PAP 089:

We Must Feel Good to Do Good — Parents and Kids Alike

Parenting ADHD Podcast 089: We Must Feel Good to do Good, Parent and Kids Alike
It’s no surprise that I’m a big fan of Brené Brown and her podcast, Unlocking Us — she’s a woman of great wisdom and inspiration. I had an epiphany of sorts when listening to a recent episode on loneliness and connection when her guest said, “We must feel good to do good.” Everything I know about parenting kids with ADHD / autism and self-care instantly collided with this statement and provided a jolt of inspiration. A big part of what I teach parents is summed up by this quote — we do have to feel good to do our best for others, and for ourselves. In this episode of the Parenting ADHD Podcast, I take a deep dive into why this quote is so important for parents like us, and discuss how to use this quote as one of your parenting and self-care guides. 

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Penny Williams (00:03): We have to accept good enough and I'll tell you that good enough instead of great or perfect actually creates a much happier life. So when you're super resistant to the phrase, good enough because you think it's a cop-out, I want you to remember that good enough offers you room for joy. It offers you the opportunity to feel good so that you can do good for others.

Penny Williams (00:40): Welcome to the parenting ADHD podcast where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD straight from the trenches. I'm your host, penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, ADHD-aholic and Mindset Mama honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started.

Penny Williams (01:09): Welcome back to the parenting ADHD podcast. I'm super excited to have you all here and to be talking a little bit today about the fact that we have to feel good to do good. I was listening to Brené Brown's podcast unlocking us the other day. I listened to it often. I'm a huge fan of the podcast and of Brené of course. And I was listening to her episode with Dr. Vivek Murthy on loneliness and connection and the statement came up that we have to feel good to do God. And I just felt that in my bones. I was so inspired by that statement because a lot of what I teach you parents about raising kids with ADHD and other neuro behavioral and neurodevelopmental disorders is that we have to be calm. We have to be not angry and sad all of the time, right? To do the best for our kids.

Penny Williams (02:19): And so this statement, we have to feel good to do good. Just alarm bells went off. It resonated so strongly. And so I wanted to really dive into that idea with you guys and how that really impacts your parenting. There are kind of four aspects in my mind of how we work on feeling good ourselves, right? This self-care really self-care one Oh one right? And that's the first aspect is that I have to take good care of myself in order to take good care of others. People talk all the time about the oxygen mask theory and how that applies to parents' self-care. If you're on an airplane, they will tell you that your oxygen mask will drop down from the ceiling if it's needed and that you should first put the mask on yourself, not even your child, not your spouse first yourself, which really flies in the face of how we feel in our culture about doing for ourselves as a parent, right?

Penny Williams (03:31): Like how dare somebody say that I should do anything for myself first. But this is actually crucial because if we're not doing for ourselves, then we're not in the best space to do for others. So imagine if you put that oxygen mask on your child first, maybe your two children, maybe your spouse or an elderly neighbor in the plane. What is happening to you as you're taking care of everyone else? You're running out of oxygen, right? You are not able to breathe well anymore. If you're gasping for breath or if you're feeling like you're not getting enough air, how well are you doing for those kids? That elderly passenger next to you on the plane, how well can you do for them when you're running out of air? That's the whole crux of what we're talking about here. When we talk about self-care, what self-care is, why it's important, this is exactly why it's so important because if we're not feeling good mind, body and spirit, right? We can't do good for others. We have to put that oxygen mask on ourselves first because that is the way that we prepare to do our best for others. And that's what we're talking about with self-care. And I'm not talking about a spa trip, a trip away with your friends, which right now during the pandemic, you're not doing any way. self-care is every day on your own work. Those spa trips and those vacations are fantastic. Of course they are wonderful and they certainly can be part of your self-care plan, but there's so much that you can do. Other than that and I had a whole podcast episode on this on self-care and all the different aspects so I'm not going to do a deep dive on that in this episode, but I will link for you that episode in the show notes so that you can do a deep dive on what self-care is if you missed that episode.

Penny Williams (05:56): It's so crucially important and it's so important that we have the Happy Mama Conference and retreat every year. This is a gathering from just moms of kids with neuro behavioral and neurodevelopmental disorders, exclusively about self-care for parents. And it's so valuable for so many reasons, but we continue to do it year after year. The spring would have been our ninth year, but we had to cancel this year, of course. The longer I've hosted this retreat, the more I realize how crucially important self-care is and how vast the ways that we care for ourselves are. And what I mean is stress management, taking a breath, getting a break. These things are self-care. Your mindset, the way that you think about ADHD, learning disabilities, autism, having a challenging kid, all of that is part of your self-care.

Penny Williams (07:03): So if you're doing really well with managing your mindset, which is my second aspect of having to feel good to do good, this is how we feel good. That mindset piece is everything. And I've told this story on the podcast before, but I'll share it again for those who haven't heard it from me yet, I very much was kind of this victim mindset person. I thought things happen to me. I thought that it wasn't my destiny to be a consistently happy person. I thought those people, they're just different. They have different personalities or different circumstances from me and that that was not what was meant to happen for me. Right. And when I got to a place where I just didn't feel like living that way anymore, when I felt like there had to be a better way, even if some of it was life, circumstance and personality, surely there was a way for me to feel more joy.

Penny Williams (08:05): I just started researching, looking at the studies on what makes people happy. I'm looking at some psychology and I came across the victim mindset versus the survivor mindset and realized that if I could adopt this survivor mindset, then maybe I had a chance of turning around the tone of my everyday life. And it's been three years, maybe four now., and I can tell you, it's miraculous. It totally works. The way you think about your life, your challenges, your strengths, your vision for yourself, your goals, everything, the way you look at your life, colors the interactions that we have with others and the way that the people around us and closest to us look at their lives. Mindset is everything. Because when we have this survivor mindset, now we have hope, right? We're optimistic, we know things will get better.

Penny Williams (09:09): We accept that we have challenges, but they don't have to be the totality of our story. We know that there is room for joy and we realize that sometimes you have to let some stuff go. That was a big, big piece of this mindset change for me was letting go of all the little minutiae, the stuff that really didn't matter as much as our culture tells us or our parents have told us or we thought ourselves. A lot of that stuff doesn't matter enough for us to be stressed about it, enough for us to then put that stress on our kids about it. One easy example is grades. Smart kids get good grades, right? Kids who make the effort get good grades, right? If you work hard, you get A's and B's. If you're smart, you get A's and B's. That isn't always true, especially for our kids in our population.

Penny Williams (10:11): And does it really matter that much if we have an A, B, C student or a B, C student or even a C, D student. What does your child want to do in adulthood? If they want to be a doctor or lawyer, maybe they need to push harder to be that B student despite having learning challenges or ADHD. But if they want to be a tradesperson and be a welder or an electrician or an artist, a singer. So many opportunities out there don't require that four-year degree so they don't require the most stellar grades and test scores in high school. And I'll tell you, when I let go of the idea that my kid with his like 137 IQ couldn't get A's and B's in the way he's taught in school or the way it's expected for him to show what he's learned in school, it freed up so much space and it was a weight that was lifted. I know that's cliche, but it's true. It was totally a weight that had been lifted because I was not so concerned about something that was really very, very hard and didn't matter as much as the amount of worry and stress and time and angst we were giving it.

Penny Williams (11:39): And this can be so many things. This can even be the acceptance and letting go of the fact that your child has differences, that your child is going to have some struggles that is so hard. And it took me years, years of begging for accommodations and things and trying to find the right treatments and therapies and all of these things. Thinking I could help him to fit in the box. When I realized that he didn't need to fit in the box, that he was perfectly okay out there outside of the box or making his own box, that was so monumentally freeing.

Penny Williams (12:22): And I still use that day to day to remind myself, here we are struggling so much with virtual learning now during the pandemic and my son's school refusal from in-person refusal has ramped up to like, "you might force me to do school one day a week," which is really, really hard when he's 17 and a junior in high school and we're just trying to graduate. I'm reminding myself that there is good enough and we always think that good enough is a cop out, but good enough is actually, literally good enough. It's enough. We don't have to strive for perfect or near perfect because they don't really access. We have to accept good enough. And I'll tell you that good enough, instead of great or perfect, actually creates a much happier life.

Penny Williams (13:24): So when you're super resistant to the phrase, good enough, because you think it's a cop-out, I want you to remember that good enough as a goal offers you more room for joy. It offers you the opportunity to feel good so that you can do good for others and it's all about that mindset shift. Again, that's your mindset that good enough is a cop-out. Shift it on everything about parenting kids with ADHD. It's about shifting: shifting those traditional expectations, shifting the way we think things should be done. There's that red flag word "should." Everything can be improved with the right mindset. I'm not telling you that you're going to will away your child's ADHD. We know that it's not going to happen. What I'm telling you is that you can create an atmosphere and environment, a life that is so much more fulfilling for you, for your child, your entire family, your close friends and relatives, your whole sphere will feel the impact when you feel good.

Penny Williams (14:47): And think about times when you've been sick and you've just really felt very worn out and pitiful or after you were really over the sickness but you just still don't feel good yet. Think about how hard it is to get stuff done during that time when you just don't feel great. Think about what it's like for other people around you in the house. Do they come up and ask you to do things? Do they want to hang out with you? No, because the way you're feeling — while it's not physically contagious — is kind of mentally and emotionally contagious. We share our feelings and people absorb them. We don't just say them in words that hover out there in the universe and dissipate. We feel each other. We are connected in that way as human beings and so our feelings are absorbed by our kids. They are taking that in. Even when you can't tell that they are. We think about different stories where you're talking to someone and you think your small child in the room isn't really listening and later they say something hilarious that came from you that was kind of inappropriate because they actually were listening. That really is a good example of how our kids are pulling in that energy from us, those feelings that we're putting out there.

Penny Williams (16:25): I always thought that this talk about different energies that people have was kind of this hippy dippy silliness. But what I've realized is different emotions have a different energy and we are putting all of that out into the world because we're human beings and we feel things in different ways. We talk about them or we are in a particular mood and all of those things that we're putting into the room are being absorbed by the others in the room. And so the energy that's coming from you, whether it's positive or negative, is going to be equally impactful on those other people. So again, when you're thinking about how can I make sure that I feel good, we're not talking about faking this.

Penny Williams (17:17): Now, I want to say that I'm not talking about faking feeling good. I am talking about when you genuinely feel good, that's when you can do good for others. I even think about cooking dinner. I hate cooking. I mean I loathe cooking. I will find any excuse not to cook. I despise it. I despise trying to think of a meal that everyone wants and despise cooking it and trying to manage the timing and all the different things going on at once. I despise the cleaning up afterwards. All of it. I hate it and it's really unfortunate when you're a parent or a mom to hate cooking, but I do. So if I am feeling really great, it's so much easier to power through and that non-preferred activity is so much easier to go in there, cook, get it done, feed my family, make others happy and move on.

Penny Williams (18:13): But if I'm having a bad day, that is the day that I am finding a reason to go get some takeout from a restaurant and feed my family that way. Or if I'm sick — I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue — some days I just don't have the energy. And if I'm not feeling really well, it's really hard for me to do any good for anybody else. It's really hard for me to pull it together and do good things for others. There's a million examples that I can go on and on about for the fact that we have to feel good in order to be able to do good. I wanna talk some to you about mindful awareness and this is really the crux of your parenting approach for kids with ADHD. This is what I teach and preach and harp on, being very mindful in every circumstance of what we're saying, how we're feeling, what we're projecting, and the same from anybody else around us.

Penny Williams (19:26): A good example of this as if your kid is having an intense episode or a meltdown. We can match that intensity. We can get frustrated and upset and riled up. We can yell, we can threaten. We're not feeling good, right? So we are easily pulled into that trap of meeting and mirroring our kids intensity. But if I'm feeling pretty all right, I'm on my game. I'm very mindful about my child, who he is, what he struggles with. I really know him on a deep level and I'm really tuned in to what's going on with him. I can remain calm, I can be a calming anchor. I can be helpful to him instead of hurtful. I can respond instead of react. And again, that comes from that place of doing the work that we have to do to feel good. And part of that is really honing our awareness.

Penny Williams (20:38): Take a breath, take a pause. You could do this 20 times a day if necessary or, if it makes things better for you in general, when something's going on and you need to respond, just take a big deep breath, count into three and then blow it out to three counts. I'm telling you, it makes all the difference in the world. It helps to calm your nervous system and your physical body so that you can keep your mind and your emotions more calm, as well. But it also gives you that moment to be mindful, to assess what's going on, to assess what a proper and effective and helpful response would be. And when we have this awareness, we're always going to do better because again, we're not having that hair-trigger reaction that often isn't helpful. That's often explosive ourselves or not compassionate, not empathetic.

Penny Williams (21:43): Instead we're taking in what is happening and what is true for everyone in that space, in that moment, and we're going to act on that instead of acting on what we're seeing on the surface. It makes such a difference. This pause, this awareness, and it's a big part of helping yourself feel good from day to day. And let's remember what we're talking about here as if I haven't said it enough already. We have to feel good to do good. I'll tell you right now, in this pandemic and COVID19, a lot of us are not feeling good, and that's okay. I am not judging how you're feeling right now. I'm not judging your emotions at any point in time. What I'm telling you is that you have to harness them. You have to take control of them. You have to recognize that you have control of a lot of things.

Penny Williams (22:45): Do we have control of this pandemic? No. Do we have control of whether or not we can go about our lives freely and leave the house, run to the store, hang out with friends, go to a bar for happy hour? No. We have no control over any of that. It's so important to find that distinction, taking the time to do that work, to come up with those distinctions of what we can and can't control is huge to helping you day-to-day feel pretty good. Some days it's hard. There have been days during this pandemic — I have been home now for exactly two months — I have left the house for walks in the neighborhood some and I've left the house in the car three times. So three times in eight weeks I have been out. I have tried to really limit how much news I look at. I allow myself once a day to get updated.

Penny Williams (23:47): I've been really mindful and purposeful about how I handle what is happening in the world and how it's affecting me right now. But there are days where I just don't have it in me to work. I don't have it in me to do much of anything. I just feel really down and defeated and helpless about the current situation. And that's okay. We're all going to have these days where we don't feel good. It's natural. So I'm not judging that one out of every seven days of your week, you really don't feel good. That's normal. It's natural. It's okay. What we're talking about is just this overall taking care of ourselves so that we can take care of others, taking care of ourselves so that we can feel good so that we can do good for others.

Penny Williams (24:46): And I encourage you, of course, to listen to Brenés' podcast episode with Dr. Vivek Murthy on loneliness and connection. Aa huge piece of feeling good is feeling connected. This is really the most paramount thread of our culture I feel like, of the human experience, is connection. When we feel connected to others, we feel like we have a purpose, we don't feel good when we feel so lonely and isolated and not authentically connected to others. Then we have depression, anxiety, suicide, even mass shootings have been connected to a lack of connection with others. Connection really helps you feel good and the same for our kids. They need those feelings of connection, as well. And we talked about facilitating and nurturing these connections and a recent parenting ADHD podcast episode with Rebecca and I'll link that up in the show notes for you, as well.

Penny Williams (25:57): So, to wrap up, I have a few short words: we have to feel good to do good. That's it. That's the whole crux of this conversation and this is what I want you to really try to go forward with. Write it up on a flyer, a big piece of paper posted on the wall. Remind yourself that how you feel matters and it matters a great deal because it influences how those around us feel and we want to spread good. We want to spread joy, we want to even spread hope and optimism when things are hard and so we have to do this work for ourselves so that we can do that work for others. For the show notes and the links to these other podcasts and episodes that I've talked about, go to parentingADHDandautism.com/089 and I will see everyone next time.

Penny Williams (27:02): Thanks for joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share and don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching and mama retreats at parenting, ADHD, and autism.com.

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