July 03, 2023

Kathryn Part 2 of 5: When Your Teen Says “You Don’t Understand Me”

This is part two in the five part series with Kathryn. As we heard in the first part of this series, Kathryn’s 17 year old daughter Bridgette is making decisions around sex, drugs, and alcohol that deeply concern her mother.

6:37 Role playing Curious Alien Take 1

8:07 Planting a seed. Being patient with skills you implement knowing that they may take time to see results.

9:00 Role playing Curious Alien Take 2

21:05 Recognizing “whose problem is it” so that we don’t personalize the issue and become defensive. 

22:42 Using validation and questions, rather than accusatory statements, to make “Curious Alien” strategy more effective. Curious Alien should be a validating tool and create connection.

Bridgette has been making what most parents might consider risky choices. Her choices surrounding sex and drugs has her mother extremely concerned and feeling unsure of how to best to parent her. She is afraid for her daughter’s safety and is feeling overwhelmed and panicked. This episode unpacks the complex issues underlying Bridgette’s behavior. Leslie looks at how effective communication can support their relationship and will focus on questions such as: How do you establish a judgment-free line of communication with your teen? How do you parent a child whose personality is unlike your own? How do you help your child navigate decision-making without imposing your own beliefs and judgements? Look for the answers to these questions and more in this episode of Is My Child A Monster?

LESLIE-ISM: The best insurance against life’s hardships for your child is the quality of your relationship.

Resources: 

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, sexual assaults  or other mental health issues there are resources available for you. 

  • National Sexual assault hotline 800-656-HOPE (4763)
  • National Substance Abuse Hotline 866-210-1303
  • Substance abuse and mental health administration 1-800-662-HELP  (4357)
  • National Alliance of Mental Illness 212-684-3264


Show Note Links:

Credits: Is My Child a Monster is produced by Alletta Cooper, Dale Rubury, and Leslie Cohen-Rubury. Theme music is by L-Ray Music. Public relations is handled by Tink Media. Graphics and Website Design by Brien O’Reilly. by Eric Rubury. A special thanks to everyone who contributes their wisdom and support to make this possible.

TRANSCRIPT OF SHOW:

[Music: The Wilds Beyond by L-Ray Music]

0:03  Kathryn:  She just kept telling me stuff, like, I wasn’t able to hold anymore. I think I just numbed myself out. And so then when I had time to look at it, that’s when I just kind of went into a freakout panic mode. And then it made me so angry.

0:22  Leslie Cohen-Rubury:  This is, Is My Child A Monster?, a parenting therapy podcast where you get to listen in, as real parents and caregivers share their trials and tribulations in therapy sessions recorded live. I’m your host, Leslie Cohen-Rubury. I’m a parent and a therapist with 37 years of experience helping families navigate this question. This is part two of a five part series with Kathryn, who describes parenting her 17-year-old daughter, Bridget, as being on a scary roller coaster. 

So, in case you didn’t listen to the last episode, here’s what you need to know. There was a major breach of trust on all sides. Bridget threw a party that got out of hand with sex, drugs and alcohol. She confessed it to her mother, who then told her father, which Bridget overheard because she was hiding in a closet, skipping school. Now, Bridget is mad at her mother for telling her secrets. And Kathryn is afraid for her daughter’s safety, and angry about her behavior that crossed the line. 

Last episode, we did spend a lot of time processing the shame, fear, and anger about what happened. And today we’re going to focus on reestablishing communication between Kathryn and Bridget. As you may have guessed, this episode has a lot of mature themes and contains adult language that may not be suitable for all audiences. And as a reminder, all the names and identifying information have been changed. Finally, this show is for informational purposes only, and not a substitute for therapeutic intervention. And although we’ve got a pretty heavy topic today, we actually have a lot of fun in this session. So let’s get started. 

Leslie:  Hi, Kathryn, how are you doing today?

2:24  Kathryn:  Doing alright.

2:26  Leslie:  So following up from your first session, I am so curious if there was any feedback from our last session.

2:35  Kathryn:  Yeah. So I think what was really helpful is understanding fit, and seeing how it’s a more difficult fit. And then we got to…I have to kind of be aware of that. And so it was really helpful to be aware of how we approach things in different ways, and that she’s kind of a full-speed-ahead person. And I’m not that way—she’s extroverted, I’m pretty introverted. So it’s like just trying to figure out how to do that. And I loved the idea of being a curious alien. But when I tried it out with her, I didn’t feel like I got much information. And so I think what I would like is some practice around how to be a curious alien: what’s the…what are some techniques to getting her to open up more? And I think that by being able to talk in that way, it might help with some of the repair around some of the damage that’s been done to our relationship.

3:26  Leslie:  That’s a great place for us to start. First of all, I love that it was helpful to you to understand the fit, that’s really important, because the fit is respecting both who you are and who she is, which then promotes more mutual respect as you try to navigate these challenging years—these years of more emotional volatility and behavior that is uncomfortable and all that. But I think understanding, having that perspective, one of the things I really think is very important is having a new perspective of our child, because when we are frustrated, and we don’t know what to do with our kids, and we don’t know, “Now what, now what do we do?” That’s where having a new perspective can really make a difference. 

So keep that in mind when you get frustrated. And now let’s think about this question of curious alien, how to be a curious alien. But I’m really curious right now, if you can share your attempt, because we can learn a lot from what you tried to do. 

4:29  Kathryn:  Well, she came home over the holidays. So, got a break from school and kind of community that she’s in there. And after we’d been home and through the holidays, she was kind of lying on the couch and having a hard time moving and getting off the couch and just seemed really down. And so I was, like, “So I see that you’re having a hard time getting off the couch. Tell me, what’s going on about that.” And she was, like, “Nothing.”  “Well, what is nothing?” “I don’t know, no, it’s just nothing.” And I was, like, “Well what happened, something happened today, to make you feel like you don’t want to get off the couch?” So, kind of those kinds of questions. So there was a “No” response, basically.

 5:16  Leslie:  Okay. So I will say that you, myself, or anyone can be incredibly skillful at trying to engage a teenager, and it may not work. [Laughter] So my expectation is, I don’t know that it’ll work because they are part of this interaction. And when someone doesn’t want to talk, there’s…no matter how skillful I am, I may not be able to get them to talk. And at the same time, there are a lot of teenagers who parents say, “My kid won’t talk. They don’t say a word.” And they even say to me, when I have them in therapy, “Oh, they’re not going to say a word.” And I’m like, “Oh, that’s not the kid that’s in my office. We’re having great conversations.” So there are some tricks and we’re going to hone in…I can hear immediately why she wouldn’t answer.

6:04  Kathryn:  Okay, good. Tell me…

6:06  Leslie:  Were you a curious alien, or were you an FBI interrogation agent? [Laughter] Did you forget which way you were going on this?

6:15  Kathryn:  I think I probably…I just don’t know how to ask a question as a curious alien. It’s more like I want to know what’s going on. And so yeah, I’m an interrogator.

6:27  Leslie:  Okay, interrogation. What do people do when they interrogate..

6:30  Kathryn:  They shut up. Yeah, they totally shut down. So that’s why I want some practice. I need some tools.

6:35  Leslie:  Okay, so I’m going to have you pretend that you’re lying on the couch. You’re your daughter. Okay? And I’ll try a few things. Okay, let’s see..

“Hi, Kathryn.”

Kathryn: “…Yeah.”

6:53  Leslie: “Oooo, I noticed that you’re laying on the couch, and probably not in a talkative mood.”

6:59  Kathryn:  “Yep.” 

7:02   Leslie:  “If I come back in a little while, do you think maybe you’d be a little bit more talkative? Like I’m getting that this may not be the best time to talk. What do you think?”

7:11  Kathryn:  “Yeah. Yeah, yeah, whatever. Yeah.” 

7:17  Leslie:  “Okay, I get it. I can see you’re telling me loud and clear, maybe more with your body, that this is not a good time to talk. I get it. Thanks for giving me that information.”

7:31  Leslie:  That’s the end of the first roleplay. Now, how did that feel? And was it a failure? Was it successful? What was it? It wasn’t quite the curious alien. I was more of the respectful parent, I would call myself a respectful parent. How did it feel on your end? 

7:49  Kathryn:  Well, it felt good in terms of the respectful parent, and that, that it was like it opened the door a little bit more. So that if you were to return later and be like, “Okay, I said that maybe you could return later. Maybe I’ll be in a better mood later.”

8:06  Leslie:  Okay, so I call that planting a seed, and seeds need time to germinate. Right? I can’t garden and yell at the seed after I put it in the ground and say, “What is wrong with you? Why aren’t you growing? I put you in the ground 10 minutes ago, why don’t I see anything?” It’s like, no, you’ve got to sometimes be patient. So time is very important. And really what I’m stressing here, so is mutual respect. If I want to get something from my daughter, I might have to give a little; especially with teenagers, it’s important to have a give and take, and that doesn’t give and take doesn’t have to be fifty-fifty.. But might even be more like eighty- twenty…

8:47  Kathryn: [Laughter] I was thinking ten-ninety, but yeah…   

8:49  Leslie:  Yeah, it could be ten-ninety. I totally get it. But the mutual respect is very important and makes a difference. So, good. That was experiment number one. All right. Let’s try it again.

“Hi, Kathryn.”

Kathryn:   “…All right…” 

9:07  Leslie:  “Oooo, by that answer, I get the feeling that there’s something going on.”

9:11  Kathryn:  “No, nothing.”

9:15  Leslie:  “And maybe that’s what’s going on—that you want nothing to be going on right now. Is that sort of important to you right now? Like, I’m sort of curious that nothing happens right now.”

9:26  Kathryn:  “You just don’t get it.” 

9:34   Leslie:  “That is important to me. What do I not get?” 

Kathryn:  “You just don’t understand.  Like, if I tell you something you’re just not going to understand, you just don’t get it.”

9:38  Leslie:  “I may not.  Has that happened before? You’ve tried to talk to me and I don’t get it.” 

Kathryn:  “Yeah.”

Leslie:  “It does? That happens a lot or a little bit?”

9:48  Kathryn:  “Always, always happens, Mom. Always. Every time you ask me a question. It’s always…it’s always like you’re not gonna get it.”

9:55  Leslie:  “Okay, so I get that right now. You may not want to tell me something If I don’t get it.”

10:01  Kathryn:  “Yeah. Yeah.”

Leslie:  “What can I get?”

10:08  Kathryn:  “Nothing. I don’t know. Just like, leave me alone. Just leave me alone.”

10:14   Leslie:  “Maybe that’s what I don’t get is that you want to be left alone. And I love to ask questions. And I love to interrogate and I love to know what’s going on. Is that why it feels like I don’t get you?”

10:23  Kathryn:  “Maybe.” 

10:30   Leslie:  “Mm hmm. So, I’m going to go out on a limb. And I’m going to take a guess. I may be really wrong, but I want to take a guess that there is a part of you that wants me to leave you alone. And then there’s another part of you that may want to connect and talk to me. I wonder if you’ve got this real dilemma going on inside. And not talking makes it easier, but it doesn’t solve the problem of ‘I want to talk and I don’t want to talk.’” 

Kathryn:  “Yeah.” 

Leslie:  “It was just an assumption, but I’m a little right on that…?”

11:04  Kathryn:  “Yeah, that sounds…yeah. Yeah, ‘cause there’s like a lot that’s happening right now. But I just don’t, I don’t want to talk to you about it. I don’t think you’ll get it. And I feel like if I tell you stuff, and then I’ll be punished…”

11:15  Leslie:  “Punished or judged? Do you worry about me judging you?” 

Kathryn:  “Yeah.” 

Leslie:  “Do you worry about the punishments?”

11:26  Kathryn:  “Yeah, I don’t want to be in trouble. And I always get in trouble.”

11:30  Leslie:  “Do you always feel like you’re getting in trouble?”

11:33  Kathryn:  “Always. Yes. Makes me feel terrible.”

11:39  Leslie:  “Ughhh. So you feel badly about yourself. Now, I’m learning something. So is that shame? Like do you carry around a lot of shame? Is that what’s lying on the couch here with you right now? You’re feeling a lot of shame about…You feel like a terrible person?”

11:51  Kathryn:  “I don’t feel shame about anything. Like what are you talking about? I’m not ashamed of anything.”

11:57  Leslie:  “Okay, good. That word didn’t work. Let’s get rid of that word. That word did not work for you. Okay, forget that word. Let’s try another word. So you said, I don’t get you. And you have so much to talk about, but you’re not willing to talk about it, because I make you feel badly about yourself. Is that right?”

12:16  Kathryn:  “Yeah. And I don’t trust you anymore, either.” 

12:24  Leslie:  “Okay. I get it. We had some difficulty just recently. Is that a new feeling of you don’t trust me?”

12:32  Kathryn:  “Yeah. Because I told you stuff. And I said don’t tell Dad. And then you told Dad and then you talked about it with Dad, and I overheard it and now I don’t want to ever tell you anything again.”

12:43  Leslie:  Okay, let’s pause for a second. Did I get you talking? 

Kathryn:  Yeah. No, that was really good. 

12:50  Leslie:  Okay, so what was good about it, what worked, what got you talking?

12:55  Kathryn:  I think there was a non-reactivity that you had that was helpful and in not going immediately into defense or trying to push something to happen. It was just like a receiving of the punch. It wasn’t a…I didn’t feel you going into a defensive state to receive the punch, because she was looking for a way to punch.

13:23  Leslie:  I had that image of the parent holding their arm out with their hand on top of the child’s head, and the child’s trying to punch the parent, but it’s like your arm is too long—their arms are not long enough. That’s a really good point. Non-reactive, which…I know we’re role playing this, I know I’m not in the situation. I know that emotions run high, when you’re dealing with your adult teenager who you worry about and you have fears, and you have concerns, and you’re angry, you’ve got a lot of emotions. So my feeling is if you want to have a conversation, she’s got to open up, you need to take responsibility for your part. Don’t go if you’re too emotional. This is where we say, wait till you are in wise mind. Go and sit down and write about your feelings. Acknowledge your feelings, validate your own feelings. But don’t dump them on her in the time when you want to get something out of her. One of the reasons why being a curious alien doesn’t work is when a curious alien is too angry or too frustrated. [Laughter]

14:31  Kathryn:  Yeah, and it’s like there’s a timeframe, too. It’s like, no, I want to deal with this right now. But I have so many emotions about it. But I was willing to shut down something that’s happening that feels way too terrifying for how she’s living your life.

14:44  Leslie:  We’ve got three issues. We’ve got our emotions, that might be an issue getting in the way. We may have time constraints, like I’ve got to get this information right now. So we have time pressure and constraints that could interfere with our effectiveness. And we have agendas—you might have had some expectations and an agenda that, “I’m going to get this information from her.”

15:08  Kathryn:  I was more like, I’m going to practice the curious alien on her. So she figured that out, but she was being attacked. She’s smart. [Laughter]

15:17  Leslie:  Very, very smart. So yes, you got to be real. I liked that you said that you got to be real. And if you’re going to practice being the curious alien on her, tell her. Be so real that you might say, “Hey, I learned this parenting trick, because I want to be able to connect to you in a respectful way. So I’m going to practice being a curious alien rather than an FBI agent. Are you willing to try that with me?” You don’t even have to ask for permission. But you can say “Oh, by the way, you might notice that I might be doing something different. I noticed that my FBI interrogation is not working. I don’t think you like it. I think it’s hurting the relationship. So now I’m going to try on a different hat. And that’s called being the curious alien, or the respectful parent.”

[Music]

Okay, so you named that one of the things that I was doing that was working for you, as the teenager, was that I was cool, calm, and collected. I kept my wise mind, not my emotion mind. So I kept the emotion out of it. And I didn’t become defensive. I didn’t personalize. And you, you really need to be prepared, before you go in to talk to her, to get arrows flung at you. Punches, like you said. I used to have kids’ groups. And when I play with kids, and we’re playing a game, I often say to the kids before I start the game, “Hey, we’re going to play a game and there’s going to be a winner and loser. Are you okay if you lose?” And kids love it, and you get the best answers like, “Yeah, I’m okay if I lose today,” or, “I am not going to be okay. If I lose today.” I’m like, okay, that’s fair. So what’s more important to you? And here’s the dilemma that she’s even in: what’s more important in this moment, to play the game, or to protect your feelings? 

Because if you don’t want to lose, and you want to protect your feelings, we can do that. Or we can figure out how to play the game and help you deal with those feelings. So what I started pointing out to her was that she was in this dilemma. Caught between wanting to talk to you and wanting to tell you things and not wanting to tell you things. We got that out of her, we heard that—she shared that. And when she’s saying, “Because you, Mom, you don’t do this, and you do this, and I don’t trust you,” it’s really hard not to personalize it. Okay, what do you do? I told what I’d do—I was okay, and I was not taking your punches. But what are you going to do when you’re in that moment? What have you done in the past? Do you respond defensively? What happens? Do you take her bait?

18:16  Kathryn:  I think it depends on where I am, emotionally. And I think what I’m able to do sometimes is back away from it enough, so I’m not responding and kind of take myself personally out of it. And then I find how much I deal with it…I realized how much it impacted me later. So, I’m able to take the punches, and then I go on: I’m like, wow, that really hurt. 

And, so what I’d like to be able to do is be able to talk to you or like move it with my body so that I don’t hold on to that hurt and then bring it back to the next time that we’re interacting. But I think what happened after this last time—because it felt like such a dump of stuff that had been going on in her life that she was sharing with me and I was able to kind of receive, receive, receive, receive. And then I think she just kept telling me stuff. So it wasn’t just like what happened on that weekend, it was like other stuff that I didn’t know about that’s happened over the past several years. So it was just…it became like I couldn’t…I wasn’t able to hold anymore. And so I just kept receiving, receiving, receiving, and I just kind of had to go into, I think…I just numbed myself out. 

And so then when I had time to look at it, that’s when I just kind of went into a freakout panic mode about what’s been going on. And then it made me so angry. It made me so angry, and so I felt like I didn’t deal with my anger before talking to her again. And in that time she told me all this stuff. And she had assumed that I wasn’t going to tell my husband. And then the next day was when she hid in the closet, and overheard us processing it. And I felt really bad because she felt so betrayed. 

So I was really apologetic about that. And you told me a lot, “I really needed to process it with my husband, who’s your dad.” And I just became, she just became more and more difficult around it, and I just became more and more angry, then I just came back and was just like, “The decisions you’re making are not okay..What you were doing, I am not okay with, I do not agree with your decisions. I really don’t agree with your decisions. And we got to figure…” I don’t know what to do. I really don’t know what to do about this. That was the progression of what happened recently. But it’s a lot of…it’s just that  for years it’s just kind of been holding, trying to hold on to this, to not let stuff out. And then sometimes it just boils over, because it’s become so much sometimes; it’s like, how do you take it off the heat?

21:05  Leslie:  Okay, so there are a few things that you’re raising here. We started out with the question of, how do you not personalize it, which is when someone is actually saying something about you. And then you added—which is the real problem—what happens when you’re getting more information than you can handle? This is not like the news, and you can turn off the news and stop scrolling on your phone and doing all that to slow down the process. This is your daughter giving you information and it’s not slowing down and it was overwhelming. 

So, a few things. We want to remember overall, whose problem is it, as a guide for dealing with what we need to deal with? So if she’s saying you don’t trust me, we want to understand where she is, what’s going on. And so if we personalize it, we actually hijack the conversation and we make it about ourselves. So would a child keep talking if after she says one thing, “Well, you never listened to me.” And you go, “You know how much I listened to you. I spent days, weeks, years…” now it’s about me. So one of the things we have to remember is that when we personalize it, we hijack the conversation, we get defensive, and I’m not hearing—my agenda was to find out more about what’s going on with her. Now I just made it all about me. And parents do that all the time. Because, “But you never listen.” And it’s like you’re going give them, “What do you mean, I don’t listen? I do this, this, this, this, and this for you.” And we get really angry,

22:38  Kathryn:  And rightly so. But it’s like, how to deal with the anger, not with the kid.

22:42  Leslie:  Right. And so your feelings are valid, you’re dealing with a lot and your feelings are valid. But as I said, You need to be responsible for your feelings. And that gets back to: Whose problem is it? I am going to say that your feelings are valid, you want to deal with being overwhelmed. You want to deal with the amount of information, you want to deal with how to process it—those are all really important things. That’s not her job. Her job is not to help you process your feelings of being a parent. And when you’re trying to communicate with her, you’ve got to get that stuff out of the way. Like I said, get ready to play the game and deal with what’s going to come up during the conversation. 

But one of the other things I want to say about practice being a curious alien, just to sort of focus on that for another minute is: the validation gets people talking. So if I want to be curious, I genuinely need to be interested. I genuinely have to act like I’m not a know-it-all. Because a curious alien doesn’t know what’s going on. So they need, they come with, curiosity. And I’m going to give you a little hint: questions are less effective than statements. And I’ve a lot of parents say, “Well, I don’t want to assume I know what my child’s thinking and feeling. I don’t want to put those ideas in their head.” 

And I don’t. I always give the child permission that if I say—and I think I even did it in my example with you—if I say, “Hey, I’m going to make an assumption. I’m going to make an assumption that there’s a part of you that wants to talk to me, and there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to talk. Did I get that right? Or is that not how you feel?” And then when I see them nod their head, they’re in agreement, they feel like I understand them, I understand something that they didn’t even know was going on. And so part of being a curious alien is maybe you know your daughter better than she knows herself, possibly, not always. But I might take some guesses. [And then I make statements like, “I’m going to guess that this might be going on.” And then I asked the question, “Does that make sense? Does it feel like it fits?” And that’s a great way to be a curious alien. 

Another thing would be, I set it up where I felt like I was acknowledging the dilemma within her. The other thing is, if I validate something like, “Wow, you’re really curious about drugs and sex, and living your life, the way you explained it to me.” If I start with, “I want to understand a little bit more about that,” then that helps her open the door that I’m here to learn. I’m not here to agree, necessarily. 

And one of the things that you said that…we’ll get into the repair…I love that you’re a parent and you have strong limits. I love that. But strong limits doesn’t mean I’m disrespectful, and doesn’t mean I can’t understand who she is. So we want to really validate on one hand, which shows the respect that she’s got her own thoughts, feelings, and actions. And I want to, on the other hand, set the limits and speak, speak my truth and observe my limits as a parent. So we’re going do both of those. But right now, you’re asking about how to get her talking and be that curious alien. Do you feel like you’re at all more confident to try it again? 

26:16  Kathryn:  Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah, I feel like having some examples about how to do it helps a lot. And then I can practice it on her and see what comes up next. Because I think there is an assumption that when I’m coming to talk to her, I’m trying to get information. So I have to wade through that first, because of the way that I interrogate.

26:36  Leslie:  So you have to come in and maybe kid around if she likes humor, and she likes theater and show her, “Hey, here’s my…” and put a big question mark on your hat, put a piece of paper and put a little question mark, or a post it note on your forehead that has a question mark, and say, “Look, I’m going to take that off. I know, in the past, there’s a lot of reasons why you would believe I’m going to come and interrogate you. Because that’s my past history. That’s our relationship. And I’m going to show you that I’m going to try and do something different. So I’m taking that hat off. And I’m opening up. And here’s my curious alien hat. And my agenda is to listen as opposed to interrogate.”

27:18  Kathryn:   Right.  So I just have to acknowledge what’s going on in myself is that I’m getting…I feel really tight in my solar plexus. That’s where I feel anxiety. And I’m not sure I am curious.

27:33 Leslie: Oh, good question. You’re not curious about what she’s doing. But you want to be a curious alien, so that you can maintain a connection, so that you can keep her healthy.

27:48  Kathryn:  Yeah, I mean, I am. Yeah, there’s some stuff… I don’t know if I want to know, but I feel like I’m, I need to…I should know. But that has a little bit of shame in it. So it’s like…I feel I need to be in that water. So I can help support her. But some of the stuff is, I have so much anxiety about what else she could do. I don’t know if I can handle the anxiety. So I just want to acknowledge how much anxiety I have, like the tears are coming up. Like, how much I’m afraid for her. I’m so afraid for her.

28:19  Leslie:  Yes. I know. 

Kathryn:  And so I’d be curious about that, and then hear more stuff. It’s just like, there’s a real resistance to hearing more. Because I feel like I’ve heard so much already.

28:36  Leslie:  Yeah…take care of yourself first. Because she’s not going to be responsible for how hard it is to be a parent. You are describing, and you are being so willing to share in this moment how hard it is to be a parent, and I’m so glad you named…you felt that spot. You expressed it just now. And we can clarify that we’re not asking you….see, here’s what’s important to know about raising a teenager: staying connected to your teenager doesn’t mean knowing where they are every minute of the day. Doesn’t mean knowing everything they’re doing every minute of the day, does not mean knowing every thought ,feeling, and action. That’s what’s overwhelming you and that’s what’s scary. What will help your daughter maintain wise-minded decisions and stay in a healthy…on the healthy lane. It might be a fast lane, but we want her to stay in the healthy lane driving with skills. 

We don’t want her to drive recklessly. So your job and what I’m asking you to do is not get in the car with her, but to actually teach her to have the skills and to drive skillfully. And the best advice I can give for you right now is stay connected. Staying connected doesn’t mean knowing it all. So I want to clarify that when I say, “Be a curious alien,” being a curious alien so that she feels validated. I didn’t actually find out anything. When we role-played that a minute ago, I didn’t find anything she’s doing. I don’t know anything she’s doing. And to me, I’m walking away from that conversation I just had with her…my “daughter”—you—I’m feeling like we were connected. I am satisfied that, check, that I felt connected as a result of that conversation. Didn’t need to know more information. But I accomplished the connection. So my agenda is, through respect and validation,I am going to work on the bridges and the connection. Because that’s going to help her have a foundation to her wise mind and to being skillful as she lives her life. That makes sense.

31:00  Kathryn:  Yeah. And it’s good. I feel like we were able to do a lot of that over…I mean, we had the curious alien piece that wasn’t all that successful. But over the break, it felt like there was a reestablishment of trust and connection that we were starting to be able to be in the same room with each other that didn’t feel as prickly. That feels really validating…that the wish for over the holiday was that we could reestablish…connect, she could get not grounded but grounding. And that’s what felt like happened over the break. Now she’s back at school again. And the past two nights, she’s been with friends and I know they’re getting high and, and tripping and, it’s during the school week, and so it’s started back up again. So I was trying to navigate that again. 

Leslie:  Okay…

Kathyrn: It’s not because she’s told me, it’s I just know,

31:55  Leslie: Okay, so we’re going to wrap up for today. Today was about being a curious alien in honor of connection. And naturally, maybe intentionally—sounds like it was intentional—you, over the holidays, worked to establish more connection. That is fantastic. It doesn’t solve all the problems. It’s just the beginning. But it’s like tilling the land for the soil to go in, you’re doing a great job of building the soil, building the foundation, which is very important when teenagers are in the fast lane, and they’re navigating some pretty intense things that are out there that are scary as a parent to witness. So we’ll come back to those other things. We’ve got to do a little work on ourselves to make sure we’re ready for that. So go home and try it again. 

Kathryn:  Great, thank you.

[Music]

Leslie Cohen-Rubury:  I want to thank Katherine for her willingness to share her fears around knowing her teenage daughter better. This episode really points out the difficult balancing act that parents face in knowing how to hold both your own personal limits as the parent and your teen’s needs. Before I get to my wrap up, I want to let you know that if you or someone you love is facing a substance use or mental health crisis, there is help. Call the free confidential hotline at 1-800-662-H-E-L-P. That’s 4357. I’ve also got more information and resources in the show notes. 

I also want to applaud Kathryn for her willingness to try new parenting techniques. Because if what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else. It was clear that Kathryn’s FBI interrogation routine wasn’t getting her anywhere. It wasn’t building the trust she thought and it just wasn’t working. 

So here’s what I had to say to Kathryn and what I’d like to say to you as well. Learning new parenting skills takes willingness, practice, fine tuning, patience, and a whole lot of faith. Think about your child learning to ride a bike: If they try once and it doesn’t go as planned, they might say, this is stupid, this doesn’t work. But you know they just need time and help to develop those skills. The same goes for you, as you develop your own parenting skills. Thank you for showing up and doing this thing called parenting. And if you need support on this journey, join our Facebook group. Just search Is My Child A Monster? parenting community. And come back next week to hear how Kathryn’s own shame is getting in the way of connecting with her daughter, and how that legacy of shame is part of the picture of Bridget’s risky behaviors. 

Subscribe to Is My Child A Monster? wherever you get your podcasts, so you don’t miss the next episode.

[Music: The Wilds Beyond by L-Ray Music]

This episode was produced by Alletta Cooper, Dale Rubury, and me. Our theme music is by L-Ray Music. You can find a full transcript of this episode, resources, and sign up for my newsletter by visiting ismychildamonster.com I’m Leslie Cohen-Rubury. Thanks so much for listening. And keep in mind in order to connect with your child, practice being a curious alien.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai edited by Eric Rubury

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