The Secret to Making “Talking” an Effective Parenting Strategy (And How Story Creates Resilience Safely) (HPC: E100)

We hear “kids are resilient, they’ll be ok,” a LOT, especially lately.

This conversation with Marcy Pusey, a Certified Trauma & Resilience Practitioner, opened MY eyes to the fact that perhaps…they’re not.

I thought we’d just be talking about the power of story, kind of a cute, sweet idea to share with you that some people might enjoy. Turns out we got to talk about the language behind “online learning” and why it’s totally wrong and harmful, how a global pandemic puts us all into a potential state of trauma, and vital habits every family needs to adopt for good mental health — especially now.

FREE DOWNLOAD: 3 Ways to Build Brain Resilience

Get your brain ready to be fascinated, and grab some playdough or start chopping veggies while you watch. Marcy and I talk about:

  • What resilience really is and why kids don’t have as much as we might think
  • What trauma really is and why I’ve been doing myself a disservice by simply assuming anything with that sort of title didn’t apply to me
  • How everyone in a family might experience something like a car accident (or a global pandemic) completely differently
  • Why our brains process historical fiction and a social studies textbook differently (and which one is more effective)
  • Why parents need to filter stories and movies for their kids, both to keep out particular negative influences but also to SEEK certain types of heroes that can give our kids resilience without danger
  • The simple fact that our kids borrow from our capacity, which may explain why some days are harder than others for busy parents
  • Problems in talk therapy and a better solution (that families can do at home without a professional!)
  • Why cooking really is a brain-science based way to connect with your kids better and improve their mental health

This interview was amazing, and I’m rushing off to get a journal for one of my kids and some playdough for the others right now!

Can’t see the video? View it here on YouTube.

No time to watch the whole video? Here are the notes!

Healing Trauma in Children Video Time Stamps

  • 0:31: I’m here today on the Healthy Parenting Connector with Marcy Pusey, Certified Trauma and Resilience Practitioner and Rehabilitation Counselor.
  • 2:17: Marcy shares how story and trauma collided in her life and brought her where she is today.

I found my writing wasn’t just helping other people, it was to wrestle with myself. -Marcy Pusey

  • 4:16: Marcy has fostered many children over the years, adopted two of them, and has two additional children. Her oldest two are adults, so she has some parenting experience under her belt.

Resiliency During the COVID Pandemic

  • 5:24: We’re recording this in September 2020 just after school has started during the COVID pandemic. I’ve seen a lot of articles talking about how resilient kids are and how they’ll be fine and bounce right back from the strange experiences of wearing masks all day, plexiglass between them and their teachers, virtual schooling, and the like. Marcy shares her opinion as a resiliency expert.

Saying that kids are resilient is a bit of a cop-out. -Marcy Pusey

  • 6:09: A global pandemic is a traumatic experience. As adults, we’re trying to navigate the additional emotional burden, and it’s hard to also help our kids through it. Saying they’re resilient and will be ok is an easy way out of recognizing their need for support.
  • 7:25: Resilience is a combination of your life experience and the resources you’ve gained over time by going through those experiences. Kids don’t have the same resources to draw from as adults. Marcy explains what may actually be happening inside a child who looks “fine” on the outside.
  • 8:38: Many parents are noticing changes in their child’s behavior during COVID and they’re attributing it to changes in schedule, but maybe there’s more to it.

This IS a Big Deal for Our Kids

  • 9:25: We talk about the impact that hearing the news and parental anxiety have on a child. The way parents model dealing with stress and anxiety will impact the children’s mindset and behavior.

How am I navigating this crisis and what can I model for my kids? -Marcy Pusey

  • 10:36: We need to watch our language. Our kids didn’t come home to do online learning, they were sent home in the middle of a global crisis and are trying to learn online. For many kids, everything they know as normal life was suddenly pulled out from under them.
  • 12:11: I’m a teacher and I have so much respect for the teachers who are trying to reinvent the way we do school this year under so much stress.
  • 12:42: Have you ever felt like your kids were draining you off all your emotional capacity? Turns out they actually are. When kids are in stressful situations they don’t have their own resources to draw from so they take from us.
  • 13:01: How can storytelling impact a child’s brain and help them process emotions and thoughts. There’s actual brain science behind this!

Good stories show kids what is possible and what they can do. -Marcy Pusey

  • 15:13: I have watched my kids read historical fiction and learn far more than a textbook taught them. Stories stick with us.
  • 15:50: Because stories interact so strongly with our brains, we need to filter the type of stories our kid’s experience. They need to see kids overcoming obstacles and learning lessons on their own.

What Is Trauma?

  • 17:30: Marcy defines some terms relating to trauma, and explains how trauma gets programmed into the brain. Trauma is a bit of a buzzword, but the definition might not be what you think.
  • 19:32: For years, we’ve treated trauma with talk therapy, but trauma is stored in the inner brain which isn’t cognitive. You need two things to actually release trauma: a safe place to reexperience the event and a way to express it.
  • 20:30: Marcy gives examples of free creative expression that can help you release trauma. You don’t even have to understand what you’re doing in order for it to work.

Healing Trauma in Children

  • 21:23: As a parent provide opportunities for different kinds of expression for your kids and model for them. Show curiosity, and let your kids work it out on their own.
  • 22:10: If your kids are writing a freestyle story, that is them working something out. It isn’t so much the content of the story that matters but the questions the story answers. Marcy lists a bunch of questions your child may be asking through their expression.

Unguided creative expression activates their inner brain and processes trauma. -Marcy Pusey

  • 23:14: At first I thought the kids had to be telling the stories of the traumatic events, but that’s not the case. They just need to be expressing and telling stories through a creative outlet.
  • 23:52: If you’ve ever been in a fight or flight situation, you may look back and realize that you don’t remember what happened, or it’s very fuzzy. This is our body’s way of protecting us from traumatic events and memories.

Fostering Creative Expression in Your Kids

  • 24:47: Storytelling may not be sitting down with a pen and paper. A child could create something with clay, act a story out, paint, write a song, etc.

Regardless of whether we understand the meaning behind the art, the creative expression is doing good work in our child’s brain. -Marcy Pusey

  • 26:48: We discuss how to work through specific potentially traumatic events (like a car accident) with your kids.

FREE DOWNLOAD: 3 Ways to Build Brain Resilience

  • 27:49: Different people will experience the same traumatic event differently. It depends on the meaning you attach to it. Marcy shares an example of how two kids could interpret a car accident with dramatically different longterm results.
  • 29:02: It’s easy to assign meaning to an event for someone else, especially a child. Bring your curiosity to find out the meaning they have assigned and watch behavior for clues.
  • 31:12: Whenever I see trauma-related content, I think it doesn’t apply to me because I’ve never experienced significant traumatic events, but Marcy is saying that it could be just one experience of bullying that we don’t even remember from our childhood that took root and got stuck as trauma in our brain.

More Practical Tips for Parents

  • 32:08: Go with your gut, you know your kids. There are art therapists who would be great to turn to if you feel out of your league with a situation. Try avoiding talk therapy unless you can see that the child wants to verbally process.

Know when it’s bigger than you and go get help. -Marcy Pusey

  • 33:06: Marcy has a free gift for my audience that will help you figure out how to apply this info for your kids.

No kid is too big to play with clay or play-dough. -Marcy Pusey

  • 35:49: Get into the habit of sharing stories. I have my kids each tell my grandma a story about something they did when we talk to her on the phone. Pull up a picture and ask what kids remember about that day, what their favorite thing was, what was hard, etc.
  • 36:34: The side by side interaction of coloring together or cooking together is often better at building relationships than face to face communication.

There's an expression of who they are when they create, no matter what it is. -Marcy Pusey

Resources We Mention for Healing Trauma in Children

Marcy PuseyMarcy is the wife of an artist and the mother of four, but she also tossed pizzas for a pizzeria, acted and sang in a musical, advocated for families with special needs, made appearances in a few movies, and mimed with balloon animals at the Halifax Busker Festival. Marcy is also a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and Certified Trauma & Resilience Practitioner, international speaker, writing and publishing coach, and the best-selling author of books for adults and for children. She does her best writing on retreats with a nearby hot-tub, in any castle, within view of the sea, or in her cozy home in the Black Forest of Germany. Marcy loves the smiles and giggles of kids who see themselves in her pages and the tearful nods of adults who realize they’re not alone by her words. You can watch and share her TEDx Talk: “How Story Empowers Kids to Shape our World
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