know what I mean. But then with Lexi, you know, she just turned 13 over like last week, was it last week? It was last week. So of course, she's like, now this new woman. Yeah, so I think like the one thing I'm doing well with her is...huh.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I know you are, I know you're doing some good stuff.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Do you want us to answer for you?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Do you need help?

Courtney Hammond:

I think I'm providing her with, man, I don't know. Maybe just the attachment with parents vs peers. You know, I'm really trying to hold that safe space for her. I know there's stuff that she doesn't want to tell me like Mackenzie was just saying. I know that there's stuff that she's embarrassed to do and that she's doesn't want to talk to me about. And that's okay. The one thing I will say, I overall am working on as like a family unit, is our environment. I do have a very nice stable loving home. But I'm just today going to go see about buying a home. So I would say that's what I'm working on as like on a family level versus this kid that kid, all around is the environment. We live in a very beautiful, safe suburb real home, very privileged community. But I think it's time, you know, it's time for me to get my own home and provide my own little space. My own little comfort bubble. So that's moving. That's the thing. Yeah.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Is it fair to say that like, yes, you are providing a safe, stable environment currently. And like this next step for you will almost be like an upgrade in the safe stable environment. Yeah, like right now is great, too. And like, yeah, not like upgrade, I don't know. You know what I mean.

Courtney Hammond:

It is upgrading. You know, I haven't had my own home for 13 years. Yeah, this is big for me. So I think this is gonna, I mean, I'm a work in progress.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Absolutely. Yeah. Well, thank you both for sharing. And I know that maybe that was a tougher question than

Mackenzie Johnson:

Or I even think also kind of the reverse of like, if you know there's a certain area of that, that because of whatever situation is going on, we talked about the I intended it to be. I know, but I think the point was like, it's environment, there's domestic violence in your home. Yeah, okay, we're working on it, right, and we're aware. I think that whole safe, stable environment isn't what that's sometimes it's even like the awareness of like, oh, I want to going to be, acknowledging that is still really powerful. As be that, I want to work on that, is an awesome step. Right? you're like, okay, what do I do? Like, what do I do about that? I wish this wasn't happening. And right now, for whatever reason, Awesome step is like, okay, I have something going well, I I can't change that situation. Okay, I can look at one of these want to work on something. That's the first thing though, other things that will hopefully, the research is telling us, help counteract that thing. right?

Courtney Hammond:

Yeah, I think if your environment, so in this sense that you're saying Mackenzie, if your environment is always safe and stable and a super fun place to learn and live and play, you know, at least you can have that in the

Mackenzie Johnson:

Well, and even you know, you've shared relationship. Hold true to that relationship with those kids, that's their safe spot. So again, you being in their environment, your mom, you know, like as a mom and a dad, that's their environment in your environment. If you're crazy and you're acting out, and you're acknowledging all this like, but at least you can buy that calming space while they're in your arms or something. You know what I mean? about when being in active addiction, that maybe you weren't the parent that was providing the consistency and the care and those things. And so again, looking at those four, and being able to acknowledge that for yourself, and again, that does take maturity and humility and those things, but being able to acknowledge it, and recognize that yeah, a different adult that might be able to ride consistency and care. And yes, that they'll be in a different environment that is safe and stable in a way I'm not able to provide right now. And so those things are, that's harm reduction, right? That's prioritizing the safety and well being of our children.

Courtney Hammond:

That's as powerful as our baby gates and our strategies.

Mackenzie Johnson:

We don't all have to have the same baby gates.

Courtney Hammond:

Mine's wooden and a little raggedy. I'd like to think mine is like a beautiful aesthetic. And it's not. I know it's not. Wasn't really drilled into the wall and have like bars.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Baby gates just like, oh, it's the most beautiful thing. No, it's not.

Mackenzie Johnson:

They are. We know what they are.

Mackenzie DeJong:

It's meant to be a safety feature. It's not meant to be like, oh, I have the most gorgeous. No.

Courtney Hammond:

Okay, you actually want to know what's ironic, we have two baby gates in our home right now. And one of them is so broken, it can fall out of the wall if you hit it wrong, which is okay, because our children are old enough. It's literally just protection from someone if they would trip right in front of the stairs. But so if that tells anybody anything. Liam broke every baby gate I've ever bought. So I'm just not buying them. I have my whole kitchen baby proofed with like, safety first, ooh. They're broken. They were broken before he was one and a half.

Mackenzie Johnson:

No wonder you're talking about vigilance. You have to be vigilant.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Well, we can't rely on those things. We gotta be. Yes.

Courtney Hammond:

Awesome. Well, that part's not awesome. But awesome conversation. Thanks, Kenz.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Yep. See you later.

Mackenzie Johnson:

See ya. Oh, boy. So yes, today talking all about how we can parent amid threats to safety. And that, you know, we do our best. And that, I hope. Yeah, like I said, if you're a listener who has not had this kind of lived experience, you didn't grow up this way. Or, you know, no one in kind of your near surroundings has, I hope you maybe have learned a little something about the experiences of other parents and the difficult choices people are often forced to make when it comes to safety of themselves and their children. And so, you know, we gave a lot of different kinds of examples and that our goal is really harm reduction. What are the things you can do to help protect our kids from negative consequences when we aren't living in a ideal situation or even a safe, let's just say like, let's lower the bar from ideal. Sometimes literally not living in a safe situation and so that we can do harm reduction, and that we can look at that Hope framework for opportunities to help counteract the potential trauma that's happening. So that's kind of our summary. We also talked about some hotlines as resources again, we're going to link to the national hotlines page in our podcast episode description. But this brings us to a different thing, which is our positive affirmation of the day. And this one, I really tried to give a lot of thought to because I think this is really important. I think so often what society would define by the terms of like good and bad parenting, I think people who are living, who are parenting when it's unsafe, are automatically placed in this bad parent category, which actually, I'm like fighting the tears a little on that, that people are doing the best they know how to protect their children. And so I thought the information today was really important. If you are parenting in an unsafe situation, affirmation for today, even when I cannot control all of our circumstances, I can control the choices that I'm making to help keep my child's safe. So whether or not they align with somebody else's choices, even when I can't control all the circumstances, I can control the choices I'm making to help keep my child safe and that what you're good enough parenting looks like for the safety and well being of your child. It's okay if it isn't a match to everybody else, but that you're prioritizing their safety and reducing potential harm is incredibly important. So that's our little affirmation for the day.

Courtney Hammond:

And our next episode, we will talk about family support, custody, and connections in an episode called When It Takes a Village.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, we will. So thanks for joining us today on The Science of Parenting podcast. Don't forget that you can follow us along on social media at scienceofparents on Facebook and Twitter.

Courtney Hammond:

So come along with us as we tackle the ups and downs, the ins and outs, and research and reality all around the science of parenting.

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is hosted by Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong, with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send in questions and comments to parenting@iastate.edu and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full nondiscrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext.

Mackenzie Johnson:

This project was supported by the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of substance use via sub award from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The contents of this episode are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of nor are they an endorsement by Iowa DHHS, SAMHSA, HHS or the US government.