Episode 46: Mental Strength for Parents and Children

In this episode of The Family Couch, we talk with Amy Morin, the author of two amazing books that talk about mental strength as humans and parents.  She loves discussing this topic and the way to become a mentally strong person.

We dive right and discuss the definition of mental strength.  Morin describes it as having three different parts. The first part is regulating your thoughts to not think overly negative or positive.  Often people think that positive thinking equals mental strength, but this it not always the case. If you go into a test thinking you’ll ace it, you may be unprepared.  The second part is about regulating your emotions. You don’t need to be happy all the time, but you don’t want your emotions to control you. If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed in a bad mood, you don’t have to stay in a bad mood the whole day.  The third part is about taking positive action so that no matter what your circumstances are you can take action to make your life or someone else’s better.

Morin mentions an exercise in her parenting book that is geared toward children but she finds to be helpful for adults as well.  You ask if your emotions are a friend or an enemy. You can feel sad and be honoring something that you lost, or you can be angry and have it motivate you to make a change in your life.  At the same time, anger can get you in trouble or you can get stuck in sadness. You do not always have to be positive and have your head up. Morin provides that there is a big difference between being strong and acting tough.  People will go through tough times but minimize their problems or pretend they have no pain. If you do this, you are not really going through it. The painful things we go through can be the process through which we heal. Time does not always heal.  Morin feels that as a society we are uncomfortable being uncomfortable. We go through great lengths to avoid the feeling but it often comes back to bite us in the end. Being uncomfortable can help you in the long term. We want to cheer people up and tell them to think positive but this is not always helpful.  Sometimes they just need someone to sit with them and recognize that things are actually tough.

We discuss how mental strength affects what we do for others.  Morin mentions that it is important to separate being with someone who is going through a tough time versus attending their pity party.  We have all met someone who insists that their life is horrible and awful no matter what solutions you come up with. They are not interested in ever making their lives better.  You want to separate this from someone who is going through a tough time–like a financial crisis or a major health issue. You don’t always have to crack jokes–you can say that this is very sad and tough and be willing to listen to them.  Our tendency is to really try and cheer people up. Morin lost her husband suddenly six years ago and noticed how difficult it was for people to just “be there” without trying to cheer her up. Sometimes this is helpful but it is not always what people need.  

We further discuss tips for how to be the supportive person for a friend or family member.  Morin provides that it is okay to say, “I don’t know what to do for you,” or, “I don’t even have the words to say.”  She says not to be too hard on yourself as a friend when you don’t know what to do. You can say, “Let me know what I can do for you.”  You can keep showing up and checking in. Little things, like riding along to the bank or cleaning out someone’s car, can make a difference.  Going through tough times is an individual process. It takes some people much longer than others to move through those times. Part of mental strength is using your other strengths to help others.  Morin mentions that when her husband died, some of her friends cleaned her house, others offered to go to the grocery store with her to help with that experience. The little things that people did made the most difference.  You can offer suggestions for things you could do and see what they say.

We change gears and discuss how parents have to show their mental strengths differently.  Morin discusses how parents asked for advice on how they could make their children mentally strong.  In Morin’s second book, she provides parental advice on how to become mental strength coaches for their children.  You are the one who can turn difficult life moments into teachable moments. Our world has so many expectations and pulls children in so many directions.  Morin makes it clear in her book that parenting is about working yourself out of a job. When kids are younger, they need lots of help and hands-on assistance, but as they grow older, you should be able to take steps backwards.  You still guide them and give them wisdom, but you know they may not meet your expectations in certain times. You may think you’ll raise an athlete but your child turns out to be a musician. This involves grief for a lot of parents who did not envision parenting that way.  You then have to figure out how to raise your child the best you can and let them know that it is okay for them to have their own interests. For many parents, they see their child at 15 and realize there is a lot of work to do before their child is 18 and leaving the house. It is very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of homework and activities and forget to zoom out and look at the life skills that children need to learn.

We next discuss mental strength in other relationships in life.  Morin mentions that people often ask about romantic relationships, mother-in-laws, and work relationships.  She feels that no matter what relationship you are talking about, the biggest piece is to ask yourself, “How do I not give away my power?” This is about saying you are in control of how you think, feel and behave, regardless of what goes on around you.  If you are in a work environment where co-workers bash each other, you don’t have to take part and let it drag you down. You can make it the best day you can, despite the people you’re surrounded by. Regarding romantic relationships, you have to think, “My partner doesn’t have the power to make me feel bad about myself–I can be in control of that.”  We want to surround ourselves with mentally strong people, but we cannot always do that. You can control your time, though. You are in control of who you spend your time with. If you like your job but some of your co-workers bring you down, you have to change your language and say, “I like this job, so I am choosing to go to work.” When you recognize the choices, it will shift the way you view people and make you more empowered to feel mentally strong.

We finally discuss mental strength in our world and society.  Morin feels that part of it is about setting healthy limits. Sometimes we get caught up in watching too much news and getting into political discussions on social media.  People think they need to jump into conversations, but more often than not we are only getting ourselves fired up and angry. It is best to excuse yourself from some of these conversations.  We need to set limits on social media and electronics by limiting our time spent on these things and trying to use them to enhance our lives instead of dragging us down. Studies show that consuming too much news is bad for us and too much time on social media is bad for us.  Morin feels that these things will eat away at our mental strength. You have to be proactive.

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GUEST BIO:

Amy Morin is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has spent most of her career working as a therapist in various mental health centers.  At one point her career took a sharp turn when she wrote an article that went viral. She then became an author, writing her first book, called 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.  She followed this up with 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do.  She now spends much of her time writing, teaching and speaking. She is a lecturer at Northeastern University in Boston.  

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CONNECT WITH AMY MORIN:

WEBSITE: https://amymorinlcsw.com/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/AmyMorinAuthor

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/AmyMorinLCSW

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RESOURCES:

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do on Amazon

13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do on Amazon

 

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