Episode 19. How to improve inclusion while raising confident, happy children

How can we raise kids that are independent, confident, kind, empathetic and happy? By talking to them. Sounds easy, right? 

According to Rebecca Rolland, it can be — as long as we use the right kind of talk. Rebecca is a speech pathologist and Harvard lecturer but it’s her role as a mother of two that led her to write The Art of Talking to Children. In her book, Rebecca introduces the concept of rich talk and explains how it can be used to build productive and meaningful conversations with the kids in your life.

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Lindsay Guentzel (00:00):

This is episode 19 of Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel, and today we’re diving into the art of talking to children with speech pathologist and Harvard lecturer Rebecca Rolland.

Lindsay Guentzel (00:32):

Hello and welcome back to Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel. If this is your first time listening, a plain old welcome. Thank you for giving us a chance. I hope that you go back and listen to a few of the other episodes that we’ve done over the last couple of months. We launched this project, which is a collaboration with ADHD Online, back in May for Mental Health Awareness Month. And it’s insane to think that we’re right there approaching episode 20.

Lindsay Guentzel (01:07):

So again, if this is your first time listening, thank you for giving us a shot. If you are a avid listener and you come back week after week, thank you for the support and for giving us a purpose for putting this out there.

Lindsay Guentzel (01:24):

I’ll say this over and over again, but this podcast is a work in progress and every week we are trying to put out something that you guys can connect with. And so if there’s a topic you are just itching to hear or something else you want to share, get in touch with us.

Lindsay Guentzel (01:43):

Easiest way to do that is through email [email protected]. You can also connect with both the podcast and with me on social media, @RefocusedPod on Instagram and Twitter, and then @LindsayGuentzel on both of those platforms as well.

Lindsay Guentzel (02:00):

I did just get my Facebook account back. It was hacked for about a year and a half, and I have yet to decide if I want to dive back into that because truthfully, my mental health is so much better when I’m not on social media, but there’s this market monopolization for promoting stuff and building listeners and all of that stuff that comes with social media and it just overwhelms me. Anyway, that’s a conversation for another day.

Lindsay Guentzel (02:32):

Before we get into our conversation with Rebecca Rolland today, I do want to take care of just a few housekeeping items. Coming up on Wednesday, September 21st, so this is just a couple of days after this episode drops on September 19th, there is a webinar with Tyler Dorsey, who you met last week on episode 18, and Katelyn Mabry, on how to survive the school year. Now again, this is happening on September 21st. You can find out more information by going to adhdonline.com/webinars.

Lindsay Guentzel (03:07):

If you have a student who puts off work until the last minute or lacks study skills or has a hard time managing a planning system, if they even have one, Tyler and Katelyn’s webinar on how to survive the school year is something you should definitely consider attending.

Lindsay Guentzel (03:27):

This one hour conversation is kind of the first step to break the vicious cycle that so many of us with ADHD know too well, getting excited as school starts thinking that things are going to change, but then not being able to actually put into motion the actual changes needed to make a difference, to make things less chaotic.

Lindsay Guentzel (03:53):

Again, that’s happening September 21st at 12:00 PM Eastern. You can find all the details by going to adhdonline.com/webinars. And the great news is if you can’t attend it live, you can sign up and then get access to the recording as soon as it’s available. So make sure to check that out.

Lindsay Guentzel (04:13):

I also want to talk about the October project. We mentioned last week that it has a name. We are calling the not meant to be a super secret project, but somehow became a super secret project Refocused Together. And we will be sharing more on what that actually means here shortly. Of course, October is ADHD Awareness Month and I am so excited and scared and a little overwhelmed about what we are doing and I can’t wait to hear what you guys think. So that will be coming up shortly.

Lindsay Guentzel (04:57):

If you haven’t already, make sure you’re following Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel wherever you’re listening to the podcast now. You can also follow us on social media because we’ll be sharing all of the details and keeping you up to date.

Lindsay Guentzel (05:10):

I also wanted to share a fun little opportunity I had last week. Myron Medcalf is someone I’ve worked with for a very long time. If you follow college basketball, you’ve definitely seen his work for ESPN. He’s a senior college basketball reporter. He also hosts a nationally syndicated radio show and he also has a column with the Star Tribune, which is Minnesota’s largest newspaper.

Lindsay Guentzel (05:34):

And his most recent column was a survival guide for teen girls and their loving parents. It was inspired by his own daughter starting high school. His oldest started freshman year and he felt a little unprepared. So he reached out to six women and asked us, I was included in the six, to share advice that we wish we could tell our ninth grade selves.

Lindsay Guentzel (06:06):

And I included a link to the article in the show notes. I think it’s so well written, it’s so from the heart, and there’s really great advice there from five other women, women that I know and I work with and I respect. And like anything, there’s ways to take advice for a ninth grader and use it in your own lives. So that is linked in the show notes.

Lindsay Guentzel (06:34):

And it’s funny because pulling the curtain back, I taped my conversation with Rebecca Rolland just a week or two before Myron reached out to me, and so I actually say something in today’s episode that I used in the advice that I sent along to Myron.

Lindsay Guentzel (06:51):

For me, when I look back at high school and even middle school, it’s very clear to me that my friendships and my struggle to maintain them and develop them really took over and just ruined a lot of my teen years for me. And so that’s what I focused on, friendships in high school and how to navigate that area. And you can hear what I shared right after my conversation with Rebecca Rolland.

Lindsay Guentzel (07:31):

Hello and welcome back to Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel. I’m your host Lindsay Guentzel, and I’m very excited to dive into today’s topic about inclusion. We all know how important inclusion is, especially for those of us who are neurodivergent and are especially sensitive to feelings of rejection or not belonging, whether it’s actually happening or not. I call those the stories that I tell myself that no one wants me around or I’m unwelcome. And the unfortunate part is I have very vivid memories of feeling that way as a child.

Lindsay Guentzel (08:06):

And I think the fact that we even use the word inclusion and that we understand the meaning behind it and the importance of the meaning, it’s a great reminder of how far we’ve come as a society in identifying and understanding the actual needs of human beings. And inclusion and cohesion are not only crucial in how we develop as humans, but also how we thrive.

Lindsay Guentzel (08:31):

And so I’m very excited to bring Rebecca Rolland into the conversation. She is a speech pathologist, writer and Harvard lecturer, and she’s the author of The Art of Talking with Children, which looks at using the interactions you’re having with the kids in your life to build the skills they need to thrive throughout life. And I mean there is a reason why we say start them young.

Lindsay Guentzel (08:54):

The Art of Talking with Children also has an entire chapter dedicated to talking about differences in learning, thinking and attention, which makes it a perfect fit for this podcast. And Rebecca, thank you so much for joining me.

Rebecca Rolland (09:08):

Yes, thanks for having me. This is wonderful.

Lindsay Guentzel (09:10):

So a couple of things I want to get out of the way right off the bat. One, I keep wanting to say your children, but a lot of people don’t have children, I don’t have children, or they have grown children who are out of the house. And I really appreciated the emphasis I found in looking over your website and looking at the book on the phrase children in your life because it’s just as important for me as someone who doesn’t have children but has nephews and friends with kids, and I volunteer in a school. So it’s a very important thing for me to be learning as well as parents. It’s this big picture.

Rebecca Rolland (09:51):

Definitely. And I think that I see that so much is sometimes we emphasize parenting as really separate from teaching or caregiving or being an aunt or something like that, but these are all … We need the same skills. We need the same empathy. We need the same engagement. And so I do think that this book and just this approach is so important for anyone who interacts with kids in any way.

Lindsay Guentzel (10:13):

And similarly, I imagine some of the things that you talk about in the book can be takeaways for adults who might need a refresh on their own communication skills and styles.

Rebecca Rolland (10:25):

Exactly. Actually it’s funny because so often when I talk about this book and this approach, people have said to me, “Oh, well, this actually could work really well with the adults in my life.” And I do definitely see the applications every day.

Lindsay Guentzel (10:36):

So I’m curious how you found yourself here, how your career and your experiences brought you to write this book and what the motivation was behind it.

Rebecca Rolland (10:47):

Definitely. So I am the mom of two kids, ages five and 10, as well as a speech pathologist and a lecturer. And so for me, I started out being really interested in conversations from more of an academic standpoint and saying, “Well, teachers and kids, how do we help the classroom have a good learning environment?” But then when I became a parent, I realized, oh, so much of that about children and learning and teaching could be applied to parenting and to taking care of kids, but nobody’s talking about this.

Rebecca Rolland (11:18):

So I realized in the parenting world and the parenting literature, there just was no information about what kind of conversations are we having with kids. It was about discipline, about diapering, about all of the new things you need for babies, but there’s so little about, well, what can we do to actually help children thrive based on how we talk with them? So that’s where I found myself really wondering and I went on this journey to figure that out.

Lindsay Guentzel (11:42):

It’s very interesting, we’re very early in our conversation and I’m already having these light bulb moments because I love the phrase you don’t know what you don’t know. And I have always viewed speech pathology as helping someone speak better. I didn’t realize that there was a level to it of how we speak or the tones we use or the topics we use.

Lindsay Guentzel (12:04):

And so I just would love it if you could explain a little bit of the depth behind those two words because your career is obviously a lot more in depth than I had any idea. But again, going back to my favorite phrase, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Rebecca Rolland (12:20):

Definitely. It’s so funny because so many people when they meet me or other speech pathologists, they say, “Oh, you must work with kids who can’t say their Rs, or you must work with kids who aren’t talking yet.” And I actually don’t work with kids with either of those issues, although I have in my training, because speech pathology is actually a hugely diverse field.

Rebecca Rolland (12:40):

So you might find a speech pathologist, for example, working with someone who has aphasia. They’ve had a rock climbing incident and they have some brain injury. For me, I work with a lot of what we talk about, social pragmatics of language, which means the way we use language socially.

Rebecca Rolland (12:55):

So staying on topic, it’s how do you enter a conversation? How do you manage when someone feels rejected, what do you do? How do you actually signal that you want to leave a conversation? All of those small social issues are also what we talk about in speech pathology and what a lot of kids have struggles with. So there’s just so much more to the field than what we think about typical speech in terms of coming out with words.

Lindsay Guentzel (13:22):

In the book, you use the phrase rich talk and I’m wondering if you can start, before we dive too far into it, explaining what that is and what that term means as you were developing the book?

Rebecca Rolland (13:35):

Yeah. So rich talk is the frame I’ve used when we ask the question, how can we have meaningful conversations with kids? So for me, rich talk was the answer I came up with. And it has three components, so ABC.

Rebecca Rolland (13:48):

A stands for adaptive, meaning you’re going with the mood or the flow of your child, their temperament, where they like to talk, when they like to talk. B is back and forth, meaning you’re focusing on how much you’re talking, how much your child is talking and emphasizing not just lecturing at them. And C is for child driven, meaning you’re really starting with what interests or motivates or worries a child.

Lindsay Guentzel (14:13):

I’m wondering if there is a specific age that this starts at or is this something that people should implement as soon as possible when it comes to how they’re communicating with children?

Rebecca Rolland (14:27):

Yes. Really the great thing about this approach is that you can do it at any age. And I think as soon as you can, as soon as you’re aware of this, I would really emphasize that you can try it out. What’s so interesting I think, is that you can adapt to a child and to a child’s communication needs at any age.

Rebecca Rolland (14:46):

And what I would encourage parents to do or caregivers or anyone to do as a start is really just take a day and reflect a couple times a day, what’s going well in your interactions with your child or with a child in your life? When is your child opening up? When do you feel like things are flowing? What are your strengths as a speaker and listener? What are your child’s strengths?

Rebecca Rolland (15:09):

And when you start by focusing on what’s going well, you can start to build those areas up. And even if you think, oh, my conversations with my kids aren’t great, you can see that there are areas where it’s probably working really well for you already and you can start to build those up.

Lindsay Guentzel (15:25):

And I imagine that there’s a lot of self-reflection that comes from the adult trying to figure out, like you mentioned, what are your strengths? How do you communicate the best? What time of day are you at your best? All of those things do play a role. And then you throw life into the mix and we get frustrated, people get angry, and a lot of times …

Lindsay Guentzel (15:47):

We have a phrase in our house, my tone is not indicative of the way I feel. And it’s kind of like you just respond so quickly and I know from my own experience growing up, I was very guarded because I didn’t want bad tones, I didn’t want bad reactions. And so if I ever got that from anyone, any adults in life, it’s when I shut down.

Lindsay Guentzel (16:09):

So what can adults be doing to create that safe environment and to make sure that the children in their life know that this is a safe space and even though the way I respond, my tone is not indicative of the way I feel about you?

Rebecca Rolland (16:25):

Definitely. So there’s a few key things. The first is just to notice what triggers you as an adult. So what from your environment do you feel like, oh, this is when I get really upset, this is when I really feel like I can’t take it? And usually that has less to do with the child and more to do with you and your background.

Rebecca Rolland (16:43):

So it might be for example that when your child starts whining, that’s when you really can’t take it. Or maybe it’s when your child says they’re disappointed and for you that’s really triggering because in your family you weren’t allowed to be disappointed. So just noticing what triggers you as a parent or as a caregiver is the first step.

Rebecca Rolland (17:00):

And then I think secondly, it’s really all about taking the time to make small shifts in that, whatever happens. So even to say, “Instead of my instinctual reaction, which was just to lash out or to yell, I’m going to stop for one second. I’m going to take a deep breath. I’m going to think through, for example, how could I teach this child something in this moment? What is my child or this child showing me that they don’t know yet?”

Rebecca Rolland (17:27):

And flipping the situation, so rather than just thinking, oh, he’s doing it to annoy me, what are they showing me that they don’t know yet? Asking that question can really change the communication. So just trying that out once or twice I think can be a great start.

Lindsay Guentzel (17:43):

I love that phrase, trying to figure out what they don’t know yet because I think that is something that is so instrumental, especially with children who are neurodivergent or have ADHD or autism or just march to their own drum and just have no idea that what they’re doing or the way that they’re behaving or …

Lindsay Guentzel (18:05):

It’s such a crucial time for kids to learn how to communicate, learn how to make mistakes, learn how relationships work. And so I’m curious, when we look at this time in children’s lives when they’re learning how to communicate, especially with adults, how instrumental is it for their growth and their futures down the line?

Rebecca Rolland (18:30):

It’s really key. I think what’s so amazing about the conversations we have is that we can’t see it, but actually, they accumulate on a daily basis to build trust and even to build children’s skills, so things like kindness, confidence, and creativity.

Rebecca Rolland (18:45):

So in the book I talk about a double promise, which is just these conversations matter in the moment and they also matter over time. So even though we don’t actually see them forming children into creative and confident people, that’s actually their potential.

Rebecca Rolland (18:59):

So that’s why even if you feel like, oh, I don’t know if I’m having this impact, I don’t know if this is important, knowing that helping establish this safe environment, helping children feel like they can trust you has so many benefits over time.

Lindsay Guentzel (19:12):

And I imagine that the benefits go both ways that adults who take on this idea of rich talk and changing the relationship between them and the children in their life, it goes both ways.

Rebecca Rolland (19:25):

Exactly. When children feel like they are safe and they’re able to communicate, it’s actually so much more interesting to be with them. I think that’s one thing that we often miss. So they actually are able to express themselves, they’re able to question more. And for me, I found that my own kids ask so many more interesting and in depth questions when they feel like they’re in a place where they can do that safely.

Lindsay Guentzel (19:46):

So let’s talk about the conversations parents should be having with their children as they get ready to go back to school or they’re in the first couple of weeks of school and they’re in the midst of this new routine. And it can be really overwhelming and at the same time they have new adults in their lives. And so this is really probably a crucial time for parents to be setting a standard of expectation.

Rebecca Rolland (20:09):

Definitely. So I think especially the fact of knowing there’s new routines, knowing there’s new expectations, being proactive about that is key, otherwise, especially for kids who are neurodivergent, we can sometimes slip into habits that we don’t like or that kids don’t like and then it’s a real struggle to figure out how to undo those.

Rebecca Rolland (20:29):

So if you could have these conversations upfront and actually develop these routines explicitly, and especially help kids buy into them and actually create them in part, you’re going a long way to being proactive in helping them have a good start to the year.

Lindsay Guentzel (20:43):

One thing that I as an adult have come to terms with is that I wish I had been nicer as a child. I wish I had been more inclusive. Again, you don’t know what you don’t know and you don’t know the ramifications of your actions. And the unfortunate reality is that probably almost all of us are the villain in someone’s story, whether we know about it or not.

Lindsay Guentzel (21:05):

But there are conversations parents should be having with their children as they’re going back to school about inclusivity and there’s a chapter in your book that talks about that. And for a lot of people like myself who have ADHD, it’s not necessarily something that is so loud and out there that people would know, oh, make an extra effort with Lindsay, she needs to know that she’s a part of the group, or things like that. And so those conversations start at home and the examples start at home.

Rebecca Rolland (21:35):

Definitely. And I think it’s so important. I think kids with ADHD and even those without ADHD really need to understand not just how to understand learning differences, but how to celebrate them and really how to say, “It’s actually a benefit to us as a classroom, as a family, as a community that we have differences.”

Rebecca Rolland (21:54):

So I really talk about learning, for example, like a kaleidoscope. There’s so many different patterns. When you turn the kaleidoscope, there’s all these different ways to look at it and all of those have value and interest. So if the kaleidoscope never changed and it was always the same, it would be very boring to look at.

Rebecca Rolland (22:11):

So I talk about learning and thinking differences almost in that way because it really helps us see there’s beauty to the fact that we all approach these things differently.

Lindsay Guentzel (22:19):

And is there a way parents and adults should be starting these conversations? Is it best to just have it come up naturally? Is it something that you start setting a certain time every day? I imagine it’s obviously different for each family, but how do you start getting into the routine of having these conversations and making sure that little Joey is actually listening to you and not playing a video game or something like that? Because I mean, I’m terrible at checking my phone during a very important conversation and missing a lot of details.

Rebecca Rolland (22:51):

For sure. And I think one way to do this is to set up routines and rituals that work for you, not so you’re having a chance to lecture at your child, but so you’re really able to ask each other and answer questions that allow you to have these conversations.

Rebecca Rolland (23:06):

So one of those, for example, that I found helpful is to talk about mistakes. So in my house for some time we would all talk at dinner about one thing we did that we felt was a mistake, why it might have happened, and then what we could do next time to possibly avoid it.

Rebecca Rolland (23:21):

And we took a really humorous approach. So it was even things like one time my husband pushed the up button instead of the down button on the elevator, so he had to go up 20 floors, 20 flights and then had to wait all the way down to get back down.

Rebecca Rolland (23:34):

And so this kind of thing shows, I think it helps kids connect with us realizing that, okay, we’re all making these mistakes. Sometimes they’re big and serious, but sometimes they’re not. We can take a chance to laugh at ourselves and to recognize, okay, we can do something positive to help in the future.

Rebecca Rolland (23:50):

I think especially for learning differences, also talking about what’s something that was hard for me to learn today, what was something that was easy for me to learn today. And for all of us to do this and to analyze ourselves as people and learners really can make us seem more humble for our children and help us have these conversations more easily.

Lindsay Guentzel (24:09):

I love that you mentioned the mistakes, because I know one thing for me, even now, even knowing about my ADHD, owning mistakes. I’m owning it in my head over and over again all day. But I go back to things, especially with my mom now. I’m very open, I own everything I did as a kid, good, bad, and ugly. And she’s like, “How did you not tell me that?” And I was like, “That was a part of the ADHD. It was all just sitting inside.” And so I love the emphasis you’re putting on, it’s taking the curtain back and revealing the man behind it. We’re humans, parents make mistakes.

Rebecca Rolland (24:45):

Exactly. We’re also messing up. Exactly.

Lindsay Guentzel (24:47):

Yeah. Something they’ll learn as they become an adult, but also, it’s great to acknowledge mistakes happen and we can learn from them and also, this is a safe space for you to share some of those things.

Rebecca Rolland (24:58):

Exactly. And I think also to take an optimistic perspective of, okay, it happened, we all see it, we’re all able to witness that, but we can also help strategize and help each other strategize for the next time. So it’s to say, “You’re not alone with your mistake. We’re going to help. You can even maybe help me once in a while to offer some suggestions, how do I fix my mistake?” And I do think having that more open conversation sets a nice tone.

Lindsay Guentzel (25:21):

You’ve touched on this a little bit, but I would love it if you could dive into how rich talk in your own house with your own children, how it then … the trickle down effect. So do children then start communicating differently with other children in class, with other adults? How does it get passed along?

Rebecca Rolland (25:41):

I think that’s a really great question. I can even tell you a story of, recently, something that happened in my house, which is just that my daughter and I, we would always often plan fun things for each other, leave each other notes and have this kind of communication where we felt like, okay, one of us feels down, write a note saying, “Oh, I hope you feel better.”

Rebecca Rolland (26:01):

And recently my son is actually starting school late just because his school starts later, my daughter’s school starts earlier, and he was feeling very down about it because he wanted to start school too. So he has this week where there’s not much going on.

Rebecca Rolland (26:16):

And so my daughter and I were talking about this. And they’re five years apart, so he’s only five and she’s 10. And she said, “Oh, I do think he’s having a hard time. He seems like he’s acting out a little.” And I was like, “Yeah. Well, I think he’s feeling really sad that he doesn’t get to go to school yet. His school isn’t starting.”

Rebecca Rolland (26:34):

And we started thinking about, I wonder how we could make him feel better? And she had this idea from something she had watched on TV and she thought, oh, I wonder if I made him a funny bag every morning, like art day for Monday, science day for Tuesday, and I could make a video for him.

Rebecca Rolland (26:49):

And so she’s actually doing that this week where every day … Today’s art day, and so she put in some Silly String and chalk and other things in a bag. And the night before she actually made him a video on our cell phone, saying, “Hi, tomorrow’s art day and you’re going to get to put Silly String on your dad and things like that.”

Rebecca Rolland (27:07):

And he is so funny and he just has watched it over and over and it’s really brought a joy to his day. I think because she’s in a good place that she has school and because we’ve had a lot of these talks about empathy, not necessarily always using that word, but she’s feeling like, okay, I can extend this to my brother too, which has been really fun to see.

Lindsay Guentzel (27:29):

Oh gosh, that just warms my heart and I love … At that age, you don’t know what the word empathy means-

Rebecca Rolland (27:35):


Lindsay Guentzel (27:36):

… but you know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of it. And I think it’s just so wonderful to be nurturing that because I think it’s something that … I mean, I look back and I hope it’s changed, but the nice kids weren’t always the cool kids.

Rebecca Rolland (27:50):

For sure.

Lindsay Guentzel (27:50):

They weren’t the ones that people were getting really excited about. The hierarchy of school is difficult. And it’s like, I bet as a parent there’s nothing better than having a teacher or another adult say, “Your child is very nice, and they think of others.” And it’s like, “Yes, that’s what we need.”

Rebecca Rolland (28:12):

Exactly. Yes. And I definitely would add that my children, certainly being five years apart, that’s not something that happens a hundred percent of the time. So I do note that because that was a bright moment. But definitely, we face the same things as most other families I’m sure with that back and forth and figuring out how to manage conflict and the squabbling and things like that. So I’d say it’s always a process.

Lindsay Guentzel (28:37):

I love that we’re having this conversation. I actually coach for a nonprofit that works with girls in the ages of third through fifth grade. And last season the spring was my first season. And it’s 40 young girls and a bunch of adults and everyone last season was a parent except for me.

Lindsay Guentzel (28:57):

And there was one afternoon where I was running with a young girl and we’re running and we’re talking and she turns and looks at me and she goes, “So whose kid is yours?” And I was like, “Oh, I don’t have a kid.” And she was like, “Then why are you here?” And I was like, “I don’t know how to explain. I wanted to be involved.” It’s that awkward question like, “Well, why did you want to volunteer?” And you’re like, “Because I’m a good person. I don’t know.”

Lindsay Guentzel (29:19):

But it has felt like a really great opportunity for me to make sure that some of the things that I know I struggled with as a younger person, that I can help break some of that.

Lindsay Guentzel (29:32):

And so I think going in confidently and just realizing, one, I’m not going to connect with every girl on the team, that’s just not how it’s going to work, but it’s not like speaking a different language as I think some people might think it is. I love when adults are like, “Oh, I’m just not good with kids.” And I was like, “What does that mean?”

Rebecca Rolland (29:55):

And I think that so much of it is the sense that we need to be a certain kind of person for kids. And I think what’s so important to realize is that kids really want us to be more of ourselves often. So really just letting a child know, how are you doing today? If you’re not doing great, let the child know that. This is within reason obviously. But to really be yourself and to rely on your actual strengths and your curiosities I think is so important.

Lindsay Guentzel (30:19):

What else should we be talking about, not just with back to school, but as the school year’s going on and as children are getting older and changing the way we handle things? How are parents constantly evolving to match what their child needs, especially when it comes to communication?

Rebecca Rolland (30:39):

I think that’s a great question, especially these days I would say when kids are often going back to school after maybe being partly online, et cetera. And there’s a lot of challenges I would say especially around technology. I’ve seen a lot of concerns about, well, how much can I use screens? How much are we battling about that?

Rebecca Rolland (30:57):

And one thing I think about especially is this idea of the A, being adaptive, which I talk a lot about in the book. But especially when we talk about screen time, I think it’s so important to adapt and realize that all screen time, for example, isn’t created equal.

Rebecca Rolland (31:12):

So I really try to emphasize, let’s focus less on is my child on a screen or not on a screen and more on, well, what are they doing there? Is it active? Are they engaging with people? Are they able to be creative? And how can I help them be more creative and active in their screen time use?

Rebecca Rolland (31:29):

So evolving from a perspective of black and white, bad or good, screens or none, and thinking about, well, let’s move with what’s engaging and interesting to my child and helping them get there.

Lindsay Guentzel (31:41):

I’m wondering how you address new adults in a child’s life. For example, there have been a lot of conversations in the last few years about autonomy, especially with children and going into scenarios with adults who they don’t know.

Lindsay Guentzel (31:56):

How do you have those conversations with your child about communicating at home in a safe space, but obviously you’re going to go somewhere and there’s a difference between falling in line with how we speak to one another at home and being very open and honest? They might find themselves someplace where they don’t feel comfortable.

Lindsay Guentzel (32:20):

I think sometimes for kids it’s very black or white. They don’t know that there’s a middle ground of gray area and they get to decide who they want to share those things with.

Rebecca Rolland (32:31):

Definitely. So I think having those conversations can start at home and really create the foundation. And actually when you talk about conversations explicitly, you’re setting that foundation, what are the things we do at home? What are the ways we talk at home?

Rebecca Rolland (32:45):

Let’s talk about how that’s different from the ways things are happening at school. Let’s talk about, is it a question of say your teacher, is she strict or is she just more emphasizing cleanliness? Do you feel like it’s a mean thing or do you feel like it’s just she has a different tone than I do, for example?

Rebecca Rolland (33:03):

So actually trying to understand with your child, what are the differences in the cultures of each place, can really go a long way to helping your child feel comfortable in both of the places.

Lindsay Guentzel (33:14):

And I know you touched on, it’s important for the parents to know when they’re at their best and when they’re connecting with their child and that’s probably going to change every single day. It’s the outdated trope, kids come home from school and mom’s waiting there and she’s like, “How was your day?” And the kids just grumble and move on. And it’s like, yeah, they did that, that was actually a thing.

Rebecca Rolland (33:37):

Right. Right.

Lindsay Guentzel (33:38):

I think especially for people who are neurodivergent, you don’t think about the over stimulation. And kids don’t know that they need to say, “I need 10 minutes. I need to not be talked at or asked things of, and all of those things.” And so it’s just so important to be present and keep trying.

Rebecca Rolland (33:58):

And I definitely think that space is so important. So especially for kids who are neurodivergent to recognize that we as adults, we get home, we immediately want answers, how was the day? What happened? Who were you with? What was the most fun? And we’re doing that with the best of intentions, we want to connect, but sometimes those conversations and those questions feel just like more probing than your child can handle at that moment.

Rebecca Rolland (34:23):

So sometimes I do actually think about, well, let everyone settle in. Let everyone do what is the comforting thing for them to do when they get home. Maybe it’s making a snack. Maybe it’s turning on some music. Maybe it’s taking a five minute walk. Whatever it is to settle in from the day can often set such a different foundation for having a conversation and not feeling like, oh, I have to get all those answers immediately.

Rebecca Rolland (34:47):

And sometimes often I’ve seen that kids want to talk about something that feels really random at the end of the day. They’ll say, “Oh, I had peanut butter with cheese,” or something like that, completely random. And just to let them do that, that can often lead to some of the, quote-unquote, “answers” that we want.

Lindsay Guentzel (35:05):

Rebecca Rolland is my guest today. We’re talking about The Art of Talking with Children. It’s her book that basically it helps set up adults to have better conversations and then better relationships with the children in their lives.

Lindsay Guentzel (35:18):

And I know that it has been reprinted in different languages, and so I’m curious what you’re talking about with rich talk, how it can cross over into different cultures because obviously how we communicate in different cultures is different, but the art of communication is still very much the same.

Rebecca Rolland (35:37):

Definitely. And so I think that’s what I love about talking with people from all over the world is that I do see these differences in communication. And we can validate them as being so important to recognize, well, what are your strengths within your own community? And that’s why I love this ABC framework because the A for adaptive really does allow you to tailor it to your family culture, or your classroom culture, your national culture of we don’t do that in this culture.

Rebecca Rolland (36:05):

And I definitely emphasize in my book to be humble and recognize that I don’t ever present strategies that, for example, everyone should do it this way because I recognize that in some families and some cultures that would seem odd, that would seem inappropriate, that would seem frustrating, et cetera. And so I think it’s so important to take what I’m suggesting and what other people suggest and tailor it to what actually seems to fit within your lives.

Lindsay Guentzel (36:32):

I’m interested to know in the research that you’ve done and the conversations you’ve had with people across the world, was there anything that stood out as like, “Oh,” or one of those things where you’re like, “That’s so cool.”

Lindsay Guentzel (36:42):

I envision when we were very young and in school and you’d have the graphics of the different cultures up on the wall and they would explain how they celebrate certain holidays and things like that. And so it’s like you just don’t think that people do things differently than you until you get outside your bubble.

Rebecca Rolland (37:00):

Exactly. And I think for me, there have been a couple things. I’d say one, I’ve talked to some really interesting researchers from Australia especially who focused on what they call emotional reminiscing, so really talking about painful experiences in a way that helps kids process them. And that’s something that there’s research in the US too, but something they’ve really developed over there especially.

Rebecca Rolland (37:22):

And it’s shown to be actually so helpful for children’s mental health, for their wellbeing and so on, if you can actually rehearse and talk over things that happened that didn’t go well in a child’s life and help them realize the strength that they had.

Rebecca Rolland (37:35):

So for me, that was really cool to feel like, oh, even things like your child got really scared of a doctor, when you would actually talk about that and you’re open with that, that can be something that’s so powerful as a learning experience for your child.

Lindsay Guentzel (37:47):

So where should parents or adults begin? If they listen to this, they get the book, they read it or they listen to it, and they start to implement some of the rich talk into their own lives, is there a perfect starting point or how do you suggest that they move forward?

Rebecca Rolland (38:05):

So I would say really just try almost seeing it as an experiment. Try just a couple of times. Take five minutes a day, maybe twice a day and see if you can try out some of the strategies that I mention in the book. Try some of the conversation starters, see what happens.

Rebecca Rolland (38:20):

And actually ask your child, what did you like about that, or what did you not like about that? And use it as a jumping off point. See if anything changes in your dynamics after the fact, maybe immediately after the fact or even in the day afterwards and just notice.

Rebecca Rolland (38:36):

Oftentimes I found that parents tell me when they start these kind of conversation starters or they start these kind of openers, kids actually ask for them afterwards. So there’s actually starting a routine that kids are really engaged by. So you don’t necessarily have to feel like, oh, I’m going to do this every day, just try jump starting it and seeing what happens.

Lindsay Guentzel (38:55):

I’m wondering, and this I guess would be more for the adults who have children in their life or parents who live separately, how technology plays a role in that because it’s not just phone calls any longer. We have Zoom and we have FaceTime and it’s much more interactive, but it can be different for people and there’s obviously the different age demographics. And so how should someone take tech into consideration when building those relationships?

Rebecca Rolland (39:27):

Well, a lot of the research does show that tech can actually be useful and helpful, especially if kids already have existing in-person relationships. So really tech is just magnifying whatever’s happening in person. So if your relationship with your child is already positive and warm and you also have a tech component because you have to go away or you can’t be there all the time, that can be a really helpful addition.

Rebecca Rolland (39:49):

So I don’t think virtual relationships can replace in-person relationships. There’s a lot to actually being in person and this embodied sense where you can actually physically be with someone. But if that’s not always possible, then yes, definitely technology is the next best thing and is much better than nothing oftentimes. So I really do emphasize using technology to our benefit when we can.

Lindsay Guentzel (40:12):

And I don’t want to push you to jump ahead by any means of imagination, but the book is out, it’s being republished in different languages and being spread across the world. So when you look at what you’ve discovered already and what you’re sharing, what comes next?

Rebecca Rolland (40:30):

That’s a great question. So I have a couple of ideas that I’m working on and actually one of them is something for kids, a book for kids, thinking about how they can have these kind of conversations with parents and with adults. So flipping it on its head. That’s something I’m really interested in, is how to help kids directly writing a book for them.

Lindsay Guentzel (40:50):

That’s awesome. Well, Rebecca, it was such a pleasure. Please tell me where people can find the book.

Rebecca Rolland (40:56):

Great. Well, thanks so much for having me. This was wonderful. People can find the book on my website. So it’s just rebeccarolland.com with two Cs and two Ls. Or they can also go to Amazon or HarperCollins and find it there as well.

Lindsay Guentzel (41:08):

And I will have all of the links in the show note as well, so you can check that out. Thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.

Rebecca Rolland (41:14):

Oh, thank you. I appreciate you having me.

Lindsay Guentzel (41:22):

You might meet your forever friends in high school. There’s really no way to say for certain. You may find them in college or at your first job, and it is entirely possible you know them already. And the unfortunate reality is as you grow and change and learn, so will your friendships.

Lindsay Guentzel (41:44):

And then there will be a day when you are older where you will realize that we all have played the villain in someone else’s story. At some point we are the bad guy, the mean girl, whether we know the magnitude of our role or not. Don’t let that time be in high school. Don’t fall into the trap that’s been set by the generations that came before you.

Lindsay Guentzel (42:07):

We’re sorry about that. We didn’t know any better, but we do now. And I think a lot of us, when we think back on high school, our regret is simple, we wish we had been a little bit more kind to others, yes, but also to ourselves.

Lindsay Guentzel (42:48):

Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel is a collaboration between me, Lindsay Guentzel and ADHD Online, a telemedicine healthcare leader offering affordable and accessible ADHD assessments, medication management and teletherapy. You can find out more by visiting adhdonline.com.

Lindsay Guentzel (43:08):

The show’s music was created by Louis Inglis, a songwriter and composer based out of Perth, Australia, who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020 at the age of 39.

Lindsay Guentzel (43:20):

Remember to subscribe, rate, and review wherever you’re listening now. Give us a follow on social media and join us next week for another episode of Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel.

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