Empathy – Parenting in the Pandemic: If you are a parent or NOAA parents struggling to your kids to best cope with the stresses of COVID-19, then you are going to want to watch this video. Let’s think about it for a moment you’re surviving COVID, but maybe you’re just surviving this change in our lifestyle has an effect on all of us, especially our kids and maybe even adapted and are doing well.
But some are barely getting by and personally. I’m not immune to the struggle. My teenagers have been dealing with our own traumas along with the trauma of COVID. They in many ways, struggled to cope. And so do we as parents. So I am really, excited to have our guest today. Robin Blumenthal. I want to welcome you today.
She is the author. Of who in the zoo are you a short story for children of all ages and the adults who teach love and work with them. So first, before we get started, I’m going to give you a little bit of an intro. Robin is a parent of six daughters and married to her husband, Roger for 29 years. She was a children’s and family pastor for 20.
Eight years. She was the education domain director for a group called for Tucson, a Christian nonprofit organization, and is now stepping into full-time training, coaching, speaking, and writing. And after hearing. About things like trauma informed care and the adverse childhood experiences study in may of 2018, it changed her life and she’s committed herself to learning and developing and teaching this life-changing information to the masses.
She is going to have an impact. On the world. Robin’s a trainer speaker event organizer. She just finished this book where in the zoo are you’re going to hear about that. It’s a children’s book with resources to help kids talk about their emotions concerning traumatic events like COVID-19. And before we get started, someone today is going to potentially win a copy of this book.
So if you want an entry, what I’m going to need for you to do is drop something into the comments. Say hi or better yet? Ask a question and we’ll answer it. Actually, Robin will answer it cause I have no answers these days when it comes to parenting. So welcome. Thank you so much for joining us today, Robin.
I’m so glad to be here. Thank you for asking me and I am just excited and hopefully I can give some tools that parents can use. Oh, that’s wonderful. Would you go ahead and just tell me, tell us a little bit more about your journey. For many years, I have a degree in child development and a master’s in human resource leadership.
So it’s not that I had never heard of trauma or that people had traumatic experiences. But until that may of 2018, I had never understood how those. Experiences affect the way kids. And as we grow into adults, how we will look at life, how we view relationships, whether our brains predict trust or safety and how all of those things really shape who we are in both good and difficult ways.
And so the more that I learned, the more I thought. Man. If I had known this information, it would have changed how I parent would have changed how I was a pastor. It would have changed how I interact with even friends and people who, I might talk to or coach or visit with, or even how I might interact with the, clerk at the store when something goes awry and their response is different than I think it has helped me to, view through this trauma informed lens to assume that.
Probably most of us have something behind the story of what others see in us that affects how we interact with them. Oh, yeah, you’re so right. And I appreciate that. And I see that we’ve gotten some people jumping on and so thank you for jumping on. And if you have questions, go ahead and stick them in the comments or shoot us something in those comments.
Because at some point we’re going to announce the winner of Robin’s new book. So just feel free to toss that any questions you have in the comments as we go. So tell me about like your, path today and what do you find yourself doing now? Now when I have been in either of the family pastor, when I worked with, for Tucson, I really felt more and more called to do this idea of training people, to understand trauma.
Now, I don’t have a a social work degree or something that upper brain science kind of things, which in some ways is good because it helps me to say, Hey, if I can understand how trauma affects the brain. Enough to know how to better relate to people, how to better communicate, how to keep myself from being triggered as much, then maybe I can help other people.
And the interesting thing is, when I first started learning about all of the, area of trauma at the same time, we actually entered into the foster care system and got our foster daughter. And I can tell you that daily, I will read something or learn something about trauma. And then I will see it act out in my own home about why it’s so important.
A few months ago, my daughter, who is 16, we adopted her about a year and a half ago said I really help you in your work. Don’t hire enough there. I’m like, yes, because I can see it. It’s just like a living example to see, I watch how settled she has become, how having a consistent relationship has made the world of difference for her.
And I think how important that is for. For not only the kids in our foster care system, but the kids in our classrooms and our homes. It helps me when I’m my coworkers is I maybe think of someone and I think I’m wondering what happened in their past that causes them to, react in this way. And I can be curious instead of judgemental or pointing a finger.
And I certainly don’t do it perfectly, but it’s a daily growing experience. And I think that it is valuable and what a society we would be. If we understood the importance of empathy. And connection with anybody in our life. You are right about that. And there are certain things that even just reading these books, this book has opened my eyes to as far as the way that we’ve looked at things and things that we’ve learned along the way, my wife and I, we are, we’re foster parents and adopted four fantastic kids.
And there were a lot of. Of these, trauma related issues that they deal with that for a long time, we didn’t understand. And so that, that created a big challenge and there’s still, some challenges. And I’m thankful now that we’re at least beginning to develop this understanding of what happens during these kinds of traumas, that, that allow us to better.
Parent, even though every day, we’re still trying to figure it out. Really, yeah. I really, appreciate you being here. So a quick question, what do you think are some of the, what are some of the problems that you’re seeing today when it comes to, trauma and how we’re parenting or what’s happening in the pandemic?
What are you doing? Yeah, let’s talk about it in terms of the pandemic. And I think one of the things, and in fact, the reason that I ended up writing the book is I was working with a local school district on a social, emotional learning committee. And we were talking about the various experiences that kids were having during COVID and that the leaders, the teachers and the administrators were having.
And so you had such a wide range of experiences from my parents. For example, their doctor said, if you get COVID, you’re probably going to die. So you better not really leave the house unless you have to. The taking all kinds of precautions. And then there were other people in my life who were really saying if you had enough faith, you wouldn’t have this fear and you wouldn’t need to wear a mask.
And you had those like on the two ends of that huge extreme. So you think of. Kiddos who had been home and a small apartment where there was months where you couldn’t really go outside and not only the weather, but the playground at the apartment was closed or the pool was closed. And then you have other kids who parents had a nice big house with a backyard and full access to wifi and computers and all of those varying degrees really.
Are important for us to go forward with empathy, because I think as we, especially as the world begins to open back up, if I were to say to you Dr. Tompkins you’ve been vaccinated and it’s totally fine, you don’t have to wear a mask. Just you’re fine. Feel safe. My telling you that, and you feeling safe are not really the same thing.
And if I make you feel shame or judged that you don’t have enough faith or confidence in the vaccine any of those things, and I’m not even saying we should or should not agree in the confidence in the, vaccine. What I’m saying is that it’s all about how we perceive that trust and that safety.
And so when I can relate to you, whether you are living out of. Fear or anxiety or anger. If I can communicate empathy and supportive, you, we’re going to go a long way towards helping our community heal. If I sit there and point fingers or roll my eyes or say I don’t understand what your problem is, or I don’t know why you’re waiting in line or why you aren’t going to wait in line.
Like either way. I think we just have to approach each other with that empathy and understanding. And that it happens, whether it’s in our house or if it’s in our school, our classroom, or in the community at large. That’s really powerful. It’s, amazing how we can all go through the same situation and, have either a different experience or just a different reaction to that same experience and how easy it is to expect others to have the same the same response or the same.
Cause trauma exactly about how we perceive what happened to us, not just what happened to us. And that’s where that judgment can come in. If I say I went through the same thing, I went through the pandemic, Dr. Tompkins, and I’m not worried. Or, if you say to me you should be worried. Do you see what I’m saying?
I think you’re totally right. It’s about understanding that each of us it’s that perception that we have in our own life. Yeah, that’s great. Thank you for that. And guys, if you liked this info, feel free to just shoot us a like I’m at the bottom of the video and maybe leave a comment. Definitely leave a comment, because if you have questions, we want to be able to answer your questions.
And we’ve got a question here that we’re going to answer. And also for the people that are here that are putting things in the comments, and as we go through the day, you’re even. Able to do this during the replay. I’m going to, at the end of the day announce the winner of the book and that’s going to be someone who has left a comment down in the comment section.
So I think let’s go ahead and let’s go right into some, questions and then I’ll, keep going here. Actually. Yeah. So we’ll go right to this question. We have let’s see here if I can drag it onto our page here. All right. It says, how can I make sure both parents are on the same page when things get hard at home?
That’s a great question. And here’s really, I guess the bottom line is you really can’t, but in, so doing that, if you were to help kids or help each other, understand that each of you have a valid page. I think that’s really the key. It’s kind, kinda like how many parents are co-parenting in different homes.
And I have parents all the time will say my, their dad lets them do this. And then the mother will say I don’t really like that. I don’t think that’s okay or appropriate. And I think that the, thing that we have to remember is each of us can only. Do what, we feel called to do, but I think open communication can go a long way and understanding why the other parent is not on that page.
If we’re curious about that behavior let’s say my husband and I might not agree with. The age our daughters should date, or we might not agree if, whether homework should be done right when you get home or if there can be a break and maybe later, or about snacks or anything, really, if we ask an inner curious about why the other believes that, tell me more about why you’re worried about dating, or tell me more about why you think homework has to be done right.
When we get home and really try to see what’s the need driving the behavior of that parent. In terms of their opinion, then I think you might come more, you may not get on the exact same page, but you might get a lot closer and realize that, okay. There, there is some validity to that and you might be able to come to some agreement.
So hopefully that. Can offer you, but I think no matter what when we are curious about the behavior of the people around us, from the store clerk to our spouse, to our five-year-old, it really can help. And we really just stop and are curious about that behavior. And what is that need?
That drives the behavior. All behavior has a need. Okay. That’s fantastic. I wonder it almost sounds like you, we should address that in a similar way that we should address parenting, realizing that we’re coming from a different place for a reason. And trying to understand that that. That reason. So I really appreciate that.
All right. Now. So I have another, question here, or a comment that came up, says my opinion tolerance does not equal empathy. How can you explain how that looks? I think that’s a great, point. I think sometimes I might tolerate a person or a behavior or a situation, but not really look into trying to feel that person’s perspective.
And I think empathy is all about. Feeling the perspective of another, or being able to understand the perspective Bernay Brown does a lot of amazing work on empathy. And in a class I was teaching last night, we watched a video, you can just find it in YouTube. Bernay Brown on empathy and we talked, she talks about how sometimes we try to silver line another person’s feelings.
I’m just as bad at that as the next person. Instead of just saying, I really want to try to take your perspective. Why does this seem difficult to your, why is this difficult to you? And I think there was a person on a call. I was with yesterday who had really been affected during all of the racial tension and her mother during that time had surgery.
And of course they couldn’t go in the hospital. And, I never had thought about this. She said, here they are. This person of color was in the hospital and they had to rely on everybody else to demonstrate love to their parent because of COVID they couldn’t go in. And she talked about hunt. She broke down a little, she said how hard that was.
And I thought I never would have thought of that. That’s not a perspective that I have. But I could see how that might be really difficult in my little bit of ways. Trying to get closer to that perspective. So I think that’s really important is that empathy is the ability for us to, try to walk in that other person’s shoes and give us an, a lens into how they view the world.
Rather than stand there and say I don’t know why you don’t trust, or why do you have those questions? Or why are you not afraid? I’m in the same as to even when we’re parenting our kids, that when we have that empathy, it really changes things and it changes our relationship for the better. And honestly, parenting.
I think that most of us would probably agree when my kids get to be 18. I want to keep having a good relationship with them. I don’t want to go home. I’m done. And they’re often maybe I’ll see you once a year at Christmas, I’m going to have a relationship. And what happens up to age 18 really can affect that relationship.
Yeah, you’re right about that. What do you think are some of the typical mistakes that we make as parents? I think one of the things, if we want to keep our focus around empathy today, and there’s a lot of other things we could talk about, but I think a lot of times with kids is that we, I know what I want from my, for my kids.
I want them to have the very best life. I want them to, work hard and to be responsible. And I want them to capture every opportunity, but my wanting them to do that and their desire to do that. Aren’t always the same. So we end up in power struggles sometimes with our kiddos. When we try to say you have so much more potential maybe they do, but frankly I know a lot of adults that.
I think have a lot more potential than maybe what they’re living out. And I can’t force them into doing that. We can encourage them and we can coach them. But, when we walk alongside our kids with empathy over their hard choices, then I think sometimes we say, man, that is really hard. How did that feel when you went to the principal’s office?
Versus when I say, I can’t believe you went to the principal’s office, I might feel embarrassed or angry as a parent, but I wasn’t there in the class. I couldn’t. Change my child’s behavior. But if I can say that must’ve felt hard to be in the principal’s office. Now I will say that many kids will respond like, Oh, I didn’t even care.
And then really what that is, their way of trying to keep control. And so if we can give them that control, not, I’m glad that it didn’t bother you. Some kids might’ve been embarrassed. But I guess you’re not one of them and let them sit in that and think about that because the bottom line is, if I’m going to try to make my child feel bad, it’s going to still hurt our relationship.
And I can’t make them feel any different way if that makes sense. Oh yeah. I think, in an attempt to, to make your kids feel bad, it really just, it just. Creates more of a disconnect in that, relationship, it just makes our relationship worse and, worse. Great. So tell me about, tell me more about the book.
So the book, when I, again, when I put it together, thinking of all the different experiences that people were having during the pandemic if it’s been said that we’re, all in the same storm, but we’re not in the same boat. And as I saw how little empathy during the window, it was probably about mid-summer.
I thought I just, I had, I was in a training actually, where they talked about sometimes when we can all start from a similar starting point and I thought. Gosh, I shouldn’t make this book. I was trying to toss around some ideas into a fable or a story, really. So it’s a story of a zoo that experiences a flood and the animals are all affected differently.
So the flood effected the whole zoo. In fact, the whole city. But in the living world zoo, the zookeepers weren’t able to get in for about 10 days because of the danger thinking a lot too. How many of us haven’t been able to check on people with how they’re really doing right? Because we can’t, I can’t travel to California to see my mom without the fear of possibly bringing COVID to her and teachers connecting with their students in different ways than they ever thought they would have to do before.
So each animal has a different experience. Some of the animals, a million Milton, the giraffes are up to their necks in water. And they’re thinking that any minute the water is going to cover their heads. And then there’s max, the tiger who is angry because his world has been disrupted. And he doesn’t really understand why.
All he knows is that his dinner has not been showing up every day at five o’clock and even the gorillas. And I have to be honest that Jayden MoMA, the two gorillas get out of their exhibit and they’re making fun of everybody. Because they had a great time. They were able to get out. And honestly, when the pandemic first started, that’s really where I was.
I thought, Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we’re shutting down everything. This is just the flu in a couple of weeks. It’ll all be fine. And clearly I was wrong on that. Clearly as I looked and I saw the real fear that people had, even if that fear. Let’s say years later, they say, Oh, it really wasn’t a fear or whatever.
I don’t know how that would happen, but let’s say it did. It was still a fear in these individual’s lives in their eyes, in their thoughts. Their brain was still reacting in that fearful mode. So whether there’s a, real fear or not. It’s still real to the person and when we can respond without empathy.
So basically writing the story was a chance for kids to maybe talk about or adults I’ve had a lot of adults say it was really helpful for them, which animal in the zoo do you feel like? Or which ones can you relate to? And which ones are easier for you to help? And which ones would be harder. And what does it look like to help?
How does it look like to be patient with someone? Even if we think about it, my daughter’s school, she’ll be going back one day a week. That’s their their, hybrid coming up after the spring break. And at first she was excited, then she got nervous and then she said, I don’t want to go.
And then now she’s trying to think, gosh, the students that are going to be there, they’re not necessarily the ones she was close friends to. What is that going to look like? And part of me as a parent, my role has to be to, understand all of those different feelings. And still support her that it’s important for you to take that first step back.
But if I it’s, sometimes it’s hard. Cause sometimes I think you’ve been begging to go back. Why are you now dragging your feet? But because the desire to be out there is, there, but then there’s that fear in her case. It’s not about COVID, but it’s about the relationships. But for many of us, it might be about the fear of.
Is it still prevalent? Might I still catch it? Even though I had the vaccine, even though the restaurants are open, do I feel safe to do that? And that felt safety is really important. So all of that is interwoven through this story. I was thinking as, we were dialoguing through this, I’m just imagining this you have, you, you have this, crisis, this thing that happens, this particular trauma, we have lots of different kinds of responses that just feed off of, that different, ways that we potentially different ways that we potentially can respond.
And so then, On top of that. And then all those responses happen. And because it’s traumatic, there’s a very wide range of different responses. And, as a parent, it just for, me, I don’t know, it hit me for some reason. I have a way that I respond to things and. And in my mind, we’ve we, we survive and we seem to do pretty well.
So if we all just respond that way, wouldn’t life be good kids. Wouldn’t that be great if you just did things this way but, my kids. And I are not the same person. And I think that’s probably the case with most, families. And so their response are not the same as my response. And then I, think if we only, did this one response life would be good and that is so completely unrealistic for me to expect from, anyone different in general.
But then when we’re talking about. Kids that are going through trauma. It’s a recipe for it’s a, recipe for disaster and a recipe for, troubled troubled relationships. And so it’s just and I think we can apply this to so many, things. Empathy can be applied to so many different aspects of our lives.
What do you think of that? I totally agree. And here’s the other thing that sometimes we assume that our response to trauma or the way we react is within our control. And that’s an assumption that often isn’t the case, right? Our brain is designed for when we feel threatened, then our brain kicks into that fight flight or freeze.
And in sometimes we have no control over that. I talked to a lot of parents and they’re like what do I do when I just immediately I, my default is yelling or lecturing or whatever it might be. We, most of the time in the middle of that, we can’t stop it. But we can look back the next day or the next hour and say, gosh that, response, isn’t the kind of response I want to have.
And we can start to try to learn different responses. So the neural pathways in our brain, if you’ve ever seen the ruts of the Oregon trail, This is a great visual for me, cause they’re like four feet deep made out of rock. And when the when the settlers were coming on the Oregon trail, they would just keep following that same path and it got very deep. So if you were to take your car, if you could and go in there, you wouldn’t just go. I’m going to make a quick turn out of this. Like you’re stuck there for awhile. But if you were to continue to make, try to make turns over the course of time, you would make a new pathway in our brains can do that.
So one of the things is to be curious about our own responses to trauma. And trauma in terms of it could be COVID it could be the election. It could be. Anything, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a traumatic event that happened to us as a child, but when we learn to go my default is usually ex I hunker down or I yell or I do whatever, but maybe I could start doing things.
I was just in a training right before this this podcast that where we talked about. Learning to just breathe deep for a few minutes. When you take three or four deep cleansing breaths that actually can help lower your heart rate and slow your your, breathing, lower your blood pressure and get you a little bit back so that you’re thinking more out of this part of your brain, rather than the back part of your brain, where that fight flight or freeze is, kinda more located where it goes out.
And I think about how many times I will even think, Oh, I should take a few deep breaths. No, I’m in control. I’m in control. I can do this. But the reality is I’m not, and there’s not really shame in that. Our bodies are designed to help us survive. But when we begin to know better than we can do better, my Angelo says I did what I knew and when I knew better, I did better.
And I think you’re right. Dr. Tompkins, if we have our kids would all respond the way we think is best life would be great. But the reality is then we would just have a bunch of little robots in, and we don’t want that either. So how do we give them a chance to respond how their bent is, but also help them learn some different tools and some different resources in a time when we’re all being really calm in a lot of times for parenting in the middle of the tantrum, in the grocery store or the bedtime argument, or getting out the door for me, sometimes I would default to, this is a great teachable moment.
My child’s not ready to learn because they’re not thinking right here, they’re in this, what they perceive as a threat, that they don’t get what they want. In terms of the simplistic part of it. Or kids that have been through a lot of trauma, they, that really is a perceived threat. And so we have to be very careful.
I know with our daughter, if if I would just poker ingest or whatever even just playing there was always an immediate, like this girl reaction. And for me, that was hard. Cause I’m like I don’t pose a threat, but my saying that I’m safe and don’t pose a threat. Isn’t the same thing as her perceiving that.
And she has many years where that was a threat. So we have to take a long time to help that rebuild to say this isn’t always a threat in the brain can learn those things, but it’s not as simple as us just saying to our kids, Oh, everybody this’ll be fine or whatever it might that we might want to say in wish we could believe.
Oh, yeah, you’re absolutely right. It’s one thing to tell us something, but it’s another to really understand what they’re going through and let them feel and deal with the things that they’re dealing with in the way that they do it while helping them to be healthy in the process. It’s great to see the people who are on and watching.
And if you have questions, I encourage you right now to pop those questions into the comments because we’re answering questions and we’re going to be wrapping it up pretty soon, but. Also for those that put you can send us anything in the comments. If you have something in the comments you’re going to be entered to win a copy of the book.
Hey Robin, can you show us your book? I can’t. I happen to have a copy. Oh, that’s great. So where in the zoo are you and a feelings word chart in the back and it has some questions and really the biggest thing is the conversation. And I think that’s very healing, no matter what’s going on because all the studies show that if you have a relationship that’s the start of healing.
And when we have a. Conversation it’s it helps to make us have a stronger relationship, when we can actually lean in and listen what, are you really feeling? And if I can really try to take that perspective, then we have that connection and we have to connect before we correct. We have to have that.
Relationship that starts from being an active listener and being present for someone. I am. I am here for you. I may not be experiencing what you’re experiencing. I may not agree that you should have more cookies instead of dinner, but I can understand how you might want that and be able to communicate that empathy while at the same time saying we’re not having any more cookies.
So if someone wants to get a copy of your book or, to learn more where, do we need to go to get more info? The best place and the cheapest place really is to go to Robin blumenthal.org. You can get it on Amazon. But it’s a little pricier there, but you can get it there. And there’s also, I have it in packs of 30, so that will bring the cost even down to $5 a piece, if a classroom or an organization wanted to purchase it.
But Robin Blumenthal that org and that gives you an opportunity to th there’s also some blogs and other tools that might be helpful. For you on there, some coloring pages additional questions or lesson plan ideas. And, there’s even a sheet on there that talks about Bible verses for families where faith is something that they want to lean into that talk about verses that have to do with helping with fear and anxiety so that you have more tools at your fingertips.
Wow. That’s fantastic. So I’m going to make sure that I have a link in the comments for Robin blumenthal.org. So you’re going to want to check that out and get as much information as you can. This whole parenting thing before the pandemic was a challenge, we add all this into it and it becomes even more and being able to build that relationship with our kids, to be able to understand what they’re going through.
Is going to help us to better care for them as they’re growing up so that as we get through COVID we get through COVID in a healthy way. Instead of instead of, an unhealthy way, Robin, I sure appreciate you. This was fantastic. If you guys want to get a copy of the book, go to Robin Blumenthal dot.
Org the link will be in the comments here shortly. If you are catching this on the replay and it’s still today, Thursday, March 11th, and you have something in the comments you’re going to get entered into win the free book. And it’s really fantastic. I also have one right here. So Robin, thank you so much.
Is there anything else you want to leave us with before we go? I would love to share one quick tool during all of this. If you think about everybody wants control, right? And that’s one of the things that I think all of us are missing is that we don’t get to control where we go and who we see and some of those things.
So one of the things that I would encourage you with your kids that can help them is to share as much control as you can. I have some of the different. Mass. One of the ways that we do that is that we let people maybe choose here’s your type of mask. I know it seems small, but being able to choose, even though you can’t maybe choose whether or not to wear a mask, but you can choose the design or you can choose the type.
And for parents dealing with your kids or kids in a classroom, either way, giving them control over the small things. Helps them to feel empowered. And that helps us to feel a little more secure. Like we have some kind of say in our life, whether I’m going to drink my juice out of the red cup or the blue cup or sleep with my door open or close, or do my homework at this desk or that desk, those little choices go a long way in helping kids to feel like they have some control in a world that feels really out of control.
So I just want to encourage you to try using choices and saying them with empathy will be even better. That is fantastic. All right. Rob, thank you so much. I sure appreciate you being on today. And guys, for any of you who are watching she’s got some powerful information. I have been a part of workshops and classes that Robin has taught really powerful info.
She knows her stuff, check out her book. It could really make a difference. All right, Robin. Thanks for joining us. Thank you. Thank you for having me and thank you for everybody listening in. All right. Have a good day guys.
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