The Science of Parenting

Resilience in Tough Times | S.6 Ep.1

July 15, 2021 Season 6 Episode 1
The Science of Parenting
Resilience in Tough Times | S.6 Ep.1
Show Notes Transcript

Even through tough times, parents and kids can grow their skills and strengths to end up “bouncing forward”.  Explore the concept of resilience and how we can raise kids with this important trait.

Send us an email: parenting@iastate.edu.
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This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext

Mackenzie Johnson:

Hey, 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 guide our parenting decisions. I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks. And I'm a parenting educator.

Lori Korthals:

And I'm Lori Korthals, parent of three in two different life stages. Two are launched, and one is in high school. And I'm also a parenting educator, and welcome to season six. Well, this season and today particularly, we are going to be talking about the research and reality around the idea of resilience.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Sure are. We do, we get to look at these research based concepts, information strategies around how we can parent through tough times, which is a big part of what resilience is. And, you know, obviously, we've all been parenting through this pandemic that we've been living in. So that's one example of a universal tough time we've all been through. But we do know that even in similar situations, every family responds and has a unique kind of take on what's going on. And so that depends on so many things like time, energy, resources, support, money, all kinds of things. And so all kinds of things. So we're not going to pretend that we could understand every single perspective, or every single family's take on why things are the way that they are for a tough time. So we want to focus this season on kind of the specific strategy that research, these specific strategies, multiple, yeah, that research gives us some insight into and that all parents can tap into whatever the tough time may be.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly. And do we want to share sweet Is this where the point where we share what our surprise is? I think it might be. Okay, you do it. Okay. Okay.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So our lovely writer, content curator, blog writer extraordinaire, Barb Dunn Swanson, who has awesome experience and special interest in this topic of family resilience gets to join us for our episode today, as well as kind of throughout this season. We're hoping to get little tidbits of insight from her. So we're so excited to have you today. Barb, thanks so much for joining us.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

I am thrilled to be able to join you because like you mentioned, yes, we've all been navigating this pandemic. But the idea of how we come through it and the idea of resilience is something that's near and dear to my heart. So I'm glad to join you today.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, and so Barb is also a human sciences specialist and family life with Lori and I and Mackenzie at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She's also a fabulous educator, a parenting educator, we love having her on our team.

Lori Korthals:

We do, we're so grateful that you agreed to join us Barb, we know that it was not something that you ever intended to happen for the season at all, let alone the idea that we're kind of roping you into, you know, six or seven episodes, we think. But anyway,

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Hey, you know, where this kind of whole idea started for me was when I had an opportunity to talk a little bit with Iowa Public Radio this winter time, it was really, and they were asking questions about what we were hearing about how parents were being impacted by the pandemic. And when I thought about that particular interview, it reminded me that maybe we could talk about some of these things on a season of resilience. So I think it all worked out for the good. And I'll just look forward to what we can explore here and some of the strategies we can share with families who are dealing not only with pandemic but other tough times as they go through their journey in life.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. So we want to dive in and explain this word resilience that we're tossing around. And sometimes we say resiliency and sometimes we say resilience. Same thing. Yep. Just a little different variation. But one interesting definition. Actually, several authors kind of contribute to it. So McCubbin, Holly, Dehan and Simon and colleagues, help us dive into this definition, that family resilience is the ability of a family to respond positively to an adverse event and emerge strengthened, more resourceful, and more confident. I just think like, oh, what hope, right. So tough times, but come through it positively. Right? To find positivity in it, and then emerge even stronger, and with these new skills. I just love that.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Mackenzie, one thing I think about in terms of what tough times can look like. Sure enough, we're in the midst of the pandemic. But I think about what other tough times can look like. I remember when you and your family moved home. And I remember you explaining to your daughter that, hey, we're moving to a new neighborhood. And you know what, when kids have to move to a new neighborhood, and maybe miss out on their friends, that's a tough time. Kids have just recently completed the school year, and there were all those tests to be taken. That is a tough time. Right? How about even during the pandemic, when maybe there were times we couldn't go to play at the park, the park was closed? We couldn't get out there on the slides. We couldn't swing in the swings. And that's what we do every day. Yeah, those, those are tough times. So we all experienced tough times. I even think of what about the death of a family pet. Now, that is a big, difficult situation that families navigate. So tough times can be different for so many. And I want us to keep that in mind that it isn't just the pandemic we're talking about here. Resilience comes when we can apply certain strategies and get through those tough times.

Lori Korthals:

You're so right. And you know, actually, there's research that supports that as well. So I'll share with you a little bit of research from Prime white and brown and they actually did some research during the pandemic. And so yes, their research was focused on that tough time of being in the pandemic. But one of the things that they recognized was exactly what you were talking about. Tough times vary for families, and how the family is impacted will also vary. So you walked us right into that idea of, you know, at The Science of Parenting, we say there is more than one way to raise great kids. When it comes to resiliency, there is more than one way for a family to get through a tough time and tap into their resiliency, right?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, absolutely. Well, and, you know, even as I think about, you know, the two of us, we share a lot of similarities in some ways. But even the great variability between the three of our families, how we respond, you know. If we go with the pandemic, knowing that we've all kind of been having this common experience of the pandemic, but experiencing it in our own way. So like, Lori, how would you say your family has kind of come through the pandemic? What were some of the experiences that come to mind or some ways that your family showed resilience?

Lori Korthals:

Well, I think back to the episode that we did on rituals. So my children are older and so what they experienced was a lot of loss of rituals, you know. They missed out on very specific school events, very specific college experiences, various specific young adults, you know, rites of passage. And so for them, you know, they had to get through that idea that they were losing the opportunity to experience the ritual maybe the way their parents did or the way their siblings did. How about you with younger children?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Gosh, yeah. And, man, are we like self promoting? Or what? Because I'm like, well, you know, a lot of routines.

Lori Korthals:

The other bonus episode, right? We must have had a lot to say about that, you know.

Mackenzie Johnson:

It must have been a good topic. But I think, you know, we did like our family had like four rounds of quarantine. And we had school closures, and we had, you know, childcare challenges and just a lot of different to our normal. A lot of, okay, instead of trying to get out the door in the morning, we're just like, trying to get to the office in the house or trying to get, okay, I've got this meeting, you've got that one. You know, sorting through a lot of that, but I do think it was a tough time. You know, I don't want to minimize that things were difficult when they were but also the communication that we had to practice, my co-parent an I, and honestly, th communication I had to practic with my kids, especially m preschooler. We tended to tal about the pandemic and the viru as the sick germ. That was lik the language we used in o r house. And I think of all of t e conversations we had to expla n of why the park is closed, w y we're going to wear masks if e go anywhere, why we can't s e our grandparents right now, wh ? All of these things and it s like, those are tou h conversations to figure out h w to have but I did, but we di it. And the communication and ractice that we gained of lik , we can talk about tough stuf . Yeah, like we can come thro gh this together. So there wa there was resilience there. I ove that. So that kind of bring us to this kind of third pa t of resilience that we wanted o tap into. And there's ac ually this three part definitio . So Dehan and Holly put together this article in li e the mid 90s. Actually, there as all this family resilience esearch, and they're like okay, everybody's kind of doing their own thing here. Can we so t this, kind of find the common thread. And so they put toget er this three part definition o resiliency. And so I'm think ng maybe each of us can ake a part and explain one part of this definition. So as we co e to understand this idea of re ilience, the first thing that Holly and Dehan point out to s is that resilience surfaces in the face of hardship. And so it does involve the man er in which we respond to these difficult things. What's o r perception of what's goi g on? How does our family cope ith it? What skills do we h ve? What resources do we tap in o? So but we know resilience ha pens in the face of hardship. L ri, do you wanna take the seco d one?

Lori Korthals:

Yes. So the second one is that resiliency actually carries this idea of or this property of buoyancy. And I chuckled, especially thinking that you gave me this one, because sometimes you'll think of me as Tigger, but I'm literally bouncing, you know, in my seat right now thinking about buoyancy, because yes, what we talked about with resiliency, then the second idea is that individuals can bounce back or rebound from adversity, because resiliency just carries that property along with it. There is this rebound opportunity.

Mackenzie Johnson:

How about the third one, Barb.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Well, the third one is that generally speaking, resilience focuses on wellness. Maybe rather than looking at adversity, looking at wellness, and looking at the positive, so to speak. And I think that's the way that we want to come at resilience. As we look at parenting, per se, we want to look at how can we help look at the wellness around the strategies that might help us cope with whatever those difficult times look like. And they're going to look different for each family, no doubt about it. But the wellness around it.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, those strengths, you know, like that word is what I tend to think of is like, instead of thinking of this hard time, and in all fairness, we kind of are calling the season tough times. But also right alongside that calling it resilience, the family resilience. Those strengths that we gain from those experiences that we've had. So I do think we need to like pause and have like a little reality. You know, we just said there's a huge difference in experience, and the way that families respond. I even just think of like how our lives between the three of us, the way that family resilience has shown up and the way that tough times have shown up. So like, would you each be willing, like could we each give an example of maybe something that was considered kind of a tough time, but also how you found resilience in it?

Lori Korthals:

Yes, I'll start and I think that it's really important to remember that Barb talked about the idea that, you know, the loss of a pet is a tough time, moving to a new house is a tough time. But, you know, we're talking about just getting out of the pandemic. And so okay, my example is that my girls and my family and my co-partner and I, we experienced divorce. And so as we were sharing those three key pieces of resilience that you know, resiliency does surface in the face of hardship, we were able to rebound and we were able to find this way of wellness and strength. And, you know, one of the things that my co-partner and I did from the very beginning was we kind of created this pretend team, we called it Team Kids. And we would use that phrase as a way to indicate to the other person that, you know, whatever decision or whatever phrase or whatever comment I was about to make, I'm really trying to focus on it from this idea of the kids are first or want to talk about the kids. I want to look at this from their perspective. And so, you know, we sometimes would even end our conversation with, Go Team kids, because we were so proud of the strength and the wellness approach. You know, that third key that Barb brought up. Okay, this is a tough time, but we can bounce back and we can figure out a way to be stronger. So we are much better communicators, honestly, because of our Team Kids mantra. How about you?

Mackenzie Johnson:

I love that. I'll say I've heard the term associated with resilience, you know, there's the idea of bounce back, but also the idea of bounce forward. Instead of bouncing back to where we were before this tough time, like, I see, you know, and in our conversations and hearing the way that you talk about your co-parent, and the communication you guys have, how you guys bounced forward, and that's what family resilience is. So the one that comes to mind for me for a tough time was, after we had our first child, I really struggled with postpartum depression. And so I think, you know, that was a tough time. We talked about it in terms of like, a dark place. But I think of, you know, even though, at that time, we maybe weren't tapping into those the specific strengths, but how over time, my co-parent and my partner that we were able to communicate about our needs. We were able to express concern to each other and do it sooner rather than later. And so yeah, I think of the communication in large part, but also our confidence, and asking for help. You know, instead of thinking like, oh, I'm having a hard time, I need to hide out, or it's like, oh, you know, what, we're having a hard time, we need to reach out. And so our confidence in our ability to do that has been a huge source of resilience. When we had our second child, right, we came in more prepared, and it was like, Alright, we're gonna tap into these skills and tap into these resources. But then also how we get to communicate that with others, now we get to share that experience of like, be prepared to ask for help. Have a plan for how you will communicate with each other. So and that way I do I think we got bounced forward.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Well, before I jump into mine, I just want to say both of you did something really, really important. You were checking in with one another. As parents, you didn't just keep silent about how you were feeling. You checked in with your co-parent to see how best you could manage what it was you were up against. And that is such a strength. That is a resilience step. And so I applaud both of you for that. I want to tell you what the tough time that I think about was one of the things I did about five years ago is I transitioned in my job. And that was to go from being a 4H professional to being a human sciences professional. And I'll tell you, I had a lot of scary times, because I didn't know if I could do it. I knew what 4H looked like. I knew how to work with 4H kids and their parents. And I didn't know if I could learn all of the curriculum that comes with human sciences. Or if I could manage the requests that a county may have regarding human sciences programming. But I had an awful lot of people that walked right alongside of me. And the Science of Parenting team is one clear example. All of you really reached out and helped me to see where my skill and ability was gonna lie. And we've been able to move through that tough time because I've just said, I've got to learn these new curriculum. I've got to ask questions and reach out to people just like you mentioned Mackenzie, reaching out asking questions, and I was able to come through that tough time. I think I am doing okay now. And I just think all of us will experience tough times differently. And there's no judgment from anybody about what those tough times can look like. Yeah, absolutely.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Thanks so much for sharing that, Barb. And I do, I think you make a great point about the comparison of tough times that even if maybe I was quote, unquote, better off or in a better position. You know, people talk about the example with the pandemic, like we're in the same storm, but we're not in the same boat. You know, even if that's the case, that it's not a matter of comparing our tough times, even if they're similar or really different, or someone's loss of a pet versus someone's loss of a parent, right? That it's not about comparing that suffering or comparing the coping or comparing those things. It's about letting each family experience it. And that hopefully helping them navigate it and supporting them. Yes, absolutely. So that really brings us into our strategies for this week. And actually, we're kind of cheating. Again, I say we cheat a lot. We're cheaters a little, but that we're gonna go through some strategies, but then we're gonna trickle them in throughout this whole season. So this week's strategies are actually going to become this whole season's strategies as well. But we have Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg's essential building blocks of resilience, or as I learned them, the Seven C's of Resilience. And we know one of the huge things we think about as parents is like, okay, yeah, how our family has come through this resilient, come through tough times. But also, how do I raise kids who are resilient, right? The tough times that will happen to them that are going to be out of my control? Like, how do we raise resilient kids and so the Seven C's of Resilience allow us to do that and give us some ideas. And, okay, so I've had this little jig from when I was in college, and when I had to memorize these, so I'm gonna try to say it slow, so you can actually understand me, but I'll say all seven, and then we'll break them each down a little bit. So the Seven C's of Resilience are competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping, control. That is hard. I really want to say it three times the speed of that...competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping, control. So alright, now I'm appeased. Okay, so we're not going to dig into these too deep, because like I said, we're going to be talking about it all season. But we do want to give you just a brief introduction of like, Okay, what are each of these. So I'll do the first few and we'll kind of spread them out, just quickly explain. So these are kinds of the skills and abilities that help build resilience. So the first one is competence. So this is really the actual ability to do something, to complete a task. And that we have the ability or the mastery to do so, that we are competent. Versus confidence, very similar, but it's an added piece of your belief in that ability. So not only am I able, but do I believe in my ability to do so is confidence. So those two are really closely tied, then the third one is connection. This is really just about relationships, and, you know, meaningful interactions and relationships with others. So Lori, do you want to tackle the next few?

Lori Korthals:

I will. So the fourth one, the fourth C is character. And character is exactly that. It talks about our personal integrity and the idea that having a moral compass is important. The fifth C then is contribution. And as adults, we want to feel worthy that we're adding value. But you know what? Kids do, too. And by learning new skills, contributing, volunteering, reaching out, and even just being part of the neighborhood around them, children actually can gain this idea, the sense of contribution. I.'m contributing. How about the next ones?

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Coping. We all want to think that we can cope well when there are tough times. And so that's a C that's pretty essential. It's a building block for sure. So coping is one of them. And then the last one is just that whole notion of a sense of control. We all want to think that I can control something about a situation. And we even think about our toddlers who are growing in independence. And we hear them say that they want to try everything. They want to try to put their own shoes on. It's that whole notion of I have control. So I'm excited about this whole season and the next sessions because being able to break down these Cs, because they are essential. They are foundational. They're the building blocks from which resilience can come. That's going to be exciting and the strategies that will come alongside of that. I'm excited to see where this takes us.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And I think of this, actually, this idea that I heard somewhat recently of, you know, when we ask parents, what do they want for the kids in adulthood? A lot of times what we say is, well, we want our kids to be happy. And actually, like reframing that instead of saying, we want our kids to be happy. This idea of resilience being I want my kids to be able to handle whatever life throws their way. Right? I can't control whether tough times happen. There will be things that are out of my control throughout their life. Oh, yes, yes, yes. And so that we can use these seven Cs and these other strategies, we're going to talk about to build resilient kids instead of just happy kids. Yeah, that just like really gave me hope and we know I love a framework. Seven Cs, and you may happen to notice throughout the season that these episodes tend to start with our own little cheater framework. Um, there's that cheating again.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah, I think we have to remind ourselves that it's just flexible thinking, that we're having flexible thinking. We're flexible. Yes. So okay, well, that kind of just leads us right into the portion of our episode where we would typically bring in our producer, Mackenzie DeJong, and she would share a random question and give us the opportunity to practice our flagship strategy of Stop, Breathe and Talk. And we're gonna change that up a little this season. Yes, Mackenzie's still back there, she's making sure we sound good, look good, and say all the right things and we're going to ask Barb to kind of share some thoughts and ideas about our topic. And especially because she does have such an interest in resilience, and resiliency, I want to ask Barb this question, then how about this Barb? What are you thinking?

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Here's what I'm thinking. I'm thinking that connection is what I want to start with. When I think about resilience, and I think about being a member of a family, and being responsible for helping that family navigate tough times, I think about how can I make a meaningful connection, not only with my co-parent, but perhaps with the children in the family? Maybe how can I even connect with resources that are outside my family, because perhaps I need additional resources that are beyond my family. Maybe I need to check in with a family doctor. Maybe I need to check in with a community resource that has something that I might need. Maybe I want to check in with my child's school, for example. Making those connections and being intentional about realizing that it's okay to want to connect with people. We're all hardwired for connection from birth, aren't we?

Lori Korthals:

Even the introverts.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Yes. And that whole notion of attachment theory is so strong. We want to attach to our children, and they want to attach to us. And one of the things we can do is be meaningful and intentional about connecting with them during the tough times. Not letting someone sit and suffer in silence, but intentionally opening the door for communication. So as we go through this season, we're going to continue to hit those seven Cs. But today, I really wanted to focus on connection and just say, maybe throw it back to each of you. What are some intentional ways that you found to connect either with your co-parent or with one of your children, maybe to make a meaningful difference in their life during some of these tough times.

Lori Korthals:

That's a good Stop. Breathe. Talk. plot twist there. She threw it back and I wasn't expecting that. You know, honestly, I think I am very cognizant of the fact that that's not something that I probably made a conscious effort before. What are you thinking? What are you thinking about this? How do you feel about this? And I definitely feel like rebounding and bouncing forward has given me that opportunity to increase that skill, make it very purposeful, to ask, to check in and connect. Definitely.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And yeah, having littler kids, I still think a lot of the concept of like special time or some people call floor time or that yeah, it's super easy. I even think of yesterday, I was like, the things that I needed to get done for work required me to be out of town for a little bit. And then we had commitments in the evening. And it was like this whole day could really easily go by without me really connecting with my co-parent and with my kids. And so that morning, I got up a little earlier and made sure I had some time to you know, connect with the kids a little bit even if it ended in tears when my husband had to take my toddler to the car when he wanted to be with me. But that to me, it's like, you know, even 10 minutes, like, which it sounds like, okay, gosh, you can't get 10 minutes of connection with your kids in a day. But some days it goes by so quick. Like, it does. Um, no, I do I just like, what if it's just 10 minutes? Exactly what if I just get 10 uninterrupted minutes or five and five?

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Thank you both. Thank you both. This is going to be a great season. And I just look forward to continuing the conversation.

Mackenzie Johnson:

We're just so glad to have you join us today, Barb, especially. Yeah, we kind of like gave her a nudge and a shove, like, you're gonna be on the episode today. So, thanks so much for joining us. We're so excited for it.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah, she had flexible thinking.

Mackenzie Johnson:

She did. She did. So we'll hear from you again, kind of throughout the season. Thanks so much.

Lori Korthals:

And we also recognize that every day,

Barb Dunn Swanson:

You're so welcome. families face many decisions. Sometimes the decisions are hard because a family is in the midst of some difficult or really I think I'm going to call that bounce tough times. And when this happens, families work together to get through those tough times and they bounce back, bounce forward forward from now on.

Lori Korthals:

And families can begin to utilize these building blocks of resilience that we're going to be sharing this season and, and especially in these seven Cs that we started to tease you with.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. So you know, today talking about resilience we did, we really looked at, it's about going through the hardship and coming out on the other side, more confident, more resourceful, and even stronger, and that families do that in the pandemic or whatever the tough time is and the variation and how they respond. We are, we're going to keep looking at resilience. And in fact, next week, we're going to be looking at risk and protective factors. And so that we know these play a huge role in how we navigate tough times. So we will come back with particularly looking at how protective factors build resilience next week.

Lori Korthals:

Excellent. Thanks. And I am so glad that you joined us today at The Science of Parenting podcast. Remember to subscribe to our weekly audio podcasts on Apple, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. You can also watch the show on video each week and join us on Facebook and Twitter at scienceofparents and you'll see our content in your feed.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So please do come along with us as we tackle the ups and downs, the ins and outs, and the research and reality all around The Science of Parenting.

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is hosted by Lori Korthals and 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 non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext