Building Emotionally Healthy Teens Through Boundaries, Letting Go and Creating a Safe Container with Krissy Pozatek, MSW

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Building Emotionally Healthy Teens Through Boundaries, Letting Go and Creating a Safe Container with Krissy Pozatek, MSW
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ABOUT THE EPISODE:
"When parents are parents, kids can be kids" sounds easy right? Yet it's not easy to know how to be a parent who sets clear boundaries and creates a safe container for kids to grow, mature and feel all the feelings life throws at them in a healthy way. Luckily, Krissy Pozatek, MSW, joined me for an enlightening conversation on doing just that.

Krissy is the author of "The Parallel Process," a book all parents who have a child in treatment need to read, and is also a parent coach who offers an online program and online coaching sessions. With over 15 years of working with teens and young adults in a variety of therapeutic settings, Krissy offers so much insight during this conversation, including:

  • Why rules are actually freeing to your teen
  • The danger of smoothing the way for your teens and not allowing them to feel bored, sad, confused or angry
  • What parents need to do to help their child when they're struggling (probably not what you think)
  • How some kids will only learn from life and why it's important to let go of the reins
  • Why kids coming home from treatment programs can slip back into old behaviors if parents haven't cleaned up their skills
  • What enmeshment really means
  • Why things may get worse before they get better when parents change their actions
  • How all feelings are just information
  • What attunement is and why it's important
  • Why it's important for your teen to not be happy all the time

EPISODE RESOURCES:

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Brenda  01:32
Welcome friends, today I have Krissy Pozatek with me, she is an author and parent coach and brings over 15 years of experience in the adolescent treatment field and I asked her if she would join me on the podcast because her book, The Parallel Process is one that many wilderness programs have parents read while their child is out in the woods as part of the overall family learning process.
And for me, it was completely enlightening and instrumental in helping me recognize areas that I needed to work on in order to really help my son. But the conversation isn’t just applicable to parents who have kids in a treatment program. It is really beneficial to anyone who wants to understand how to create emotionally resilient kids who have, I would say overall less anxiety and who are able to learn how to navigate life on their own. 
Krissy started out in the therapeutic world as a wilderness instructor at Aspen achievement Academy, and she has also worked at Montana Academy, second nature and True North Wilderness, so she has seen a lot and she’s worked with hundreds of teens and young adults and their parents. And her clinical experience includes the treatment of things like adoption issues, trauma, self harming behavior, substance abuse, personality disorders, eating disorders, and overall family system problems. There’s probably nothing that she hasn’t seen and helped parents navigate through. And today Krissy works with the parents of struggling adolescents and young adults in her parent coaching practice, which is called the Parallel Process. And she started that in 2006. 
She’s also the author of three books, one that I mentioned The Parallel Process, Growing Alongside Your Adolescent or Young Adult Child in Treatment. So if you have a child in treatment right now, this is the book you want to get. And she has also written Brave Parenting, which is geared more towards parents of any kind, you don’t need to have a child in therapy. So that’s Brave Parenting, a Buddhist Inspired Guide to Raising Emotionally Resilient Children. And then a third book called Brave Teaching, Bringing Emotional Resiliency Skills From the Wilderness to the Classroom, so if you’re a teacher, that is something that you would want to check out. All right, well, I cannot wait for you to hear this conversation now with Krissy.
Brenda  04:12
Welcome, Krissy, I’m so excited to have you on the podcast today and to really tap into your knowledge. This is this is an area where you have spent a ton of time in research and in your own personal experience. So thank you so much for being on Hopestream with me today. 
Krissy Pozatek  04:30
Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
Brenda  04:33
Well, I’d love to start out my podcast episodes with just a little personal question to let people get to know you. I spend a lot of time talking with people have so many, you know, experience and degrees and it can seem a little impersonal. So I’d love to just get to know you. And my question for you is what did you have for breakfast this morning? 
Krissy Pozatek  04:51
Interesting. Lentils, if you must ask
Brenda  04:57
How do you how do you do lentils for breakfast? I’m a big lentil fan but I’ve never done them for breakfast 
Krissy Pozatek  05:06
This is a whole other conversation someday but it’s like a type of detox that I’ve been doing so it’s like eating basically a lot of soluble fiber. Which which beans are so, anyway, that’s a whole other…. 
Brenda  05:24
Yeah, It literally is. Well, that’s super cool. Yeah, I just I went plant based about a year and a half ago and I discovered lentils. I’d never had lentils before then. So I love hearing about that. So maybe you can start us out just talking a little bit about your background. I know you’ve spent quite a bit of time in the wilderness therapy arena, but also, you know, you’re an accomplished author and would just love to get some context for how you started out getting interested in in the field of sort of adolescent behavior and treatment and then how that led to you doing what you’re doing now? 
Krissy Pozatek  06:03
Yeah, absolutely, it was sort of a strange path. I was an Environmental Studies major at Middlebury College and was interested in, you know, some type of environmental work, whatever that meant. And, but nothing really appealed to me honestly, like being an environmental educator or, you know, environmental law or things like that. And I happen to go to a conference and find out about wilderness therapy. So that was sort of my, you know, first introduction to this whole field. And instantly I was like, sign me up, you know, and it was sort of my was my first job post college, and I drove cross country, worked in a program in Utah and started out working with actually adjudicated youth. So a court referred kids from western states to go into the wilderness which to me seemed totally revolutionary, right taking kids from the courts, putting them in the woods. And it was really amazing. 
And after I did that for a while switch to, you know, more, I guess they call them struggling teens, because it’s more sort of private pay or insurance based. And it was called more therapy, whereas previously was more case workers. And so I switched to this other program and started working and doing more wilderness therapy, and I, you know, saw just how transformative it was, and what an amazing, incredible process it is for kids and sort of was, you know, hooked in at that point. And so then I went back and got my master’s in social work and came back and worked as a therapist for many years in wilderness therapy, working with, you know, adolescent boys and girls and parents and young adults and, and really just saw that how transformative it was how much their lives changed, and at that point, I sort of realized I’d never go back to office therapy because you just have, you know, the kids, you know, you have them. 
And you have this incredible medium to make these immediate, amazing shifts and you sort of see the light come back in their eyes. And, you know, kids start to take ownership over their lives and re engage in, you know, much more healthy, productive manner. And it was just, you know, that that got me and I pretty much feel like I’ve been in that field ever since even though now I do parent coaching. I still feel like all my roots are in wilderness therapy. 
Brenda  08:31
Were you sort of an outdoorsy person? Was it that combination of working with the kids in the outdoors? Or was that new to you? I’m always curious just how people sort of latch on to that because it is kind of an extreme job. It’s at times, I would imagine if you’re out in the field. 
Krissy Pozatek  08:45
Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t say I grew up that much. I grew up in the suburbs of Massachusetts, but I are a Boston the Boston area. But I you know, I went to high school in New Hampshire and went to college in Vermont and I was more in you know, in the woods and doing more hiking, and I skied a lot, and you know, got exposed to winter camping and things like that, and client rock climbing and so yeah, I would say I fit that category of being an outdoor person for sure. I mean, it is it is grueling for sure being a wilderness staff. And I did that I was in the field for a little over a year. But then when you’re a therapist, you’re sort of going in and out of the field. And but it’s actually a really nice break truthfully, to go into the woods because you’re typically you don’t have cell service, you know, and, and it’s, you know, it’s calming, it’s extremely calming to the nervous system to just be outdoors, you know, it is highly therapeutic, just being in nature. And, you know, all of the to do and the craziness, and that’s why I think kids feel so at ease and relaxed and the nervous systems relax, and there’s more of an opening that just happens naturally in a wilderness setting. 
Brenda  09:55
yeah, I think that’s interesting because as parents, you know, when you when, if you do end up making the decision to send your child to wilderness therapy or wherever, at least for me, I, I just envisioned that it was going to be this sort of really, and it is hard, but I didn’t, I hadn’t really thought about the fact that my son would be experiencing all the wonderful things like he just said, like being in nature and having a relaxed schedule and, you know, not being glued to his phone. So I think sometimes as a parent, you miss the, like, all the great benefits that they’re going to experience because I don’t know, at least for me, there’s just a tendency to really focus on the negative and, you know, us is gonna be really hard and, and so even as acting as the therapist, you got to feel some of those benefits of, of just being outside 
Krissy Pozatek  10:43
100% and I think I mean, cuz now I do a lot of transition work. And I and I’m a parent coach, and I hear that kids miss wilderness because I mean, social media is stressful, right? I mean, kids lives today, so stressful. And I hear kids say, I wish I was in the woods. So I didn’t have to be on social media because you always have to be on top of everything, right? And then you always have to be, you know, it’s like the keeping up, and it’s the FOMO. You don’t want to miss out and and it is exhausting. And so there’s a, I think one of the, and just so just just just just just to share to everybody, you know, my whole template of my parent coaching comes from wilderness, right, what I learned in the wilderness. And what I think naturally happens in the wilderness is the adults are in charge, right? The staff are creating safety. They’re creating a safe container for the kids. So the kids can be kids. Right? And that’s kind of I try to emulate in the home, right? If the parents are the parents, the kids can be kids. And what does that mean? They can relax, they can play, they can have fun, right? But a lot of times when we’re the parent system, right, the parenting system is they’re losing their authority and they’re giving power to their kids. The kids aren’t kids anymore, right? The kid is in many adults, right? And then we think, Oh, I need to give them choice. I need to give them power. I need to right
They’re happy. And when we’re doing that we’re actually dissolving our parental authority. But we’re also creating anxiety for kids, because they don’t have the brain development, the prefrontal cortex, development, the maturation to have that level of power. And so that’s what I really saw in the wilderness is kids become kids, they get dirty. They just have fun. They laugh, they play games, right, which a lot of kids aren’t doing today. Right. So yeah, there’s so many positives that you know, if that was your impression that oh, no, all the negatives of wilderness. There’s so many positives, the kids are, I would say happy you start to see that light come back and that happiness and kids that, you know, we send pictures home and parents are like, that’s not my child. Like doesn’t even look like them. Maybe like, 8, right or 5 years, you know, and it’s it’s true that a child’s smile that you know, that you know, letting kids be kids. It’s that’s so important.
Brenda  13:00
I think you’re right. We’ve we forget these days. And I’m so curious, you know, I read your book when my son was a wilderness. And then I started really listening to the audio version of it just because you forget a lot. And there were some really great things that I had sort of forgotten along the way about us as parents really needing to, you know, set those boundaries for kids. I think parents have a hard time with that. And you’d given an example of some cows in a field with a fence. It just resonated so much with me. I don’t know if you wanted, can you just quickly like paraphrase what that is because it just made so much sense as a parent.
Krissy Pozatek  13:38
Absolutely. I actually got this from a fellow wilderness staff that I worked with, but he was used, he was a rancher, you know, he had different jobs, including working in the wilderness and for a period he was working on a ranch. And he said, well, the interesting thing is when you let the cows out to the pasture, the first thing they do is they check the fence. And so I sort of was asking him, why are the cows doing that. And he said, oh, they’re making sure it’s secure, they’re making sure this fence is secure. So no, like, predators can get in or that they, you know, they could get, you know, sneak out. And once they sort of put their body up against and test the whole fence around, they’ll come into the middle and eat the eat the fresh alfalfa, right? And because they feel safe, right, they can let their guard down and relax, and just enjoy pasture. And absolutely, that relates to kids, a lot of times what kids are doing is they’re testing, testing, testing, is the secure is the safe, and when what we saw over and over in the wilderness is that, you know, kids come and they test right? I don’t know if your your child did that. But kids run away. Sometimes they, you know, refuse to hike, or they make threats or that you know, they do all sorts of testing because they’re used to having the power. And then what happens is there’s this very compassionate response.
Krissy Pozatek  15:00
Totally okay to feel angry again. And we can go over this, like some of the parenting stuff that I teach, but it’s just letting kids have their feelings. totally okay to feel your feelings. But if you choose not to participate in the program, right, that’s your choice. But you know, just so you know, you won’t be moving forward, right? We’re just gonna sit tight here and you’re in the whatever every program is a little different. Some have like a level one or phase one. And, you know, and and so if, you know, if you refuse, we’ll just we’re just gonna sit tight here on phase one. And and so there’s accountability, right? There’s acknowledging their feelings and their process, but also holding them accountable. And what happens with that his kids realize I can’t manipulate the system, right? And they realize it’s secure. The only way for me to work within the system is to make an internal shift, right? If I if I shift my inner environment, right, if I adapt, and I work within the system, then you can move forward to phase two to phase three, right and eventually have phone calls with home but what happens is then they start to feel better and they start to build relationships with their peers, they start to become a leader and they start to open up. 
Krissy Pozatek  16:03
And it’s like this amazing process, but they have to test the system first. Right? And what they’re trying to do is to see, is it secure? Is it safe? And then they relax. And, you know, I give a lot of like metaphors in my coaching of like, you know, would you rather your child to go to a classroom where the teacher is in charge? And there’s rules in order? Or would you rather your child go to a classroom where the kids are in charge, and it’s more chaotic? Right? Well, I’d say 10 out of 10. parents would say a, right where the teachers in charge and there’s rules in order. Why is that? Because when the teacher is in charge, and there’s rules in order in the classroom, right, there’s routine there’s predictability, there’s safety, kids know what’s going to happen every day. So the kids come to class, they follow the routine, they follow the order. They follow the the, you know, the teachers instructions, and when they do that, their anxiety goes down because they’re relaxing. Know what going to happen. And in the other, you know, in the other setting where the kids are in charge, and it’s more chaotic, right? You don’t know what’s gonna happen every day. Right? You know, you don’t know what’s gonna happen. You’re more on edge, right? There’s more anxiety and, and also less available energy for learning, right? So if we go to a, there’s much more available energy for learning because the motions are relaxed. But in B, when you never know what’s really going to happen, you’re more tense, you’re on edge. 
Krissy Pozatek  17:30
So then I asked, well, what are American homes look like to look like a or b? Yeah, right. Most American homes, kids are in charge. And there’s, it’s more chaotic, right? It’s and so forget that when we have this loose, like, reduce parental authority. When we have a little more chaos in the home. It’s actually creating more anxiety for kids. And we don’t, you know, and that’s that paradox I really see is we have anxious kids, and so we backpedal and give them more choice. More freedom more say, Oh, you don’t have to go to soccer today or, or, you know, if you’re not feeling well, you know, we can skip school today, you know, so, but actually that creates more anxiety because it’s a bigger container, right versus a tighter, more pain feeling like when most of us feel anxious when we feel contained and sit and safe. Then we relax, right? And that’s exactly what the wilderness did.
Brenda  18:26
Wow, that’s amazing. And I wonder why. And I know you talk a little bit about it, like previous generations weren’t necessarily this way. And I’m so curious. It gets a little off topic. It’s probably a whole nother podcast but it’s so curious to know why that shift happened and why parents do feel today’s like we have to give so much power to our kids. And obviously this is an all parents because I know a lot of parents who haven’t done that. But in you would know better than me just as a general shift in society if we’ve gone that way, because as I have done the podcast, and to different educational consultants in particular, they they tell me they’re seeing a lot more anxiety and depression and sort of this failure to launch and, and that in kids than they did 10 or 20 years ago, where it tended to be a little bit more substance use and defiance. And I wonder if this sort of lack of parental not control but you know, like you said the boundaries and and that is causing some of that? 
Krissy Pozatek  19:26
I think so hundred percent i think this dissolving of authority because, again, I mean, I go back to like, really basic things and my coaching so like one basic thing I talked about is like, kids are minors till they’re 18. I mean, I guess every state’s a little different, I think with that, but there’s a reason why we have those laws because they don’t have brain, even their brains are developing, the prefrontal cortex is developing to like what 22-23 you know, which is kind of goes through college. And so if you think about it, you know, they’re protected by society to be children, right? They’re not adults yet, you know, and that’s actually a good thing right here like, like they can play, they can relate, right? You don’t need to be in the adult world, right? the adult world stressful the adult world is 24/seven responsibility, right? 
But seeing what kids want is, they want the best of both worlds, right? They want the freedom, but they don’t want the responsibility. So so they can push their parents freedoms. And then now kids that are like 22 living at home, right? They have the freedoms of saying I’m 18 I don’t have to follow your rules. And then they they don’t take the responsibility because they’re not paying for an apartment and they’re not paying for they’re not doing a job. Right. So there is this delayed maturation and yeah, I mean, so yeah, to answer your question, I realized I didn’t fully answer it is I think there is, you know, I think about how my parents raised me and I, there certainly were a lot of boundaries. There wasn’t a lot of focus on feelings in my family of origin. And so today, I think that parents are so focused on their child’s feelings, right? And I think probably I’m not that uncommon, right. So I think that now, you know, everyone probably went to therapy and realized, oh, I have all these feelings my parents never acknowledged. 
So we want to acknowledge our children’s feelings. But what happens is I don’t think we’re actually fully attuning. Today, I think we’re doing something similar to previous generations. And what I mean by that is attunement is two steps. So the first step of attunement is to see what your child’s feeling to see their emotion, right, which I think parents are very good at. So today, I don’t know if previous generations we read our children’s emotions, but I think today parents do read their children’s emotions. I think they’re very good at that. But the second step of attunement is allowing your child to feel it right and not fix it for you that we don’t we don’t do that. Either feeling and we intervene. We see their feeling and we fix we see their feeling we rescue or we manage, we intervene. So you know, so my parents didn’t there’s just no there was no topic of feelings. Right? It was just we’re doing this we’re doing that right there was and and that was problematic for sure. But today, there’s, it’s like feelings get you something, right. If you’re feeling something the parent intervenes and changes and fixes. So I think so I think that there’s less ability to regulate and move through something or it’s somebody else’s responsibility to fix it. 
So if I’m upset if I’m uncomfortable, if I’m angry, it’s actually not my job. Like, I think from my childhood, I felt I had to figure it out, because no one was figuring it out for me, right? But today, today, if I’m upset, it’s actually, I can play my parent because they didn’t figure it out or they didn’t. Right. So it’s like a double whammy. It’s like I don’t not only is it is this feeling, not my responsibility. I can get mad at somebody else if they didn’t fix it for me. And I think that’s what’s happening a lot in the parenting. Today’s is kids blaming their parents a lot, right? There’s a lot of victim. There’s a lot of manipulation, there’s a lot of blame. And I’m not trying to target the child or the parent. I think it’s just a pattern, right? I think it’s just a pattern that’s evolved, where the parent feels, you know, that sort of helicoptering of like, my child sad, I have to do something, I have to intervene, I have to fix it, rather than what I was saying before, which is allowing them to feel it. Right. And that’s really what I got out of wilderness is that, you know, we want kids to be as emotionally healthy. We don’t want them to just be happy. 
Brenda  23:31
Yeah, I love that idea of emotionally healthy – is really, I think that’s really important. 
Krissy Pozatek  23:38
And I think we don’t even count – I’m a mom, right? I mean, we I know that instinct of wanting your kids to be happy, 1,000% I get it, right. But that’s sort of the was the narrative. I’m trying to shift to my parent coaching. And what I learned from wilderness is that, you know, if we’re steering every child toward happy they have no ability to be with the other feelings, right? And we say, my goal is for you to be emotionally healthy which is all feelings are okay right discomforts? Okay, Boredoms. Okay, sad okay anxious, okay, happy is okay? Right? All feelings are just information., 
Brenda  24:12
feelings are information that’s, that’s really great because it takes a lot of the emotion out of it I think for both for parents and for kids. So as a parent, if I can say, Okay, my kids feeling sad or frustrated or angry. And that’s just information that I can work with that takes it out of like, Oh, no, he said, I have to fix that and make him happy. So I think that’s a really good sort of nugget. 
Krissy Pozatek  24:36
Yeah. And I think that like, sometimes I call it wilderness 101 where, you know, what we saw in the wilderness is we’d much rather a child talk about their feeling than act it out. Right. So if we say all acting out underneath that as a feeling, right? If you’re if you’re defiant, if you’re shutting down, if you’re refusing school, if you’re using substances underneath that is some emotion. And so if a child’s talking about that feeling, we want to pull up a front seat to that feeling. We want to listen, we want to create space, we want to allow, we want to welcome it, right? Because if there’s some dialoguing about it, then they may not act it out. Right? That’s how we view it in wilderness, but in the real world, we don’t want to allow the negative feeling, right. So it’s very, that was that sort of that was that learning curve I went through, and it’s just so interesting, because, you know, I was in the working in wilderness before I became a parent, and, you know, then I became a parent and, and I sort of see these parents around me, and I’m like, let them be sad. Don’t let your kid you know, acknowledge their feelings. You know, because I don’t think it’s hardwired in and I had the vantage point of just doing this work before I became a parent. And it doesn’t mean I don’t still have urges as a parent, but I’m just saying that I don’t think our society is, you know, oriented that way where we say, That’s important. I want to understand that feeling like Tell me more What’s that like? And, you know, allowing it to be there. So they don’t act it out right or so it doesn’t become something else. It’s just a different orientation. 
Brenda  26:09
And it’s hard for parents. I think one of the reasons that I think it’s hard for parents to sort of have those boundaries, like you said, the fence with the cows is, is that that the child doesn’t say, Oh, thanks, mom for doing that, thank you for putting that boundary up for me, right? They fight it and fight it and fight it. And they’re not because they’re, you know, they’re their kids. And so, as the parent, you don’t get that, that feedback of Oh, I just did the right thing. Immediately you you’re going to get pushed back for a while, and then you might get the results of that where they feel safe and they feel all the things that they that you want them to but it’s hard because they are you know, they are going to push those and it might be for a while and so you just have to have the stamina, I think, you know, as a parent of a teen to hold that boundary and not give in when they find it. 
Krissy Pozatek  27:02
Yeah, absolutely. And I think especially if there’s a previous script of writing of not having a boundary or of trying to make your kid happy, right, so changing it is hard and I and I do say it’s like getting in the trenches and doing this really hard work every day it just is because we’re really you know, creating new pathways in the brain right we’re creating new patterns and habits and you know, we’re we’re all creatures of habit right? We you know, we go back to you know, you’ve been doing this since your child was a baby and when they’re 15 all of a sudden say it’s okay for you to be uncomfortable. That’s a major Mark change right? But it does work it I mean, it’s it works it’s just work every day it’s work work work and i and i agree because initially kids are gonna test they’re gonna get mad at you they might get worse before it gets better. But yes, eventually there is a settling in and relaxing and they may not say Thank you mom and dad for that boundary. But it makes you know, what I tend to see in my parent coaching is that a lot of the drama goes away the power struggles go away the negotiations go away, the child may still have anxiety and child may still have depression the child may still be struggling with substances.
But do you see how that’s a much clearer picture because previously the child issues but they were playing it out every day in the family. And there’s all this drama and all these power struggles and, and and it’s a distraction from the real issue. So when I see parents start to put in boundaries, start to put in attunement, start to clean up some of the enmeshment and enmeshed patterns. Kids realize they don’t get anything out of it, right. Like I worked with this one family where this kid was very dramatic, and he would like knock on our parents door till like 4am to get his way, or to get his phone. Right and he would just control home. Right and this, truthfully, isn’t that uncommon. I mean, that may sound like an extreme example, but there’s lots of ways where kids hold their parents hostage, right? The kid has the power in the home. And so and they felt like they had no idea how to change it. And even the mom, you know, had sort of a story of, you know, all parents have their own stories, right. And she didn’t want her child mad at her for different reasons, and you felt so terrible and he was upset. And so it you know, for so long this pattern work, but what I started to say is you guys, the consequence needs to land on your son not on you. So he’s knocking on your door till 4am that needs to land on him. And so what they started to do is hold them accountable, you know, well, no car privileges, no social privileges are tech, you know, whatever they started to remove, you know, if you’re going to disrupt the safety and order of the home, right, going back to the teacher, if you’re going to disrupt, you know, the rules and expectations of the boundaries of respect, whatever, then you don’t necessarily get all your privileges. So it’s not punitive, it’s accountability. And so they started to move into accountability.
I mean, I remember I’d worked with a family for a while and she’s like, Krissy, there’s no more drama. And the parents are like, Yeah, we got it under control. Like, there, it all went away. But they’re like, we got a depressed kiddo on our hands. And so he started engaging in more therapy, right? Yes. Once he starts to say I’m struggling, great. I mean, we don’t want a kid depressed, but at least we want to acknowledge what’s really going on. And so then he started to really engage in more therapy and utilize it rather than just the game playing right that a lot of kids are doing. And so, absolutely these these daily dramas we can totally clean up with with some of these changes in the boundaries and the parents just have to really understand. I think my book helps with that because a lot of it’s opening the door. Right?
Brenda  30:57
It is and and The Parallel Process I know is sort of the, the Bible of when your kid goes off to treatment or wilderness, you know, you get handed. Here you go, you need to read this, which, you know, is great, because what’s a great book? First of all, but also you, I think parents sometimes just feel really powerless at that point, you know, it’s okay. Now my kid is in treatment somewhere. And what you know, what do I do, you just sort of have this helpless feeling. And so to have something that gives you some actual tools to use, and it’s work, you know, like setting the boundaries and letting go of the reins, which I love that part of love to talk about that a little bit too. It’s work for parents, you don’t get to just send your kid off and then sit around and then they’re going to come back.
And I know that for me, that was a really enlightening thing is to start reading and learning that I had a lot of work to do. And maybe other parents realize that earlier, but it’s becoming aware of your own patterns and, and really recognizing in yourself because we’re just teenagers who have been around longer. So we have, you know, we all have our own issues too. So I think that’s, you know, what I’ve really gotten in your work is, is as parents, we’ve got to be self aware. And we can’t just assume that we know our kids need to adjust our personality or our style that we have to be accountable for our own stuff, too. 
Krissy Pozatek  32:30
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that that’s really why I wrote the book, because what I found is parents that have their children in some form of treatment or not, in my opinion, you know, checked out parents or neglected parent for parents, right? They’re very involved parents, right? I mean, and that’s what I saw over and over again. I mean, these are parents that would cut off their arm if I told them that wouldn’t kill your kid. Right? I mean, they were right. I mean, if I said do this, they probably do it but they didn’t know what to do. That’s how I felt, it was like, “Krissy tell me what to do.” And truthfully, that’s why I wrote the book. Because what parents need to do is to feel their own feelings. Right? they’d much rather fix their kid, how do I fix my kid? What do I do to get them to change? I did it, right, but they don’t want to look in their own pain. They don’t want to open their own door to the past into their feelings into their hurts. And that’s really why I wrote The Parallel Process to say, how can you have the capacity to be present and hold space for your child struggles or child’s emotions, when you aren’t having the capacity to be present and hold space for your own emotions and your own struggles? Right, a lot of parents, you know, and I use a lot of metaphors in it’s actually a little bit more of my ecourse, which I can tell you about. I talk about damming the river, right, the river of emotion, a lot of parents have sort of dammed their own rivers, right. They’re in their own control modes, right as parents we’re, we have to, we’re doers. right we’ve got our we’ve got our lists, so what we need to come every day, right, and we’re in the sort of control doing mode. And, and and kids can’t relate to that kids kids are feelers, right? Kids are, they’re feeling everything, they’re emotional. And so we have to have access to our emotions to our process to be able to show up and be present for them. And so it is, you know, I talk about turning the spotlight on yourself, right. All we control is ourselves ultimately, we can’t control and change our kids. 
Brenda  34:29
Yes. Which is something that’s so hard to hear. It’s so logical, but it is so hard to hear because, and I’d be curious to get your thoughts on moms versus dads, and I know there’s there are no universals but I work specifically with moms. So I hear it a lot. But it’s such a temptation to, to fix and to sue them to steer them around the hard things and it’s hard to hear that that’s not our job. You know, to, to give it back to them, which makes sense once you hear it, and you’ve done it a little bit. It’s like, Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I was doing that. But to give those those problems back to them, and you know, some, I think some of the most powerful things, at least that I learned in reading your book and in others was just to be able to say, Wow, that’s really hard. What are you going to do about that? And it’s just so hard to do. Because you want to tell them, you want to fix it. 
Krissy Pozatek  35:29
Well, and I think what’s even harder is, and this is really common is that, you know, getting a lot of parents may feel like they’re failures, but they may have other kids at home just thriving. Right? So if they’re a failure for the kid who isn’t thriving, well, then what are their their their success for the child that is thriving, you know, and then that’s where we have to detach a little bit and to say, it’s our child’s process. You know, it’s not always about us. And and I think that, you know, going back to, if you have a child thriving at home, maybe you could do those verbal redirections like a lot of kids, the verbal prompts the course corrections, the little advice giving in the lecture, it worked. But the kids that are getting stuck the kids that are going to wilderness, these verbal prompts did not work. Right? They just don’t, you know, when you want and I still see parents, how do we teach them? How do we get them and I’m like, you can tell them all day. It’s not gonna land. It doesn’t land. Right? I mean, I’m sure talk about drugs talk about I mean, all this stuff, it’s not landing. And that’s where that’s where I actually think it’s harder to let go. But it’s also easier to let go. Because if it if it worked, you want to keep doing it. But it actually never that’s my and you can you know, correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s just my experience in this field is the kids that are getting stuck. They’re not changing because of the any advice from parents. They’re absolutely not. They have to learn from life. And that’s why we do it. 
You let go. That’s why we have to let go. Because the only learning is going to come from life, it’s going to come from getting rejected by a friend, because they had their social cues were off, right? And then parents want to protect from that. But it’s like, but they’re not going to learn until it happens, right? Or they’re gonna have to learn from whatever, whatever the life learning is. And sometimes, you know, that’s where ownership happens when we really like it. before we’re owning their lives where you need to do this, you need to do that where, you know, we’ve got the tether attached to them, right, and we’re owning their life and we’re directing their life and we’re giving advice and they’re not really living, right, and that’s where we have to release the reins and let them live and learn. You know, and interesting. I worked with one family where the girl was a pretty, you know, impulsive, like, like reckless drinker and, you know, wasn’t concerned about her safety and she would do all these risky behaviors, but she was still in her parents home. And so she always thought there was a rescue from them. Right? which there was. And now that and then right and living on her own. I’m in touch with the therapist and the therapists is like, she doesn’t binge drink anymore because no one’s there to get her at 3am. 
Brenda  38:19
Right.
Krissy Pozatek  38:22
Isn’t that interesting? She’s regulating on her own more, because there’s more ownership over her life.  And and so I just thought again, it’s like, the more we have to let go, we have to step out not only because they didn’t learn the other way, right, we already learned that they didn’t learn the other way. But because we want them to own it. We want them to learn to self regulate on their own. It’s their life, not ours. Right. And that’s that letting go. I think actually, sometimes the the kid who does follow all the rules, parents may be still directing them longer and longer. Of course, we’re still directing kids who don’t listen to, and that still is just probably a fractured relationship. Because it isn’t open to that advice. 
Brenda  39:11
Yeah, no, totally. And in the the letting them feel the consequences and letting them learn from from themselves only gets more and more, the consequences get so much more and more serious as they get older. And so, I think, you know, the message for parents is the younger you can start doing this the better so that they’re not ending up in juvenile detention or, you know, the, the real life consequences that happen to kids as they get older. And that’s what wilderness to or even being in a residential program offers them, you know, a safer space to make those failings than if they’re doing it out in the world. So yeah, that’s really, really true.
You mentioned your digital program, which I’d love to learn about because right now, especially with with COVID and everything seems like our entire life has shifted to digital. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about that and how that works. 
Krissy Pozatek  40:09
Sure. Yeah, so I’ve been designing I had sort of a online course before that was more email based, but I wanted to move it totally to digital platform. And I actually worked on all winter. And surprisingly, it launched like may 16, which I think was the day pretty much everyone was starting, March 16, which I think was the day everyone was quarentined. So it was kind of funny timing. But basically, it’s um, it’s, I call it a Parallel Process Intensive, it’s called Transform Your Parenting. And it originally was designed as a 30 day intensive but now you know, you have lifetime access to the class so you can do it at your own pace. But it’s it’s 10 modules with one video and then 10 audios so the parents can listen to that. You know, a lot of this is repetition, right? It’s one thing to learn about that I mean, oh, I’m a rescuer. Oh, I you know, I’m in enmeshed.
Oh, I, you know, parents are good at identifying, but changing is much harder. And so the audios are, you know, covering 10 different topics. And the parents tell me, you know, they go on repetition, like one parents will now listen to it three times, you know, before I moved to the next one, because it’s just, it’s helping reintegrate and, you know, again, build these new neural pathways for a new response. Because, like you’re saying before, it feels so foreign to say to your kid, how do you want to solve that? You know, I’m talking about it. It’s like learning French or something, right? Like, you figure out the vocabulary, but then you have to, like, actually speak it. You know, I’m not personally very good at foreign languages, you know, and so it’s sort of like that, right? It’s such it’s a different language. And so that’s really what the class is aimed at is going in this deeper manner. 
And there’s a whole self reflective piece around parents feelings, just like I was saying earlier. How can parents be present and hold space for their children’s emotions if they’re not doing it for their own. And so, of course, I start, you have to start with yourself, right? We have to start with ourselves and our issues and our triggers and our own emotional awareness before we can, in any way show up for our kids in that way. And then obviously with that, and so a lot of coaching around boundaries and accountability and, you know, different sort of dialogues and ways to talk about things in a new way. That’s de-shaming. I talked about it being choice based, not control based. And what we’re trying to do is just clean up the boundaries in the home, right, like I was sort of giving that except for so so the sort of daily manipulations and dramas are really not existing anymore, and it’s just more having more integrity in our parenting. So we can really continue to promote the growth that kids are doing. A lot of kids make major growth in the container of a program, but it tends to unravel right when they go home because the integrity of the containers isn’t as strong as, say, in a wilderness. 
And that’s not because they’re bad parents or anything like that. It’s just parents don’t always know what to do, you know, you were saying, you know, when I was talking about why I wrote The Parallel Process, because parents want to do the right thing that but they don’t always know what that is. And so this course just goes a little deeper and to parents who want to, you know, really integrate the work. So it’s, it’s pretty exciting, I started a group coaching class because I tend to have a pretty long waitlist for just one on one coaching. And so the idea is that parents, you know, can take the ecourse and then, you know, if they have personal questions about their own, you know, family life situation or relationship with their child, they can go to my group coaching class, and submit their questions, and I do a class every two weeks, and I answer the parents question topic that I teach. 
So it’s kind of exciting to kind of be able to just get this material out to more families and help them have resources. You know, that’s something I was just feeling a lot as I was just getting a lot of inquiries for coaching or me working with families. And I obviously can’t just do every single family in that way. And I actually the e-course truthfully is better, because it’s a 30 days slower process, and they’re going to get so much content and self reflection that sometimes you don’t always get when you’re doing parent coaching. Because in parent coaching, you know, they just dive right into the issues with their kids. Right, and, you know, maybe not doing the self reflection piece as much. So I do highly recommend that course, for parents who are wanting to go to the next level. 
Brenda  44:45
That is really true, because it does take time to sit back and sort of look at yourself because the tendency is like let’s talk about my kid and let’s fix this and let’s fix that. So, yeah, there’s only one of you so you can only get spread so thin. So that makes a lot of sense. So I will link in the show notes out to your, your courses and your website where they can get all of that. Because I think that’s so important, especially, you know, this is helpful for parents, no matter if you’ve got kids in treatment, not in treatment, whatever, it’s helpful, but especially if you’re in that zone where you’re where your child is gone. And you sort of exhaled to some extent, and you’re thinking like now what I love your, your example of like, you’ve got to get a container built for when they come out, or when they come home or whatever their transition is, use that time, use your 30 days or 60 days or however long they’re gone to learn some skill so that next phase can be a little bit more smooth. And you know, like you said, removed the drama and all of that and that control because that is a big struggles that powers the control and the power that that child can have over a family as is shocking, really.
So using using the downtime kind of quote unquote downtime when they’re in treatment to get those skills is really, really critical. 
Krissy Pozatek  46:11
Absolutely. And I think that, you know, the other thing I talk a lot about is enmeshment. And, you know, parents may not fully know how emotionally enmeshed they are, right? And what I mean by enmeshed is, it’s like their child’s problems, their problem, their child’s emotions that, you know, becomes their emotion or they’re responsible for, right and it’s so and so if that undercurrent of enmeshment is still there, when the child comes home, right, you know, if the child goes to wilderness, learns that my feelings are my responsibility, my behaviors, my responsibility, my struggles are my responsibility, but then goes home and there’s an unconscious script, that the child struggles or the moms responsibility or the child’s emotions are the moms responsibility of the child’s problems or the parents responsibility, right? It’s naturally sets up regression. 
Brenda  47:02
You can undo, unravel a lot of work 
Krissy Pozatek  47:04
well, and parents have the best intentions, right? And they send their child away and they think my child just comes back fixed, it’s better. But that’s why both sides have to do the work because they’re these undercurrents of these unhealthy relational patterns. They’re just going to pop right back up, you know, and so, oh, yeah, absolutely. This is the work that needs to be done when when kids go away. 
Brenda  47:29
And it’s hard, but it’s also I can say rewarding, you know, and by no means have I perfected it, but it is exciting to learn new skills and to see them work. You know, that’s, that’s the exciting part. I think I would I would give parents the encouraging news is that, you know, kids do respond to this stuff. And even if they’re a little bit older, and and you know, they’re they’re not 16 or 17, but maybe they’re 23 or 24, they still respond to this stuff. And it’s just a matter of learning it and applying it and practicing because it doesn’t, like you said, it’s like learning French, like it doesn’t come naturally at first. So you just have to give yourself the grace I think as a parent to say, okay, I’m probably going to screw this up in some way. But at least I’m trying and, and then to see it work is really, really exciting. So I can say as a as a user of your material that it actually it is, it’s very rewarding to see it work. 
Krissy Pozatek  48:28
thank you. That means that means a lot. 
Brenda  48:31
Yeah. What do you love most about what you do Krissy? 
Krissy Pozatek  48:34
Well, I think I, you know, obviously had no idea I’d be a parent coach, you know, I mean, it’s kind of a strange profession, really. But, you know, I think what I have just sort of evolved into this new role and then through my my books, and I think what I really love about it, as opposed to say therapy, is that it just feels very practical. You know, I like it. To being very strategic with parents I like, and I like getting the new outcomes, right. I mean, it is so practical, and yet it works. I mean, we see progress and change. I mean, some parents told me, they did attunement and it worked, their child opened up, they attuned to their feeling and the child shared and I’m like, brilliant, it worked. You know, it doesn’t always work the first time, right? I mean, kids are, you know, kids are gonna, you know, test and challenge them, but but sometimes it does, you know, sometimes parents do, one of the things I teach is, is called, yes to feelings, no to behavior. So it’s, you know, if a child’s disrespectful, we can always say, you know, it’s, I want to hear what you’re feeling you seem upset, you know, let me know what you’re feeling. However, if you you know, speak with me with tone in your voice or disrespect, you know, I will hold you accountable. Because it’s not okay, be disrespectful. 
So it’s sort of like yessing the feeling and saying no to the behavior, and some parents tell me Oh, Krissy, I did that. And you know, my child went to their room. And I’m like, well, that’s called self regulation, they stopped, right? You know, because sometimes come at parents, right really upset and badger and push and say, hey, I want to hear what you’re feeling, but it’s not okay to talk to me that way. And if they leave it, that’s actually self regulation, that actually means they stopped. And so like even something little like that that’s actually big because normally some kids would badger for an hour or two hours. So I it’s exciting to know, it’s almost like I take it for granted a little bit, because after a while, behavior does clean up, right. And the emotional part is longer, right? When kids are dealing with anxiety, depression, mental health struggles that, you know, that doesn’t clear up overnight. But we can kind of clean up the patterns in the home pretty quickly if parents really stick to it. So obviously, that’s really exciting. And it just, again, goes back to the teachers in charge of the classroom and there’s rules in order and there’s respect, because, you know, you may know a lot of younger siblings or other kids in the house are really impacted by the child that’s struggling, you know, if there’s drugs in the house, I mean, sometimes a lot of dysregulated kids that are very disrespectful and, and it really impacts the other kids. So, so I, it just feels really good to know that. And I feel pretty confident about, you know, the strategies that I teach parents that they work, you know, if parents do it, you know. And so it’s really exciting. 
Brenda  51:28
Thank you so much. This is just so enlightening, and I can’t, you know, the book, The Parallel Process, you will get so much out of it. If you’re listening, I would encourage you to get it even if your child’s not in treatment right now. Even maybe more so because you can start early. You get a jump on on things, but it is and what I love too is that it’s so practical, like you actually give examples of instead of saying this, try saying this and so that I think is what parents need. There’s a lot of times when you’re so overwhelmed, and you’re so frustrated and sort of at that point of just, you know, desperation and to have somebody kind of hold your hand and and say it’s okay, like do this instead is really, really helpful versus some kind of theory that you’re trying to figure out. How do I apply this at two o’clock in the morning, you know, when my son just came home and is, is causing problems, so, so that’s fabulous. 
Well, I will link everybody out to your, your course I’m so excited to hear that you’re doing that digitally, because so many more people will actually be able to get the advantage of that. And thank you so much. I just I’m thrilled to have you here and, and to have everybody just benefit from your years. And I think as parents, we would love to be a fly on the wall. Sometimes, you know, when they’re in therapy or when they’re in the wilderness. So getting that perspective from you is just great. 
Krissy Pozatek  52:52
Well, thank you, Brenda, for having me and for all the cool work you’re doing. So it’s great to have as many people out there, you know, enlightening about this, these alternative paths for kids. 
Brenda  53:06
I think parents need a lot of help right now. And it’s, it’s a confusing time to be a parent with all the substances that are out there. And not that there weren’t bad substances in the past, but just with the addition of everything that’s going on. So super scary time. 
Krissy Pozatek  53:27
And one last thing I’ll say, because you mentioned it a few times. Because a lot of parents aren’t going to pick up a treatment book, you know, unless their child is in treatment. I did write another book called Brave Parenting, which is just about building emotional resilience for you know, if your child is three or five or seven, and you’re like, I want to start building this emotional resilience Now, how do I let my kid feel how do I hold these boundaries? How do I you know, because Parallel Process is great, but obviously it’s really designed for parents who are who are already kind of gotten stuck, right, or families have already gotten stuck. And so anyway, I just want to put out there that there is a resource if you’re interested in looking into some of this. When your child’s younger. 
Brenda  54:11
wonderful, yes, the earlier the better.
Thanks for listening friends. And if you would like more information on Krissy’s parent coaching, I will put all the necessary links in the show notes for you. And if you are a mom who’s looking for some support, if you’ve got a kid who is either in treatment in some sort of program, or maybe they’re not there yet, but they need to be, please check out The Stream, which is our online community for moms. You can find that at my website, BrendaZane.com. And from that site, you can also grab my free ebook that I wrote called HINDSIGHT, 3 Things I Wish I Knew When My Son Was Addicted to Drugs, so you might gain some valuable information from that. Thanks for listening and we’ll meet you back here next week.

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