Dr. Kathy Koch: Let’s give grace. Let’s give favor to our kids. These are hard times. We need to be full of grace. We need to give space, emotional space, physical space. It’s okay for you to take a time out and go to your room sometimes.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: A really good insight from Dr. Kathy Koch today. And you’re going to hear more from her as we try to encourage and support your family during this rather unprecedented season of sheltering-at-home during the coronavirus situation. She’s our guest on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I always love the practical wisdom and insights that Kathy offers especially when it comes to that important relationship between a parent and child. We’re all moving so fast typically. You know, one of the things I’ve realized pulling back the pace of life, just how wonderful it is to be with your family. I’ve really enjoyed it. It hasn’t come without strain. There’s, you know, this natural ebb and flow that we’ve got going in the family where we’re together for a little while, then we all kind of just migrate to different areas of the house, take a break, look at emails, et cetera. But it’s been really good. And I’m looking forward to hearing from Kathy about additional ways we can cope. And I think it’s going to help you as well. We’re aware that families are feeling the stress. I mean, that’s part of it right now. We’re spending more time together than perhaps ever before. And we’re learning how to love one another, be with each other. And as Kathy said in that opening, give grace to each other.
John: And that’s why we wanted to connect with Dr. Kathy Koch today. She’s an author, a speaker. She’s a writer, and she’s been doing a lot of Facebook live videos to offer hope to parents. We’re going to capitalize on that today for this broadcast. Kathy is the founder and president of Celebrate Kids. And the concepts we are going to be hearing about today are from her book, Five to Thrive: How to Determine If Your Core Needs Are Being Met (and What to Do When They’re Not). We’ve got the book and other resources at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Dr. Kathy, welcome back to Focus.
Kathy: Thank you so much, Jim. It’s a delight to be here as always.
Jim: Now you’re joining us from Fort Worth, Texas, where you live. In your home office, I guess. And then John and I are in different studios. So, we’re all practicing the social distancing, which I think both you and I prefer the term “physical distancing.” Right?
Kathy: Absolutely. My pastor has actually challenged us to strengthen our social ties during this unique time which I think is totally possible even though we can’t be in the same room with as many people as we would prefer.
Jim: What are you hearing from people, those that you counsel, albeit from a distance now, but what are some of the stresses you’re hearing?
Kathy: Yeah. You know, new and confusing. Even adults have never experienced this, so they feel like they’re novices trying to guide children. And I’m trying to say to them, “It’s OK to learn together. It’s a great opportunity for children to see you humble yourself and reach out for support and to even call your dad for input and advice. What a wonderful thing for your sons and daughters to see you still living under the authority of a parent.” So, we can – we’ve got to look at the positive side of things that we can learn through this unique time even though it’s – it absolutely is challenging just because it’s different.
Jim: Oh, it is. You’ve identified four things that families need to do to survive and hopefully thrive. What are these four in the current context of sheltering-at-home?
Kathy: Right. Thanks for asking. We need to grieve what isn’t. We need to accept what is. We need to reject the lies. And we need to work on what we can.
Jim: OK. Let’s go through those – grieve what isn’t. I struggle with this one. I think it may be my background, John. I don’t know about you. But for me, grieve what isn’t – that seems like a, you know, a lot of time to do something that – that we don’t need to do.
John: Kind of an emotional waste, if you will.
Jim: (Laughter) Well, and I’m sorry. I don’t know if that’s a gender thing or family of origin thing but straighten me out, Kathy. Why should I take time to think about that?
Kathy: First of all, I love how honest and transparent and vulnerable you guys are.
Kathy: There are men listening and saying, “Yes!” And there are women listening who have just been affirmed as well. You know, many of us would rather stuff the loss. We’d rather just go on our happy, you know, walk through the daisy, look at the butterfly life. And yet, we’re gonna pay a price for that. I think if we don’t honestly embrace the reality of our circumstances. And if we don’t, as parents and grandparents admit that this could be hard for us, our children will have a harder time coming to us to admit that they’re struggling.
Kathy: And we need to be honest and observe that they are observing real loss. And you can grieve the loss of a soccer season, a prom, a band concert, a teacher who you have gotten along with really well all year.
Jim: Yeah. You know, I think moms and dads both share this when it comes to their children. We want to fix their problems. I know husbands tend to have that in their relationships with their wives. You know, they’re not connecting necessarily emotionally, but I’ll fix it. Just tell me what the problem is, and I’ll give you the three steps you need to take. When it comes to parenting, again, I think both moms and dads hear the sadness or the issue with their kids and they want to make it more comfortable. Why should we not jump to that conclusion so quickly and let our children process sadness and loss for a bit longer than we might be willing to let them?
Kathy: When children feel like projects you’re trying to finish and problems you’re trying to solve, we lose some authority. They don’t want to feel broken. They want to be seen and known and acknowledged and not invisible. And I believe that when we feel their pain before we try to fix their problem, we have increased authority…
Kathy: …And increased possibility to be the one they will turn to in a time of need.
Kathy: And it can be awkward because we don’t want our kids to hurt. And you know what, Jim? This is a season when we can learn a lot about suffering. And I’m not implying that everyone is suffering. As you were saying earlier, there can be some joy in being connected to your family. There can be some delight in not having to run around and rush to everything all day long. So, it’s okay if you’re not feeling as much grief as your neighbor. This is a personal thing. But what about the Scripture that teaches us that when we walk through the valleys, we grow up and our faith deepens, and our character matures?
Kathy: This is an opportunity to do that with and for our children. And if we try to make them stuff their grief and their sadness and their pain and just acknowledge, hey, you can get over it, then maybe they won’t experience what they could experience through this season in life.
Jim: Well, and again, it can be a lot of different things in this environment. But talk to your kids. That’s the point you’re making. I totally agree. Don’t bail them out. But let them know what reality is. I think that’s a great, great thing. All right. Your second step is accept what is. And you say we adults have the power to model this for our children. And I know what you mean by this. But give us practical examples or an example of what you’re talking about.
Kathy: Yeah, this can be so challenging because, you know, kids aren’t necessarily going to get over things as quickly as we want. So maybe they’ve already missed three soccer games and you wish that they would just stop talking about it. But again, they say, “Hey, today would have been soccer day.” And this is when, again, we allow them to grieve longer than we would have grieved. And we hug them and love them and let them talk about it. Let them wear their soccer outfit that day. And then at some point, age-appropriately, we say, “You know, son, you’ll play soccer again someday.” So, I think part of accepting what is is recognizing – again, allowing them to grieve, allowing them to step into that space. And then communicating that positive, optimistic perspective that parents ought to have, where we begin to turn those conversations toward the things that are going well. Maybe we say, “Hey, but – but…” Yeah – or we don’t say “but” because that’s damaging. But we say, “You know. Yes. It would have been soccer. Today instead, let’s do this…”
Jim: Oh, interesting. Yeah.
Kathy: …And lets show them that there is something that is still going on that is good.
Jim: You know, an example of that, last night we were in the basement. Jean was on the phone with a relative. And so, we were in the basement playing (laughing) sock baseball. And, you know, we had this big old rubber Excalibur sword that one of the boys probably got when they were seven or eight years old. So, we pull it out of the toybox, and we have this sock and we’re playing baseball whacking this thing all over. And we were howling. Trent, Troy and I. I mean, it was kind of the most fun we’ve had in recent years. And I remember coming up from the basement last night, I just said, “Jean, we – the boys and I should have been doing more of this.” And I regret that we didn’t take more time to do this. Those are the kinds of things you’re talking about. Things that are happening now that maybe we should have spent more time doing in years past with our kids.
Kathy: Right. And for legitimate reasons, maybe you weren’t able to. You know, moms and dads who travel. You know, the stress that we’re under to protect and provide for our kids, all of that is legit. We can again grieve that. But it won’t – won’t it be interesting to see what the new normal is after this. I don’t think everyone will go back to what it was. I think – I hope that we take into our new season after the quarantine is lifted, something that we gain from this. Including prioritizing fun and games and wrestling with our kids. You know, when we play with our kids and explore with our kids and read with our kids, they benefit. And so, do we. There’s a connection from the heart to the head. There’s feelings and thoughts that merge. There’s vulnerable conversations that take place when we’re playing games that might not have taken place when we interrogate our kids at the kitchen table. (Laughter)
Jim: Maybe about their homework and other things. Hey, Kathy…
Jim: …You know, we’ve talked about those positive things, but what you also mentioned is that right now we need a lot of grace in our homes. And I think we’re hearing here at Focus where, you know, that’s becoming a little more difficult because there’s stressors. Especially children that have been going to school. Now they’re in a situation where they’re at home schooling. I don’t think it’s quite homeschooling the way we know it. But a lot of schools are doing online things. Assigning homework and having it returned via computer, et cetera. So, it’s just different. But I know some parents at least that we’re hearing from, it’s stressing them out because maybe the kids aren’t getting the homework done or they’re – it’s kind of this quasi, spring break, summertime slash school time that nobody is familiar with. And – and both parents and kids are tripping over this because how much of the day do I commit to school? Used to be six, seven hours if I go to school. Now, it’s maybe three or four hours, but I’m not even getting the work done. And then mom and dad are going, “How can you not get the work done? You need a better grade. Come on. Let’s go.” Explain that kind of environment. What we’re facing …
Kathy: Oh, my goodness.
Jim: …And why we need grace. (Laughter)
Kathy: Yeah, it’s – it’s so messy. I had one of my friends counted up and her children were reporting to 20 different teachers. And so, there’s, you know, different policies and different times to get on the devices with the chat room and the whatever. And, you know, I think most teachers who sent assignments home did the very best they knew how to do to predict how long something would take for a child to do separated from the peer group and the teacher, you know, walking in around the room to make sure the kids are staying focused. This is a challenging time and parents don’t understand Common Core math and any other number of things. And so, schooling at home is very different from homeschooling. Absolutely. And we can do it. We absolutely can. And we can give grace and we can say, “You know what? If you finish, I’m happy.” You know, it’s not going to be grades the same. It’s not going to be necessarily excellence the same. I do think that if kids complain about, you know, they don’t have time to play, then you look them in the eye and you say, “Then be more efficient with your work because you are taking longer than you really need to and you can own this. Get up out of bed and go and sit in front of your device and get it finished.” And yet, I respect that they’re distracted by everything around them and the baby sister and dad’s home. And, you know, dad’s stressed because he’s trying to work from home and his time sheets ridiculous because he’s interrupted every seven and a half minutes, you know, by something. And so, it’s hard. And this is why, you know, a friend of mine goes into the master bedroom closet, closes the door and has hidden in there a bag of M&Ms.
Kathy: So, she takes a time out rather than giving her kids a timeout …
Jim: A little comfort food.
Kathy: … And as long as she knows her kids are safe, I think that’s smart.
John: As long as you know the M&M’s are safe, I think that’s smart.
John: This is Focus on the Family with Dr. Kathy Koch and your host is Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. We’re so glad to have you along with us for this special broadcast as we kind of unpack how you can do your family better during these stressful times. The Covid-19 coronavirus situation has us all on edge and Focus is here for you. We have counselors. We have great resources. Give us a call if we can be of service. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And then stop by our website to get a copy of Kathy’s book, Five to Thrive: How to Determine If Your Core Needs Are Being Met (and What to Do When They’re Not). That’s available right now at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And Kathy as we talk about, you know, accepting what is. You’ve talked about grieving what isn’t and now accepting what is. It’s really important for us as parents to help our kids navigate those disappointments. You’ve touched on this earlier. How do I help my kids navigate my own disappointments about maybe the stress I’m feeling of them being in the house all the time? There’s no relief and I’m running to the closet for M&M’s again.
Kathy: Yes. We certainly need to be careful of what we allow our kids to overhear. I think that’s very important. If we’re talking to a friend, a colleague, our own mom or a sister and we say, “Yeah, we’re stuck at home.” What a negative connotation for a child to hear that we’re stuck at home. For us to say in their presence that we miss our, you know, coffee and donut run in the morning. You have a right to miss those things. And this is why you need to grieve well, and you need to accept that this is a season. It will not last forever. If we do think our kids have overheard us being stressed or negative, maybe to have a conversation that, “Hey, I trust God. It doesn’t mean that I don’t trust that God’s on the throne. And He’s not surprised by this. However, I am surprised and concerned and I’m kind of behaving like Job. And I have a lot of questions and God understands that. And son, if you overheard me say something negative, it’s not about you.” I think maybe some of us need to apologize. Maybe we need to sit down and be willing to have a conversation and make sure that they understand that daddy will go back to work someday. Mom will go back to work someday. You will go back to school someday. Or maybe we’re going to choose to homeschool because it actually is working out better than we thought.
Jim: Hey, Kathy, moving to number three, which you entitled, reject the lies. What kind of lies are you talking about? Is that the news or are you talking about something deeper?
Kathy: That’s fabulous! It could be the news.
Kathy: You know what sources are using to get, quote unquote, news from? That’s a very good question because I think that there is deception out there for us to be alert to. We’re not stupid people. Let’s make sure that we’re listening and watching it with – with a full set of eyes and ears, if you will. I think the main lie is, you know, you can’t do this.
Kathy: You can’t survive. You know, you can’t love this well. You can’t live together in this close proximity and not end up hating each other. This is a hard season. We have people living together who don’t necessarily like each, but we can do this. And it will end at some point and we will get our freedoms back. We cannot believe the lies that we’ll never recover from this because pessimism and discouragement on top of all else that’s going on is not – it’s not going to be good for us.
Jim: Yeah. Let me – let me punch this a little bit, because I see, you know, within extended family, et cetera. There is a lot of anxiety and a lot of fear especially if you’re watching the news and depending upon the news you’re watching. Certain personalities, certain people because of how they’re wired and their bent and maybe they don’t have a faith in Christ, or they don’t have something anchored in eternity – there’s a lot of fear and anxiety. People are stressing out and everything is, you know, the end of the world. And of course, plagues have come in and gone within human history. And even in the early church in Rome, there was a devastating plague where 5000 people a day were dying. The interesting thing in that context is the Christians ran into the neighborhoods that were plague infested to take care of those who were ill and dying. And many of them died as well. But speak to that bigger issue of just fear in the culture and has how we as Christians need to manage that for ourselves as parents and then with our kids. How do we model that?
Kathy: I think that we should be in the Word of God and our kids should see us in the Word of God as a source of strength. If we say that God is our strength, do we behave as if He is? And if we turn to Him in the Word, I – our – we will be encouraged, especially if we hang out in the right sections of the Word and you know, the right psalms. The psalms of lament and the psalms that about David where he was maybe a disappointment in a season but came back strong. I think that we need to pray, and we need to pray as if we believe that God hears us and is on our side. And when – and we need to make sure that our kids hear us pray for them and that we ask them the next day, you know, how they’re doing and if they’re still sad. We pray in the moment for them. You know, “Father God, would you help Jessica’s heart turn toward joy? Would you show her what is good today? Would you increase her optimism? Would you show her that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel?” They need to hear us pray for them. And we need to also acknowledge that it’s OK to be confused. I think it’s OK to say to kids who – “I’m sad you’re confused. I’m not upset you’re confused. I’m sad because confusion isn’t a pleasant feeling to have. And let me – let me walk with you toward what will be new.”
Jim: Well and understanding and what is understanding. And you know, I think even our children will have those questions – may not express them in quite the same way. “But if God is God, Mommy, why is this happening? Why would people die?” Those are questions you need to be ready to give an answer for, right?
Kathy: And it’s OK if the answer is, “I don’t know.”
Jim: Or, “I can’t explain it.”
Kathy: Or, “I can’t explain it.” And that’s what, you know – and I’m – part of me, Jim, is sad that children are learning at a young age…
Kathy: …About these kinds of things. And yet I keep coming back to the Scripture that absolutely teaches us that in trying times your character matures and your faith in the God of the Bible can deepen, if in fact, we turn to God and we do acknowledge that there’s goodness here. And one of the things that I think is a key – and it’s so fun isn’t it, to see people serving? Because we might not be able to control much right now, but we still can be a light in the darkness and life to those who are feeling death. We can still be joy. We can still be optimistic. We can still serve in unique ways. And that helps children feel like they are participating in something that is good.
Jim: In fact, I think this links into something you mentioned in the book about Ezekiel 34:26. What is that verse and why does it speak to this issue of rejecting the lies?
Kathy: Yeah. “God will send showers of blessing in their season.” I’ll praise God. He will send showers of blessings. And do we see them? Do – could we see that the snow you’ve had is a blessing?
Kathy: Are there kids now getting fresh air and sunshine and serving by – by shoveling and making snowmen and dad can help build a snowman? I mean, is there – is that a shower a blessing? Is the fact that you can get more sleep because you don’t have a two hour commute and you’re not as stressed because of it – could there be a blessing in that? Even though I respect that learning to work from home has been a legitimate challenge.
Jim: Yeah, that’s good. Your final step and we’re right here at the end, but we’ve got to cover all four. And the fourth one is do what you can. Now, that sounds self-evident, but you’re putting it in some context and give us those – kind of those preambles to that. Wishing it so won’t make it so. Complaining never changed anything except good attitudes into bad. I love those quips. But what do you mean by do what you can?
Kathy: Yeah, we can. We’re not hopeless. We’re not helpless. We can work on what we can do. We can learn to cook in a season. We can teach a son how to fix a leaking faucet. We can, um, choose joy. We really can.
Kathy: We can teach a child a piano scale. We can help an older sibling learn to change a diaper that we never had time and the patience to help with. So, we can work on some things. We can nurture ourselves with good books, with good food. And yes, we separate when necessary and we go to the closet with the M&Ms because we’re human and it can be really hard. Friends of mine bought new patio furniture. They had been wanting patio furniture for a while. They had never spent the money. And I love that the father/husband said, “Hey, this is the season for the new patio furniture.”
Kathy: And he expanded the square footage of his house by doing that. And now there’s a new space and a new place where they can go as a unit or one-on-one and get away and get alone with God. Absolutely.
Jim: I’m proud that I just painted a couple of rooms, so…
Jim: …Putting out a patio expansion – wow, that sounds pretty big. Hey, another thing. I really was proud of Trent, my son. He got online and Jean joined him. And they’re – they’re learning sign language together. Which, you know, they’re spending an hour or two day going through that online and then they’re talking to each other using sign language. Troy and I are completely in the dark…
Jim: …But it’s kind of fun to watch them pick up a new skill.
Kathy: See, I love that. And it’s okay, you know, Jim and John – it’s okay if people don’t feel terribly productive right now. We certainly don’t want to shame people into thinking, “Oh, I’m wasting my time. You know, because there’s all different ways that we deal with the depression that might be there, the fear that might be there. I do know that when we get our eyes off of ourselves and do what we can for others, it changes us and our perspective. And then going forward, we’re going to come out of this feeling better. I don’t want to look back and go, “Oh, my goodness, I regret all the time I wasted.” That would not be a good thing.
Jim: That’s so true. So true. A couple of last thoughts. One is, I love the idea of thinking about and doing a blessing with your children every night. What a wonderful thing to do. Elaborate on that.
Kathy: I would love for the last words our children hear us speak being the Words of God, if He were there with an audible voice. To put our kids to bed or to walk by the teenager’s room and say, “Hey, remember, you’re chosen. You’re adopted. You’re created in the image of God. You were created male on purpose with purpose. You’re a delight to my soul. I love that you’re a learner.” To know what the Scripture says about us and to make sure that they know that. And for children to hear us say it over them just establishes that at a really personal level that I think is rich. And what if we woke them up and the first words out of our mouths were positive, optimistic. “Welcome to another day in which you get to serve and glorify the Lord.” I mean, come on. It can change things. It absolutely can.
Jim: Yeah, that is so good. And what a great way for your children to have modeled for them to keep your focus on what’s important during this time. I mean, there’s a lot of fear again. I mean, there are people who are losing loved ones. There are people dying. And that’s in the news every night. I’m sure children of all ages are aware of something bad happening. And what a beautiful way to reinforce in them that God knows who they are. God loves them. And as you said, they’re made in His image and He will look after them. That’s a great way to start your day, end your day and punctuate it throughout the day, right?
Kathy: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Jim: Kathy, thank you so much for being with us. This has been so good. And I hope in your world – I know you’re doing a lot of online counseling. I’m assuming that. But I hope the Lord is taking care of you. Are you finding anything unique right now for yourself?
Kathy: Thank you for asking. We at Celebrate Kids are creating online courses. We’re creating study guides for books. We are looking at our product line – the way that we do minister hope and healing to people. And we are being creative. Like a lot of other people. I’m not sure I’ve ever been busier, even though all of my speaking events are canceled.
Kathy: I have never been home this long. I’m actually cooking meals and spending time with, you know, neighbors. I’m social distancing – physical distancing. It’s been an amazing season. We’re going to try to use it well to the glory of God that we come out of this with new ways to serve and to be a blessing to people.
Jim: No, it’s so good. And I’m hearing you clearly. Extend grace. Get connected like you’ve never been connected before and love each other the way the Lord intended. That’s what I’m taking away from our discussion today. Kathy, thank you so much for being with us. It’s always so good to talk with you.
Kathy: Thank you very much.
John: And we want to encourage you to get a copy of Kathy’s book, Five to Thrive: How to Determine If Your Core Needs Are Being Met (and What to Do When They’re Not). We have that available for you on our website. And we also have, of course, as we’ve mentioned, counseling services. A lot of great parenting activities. We have a special Covid-19 website, rich with activities for you to do with your kids. For you to connect better with your spouse. And if you’re struggling, a lot of hopeful articles there. All of it available when you stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. And we know that times are difficult for many of our audience members. We want to get this book to you. Just let us know if we can send it out to you. If you’re able to support the ministry of Focus on the Family with a gift of any amount that would be appreciated. And you can make that donation and request the book online or when you call that 800-A-FAMILY number. And just a reminder that we’ve got further details about Kathy and her unique ministry space. We’re going to link over to that from focusonthefamilly.com/broadcast. Well, on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.