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Podcast Ep. 22: Setting Healthy Boundaries for Your Kids and Yourself With Christina Furnival, Mom, Mental Health Therapist and Author

In this episode

This was one of the funnest conversations we've had so far! Christina Furnival is a mom of two, a licensed mental health therapist, and a children’s book author who blogs under the handle “Real Life Mama.” She and her family live in San Diego, California and despite the beautiful weather of her home town, parenthood hasn’t been all sunshine and roses.


We invited her on the show this week to talk about the real stuff: what happens when motherhood isn’t the cakewalk we dream it to be, how Christina realized she was experiencing postpartum mood disorder after her first baby was born, what tools have helped her most in flourishing, and how we can help our kids (and ourselves) set healthy boundaries in life. At the end we talk about Christina’s newest work around anxiety, positive self-talk, and growth mindset. So, you’ll want to stick around for the entire episode!


Listen here

About our guests

Christina Furnival is a licensed mental health therapist with an emphasis in parent-youth relationships and over 10 years of experience. She is the author of the Capable Kiddos children’s book series, which she kicked off recently with The Not-So-Friendly Friend: How to set boundaries for healthy friendships. She also offers advice and tips through her blog, Real Life Mama and Instagram account @thisisreallifemama.


Show notes

  • 04:56 - Both Christina and her husband attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. 
  • 08:41 - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological treatment that can improve quality of life by treating a range of issues like anxiety disorders, depression, marital issues, substance abuse problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness. 
  • 11:05 - In case you missed it, Bridget Cross, LCSW, PMH-C joined us in Ep. 15 to discuss the healing that needs to happen with new mothers on an emotional, physical, and mental level.
  • 43:24 - Check out our Pro Perspectives article, Ask the Experts: Should My Teen Have a Cellphone? To see what three of our TFT experts have to think about this hot topic.
  • 48:50 - Curious Parenting is a great Instagram account and site that can help parents raise empowered and resilient kiddos.
  • 54:25 - “Internal Family Systems is a transformative, evidence-based psychotherapy that helps people heal by accessing and loving their protective and wounded inner parts...like members of a family.” (IFS Institute) 

59:52 -Dr. Daniel J. Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center there.

Transcript highlights

1:55

Audra: I'm super excited that we were put in touch with you, I think we got in outreach through our managing editor, and as soon as we saw your work, we're like, oh, she's perfect. We got to talk to her. And then this book is absolutely incredible. The Not-So-Friendly Friend, I have to tell you, like I was just telling Justin that this could have been like a 400 page book for adults about, you know, setting boundaries. Like, I love reading that you easily condensed into a children's book and made it so simple. And I feel like making the conversation around boundaries so simple and accessible in this way is good for everyone. Our daughter is going through this right now of being a new kid in sixth grade. And thanks to our work with The Family Thrive, I feel like we've been able to help her more than we would have been able to before. But you're right, this isn't automatic. You know, this is not an automatic conversation that we have. So we'll get into it more, but I just wanted to say congratulations and thank you. It is such a beautiful book.

Justin: We're going to talk about the book, but before we do,let's talk about Christine.

Audra: Wait, can we tell her our roles on the podcast really quick? So Justin writes the questions and like keeps like the guardrails and keeps us moving and I usually mess it up. Ok, go ahead. 

Justin: Ok. Yeah. So I yeah, I kind of drive, I guess in the radio business there on radio shows. There's a driver and there's a personality like that's how they do radio shows. And the driver is like the professional radio host who keeps it on schedule. And the personality just kind of, you know, brings all the color in the life. And so we've kind of fallen into these roles, and that's why, but yeah, let's learn a little bit about Christina. So we want to know where you came from. Right. So where did you grow up and how did you, what pathway led you into becoming an author, a mother and a therapist?

Christina: Well, I am a born and raised San Diegan. And so I grew up here, but I actually did college and graduate school in Nashville, Tennessee. And so…

Audra: Oh, you know the south.

Christina: I know and I visited Savannah before, so I, it has a special place in my heart. I do think I left a part of me in the south when I came back to San Diego. But so born and raised out here, I am married to my husband, Tom. We just celebrated eight years of marriage and he's from Scotland.

Audra: Congratulations, oh wow. From Scotland. How cool! Where in Scotland?

Christina: Tom from Scotland. He's from a small town near Aberdeen called Banchory.

Audra: Oh, how cool. 

Justin: Where did you guys meet?

Christina: We actually met in Nashville. So, you know, San Diego girl from southwest US. He's from the northeast of Scotland. And we met in Nashville, Tennessee.

Justin: A classic story. All right.

Audra: I love it. Love college.

Justin: What led you to Vanderbilt? Why?

Christina: Well, so back when I was in high school and planning out like what career I thought I wanted to have, I always wanted to be a pediatrician. And so when I toured universities and I visited Vanderbilt, I saw their children's hospital on campus. And it's such a happy place. It's not as sterile and cold as a lot of hospitals, and I thought, wow, if I'm going to be a pediatrician, I'm going to be one here. And so I want to go to school here. Plus, I fell in love with Southern hospitality during my visit for those few days before I decided to accept going to school there. And so that was what brought me to Vanderbilt. But it was at Vanderbilt that I realized that I was not as interested in medicine as a helping profession as I thought. 

So after graduating from Vanderbilt, I took about a year or so before deciding to enroll in a graduate program for professional counseling. So I always wanted to help some, help people and help children. But I thought it was through medicine and then ultimately it's been through psychology and therapy.

So that's kind of how my path ended up towards therapy. My mom's also actually a licensed mental health therapist and a school counselor. So I think when I was choosing medicine initially, I had boxed up her career is for her. And then it was after realizing I'm actually quite similar to my mom and I love and adore what she does and how she helps families and children that I knew that that was for me, too.

Audra: Oh, what a beautiful process. Like it's almost of like a differentiation and then incorporation kind of, you know, and I wonder, hearing that, you know, I wonder if if your mother in growing up with a therapist, did she also teach you a lot that kind of like open your your eyes into the world of what could be when it comes to being somebody with those skills?

Christina: Yeah, I think she did a really good job because I never felt like she was doing therapy on me. You know, she drew a good line where she was just a lovely, and is a lovely, nurturing mom. She did teach us about feelings and emotions and how to process them and reflect on them. So I feel like I did have some skills from a younger age than a lot of my peers might have.

Audra: Oh, it's invaluable. I feel like we all need that. And as parents we need these skills like it's not something that is just for therapists. Right. It's like as parents these are some of the most essential skills that we need, I think, from the beginning. So that is pretty powerful that you have experienced that in your own life. And then it sounds like you brought into your work and your parenting.

Christina: Yeah. Yes. I always, ever since I started in the field in 2009, I've always worked with youth and adolescents and their families. And I love helping kiddos because kiddos are just so interesting and they're open to change because every day is change and every day is new discoveries and helping their families and then figure out how to help their kiddos live the life that they want. How to understand themselves better and navigate challenges confidently is what I'm all about.

Justin: Ok, I have a curiosity. I imagine that in the years that have passed from when your mom went to school and first started practicing and you went to school and you started practicing, that a lot has changed in the field. And so have you had discussions with your mom? Have you said, mom, you know the way you thought about X, Y, and Z, now that's change. It's now A, B, and C.

Christina: I think in general, or at least the way that my mom engages with families and youth, I feel like that's still aligned with the ways that I practice therapy. There are definitely new modalities and approaches, lots of acronyms that she's never heard of before in different ways to handle things. But we're both really big into CBT. And so just that awareness between our thoughts, our feelings and our behaviors and how it's all interconnected.

Justin: So did you always know that you wanted to be a mom? 

Christina: Yes. 

Justin: Yeah. So how did the actual, so you knew that you wanted to be a mom and you were a therapist before you were a mom? Right. And so how did motherhood change this for you?

Christina: I thought I was going to have motherhood in the bag. I was certainly very confident that I would just be this amazing natural mother. Not only had I always worked with youth in the mental health field, but before I ever was an adult, I would babysit. I've got 21 aunts and uncles and probably 30 plus cousins. And I'm on the older end of them. So I would babysit and watch them all. I was a children's entertainer at like summer camps. And I thought, I know kids inside and out and wow, I was just completely blindsided by motherhood. 

I think part of it had a lot to do with, I went through postpartum depression and anxiety after having my daughter, my first child. And I was not expecting. I didn't think I had any of the warning signs. But now, in hindsight, I look back and I'm like, oh, I was having intrusive thoughts. Oh, I was really depressed or apathetic about this or that. That used to bring me joy, you know. So now I can kind of put those pieces together. But when I was in the fog of it, I was just completely surprised that that was my experience. And I also had high risk pregnancies, which is, that’s a kind of warning sign. And after giving birth to my daughter a week later, I had a delayed postpartum hemorrhage where I had to be rushed to the hospital. And so that was traumatic, and I hadn't really processed that. And then that led to my milk supply not coming in how it should. And so feeding problems, sleeping problems and all this, all of it piled on top of each other.

Audra: Oh, so big. I mean, I'm just taking all of that in that really. It's so powerful. It's all of the things that when you say blindsided, all of the things that we don't expect. And I think like reflecting on what you're saying, like how many of us do know that we're in postpartum depression, like how many of us do see the warning signs? I feel like awareness is growing because of sharing like this. And we did speak earlier on this podcast with Bridget, really, really wonderful perinatal therapist who specializes in just this, because she was called to it, you know, for very similar reasons. And so I think I see awareness raising a little bit. 

But, you know, when my son was born 14 years ago, there was no talk around it. And in fact, there are even a little stigma. I would be like, well, she you know, she has postpartum, you know, and it was feel like not only a stigma, but like a problematizing, like this is an issue for her. Right. Instead of this is a huge issue that has everything to do with our health care system, that has everything to do with, you know, modern motherhood, that has everything to do with expectations and on and on and on. Like it's just such like Bridget described it as an onion. And it's like you peel back every layer and you see more and more complexity of that. So it makes sense. And then add the trauma on top of it of a hemorrhage or the trauma of high risk pregnancies. It's a lot.

Christina: Yeah. and it all makes sense now. But you're right that when you're in it a lot of times, even if you know what the potential warning signs are, you're in such a fog that you can't even necessarily make sense of your experience. And sometimes it takes your partner or a friend or a parent to point out like you're not, something's not working right now. Like this is beyond sleep deprivation. This is beyond the life change. 

And so one of the things that I like to say, because now I do work with adults and I tend to work with moms, I do telehealth therapy in the evening now, is that motherhood should be life changing, but it should not be earth shattering. And if you feel like it has turned the world upside down in a negative way, then it's time to get some help.

Audra: So that's a powerful way to put that. I think we should put a pin in that. Like I think that's a really wonderful quote to pull out of this, because even as a therapist yourself, it sounds like it took some time and a view and a realization, and then you're really able to see it in a retrospective manner what you were going through. But if it's even hard for a therapist to identify this, you know, then we should normalize that. Like it's hard to identify these things, you know, and just having that sort of putting that quote out into the world. If we can do that when we promote this podcast, I think it would be meaningful.

Justin: Oh, absolutely. And it brings up the curiosity that I had when I first read about your story on your website. It makes total sense to me that this would be something that you could look back on in retrospect to say, oh, yeah, there were the signs. But what was the sign for you at the time that, oh, this isn't just a couple of bad days, this isn't just waking up on the wrong side of the bed? What was the aha moment for you?

Christina: Well, so I knew to expect that there might be baby blues in the first two weeks, and then I knew to expect that my hormones would start to regulate around six weeks once my ovaries took back over, because when you're pregnant, your placenta is in charge of a lot of your hormone production. And so when you give birth, the placenta leaves you and then your hormones are wild for a bit. And so I was sitting there thinking, wow, this is not going how I thought it would. This is not like blissful, bigger than life love that I was expecting that you hear about but at two weeks, I'm sure I'll feel better. And so I kind of just rode that wave. 

And then two weeks came and two weeks went and so I was like six weeks. When my hormones regulate that, I'll be able to make sense of what I'm experiencing and I'll be fine. Six weeks came and went and with my husband and I trying to figure out our child and learn her cues and how to just do this whole parenting thing. We had an argument one evening and I said this is a nightmare. 

And he, being the protective loyal father that he had now become, was like, I can't believe you said that. And I'm like, well, that that's actually how I feel. I feel like this is a nightmare. I'm living a bad dream. And that was a turning point for us to be like that shouldn't be my experience. This shouldn't be how this feels. It's hard, but it shouldn't be a nightmare. 

And so then I was employing more selfcare. We got my mom to come around during the day to hold our daughter so that I could take naps. She was one of those kiddos that had to be held at all times. So I wasn't getting the rest that I needed to get. Yeah. Was Max the same way?

Audra: Same way.

Christina: It's so hard when you can’t just set them down and you see your friends sharing on social media about their baby in their bassinet and like, oh, how they're such good sleepers. And then you have jealousy on top of resentment on top of all the other feelings.

Audra: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Christina: I ultimately decided to see my own therapist because I knew that I couldn't see my own blind spots and that I needed support outside of myself.

Audra: It's powerful. So it sounds like accepting, seeking and accepting support from those around you to pursue self care. And then also getting some help getting you know, your own therapist was key to that. And it's really amazing that you saw I think that is one thing that moms carry. See that they're supposed to, there's like this shoulding on ourselves, like we're supposed to be able to do this alone. Right. We're supposed to be able to do it ourselves. And then the other thing that you said that really was impactful to me when you talked about the nightmare is that the response wasn't to diminish or deny your feelings, that you were in a nightmare. It sounds like that was recognized. And the response was, and we don't want it to be a nightmare. Like, yes, you're feeling that way instead of saying, no, it's not. Right. You're a mother of a brand new kid, beautiful baby. You know, no, it's not, you know, like acknowledge that it is your nightmare right now. And we don't want it to be that way. 

Christina: Exactly. 

Audra: It doesn't have to be that way.

Justin: So what surprised you most about that experience? I mean, you had mental health training. You are a counselor, right? So. But it's one thing being on the therapist's end and now you're in it. What surprised you the most?

Christina: I think one of the things that surprised me was how much my own emotions became entangled in my own experience. When I see families in the therapy office, I have a much more objective view. I'm not enmeshed in it and being in it and knowing that I needed to care for this child and I knew enough to know that, ok, I'm not feeling connected to her. I'm not feeling this overflowing love that I thought I would be, you know, upon giving birth. But I know that she needs from me the nurturing, the cuddling, the snuggling, the singsong voice. So I employed all of that, even though I felt vacant behind it. And so I think that that enmeshment of my own awareness and my own emotions in my process of being a mom, that was really hard to kind of navigate and figure out. And I think I was lucky because I have the mental health experience and knowledge to know what to do. I went through the motions, even though I didn't feel it.

Justin: Hmm. Wow.

Audra: It's really powerful. How old are your kids now?

Chrisitna: So my daughter Isla is five and she just started kindergarten.

Audra: Oh I love the name Isla.

Christina: Thank you. And then…

Audra: Kindergarten, a big deal.

Christina: Kinder. Yes. And she's rocking it. And she's in a Spanish immersion program. So she's coming home with new words every day, which is so fun. And then our son Sterling is three. And so he's actually watching TV right now and hopefully is quiet while we're talking.

Audra: Awesome. Well if he pops in, we’d love to say hi. I love the name Sterling, too. We have a family friend, you know, back in the day. It's a classic, very classic name.

Justin: So I just have a few more questions just because I you know, for new moms who might be listening to this. What helped you most during that time? So once you started to get help and you started to get some tools. What did you find most helpful?

Christina: I think what's really, really helpful and really, really important, like you were saying, Audra, this expectation of what we're supposed to be like or do or manage is to let that go and realize, especially if you've had a baby during this last year and a half, like things are not normal right now. We all have a level of stress that is way higher than it would typically be. And then outside of the pandemic, the idea of the village doesn't exist in the way that it did for our moms and for their moms and so on.

Audra: Great point.

Chrisitna: So the mom martyr-hood that we do, we need to stop that. And so really communicating with my husband to let him know I need to sleep right now or I haven't showered and I need to, do this or I need to do that. We also had to figure out the balance of housework. We had always been a very 50/50 couple, but then kind of naturally with me staying home with our daughter, there became this imbalance where all of a sudden I was cleaning the house more or doing the dishes more, the laundry more, and I had to speak up and say, you know what, that's not how we work and this isn't working for me. I can't do all of this. And so setting those boundaries, having clear communication, asking for help, I'm not good at asking for help. 

A lot of moms I know aren't especially I feel like our generation now, don't you either. Especially our generation. I feel like a lot of us are having kids after we've established careers. And so we have established patterns of if I work hard enough, I can achieve X, Y or Z. And with parenting, it's just not that one to one. And I think we need to let down that ‘I can handle it all. I can do it all attitude’ and really create your own village in that way with your partner, with your family, with friends.

 We have a lot of friends, actually, UK expats that live here, and their family is not here. So they are a family and they will watch someone else's child so that couple can go on a date or what have you. Just so creating your own village, as you can, I think is really, really helpful.

Audra: That is so great. This is really wonderful advice. And it strikes me that it goes actually for folks who are going to become parents. One of the things that I'm thinking of is preparation. And some of those expectations that we develop, we develop those expectations, you know, in advance, you know, through the pregnancy. I remember thinking that my first child was going to come out and be like a six to nine month old. Like I'll be on maternity leave walking around with him on my hip.

Christina: Right. Right. 

Audra: Like had no clue. I mean, really, like no understanding. But I think some of those things you can't prepare for. It's like, you know, there's so much of parenting, like the moment you have that other life outside of you and you're like, whoa, I have to care for this, this human now, this is incredible. I get to care for this human. But some things we can do to prepare, and it seems like we totally can come up with a plan to communicate in advance, not just about our birth planning, but what about our partnership planning in that, you know, these seem to be like really wonderful advance conversations to talk about the division of labor and be able to say, you know, I've heard that I'm going to need a ton of sleep. You know, are you willing to get up however many times and change diapers, you know, and do that before you are super tired or in the hospital longer than you thought you'd be?

Christina: Absolutely. I think that's so powerful. And I think along with the awareness of postpartum depression, anxiety and perinatal mood disorders, is that awareness of we're not just planning for your pregnancy and we're not just planning for the twenty four hours that you're giving birth, but we're planning for the next at least three months that those 100 days where you're in that fourth trimester and you're learning your child and they're learning what it's like to be alive and having those conversations is so important, because we, my husband and I, I guess we assumed we would fall naturally into a pattern. But the pattern we fell into wasn't one that worked for either of us. So we had to communicate. And so yeah, in anticipation, having better planning for postpartum, I think is definitely important.

Audra: Because, I mean, really kind of like going into a partnership even, whether it's, you know, a marriage or long term committed partnership or whatever way we might be putting that together as a family to then to commit to parenting our co parenting. I feel like we make a lot of assumptions anyway. Like, I don't know. We did. I mean, right. Like one of the things that we've learned now 20 years. 

Justin: Oh my god. 

Audra: Over 20 years of being together. But, you know, being married for 20 years, like I look back and now we've learned a lot more skills, especially in the more recent past few years. But before that, like the assumptions we would make, like it’s hilarious...

Justin: I mean, I think the most powerful layer is we have learned over the past well, I mean a lot over the past year or two, but the most impactful ones have been around communication and about communicating around these assumptions. I think. Yeah, you're absolutely right. How many assumptions I held...

Audra: And then the stories that are based on the assumptions and on and on, and then the resentments that are based on the stories that are based on the assumptions. Right. Oh, I can't believe she's just coming home and not like not even doing the dishes, you know, and like never once communicated anything about and holding these expectations when you haven't had a conversation is pretty unreasonable and you don't have to ever carry resentment if we communicate in advance. 

I guess that's the one thing I would think would be really powerful planning to do if one is to bring a child into the home, is to really just start with some advance planning and communications and thinking around those assumptions or even like communicating around how we want to communicate once the baby comes, like we have no idea what's going to happen so like, let's have a meeting. Let’s write a list of things we think we're going to talk about and just hold the space for it, at least.

Christina: I think so.

Justin: Oh, yeah. And this is one thing that came up in our podcast with Bridget across the perinatal therapist. She sees a lot of moms when they get into trouble after the baby is born, and they're going through some of the issues that you mentioned and many others. And she wishes so much that she would have been able to see them before the baby, because then we get to talk about the expectations, we get to talk about the assumptions. We get to air them out. And then we you know, we get the lines of communication flowing before you go to battle.

Chrisitna: Yeah. Well, and then another expectation that we have that I don't think we talk about is what our baby, like you said, you expected the six to nine month old. I don't think I fully understood what a newborn would be like exactly. But I also, my mom's experience, I'm one of three, was that we were good sleepers, good eaters with this lovely time. And so I just expected that a creature of my making would be the same as.

Justin: Would be just as awesome as you are.

Chrisitna: And so when she didn't take to nursing well, when my milk didn't come in, when sleeping wasn't happening, when she needed to be held all the time and was quite fussy, I'm like, what? This is not what I ordered. Like, you know, this is not what I stand for. So I do think having those conversations ahead of time about expectations or broadening your expectations, your baby might be a good sleep or your baby might not be a good sleeper. And if that's the case, what's your plan? How are you going to handle that as a team?

Audra: Broadening. I love that concept because thinking about those who, I've needed, I had medically necessary C-section, but I had friends who planned home births, that needed a C-section and suffered tremendous a sense of loss and devastation from that and from the expectation around what that birth would be, for example, or you fully plan on being a breastfeeding mom for two years. And then we talked about this in that last podcast, too, like that when there is difficulty feeding, it's a primal challenge as a mother, isn't it? It is so hard. And then when there's narratives around formula and you feel like a failure, you know, kind of like opening that space and broadening one's expectation, like what if it's not possible, then let's plan for this.

Christina: Yeah, absolutely. And that's powerful because then you can pivot easier.


27:55

Justin: You mentioned in the discussions that you and your partner started to have around assumptions and expectations, you mentioned the word boundaries. So let's talk about the book. So, yeah, so this is, so the book is called The Not-So-Friendly Friend. Yeah. And before, you know, when we first heard about you and first heard about the book and I saw the title and the subtitle, and I thought, oh, this is brilliant. I mean, I think every single parent has had this issue with their kids, like, oh, you know, there's one kid at school who's a problem. And, you know…

Audra: Can I read the subtitle really quick for the listener? How to Set Boundaries For Healthy Friendships.

Justin: Yeah. So it's a story that I think pretty much every parent who have had kids, and especially kids, if you're in it right now, kids around toddler age and up. So it's about a kid who who's nice, like the main character, well-adjusted, nice kid, getting along…

Audra: Communication skills like using words.

Justin: Getting along, but then comes across a not so friendly friend. And can you tell us what happens next, Christina?

Christina: Yes. So the main character, like you said, she's new to school, but she's easy to like. She does all the right things and she meets this friend who she considers a friend who sometimes is nice to her and they play well. And then sometimes it's very not nice to her. And she does what most of us do, which is to try harder. Like, oh, it must have been me. The reason why they weren't treating me right. So I'm going to just be that much more lovely. But she realized that didn't work either. 

And so in the story, you can see that she talks for her parents. You can see that she talks to her teacher and she realizes that she needs to set a boundary. And it's a very simple one, but hopefully a practical learning for kiddos that they can say something similar to this when they're not being treated right. And it's that I'm going to remove myself and go play with the people who do treat me well. But you're still welcome to come join us if you're ready to be kind. I just will only tolerate that people are kind to me, basically, is the message. 

And so it leaves that door open for whoever it may be, that unkind child is, or the child is acting unkindly to reflect and decide if they want to be a part of this friendship, relationship or not. But it gives the power to the child who is being mistreated. 

And so it's a story that I actually wrote because our daughter went through something similar. And so I wanted her to have the tools and skills. There's lots of books on friendship and there's lots of books on friendships with bullies. But our experience, in her experience, was that it was just another child who sometimes was nice and sometimes wasn't nice. It was this child wasn't aiming out there to be mean.

Audra: Oh, that's so common. That's what we've experienced, too.

Justin: Yeah, so common.

Audra: Also, with this book, along the same lines, like, I love how you have the tools embedded in the book where we can use these really valuable words like, you know, our child can, we can read this with our child. And she's like, oh, great, I can actually see this. Like, I can take this to school tomorrow and I can say this. I love the openness to change. Like my heart is going to be open. I'm going to be open to you. I'm open to change. But it's behavior oriented when it's not about you as a person or a human being. But when you behave this way, I have a boundary like I do not want to be with you when you behave this way, you know, which is wonderful. 

And in the book, I thought I'd just replace some of these pictures with pictures of moms. I don't know if you've had this experience, but when you when you end up in the situation with especially like, you know, five year old and up and you become friends with the moms in the class. Right. You kind of start to like gather the kids to play and play dates and you start gathering these new friends that are outside of your workplace, maybe outside of the other, like social environments that you're in. I mean, it's almost like a new social I don't know, like a new social evolution in a sense for a mom. Right. And you're stepping into meeting new people. And I found this skill set like really important there. It's like, you know, I find myself in a new, often needing boundaries. Also, like it's a very it can be a very challenging world for moms. The social world, mom to mom social world.

Christina: Absolutely one. You know, sometimes your kiddo and another kiddo become really close friends and you realize you don't like the parents that much or like you wouldn't mesh with them or your maybe, your parenting approaches are very different. So that's when it's good to speak up and it's good for your kiddos to see you modeling boundaries. And I think what's been really cool about this book is, I knew it was important for my daughter and I knew it was important enough to have it made. So, you know, I reached out to publishers to have it become a real book. But the feedback that I've gotten since then has shown me just how much more important than I even realized it was, and that's for the kids, but also, like you said, for the parents, for the adults reading the book as well.

And so many people have been like, this speaks to my inner child or this touched home with me now with them, with the moms I'm dealing with. And I think a lot of us aren't that practiced in setting boundaries, or maybe we are good in certain settings, like at work or with our in-laws, but maybe not with our friends or with our partners. And it's like your personal superpower to have agency over your life and to make sure that the life you live is the life you want. And so to teach it to children where they can grow up with this, it's just a pretty magical thing.

Justin: And the way it's done in this book is really beautiful, because the child, like the main character, is letting the other child know that this isn't working for me. I'm not saying that you're a bad person. I'm not saying, you know, I'm not putting this all on you. I'm saying this isn't working for me. Right. You know, and so when this starts to work for me, we can totally bring this back on line. 

But I really appreciated that because, yeah, like a part of me wants to just be like, hey, this is your problem. And I want to, you know, tell you how to do things. But it's like, hey, you know, this isn't working for me. When we can play nice and we can have fun together and then we're back on line. You know, I really appreciated that. And then I felt like, oh, this is something that, as you said, adults can totally use, you know, that in this relationship, whether it be a family member or a friend or whatever, the way I'm feeling right now is not working for me.

Christina: Mm hmm. Well, that's where I feel like boundaries provide clarity. And what a beautiful thing to be able to bring to a relationship. It allows you to be authentic. It allows, if you're whoever you're in the relationship with, has clear boundaries as well. Very authentic. Your relationship is mutually enjoyable because you know what game you're playing. You all are showing each other your cards and you're like, these are the rules. And you're like cool, we're going to go play the same game in life together. 

Whereas, you know, if we're making these assumptions like you guys were speaking about before in communication, then it's like we're each playing our own game or we have our own rules and we're hoping that people know. But that's just not fair.

Justin: Yes.What comes up for me is that, you know, there is a fear around displaying your rules or being explicit about your rules, because there's a fear of rejection, like, oh, well, if I if I could just be like flexible with my rules, if I can just kind of keep some of my rules to myself, then I'll not be rejected.

Audra: Or a fear of some response. That's not a comfortable response. An uncomfortable response. Yeah. 

Christina: But so what happens is we hold it in. Right. And we stew on it. And then ultimately we generally explode on it, which I would say is more uncomfortable than possibly the initial discomfort of letting what you need or want or value be known. And I think boundaries also give you for every person that's able to uphold, to set and uphold their own boundaries. You have responsibility for yourself, because I think when we don't tell someone, because we're afraid of rejection or afraid of a certain response, we're attempting to control their experience. And that's not our job. We're only here to control ourselves. 

Justin: Beautiful.

Audra: I love how you refer to this as a muscle, to build. Like it reminds me of like the muscle of resilience. Right. But I resonate so deeply with that because so much of my work and I'm sure probably like most of your clients, like I feel like this is a thing of our time, really. Like it's kind of cool to go out online and see what's going on. We're all doing a lot of work around boundaries, which is really cool. It's becoming, I don’t want to say popular, but something we're probably noticing a lot more than before the need for boundaries.

So it's been totally my work. And I haven't been able to change overnight. I haven't been able to get better at this, like in an instant. You know, it's like a practice. And I feel like there are some areas that are still really, really, really hard. But, you know, I'm trying and inching my way there, and that really resonated with me when you refer to it. You know, it's something that is a practice. And that weekend, I think that was in the back of the book when you describe what boundaries are. And I really, really appreciated that. I found it to be validating and encouraging.

Christina: Good. Yeah. And it is, the more you do it, the better you get. But depending on the setting, the context, the relationship, some situations might be harder to set a boundary than others. I find that I have a harder time with strangers, actually, with my family and friends. I lay it out straight, but with straight I want to be seen as. Agreeable and accommodating. And so I have this version of myself in my mind of being very nice. But the problem with being nice all the time is that's to be obliging for the sake of being liked in return, whereas being kind is being benevolent. So I'm trying to shift my own thinking to be like I can be my kind, lovely self, but still have opinions and still have needs or wants. And that's ok.

Audra: I love that. That sounds to me like the work that I'm in, which is people pleasing recovery.

Christina: Yes, me too.

Audra: I really like that. I like thinking of benevolence and kindness. Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. So where can you repeat that again? So it is kindness over niceness, is that the shift?

Christina: So they’re interrelated because you can do something like hold the door open for someone. And that is a very kind act. But you may also be doing it to be nice, which is to get that thank you in return. So there is being nice has a bit more of that. I'm being obliging or amenable for the sake of being liked, whereas being kind is I'm doing it because that's what I want to do. So being kind is healthier ultimately if you're not looking for that response in return.

 And that also then comes from that bolstering of your own self love and self worth, where you don't need the affirmations or the thank you's or people to like you. You just know your value. And so the people pleaser in me, and it sounds like in you guys as well, wants to be told how great we are and how much people like us. And it's hard then to set those boundaries.

Audra: Yes, it is. Yeah, I mean, it takes some digging, you know, it takes some digging and some source work for sure you to do that. Yeah, I have a friend of mine who's a therapist helped me with this. I think for a long time in early to this book, to me, and for a long time, we were really like, no, compassion is not enough. We need empathy. And my friends, like, no, no, no. Compassion is empathy with boundaries. You know, let's start back to compassion. 

You know, I feel like I worked in higher education before the work that we do now, and I think we like moving to empathy from compassion, which was cast as like not cold, but l maybe disingenuous a little bit or like one-sided. So I love thinking of like actually there are many instances where I need to move it into compassion and out of empathy, because empathy can play into the too much self identification, I guess.

Christina: You become porous and you absorb. You're putting yourself in their situation so much and understanding to the point of identification. And that can be incredibly taxing. Whereas with compassion, there is a little bit of distance, which is maybe why it had that negative connotation. But it's a healthier way to be to offer compassion to people versus to, you know, like as a mom, when your child's hurt or sick, it's so easy to to feel the weight of their problems as their they are your own. But if you can can develop more of a compassionate point of view, you can be there for them and support them while recognizing that it's their problem to work through and to figure out and to grow from.

Audra: Oh, absolutely. As this really resonates, like thinking about my daughter and helping her try to sift through some of the things she's going through, being new, brand new at her school and making friends and learning. Then she goes, she's one of those kids who goes all in. She you know, she's like, let's do it all sleepovers like it. We're best friends. And then there'll be something that'll come up that sort of is challenging for her. And then she wants to just kind of like avoid and go in another direction. And so it's like trying to help her, like not give up herself, her sense of, you know, who's who she is. 

Like, what's that balance between, you know, trying to, you know, kind of like work with people, but then maintaining, you know, your sense of who you are, what you want, and like trying to create that for herself. And that's like really boundaries with some of, with some of her friends. But it's been challenging because you want to help her identify like how do you move out of like especially with girls in sixth grade? 

Christina: That’s a tough age. 

Audra: As they're talking about each other and that, you know, like it's there's not like you have good data to work with, you got some challenging data to work with, lots of emotions, lots of big feelings, you know, and then trying to figure out how to set boundaries when like this is such a great time in life to learn this. Like, I wish I had this in sixth grade. So I'm so grateful for your work because I think it resonates, like I said, with all ages. It's going to be so helpful for her.

Christina: Thank you. Yeah, well, and middle school age is just so hard in general. And then now our kiddos have social media and personal devices and things that we didn't have to deal with. You know, AIM existed, so I'd come home and maybe message with a couple of people on the house computer in the living room in front of my parents. That's a very different thing. When your kiddos have their own phones where they have access to the Internet and they can't get away from maybe those peers that they would normally leave behind at school when they come home.

Audra: That's a really good point, is that it all extends into your home life at some point, you don't have the ability to be like, yeah, I get on the bus, I'll see you tomorrow. You can have that... That's something that we really need to explore more. I'd love to be able to talk more about that at some point and help, especially with our tweens and getting there with technology and all of that.

Justin: We've got an article coming. 

Audra: Oh, good, wonderful. 

Justin: Cell phones and teens. Yeah.


45:04

Justin: So do you have a few small steps, just first steps for parents who might be experiencing this that they can start with today? Of course, the first step would be to get the book. But, you know, when today when the kid comes home, like what are some small steps that parents could start right away?

Christina: Well, so it goes back to communication and dialogue. And one of the really good ways that parents can help their kiddos to make sense of their own experience and then make choices are intentional going forward is to have a reflective dialog with them. Now, this depends on your child's openness to having these sorts of conversations. And if you're able to start these when they're younger, then it's easier to carry through as they get older. But if they bring a problem up to you. Play detective with them. What led up to that? And then what did you think when they said that? What were your thoughts? How did it feel in your body? And then what choice did you make? What was the result of that choice and really help them investigate their own scenarios that they've lived. What would have been maybe a better way to handle that would have resulted in a more positive outcome and help them problem solve in anticipation of more experiences like that. 

So that's basically you're fostering their social emotional intelligence, helping them to recognize and identify their thoughts and feelings and then make sense of them and put words to them, because sometimes we feel things and we're not sure exactly how to describe it. And as adults, we might have a better ability to let your child now. Oh, it sounds like you were really envious of your friend or you were really frustrated at this situation, whatever it might be, and give them the terms so that then they can express that as well. 

So that communication is really important. Modeling self-love for yourself and applauding it in your children is really important, because, again, we need to feel like we matter in order for our wants, needs and values to matter and to protect with a boundary. So if we're going to set a boundary, we need to feel like what we're protecting is important and that's ourselves. And so as the parents, we need to celebrate our own accomplishments, our own efforts. Same with your child. Really celebrate who they are so that they know that I think I matter and I think you matter. And then again, going back to modeling boundaries ourselves. So let's say you're at a restaurant and you get your meals delivered and it's not right. We could just say, no, I'm just going to eat it, whatever. I don't want to cause problems. Or we could say…

Audra: He’s nudging me.

Christina: Or we could say when the waiter drops it off and leaves and you're like, oh, my goodness to your child, this isn't what I ordered. I'm going to let the server know about the mistakes so that I can get the meal that I asked for. And your child says, wow, ok my parent thinks it matters. They're not making a big deal out of it. They're just standing up for themselves. And so by modeling it, then our child sees the power of doing it for themselves too.

Audra: Such a great example, too, because like the other side of it is, ok, so there's then there's a parent is like, oh, I didn't get the right order, but it's ok. I'm fine. And then, that's me. And then there's the one who is like, I didn't get the right order. So I'm going to passive aggressively mention it every time the server comes by. I used to work in the restaurant industry, which is why I have it is…

Justin: So there’s also the fact that like you feel…

Audra: Yeah, yeah, but you know, one thing that. Yeah, as a pet peeve for me is also the passive aggressive response, you know, of hmm. Or there it is…

Christina: Not going to get a tip because I got the wrong food. Well, but you didn't tell them. That's not very fair.

Audra: Exactly. Exactly. So I love the idea of modeling, and I think this could be done beautifully with young kids like really young kids, too. I mean, modeling, when you're let's say you're young child toddlers hitting you, you know, and modeling boundaries around. I was just learning about this on the Curious Parenting. I don't know if you followed them on Instagram, but she's really great. And just these little steps that you can take to, you know, model how to have the conversation of like, this hurts me. I don't want to be hurt, you know, and I'm going to ask, I'm asking you to stop hitting me now, you know, and like these sorts of things, like, I guess modeling just in our own relationships within the family. How we interact together, just in the home can be really powerful.

Christina: Absolutely. So, you know, I'm thinking of my kids are at the age, and maybe this doesn't go away, where they want your attention at all times. And so I'm trying to model that. I'm actually protective of my time as well. And so if they're calling to me, I'm in the middle of something. I'll turn my attention towards them for a second to say, “Hey, I really want to hear what you have to say. And I know you deserve my full attention. I'm focused on this right now. 

So I'm going to take the next X amount of minutes to do this, and then I will give you my time.” And so that also shows that I am important enough to do what I need to do. My work is important and my time is important, but also so are they. And they deserve to have all of me instead of that kind of half texting, half looking, half-listening version that we do a lot of the time because we're all so busy multitasking.

Audra: So powerful. 

Justin: And you're modeling for clarity and communication. And I think of Brene Brown's, clear is kind. 

Christina: There we go. Back to the kindness as well.

Audra: I love it. Yeah, this is really powerful. I feel like that I've just taken something that from you that I'm going to use every day. Now, when interrupted, you know, be it when you come down with a thought and you're frustrated that I can't immediately respond to you or…

Christina: Now, beware your family will start to use boundaries on you, too. I heard my daughter say that to my son. She'll be like “Sterling, I'm putting a boundary right now,” and I love that. But when they're like, “mommy, I'm putting a boundary because you told me,” you know, I'm like, oh, yeah, this is good for me. That's the other part we model and we encourage it as well.

Audra: So when he sets boundaries around timing of washing the dishes. 

Justin: Oh, my god. 

Audra: Yeah, it's going to happen.

Justin: Yeah. I'm going to need some time to process that. So this book is the first in a series called Capable Kiddos. So what's next in this series?

Christina: So the idea is Capable Kiddos as a series is to help our kiddos and ourselves have the skills to handle whatever life throws our way. And so this first book is about friendship and boundaries. The second book is well underway. The illustrator is sending me really fun illustrations right now. It's called Fear Not, and it's how to work through and learn to tolerate and live with anxiety and fear. And so it's not so much…

Audra: I love it. 

Christina: Thank you. It's not so much about overcoming per se, because I think that's a bit unrealistic. But recognizing that anxiety will come and go. But these are the skills that we can use to help ourselves manage it. So that's…

Audra: I think is so powerful, like if we can start talking about this when we are young, young, young, we really need that. Like, you know, we've learned over the years to manage going down rabbit holes, to manage fear castrates, manage like these are like, you know, kind of feel like very adult things. But there are things that we can as parents like as we're working through it. Like, I think there's a lot that we can do for our families. Like I think that, you know, we don't have to talk about our fears around paying for our daughter's horse lessons or horseback riding lessons, you know what I mean? And like what we can or cannot afford. And then instilling that, you know, kind of fear of scarcity in them. Like, I love the idea, the idea of this book, because it is we're going to have these fears. It's like, what do we do with this? What do we do with this and how do we manage?

Justin: It's wonderful because I don't think I realized that I had anxiety as a child. I didn't really realize that anxiety was a part of my life until I was in my 20s. And I was like, oh, wait, actually, this has been going on for quite a while. And then my best friend didn't realize until a couple of years ago going into therapy that he had been dealing with it his whole life. And so it's like how many people grow up and as kids have these fears and anxieties and it's not just a like, you know, what do they call it, like momentary contextual thing, but it's like the anxiety is kind of a low hum in the background. Right. So that's wonderful. So when is this book coming out?

Christina: Fear Not should be out in the spring. So I'm really, really excited for that. And the beginning of the story talks about how all kids, grown ups too, have different anxieties, because I think a lot of the time in our own mental health struggles, we feel quite alone. And so I really want kids to know they're not alone in what they go through and they're not alone in having to work through it. So I'm super excited for that book in the spring. 

And then the third book I haven't written yet, but my plan, and I love your guys input is to have it be about our inner voice in the way that we talk to ourselves. I think so many of us grow up critiquing ourselves and being most unkind to ourselves. So I think a story about that where kids can develop a kind inner voice from a younger age, hopefully maybe we'll give them a happier, more positive experience of their life. But then I was thinking maybe I do mindset in general, like a growth mindset book. And that's a component of it, too. 

Justin: So, Christina, are you familiar with Internal Family Systems?

Christina: I have heard of it. I haven't studied it, though.

Justin: Oh, my gosh. Because what comes up for me is and what has helped me is, you know, I'll be very, very brief because I can go on. Basically that, you know, we are not one mind, but we have a bunch of different parts in us. And all these parts generally are there to protect us. And they're there to protect childhood wounds, emotional wounds. And so what I have realized working in this therapeutic domain is that I definitely have at least one part, probably multiple parts that have a lot of anxiety around emotional protection. And so seeing my inner world, not as I am the one who has anxiety, but I have a part, there's a part, and it's very close to the inner voice. But I mean, it's like it's practically the same thing. But in the internal family systems world, it's not just one inner voice. Right. We have… 

Audra: A whole family of them that interact. And what I love about that, too, is that nobody, you know, it makes it so that we ourselves and no one in the world around us is something or some way. You know, we may have a part that or parts that might, that behavior exhibit or pop out in this way. But yeah.

Justin: Yeah. And then I also have parts that do not feel that way. I mean, internal family systems gets even deeper than that. It's so cool. But yeah, the idea that oh, it's not like I Justin, you know, as a unified mind being have anxiety getting away from that idea and that I have a part or maybe one or two parts that having anxiety as a way to protect me are always on the lookout for danger, are going to ruminate on possible problems that…

Audra: It helps a lot, too, because I never hear you say like my anxiety. My anxiety is popping up, my anxieties here, my anxiety, like, you know, like I don't know. You don't kind of like cast yourself in that way and you don't own that, you know, kind of like as...

Justin: I have a part that is being triggered right now..

Audra: Not that I'm triggered. But like…

Christina: Yeah, I'm an anxious person, but I'm person that has parts of me that have anxiety from time to time. Right. Right. And it gives you information then from your body or from your brain that you then can intentionally decide what to do with versus, you know, I like to think of anxiety like a fire alarm. Ours is in the kitchen, so ours goes off every time I burn toast. It is not a fire. Right. That's our anxiety system sometimes has that alarm that goes off when we're making smoky toast. 

And it doesn't need to. Or we can hear it when you think, oh, I'm going to press the dismissal button because it's not really a fire. And if we don't learn to differentiate between that sort of information, then we think, oh, I'm anxious and I need to act in a way that responds to the anxiety. Whereas if it's a part of me has anxiety right now because of X, Y, Z situation, I can decide if this is something I need to respond to or not.

Audra: Absolutely. Yes. 

Justin: Yeah. Christina. So I have an awareness that now I've mentioned internal family cells. And so now I'm going to mention another thing. And it might feel like Christina, I'm like, can I just write this book? I know one thing that has really been a game-changer for my anxiety, too, is learning about what happens physiologically with anxiety…

Audra: Like you mentioned, what's happening in your body. 

Justin: Right. So, you know, there's a whole cascade of biochemicals that like ready the body for some sort of action. You know, it's like the heart rate increases. And, you know, I start to breathe faster. My face might get red. Right. So there are physiological things going on. And then learning that I can feel into that and like actually get physical, like stretch or deep breathing and like. So the idea that, oh, I just need to calm down, don't move. Calm, calm was actually the opposite of what I needed to do, which might be to like stand up, stretch, breathe, maybe do some jumping jacks, you know…

Audra: And for kids it might be like, it might be a cry, you know. And then you say don’t cry, but what if they need to cry? Like, what are your thoughts on that?

Christina: Yeah, well, I know that comes out of my mouth sometimes. In all honesty. Right. Because when you are throwing stuff, too, and. Yeah. So sometimes I'm guilty of saying stuff like that, too. Like don't cry. It's like when I'm at my max and spent, I feel like I'm not capable of handling their own stuff, which isn't fair to them. But we're all human so we can kind of learn from our mistakes and apologize later when we handle stuff like that wrong. But yeah, our kids have big feelings and most of the time the best thing you can do is just validate, just validate and give love. And then later on when they're out of that state, because when you're in that anxiety or that anger or fear, whatever you're in, you're in a fight or flight situation. 

And I think it's Dr. Daniel Siegel talks about your upstairs brain, and your downstairs brain. And so you're in your downstairs brain, which isn't where you're able to organize or plan or make logical choices or problem solve. And so when you help your kids in the moment, not actually that helpful. Like give them love, validate them and then once they're in a state where they're calm, reflect with them. And that's…

Audra: I love that. And so when your kids are in their downstairs brain. Right, big feelings, all that. You're usually in your upstairs brain, right? So you're coming at it like even…

Justin: No then I get triggered and then I'm in mine. 

Audra: Then you go downstairs. Right.

Christina: That's not good.

Audra: Yeah. So we all need the time to just validate, kind of like hold the space love and then process later. I mean, that's just that's a good thing to just plan for and be like, this is how this is how we do this. And I know as partners, too, like you started saying, hey, wait to get clear. Are you wanting to just let it out or are you wanting to problem solve? Like, can we do that? But to plan for that with the kids like that helps me to just be able to sort of like plan in advance, like in our kids going to come home from school with some big feelings and we're just going to validate and love and then circle back later, see if we're ready to process. Right. That’s awesome.

Christina: That's great to plan in that way. And we have a calming corner. And that's the idea of that as well, is that this is the place we go to. You know, it's these conversations ahead of time in prep, and then it's the reflection afterwards. You know, when we're upset, let's go head over to the common corner where you've got different things you can play with, where we can to sit down and hug each other, whatever feels right to you to kind of calm down. And then later we'll talk about it and help you out.

Audra: Oh, my gosh, can we talk more about that on The Family Thrive like I would love for us to maybe have a little segment on, like how to create your calming corner. Actually, what that is, I have not heard of that before, but I just got a picture in my head of just a really comforting, comfortable space to go and to be and to be together.

Justin: So you're saying that you need a calming corner.

Audra: I love that. 

Justin: So, Christina, what is new and interesting for you in your own mental and emotional health journey?

Christina: I think every day I'm working to be the mom that I wanted to be or thought I would be. And I'm sure it's a goal that's unachievable ultimately. But as long as I'm good enough, I need to learn to accept that and really trying. And I feel like the pandemic did this for a lot of us, really trying to be present and just appreciate the time that we have with our friends, our family, my kiddos. Be grateful. We try and we try to do gratitude every night. And we have the kids do it, too. And it's been really fun to hear how their gratitude evolves. My son for a long time just said family like you couldn't come up with something new. But he knew he was grateful for us.

Every dinner he said family. Whereas my daughter would come up with something from the day, and now my son's starting to, he's three, so he's starting to make more sense of what we're doing and come up with something that he's actually grateful for. And so we try and be present and live in gratitude. 

But also, I think recognizing that life has its ups and downs and I have periods where I'm not the happiest or I'm a little depressed or my anxieties kicked in. And same with my husband and same with our kiddos. You know, they have periods where I'm like, what is going on them? Something big is happening inside of them right now. And I think just knowing that that's ok. 

I had a client several years ago who was a teenager, and she had a really hard time if she didn't feel, if she felt anything less than perfect. It was catastrophic to her. And it meant that then she self-harmed or felt suicidal because she felt like her life was supposed to look a certain way. So I think acknowledging the ups and downs are life, and that's good. We don't have shades of the beautiful world around us without having blacks and grays and browns. Right. So we have to have those downs in order to sometimes appreciate the highs and the goods. And it's just, it provides a variety of life. That's what makes it so special.

Audra: Oh, that's really powerful to hear like to hear of what I hear is like a journey for you. Like to seeking deep engagement in life with your family. Like, I think that's beautiful. And then to hear of this of this young woman, I had never that had never occurred to me that that could be a way of living and breaks my heart to hear. And it breaks my heart to hear it, something that I think could potentially be preventable and support along the way. You know, like it's something that we can support by creating just a more like open, vulnerable, kind. And then also like a kind of like an attitude towards resilience in kind of like everything around us. But if you do grow up in one of those perfection-driven environments, that's the fallout.

Christina: Right. Or a toxic positivity where. Yes, you know, it's fine. I'm not affected, but you really are. And you should actually deal with it, you know? Yeah. So that's another thought behind my mindset or, you know, mindset book or the thought of your internal voice and how you are resilient or deal with things. Because it is just so important.

Audra: Yeah. I can't wait for these and I hope that we can talk again. I would really love every time a book comes out. Let's have a conversation. It's fantastic.

Justin: Awesome. So how can listeners find out more about you and your work?

Christina: They can visit me on my website, which is ChristinaFurnival.com. And from there, I have links to my book currently and books plural in the future. Also, I have a form to reach out if you would like me to connect you with a therapist, or if I'm available as well. I'm licensed in California, which means I can only see clients that are residing or physically in California at the time of sessions. And then also I have a blog through the website, so it's ChristinaFurnival.com/blog. And that's kind of how even this whole motherhood, mental health and writing journey all converged in my real life, a blog that I started after having my daughter. And then on social media, you can find me. I have two Instagram accounts, one for the books, which is @capablekiddosbooks, and then my therapeutic motherhood blog, Instagram account, which is @thisisreallifemama. And so, yeah, I would. I love when people reach out. I love getting new followers and connecting with them. And I'm here to help and support all of you, so I would love if you reach out.

Audra: Oh, thank you for bringing yourself to the world. It's just so powerful. I'm so, so grateful for your work.

Christina: Well, thank you. I'm so grateful to have gotten to meet you guys today. I think you're fabulous and I love what you're doing. I was exploring your account some more and going on your websites and watching your videos. And I love what you guys are doing.

Justin: Oh, well, we would yeah, we would love to connect further. Yes. And we certainly will after the show. But before we go, we have…

Audra: He’s keeping us on track.

Justin: Yeah. So we have three questions that we ask every podcast guest at the end of the show. So the first one is if you could put a Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, big Post-it note, what would it say?

Christina: It would say you're doing better than you think.

Justin: Mm hmm. 

Audra: I love that. I was getting some coffee, but I need that Post-it.

Justin: All right. So the second one, is there a quote that you have seen lately that has affected the way you think or feel?

Christina: Yes. And it's actually kind of related to that first one. But the quote that has affected probably for a couple of years now, how I feel. It's “you don't have to believe everything you think.”

Justin: Oh, this is yeah…

Audra: Love this quote. 

Christina: Yes, it's so good. 

Justin: Yep.

Christina: It's so powerful. And it puts you back in the driver's seat. Your thoughts, again, their information. And then you can choose what to do with them. I think we think our thoughts are truth because we make, because we come up with them. But we're often using confirmation bias and looking for things that are firmer, confirm what we already believe, whether or not it's helpful or true. And so knowing that we don't have to believe everything we think, I think is valuable. And then going back to your first question, you're doing better than you think as a parent is your thoughts are, oh, I messed that up. Oh, I'm screwing up my kids. Oh, I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. You're doing better than you think because your thoughts aren't always true.

Justin: Beautiful.

Audra: Love it. I love it. I feel I want to like do a graphic of these posts and put them out.

Justin: We actually have an article that we're working on doing just that. We are.

Christina: I like where your head is at. I'm visual.

Audra: I like the visual, right. Like I want to actually have it on Instagram and then screenshot it and then. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Justin: I think that's a beautiful idea. Oh, I had a mindful meditation teacher once who said your thoughts are like sweat. It's like the body just produces sweat. You don't need to worry about it. Like you don't need to get upset about it. It's just like you're sweating.

Audra: It's like your mind sweat.

Christina: I like that.

Justin: My thoughts are just mind sweat. 

Christina: Oh, God, I love it. 

Justin: Oh, my final question. You know, as you know, there are many times in parenting when you're just exhausted and overwhelmed, you're like, oh, my God, what's happening? And so it's nice to always just take a break and to think about like what is so awesome about kids. And so what do you love most about kids?

Christina: I love their, the way their minds work, the randomness seemingly with which they come out with things or the way that they make sense of the world. I just think they're magnificent. You know the show from decades ago. Kids say the darndest things. I just they do. And it's unbelievable. We have a booklet that we keep and we write down what our kiddos say. My daughter's theory on how babies are made is pretty fantastic. And I just like I love, I love all of the way that they think. And you can see the wheels turning. I just think it's so fabulous.

Audra: Oh, that's such a good idea to try to capture the goodness, to try to capture those nuggets. Such a great idea.

Christina: Yeah. Because you think you'll remember. Right. Oh, that was so funny. I'll totally remember that. Right. 

Audra: You get to a point where you don't even remember like what year your kid was born, like, you know, her parents. And they're like you were the, you were two in that picture. I'm like I'm clearly like six months old.

Christina: Right. 

Audra: Yeah, write it down.

Justin: Oh Christina, thank you so much for coming on the show. This is wonderful. And we can't wait to have you back.

Christina: Thank you for having me. So much fun to get to know you guys.

Audra: Likewise. Thanks again. I'm looking forward to talking to you the next time. 

Christina: Me, too.

Podcast Ep. 22: Setting Healthy Boundaries for Your Kids and Yourself With Christina Furnival, Mom, Mental Health Therapist and Author

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Podcast Ep. 22: Setting Healthy Boundaries for Your Kids and Yourself With Christina Furnival, Mom, Mental Health Therapist and Author

Join us and psychologist and children's book author, Christina Furnival, for a chat about motherhood, postpartum depression, and how to teach your kiddos to set healthy boundaries.

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90 minutes

In this episode

This was one of the funnest conversations we've had so far! Christina Furnival is a mom of two, a licensed mental health therapist, and a children’s book author who blogs under the handle “Real Life Mama.” She and her family live in San Diego, California and despite the beautiful weather of her home town, parenthood hasn’t been all sunshine and roses.


We invited her on the show this week to talk about the real stuff: what happens when motherhood isn’t the cakewalk we dream it to be, how Christina realized she was experiencing postpartum mood disorder after her first baby was born, what tools have helped her most in flourishing, and how we can help our kids (and ourselves) set healthy boundaries in life. At the end we talk about Christina’s newest work around anxiety, positive self-talk, and growth mindset. So, you’ll want to stick around for the entire episode!


Listen here

About our guests

Christina Furnival is a licensed mental health therapist with an emphasis in parent-youth relationships and over 10 years of experience. She is the author of the Capable Kiddos children’s book series, which she kicked off recently with The Not-So-Friendly Friend: How to set boundaries for healthy friendships. She also offers advice and tips through her blog, Real Life Mama and Instagram account @thisisreallifemama.


Show notes

  • 04:56 - Both Christina and her husband attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. 
  • 08:41 - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological treatment that can improve quality of life by treating a range of issues like anxiety disorders, depression, marital issues, substance abuse problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness. 
  • 11:05 - In case you missed it, Bridget Cross, LCSW, PMH-C joined us in Ep. 15 to discuss the healing that needs to happen with new mothers on an emotional, physical, and mental level.
  • 43:24 - Check out our Pro Perspectives article, Ask the Experts: Should My Teen Have a Cellphone? To see what three of our TFT experts have to think about this hot topic.
  • 48:50 - Curious Parenting is a great Instagram account and site that can help parents raise empowered and resilient kiddos.
  • 54:25 - “Internal Family Systems is a transformative, evidence-based psychotherapy that helps people heal by accessing and loving their protective and wounded inner parts...like members of a family.” (IFS Institute) 

59:52 -Dr. Daniel J. Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center there.

In this episode

This was one of the funnest conversations we've had so far! Christina Furnival is a mom of two, a licensed mental health therapist, and a children’s book author who blogs under the handle “Real Life Mama.” She and her family live in San Diego, California and despite the beautiful weather of her home town, parenthood hasn’t been all sunshine and roses.


We invited her on the show this week to talk about the real stuff: what happens when motherhood isn’t the cakewalk we dream it to be, how Christina realized she was experiencing postpartum mood disorder after her first baby was born, what tools have helped her most in flourishing, and how we can help our kids (and ourselves) set healthy boundaries in life. At the end we talk about Christina’s newest work around anxiety, positive self-talk, and growth mindset. So, you’ll want to stick around for the entire episode!


Listen here

About our guests

Christina Furnival is a licensed mental health therapist with an emphasis in parent-youth relationships and over 10 years of experience. She is the author of the Capable Kiddos children’s book series, which she kicked off recently with The Not-So-Friendly Friend: How to set boundaries for healthy friendships. She also offers advice and tips through her blog, Real Life Mama and Instagram account @thisisreallifemama.


Show notes

  • 04:56 - Both Christina and her husband attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. 
  • 08:41 - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological treatment that can improve quality of life by treating a range of issues like anxiety disorders, depression, marital issues, substance abuse problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness. 
  • 11:05 - In case you missed it, Bridget Cross, LCSW, PMH-C joined us in Ep. 15 to discuss the healing that needs to happen with new mothers on an emotional, physical, and mental level.
  • 43:24 - Check out our Pro Perspectives article, Ask the Experts: Should My Teen Have a Cellphone? To see what three of our TFT experts have to think about this hot topic.
  • 48:50 - Curious Parenting is a great Instagram account and site that can help parents raise empowered and resilient kiddos.
  • 54:25 - “Internal Family Systems is a transformative, evidence-based psychotherapy that helps people heal by accessing and loving their protective and wounded inner parts...like members of a family.” (IFS Institute) 

59:52 -Dr. Daniel J. Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center there.

In this episode

This was one of the funnest conversations we've had so far! Christina Furnival is a mom of two, a licensed mental health therapist, and a children’s book author who blogs under the handle “Real Life Mama.” She and her family live in San Diego, California and despite the beautiful weather of her home town, parenthood hasn’t been all sunshine and roses.


We invited her on the show this week to talk about the real stuff: what happens when motherhood isn’t the cakewalk we dream it to be, how Christina realized she was experiencing postpartum mood disorder after her first baby was born, what tools have helped her most in flourishing, and how we can help our kids (and ourselves) set healthy boundaries in life. At the end we talk about Christina’s newest work around anxiety, positive self-talk, and growth mindset. So, you’ll want to stick around for the entire episode!


Listen here

About our guests

Christina Furnival is a licensed mental health therapist with an emphasis in parent-youth relationships and over 10 years of experience. She is the author of the Capable Kiddos children’s book series, which she kicked off recently with The Not-So-Friendly Friend: How to set boundaries for healthy friendships. She also offers advice and tips through her blog, Real Life Mama and Instagram account @thisisreallifemama.


Show notes

  • 04:56 - Both Christina and her husband attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. 
  • 08:41 - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological treatment that can improve quality of life by treating a range of issues like anxiety disorders, depression, marital issues, substance abuse problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness. 
  • 11:05 - In case you missed it, Bridget Cross, LCSW, PMH-C joined us in Ep. 15 to discuss the healing that needs to happen with new mothers on an emotional, physical, and mental level.
  • 43:24 - Check out our Pro Perspectives article, Ask the Experts: Should My Teen Have a Cellphone? To see what three of our TFT experts have to think about this hot topic.
  • 48:50 - Curious Parenting is a great Instagram account and site that can help parents raise empowered and resilient kiddos.
  • 54:25 - “Internal Family Systems is a transformative, evidence-based psychotherapy that helps people heal by accessing and loving their protective and wounded inner parts...like members of a family.” (IFS Institute) 

59:52 -Dr. Daniel J. Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center there.

Enjoying this? Subscribe to The Family Thrive for more healthy recipes, video classes, and more.

Transcript highlights

1:55

Audra: I'm super excited that we were put in touch with you, I think we got in outreach through our managing editor, and as soon as we saw your work, we're like, oh, she's perfect. We got to talk to her. And then this book is absolutely incredible. The Not-So-Friendly Friend, I have to tell you, like I was just telling Justin that this could have been like a 400 page book for adults about, you know, setting boundaries. Like, I love reading that you easily condensed into a children's book and made it so simple. And I feel like making the conversation around boundaries so simple and accessible in this way is good for everyone. Our daughter is going through this right now of being a new kid in sixth grade. And thanks to our work with The Family Thrive, I feel like we've been able to help her more than we would have been able to before. But you're right, this isn't automatic. You know, this is not an automatic conversation that we have. So we'll get into it more, but I just wanted to say congratulations and thank you. It is such a beautiful book.

Justin: We're going to talk about the book, but before we do,let's talk about Christine.

Audra: Wait, can we tell her our roles on the podcast really quick? So Justin writes the questions and like keeps like the guardrails and keeps us moving and I usually mess it up. Ok, go ahead. 

Justin: Ok. Yeah. So I yeah, I kind of drive, I guess in the radio business there on radio shows. There's a driver and there's a personality like that's how they do radio shows. And the driver is like the professional radio host who keeps it on schedule. And the personality just kind of, you know, brings all the color in the life. And so we've kind of fallen into these roles, and that's why, but yeah, let's learn a little bit about Christina. So we want to know where you came from. Right. So where did you grow up and how did you, what pathway led you into becoming an author, a mother and a therapist?

Christina: Well, I am a born and raised San Diegan. And so I grew up here, but I actually did college and graduate school in Nashville, Tennessee. And so…

Audra: Oh, you know the south.

Christina: I know and I visited Savannah before, so I, it has a special place in my heart. I do think I left a part of me in the south when I came back to San Diego. But so born and raised out here, I am married to my husband, Tom. We just celebrated eight years of marriage and he's from Scotland.

Audra: Congratulations, oh wow. From Scotland. How cool! Where in Scotland?

Christina: Tom from Scotland. He's from a small town near Aberdeen called Banchory.

Audra: Oh, how cool. 

Justin: Where did you guys meet?

Christina: We actually met in Nashville. So, you know, San Diego girl from southwest US. He's from the northeast of Scotland. And we met in Nashville, Tennessee.

Justin: A classic story. All right.

Audra: I love it. Love college.

Justin: What led you to Vanderbilt? Why?

Christina: Well, so back when I was in high school and planning out like what career I thought I wanted to have, I always wanted to be a pediatrician. And so when I toured universities and I visited Vanderbilt, I saw their children's hospital on campus. And it's such a happy place. It's not as sterile and cold as a lot of hospitals, and I thought, wow, if I'm going to be a pediatrician, I'm going to be one here. And so I want to go to school here. Plus, I fell in love with Southern hospitality during my visit for those few days before I decided to accept going to school there. And so that was what brought me to Vanderbilt. But it was at Vanderbilt that I realized that I was not as interested in medicine as a helping profession as I thought. 

So after graduating from Vanderbilt, I took about a year or so before deciding to enroll in a graduate program for professional counseling. So I always wanted to help some, help people and help children. But I thought it was through medicine and then ultimately it's been through psychology and therapy.

So that's kind of how my path ended up towards therapy. My mom's also actually a licensed mental health therapist and a school counselor. So I think when I was choosing medicine initially, I had boxed up her career is for her. And then it was after realizing I'm actually quite similar to my mom and I love and adore what she does and how she helps families and children that I knew that that was for me, too.

Audra: Oh, what a beautiful process. Like it's almost of like a differentiation and then incorporation kind of, you know, and I wonder, hearing that, you know, I wonder if if your mother in growing up with a therapist, did she also teach you a lot that kind of like open your your eyes into the world of what could be when it comes to being somebody with those skills?

Christina: Yeah, I think she did a really good job because I never felt like she was doing therapy on me. You know, she drew a good line where she was just a lovely, and is a lovely, nurturing mom. She did teach us about feelings and emotions and how to process them and reflect on them. So I feel like I did have some skills from a younger age than a lot of my peers might have.

Audra: Oh, it's invaluable. I feel like we all need that. And as parents we need these skills like it's not something that is just for therapists. Right. It's like as parents these are some of the most essential skills that we need, I think, from the beginning. So that is pretty powerful that you have experienced that in your own life. And then it sounds like you brought into your work and your parenting.

Christina: Yeah. Yes. I always, ever since I started in the field in 2009, I've always worked with youth and adolescents and their families. And I love helping kiddos because kiddos are just so interesting and they're open to change because every day is change and every day is new discoveries and helping their families and then figure out how to help their kiddos live the life that they want. How to understand themselves better and navigate challenges confidently is what I'm all about.

Justin: Ok, I have a curiosity. I imagine that in the years that have passed from when your mom went to school and first started practicing and you went to school and you started practicing, that a lot has changed in the field. And so have you had discussions with your mom? Have you said, mom, you know the way you thought about X, Y, and Z, now that's change. It's now A, B, and C.

Christina: I think in general, or at least the way that my mom engages with families and youth, I feel like that's still aligned with the ways that I practice therapy. There are definitely new modalities and approaches, lots of acronyms that she's never heard of before in different ways to handle things. But we're both really big into CBT. And so just that awareness between our thoughts, our feelings and our behaviors and how it's all interconnected.

Justin: So did you always know that you wanted to be a mom? 

Christina: Yes. 

Justin: Yeah. So how did the actual, so you knew that you wanted to be a mom and you were a therapist before you were a mom? Right. And so how did motherhood change this for you?

Christina: I thought I was going to have motherhood in the bag. I was certainly very confident that I would just be this amazing natural mother. Not only had I always worked with youth in the mental health field, but before I ever was an adult, I would babysit. I've got 21 aunts and uncles and probably 30 plus cousins. And I'm on the older end of them. So I would babysit and watch them all. I was a children's entertainer at like summer camps. And I thought, I know kids inside and out and wow, I was just completely blindsided by motherhood. 

I think part of it had a lot to do with, I went through postpartum depression and anxiety after having my daughter, my first child. And I was not expecting. I didn't think I had any of the warning signs. But now, in hindsight, I look back and I'm like, oh, I was having intrusive thoughts. Oh, I was really depressed or apathetic about this or that. That used to bring me joy, you know. So now I can kind of put those pieces together. But when I was in the fog of it, I was just completely surprised that that was my experience. And I also had high risk pregnancies, which is, that’s a kind of warning sign. And after giving birth to my daughter a week later, I had a delayed postpartum hemorrhage where I had to be rushed to the hospital. And so that was traumatic, and I hadn't really processed that. And then that led to my milk supply not coming in how it should. And so feeding problems, sleeping problems and all this, all of it piled on top of each other.

Audra: Oh, so big. I mean, I'm just taking all of that in that really. It's so powerful. It's all of the things that when you say blindsided, all of the things that we don't expect. And I think like reflecting on what you're saying, like how many of us do know that we're in postpartum depression, like how many of us do see the warning signs? I feel like awareness is growing because of sharing like this. And we did speak earlier on this podcast with Bridget, really, really wonderful perinatal therapist who specializes in just this, because she was called to it, you know, for very similar reasons. And so I think I see awareness raising a little bit. 

But, you know, when my son was born 14 years ago, there was no talk around it. And in fact, there are even a little stigma. I would be like, well, she you know, she has postpartum, you know, and it was feel like not only a stigma, but like a problematizing, like this is an issue for her. Right. Instead of this is a huge issue that has everything to do with our health care system, that has everything to do with, you know, modern motherhood, that has everything to do with expectations and on and on and on. Like it's just such like Bridget described it as an onion. And it's like you peel back every layer and you see more and more complexity of that. So it makes sense. And then add the trauma on top of it of a hemorrhage or the trauma of high risk pregnancies. It's a lot.

Christina: Yeah. and it all makes sense now. But you're right that when you're in it a lot of times, even if you know what the potential warning signs are, you're in such a fog that you can't even necessarily make sense of your experience. And sometimes it takes your partner or a friend or a parent to point out like you're not, something's not working right now. Like this is beyond sleep deprivation. This is beyond the life change. 

And so one of the things that I like to say, because now I do work with adults and I tend to work with moms, I do telehealth therapy in the evening now, is that motherhood should be life changing, but it should not be earth shattering. And if you feel like it has turned the world upside down in a negative way, then it's time to get some help.

Audra: So that's a powerful way to put that. I think we should put a pin in that. Like I think that's a really wonderful quote to pull out of this, because even as a therapist yourself, it sounds like it took some time and a view and a realization, and then you're really able to see it in a retrospective manner what you were going through. But if it's even hard for a therapist to identify this, you know, then we should normalize that. Like it's hard to identify these things, you know, and just having that sort of putting that quote out into the world. If we can do that when we promote this podcast, I think it would be meaningful.

Justin: Oh, absolutely. And it brings up the curiosity that I had when I first read about your story on your website. It makes total sense to me that this would be something that you could look back on in retrospect to say, oh, yeah, there were the signs. But what was the sign for you at the time that, oh, this isn't just a couple of bad days, this isn't just waking up on the wrong side of the bed? What was the aha moment for you?

Christina: Well, so I knew to expect that there might be baby blues in the first two weeks, and then I knew to expect that my hormones would start to regulate around six weeks once my ovaries took back over, because when you're pregnant, your placenta is in charge of a lot of your hormone production. And so when you give birth, the placenta leaves you and then your hormones are wild for a bit. And so I was sitting there thinking, wow, this is not going how I thought it would. This is not like blissful, bigger than life love that I was expecting that you hear about but at two weeks, I'm sure I'll feel better. And so I kind of just rode that wave. 

And then two weeks came and two weeks went and so I was like six weeks. When my hormones regulate that, I'll be able to make sense of what I'm experiencing and I'll be fine. Six weeks came and went and with my husband and I trying to figure out our child and learn her cues and how to just do this whole parenting thing. We had an argument one evening and I said this is a nightmare. 

And he, being the protective loyal father that he had now become, was like, I can't believe you said that. And I'm like, well, that that's actually how I feel. I feel like this is a nightmare. I'm living a bad dream. And that was a turning point for us to be like that shouldn't be my experience. This shouldn't be how this feels. It's hard, but it shouldn't be a nightmare. 

And so then I was employing more selfcare. We got my mom to come around during the day to hold our daughter so that I could take naps. She was one of those kiddos that had to be held at all times. So I wasn't getting the rest that I needed to get. Yeah. Was Max the same way?

Audra: Same way.

Christina: It's so hard when you can’t just set them down and you see your friends sharing on social media about their baby in their bassinet and like, oh, how they're such good sleepers. And then you have jealousy on top of resentment on top of all the other feelings.

Audra: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Christina: I ultimately decided to see my own therapist because I knew that I couldn't see my own blind spots and that I needed support outside of myself.

Audra: It's powerful. So it sounds like accepting, seeking and accepting support from those around you to pursue self care. And then also getting some help getting you know, your own therapist was key to that. And it's really amazing that you saw I think that is one thing that moms carry. See that they're supposed to, there's like this shoulding on ourselves, like we're supposed to be able to do this alone. Right. We're supposed to be able to do it ourselves. And then the other thing that you said that really was impactful to me when you talked about the nightmare is that the response wasn't to diminish or deny your feelings, that you were in a nightmare. It sounds like that was recognized. And the response was, and we don't want it to be a nightmare. Like, yes, you're feeling that way instead of saying, no, it's not. Right. You're a mother of a brand new kid, beautiful baby. You know, no, it's not, you know, like acknowledge that it is your nightmare right now. And we don't want it to be that way. 

Christina: Exactly. 

Audra: It doesn't have to be that way.

Justin: So what surprised you most about that experience? I mean, you had mental health training. You are a counselor, right? So. But it's one thing being on the therapist's end and now you're in it. What surprised you the most?

Christina: I think one of the things that surprised me was how much my own emotions became entangled in my own experience. When I see families in the therapy office, I have a much more objective view. I'm not enmeshed in it and being in it and knowing that I needed to care for this child and I knew enough to know that, ok, I'm not feeling connected to her. I'm not feeling this overflowing love that I thought I would be, you know, upon giving birth. But I know that she needs from me the nurturing, the cuddling, the snuggling, the singsong voice. So I employed all of that, even though I felt vacant behind it. And so I think that that enmeshment of my own awareness and my own emotions in my process of being a mom, that was really hard to kind of navigate and figure out. And I think I was lucky because I have the mental health experience and knowledge to know what to do. I went through the motions, even though I didn't feel it.

Justin: Hmm. Wow.

Audra: It's really powerful. How old are your kids now?

Chrisitna: So my daughter Isla is five and she just started kindergarten.

Audra: Oh I love the name Isla.

Christina: Thank you. And then…

Audra: Kindergarten, a big deal.

Christina: Kinder. Yes. And she's rocking it. And she's in a Spanish immersion program. So she's coming home with new words every day, which is so fun. And then our son Sterling is three. And so he's actually watching TV right now and hopefully is quiet while we're talking.

Audra: Awesome. Well if he pops in, we’d love to say hi. I love the name Sterling, too. We have a family friend, you know, back in the day. It's a classic, very classic name.

Justin: So I just have a few more questions just because I you know, for new moms who might be listening to this. What helped you most during that time? So once you started to get help and you started to get some tools. What did you find most helpful?

Christina: I think what's really, really helpful and really, really important, like you were saying, Audra, this expectation of what we're supposed to be like or do or manage is to let that go and realize, especially if you've had a baby during this last year and a half, like things are not normal right now. We all have a level of stress that is way higher than it would typically be. And then outside of the pandemic, the idea of the village doesn't exist in the way that it did for our moms and for their moms and so on.

Audra: Great point.

Chrisitna: So the mom martyr-hood that we do, we need to stop that. And so really communicating with my husband to let him know I need to sleep right now or I haven't showered and I need to, do this or I need to do that. We also had to figure out the balance of housework. We had always been a very 50/50 couple, but then kind of naturally with me staying home with our daughter, there became this imbalance where all of a sudden I was cleaning the house more or doing the dishes more, the laundry more, and I had to speak up and say, you know what, that's not how we work and this isn't working for me. I can't do all of this. And so setting those boundaries, having clear communication, asking for help, I'm not good at asking for help. 

A lot of moms I know aren't especially I feel like our generation now, don't you either. Especially our generation. I feel like a lot of us are having kids after we've established careers. And so we have established patterns of if I work hard enough, I can achieve X, Y or Z. And with parenting, it's just not that one to one. And I think we need to let down that ‘I can handle it all. I can do it all attitude’ and really create your own village in that way with your partner, with your family, with friends.

 We have a lot of friends, actually, UK expats that live here, and their family is not here. So they are a family and they will watch someone else's child so that couple can go on a date or what have you. Just so creating your own village, as you can, I think is really, really helpful.

Audra: That is so great. This is really wonderful advice. And it strikes me that it goes actually for folks who are going to become parents. One of the things that I'm thinking of is preparation. And some of those expectations that we develop, we develop those expectations, you know, in advance, you know, through the pregnancy. I remember thinking that my first child was going to come out and be like a six to nine month old. Like I'll be on maternity leave walking around with him on my hip.

Christina: Right. Right. 

Audra: Like had no clue. I mean, really, like no understanding. But I think some of those things you can't prepare for. It's like, you know, there's so much of parenting, like the moment you have that other life outside of you and you're like, whoa, I have to care for this, this human now, this is incredible. I get to care for this human. But some things we can do to prepare, and it seems like we totally can come up with a plan to communicate in advance, not just about our birth planning, but what about our partnership planning in that, you know, these seem to be like really wonderful advance conversations to talk about the division of labor and be able to say, you know, I've heard that I'm going to need a ton of sleep. You know, are you willing to get up however many times and change diapers, you know, and do that before you are super tired or in the hospital longer than you thought you'd be?

Christina: Absolutely. I think that's so powerful. And I think along with the awareness of postpartum depression, anxiety and perinatal mood disorders, is that awareness of we're not just planning for your pregnancy and we're not just planning for the twenty four hours that you're giving birth, but we're planning for the next at least three months that those 100 days where you're in that fourth trimester and you're learning your child and they're learning what it's like to be alive and having those conversations is so important, because we, my husband and I, I guess we assumed we would fall naturally into a pattern. But the pattern we fell into wasn't one that worked for either of us. So we had to communicate. And so yeah, in anticipation, having better planning for postpartum, I think is definitely important.

Audra: Because, I mean, really kind of like going into a partnership even, whether it's, you know, a marriage or long term committed partnership or whatever way we might be putting that together as a family to then to commit to parenting our co parenting. I feel like we make a lot of assumptions anyway. Like, I don't know. We did. I mean, right. Like one of the things that we've learned now 20 years. 

Justin: Oh my god. 

Audra: Over 20 years of being together. But, you know, being married for 20 years, like I look back and now we've learned a lot more skills, especially in the more recent past few years. But before that, like the assumptions we would make, like it’s hilarious...

Justin: I mean, I think the most powerful layer is we have learned over the past well, I mean a lot over the past year or two, but the most impactful ones have been around communication and about communicating around these assumptions. I think. Yeah, you're absolutely right. How many assumptions I held...

Audra: And then the stories that are based on the assumptions and on and on, and then the resentments that are based on the stories that are based on the assumptions. Right. Oh, I can't believe she's just coming home and not like not even doing the dishes, you know, and like never once communicated anything about and holding these expectations when you haven't had a conversation is pretty unreasonable and you don't have to ever carry resentment if we communicate in advance. 

I guess that's the one thing I would think would be really powerful planning to do if one is to bring a child into the home, is to really just start with some advance planning and communications and thinking around those assumptions or even like communicating around how we want to communicate once the baby comes, like we have no idea what's going to happen so like, let's have a meeting. Let’s write a list of things we think we're going to talk about and just hold the space for it, at least.

Christina: I think so.

Justin: Oh, yeah. And this is one thing that came up in our podcast with Bridget across the perinatal therapist. She sees a lot of moms when they get into trouble after the baby is born, and they're going through some of the issues that you mentioned and many others. And she wishes so much that she would have been able to see them before the baby, because then we get to talk about the expectations, we get to talk about the assumptions. We get to air them out. And then we you know, we get the lines of communication flowing before you go to battle.

Chrisitna: Yeah. Well, and then another expectation that we have that I don't think we talk about is what our baby, like you said, you expected the six to nine month old. I don't think I fully understood what a newborn would be like exactly. But I also, my mom's experience, I'm one of three, was that we were good sleepers, good eaters with this lovely time. And so I just expected that a creature of my making would be the same as.

Justin: Would be just as awesome as you are.

Chrisitna: And so when she didn't take to nursing well, when my milk didn't come in, when sleeping wasn't happening, when she needed to be held all the time and was quite fussy, I'm like, what? This is not what I ordered. Like, you know, this is not what I stand for. So I do think having those conversations ahead of time about expectations or broadening your expectations, your baby might be a good sleep or your baby might not be a good sleeper. And if that's the case, what's your plan? How are you going to handle that as a team?

Audra: Broadening. I love that concept because thinking about those who, I've needed, I had medically necessary C-section, but I had friends who planned home births, that needed a C-section and suffered tremendous a sense of loss and devastation from that and from the expectation around what that birth would be, for example, or you fully plan on being a breastfeeding mom for two years. And then we talked about this in that last podcast, too, like that when there is difficulty feeding, it's a primal challenge as a mother, isn't it? It is so hard. And then when there's narratives around formula and you feel like a failure, you know, kind of like opening that space and broadening one's expectation, like what if it's not possible, then let's plan for this.

Christina: Yeah, absolutely. And that's powerful because then you can pivot easier.


27:55

Justin: You mentioned in the discussions that you and your partner started to have around assumptions and expectations, you mentioned the word boundaries. So let's talk about the book. So, yeah, so this is, so the book is called The Not-So-Friendly Friend. Yeah. And before, you know, when we first heard about you and first heard about the book and I saw the title and the subtitle, and I thought, oh, this is brilliant. I mean, I think every single parent has had this issue with their kids, like, oh, you know, there's one kid at school who's a problem. And, you know…

Audra: Can I read the subtitle really quick for the listener? How to Set Boundaries For Healthy Friendships.

Justin: Yeah. So it's a story that I think pretty much every parent who have had kids, and especially kids, if you're in it right now, kids around toddler age and up. So it's about a kid who who's nice, like the main character, well-adjusted, nice kid, getting along…

Audra: Communication skills like using words.

Justin: Getting along, but then comes across a not so friendly friend. And can you tell us what happens next, Christina?

Christina: Yes. So the main character, like you said, she's new to school, but she's easy to like. She does all the right things and she meets this friend who she considers a friend who sometimes is nice to her and they play well. And then sometimes it's very not nice to her. And she does what most of us do, which is to try harder. Like, oh, it must have been me. The reason why they weren't treating me right. So I'm going to just be that much more lovely. But she realized that didn't work either. 

And so in the story, you can see that she talks for her parents. You can see that she talks to her teacher and she realizes that she needs to set a boundary. And it's a very simple one, but hopefully a practical learning for kiddos that they can say something similar to this when they're not being treated right. And it's that I'm going to remove myself and go play with the people who do treat me well. But you're still welcome to come join us if you're ready to be kind. I just will only tolerate that people are kind to me, basically, is the message. 

And so it leaves that door open for whoever it may be, that unkind child is, or the child is acting unkindly to reflect and decide if they want to be a part of this friendship, relationship or not. But it gives the power to the child who is being mistreated. 

And so it's a story that I actually wrote because our daughter went through something similar. And so I wanted her to have the tools and skills. There's lots of books on friendship and there's lots of books on friendships with bullies. But our experience, in her experience, was that it was just another child who sometimes was nice and sometimes wasn't nice. It was this child wasn't aiming out there to be mean.

Audra: Oh, that's so common. That's what we've experienced, too.

Justin: Yeah, so common.

Audra: Also, with this book, along the same lines, like, I love how you have the tools embedded in the book where we can use these really valuable words like, you know, our child can, we can read this with our child. And she's like, oh, great, I can actually see this. Like, I can take this to school tomorrow and I can say this. I love the openness to change. Like my heart is going to be open. I'm going to be open to you. I'm open to change. But it's behavior oriented when it's not about you as a person or a human being. But when you behave this way, I have a boundary like I do not want to be with you when you behave this way, you know, which is wonderful. 

And in the book, I thought I'd just replace some of these pictures with pictures of moms. I don't know if you've had this experience, but when you when you end up in the situation with especially like, you know, five year old and up and you become friends with the moms in the class. Right. You kind of start to like gather the kids to play and play dates and you start gathering these new friends that are outside of your workplace, maybe outside of the other, like social environments that you're in. I mean, it's almost like a new social I don't know, like a new social evolution in a sense for a mom. Right. And you're stepping into meeting new people. And I found this skill set like really important there. It's like, you know, I find myself in a new, often needing boundaries. Also, like it's a very it can be a very challenging world for moms. The social world, mom to mom social world.

Christina: Absolutely one. You know, sometimes your kiddo and another kiddo become really close friends and you realize you don't like the parents that much or like you wouldn't mesh with them or your maybe, your parenting approaches are very different. So that's when it's good to speak up and it's good for your kiddos to see you modeling boundaries. And I think what's been really cool about this book is, I knew it was important for my daughter and I knew it was important enough to have it made. So, you know, I reached out to publishers to have it become a real book. But the feedback that I've gotten since then has shown me just how much more important than I even realized it was, and that's for the kids, but also, like you said, for the parents, for the adults reading the book as well.

And so many people have been like, this speaks to my inner child or this touched home with me now with them, with the moms I'm dealing with. And I think a lot of us aren't that practiced in setting boundaries, or maybe we are good in certain settings, like at work or with our in-laws, but maybe not with our friends or with our partners. And it's like your personal superpower to have agency over your life and to make sure that the life you live is the life you want. And so to teach it to children where they can grow up with this, it's just a pretty magical thing.

Justin: And the way it's done in this book is really beautiful, because the child, like the main character, is letting the other child know that this isn't working for me. I'm not saying that you're a bad person. I'm not saying, you know, I'm not putting this all on you. I'm saying this isn't working for me. Right. You know, and so when this starts to work for me, we can totally bring this back on line. 

But I really appreciated that because, yeah, like a part of me wants to just be like, hey, this is your problem. And I want to, you know, tell you how to do things. But it's like, hey, you know, this isn't working for me. When we can play nice and we can have fun together and then we're back on line. You know, I really appreciated that. And then I felt like, oh, this is something that, as you said, adults can totally use, you know, that in this relationship, whether it be a family member or a friend or whatever, the way I'm feeling right now is not working for me.

Christina: Mm hmm. Well, that's where I feel like boundaries provide clarity. And what a beautiful thing to be able to bring to a relationship. It allows you to be authentic. It allows, if you're whoever you're in the relationship with, has clear boundaries as well. Very authentic. Your relationship is mutually enjoyable because you know what game you're playing. You all are showing each other your cards and you're like, these are the rules. And you're like cool, we're going to go play the same game in life together. 

Whereas, you know, if we're making these assumptions like you guys were speaking about before in communication, then it's like we're each playing our own game or we have our own rules and we're hoping that people know. But that's just not fair.

Justin: Yes.What comes up for me is that, you know, there is a fear around displaying your rules or being explicit about your rules, because there's a fear of rejection, like, oh, well, if I if I could just be like flexible with my rules, if I can just kind of keep some of my rules to myself, then I'll not be rejected.

Audra: Or a fear of some response. That's not a comfortable response. An uncomfortable response. Yeah. 

Christina: But so what happens is we hold it in. Right. And we stew on it. And then ultimately we generally explode on it, which I would say is more uncomfortable than possibly the initial discomfort of letting what you need or want or value be known. And I think boundaries also give you for every person that's able to uphold, to set and uphold their own boundaries. You have responsibility for yourself, because I think when we don't tell someone, because we're afraid of rejection or afraid of a certain response, we're attempting to control their experience. And that's not our job. We're only here to control ourselves. 

Justin: Beautiful.

Audra: I love how you refer to this as a muscle, to build. Like it reminds me of like the muscle of resilience. Right. But I resonate so deeply with that because so much of my work and I'm sure probably like most of your clients, like I feel like this is a thing of our time, really. Like it's kind of cool to go out online and see what's going on. We're all doing a lot of work around boundaries, which is really cool. It's becoming, I don’t want to say popular, but something we're probably noticing a lot more than before the need for boundaries.

So it's been totally my work. And I haven't been able to change overnight. I haven't been able to get better at this, like in an instant. You know, it's like a practice. And I feel like there are some areas that are still really, really, really hard. But, you know, I'm trying and inching my way there, and that really resonated with me when you refer to it. You know, it's something that is a practice. And that weekend, I think that was in the back of the book when you describe what boundaries are. And I really, really appreciated that. I found it to be validating and encouraging.

Christina: Good. Yeah. And it is, the more you do it, the better you get. But depending on the setting, the context, the relationship, some situations might be harder to set a boundary than others. I find that I have a harder time with strangers, actually, with my family and friends. I lay it out straight, but with straight I want to be seen as. Agreeable and accommodating. And so I have this version of myself in my mind of being very nice. But the problem with being nice all the time is that's to be obliging for the sake of being liked in return, whereas being kind is being benevolent. So I'm trying to shift my own thinking to be like I can be my kind, lovely self, but still have opinions and still have needs or wants. And that's ok.

Audra: I love that. That sounds to me like the work that I'm in, which is people pleasing recovery.

Christina: Yes, me too.

Audra: I really like that. I like thinking of benevolence and kindness. Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. So where can you repeat that again? So it is kindness over niceness, is that the shift?

Christina: So they’re interrelated because you can do something like hold the door open for someone. And that is a very kind act. But you may also be doing it to be nice, which is to get that thank you in return. So there is being nice has a bit more of that. I'm being obliging or amenable for the sake of being liked, whereas being kind is I'm doing it because that's what I want to do. So being kind is healthier ultimately if you're not looking for that response in return.

 And that also then comes from that bolstering of your own self love and self worth, where you don't need the affirmations or the thank you's or people to like you. You just know your value. And so the people pleaser in me, and it sounds like in you guys as well, wants to be told how great we are and how much people like us. And it's hard then to set those boundaries.

Audra: Yes, it is. Yeah, I mean, it takes some digging, you know, it takes some digging and some source work for sure you to do that. Yeah, I have a friend of mine who's a therapist helped me with this. I think for a long time in early to this book, to me, and for a long time, we were really like, no, compassion is not enough. We need empathy. And my friends, like, no, no, no. Compassion is empathy with boundaries. You know, let's start back to compassion. 

You know, I feel like I worked in higher education before the work that we do now, and I think we like moving to empathy from compassion, which was cast as like not cold, but l maybe disingenuous a little bit or like one-sided. So I love thinking of like actually there are many instances where I need to move it into compassion and out of empathy, because empathy can play into the too much self identification, I guess.

Christina: You become porous and you absorb. You're putting yourself in their situation so much and understanding to the point of identification. And that can be incredibly taxing. Whereas with compassion, there is a little bit of distance, which is maybe why it had that negative connotation. But it's a healthier way to be to offer compassion to people versus to, you know, like as a mom, when your child's hurt or sick, it's so easy to to feel the weight of their problems as their they are your own. But if you can can develop more of a compassionate point of view, you can be there for them and support them while recognizing that it's their problem to work through and to figure out and to grow from.

Audra: Oh, absolutely. As this really resonates, like thinking about my daughter and helping her try to sift through some of the things she's going through, being new, brand new at her school and making friends and learning. Then she goes, she's one of those kids who goes all in. She you know, she's like, let's do it all sleepovers like it. We're best friends. And then there'll be something that'll come up that sort of is challenging for her. And then she wants to just kind of like avoid and go in another direction. And so it's like trying to help her, like not give up herself, her sense of, you know, who's who she is. 

Like, what's that balance between, you know, trying to, you know, kind of like work with people, but then maintaining, you know, your sense of who you are, what you want, and like trying to create that for herself. And that's like really boundaries with some of, with some of her friends. But it's been challenging because you want to help her identify like how do you move out of like especially with girls in sixth grade? 

Christina: That’s a tough age. 

Audra: As they're talking about each other and that, you know, like it's there's not like you have good data to work with, you got some challenging data to work with, lots of emotions, lots of big feelings, you know, and then trying to figure out how to set boundaries when like this is such a great time in life to learn this. Like, I wish I had this in sixth grade. So I'm so grateful for your work because I think it resonates, like I said, with all ages. It's going to be so helpful for her.

Christina: Thank you. Yeah, well, and middle school age is just so hard in general. And then now our kiddos have social media and personal devices and things that we didn't have to deal with. You know, AIM existed, so I'd come home and maybe message with a couple of people on the house computer in the living room in front of my parents. That's a very different thing. When your kiddos have their own phones where they have access to the Internet and they can't get away from maybe those peers that they would normally leave behind at school when they come home.

Audra: That's a really good point, is that it all extends into your home life at some point, you don't have the ability to be like, yeah, I get on the bus, I'll see you tomorrow. You can have that... That's something that we really need to explore more. I'd love to be able to talk more about that at some point and help, especially with our tweens and getting there with technology and all of that.

Justin: We've got an article coming. 

Audra: Oh, good, wonderful. 

Justin: Cell phones and teens. Yeah.


45:04

Justin: So do you have a few small steps, just first steps for parents who might be experiencing this that they can start with today? Of course, the first step would be to get the book. But, you know, when today when the kid comes home, like what are some small steps that parents could start right away?

Christina: Well, so it goes back to communication and dialogue. And one of the really good ways that parents can help their kiddos to make sense of their own experience and then make choices are intentional going forward is to have a reflective dialog with them. Now, this depends on your child's openness to having these sorts of conversations. And if you're able to start these when they're younger, then it's easier to carry through as they get older. But if they bring a problem up to you. Play detective with them. What led up to that? And then what did you think when they said that? What were your thoughts? How did it feel in your body? And then what choice did you make? What was the result of that choice and really help them investigate their own scenarios that they've lived. What would have been maybe a better way to handle that would have resulted in a more positive outcome and help them problem solve in anticipation of more experiences like that. 

So that's basically you're fostering their social emotional intelligence, helping them to recognize and identify their thoughts and feelings and then make sense of them and put words to them, because sometimes we feel things and we're not sure exactly how to describe it. And as adults, we might have a better ability to let your child now. Oh, it sounds like you were really envious of your friend or you were really frustrated at this situation, whatever it might be, and give them the terms so that then they can express that as well. 

So that communication is really important. Modeling self-love for yourself and applauding it in your children is really important, because, again, we need to feel like we matter in order for our wants, needs and values to matter and to protect with a boundary. So if we're going to set a boundary, we need to feel like what we're protecting is important and that's ourselves. And so as the parents, we need to celebrate our own accomplishments, our own efforts. Same with your child. Really celebrate who they are so that they know that I think I matter and I think you matter. And then again, going back to modeling boundaries ourselves. So let's say you're at a restaurant and you get your meals delivered and it's not right. We could just say, no, I'm just going to eat it, whatever. I don't want to cause problems. Or we could say…

Audra: He’s nudging me.

Christina: Or we could say when the waiter drops it off and leaves and you're like, oh, my goodness to your child, this isn't what I ordered. I'm going to let the server know about the mistakes so that I can get the meal that I asked for. And your child says, wow, ok my parent thinks it matters. They're not making a big deal out of it. They're just standing up for themselves. And so by modeling it, then our child sees the power of doing it for themselves too.

Audra: Such a great example, too, because like the other side of it is, ok, so there's then there's a parent is like, oh, I didn't get the right order, but it's ok. I'm fine. And then, that's me. And then there's the one who is like, I didn't get the right order. So I'm going to passive aggressively mention it every time the server comes by. I used to work in the restaurant industry, which is why I have it is…

Justin: So there’s also the fact that like you feel…

Audra: Yeah, yeah, but you know, one thing that. Yeah, as a pet peeve for me is also the passive aggressive response, you know, of hmm. Or there it is…

Christina: Not going to get a tip because I got the wrong food. Well, but you didn't tell them. That's not very fair.

Audra: Exactly. Exactly. So I love the idea of modeling, and I think this could be done beautifully with young kids like really young kids, too. I mean, modeling, when you're let's say you're young child toddlers hitting you, you know, and modeling boundaries around. I was just learning about this on the Curious Parenting. I don't know if you followed them on Instagram, but she's really great. And just these little steps that you can take to, you know, model how to have the conversation of like, this hurts me. I don't want to be hurt, you know, and I'm going to ask, I'm asking you to stop hitting me now, you know, and like these sorts of things, like, I guess modeling just in our own relationships within the family. How we interact together, just in the home can be really powerful.

Christina: Absolutely. So, you know, I'm thinking of my kids are at the age, and maybe this doesn't go away, where they want your attention at all times. And so I'm trying to model that. I'm actually protective of my time as well. And so if they're calling to me, I'm in the middle of something. I'll turn my attention towards them for a second to say, “Hey, I really want to hear what you have to say. And I know you deserve my full attention. I'm focused on this right now. 

So I'm going to take the next X amount of minutes to do this, and then I will give you my time.” And so that also shows that I am important enough to do what I need to do. My work is important and my time is important, but also so are they. And they deserve to have all of me instead of that kind of half texting, half looking, half-listening version that we do a lot of the time because we're all so busy multitasking.

Audra: So powerful. 

Justin: And you're modeling for clarity and communication. And I think of Brene Brown's, clear is kind. 

Christina: There we go. Back to the kindness as well.

Audra: I love it. Yeah, this is really powerful. I feel like that I've just taken something that from you that I'm going to use every day. Now, when interrupted, you know, be it when you come down with a thought and you're frustrated that I can't immediately respond to you or…

Christina: Now, beware your family will start to use boundaries on you, too. I heard my daughter say that to my son. She'll be like “Sterling, I'm putting a boundary right now,” and I love that. But when they're like, “mommy, I'm putting a boundary because you told me,” you know, I'm like, oh, yeah, this is good for me. That's the other part we model and we encourage it as well.

Audra: So when he sets boundaries around timing of washing the dishes. 

Justin: Oh, my god. 

Audra: Yeah, it's going to happen.

Justin: Yeah. I'm going to need some time to process that. So this book is the first in a series called Capable Kiddos. So what's next in this series?

Christina: So the idea is Capable Kiddos as a series is to help our kiddos and ourselves have the skills to handle whatever life throws our way. And so this first book is about friendship and boundaries. The second book is well underway. The illustrator is sending me really fun illustrations right now. It's called Fear Not, and it's how to work through and learn to tolerate and live with anxiety and fear. And so it's not so much…

Audra: I love it. 

Christina: Thank you. It's not so much about overcoming per se, because I think that's a bit unrealistic. But recognizing that anxiety will come and go. But these are the skills that we can use to help ourselves manage it. So that's…

Audra: I think is so powerful, like if we can start talking about this when we are young, young, young, we really need that. Like, you know, we've learned over the years to manage going down rabbit holes, to manage fear castrates, manage like these are like, you know, kind of feel like very adult things. But there are things that we can as parents like as we're working through it. Like, I think there's a lot that we can do for our families. Like I think that, you know, we don't have to talk about our fears around paying for our daughter's horse lessons or horseback riding lessons, you know what I mean? And like what we can or cannot afford. And then instilling that, you know, kind of fear of scarcity in them. Like, I love the idea, the idea of this book, because it is we're going to have these fears. It's like, what do we do with this? What do we do with this and how do we manage?

Justin: It's wonderful because I don't think I realized that I had anxiety as a child. I didn't really realize that anxiety was a part of my life until I was in my 20s. And I was like, oh, wait, actually, this has been going on for quite a while. And then my best friend didn't realize until a couple of years ago going into therapy that he had been dealing with it his whole life. And so it's like how many people grow up and as kids have these fears and anxieties and it's not just a like, you know, what do they call it, like momentary contextual thing, but it's like the anxiety is kind of a low hum in the background. Right. So that's wonderful. So when is this book coming out?

Christina: Fear Not should be out in the spring. So I'm really, really excited for that. And the beginning of the story talks about how all kids, grown ups too, have different anxieties, because I think a lot of the time in our own mental health struggles, we feel quite alone. And so I really want kids to know they're not alone in what they go through and they're not alone in having to work through it. So I'm super excited for that book in the spring. 

And then the third book I haven't written yet, but my plan, and I love your guys input is to have it be about our inner voice in the way that we talk to ourselves. I think so many of us grow up critiquing ourselves and being most unkind to ourselves. So I think a story about that where kids can develop a kind inner voice from a younger age, hopefully maybe we'll give them a happier, more positive experience of their life. But then I was thinking maybe I do mindset in general, like a growth mindset book. And that's a component of it, too. 

Justin: So, Christina, are you familiar with Internal Family Systems?

Christina: I have heard of it. I haven't studied it, though.

Justin: Oh, my gosh. Because what comes up for me is and what has helped me is, you know, I'll be very, very brief because I can go on. Basically that, you know, we are not one mind, but we have a bunch of different parts in us. And all these parts generally are there to protect us. And they're there to protect childhood wounds, emotional wounds. And so what I have realized working in this therapeutic domain is that I definitely have at least one part, probably multiple parts that have a lot of anxiety around emotional protection. And so seeing my inner world, not as I am the one who has anxiety, but I have a part, there's a part, and it's very close to the inner voice. But I mean, it's like it's practically the same thing. But in the internal family systems world, it's not just one inner voice. Right. We have… 

Audra: A whole family of them that interact. And what I love about that, too, is that nobody, you know, it makes it so that we ourselves and no one in the world around us is something or some way. You know, we may have a part that or parts that might, that behavior exhibit or pop out in this way. But yeah.

Justin: Yeah. And then I also have parts that do not feel that way. I mean, internal family systems gets even deeper than that. It's so cool. But yeah, the idea that oh, it's not like I Justin, you know, as a unified mind being have anxiety getting away from that idea and that I have a part or maybe one or two parts that having anxiety as a way to protect me are always on the lookout for danger, are going to ruminate on possible problems that…

Audra: It helps a lot, too, because I never hear you say like my anxiety. My anxiety is popping up, my anxieties here, my anxiety, like, you know, like I don't know. You don't kind of like cast yourself in that way and you don't own that, you know, kind of like as...

Justin: I have a part that is being triggered right now..

Audra: Not that I'm triggered. But like…

Christina: Yeah, I'm an anxious person, but I'm person that has parts of me that have anxiety from time to time. Right. Right. And it gives you information then from your body or from your brain that you then can intentionally decide what to do with versus, you know, I like to think of anxiety like a fire alarm. Ours is in the kitchen, so ours goes off every time I burn toast. It is not a fire. Right. That's our anxiety system sometimes has that alarm that goes off when we're making smoky toast. 

And it doesn't need to. Or we can hear it when you think, oh, I'm going to press the dismissal button because it's not really a fire. And if we don't learn to differentiate between that sort of information, then we think, oh, I'm anxious and I need to act in a way that responds to the anxiety. Whereas if it's a part of me has anxiety right now because of X, Y, Z situation, I can decide if this is something I need to respond to or not.

Audra: Absolutely. Yes. 

Justin: Yeah. Christina. So I have an awareness that now I've mentioned internal family cells. And so now I'm going to mention another thing. And it might feel like Christina, I'm like, can I just write this book? I know one thing that has really been a game-changer for my anxiety, too, is learning about what happens physiologically with anxiety…

Audra: Like you mentioned, what's happening in your body. 

Justin: Right. So, you know, there's a whole cascade of biochemicals that like ready the body for some sort of action. You know, it's like the heart rate increases. And, you know, I start to breathe faster. My face might get red. Right. So there are physiological things going on. And then learning that I can feel into that and like actually get physical, like stretch or deep breathing and like. So the idea that, oh, I just need to calm down, don't move. Calm, calm was actually the opposite of what I needed to do, which might be to like stand up, stretch, breathe, maybe do some jumping jacks, you know…

Audra: And for kids it might be like, it might be a cry, you know. And then you say don’t cry, but what if they need to cry? Like, what are your thoughts on that?

Christina: Yeah, well, I know that comes out of my mouth sometimes. In all honesty. Right. Because when you are throwing stuff, too, and. Yeah. So sometimes I'm guilty of saying stuff like that, too. Like don't cry. It's like when I'm at my max and spent, I feel like I'm not capable of handling their own stuff, which isn't fair to them. But we're all human so we can kind of learn from our mistakes and apologize later when we handle stuff like that wrong. But yeah, our kids have big feelings and most of the time the best thing you can do is just validate, just validate and give love. And then later on when they're out of that state, because when you're in that anxiety or that anger or fear, whatever you're in, you're in a fight or flight situation. 

And I think it's Dr. Daniel Siegel talks about your upstairs brain, and your downstairs brain. And so you're in your downstairs brain, which isn't where you're able to organize or plan or make logical choices or problem solve. And so when you help your kids in the moment, not actually that helpful. Like give them love, validate them and then once they're in a state where they're calm, reflect with them. And that's…

Audra: I love that. And so when your kids are in their downstairs brain. Right, big feelings, all that. You're usually in your upstairs brain, right? So you're coming at it like even…

Justin: No then I get triggered and then I'm in mine. 

Audra: Then you go downstairs. Right.

Christina: That's not good.

Audra: Yeah. So we all need the time to just validate, kind of like hold the space love and then process later. I mean, that's just that's a good thing to just plan for and be like, this is how this is how we do this. And I know as partners, too, like you started saying, hey, wait to get clear. Are you wanting to just let it out or are you wanting to problem solve? Like, can we do that? But to plan for that with the kids like that helps me to just be able to sort of like plan in advance, like in our kids going to come home from school with some big feelings and we're just going to validate and love and then circle back later, see if we're ready to process. Right. That’s awesome.

Christina: That's great to plan in that way. And we have a calming corner. And that's the idea of that as well, is that this is the place we go to. You know, it's these conversations ahead of time in prep, and then it's the reflection afterwards. You know, when we're upset, let's go head over to the common corner where you've got different things you can play with, where we can to sit down and hug each other, whatever feels right to you to kind of calm down. And then later we'll talk about it and help you out.

Audra: Oh, my gosh, can we talk more about that on The Family Thrive like I would love for us to maybe have a little segment on, like how to create your calming corner. Actually, what that is, I have not heard of that before, but I just got a picture in my head of just a really comforting, comfortable space to go and to be and to be together.

Justin: So you're saying that you need a calming corner.

Audra: I love that. 

Justin: So, Christina, what is new and interesting for you in your own mental and emotional health journey?

Christina: I think every day I'm working to be the mom that I wanted to be or thought I would be. And I'm sure it's a goal that's unachievable ultimately. But as long as I'm good enough, I need to learn to accept that and really trying. And I feel like the pandemic did this for a lot of us, really trying to be present and just appreciate the time that we have with our friends, our family, my kiddos. Be grateful. We try and we try to do gratitude every night. And we have the kids do it, too. And it's been really fun to hear how their gratitude evolves. My son for a long time just said family like you couldn't come up with something new. But he knew he was grateful for us.

Every dinner he said family. Whereas my daughter would come up with something from the day, and now my son's starting to, he's three, so he's starting to make more sense of what we're doing and come up with something that he's actually grateful for. And so we try and be present and live in gratitude. 

But also, I think recognizing that life has its ups and downs and I have periods where I'm not the happiest or I'm a little depressed or my anxieties kicked in. And same with my husband and same with our kiddos. You know, they have periods where I'm like, what is going on them? Something big is happening inside of them right now. And I think just knowing that that's ok. 

I had a client several years ago who was a teenager, and she had a really hard time if she didn't feel, if she felt anything less than perfect. It was catastrophic to her. And it meant that then she self-harmed or felt suicidal because she felt like her life was supposed to look a certain way. So I think acknowledging the ups and downs are life, and that's good. We don't have shades of the beautiful world around us without having blacks and grays and browns. Right. So we have to have those downs in order to sometimes appreciate the highs and the goods. And it's just, it provides a variety of life. That's what makes it so special.

Audra: Oh, that's really powerful to hear like to hear of what I hear is like a journey for you. Like to seeking deep engagement in life with your family. Like, I think that's beautiful. And then to hear of this of this young woman, I had never that had never occurred to me that that could be a way of living and breaks my heart to hear. And it breaks my heart to hear it, something that I think could potentially be preventable and support along the way. You know, like it's something that we can support by creating just a more like open, vulnerable, kind. And then also like a kind of like an attitude towards resilience in kind of like everything around us. But if you do grow up in one of those perfection-driven environments, that's the fallout.

Christina: Right. Or a toxic positivity where. Yes, you know, it's fine. I'm not affected, but you really are. And you should actually deal with it, you know? Yeah. So that's another thought behind my mindset or, you know, mindset book or the thought of your internal voice and how you are resilient or deal with things. Because it is just so important.

Audra: Yeah. I can't wait for these and I hope that we can talk again. I would really love every time a book comes out. Let's have a conversation. It's fantastic.

Justin: Awesome. So how can listeners find out more about you and your work?

Christina: They can visit me on my website, which is ChristinaFurnival.com. And from there, I have links to my book currently and books plural in the future. Also, I have a form to reach out if you would like me to connect you with a therapist, or if I'm available as well. I'm licensed in California, which means I can only see clients that are residing or physically in California at the time of sessions. And then also I have a blog through the website, so it's ChristinaFurnival.com/blog. And that's kind of how even this whole motherhood, mental health and writing journey all converged in my real life, a blog that I started after having my daughter. And then on social media, you can find me. I have two Instagram accounts, one for the books, which is @capablekiddosbooks, and then my therapeutic motherhood blog, Instagram account, which is @thisisreallifemama. And so, yeah, I would. I love when people reach out. I love getting new followers and connecting with them. And I'm here to help and support all of you, so I would love if you reach out.

Audra: Oh, thank you for bringing yourself to the world. It's just so powerful. I'm so, so grateful for your work.

Christina: Well, thank you. I'm so grateful to have gotten to meet you guys today. I think you're fabulous and I love what you're doing. I was exploring your account some more and going on your websites and watching your videos. And I love what you guys are doing.

Justin: Oh, well, we would yeah, we would love to connect further. Yes. And we certainly will after the show. But before we go, we have…

Audra: He’s keeping us on track.

Justin: Yeah. So we have three questions that we ask every podcast guest at the end of the show. So the first one is if you could put a Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, big Post-it note, what would it say?

Christina: It would say you're doing better than you think.

Justin: Mm hmm. 

Audra: I love that. I was getting some coffee, but I need that Post-it.

Justin: All right. So the second one, is there a quote that you have seen lately that has affected the way you think or feel?

Christina: Yes. And it's actually kind of related to that first one. But the quote that has affected probably for a couple of years now, how I feel. It's “you don't have to believe everything you think.”

Justin: Oh, this is yeah…

Audra: Love this quote. 

Christina: Yes, it's so good. 

Justin: Yep.

Christina: It's so powerful. And it puts you back in the driver's seat. Your thoughts, again, their information. And then you can choose what to do with them. I think we think our thoughts are truth because we make, because we come up with them. But we're often using confirmation bias and looking for things that are firmer, confirm what we already believe, whether or not it's helpful or true. And so knowing that we don't have to believe everything we think, I think is valuable. And then going back to your first question, you're doing better than you think as a parent is your thoughts are, oh, I messed that up. Oh, I'm screwing up my kids. Oh, I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. You're doing better than you think because your thoughts aren't always true.

Justin: Beautiful.

Audra: Love it. I love it. I feel I want to like do a graphic of these posts and put them out.

Justin: We actually have an article that we're working on doing just that. We are.

Christina: I like where your head is at. I'm visual.

Audra: I like the visual, right. Like I want to actually have it on Instagram and then screenshot it and then. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Justin: I think that's a beautiful idea. Oh, I had a mindful meditation teacher once who said your thoughts are like sweat. It's like the body just produces sweat. You don't need to worry about it. Like you don't need to get upset about it. It's just like you're sweating.

Audra: It's like your mind sweat.

Christina: I like that.

Justin: My thoughts are just mind sweat. 

Christina: Oh, God, I love it. 

Justin: Oh, my final question. You know, as you know, there are many times in parenting when you're just exhausted and overwhelmed, you're like, oh, my God, what's happening? And so it's nice to always just take a break and to think about like what is so awesome about kids. And so what do you love most about kids?

Christina: I love their, the way their minds work, the randomness seemingly with which they come out with things or the way that they make sense of the world. I just think they're magnificent. You know the show from decades ago. Kids say the darndest things. I just they do. And it's unbelievable. We have a booklet that we keep and we write down what our kiddos say. My daughter's theory on how babies are made is pretty fantastic. And I just like I love, I love all of the way that they think. And you can see the wheels turning. I just think it's so fabulous.

Audra: Oh, that's such a good idea to try to capture the goodness, to try to capture those nuggets. Such a great idea.

Christina: Yeah. Because you think you'll remember. Right. Oh, that was so funny. I'll totally remember that. Right. 

Audra: You get to a point where you don't even remember like what year your kid was born, like, you know, her parents. And they're like you were the, you were two in that picture. I'm like I'm clearly like six months old.

Christina: Right. 

Audra: Yeah, write it down.

Justin: Oh Christina, thank you so much for coming on the show. This is wonderful. And we can't wait to have you back.

Christina: Thank you for having me. So much fun to get to know you guys.

Audra: Likewise. Thanks again. I'm looking forward to talking to you the next time. 

Christina: Me, too.

Transcript highlights

1:55

Audra: I'm super excited that we were put in touch with you, I think we got in outreach through our managing editor, and as soon as we saw your work, we're like, oh, she's perfect. We got to talk to her. And then this book is absolutely incredible. The Not-So-Friendly Friend, I have to tell you, like I was just telling Justin that this could have been like a 400 page book for adults about, you know, setting boundaries. Like, I love reading that you easily condensed into a children's book and made it so simple. And I feel like making the conversation around boundaries so simple and accessible in this way is good for everyone. Our daughter is going through this right now of being a new kid in sixth grade. And thanks to our work with The Family Thrive, I feel like we've been able to help her more than we would have been able to before. But you're right, this isn't automatic. You know, this is not an automatic conversation that we have. So we'll get into it more, but I just wanted to say congratulations and thank you. It is such a beautiful book.

Justin: We're going to talk about the book, but before we do,let's talk about Christine.

Audra: Wait, can we tell her our roles on the podcast really quick? So Justin writes the questions and like keeps like the guardrails and keeps us moving and I usually mess it up. Ok, go ahead. 

Justin: Ok. Yeah. So I yeah, I kind of drive, I guess in the radio business there on radio shows. There's a driver and there's a personality like that's how they do radio shows. And the driver is like the professional radio host who keeps it on schedule. And the personality just kind of, you know, brings all the color in the life. And so we've kind of fallen into these roles, and that's why, but yeah, let's learn a little bit about Christina. So we want to know where you came from. Right. So where did you grow up and how did you, what pathway led you into becoming an author, a mother and a therapist?

Christina: Well, I am a born and raised San Diegan. And so I grew up here, but I actually did college and graduate school in Nashville, Tennessee. And so…

Audra: Oh, you know the south.

Christina: I know and I visited Savannah before, so I, it has a special place in my heart. I do think I left a part of me in the south when I came back to San Diego. But so born and raised out here, I am married to my husband, Tom. We just celebrated eight years of marriage and he's from Scotland.

Audra: Congratulations, oh wow. From Scotland. How cool! Where in Scotland?

Christina: Tom from Scotland. He's from a small town near Aberdeen called Banchory.

Audra: Oh, how cool. 

Justin: Where did you guys meet?

Christina: We actually met in Nashville. So, you know, San Diego girl from southwest US. He's from the northeast of Scotland. And we met in Nashville, Tennessee.

Justin: A classic story. All right.

Audra: I love it. Love college.

Justin: What led you to Vanderbilt? Why?

Christina: Well, so back when I was in high school and planning out like what career I thought I wanted to have, I always wanted to be a pediatrician. And so when I toured universities and I visited Vanderbilt, I saw their children's hospital on campus. And it's such a happy place. It's not as sterile and cold as a lot of hospitals, and I thought, wow, if I'm going to be a pediatrician, I'm going to be one here. And so I want to go to school here. Plus, I fell in love with Southern hospitality during my visit for those few days before I decided to accept going to school there. And so that was what brought me to Vanderbilt. But it was at Vanderbilt that I realized that I was not as interested in medicine as a helping profession as I thought. 

So after graduating from Vanderbilt, I took about a year or so before deciding to enroll in a graduate program for professional counseling. So I always wanted to help some, help people and help children. But I thought it was through medicine and then ultimately it's been through psychology and therapy.

So that's kind of how my path ended up towards therapy. My mom's also actually a licensed mental health therapist and a school counselor. So I think when I was choosing medicine initially, I had boxed up her career is for her. And then it was after realizing I'm actually quite similar to my mom and I love and adore what she does and how she helps families and children that I knew that that was for me, too.

Audra: Oh, what a beautiful process. Like it's almost of like a differentiation and then incorporation kind of, you know, and I wonder, hearing that, you know, I wonder if if your mother in growing up with a therapist, did she also teach you a lot that kind of like open your your eyes into the world of what could be when it comes to being somebody with those skills?

Christina: Yeah, I think she did a really good job because I never felt like she was doing therapy on me. You know, she drew a good line where she was just a lovely, and is a lovely, nurturing mom. She did teach us about feelings and emotions and how to process them and reflect on them. So I feel like I did have some skills from a younger age than a lot of my peers might have.

Audra: Oh, it's invaluable. I feel like we all need that. And as parents we need these skills like it's not something that is just for therapists. Right. It's like as parents these are some of the most essential skills that we need, I think, from the beginning. So that is pretty powerful that you have experienced that in your own life. And then it sounds like you brought into your work and your parenting.

Christina: Yeah. Yes. I always, ever since I started in the field in 2009, I've always worked with youth and adolescents and their families. And I love helping kiddos because kiddos are just so interesting and they're open to change because every day is change and every day is new discoveries and helping their families and then figure out how to help their kiddos live the life that they want. How to understand themselves better and navigate challenges confidently is what I'm all about.

Justin: Ok, I have a curiosity. I imagine that in the years that have passed from when your mom went to school and first started practicing and you went to school and you started practicing, that a lot has changed in the field. And so have you had discussions with your mom? Have you said, mom, you know the way you thought about X, Y, and Z, now that's change. It's now A, B, and C.

Christina: I think in general, or at least the way that my mom engages with families and youth, I feel like that's still aligned with the ways that I practice therapy. There are definitely new modalities and approaches, lots of acronyms that she's never heard of before in different ways to handle things. But we're both really big into CBT. And so just that awareness between our thoughts, our feelings and our behaviors and how it's all interconnected.

Justin: So did you always know that you wanted to be a mom? 

Christina: Yes. 

Justin: Yeah. So how did the actual, so you knew that you wanted to be a mom and you were a therapist before you were a mom? Right. And so how did motherhood change this for you?

Christina: I thought I was going to have motherhood in the bag. I was certainly very confident that I would just be this amazing natural mother. Not only had I always worked with youth in the mental health field, but before I ever was an adult, I would babysit. I've got 21 aunts and uncles and probably 30 plus cousins. And I'm on the older end of them. So I would babysit and watch them all. I was a children's entertainer at like summer camps. And I thought, I know kids inside and out and wow, I was just completely blindsided by motherhood. 

I think part of it had a lot to do with, I went through postpartum depression and anxiety after having my daughter, my first child. And I was not expecting. I didn't think I had any of the warning signs. But now, in hindsight, I look back and I'm like, oh, I was having intrusive thoughts. Oh, I was really depressed or apathetic about this or that. That used to bring me joy, you know. So now I can kind of put those pieces together. But when I was in the fog of it, I was just completely surprised that that was my experience. And I also had high risk pregnancies, which is, that’s a kind of warning sign. And after giving birth to my daughter a week later, I had a delayed postpartum hemorrhage where I had to be rushed to the hospital. And so that was traumatic, and I hadn't really processed that. And then that led to my milk supply not coming in how it should. And so feeding problems, sleeping problems and all this, all of it piled on top of each other.

Audra: Oh, so big. I mean, I'm just taking all of that in that really. It's so powerful. It's all of the things that when you say blindsided, all of the things that we don't expect. And I think like reflecting on what you're saying, like how many of us do know that we're in postpartum depression, like how many of us do see the warning signs? I feel like awareness is growing because of sharing like this. And we did speak earlier on this podcast with Bridget, really, really wonderful perinatal therapist who specializes in just this, because she was called to it, you know, for very similar reasons. And so I think I see awareness raising a little bit. 

But, you know, when my son was born 14 years ago, there was no talk around it. And in fact, there are even a little stigma. I would be like, well, she you know, she has postpartum, you know, and it was feel like not only a stigma, but like a problematizing, like this is an issue for her. Right. Instead of this is a huge issue that has everything to do with our health care system, that has everything to do with, you know, modern motherhood, that has everything to do with expectations and on and on and on. Like it's just such like Bridget described it as an onion. And it's like you peel back every layer and you see more and more complexity of that. So it makes sense. And then add the trauma on top of it of a hemorrhage or the trauma of high risk pregnancies. It's a lot.

Christina: Yeah. and it all makes sense now. But you're right that when you're in it a lot of times, even if you know what the potential warning signs are, you're in such a fog that you can't even necessarily make sense of your experience. And sometimes it takes your partner or a friend or a parent to point out like you're not, something's not working right now. Like this is beyond sleep deprivation. This is beyond the life change. 

And so one of the things that I like to say, because now I do work with adults and I tend to work with moms, I do telehealth therapy in the evening now, is that motherhood should be life changing, but it should not be earth shattering. And if you feel like it has turned the world upside down in a negative way, then it's time to get some help.

Audra: So that's a powerful way to put that. I think we should put a pin in that. Like I think that's a really wonderful quote to pull out of this, because even as a therapist yourself, it sounds like it took some time and a view and a realization, and then you're really able to see it in a retrospective manner what you were going through. But if it's even hard for a therapist to identify this, you know, then we should normalize that. Like it's hard to identify these things, you know, and just having that sort of putting that quote out into the world. If we can do that when we promote this podcast, I think it would be meaningful.

Justin: Oh, absolutely. And it brings up the curiosity that I had when I first read about your story on your website. It makes total sense to me that this would be something that you could look back on in retrospect to say, oh, yeah, there were the signs. But what was the sign for you at the time that, oh, this isn't just a couple of bad days, this isn't just waking up on the wrong side of the bed? What was the aha moment for you?

Christina: Well, so I knew to expect that there might be baby blues in the first two weeks, and then I knew to expect that my hormones would start to regulate around six weeks once my ovaries took back over, because when you're pregnant, your placenta is in charge of a lot of your hormone production. And so when you give birth, the placenta leaves you and then your hormones are wild for a bit. And so I was sitting there thinking, wow, this is not going how I thought it would. This is not like blissful, bigger than life love that I was expecting that you hear about but at two weeks, I'm sure I'll feel better. And so I kind of just rode that wave. 

And then two weeks came and two weeks went and so I was like six weeks. When my hormones regulate that, I'll be able to make sense of what I'm experiencing and I'll be fine. Six weeks came and went and with my husband and I trying to figure out our child and learn her cues and how to just do this whole parenting thing. We had an argument one evening and I said this is a nightmare. 

And he, being the protective loyal father that he had now become, was like, I can't believe you said that. And I'm like, well, that that's actually how I feel. I feel like this is a nightmare. I'm living a bad dream. And that was a turning point for us to be like that shouldn't be my experience. This shouldn't be how this feels. It's hard, but it shouldn't be a nightmare. 

And so then I was employing more selfcare. We got my mom to come around during the day to hold our daughter so that I could take naps. She was one of those kiddos that had to be held at all times. So I wasn't getting the rest that I needed to get. Yeah. Was Max the same way?

Audra: Same way.

Christina: It's so hard when you can’t just set them down and you see your friends sharing on social media about their baby in their bassinet and like, oh, how they're such good sleepers. And then you have jealousy on top of resentment on top of all the other feelings.

Audra: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Christina: I ultimately decided to see my own therapist because I knew that I couldn't see my own blind spots and that I needed support outside of myself.

Audra: It's powerful. So it sounds like accepting, seeking and accepting support from those around you to pursue self care. And then also getting some help getting you know, your own therapist was key to that. And it's really amazing that you saw I think that is one thing that moms carry. See that they're supposed to, there's like this shoulding on ourselves, like we're supposed to be able to do this alone. Right. We're supposed to be able to do it ourselves. And then the other thing that you said that really was impactful to me when you talked about the nightmare is that the response wasn't to diminish or deny your feelings, that you were in a nightmare. It sounds like that was recognized. And the response was, and we don't want it to be a nightmare. Like, yes, you're feeling that way instead of saying, no, it's not. Right. You're a mother of a brand new kid, beautiful baby. You know, no, it's not, you know, like acknowledge that it is your nightmare right now. And we don't want it to be that way. 

Christina: Exactly. 

Audra: It doesn't have to be that way.

Justin: So what surprised you most about that experience? I mean, you had mental health training. You are a counselor, right? So. But it's one thing being on the therapist's end and now you're in it. What surprised you the most?

Christina: I think one of the things that surprised me was how much my own emotions became entangled in my own experience. When I see families in the therapy office, I have a much more objective view. I'm not enmeshed in it and being in it and knowing that I needed to care for this child and I knew enough to know that, ok, I'm not feeling connected to her. I'm not feeling this overflowing love that I thought I would be, you know, upon giving birth. But I know that she needs from me the nurturing, the cuddling, the snuggling, the singsong voice. So I employed all of that, even though I felt vacant behind it. And so I think that that enmeshment of my own awareness and my own emotions in my process of being a mom, that was really hard to kind of navigate and figure out. And I think I was lucky because I have the mental health experience and knowledge to know what to do. I went through the motions, even though I didn't feel it.

Justin: Hmm. Wow.

Audra: It's really powerful. How old are your kids now?

Chrisitna: So my daughter Isla is five and she just started kindergarten.

Audra: Oh I love the name Isla.

Christina: Thank you. And then…

Audra: Kindergarten, a big deal.

Christina: Kinder. Yes. And she's rocking it. And she's in a Spanish immersion program. So she's coming home with new words every day, which is so fun. And then our son Sterling is three. And so he's actually watching TV right now and hopefully is quiet while we're talking.

Audra: Awesome. Well if he pops in, we’d love to say hi. I love the name Sterling, too. We have a family friend, you know, back in the day. It's a classic, very classic name.

Justin: So I just have a few more questions just because I you know, for new moms who might be listening to this. What helped you most during that time? So once you started to get help and you started to get some tools. What did you find most helpful?

Christina: I think what's really, really helpful and really, really important, like you were saying, Audra, this expectation of what we're supposed to be like or do or manage is to let that go and realize, especially if you've had a baby during this last year and a half, like things are not normal right now. We all have a level of stress that is way higher than it would typically be. And then outside of the pandemic, the idea of the village doesn't exist in the way that it did for our moms and for their moms and so on.

Audra: Great point.

Chrisitna: So the mom martyr-hood that we do, we need to stop that. And so really communicating with my husband to let him know I need to sleep right now or I haven't showered and I need to, do this or I need to do that. We also had to figure out the balance of housework. We had always been a very 50/50 couple, but then kind of naturally with me staying home with our daughter, there became this imbalance where all of a sudden I was cleaning the house more or doing the dishes more, the laundry more, and I had to speak up and say, you know what, that's not how we work and this isn't working for me. I can't do all of this. And so setting those boundaries, having clear communication, asking for help, I'm not good at asking for help. 

A lot of moms I know aren't especially I feel like our generation now, don't you either. Especially our generation. I feel like a lot of us are having kids after we've established careers. And so we have established patterns of if I work hard enough, I can achieve X, Y or Z. And with parenting, it's just not that one to one. And I think we need to let down that ‘I can handle it all. I can do it all attitude’ and really create your own village in that way with your partner, with your family, with friends.

 We have a lot of friends, actually, UK expats that live here, and their family is not here. So they are a family and they will watch someone else's child so that couple can go on a date or what have you. Just so creating your own village, as you can, I think is really, really helpful.

Audra: That is so great. This is really wonderful advice. And it strikes me that it goes actually for folks who are going to become parents. One of the things that I'm thinking of is preparation. And some of those expectations that we develop, we develop those expectations, you know, in advance, you know, through the pregnancy. I remember thinking that my first child was going to come out and be like a six to nine month old. Like I'll be on maternity leave walking around with him on my hip.

Christina: Right. Right. 

Audra: Like had no clue. I mean, really, like no understanding. But I think some of those things you can't prepare for. It's like, you know, there's so much of parenting, like the moment you have that other life outside of you and you're like, whoa, I have to care for this, this human now, this is incredible. I get to care for this human. But some things we can do to prepare, and it seems like we totally can come up with a plan to communicate in advance, not just about our birth planning, but what about our partnership planning in that, you know, these seem to be like really wonderful advance conversations to talk about the division of labor and be able to say, you know, I've heard that I'm going to need a ton of sleep. You know, are you willing to get up however many times and change diapers, you know, and do that before you are super tired or in the hospital longer than you thought you'd be?

Christina: Absolutely. I think that's so powerful. And I think along with the awareness of postpartum depression, anxiety and perinatal mood disorders, is that awareness of we're not just planning for your pregnancy and we're not just planning for the twenty four hours that you're giving birth, but we're planning for the next at least three months that those 100 days where you're in that fourth trimester and you're learning your child and they're learning what it's like to be alive and having those conversations is so important, because we, my husband and I, I guess we assumed we would fall naturally into a pattern. But the pattern we fell into wasn't one that worked for either of us. So we had to communicate. And so yeah, in anticipation, having better planning for postpartum, I think is definitely important.

Audra: Because, I mean, really kind of like going into a partnership even, whether it's, you know, a marriage or long term committed partnership or whatever way we might be putting that together as a family to then to commit to parenting our co parenting. I feel like we make a lot of assumptions anyway. Like, I don't know. We did. I mean, right. Like one of the things that we've learned now 20 years. 

Justin: Oh my god. 

Audra: Over 20 years of being together. But, you know, being married for 20 years, like I look back and now we've learned a lot more skills, especially in the more recent past few years. But before that, like the assumptions we would make, like it’s hilarious...

Justin: I mean, I think the most powerful layer is we have learned over the past well, I mean a lot over the past year or two, but the most impactful ones have been around communication and about communicating around these assumptions. I think. Yeah, you're absolutely right. How many assumptions I held...

Audra: And then the stories that are based on the assumptions and on and on, and then the resentments that are based on the stories that are based on the assumptions. Right. Oh, I can't believe she's just coming home and not like not even doing the dishes, you know, and like never once communicated anything about and holding these expectations when you haven't had a conversation is pretty unreasonable and you don't have to ever carry resentment if we communicate in advance. 

I guess that's the one thing I would think would be really powerful planning to do if one is to bring a child into the home, is to really just start with some advance planning and communications and thinking around those assumptions or even like communicating around how we want to communicate once the baby comes, like we have no idea what's going to happen so like, let's have a meeting. Let’s write a list of things we think we're going to talk about and just hold the space for it, at least.

Christina: I think so.

Justin: Oh, yeah. And this is one thing that came up in our podcast with Bridget across the perinatal therapist. She sees a lot of moms when they get into trouble after the baby is born, and they're going through some of the issues that you mentioned and many others. And she wishes so much that she would have been able to see them before the baby, because then we get to talk about the expectations, we get to talk about the assumptions. We get to air them out. And then we you know, we get the lines of communication flowing before you go to battle.

Chrisitna: Yeah. Well, and then another expectation that we have that I don't think we talk about is what our baby, like you said, you expected the six to nine month old. I don't think I fully understood what a newborn would be like exactly. But I also, my mom's experience, I'm one of three, was that we were good sleepers, good eaters with this lovely time. And so I just expected that a creature of my making would be the same as.

Justin: Would be just as awesome as you are.

Chrisitna: And so when she didn't take to nursing well, when my milk didn't come in, when sleeping wasn't happening, when she needed to be held all the time and was quite fussy, I'm like, what? This is not what I ordered. Like, you know, this is not what I stand for. So I do think having those conversations ahead of time about expectations or broadening your expectations, your baby might be a good sleep or your baby might not be a good sleeper. And if that's the case, what's your plan? How are you going to handle that as a team?

Audra: Broadening. I love that concept because thinking about those who, I've needed, I had medically necessary C-section, but I had friends who planned home births, that needed a C-section and suffered tremendous a sense of loss and devastation from that and from the expectation around what that birth would be, for example, or you fully plan on being a breastfeeding mom for two years. And then we talked about this in that last podcast, too, like that when there is difficulty feeding, it's a primal challenge as a mother, isn't it? It is so hard. And then when there's narratives around formula and you feel like a failure, you know, kind of like opening that space and broadening one's expectation, like what if it's not possible, then let's plan for this.

Christina: Yeah, absolutely. And that's powerful because then you can pivot easier.


27:55

Justin: You mentioned in the discussions that you and your partner started to have around assumptions and expectations, you mentioned the word boundaries. So let's talk about the book. So, yeah, so this is, so the book is called The Not-So-Friendly Friend. Yeah. And before, you know, when we first heard about you and first heard about the book and I saw the title and the subtitle, and I thought, oh, this is brilliant. I mean, I think every single parent has had this issue with their kids, like, oh, you know, there's one kid at school who's a problem. And, you know…

Audra: Can I read the subtitle really quick for the listener? How to Set Boundaries For Healthy Friendships.

Justin: Yeah. So it's a story that I think pretty much every parent who have had kids, and especially kids, if you're in it right now, kids around toddler age and up. So it's about a kid who who's nice, like the main character, well-adjusted, nice kid, getting along…

Audra: Communication skills like using words.

Justin: Getting along, but then comes across a not so friendly friend. And can you tell us what happens next, Christina?

Christina: Yes. So the main character, like you said, she's new to school, but she's easy to like. She does all the right things and she meets this friend who she considers a friend who sometimes is nice to her and they play well. And then sometimes it's very not nice to her. And she does what most of us do, which is to try harder. Like, oh, it must have been me. The reason why they weren't treating me right. So I'm going to just be that much more lovely. But she realized that didn't work either. 

And so in the story, you can see that she talks for her parents. You can see that she talks to her teacher and she realizes that she needs to set a boundary. And it's a very simple one, but hopefully a practical learning for kiddos that they can say something similar to this when they're not being treated right. And it's that I'm going to remove myself and go play with the people who do treat me well. But you're still welcome to come join us if you're ready to be kind. I just will only tolerate that people are kind to me, basically, is the message. 

And so it leaves that door open for whoever it may be, that unkind child is, or the child is acting unkindly to reflect and decide if they want to be a part of this friendship, relationship or not. But it gives the power to the child who is being mistreated. 

And so it's a story that I actually wrote because our daughter went through something similar. And so I wanted her to have the tools and skills. There's lots of books on friendship and there's lots of books on friendships with bullies. But our experience, in her experience, was that it was just another child who sometimes was nice and sometimes wasn't nice. It was this child wasn't aiming out there to be mean.

Audra: Oh, that's so common. That's what we've experienced, too.

Justin: Yeah, so common.

Audra: Also, with this book, along the same lines, like, I love how you have the tools embedded in the book where we can use these really valuable words like, you know, our child can, we can read this with our child. And she's like, oh, great, I can actually see this. Like, I can take this to school tomorrow and I can say this. I love the openness to change. Like my heart is going to be open. I'm going to be open to you. I'm open to change. But it's behavior oriented when it's not about you as a person or a human being. But when you behave this way, I have a boundary like I do not want to be with you when you behave this way, you know, which is wonderful. 

And in the book, I thought I'd just replace some of these pictures with pictures of moms. I don't know if you've had this experience, but when you when you end up in the situation with especially like, you know, five year old and up and you become friends with the moms in the class. Right. You kind of start to like gather the kids to play and play dates and you start gathering these new friends that are outside of your workplace, maybe outside of the other, like social environments that you're in. I mean, it's almost like a new social I don't know, like a new social evolution in a sense for a mom. Right. And you're stepping into meeting new people. And I found this skill set like really important there. It's like, you know, I find myself in a new, often needing boundaries. Also, like it's a very it can be a very challenging world for moms. The social world, mom to mom social world.

Christina: Absolutely one. You know, sometimes your kiddo and another kiddo become really close friends and you realize you don't like the parents that much or like you wouldn't mesh with them or your maybe, your parenting approaches are very different. So that's when it's good to speak up and it's good for your kiddos to see you modeling boundaries. And I think what's been really cool about this book is, I knew it was important for my daughter and I knew it was important enough to have it made. So, you know, I reached out to publishers to have it become a real book. But the feedback that I've gotten since then has shown me just how much more important than I even realized it was, and that's for the kids, but also, like you said, for the parents, for the adults reading the book as well.

And so many people have been like, this speaks to my inner child or this touched home with me now with them, with the moms I'm dealing with. And I think a lot of us aren't that practiced in setting boundaries, or maybe we are good in certain settings, like at work or with our in-laws, but maybe not with our friends or with our partners. And it's like your personal superpower to have agency over your life and to make sure that the life you live is the life you want. And so to teach it to children where they can grow up with this, it's just a pretty magical thing.

Justin: And the way it's done in this book is really beautiful, because the child, like the main character, is letting the other child know that this isn't working for me. I'm not saying that you're a bad person. I'm not saying, you know, I'm not putting this all on you. I'm saying this isn't working for me. Right. You know, and so when this starts to work for me, we can totally bring this back on line. 

But I really appreciated that because, yeah, like a part of me wants to just be like, hey, this is your problem. And I want to, you know, tell you how to do things. But it's like, hey, you know, this isn't working for me. When we can play nice and we can have fun together and then we're back on line. You know, I really appreciated that. And then I felt like, oh, this is something that, as you said, adults can totally use, you know, that in this relationship, whether it be a family member or a friend or whatever, the way I'm feeling right now is not working for me.

Christina: Mm hmm. Well, that's where I feel like boundaries provide clarity. And what a beautiful thing to be able to bring to a relationship. It allows you to be authentic. It allows, if you're whoever you're in the relationship with, has clear boundaries as well. Very authentic. Your relationship is mutually enjoyable because you know what game you're playing. You all are showing each other your cards and you're like, these are the rules. And you're like cool, we're going to go play the same game in life together. 

Whereas, you know, if we're making these assumptions like you guys were speaking about before in communication, then it's like we're each playing our own game or we have our own rules and we're hoping that people know. But that's just not fair.

Justin: Yes.What comes up for me is that, you know, there is a fear around displaying your rules or being explicit about your rules, because there's a fear of rejection, like, oh, well, if I if I could just be like flexible with my rules, if I can just kind of keep some of my rules to myself, then I'll not be rejected.

Audra: Or a fear of some response. That's not a comfortable response. An uncomfortable response. Yeah. 

Christina: But so what happens is we hold it in. Right. And we stew on it. And then ultimately we generally explode on it, which I would say is more uncomfortable than possibly the initial discomfort of letting what you need or want or value be known. And I think boundaries also give you for every person that's able to uphold, to set and uphold their own boundaries. You have responsibility for yourself, because I think when we don't tell someone, because we're afraid of rejection or afraid of a certain response, we're attempting to control their experience. And that's not our job. We're only here to control ourselves. 

Justin: Beautiful.

Audra: I love how you refer to this as a muscle, to build. Like it reminds me of like the muscle of resilience. Right. But I resonate so deeply with that because so much of my work and I'm sure probably like most of your clients, like I feel like this is a thing of our time, really. Like it's kind of cool to go out online and see what's going on. We're all doing a lot of work around boundaries, which is really cool. It's becoming, I don’t want to say popular, but something we're probably noticing a lot more than before the need for boundaries.

So it's been totally my work. And I haven't been able to change overnight. I haven't been able to get better at this, like in an instant. You know, it's like a practice. And I feel like there are some areas that are still really, really, really hard. But, you know, I'm trying and inching my way there, and that really resonated with me when you refer to it. You know, it's something that is a practice. And that weekend, I think that was in the back of the book when you describe what boundaries are. And I really, really appreciated that. I found it to be validating and encouraging.

Christina: Good. Yeah. And it is, the more you do it, the better you get. But depending on the setting, the context, the relationship, some situations might be harder to set a boundary than others. I find that I have a harder time with strangers, actually, with my family and friends. I lay it out straight, but with straight I want to be seen as. Agreeable and accommodating. And so I have this version of myself in my mind of being very nice. But the problem with being nice all the time is that's to be obliging for the sake of being liked in return, whereas being kind is being benevolent. So I'm trying to shift my own thinking to be like I can be my kind, lovely self, but still have opinions and still have needs or wants. And that's ok.

Audra: I love that. That sounds to me like the work that I'm in, which is people pleasing recovery.

Christina: Yes, me too.

Audra: I really like that. I like thinking of benevolence and kindness. Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. So where can you repeat that again? So it is kindness over niceness, is that the shift?

Christina: So they’re interrelated because you can do something like hold the door open for someone. And that is a very kind act. But you may also be doing it to be nice, which is to get that thank you in return. So there is being nice has a bit more of that. I'm being obliging or amenable for the sake of being liked, whereas being kind is I'm doing it because that's what I want to do. So being kind is healthier ultimately if you're not looking for that response in return.

 And that also then comes from that bolstering of your own self love and self worth, where you don't need the affirmations or the thank you's or people to like you. You just know your value. And so the people pleaser in me, and it sounds like in you guys as well, wants to be told how great we are and how much people like us. And it's hard then to set those boundaries.

Audra: Yes, it is. Yeah, I mean, it takes some digging, you know, it takes some digging and some source work for sure you to do that. Yeah, I have a friend of mine who's a therapist helped me with this. I think for a long time in early to this book, to me, and for a long time, we were really like, no, compassion is not enough. We need empathy. And my friends, like, no, no, no. Compassion is empathy with boundaries. You know, let's start back to compassion. 

You know, I feel like I worked in higher education before the work that we do now, and I think we like moving to empathy from compassion, which was cast as like not cold, but l maybe disingenuous a little bit or like one-sided. So I love thinking of like actually there are many instances where I need to move it into compassion and out of empathy, because empathy can play into the too much self identification, I guess.

Christina: You become porous and you absorb. You're putting yourself in their situation so much and understanding to the point of identification. And that can be incredibly taxing. Whereas with compassion, there is a little bit of distance, which is maybe why it had that negative connotation. But it's a healthier way to be to offer compassion to people versus to, you know, like as a mom, when your child's hurt or sick, it's so easy to to feel the weight of their problems as their they are your own. But if you can can develop more of a compassionate point of view, you can be there for them and support them while recognizing that it's their problem to work through and to figure out and to grow from.

Audra: Oh, absolutely. As this really resonates, like thinking about my daughter and helping her try to sift through some of the things she's going through, being new, brand new at her school and making friends and learning. Then she goes, she's one of those kids who goes all in. She you know, she's like, let's do it all sleepovers like it. We're best friends. And then there'll be something that'll come up that sort of is challenging for her. And then she wants to just kind of like avoid and go in another direction. And so it's like trying to help her, like not give up herself, her sense of, you know, who's who she is. 

Like, what's that balance between, you know, trying to, you know, kind of like work with people, but then maintaining, you know, your sense of who you are, what you want, and like trying to create that for herself. And that's like really boundaries with some of, with some of her friends. But it's been challenging because you want to help her identify like how do you move out of like especially with girls in sixth grade? 

Christina: That’s a tough age. 

Audra: As they're talking about each other and that, you know, like it's there's not like you have good data to work with, you got some challenging data to work with, lots of emotions, lots of big feelings, you know, and then trying to figure out how to set boundaries when like this is such a great time in life to learn this. Like, I wish I had this in sixth grade. So I'm so grateful for your work because I think it resonates, like I said, with all ages. It's going to be so helpful for her.

Christina: Thank you. Yeah, well, and middle school age is just so hard in general. And then now our kiddos have social media and personal devices and things that we didn't have to deal with. You know, AIM existed, so I'd come home and maybe message with a couple of people on the house computer in the living room in front of my parents. That's a very different thing. When your kiddos have their own phones where they have access to the Internet and they can't get away from maybe those peers that they would normally leave behind at school when they come home.

Audra: That's a really good point, is that it all extends into your home life at some point, you don't have the ability to be like, yeah, I get on the bus, I'll see you tomorrow. You can have that... That's something that we really need to explore more. I'd love to be able to talk more about that at some point and help, especially with our tweens and getting there with technology and all of that.

Justin: We've got an article coming. 

Audra: Oh, good, wonderful. 

Justin: Cell phones and teens. Yeah.


45:04

Justin: So do you have a few small steps, just first steps for parents who might be experiencing this that they can start with today? Of course, the first step would be to get the book. But, you know, when today when the kid comes home, like what are some small steps that parents could start right away?

Christina: Well, so it goes back to communication and dialogue. And one of the really good ways that parents can help their kiddos to make sense of their own experience and then make choices are intentional going forward is to have a reflective dialog with them. Now, this depends on your child's openness to having these sorts of conversations. And if you're able to start these when they're younger, then it's easier to carry through as they get older. But if they bring a problem up to you. Play detective with them. What led up to that? And then what did you think when they said that? What were your thoughts? How did it feel in your body? And then what choice did you make? What was the result of that choice and really help them investigate their own scenarios that they've lived. What would have been maybe a better way to handle that would have resulted in a more positive outcome and help them problem solve in anticipation of more experiences like that. 

So that's basically you're fostering their social emotional intelligence, helping them to recognize and identify their thoughts and feelings and then make sense of them and put words to them, because sometimes we feel things and we're not sure exactly how to describe it. And as adults, we might have a better ability to let your child now. Oh, it sounds like you were really envious of your friend or you were really frustrated at this situation, whatever it might be, and give them the terms so that then they can express that as well. 

So that communication is really important. Modeling self-love for yourself and applauding it in your children is really important, because, again, we need to feel like we matter in order for our wants, needs and values to matter and to protect with a boundary. So if we're going to set a boundary, we need to feel like what we're protecting is important and that's ourselves. And so as the parents, we need to celebrate our own accomplishments, our own efforts. Same with your child. Really celebrate who they are so that they know that I think I matter and I think you matter. And then again, going back to modeling boundaries ourselves. So let's say you're at a restaurant and you get your meals delivered and it's not right. We could just say, no, I'm just going to eat it, whatever. I don't want to cause problems. Or we could say…

Audra: He’s nudging me.

Christina: Or we could say when the waiter drops it off and leaves and you're like, oh, my goodness to your child, this isn't what I ordered. I'm going to let the server know about the mistakes so that I can get the meal that I asked for. And your child says, wow, ok my parent thinks it matters. They're not making a big deal out of it. They're just standing up for themselves. And so by modeling it, then our child sees the power of doing it for themselves too.

Audra: Such a great example, too, because like the other side of it is, ok, so there's then there's a parent is like, oh, I didn't get the right order, but it's ok. I'm fine. And then, that's me. And then there's the one who is like, I didn't get the right order. So I'm going to passive aggressively mention it every time the server comes by. I used to work in the restaurant industry, which is why I have it is…

Justin: So there’s also the fact that like you feel…

Audra: Yeah, yeah, but you know, one thing that. Yeah, as a pet peeve for me is also the passive aggressive response, you know, of hmm. Or there it is…

Christina: Not going to get a tip because I got the wrong food. Well, but you didn't tell them. That's not very fair.

Audra: Exactly. Exactly. So I love the idea of modeling, and I think this could be done beautifully with young kids like really young kids, too. I mean, modeling, when you're let's say you're young child toddlers hitting you, you know, and modeling boundaries around. I was just learning about this on the Curious Parenting. I don't know if you followed them on Instagram, but she's really great. And just these little steps that you can take to, you know, model how to have the conversation of like, this hurts me. I don't want to be hurt, you know, and I'm going to ask, I'm asking you to stop hitting me now, you know, and like these sorts of things, like, I guess modeling just in our own relationships within the family. How we interact together, just in the home can be really powerful.

Christina: Absolutely. So, you know, I'm thinking of my kids are at the age, and maybe this doesn't go away, where they want your attention at all times. And so I'm trying to model that. I'm actually protective of my time as well. And so if they're calling to me, I'm in the middle of something. I'll turn my attention towards them for a second to say, “Hey, I really want to hear what you have to say. And I know you deserve my full attention. I'm focused on this right now. 

So I'm going to take the next X amount of minutes to do this, and then I will give you my time.” And so that also shows that I am important enough to do what I need to do. My work is important and my time is important, but also so are they. And they deserve to have all of me instead of that kind of half texting, half looking, half-listening version that we do a lot of the time because we're all so busy multitasking.

Audra: So powerful. 

Justin: And you're modeling for clarity and communication. And I think of Brene Brown's, clear is kind. 

Christina: There we go. Back to the kindness as well.

Audra: I love it. Yeah, this is really powerful. I feel like that I've just taken something that from you that I'm going to use every day. Now, when interrupted, you know, be it when you come down with a thought and you're frustrated that I can't immediately respond to you or…

Christina: Now, beware your family will start to use boundaries on you, too. I heard my daughter say that to my son. She'll be like “Sterling, I'm putting a boundary right now,” and I love that. But when they're like, “mommy, I'm putting a boundary because you told me,” you know, I'm like, oh, yeah, this is good for me. That's the other part we model and we encourage it as well.

Audra: So when he sets boundaries around timing of washing the dishes. 

Justin: Oh, my god. 

Audra: Yeah, it's going to happen.

Justin: Yeah. I'm going to need some time to process that. So this book is the first in a series called Capable Kiddos. So what's next in this series?

Christina: So the idea is Capable Kiddos as a series is to help our kiddos and ourselves have the skills to handle whatever life throws our way. And so this first book is about friendship and boundaries. The second book is well underway. The illustrator is sending me really fun illustrations right now. It's called Fear Not, and it's how to work through and learn to tolerate and live with anxiety and fear. And so it's not so much…

Audra: I love it. 

Christina: Thank you. It's not so much about overcoming per se, because I think that's a bit unrealistic. But recognizing that anxiety will come and go. But these are the skills that we can use to help ourselves manage it. So that's…

Audra: I think is so powerful, like if we can start talking about this when we are young, young, young, we really need that. Like, you know, we've learned over the years to manage going down rabbit holes, to manage fear castrates, manage like these are like, you know, kind of feel like very adult things. But there are things that we can as parents like as we're working through it. Like, I think there's a lot that we can do for our families. Like I think that, you know, we don't have to talk about our fears around paying for our daughter's horse lessons or horseback riding lessons, you know what I mean? And like what we can or cannot afford. And then instilling that, you know, kind of fear of scarcity in them. Like, I love the idea, the idea of this book, because it is we're going to have these fears. It's like, what do we do with this? What do we do with this and how do we manage?

Justin: It's wonderful because I don't think I realized that I had anxiety as a child. I didn't really realize that anxiety was a part of my life until I was in my 20s. And I was like, oh, wait, actually, this has been going on for quite a while. And then my best friend didn't realize until a couple of years ago going into therapy that he had been dealing with it his whole life. And so it's like how many people grow up and as kids have these fears and anxieties and it's not just a like, you know, what do they call it, like momentary contextual thing, but it's like the anxiety is kind of a low hum in the background. Right. So that's wonderful. So when is this book coming out?

Christina: Fear Not should be out in the spring. So I'm really, really excited for that. And the beginning of the story talks about how all kids, grown ups too, have different anxieties, because I think a lot of the time in our own mental health struggles, we feel quite alone. And so I really want kids to know they're not alone in what they go through and they're not alone in having to work through it. So I'm super excited for that book in the spring. 

And then the third book I haven't written yet, but my plan, and I love your guys input is to have it be about our inner voice in the way that we talk to ourselves. I think so many of us grow up critiquing ourselves and being most unkind to ourselves. So I think a story about that where kids can develop a kind inner voice from a younger age, hopefully maybe we'll give them a happier, more positive experience of their life. But then I was thinking maybe I do mindset in general, like a growth mindset book. And that's a component of it, too. 

Justin: So, Christina, are you familiar with Internal Family Systems?

Christina: I have heard of it. I haven't studied it, though.

Justin: Oh, my gosh. Because what comes up for me is and what has helped me is, you know, I'll be very, very brief because I can go on. Basically that, you know, we are not one mind, but we have a bunch of different parts in us. And all these parts generally are there to protect us. And they're there to protect childhood wounds, emotional wounds. And so what I have realized working in this therapeutic domain is that I definitely have at least one part, probably multiple parts that have a lot of anxiety around emotional protection. And so seeing my inner world, not as I am the one who has anxiety, but I have a part, there's a part, and it's very close to the inner voice. But I mean, it's like it's practically the same thing. But in the internal family systems world, it's not just one inner voice. Right. We have… 

Audra: A whole family of them that interact. And what I love about that, too, is that nobody, you know, it makes it so that we ourselves and no one in the world around us is something or some way. You know, we may have a part that or parts that might, that behavior exhibit or pop out in this way. But yeah.

Justin: Yeah. And then I also have parts that do not feel that way. I mean, internal family systems gets even deeper than that. It's so cool. But yeah, the idea that oh, it's not like I Justin, you know, as a unified mind being have anxiety getting away from that idea and that I have a part or maybe one or two parts that having anxiety as a way to protect me are always on the lookout for danger, are going to ruminate on possible problems that…

Audra: It helps a lot, too, because I never hear you say like my anxiety. My anxiety is popping up, my anxieties here, my anxiety, like, you know, like I don't know. You don't kind of like cast yourself in that way and you don't own that, you know, kind of like as...

Justin: I have a part that is being triggered right now..

Audra: Not that I'm triggered. But like…

Christina: Yeah, I'm an anxious person, but I'm person that has parts of me that have anxiety from time to time. Right. Right. And it gives you information then from your body or from your brain that you then can intentionally decide what to do with versus, you know, I like to think of anxiety like a fire alarm. Ours is in the kitchen, so ours goes off every time I burn toast. It is not a fire. Right. That's our anxiety system sometimes has that alarm that goes off when we're making smoky toast. 

And it doesn't need to. Or we can hear it when you think, oh, I'm going to press the dismissal button because it's not really a fire. And if we don't learn to differentiate between that sort of information, then we think, oh, I'm anxious and I need to act in a way that responds to the anxiety. Whereas if it's a part of me has anxiety right now because of X, Y, Z situation, I can decide if this is something I need to respond to or not.

Audra: Absolutely. Yes. 

Justin: Yeah. Christina. So I have an awareness that now I've mentioned internal family cells. And so now I'm going to mention another thing. And it might feel like Christina, I'm like, can I just write this book? I know one thing that has really been a game-changer for my anxiety, too, is learning about what happens physiologically with anxiety…

Audra: Like you mentioned, what's happening in your body. 

Justin: Right. So, you know, there's a whole cascade of biochemicals that like ready the body for some sort of action. You know, it's like the heart rate increases. And, you know, I start to breathe faster. My face might get red. Right. So there are physiological things going on. And then learning that I can feel into that and like actually get physical, like stretch or deep breathing and like. So the idea that, oh, I just need to calm down, don't move. Calm, calm was actually the opposite of what I needed to do, which might be to like stand up, stretch, breathe, maybe do some jumping jacks, you know…

Audra: And for kids it might be like, it might be a cry, you know. And then you say don’t cry, but what if they need to cry? Like, what are your thoughts on that?

Christina: Yeah, well, I know that comes out of my mouth sometimes. In all honesty. Right. Because when you are throwing stuff, too, and. Yeah. So sometimes I'm guilty of saying stuff like that, too. Like don't cry. It's like when I'm at my max and spent, I feel like I'm not capable of handling their own stuff, which isn't fair to them. But we're all human so we can kind of learn from our mistakes and apologize later when we handle stuff like that wrong. But yeah, our kids have big feelings and most of the time the best thing you can do is just validate, just validate and give love. And then later on when they're out of that state, because when you're in that anxiety or that anger or fear, whatever you're in, you're in a fight or flight situation. 

And I think it's Dr. Daniel Siegel talks about your upstairs brain, and your downstairs brain. And so you're in your downstairs brain, which isn't where you're able to organize or plan or make logical choices or problem solve. And so when you help your kids in the moment, not actually that helpful. Like give them love, validate them and then once they're in a state where they're calm, reflect with them. And that's…

Audra: I love that. And so when your kids are in their downstairs brain. Right, big feelings, all that. You're usually in your upstairs brain, right? So you're coming at it like even…

Justin: No then I get triggered and then I'm in mine. 

Audra: Then you go downstairs. Right.

Christina: That's not good.

Audra: Yeah. So we all need the time to just validate, kind of like hold the space love and then process later. I mean, that's just that's a good thing to just plan for and be like, this is how this is how we do this. And I know as partners, too, like you started saying, hey, wait to get clear. Are you wanting to just let it out or are you wanting to problem solve? Like, can we do that? But to plan for that with the kids like that helps me to just be able to sort of like plan in advance, like in our kids going to come home from school with some big feelings and we're just going to validate and love and then circle back later, see if we're ready to process. Right. That’s awesome.

Christina: That's great to plan in that way. And we have a calming corner. And that's the idea of that as well, is that this is the place we go to. You know, it's these conversations ahead of time in prep, and then it's the reflection afterwards. You know, when we're upset, let's go head over to the common corner where you've got different things you can play with, where we can to sit down and hug each other, whatever feels right to you to kind of calm down. And then later we'll talk about it and help you out.

Audra: Oh, my gosh, can we talk more about that on The Family Thrive like I would love for us to maybe have a little segment on, like how to create your calming corner. Actually, what that is, I have not heard of that before, but I just got a picture in my head of just a really comforting, comfortable space to go and to be and to be together.

Justin: So you're saying that you need a calming corner.

Audra: I love that. 

Justin: So, Christina, what is new and interesting for you in your own mental and emotional health journey?

Christina: I think every day I'm working to be the mom that I wanted to be or thought I would be. And I'm sure it's a goal that's unachievable ultimately. But as long as I'm good enough, I need to learn to accept that and really trying. And I feel like the pandemic did this for a lot of us, really trying to be present and just appreciate the time that we have with our friends, our family, my kiddos. Be grateful. We try and we try to do gratitude every night. And we have the kids do it, too. And it's been really fun to hear how their gratitude evolves. My son for a long time just said family like you couldn't come up with something new. But he knew he was grateful for us.

Every dinner he said family. Whereas my daughter would come up with something from the day, and now my son's starting to, he's three, so he's starting to make more sense of what we're doing and come up with something that he's actually grateful for. And so we try and be present and live in gratitude. 

But also, I think recognizing that life has its ups and downs and I have periods where I'm not the happiest or I'm a little depressed or my anxieties kicked in. And same with my husband and same with our kiddos. You know, they have periods where I'm like, what is going on them? Something big is happening inside of them right now. And I think just knowing that that's ok. 

I had a client several years ago who was a teenager, and she had a really hard time if she didn't feel, if she felt anything less than perfect. It was catastrophic to her. And it meant that then she self-harmed or felt suicidal because she felt like her life was supposed to look a certain way. So I think acknowledging the ups and downs are life, and that's good. We don't have shades of the beautiful world around us without having blacks and grays and browns. Right. So we have to have those downs in order to sometimes appreciate the highs and the goods. And it's just, it provides a variety of life. That's what makes it so special.

Audra: Oh, that's really powerful to hear like to hear of what I hear is like a journey for you. Like to seeking deep engagement in life with your family. Like, I think that's beautiful. And then to hear of this of this young woman, I had never that had never occurred to me that that could be a way of living and breaks my heart to hear. And it breaks my heart to hear it, something that I think could potentially be preventable and support along the way. You know, like it's something that we can support by creating just a more like open, vulnerable, kind. And then also like a kind of like an attitude towards resilience in kind of like everything around us. But if you do grow up in one of those perfection-driven environments, that's the fallout.

Christina: Right. Or a toxic positivity where. Yes, you know, it's fine. I'm not affected, but you really are. And you should actually deal with it, you know? Yeah. So that's another thought behind my mindset or, you know, mindset book or the thought of your internal voice and how you are resilient or deal with things. Because it is just so important.

Audra: Yeah. I can't wait for these and I hope that we can talk again. I would really love every time a book comes out. Let's have a conversation. It's fantastic.

Justin: Awesome. So how can listeners find out more about you and your work?

Christina: They can visit me on my website, which is ChristinaFurnival.com. And from there, I have links to my book currently and books plural in the future. Also, I have a form to reach out if you would like me to connect you with a therapist, or if I'm available as well. I'm licensed in California, which means I can only see clients that are residing or physically in California at the time of sessions. And then also I have a blog through the website, so it's ChristinaFurnival.com/blog. And that's kind of how even this whole motherhood, mental health and writing journey all converged in my real life, a blog that I started after having my daughter. And then on social media, you can find me. I have two Instagram accounts, one for the books, which is @capablekiddosbooks, and then my therapeutic motherhood blog, Instagram account, which is @thisisreallifemama. And so, yeah, I would. I love when people reach out. I love getting new followers and connecting with them. And I'm here to help and support all of you, so I would love if you reach out.

Audra: Oh, thank you for bringing yourself to the world. It's just so powerful. I'm so, so grateful for your work.

Christina: Well, thank you. I'm so grateful to have gotten to meet you guys today. I think you're fabulous and I love what you're doing. I was exploring your account some more and going on your websites and watching your videos. And I love what you guys are doing.

Justin: Oh, well, we would yeah, we would love to connect further. Yes. And we certainly will after the show. But before we go, we have…

Audra: He’s keeping us on track.

Justin: Yeah. So we have three questions that we ask every podcast guest at the end of the show. So the first one is if you could put a Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, big Post-it note, what would it say?

Christina: It would say you're doing better than you think.

Justin: Mm hmm. 

Audra: I love that. I was getting some coffee, but I need that Post-it.

Justin: All right. So the second one, is there a quote that you have seen lately that has affected the way you think or feel?

Christina: Yes. And it's actually kind of related to that first one. But the quote that has affected probably for a couple of years now, how I feel. It's “you don't have to believe everything you think.”

Justin: Oh, this is yeah…

Audra: Love this quote. 

Christina: Yes, it's so good. 

Justin: Yep.

Christina: It's so powerful. And it puts you back in the driver's seat. Your thoughts, again, their information. And then you can choose what to do with them. I think we think our thoughts are truth because we make, because we come up with them. But we're often using confirmation bias and looking for things that are firmer, confirm what we already believe, whether or not it's helpful or true. And so knowing that we don't have to believe everything we think, I think is valuable. And then going back to your first question, you're doing better than you think as a parent is your thoughts are, oh, I messed that up. Oh, I'm screwing up my kids. Oh, I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. You're doing better than you think because your thoughts aren't always true.

Justin: Beautiful.

Audra: Love it. I love it. I feel I want to like do a graphic of these posts and put them out.

Justin: We actually have an article that we're working on doing just that. We are.

Christina: I like where your head is at. I'm visual.

Audra: I like the visual, right. Like I want to actually have it on Instagram and then screenshot it and then. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Justin: I think that's a beautiful idea. Oh, I had a mindful meditation teacher once who said your thoughts are like sweat. It's like the body just produces sweat. You don't need to worry about it. Like you don't need to get upset about it. It's just like you're sweating.

Audra: It's like your mind sweat.

Christina: I like that.

Justin: My thoughts are just mind sweat. 

Christina: Oh, God, I love it. 

Justin: Oh, my final question. You know, as you know, there are many times in parenting when you're just exhausted and overwhelmed, you're like, oh, my God, what's happening? And so it's nice to always just take a break and to think about like what is so awesome about kids. And so what do you love most about kids?

Christina: I love their, the way their minds work, the randomness seemingly with which they come out with things or the way that they make sense of the world. I just think they're magnificent. You know the show from decades ago. Kids say the darndest things. I just they do. And it's unbelievable. We have a booklet that we keep and we write down what our kiddos say. My daughter's theory on how babies are made is pretty fantastic. And I just like I love, I love all of the way that they think. And you can see the wheels turning. I just think it's so fabulous.

Audra: Oh, that's such a good idea to try to capture the goodness, to try to capture those nuggets. Such a great idea.

Christina: Yeah. Because you think you'll remember. Right. Oh, that was so funny. I'll totally remember that. Right. 

Audra: You get to a point where you don't even remember like what year your kid was born, like, you know, her parents. And they're like you were the, you were two in that picture. I'm like I'm clearly like six months old.

Christina: Right. 

Audra: Yeah, write it down.

Justin: Oh Christina, thank you so much for coming on the show. This is wonderful. And we can't wait to have you back.

Christina: Thank you for having me. So much fun to get to know you guys.

Audra: Likewise. Thanks again. I'm looking forward to talking to you the next time. 

Christina: Me, too.

Transcript highlights

1:55

Audra: I'm super excited that we were put in touch with you, I think we got in outreach through our managing editor, and as soon as we saw your work, we're like, oh, she's perfect. We got to talk to her. And then this book is absolutely incredible. The Not-So-Friendly Friend, I have to tell you, like I was just telling Justin that this could have been like a 400 page book for adults about, you know, setting boundaries. Like, I love reading that you easily condensed into a children's book and made it so simple. And I feel like making the conversation around boundaries so simple and accessible in this way is good for everyone. Our daughter is going through this right now of being a new kid in sixth grade. And thanks to our work with The Family Thrive, I feel like we've been able to help her more than we would have been able to before. But you're right, this isn't automatic. You know, this is not an automatic conversation that we have. So we'll get into it more, but I just wanted to say congratulations and thank you. It is such a beautiful book.

Justin: We're going to talk about the book, but before we do,let's talk about Christine.

Audra: Wait, can we tell her our roles on the podcast really quick? So Justin writes the questions and like keeps like the guardrails and keeps us moving and I usually mess it up. Ok, go ahead. 

Justin: Ok. Yeah. So I yeah, I kind of drive, I guess in the radio business there on radio shows. There's a driver and there's a personality like that's how they do radio shows. And the driver is like the professional radio host who keeps it on schedule. And the personality just kind of, you know, brings all the color in the life. And so we've kind of fallen into these roles, and that's why, but yeah, let's learn a little bit about Christina. So we want to know where you came from. Right. So where did you grow up and how did you, what pathway led you into becoming an author, a mother and a therapist?

Christina: Well, I am a born and raised San Diegan. And so I grew up here, but I actually did college and graduate school in Nashville, Tennessee. And so…

Audra: Oh, you know the south.

Christina: I know and I visited Savannah before, so I, it has a special place in my heart. I do think I left a part of me in the south when I came back to San Diego. But so born and raised out here, I am married to my husband, Tom. We just celebrated eight years of marriage and he's from Scotland.

Audra: Congratulations, oh wow. From Scotland. How cool! Where in Scotland?

Christina: Tom from Scotland. He's from a small town near Aberdeen called Banchory.

Audra: Oh, how cool. 

Justin: Where did you guys meet?

Christina: We actually met in Nashville. So, you know, San Diego girl from southwest US. He's from the northeast of Scotland. And we met in Nashville, Tennessee.

Justin: A classic story. All right.

Audra: I love it. Love college.

Justin: What led you to Vanderbilt? Why?

Christina: Well, so back when I was in high school and planning out like what career I thought I wanted to have, I always wanted to be a pediatrician. And so when I toured universities and I visited Vanderbilt, I saw their children's hospital on campus. And it's such a happy place. It's not as sterile and cold as a lot of hospitals, and I thought, wow, if I'm going to be a pediatrician, I'm going to be one here. And so I want to go to school here. Plus, I fell in love with Southern hospitality during my visit for those few days before I decided to accept going to school there. And so that was what brought me to Vanderbilt. But it was at Vanderbilt that I realized that I was not as interested in medicine as a helping profession as I thought. 

So after graduating from Vanderbilt, I took about a year or so before deciding to enroll in a graduate program for professional counseling. So I always wanted to help some, help people and help children. But I thought it was through medicine and then ultimately it's been through psychology and therapy.

So that's kind of how my path ended up towards therapy. My mom's also actually a licensed mental health therapist and a school counselor. So I think when I was choosing medicine initially, I had boxed up her career is for her. And then it was after realizing I'm actually quite similar to my mom and I love and adore what she does and how she helps families and children that I knew that that was for me, too.

Audra: Oh, what a beautiful process. Like it's almost of like a differentiation and then incorporation kind of, you know, and I wonder, hearing that, you know, I wonder if if your mother in growing up with a therapist, did she also teach you a lot that kind of like open your your eyes into the world of what could be when it comes to being somebody with those skills?

Christina: Yeah, I think she did a really good job because I never felt like she was doing therapy on me. You know, she drew a good line where she was just a lovely, and is a lovely, nurturing mom. She did teach us about feelings and emotions and how to process them and reflect on them. So I feel like I did have some skills from a younger age than a lot of my peers might have.

Audra: Oh, it's invaluable. I feel like we all need that. And as parents we need these skills like it's not something that is just for therapists. Right. It's like as parents these are some of the most essential skills that we need, I think, from the beginning. So that is pretty powerful that you have experienced that in your own life. And then it sounds like you brought into your work and your parenting.

Christina: Yeah. Yes. I always, ever since I started in the field in 2009, I've always worked with youth and adolescents and their families. And I love helping kiddos because kiddos are just so interesting and they're open to change because every day is change and every day is new discoveries and helping their families and then figure out how to help their kiddos live the life that they want. How to understand themselves better and navigate challenges confidently is what I'm all about.

Justin: Ok, I have a curiosity. I imagine that in the years that have passed from when your mom went to school and first started practicing and you went to school and you started practicing, that a lot has changed in the field. And so have you had discussions with your mom? Have you said, mom, you know the way you thought about X, Y, and Z, now that's change. It's now A, B, and C.

Christina: I think in general, or at least the way that my mom engages with families and youth, I feel like that's still aligned with the ways that I practice therapy. There are definitely new modalities and approaches, lots of acronyms that she's never heard of before in different ways to handle things. But we're both really big into CBT. And so just that awareness between our thoughts, our feelings and our behaviors and how it's all interconnected.

Justin: So did you always know that you wanted to be a mom? 

Christina: Yes. 

Justin: Yeah. So how did the actual, so you knew that you wanted to be a mom and you were a therapist before you were a mom? Right. And so how did motherhood change this for you?

Christina: I thought I was going to have motherhood in the bag. I was certainly very confident that I would just be this amazing natural mother. Not only had I always worked with youth in the mental health field, but before I ever was an adult, I would babysit. I've got 21 aunts and uncles and probably 30 plus cousins. And I'm on the older end of them. So I would babysit and watch them all. I was a children's entertainer at like summer camps. And I thought, I know kids inside and out and wow, I was just completely blindsided by motherhood. 

I think part of it had a lot to do with, I went through postpartum depression and anxiety after having my daughter, my first child. And I was not expecting. I didn't think I had any of the warning signs. But now, in hindsight, I look back and I'm like, oh, I was having intrusive thoughts. Oh, I was really depressed or apathetic about this or that. That used to bring me joy, you know. So now I can kind of put those pieces together. But when I was in the fog of it, I was just completely surprised that that was my experience. And I also had high risk pregnancies, which is, that’s a kind of warning sign. And after giving birth to my daughter a week later, I had a delayed postpartum hemorrhage where I had to be rushed to the hospital. And so that was traumatic, and I hadn't really processed that. And then that led to my milk supply not coming in how it should. And so feeding problems, sleeping problems and all this, all of it piled on top of each other.

Audra: Oh, so big. I mean, I'm just taking all of that in that really. It's so powerful. It's all of the things that when you say blindsided, all of the things that we don't expect. And I think like reflecting on what you're saying, like how many of us do know that we're in postpartum depression, like how many of us do see the warning signs? I feel like awareness is growing because of sharing like this. And we did speak earlier on this podcast with Bridget, really, really wonderful perinatal therapist who specializes in just this, because she was called to it, you know, for very similar reasons. And so I think I see awareness raising a little bit. 

But, you know, when my son was born 14 years ago, there was no talk around it. And in fact, there are even a little stigma. I would be like, well, she you know, she has postpartum, you know, and it was feel like not only a stigma, but like a problematizing, like this is an issue for her. Right. Instead of this is a huge issue that has everything to do with our health care system, that has everything to do with, you know, modern motherhood, that has everything to do with expectations and on and on and on. Like it's just such like Bridget described it as an onion. And it's like you peel back every layer and you see more and more complexity of that. So it makes sense. And then add the trauma on top of it of a hemorrhage or the trauma of high risk pregnancies. It's a lot.

Christina: Yeah. and it all makes sense now. But you're right that when you're in it a lot of times, even if you know what the potential warning signs are, you're in such a fog that you can't even necessarily make sense of your experience. And sometimes it takes your partner or a friend or a parent to point out like you're not, something's not working right now. Like this is beyond sleep deprivation. This is beyond the life change. 

And so one of the things that I like to say, because now I do work with adults and I tend to work with moms, I do telehealth therapy in the evening now, is that motherhood should be life changing, but it should not be earth shattering. And if you feel like it has turned the world upside down in a negative way, then it's time to get some help.

Audra: So that's a powerful way to put that. I think we should put a pin in that. Like I think that's a really wonderful quote to pull out of this, because even as a therapist yourself, it sounds like it took some time and a view and a realization, and then you're really able to see it in a retrospective manner what you were going through. But if it's even hard for a therapist to identify this, you know, then we should normalize that. Like it's hard to identify these things, you know, and just having that sort of putting that quote out into the world. If we can do that when we promote this podcast, I think it would be meaningful.

Justin: Oh, absolutely. And it brings up the curiosity that I had when I first read about your story on your website. It makes total sense to me that this would be something that you could look back on in retrospect to say, oh, yeah, there were the signs. But what was the sign for you at the time that, oh, this isn't just a couple of bad days, this isn't just waking up on the wrong side of the bed? What was the aha moment for you?

Christina: Well, so I knew to expect that there might be baby blues in the first two weeks, and then I knew to expect that my hormones would start to regulate around six weeks once my ovaries took back over, because when you're pregnant, your placenta is in charge of a lot of your hormone production. And so when you give birth, the placenta leaves you and then your hormones are wild for a bit. And so I was sitting there thinking, wow, this is not going how I thought it would. This is not like blissful, bigger than life love that I was expecting that you hear about but at two weeks, I'm sure I'll feel better. And so I kind of just rode that wave. 

And then two weeks came and two weeks went and so I was like six weeks. When my hormones regulate that, I'll be able to make sense of what I'm experiencing and I'll be fine. Six weeks came and went and with my husband and I trying to figure out our child and learn her cues and how to just do this whole parenting thing. We had an argument one evening and I said this is a nightmare. 

And he, being the protective loyal father that he had now become, was like, I can't believe you said that. And I'm like, well, that that's actually how I feel. I feel like this is a nightmare. I'm living a bad dream. And that was a turning point for us to be like that shouldn't be my experience. This shouldn't be how this feels. It's hard, but it shouldn't be a nightmare. 

And so then I was employing more selfcare. We got my mom to come around during the day to hold our daughter so that I could take naps. She was one of those kiddos that had to be held at all times. So I wasn't getting the rest that I needed to get. Yeah. Was Max the same way?

Audra: Same way.

Christina: It's so hard when you can’t just set them down and you see your friends sharing on social media about their baby in their bassinet and like, oh, how they're such good sleepers. And then you have jealousy on top of resentment on top of all the other feelings.

Audra: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Christina: I ultimately decided to see my own therapist because I knew that I couldn't see my own blind spots and that I needed support outside of myself.

Audra: It's powerful. So it sounds like accepting, seeking and accepting support from those around you to pursue self care. And then also getting some help getting you know, your own therapist was key to that. And it's really amazing that you saw I think that is one thing that moms carry. See that they're supposed to, there's like this shoulding on ourselves, like we're supposed to be able to do this alone. Right. We're supposed to be able to do it ourselves. And then the other thing that you said that really was impactful to me when you talked about the nightmare is that the response wasn't to diminish or deny your feelings, that you were in a nightmare. It sounds like that was recognized. And the response was, and we don't want it to be a nightmare. Like, yes, you're feeling that way instead of saying, no, it's not. Right. You're a mother of a brand new kid, beautiful baby. You know, no, it's not, you know, like acknowledge that it is your nightmare right now. And we don't want it to be that way. 

Christina: Exactly. 

Audra: It doesn't have to be that way.

Justin: So what surprised you most about that experience? I mean, you had mental health training. You are a counselor, right? So. But it's one thing being on the therapist's end and now you're in it. What surprised you the most?

Christina: I think one of the things that surprised me was how much my own emotions became entangled in my own experience. When I see families in the therapy office, I have a much more objective view. I'm not enmeshed in it and being in it and knowing that I needed to care for this child and I knew enough to know that, ok, I'm not feeling connected to her. I'm not feeling this overflowing love that I thought I would be, you know, upon giving birth. But I know that she needs from me the nurturing, the cuddling, the snuggling, the singsong voice. So I employed all of that, even though I felt vacant behind it. And so I think that that enmeshment of my own awareness and my own emotions in my process of being a mom, that was really hard to kind of navigate and figure out. And I think I was lucky because I have the mental health experience and knowledge to know what to do. I went through the motions, even though I didn't feel it.

Justin: Hmm. Wow.

Audra: It's really powerful. How old are your kids now?

Chrisitna: So my daughter Isla is five and she just started kindergarten.

Audra: Oh I love the name Isla.

Christina: Thank you. And then…

Audra: Kindergarten, a big deal.

Christina: Kinder. Yes. And she's rocking it. And she's in a Spanish immersion program. So she's coming home with new words every day, which is so fun. And then our son Sterling is three. And so he's actually watching TV right now and hopefully is quiet while we're talking.

Audra: Awesome. Well if he pops in, we’d love to say hi. I love the name Sterling, too. We have a family friend, you know, back in the day. It's a classic, very classic name.

Justin: So I just have a few more questions just because I you know, for new moms who might be listening to this. What helped you most during that time? So once you started to get help and you started to get some tools. What did you find most helpful?

Christina: I think what's really, really helpful and really, really important, like you were saying, Audra, this expectation of what we're supposed to be like or do or manage is to let that go and realize, especially if you've had a baby during this last year and a half, like things are not normal right now. We all have a level of stress that is way higher than it would typically be. And then outside of the pandemic, the idea of the village doesn't exist in the way that it did for our moms and for their moms and so on.

Audra: Great point.

Chrisitna: So the mom martyr-hood that we do, we need to stop that. And so really communicating with my husband to let him know I need to sleep right now or I haven't showered and I need to, do this or I need to do that. We also had to figure out the balance of housework. We had always been a very 50/50 couple, but then kind of naturally with me staying home with our daughter, there became this imbalance where all of a sudden I was cleaning the house more or doing the dishes more, the laundry more, and I had to speak up and say, you know what, that's not how we work and this isn't working for me. I can't do all of this. And so setting those boundaries, having clear communication, asking for help, I'm not good at asking for help. 

A lot of moms I know aren't especially I feel like our generation now, don't you either. Especially our generation. I feel like a lot of us are having kids after we've established careers. And so we have established patterns of if I work hard enough, I can achieve X, Y or Z. And with parenting, it's just not that one to one. And I think we need to let down that ‘I can handle it all. I can do it all attitude’ and really create your own village in that way with your partner, with your family, with friends.

 We have a lot of friends, actually, UK expats that live here, and their family is not here. So they are a family and they will watch someone else's child so that couple can go on a date or what have you. Just so creating your own village, as you can, I think is really, really helpful.

Audra: That is so great. This is really wonderful advice. And it strikes me that it goes actually for folks who are going to become parents. One of the things that I'm thinking of is preparation. And some of those expectations that we develop, we develop those expectations, you know, in advance, you know, through the pregnancy. I remember thinking that my first child was going to come out and be like a six to nine month old. Like I'll be on maternity leave walking around with him on my hip.

Christina: Right. Right. 

Audra: Like had no clue. I mean, really, like no understanding. But I think some of those things you can't prepare for. It's like, you know, there's so much of parenting, like the moment you have that other life outside of you and you're like, whoa, I have to care for this, this human now, this is incredible. I get to care for this human. But some things we can do to prepare, and it seems like we totally can come up with a plan to communicate in advance, not just about our birth planning, but what about our partnership planning in that, you know, these seem to be like really wonderful advance conversations to talk about the division of labor and be able to say, you know, I've heard that I'm going to need a ton of sleep. You know, are you willing to get up however many times and change diapers, you know, and do that before you are super tired or in the hospital longer than you thought you'd be?

Christina: Absolutely. I think that's so powerful. And I think along with the awareness of postpartum depression, anxiety and perinatal mood disorders, is that awareness of we're not just planning for your pregnancy and we're not just planning for the twenty four hours that you're giving birth, but we're planning for the next at least three months that those 100 days where you're in that fourth trimester and you're learning your child and they're learning what it's like to be alive and having those conversations is so important, because we, my husband and I, I guess we assumed we would fall naturally into a pattern. But the pattern we fell into wasn't one that worked for either of us. So we had to communicate. And so yeah, in anticipation, having better planning for postpartum, I think is definitely important.

Audra: Because, I mean, really kind of like going into a partnership even, whether it's, you know, a marriage or long term committed partnership or whatever way we might be putting that together as a family to then to commit to parenting our co parenting. I feel like we make a lot of assumptions anyway. Like, I don't know. We did. I mean, right. Like one of the things that we've learned now 20 years. 

Justin: Oh my god. 

Audra: Over 20 years of being together. But, you know, being married for 20 years, like I look back and now we've learned a lot more skills, especially in the more recent past few years. But before that, like the assumptions we would make, like it’s hilarious...

Justin: I mean, I think the most powerful layer is we have learned over the past well, I mean a lot over the past year or two, but the most impactful ones have been around communication and about communicating around these assumptions. I think. Yeah, you're absolutely right. How many assumptions I held...

Audra: And then the stories that are based on the assumptions and on and on, and then the resentments that are based on the stories that are based on the assumptions. Right. Oh, I can't believe she's just coming home and not like not even doing the dishes, you know, and like never once communicated anything about and holding these expectations when you haven't had a conversation is pretty unreasonable and you don't have to ever carry resentment if we communicate in advance. 

I guess that's the one thing I would think would be really powerful planning to do if one is to bring a child into the home, is to really just start with some advance planning and communications and thinking around those assumptions or even like communicating around how we want to communicate once the baby comes, like we have no idea what's going to happen so like, let's have a meeting. Let’s write a list of things we think we're going to talk about and just hold the space for it, at least.

Christina: I think so.

Justin: Oh, yeah. And this is one thing that came up in our podcast with Bridget across the perinatal therapist. She sees a lot of moms when they get into trouble after the baby is born, and they're going through some of the issues that you mentioned and many others. And she wishes so much that she would have been able to see them before the baby, because then we get to talk about the expectations, we get to talk about the assumptions. We get to air them out. And then we you know, we get the lines of communication flowing before you go to battle.

Chrisitna: Yeah. Well, and then another expectation that we have that I don't think we talk about is what our baby, like you said, you expected the six to nine month old. I don't think I fully understood what a newborn would be like exactly. But I also, my mom's experience, I'm one of three, was that we were good sleepers, good eaters with this lovely time. And so I just expected that a creature of my making would be the same as.

Justin: Would be just as awesome as you are.

Chrisitna: And so when she didn't take to nursing well, when my milk didn't come in, when sleeping wasn't happening, when she needed to be held all the time and was quite fussy, I'm like, what? This is not what I ordered. Like, you know, this is not what I stand for. So I do think having those conversations ahead of time about expectations or broadening your expectations, your baby might be a good sleep or your baby might not be a good sleeper. And if that's the case, what's your plan? How are you going to handle that as a team?

Audra: Broadening. I love that concept because thinking about those who, I've needed, I had medically necessary C-section, but I had friends who planned home births, that needed a C-section and suffered tremendous a sense of loss and devastation from that and from the expectation around what that birth would be, for example, or you fully plan on being a breastfeeding mom for two years. And then we talked about this in that last podcast, too, like that when there is difficulty feeding, it's a primal challenge as a mother, isn't it? It is so hard. And then when there's narratives around formula and you feel like a failure, you know, kind of like opening that space and broadening one's expectation, like what if it's not possible, then let's plan for this.

Christina: Yeah, absolutely. And that's powerful because then you can pivot easier.


27:55

Justin: You mentioned in the discussions that you and your partner started to have around assumptions and expectations, you mentioned the word boundaries. So let's talk about the book. So, yeah, so this is, so the book is called The Not-So-Friendly Friend. Yeah. And before, you know, when we first heard about you and first heard about the book and I saw the title and the subtitle, and I thought, oh, this is brilliant. I mean, I think every single parent has had this issue with their kids, like, oh, you know, there's one kid at school who's a problem. And, you know…

Audra: Can I read the subtitle really quick for the listener? How to Set Boundaries For Healthy Friendships.

Justin: Yeah. So it's a story that I think pretty much every parent who have had kids, and especially kids, if you're in it right now, kids around toddler age and up. So it's about a kid who who's nice, like the main character, well-adjusted, nice kid, getting along…

Audra: Communication skills like using words.

Justin: Getting along, but then comes across a not so friendly friend. And can you tell us what happens next, Christina?

Christina: Yes. So the main character, like you said, she's new to school, but she's easy to like. She does all the right things and she meets this friend who she considers a friend who sometimes is nice to her and they play well. And then sometimes it's very not nice to her. And she does what most of us do, which is to try harder. Like, oh, it must have been me. The reason why they weren't treating me right. So I'm going to just be that much more lovely. But she realized that didn't work either. 

And so in the story, you can see that she talks for her parents. You can see that she talks to her teacher and she realizes that she needs to set a boundary. And it's a very simple one, but hopefully a practical learning for kiddos that they can say something similar to this when they're not being treated right. And it's that I'm going to remove myself and go play with the people who do treat me well. But you're still welcome to come join us if you're ready to be kind. I just will only tolerate that people are kind to me, basically, is the message. 

And so it leaves that door open for whoever it may be, that unkind child is, or the child is acting unkindly to reflect and decide if they want to be a part of this friendship, relationship or not. But it gives the power to the child who is being mistreated. 

And so it's a story that I actually wrote because our daughter went through something similar. And so I wanted her to have the tools and skills. There's lots of books on friendship and there's lots of books on friendships with bullies. But our experience, in her experience, was that it was just another child who sometimes was nice and sometimes wasn't nice. It was this child wasn't aiming out there to be mean.

Audra: Oh, that's so common. That's what we've experienced, too.

Justin: Yeah, so common.

Audra: Also, with this book, along the same lines, like, I love how you have the tools embedded in the book where we can use these really valuable words like, you know, our child can, we can read this with our child. And she's like, oh, great, I can actually see this. Like, I can take this to school tomorrow and I can say this. I love the openness to change. Like my heart is going to be open. I'm going to be open to you. I'm open to change. But it's behavior oriented when it's not about you as a person or a human being. But when you behave this way, I have a boundary like I do not want to be with you when you behave this way, you know, which is wonderful. 

And in the book, I thought I'd just replace some of these pictures with pictures of moms. I don't know if you've had this experience, but when you when you end up in the situation with especially like, you know, five year old and up and you become friends with the moms in the class. Right. You kind of start to like gather the kids to play and play dates and you start gathering these new friends that are outside of your workplace, maybe outside of the other, like social environments that you're in. I mean, it's almost like a new social I don't know, like a new social evolution in a sense for a mom. Right. And you're stepping into meeting new people. And I found this skill set like really important there. It's like, you know, I find myself in a new, often needing boundaries. Also, like it's a very it can be a very challenging world for moms. The social world, mom to mom social world.

Christina: Absolutely one. You know, sometimes your kiddo and another kiddo become really close friends and you realize you don't like the parents that much or like you wouldn't mesh with them or your maybe, your parenting approaches are very different. So that's when it's good to speak up and it's good for your kiddos to see you modeling boundaries. And I think what's been really cool about this book is, I knew it was important for my daughter and I knew it was important enough to have it made. So, you know, I reached out to publishers to have it become a real book. But the feedback that I've gotten since then has shown me just how much more important than I even realized it was, and that's for the kids, but also, like you said, for the parents, for the adults reading the book as well.

And so many people have been like, this speaks to my inner child or this touched home with me now with them, with the moms I'm dealing with. And I think a lot of us aren't that practiced in setting boundaries, or maybe we are good in certain settings, like at work or with our in-laws, but maybe not with our friends or with our partners. And it's like your personal superpower to have agency over your life and to make sure that the life you live is the life you want. And so to teach it to children where they can grow up with this, it's just a pretty magical thing.

Justin: And the way it's done in this book is really beautiful, because the child, like the main character, is letting the other child know that this isn't working for me. I'm not saying that you're a bad person. I'm not saying, you know, I'm not putting this all on you. I'm saying this isn't working for me. Right. You know, and so when this starts to work for me, we can totally bring this back on line. 

But I really appreciated that because, yeah, like a part of me wants to just be like, hey, this is your problem. And I want to, you know, tell you how to do things. But it's like, hey, you know, this isn't working for me. When we can play nice and we can have fun together and then we're back on line. You know, I really appreciated that. And then I felt like, oh, this is something that, as you said, adults can totally use, you know, that in this relationship, whether it be a family member or a friend or whatever, the way I'm feeling right now is not working for me.

Christina: Mm hmm. Well, that's where I feel like boundaries provide clarity. And what a beautiful thing to be able to bring to a relationship. It allows you to be authentic. It allows, if you're whoever you're in the relationship with, has clear boundaries as well. Very authentic. Your relationship is mutually enjoyable because you know what game you're playing. You all are showing each other your cards and you're like, these are the rules. And you're like cool, we're going to go play the same game in life together. 

Whereas, you know, if we're making these assumptions like you guys were speaking about before in communication, then it's like we're each playing our own game or we have our own rules and we're hoping that people know. But that's just not fair.

Justin: Yes.What comes up for me is that, you know, there is a fear around displaying your rules or being explicit about your rules, because there's a fear of rejection, like, oh, well, if I if I could just be like flexible with my rules, if I can just kind of keep some of my rules to myself, then I'll not be rejected.

Audra: Or a fear of some response. That's not a comfortable response. An uncomfortable response. Yeah. 

Christina: But so what happens is we hold it in. Right. And we stew on it. And then ultimately we generally explode on it, which I would say is more uncomfortable than possibly the initial discomfort of letting what you need or want or value be known. And I think boundaries also give you for every person that's able to uphold, to set and uphold their own boundaries. You have responsibility for yourself, because I think when we don't tell someone, because we're afraid of rejection or afraid of a certain response, we're attempting to control their experience. And that's not our job. We're only here to control ourselves. 

Justin: Beautiful.

Audra: I love how you refer to this as a muscle, to build. Like it reminds me of like the muscle of resilience. Right. But I resonate so deeply with that because so much of my work and I'm sure probably like most of your clients, like I feel like this is a thing of our time, really. Like it's kind of cool to go out online and see what's going on. We're all doing a lot of work around boundaries, which is really cool. It's becoming, I don’t want to say popular, but something we're probably noticing a lot more than before the need for boundaries.

So it's been totally my work. And I haven't been able to change overnight. I haven't been able to get better at this, like in an instant. You know, it's like a practice. And I feel like there are some areas that are still really, really, really hard. But, you know, I'm trying and inching my way there, and that really resonated with me when you refer to it. You know, it's something that is a practice. And that weekend, I think that was in the back of the book when you describe what boundaries are. And I really, really appreciated that. I found it to be validating and encouraging.

Christina: Good. Yeah. And it is, the more you do it, the better you get. But depending on the setting, the context, the relationship, some situations might be harder to set a boundary than others. I find that I have a harder time with strangers, actually, with my family and friends. I lay it out straight, but with straight I want to be seen as. Agreeable and accommodating. And so I have this version of myself in my mind of being very nice. But the problem with being nice all the time is that's to be obliging for the sake of being liked in return, whereas being kind is being benevolent. So I'm trying to shift my own thinking to be like I can be my kind, lovely self, but still have opinions and still have needs or wants. And that's ok.

Audra: I love that. That sounds to me like the work that I'm in, which is people pleasing recovery.

Christina: Yes, me too.

Audra: I really like that. I like thinking of benevolence and kindness. Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. So where can you repeat that again? So it is kindness over niceness, is that the shift?

Christina: So they’re interrelated because you can do something like hold the door open for someone. And that is a very kind act. But you may also be doing it to be nice, which is to get that thank you in return. So there is being nice has a bit more of that. I'm being obliging or amenable for the sake of being liked, whereas being kind is I'm doing it because that's what I want to do. So being kind is healthier ultimately if you're not looking for that response in return.

 And that also then comes from that bolstering of your own self love and self worth, where you don't need the affirmations or the thank you's or people to like you. You just know your value. And so the people pleaser in me, and it sounds like in you guys as well, wants to be told how great we are and how much people like us. And it's hard then to set those boundaries.

Audra: Yes, it is. Yeah, I mean, it takes some digging, you know, it takes some digging and some source work for sure you to do that. Yeah, I have a friend of mine who's a therapist helped me with this. I think for a long time in early to this book, to me, and for a long time, we were really like, no, compassion is not enough. We need empathy. And my friends, like, no, no, no. Compassion is empathy with boundaries. You know, let's start back to compassion. 

You know, I feel like I worked in higher education before the work that we do now, and I think we like moving to empathy from compassion, which was cast as like not cold, but l maybe disingenuous a little bit or like one-sided. So I love thinking of like actually there are many instances where I need to move it into compassion and out of empathy, because empathy can play into the too much self identification, I guess.

Christina: You become porous and you absorb. You're putting yourself in their situation so much and understanding to the point of identification. And that can be incredibly taxing. Whereas with compassion, there is a little bit of distance, which is maybe why it had that negative connotation. But it's a healthier way to be to offer compassion to people versus to, you know, like as a mom, when your child's hurt or sick, it's so easy to to feel the weight of their problems as their they are your own. But if you can can develop more of a compassionate point of view, you can be there for them and support them while recognizing that it's their problem to work through and to figure out and to grow from.

Audra: Oh, absolutely. As this really resonates, like thinking about my daughter and helping her try to sift through some of the things she's going through, being new, brand new at her school and making friends and learning. Then she goes, she's one of those kids who goes all in. She you know, she's like, let's do it all sleepovers like it. We're best friends. And then there'll be something that'll come up that sort of is challenging for her. And then she wants to just kind of like avoid and go in another direction. And so it's like trying to help her, like not give up herself, her sense of, you know, who's who she is. 

Like, what's that balance between, you know, trying to, you know, kind of like work with people, but then maintaining, you know, your sense of who you are, what you want, and like trying to create that for herself. And that's like really boundaries with some of, with some of her friends. But it's been challenging because you want to help her identify like how do you move out of like especially with girls in sixth grade? 

Christina: That’s a tough age. 

Audra: As they're talking about each other and that, you know, like it's there's not like you have good data to work with, you got some challenging data to work with, lots of emotions, lots of big feelings, you know, and then trying to figure out how to set boundaries when like this is such a great time in life to learn this. Like, I wish I had this in sixth grade. So I'm so grateful for your work because I think it resonates, like I said, with all ages. It's going to be so helpful for her.

Christina: Thank you. Yeah, well, and middle school age is just so hard in general. And then now our kiddos have social media and personal devices and things that we didn't have to deal with. You know, AIM existed, so I'd come home and maybe message with a couple of people on the house computer in the living room in front of my parents. That's a very different thing. When your kiddos have their own phones where they have access to the Internet and they can't get away from maybe those peers that they would normally leave behind at school when they come home.

Audra: That's a really good point, is that it all extends into your home life at some point, you don't have the ability to be like, yeah, I get on the bus, I'll see you tomorrow. You can have that... That's something that we really need to explore more. I'd love to be able to talk more about that at some point and help, especially with our tweens and getting there with technology and all of that.

Justin: We've got an article coming. 

Audra: Oh, good, wonderful. 

Justin: Cell phones and teens. Yeah.


45:04

Justin: So do you have a few small steps, just first steps for parents who might be experiencing this that they can start with today? Of course, the first step would be to get the book. But, you know, when today when the kid comes home, like what are some small steps that parents could start right away?

Christina: Well, so it goes back to communication and dialogue. And one of the really good ways that parents can help their kiddos to make sense of their own experience and then make choices are intentional going forward is to have a reflective dialog with them. Now, this depends on your child's openness to having these sorts of conversations. And if you're able to start these when they're younger, then it's easier to carry through as they get older. But if they bring a problem up to you. Play detective with them. What led up to that? And then what did you think when they said that? What were your thoughts? How did it feel in your body? And then what choice did you make? What was the result of that choice and really help them investigate their own scenarios that they've lived. What would have been maybe a better way to handle that would have resulted in a more positive outcome and help them problem solve in anticipation of more experiences like that. 

So that's basically you're fostering their social emotional intelligence, helping them to recognize and identify their thoughts and feelings and then make sense of them and put words to them, because sometimes we feel things and we're not sure exactly how to describe it. And as adults, we might have a better ability to let your child now. Oh, it sounds like you were really envious of your friend or you were really frustrated at this situation, whatever it might be, and give them the terms so that then they can express that as well. 

So that communication is really important. Modeling self-love for yourself and applauding it in your children is really important, because, again, we need to feel like we matter in order for our wants, needs and values to matter and to protect with a boundary. So if we're going to set a boundary, we need to feel like what we're protecting is important and that's ourselves. And so as the parents, we need to celebrate our own accomplishments, our own efforts. Same with your child. Really celebrate who they are so that they know that I think I matter and I think you matter. And then again, going back to modeling boundaries ourselves. So let's say you're at a restaurant and you get your meals delivered and it's not right. We could just say, no, I'm just going to eat it, whatever. I don't want to cause problems. Or we could say…

Audra: He’s nudging me.

Christina: Or we could say when the waiter drops it off and leaves and you're like, oh, my goodness to your child, this isn't what I ordered. I'm going to let the server know about the mistakes so that I can get the meal that I asked for. And your child says, wow, ok my parent thinks it matters. They're not making a big deal out of it. They're just standing up for themselves. And so by modeling it, then our child sees the power of doing it for themselves too.

Audra: Such a great example, too, because like the other side of it is, ok, so there's then there's a parent is like, oh, I didn't get the right order, but it's ok. I'm fine. And then, that's me. And then there's the one who is like, I didn't get the right order. So I'm going to passive aggressively mention it every time the server comes by. I used to work in the restaurant industry, which is why I have it is…

Justin: So there’s also the fact that like you feel…

Audra: Yeah, yeah, but you know, one thing that. Yeah, as a pet peeve for me is also the passive aggressive response, you know, of hmm. Or there it is…

Christina: Not going to get a tip because I got the wrong food. Well, but you didn't tell them. That's not very fair.

Audra: Exactly. Exactly. So I love the idea of modeling, and I think this could be done beautifully with young kids like really young kids, too. I mean, modeling, when you're let's say you're young child toddlers hitting you, you know, and modeling boundaries around. I was just learning about this on the Curious Parenting. I don't know if you followed them on Instagram, but she's really great. And just these little steps that you can take to, you know, model how to have the conversation of like, this hurts me. I don't want to be hurt, you know, and I'm going to ask, I'm asking you to stop hitting me now, you know, and like these sorts of things, like, I guess modeling just in our own relationships within the family. How we interact together, just in the home can be really powerful.

Christina: Absolutely. So, you know, I'm thinking of my kids are at the age, and maybe this doesn't go away, where they want your attention at all times. And so I'm trying to model that. I'm actually protective of my time as well. And so if they're calling to me, I'm in the middle of something. I'll turn my attention towards them for a second to say, “Hey, I really want to hear what you have to say. And I know you deserve my full attention. I'm focused on this right now. 

So I'm going to take the next X amount of minutes to do this, and then I will give you my time.” And so that also shows that I am important enough to do what I need to do. My work is important and my time is important, but also so are they. And they deserve to have all of me instead of that kind of half texting, half looking, half-listening version that we do a lot of the time because we're all so busy multitasking.

Audra: So powerful. 

Justin: And you're modeling for clarity and communication. And I think of Brene Brown's, clear is kind. 

Christina: There we go. Back to the kindness as well.

Audra: I love it. Yeah, this is really powerful. I feel like that I've just taken something that from you that I'm going to use every day. Now, when interrupted, you know, be it when you come down with a thought and you're frustrated that I can't immediately respond to you or…

Christina: Now, beware your family will start to use boundaries on you, too. I heard my daughter say that to my son. She'll be like “Sterling, I'm putting a boundary right now,” and I love that. But when they're like, “mommy, I'm putting a boundary because you told me,” you know, I'm like, oh, yeah, this is good for me. That's the other part we model and we encourage it as well.

Audra: So when he sets boundaries around timing of washing the dishes. 

Justin: Oh, my god. 

Audra: Yeah, it's going to happen.

Justin: Yeah. I'm going to need some time to process that. So this book is the first in a series called Capable Kiddos. So what's next in this series?

Christina: So the idea is Capable Kiddos as a series is to help our kiddos and ourselves have the skills to handle whatever life throws our way. And so this first book is about friendship and boundaries. The second book is well underway. The illustrator is sending me really fun illustrations right now. It's called Fear Not, and it's how to work through and learn to tolerate and live with anxiety and fear. And so it's not so much…

Audra: I love it. 

Christina: Thank you. It's not so much about overcoming per se, because I think that's a bit unrealistic. But recognizing that anxiety will come and go. But these are the skills that we can use to help ourselves manage it. So that's…

Audra: I think is so powerful, like if we can start talking about this when we are young, young, young, we really need that. Like, you know, we've learned over the years to manage going down rabbit holes, to manage fear castrates, manage like these are like, you know, kind of feel like very adult things. But there are things that we can as parents like as we're working through it. Like, I think there's a lot that we can do for our families. Like I think that, you know, we don't have to talk about our fears around paying for our daughter's horse lessons or horseback riding lessons, you know what I mean? And like what we can or cannot afford. And then instilling that, you know, kind of fear of scarcity in them. Like, I love the idea, the idea of this book, because it is we're going to have these fears. It's like, what do we do with this? What do we do with this and how do we manage?

Justin: It's wonderful because I don't think I realized that I had anxiety as a child. I didn't really realize that anxiety was a part of my life until I was in my 20s. And I was like, oh, wait, actually, this has been going on for quite a while. And then my best friend didn't realize until a couple of years ago going into therapy that he had been dealing with it his whole life. And so it's like how many people grow up and as kids have these fears and anxieties and it's not just a like, you know, what do they call it, like momentary contextual thing, but it's like the anxiety is kind of a low hum in the background. Right. So that's wonderful. So when is this book coming out?

Christina: Fear Not should be out in the spring. So I'm really, really excited for that. And the beginning of the story talks about how all kids, grown ups too, have different anxieties, because I think a lot of the time in our own mental health struggles, we feel quite alone. And so I really want kids to know they're not alone in what they go through and they're not alone in having to work through it. So I'm super excited for that book in the spring. 

And then the third book I haven't written yet, but my plan, and I love your guys input is to have it be about our inner voice in the way that we talk to ourselves. I think so many of us grow up critiquing ourselves and being most unkind to ourselves. So I think a story about that where kids can develop a kind inner voice from a younger age, hopefully maybe we'll give them a happier, more positive experience of their life. But then I was thinking maybe I do mindset in general, like a growth mindset book. And that's a component of it, too. 

Justin: So, Christina, are you familiar with Internal Family Systems?

Christina: I have heard of it. I haven't studied it, though.

Justin: Oh, my gosh. Because what comes up for me is and what has helped me is, you know, I'll be very, very brief because I can go on. Basically that, you know, we are not one mind, but we have a bunch of different parts in us. And all these parts generally are there to protect us. And they're there to protect childhood wounds, emotional wounds. And so what I have realized working in this therapeutic domain is that I definitely have at least one part, probably multiple parts that have a lot of anxiety around emotional protection. And so seeing my inner world, not as I am the one who has anxiety, but I have a part, there's a part, and it's very close to the inner voice. But I mean, it's like it's practically the same thing. But in the internal family systems world, it's not just one inner voice. Right. We have… 

Audra: A whole family of them that interact. And what I love about that, too, is that nobody, you know, it makes it so that we ourselves and no one in the world around us is something or some way. You know, we may have a part that or parts that might, that behavior exhibit or pop out in this way. But yeah.

Justin: Yeah. And then I also have parts that do not feel that way. I mean, internal family systems gets even deeper than that. It's so cool. But yeah, the idea that oh, it's not like I Justin, you know, as a unified mind being have anxiety getting away from that idea and that I have a part or maybe one or two parts that having anxiety as a way to protect me are always on the lookout for danger, are going to ruminate on possible problems that…

Audra: It helps a lot, too, because I never hear you say like my anxiety. My anxiety is popping up, my anxieties here, my anxiety, like, you know, like I don't know. You don't kind of like cast yourself in that way and you don't own that, you know, kind of like as...

Justin: I have a part that is being triggered right now..

Audra: Not that I'm triggered. But like…

Christina: Yeah, I'm an anxious person, but I'm person that has parts of me that have anxiety from time to time. Right. Right. And it gives you information then from your body or from your brain that you then can intentionally decide what to do with versus, you know, I like to think of anxiety like a fire alarm. Ours is in the kitchen, so ours goes off every time I burn toast. It is not a fire. Right. That's our anxiety system sometimes has that alarm that goes off when we're making smoky toast. 

And it doesn't need to. Or we can hear it when you think, oh, I'm going to press the dismissal button because it's not really a fire. And if we don't learn to differentiate between that sort of information, then we think, oh, I'm anxious and I need to act in a way that responds to the anxiety. Whereas if it's a part of me has anxiety right now because of X, Y, Z situation, I can decide if this is something I need to respond to or not.

Audra: Absolutely. Yes. 

Justin: Yeah. Christina. So I have an awareness that now I've mentioned internal family cells. And so now I'm going to mention another thing. And it might feel like Christina, I'm like, can I just write this book? I know one thing that has really been a game-changer for my anxiety, too, is learning about what happens physiologically with anxiety…

Audra: Like you mentioned, what's happening in your body. 

Justin: Right. So, you know, there's a whole cascade of biochemicals that like ready the body for some sort of action. You know, it's like the heart rate increases. And, you know, I start to breathe faster. My face might get red. Right. So there are physiological things going on. And then learning that I can feel into that and like actually get physical, like stretch or deep breathing and like. So the idea that, oh, I just need to calm down, don't move. Calm, calm was actually the opposite of what I needed to do, which might be to like stand up, stretch, breathe, maybe do some jumping jacks, you know…

Audra: And for kids it might be like, it might be a cry, you know. And then you say don’t cry, but what if they need to cry? Like, what are your thoughts on that?

Christina: Yeah, well, I know that comes out of my mouth sometimes. In all honesty. Right. Because when you are throwing stuff, too, and. Yeah. So sometimes I'm guilty of saying stuff like that, too. Like don't cry. It's like when I'm at my max and spent, I feel like I'm not capable of handling their own stuff, which isn't fair to them. But we're all human so we can kind of learn from our mistakes and apologize later when we handle stuff like that wrong. But yeah, our kids have big feelings and most of the time the best thing you can do is just validate, just validate and give love. And then later on when they're out of that state, because when you're in that anxiety or that anger or fear, whatever you're in, you're in a fight or flight situation. 

And I think it's Dr. Daniel Siegel talks about your upstairs brain, and your downstairs brain. And so you're in your downstairs brain, which isn't where you're able to organize or plan or make logical choices or problem solve. And so when you help your kids in the moment, not actually that helpful. Like give them love, validate them and then once they're in a state where they're calm, reflect with them. And that's…

Audra: I love that. And so when your kids are in their downstairs brain. Right, big feelings, all that. You're usually in your upstairs brain, right? So you're coming at it like even…

Justin: No then I get triggered and then I'm in mine. 

Audra: Then you go downstairs. Right.

Christina: That's not good.

Audra: Yeah. So we all need the time to just validate, kind of like hold the space love and then process later. I mean, that's just that's a good thing to just plan for and be like, this is how this is how we do this. And I know as partners, too, like you started saying, hey, wait to get clear. Are you wanting to just let it out or are you wanting to problem solve? Like, can we do that? But to plan for that with the kids like that helps me to just be able to sort of like plan in advance, like in our kids going to come home from school with some big feelings and we're just going to validate and love and then circle back later, see if we're ready to process. Right. That’s awesome.

Christina: That's great to plan in that way. And we have a calming corner. And that's the idea of that as well, is that this is the place we go to. You know, it's these conversations ahead of time in prep, and then it's the reflection afterwards. You know, when we're upset, let's go head over to the common corner where you've got different things you can play with, where we can to sit down and hug each other, whatever feels right to you to kind of calm down. And then later we'll talk about it and help you out.

Audra: Oh, my gosh, can we talk more about that on The Family Thrive like I would love for us to maybe have a little segment on, like how to create your calming corner. Actually, what that is, I have not heard of that before, but I just got a picture in my head of just a really comforting, comfortable space to go and to be and to be together.

Justin: So you're saying that you need a calming corner.

Audra: I love that. 

Justin: So, Christina, what is new and interesting for you in your own mental and emotional health journey?

Christina: I think every day I'm working to be the mom that I wanted to be or thought I would be. And I'm sure it's a goal that's unachievable ultimately. But as long as I'm good enough, I need to learn to accept that and really trying. And I feel like the pandemic did this for a lot of us, really trying to be present and just appreciate the time that we have with our friends, our family, my kiddos. Be grateful. We try and we try to do gratitude every night. And we have the kids do it, too. And it's been really fun to hear how their gratitude evolves. My son for a long time just said family like you couldn't come up with something new. But he knew he was grateful for us.

Every dinner he said family. Whereas my daughter would come up with something from the day, and now my son's starting to, he's three, so he's starting to make more sense of what we're doing and come up with something that he's actually grateful for. And so we try and be present and live in gratitude. 

But also, I think recognizing that life has its ups and downs and I have periods where I'm not the happiest or I'm a little depressed or my anxieties kicked in. And same with my husband and same with our kiddos. You know, they have periods where I'm like, what is going on them? Something big is happening inside of them right now. And I think just knowing that that's ok. 

I had a client several years ago who was a teenager, and she had a really hard time if she didn't feel, if she felt anything less than perfect. It was catastrophic to her. And it meant that then she self-harmed or felt suicidal because she felt like her life was supposed to look a certain way. So I think acknowledging the ups and downs are life, and that's good. We don't have shades of the beautiful world around us without having blacks and grays and browns. Right. So we have to have those downs in order to sometimes appreciate the highs and the goods. And it's just, it provides a variety of life. That's what makes it so special.

Audra: Oh, that's really powerful to hear like to hear of what I hear is like a journey for you. Like to seeking deep engagement in life with your family. Like, I think that's beautiful. And then to hear of this of this young woman, I had never that had never occurred to me that that could be a way of living and breaks my heart to hear. And it breaks my heart to hear it, something that I think could potentially be preventable and support along the way. You know, like it's something that we can support by creating just a more like open, vulnerable, kind. And then also like a kind of like an attitude towards resilience in kind of like everything around us. But if you do grow up in one of those perfection-driven environments, that's the fallout.

Christina: Right. Or a toxic positivity where. Yes, you know, it's fine. I'm not affected, but you really are. And you should actually deal with it, you know? Yeah. So that's another thought behind my mindset or, you know, mindset book or the thought of your internal voice and how you are resilient or deal with things. Because it is just so important.

Audra: Yeah. I can't wait for these and I hope that we can talk again. I would really love every time a book comes out. Let's have a conversation. It's fantastic.

Justin: Awesome. So how can listeners find out more about you and your work?

Christina: They can visit me on my website, which is ChristinaFurnival.com. And from there, I have links to my book currently and books plural in the future. Also, I have a form to reach out if you would like me to connect you with a therapist, or if I'm available as well. I'm licensed in California, which means I can only see clients that are residing or physically in California at the time of sessions. And then also I have a blog through the website, so it's ChristinaFurnival.com/blog. And that's kind of how even this whole motherhood, mental health and writing journey all converged in my real life, a blog that I started after having my daughter. And then on social media, you can find me. I have two Instagram accounts, one for the books, which is @capablekiddosbooks, and then my therapeutic motherhood blog, Instagram account, which is @thisisreallifemama. And so, yeah, I would. I love when people reach out. I love getting new followers and connecting with them. And I'm here to help and support all of you, so I would love if you reach out.

Audra: Oh, thank you for bringing yourself to the world. It's just so powerful. I'm so, so grateful for your work.

Christina: Well, thank you. I'm so grateful to have gotten to meet you guys today. I think you're fabulous and I love what you're doing. I was exploring your account some more and going on your websites and watching your videos. And I love what you guys are doing.

Justin: Oh, well, we would yeah, we would love to connect further. Yes. And we certainly will after the show. But before we go, we have…

Audra: He’s keeping us on track.

Justin: Yeah. So we have three questions that we ask every podcast guest at the end of the show. So the first one is if you could put a Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, big Post-it note, what would it say?

Christina: It would say you're doing better than you think.

Justin: Mm hmm. 

Audra: I love that. I was getting some coffee, but I need that Post-it.

Justin: All right. So the second one, is there a quote that you have seen lately that has affected the way you think or feel?

Christina: Yes. And it's actually kind of related to that first one. But the quote that has affected probably for a couple of years now, how I feel. It's “you don't have to believe everything you think.”

Justin: Oh, this is yeah…

Audra: Love this quote. 

Christina: Yes, it's so good. 

Justin: Yep.

Christina: It's so powerful. And it puts you back in the driver's seat. Your thoughts, again, their information. And then you can choose what to do with them. I think we think our thoughts are truth because we make, because we come up with them. But we're often using confirmation bias and looking for things that are firmer, confirm what we already believe, whether or not it's helpful or true. And so knowing that we don't have to believe everything we think, I think is valuable. And then going back to your first question, you're doing better than you think as a parent is your thoughts are, oh, I messed that up. Oh, I'm screwing up my kids. Oh, I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. You're doing better than you think because your thoughts aren't always true.

Justin: Beautiful.

Audra: Love it. I love it. I feel I want to like do a graphic of these posts and put them out.

Justin: We actually have an article that we're working on doing just that. We are.

Christina: I like where your head is at. I'm visual.

Audra: I like the visual, right. Like I want to actually have it on Instagram and then screenshot it and then. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Justin: I think that's a beautiful idea. Oh, I had a mindful meditation teacher once who said your thoughts are like sweat. It's like the body just produces sweat. You don't need to worry about it. Like you don't need to get upset about it. It's just like you're sweating.

Audra: It's like your mind sweat.

Christina: I like that.

Justin: My thoughts are just mind sweat. 

Christina: Oh, God, I love it. 

Justin: Oh, my final question. You know, as you know, there are many times in parenting when you're just exhausted and overwhelmed, you're like, oh, my God, what's happening? And so it's nice to always just take a break and to think about like what is so awesome about kids. And so what do you love most about kids?

Christina: I love their, the way their minds work, the randomness seemingly with which they come out with things or the way that they make sense of the world. I just think they're magnificent. You know the show from decades ago. Kids say the darndest things. I just they do. And it's unbelievable. We have a booklet that we keep and we write down what our kiddos say. My daughter's theory on how babies are made is pretty fantastic. And I just like I love, I love all of the way that they think. And you can see the wheels turning. I just think it's so fabulous.

Audra: Oh, that's such a good idea to try to capture the goodness, to try to capture those nuggets. Such a great idea.

Christina: Yeah. Because you think you'll remember. Right. Oh, that was so funny. I'll totally remember that. Right. 

Audra: You get to a point where you don't even remember like what year your kid was born, like, you know, her parents. And they're like you were the, you were two in that picture. I'm like I'm clearly like six months old.

Christina: Right. 

Audra: Yeah, write it down.

Justin: Oh Christina, thank you so much for coming on the show. This is wonderful. And we can't wait to have you back.

Christina: Thank you for having me. So much fun to get to know you guys.

Audra: Likewise. Thanks again. I'm looking forward to talking to you the next time. 

Christina: Me, too.

Transcript highlights

1:55

Audra: I'm super excited that we were put in touch with you, I think we got in outreach through our managing editor, and as soon as we saw your work, we're like, oh, she's perfect. We got to talk to her. And then this book is absolutely incredible. The Not-So-Friendly Friend, I have to tell you, like I was just telling Justin that this could have been like a 400 page book for adults about, you know, setting boundaries. Like, I love reading that you easily condensed into a children's book and made it so simple. And I feel like making the conversation around boundaries so simple and accessible in this way is good for everyone. Our daughter is going through this right now of being a new kid in sixth grade. And thanks to our work with The Family Thrive, I feel like we've been able to help her more than we would have been able to before. But you're right, this isn't automatic. You know, this is not an automatic conversation that we have. So we'll get into it more, but I just wanted to say congratulations and thank you. It is such a beautiful book.

Justin: We're going to talk about the book, but before we do,let's talk about Christine.

Audra: Wait, can we tell her our roles on the podcast really quick? So Justin writes the questions and like keeps like the guardrails and keeps us moving and I usually mess it up. Ok, go ahead. 

Justin: Ok. Yeah. So I yeah, I kind of drive, I guess in the radio business there on radio shows. There's a driver and there's a personality like that's how they do radio shows. And the driver is like the professional radio host who keeps it on schedule. And the personality just kind of, you know, brings all the color in the life. And so we've kind of fallen into these roles, and that's why, but yeah, let's learn a little bit about Christina. So we want to know where you came from. Right. So where did you grow up and how did you, what pathway led you into becoming an author, a mother and a therapist?

Christina: Well, I am a born and raised San Diegan. And so I grew up here, but I actually did college and graduate school in Nashville, Tennessee. And so…

Audra: Oh, you know the south.

Christina: I know and I visited Savannah before, so I, it has a special place in my heart. I do think I left a part of me in the south when I came back to San Diego. But so born and raised out here, I am married to my husband, Tom. We just celebrated eight years of marriage and he's from Scotland.

Audra: Congratulations, oh wow. From Scotland. How cool! Where in Scotland?

Christina: Tom from Scotland. He's from a small town near Aberdeen called Banchory.

Audra: Oh, how cool. 

Justin: Where did you guys meet?

Christina: We actually met in Nashville. So, you know, San Diego girl from southwest US. He's from the northeast of Scotland. And we met in Nashville, Tennessee.

Justin: A classic story. All right.

Audra: I love it. Love college.

Justin: What led you to Vanderbilt? Why?

Christina: Well, so back when I was in high school and planning out like what career I thought I wanted to have, I always wanted to be a pediatrician. And so when I toured universities and I visited Vanderbilt, I saw their children's hospital on campus. And it's such a happy place. It's not as sterile and cold as a lot of hospitals, and I thought, wow, if I'm going to be a pediatrician, I'm going to be one here. And so I want to go to school here. Plus, I fell in love with Southern hospitality during my visit for those few days before I decided to accept going to school there. And so that was what brought me to Vanderbilt. But it was at Vanderbilt that I realized that I was not as interested in medicine as a helping profession as I thought. 

So after graduating from Vanderbilt, I took about a year or so before deciding to enroll in a graduate program for professional counseling. So I always wanted to help some, help people and help children. But I thought it was through medicine and then ultimately it's been through psychology and therapy.

So that's kind of how my path ended up towards therapy. My mom's also actually a licensed mental health therapist and a school counselor. So I think when I was choosing medicine initially, I had boxed up her career is for her. And then it was after realizing I'm actually quite similar to my mom and I love and adore what she does and how she helps families and children that I knew that that was for me, too.

Audra: Oh, what a beautiful process. Like it's almost of like a differentiation and then incorporation kind of, you know, and I wonder, hearing that, you know, I wonder if if your mother in growing up with a therapist, did she also teach you a lot that kind of like open your your eyes into the world of what could be when it comes to being somebody with those skills?

Christina: Yeah, I think she did a really good job because I never felt like she was doing therapy on me. You know, she drew a good line where she was just a lovely, and is a lovely, nurturing mom. She did teach us about feelings and emotions and how to process them and reflect on them. So I feel like I did have some skills from a younger age than a lot of my peers might have.

Audra: Oh, it's invaluable. I feel like we all need that. And as parents we need these skills like it's not something that is just for therapists. Right. It's like as parents these are some of the most essential skills that we need, I think, from the beginning. So that is pretty powerful that you have experienced that in your own life. And then it sounds like you brought into your work and your parenting.

Christina: Yeah. Yes. I always, ever since I started in the field in 2009, I've always worked with youth and adolescents and their families. And I love helping kiddos because kiddos are just so interesting and they're open to change because every day is change and every day is new discoveries and helping their families and then figure out how to help their kiddos live the life that they want. How to understand themselves better and navigate challenges confidently is what I'm all about.

Justin: Ok, I have a curiosity. I imagine that in the years that have passed from when your mom went to school and first started practicing and you went to school and you started practicing, that a lot has changed in the field. And so have you had discussions with your mom? Have you said, mom, you know the way you thought about X, Y, and Z, now that's change. It's now A, B, and C.

Christina: I think in general, or at least the way that my mom engages with families and youth, I feel like that's still aligned with the ways that I practice therapy. There are definitely new modalities and approaches, lots of acronyms that she's never heard of before in different ways to handle things. But we're both really big into CBT. And so just that awareness between our thoughts, our feelings and our behaviors and how it's all interconnected.

Justin: So did you always know that you wanted to be a mom? 

Christina: Yes. 

Justin: Yeah. So how did the actual, so you knew that you wanted to be a mom and you were a therapist before you were a mom? Right. And so how did motherhood change this for you?

Christina: I thought I was going to have motherhood in the bag. I was certainly very confident that I would just be this amazing natural mother. Not only had I always worked with youth in the mental health field, but before I ever was an adult, I would babysit. I've got 21 aunts and uncles and probably 30 plus cousins. And I'm on the older end of them. So I would babysit and watch them all. I was a children's entertainer at like summer camps. And I thought, I know kids inside and out and wow, I was just completely blindsided by motherhood. 

I think part of it had a lot to do with, I went through postpartum depression and anxiety after having my daughter, my first child. And I was not expecting. I didn't think I had any of the warning signs. But now, in hindsight, I look back and I'm like, oh, I was having intrusive thoughts. Oh, I was really depressed or apathetic about this or that. That used to bring me joy, you know. So now I can kind of put those pieces together. But when I was in the fog of it, I was just completely surprised that that was my experience. And I also had high risk pregnancies, which is, that’s a kind of warning sign. And after giving birth to my daughter a week later, I had a delayed postpartum hemorrhage where I had to be rushed to the hospital. And so that was traumatic, and I hadn't really processed that. And then that led to my milk supply not coming in how it should. And so feeding problems, sleeping problems and all this, all of it piled on top of each other.

Audra: Oh, so big. I mean, I'm just taking all of that in that really. It's so powerful. It's all of the things that when you say blindsided, all of the things that we don't expect. And I think like reflecting on what you're saying, like how many of us do know that we're in postpartum depression, like how many of us do see the warning signs? I feel like awareness is growing because of sharing like this. And we did speak earlier on this podcast with Bridget, really, really wonderful perinatal therapist who specializes in just this, because she was called to it, you know, for very similar reasons. And so I think I see awareness raising a little bit. 

But, you know, when my son was born 14 years ago, there was no talk around it. And in fact, there are even a little stigma. I would be like, well, she you know, she has postpartum, you know, and it was feel like not only a stigma, but like a problematizing, like this is an issue for her. Right. Instead of this is a huge issue that has everything to do with our health care system, that has everything to do with, you know, modern motherhood, that has everything to do with expectations and on and on and on. Like it's just such like Bridget described it as an onion. And it's like you peel back every layer and you see more and more complexity of that. So it makes sense. And then add the trauma on top of it of a hemorrhage or the trauma of high risk pregnancies. It's a lot.

Christina: Yeah. and it all makes sense now. But you're right that when you're in it a lot of times, even if you know what the potential warning signs are, you're in such a fog that you can't even necessarily make sense of your experience. And sometimes it takes your partner or a friend or a parent to point out like you're not, something's not working right now. Like this is beyond sleep deprivation. This is beyond the life change. 

And so one of the things that I like to say, because now I do work with adults and I tend to work with moms, I do telehealth therapy in the evening now, is that motherhood should be life changing, but it should not be earth shattering. And if you feel like it has turned the world upside down in a negative way, then it's time to get some help.

Audra: So that's a powerful way to put that. I think we should put a pin in that. Like I think that's a really wonderful quote to pull out of this, because even as a therapist yourself, it sounds like it took some time and a view and a realization, and then you're really able to see it in a retrospective manner what you were going through. But if it's even hard for a therapist to identify this, you know, then we should normalize that. Like it's hard to identify these things, you know, and just having that sort of putting that quote out into the world. If we can do that when we promote this podcast, I think it would be meaningful.

Justin: Oh, absolutely. And it brings up the curiosity that I had when I first read about your story on your website. It makes total sense to me that this would be something that you could look back on in retrospect to say, oh, yeah, there were the signs. But what was the sign for you at the time that, oh, this isn't just a couple of bad days, this isn't just waking up on the wrong side of the bed? What was the aha moment for you?

Christina: Well, so I knew to expect that there might be baby blues in the first two weeks, and then I knew to expect that my hormones would start to regulate around six weeks once my ovaries took back over, because when you're pregnant, your placenta is in charge of a lot of your hormone production. And so when you give birth, the placenta leaves you and then your hormones are wild for a bit. And so I was sitting there thinking, wow, this is not going how I thought it would. This is not like blissful, bigger than life love that I was expecting that you hear about but at two weeks, I'm sure I'll feel better. And so I kind of just rode that wave. 

And then two weeks came and two weeks went and so I was like six weeks. When my hormones regulate that, I'll be able to make sense of what I'm experiencing and I'll be fine. Six weeks came and went and with my husband and I trying to figure out our child and learn her cues and how to just do this whole parenting thing. We had an argument one evening and I said this is a nightmare. 

And he, being the protective loyal father that he had now become, was like, I can't believe you said that. And I'm like, well, that that's actually how I feel. I feel like this is a nightmare. I'm living a bad dream. And that was a turning point for us to be like that shouldn't be my experience. This shouldn't be how this feels. It's hard, but it shouldn't be a nightmare. 

And so then I was employing more selfcare. We got my mom to come around during the day to hold our daughter so that I could take naps. She was one of those kiddos that had to be held at all times. So I wasn't getting the rest that I needed to get. Yeah. Was Max the same way?

Audra: Same way.

Christina: It's so hard when you can’t just set them down and you see your friends sharing on social media about their baby in their bassinet and like, oh, how they're such good sleepers. And then you have jealousy on top of resentment on top of all the other feelings.

Audra: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Christina: I ultimately decided to see my own therapist because I knew that I couldn't see my own blind spots and that I needed support outside of myself.

Audra: It's powerful. So it sounds like accepting, seeking and accepting support from those around you to pursue self care. And then also getting some help getting you know, your own therapist was key to that. And it's really amazing that you saw I think that is one thing that moms carry. See that they're supposed to, there's like this shoulding on ourselves, like we're supposed to be able to do this alone. Right. We're supposed to be able to do it ourselves. And then the other thing that you said that really was impactful to me when you talked about the nightmare is that the response wasn't to diminish or deny your feelings, that you were in a nightmare. It sounds like that was recognized. And the response was, and we don't want it to be a nightmare. Like, yes, you're feeling that way instead of saying, no, it's not. Right. You're a mother of a brand new kid, beautiful baby. You know, no, it's not, you know, like acknowledge that it is your nightmare right now. And we don't want it to be that way. 

Christina: Exactly. 

Audra: It doesn't have to be that way.

Justin: So what surprised you most about that experience? I mean, you had mental health training. You are a counselor, right? So. But it's one thing being on the therapist's end and now you're in it. What surprised you the most?

Christina: I think one of the things that surprised me was how much my own emotions became entangled in my own experience. When I see families in the therapy office, I have a much more objective view. I'm not enmeshed in it and being in it and knowing that I needed to care for this child and I knew enough to know that, ok, I'm not feeling connected to her. I'm not feeling this overflowing love that I thought I would be, you know, upon giving birth. But I know that she needs from me the nurturing, the cuddling, the snuggling, the singsong voice. So I employed all of that, even though I felt vacant behind it. And so I think that that enmeshment of my own awareness and my own emotions in my process of being a mom, that was really hard to kind of navigate and figure out. And I think I was lucky because I have the mental health experience and knowledge to know what to do. I went through the motions, even though I didn't feel it.

Justin: Hmm. Wow.

Audra: It's really powerful. How old are your kids now?

Chrisitna: So my daughter Isla is five and she just started kindergarten.

Audra: Oh I love the name Isla.

Christina: Thank you. And then…

Audra: Kindergarten, a big deal.

Christina: Kinder. Yes. And she's rocking it. And she's in a Spanish immersion program. So she's coming home with new words every day, which is so fun. And then our son Sterling is three. And so he's actually watching TV right now and hopefully is quiet while we're talking.

Audra: Awesome. Well if he pops in, we’d love to say hi. I love the name Sterling, too. We have a family friend, you know, back in the day. It's a classic, very classic name.

Justin: So I just have a few more questions just because I you know, for new moms who might be listening to this. What helped you most during that time? So once you started to get help and you started to get some tools. What did you find most helpful?

Christina: I think what's really, really helpful and really, really important, like you were saying, Audra, this expectation of what we're supposed to be like or do or manage is to let that go and realize, especially if you've had a baby during this last year and a half, like things are not normal right now. We all have a level of stress that is way higher than it would typically be. And then outside of the pandemic, the idea of the village doesn't exist in the way that it did for our moms and for their moms and so on.

Audra: Great point.

Chrisitna: So the mom martyr-hood that we do, we need to stop that. And so really communicating with my husband to let him know I need to sleep right now or I haven't showered and I need to, do this or I need to do that. We also had to figure out the balance of housework. We had always been a very 50/50 couple, but then kind of naturally with me staying home with our daughter, there became this imbalance where all of a sudden I was cleaning the house more or doing the dishes more, the laundry more, and I had to speak up and say, you know what, that's not how we work and this isn't working for me. I can't do all of this. And so setting those boundaries, having clear communication, asking for help, I'm not good at asking for help. 

A lot of moms I know aren't especially I feel like our generation now, don't you either. Especially our generation. I feel like a lot of us are having kids after we've established careers. And so we have established patterns of if I work hard enough, I can achieve X, Y or Z. And with parenting, it's just not that one to one. And I think we need to let down that ‘I can handle it all. I can do it all attitude’ and really create your own village in that way with your partner, with your family, with friends.

 We have a lot of friends, actually, UK expats that live here, and their family is not here. So they are a family and they will watch someone else's child so that couple can go on a date or what have you. Just so creating your own village, as you can, I think is really, really helpful.

Audra: That is so great. This is really wonderful advice. And it strikes me that it goes actually for folks who are going to become parents. One of the things that I'm thinking of is preparation. And some of those expectations that we develop, we develop those expectations, you know, in advance, you know, through the pregnancy. I remember thinking that my first child was going to come out and be like a six to nine month old. Like I'll be on maternity leave walking around with him on my hip.

Christina: Right. Right. 

Audra: Like had no clue. I mean, really, like no understanding. But I think some of those things you can't prepare for. It's like, you know, there's so much of parenting, like the moment you have that other life outside of you and you're like, whoa, I have to care for this, this human now, this is incredible. I get to care for this human. But some things we can do to prepare, and it seems like we totally can come up with a plan to communicate in advance, not just about our birth planning, but what about our partnership planning in that, you know, these seem to be like really wonderful advance conversations to talk about the division of labor and be able to say, you know, I've heard that I'm going to need a ton of sleep. You know, are you willing to get up however many times and change diapers, you know, and do that before you are super tired or in the hospital longer than you thought you'd be?

Christina: Absolutely. I think that's so powerful. And I think along with the awareness of postpartum depression, anxiety and perinatal mood disorders, is that awareness of we're not just planning for your pregnancy and we're not just planning for the twenty four hours that you're giving birth, but we're planning for the next at least three months that those 100 days where you're in that fourth trimester and you're learning your child and they're learning what it's like to be alive and having those conversations is so important, because we, my husband and I, I guess we assumed we would fall naturally into a pattern. But the pattern we fell into wasn't one that worked for either of us. So we had to communicate. And so yeah, in anticipation, having better planning for postpartum, I think is definitely important.

Audra: Because, I mean, really kind of like going into a partnership even, whether it's, you know, a marriage or long term committed partnership or whatever way we might be putting that together as a family to then to commit to parenting our co parenting. I feel like we make a lot of assumptions anyway. Like, I don't know. We did. I mean, right. Like one of the things that we've learned now 20 years. 

Justin: Oh my god. 

Audra: Over 20 years of being together. But, you know, being married for 20 years, like I look back and now we've learned a lot more skills, especially in the more recent past few years. But before that, like the assumptions we would make, like it’s hilarious...

Justin: I mean, I think the most powerful layer is we have learned over the past well, I mean a lot over the past year or two, but the most impactful ones have been around communication and about communicating around these assumptions. I think. Yeah, you're absolutely right. How many assumptions I held...

Audra: And then the stories that are based on the assumptions and on and on, and then the resentments that are based on the stories that are based on the assumptions. Right. Oh, I can't believe she's just coming home and not like not even doing the dishes, you know, and like never once communicated anything about and holding these expectations when you haven't had a conversation is pretty unreasonable and you don't have to ever carry resentment if we communicate in advance. 

I guess that's the one thing I would think would be really powerful planning to do if one is to bring a child into the home, is to really just start with some advance planning and communications and thinking around those assumptions or even like communicating around how we want to communicate once the baby comes, like we have no idea what's going to happen so like, let's have a meeting. Let’s write a list of things we think we're going to talk about and just hold the space for it, at least.

Christina: I think so.

Justin: Oh, yeah. And this is one thing that came up in our podcast with Bridget across the perinatal therapist. She sees a lot of moms when they get into trouble after the baby is born, and they're going through some of the issues that you mentioned and many others. And she wishes so much that she would have been able to see them before the baby, because then we get to talk about the expectations, we get to talk about the assumptions. We get to air them out. And then we you know, we get the lines of communication flowing before you go to battle.

Chrisitna: Yeah. Well, and then another expectation that we have that I don't think we talk about is what our baby, like you said, you expected the six to nine month old. I don't think I fully understood what a newborn would be like exactly. But I also, my mom's experience, I'm one of three, was that we were good sleepers, good eaters with this lovely time. And so I just expected that a creature of my making would be the same as.

Justin: Would be just as awesome as you are.

Chrisitna: And so when she didn't take to nursing well, when my milk didn't come in, when sleeping wasn't happening, when she needed to be held all the time and was quite fussy, I'm like, what? This is not what I ordered. Like, you know, this is not what I stand for. So I do think having those conversations ahead of time about expectations or broadening your expectations, your baby might be a good sleep or your baby might not be a good sleeper. And if that's the case, what's your plan? How are you going to handle that as a team?

Audra: Broadening. I love that concept because thinking about those who, I've needed, I had medically necessary C-section, but I had friends who planned home births, that needed a C-section and suffered tremendous a sense of loss and devastation from that and from the expectation around what that birth would be, for example, or you fully plan on being a breastfeeding mom for two years. And then we talked about this in that last podcast, too, like that when there is difficulty feeding, it's a primal challenge as a mother, isn't it? It is so hard. And then when there's narratives around formula and you feel like a failure, you know, kind of like opening that space and broadening one's expectation, like what if it's not possible, then let's plan for this.

Christina: Yeah, absolutely. And that's powerful because then you can pivot easier.


27:55

Justin: You mentioned in the discussions that you and your partner started to have around assumptions and expectations, you mentioned the word boundaries. So let's talk about the book. So, yeah, so this is, so the book is called The Not-So-Friendly Friend. Yeah. And before, you know, when we first heard about you and first heard about the book and I saw the title and the subtitle, and I thought, oh, this is brilliant. I mean, I think every single parent has had this issue with their kids, like, oh, you know, there's one kid at school who's a problem. And, you know…

Audra: Can I read the subtitle really quick for the listener? How to Set Boundaries For Healthy Friendships.

Justin: Yeah. So it's a story that I think pretty much every parent who have had kids, and especially kids, if you're in it right now, kids around toddler age and up. So it's about a kid who who's nice, like the main character, well-adjusted, nice kid, getting along…

Audra: Communication skills like using words.

Justin: Getting along, but then comes across a not so friendly friend. And can you tell us what happens next, Christina?

Christina: Yes. So the main character, like you said, she's new to school, but she's easy to like. She does all the right things and she meets this friend who she considers a friend who sometimes is nice to her and they play well. And then sometimes it's very not nice to her. And she does what most of us do, which is to try harder. Like, oh, it must have been me. The reason why they weren't treating me right. So I'm going to just be that much more lovely. But she realized that didn't work either. 

And so in the story, you can see that she talks for her parents. You can see that she talks to her teacher and she realizes that she needs to set a boundary. And it's a very simple one, but hopefully a practical learning for kiddos that they can say something similar to this when they're not being treated right. And it's that I'm going to remove myself and go play with the people who do treat me well. But you're still welcome to come join us if you're ready to be kind. I just will only tolerate that people are kind to me, basically, is the message. 

And so it leaves that door open for whoever it may be, that unkind child is, or the child is acting unkindly to reflect and decide if they want to be a part of this friendship, relationship or not. But it gives the power to the child who is being mistreated. 

And so it's a story that I actually wrote because our daughter went through something similar. And so I wanted her to have the tools and skills. There's lots of books on friendship and there's lots of books on friendships with bullies. But our experience, in her experience, was that it was just another child who sometimes was nice and sometimes wasn't nice. It was this child wasn't aiming out there to be mean.

Audra: Oh, that's so common. That's what we've experienced, too.

Justin: Yeah, so common.

Audra: Also, with this book, along the same lines, like, I love how you have the tools embedded in the book where we can use these really valuable words like, you know, our child can, we can read this with our child. And she's like, oh, great, I can actually see this. Like, I can take this to school tomorrow and I can say this. I love the openness to change. Like my heart is going to be open. I'm going to be open to you. I'm open to change. But it's behavior oriented when it's not about you as a person or a human being. But when you behave this way, I have a boundary like I do not want to be with you when you behave this way, you know, which is wonderful. 

And in the book, I thought I'd just replace some of these pictures with pictures of moms. I don't know if you've had this experience, but when you when you end up in the situation with especially like, you know, five year old and up and you become friends with the moms in the class. Right. You kind of start to like gather the kids to play and play dates and you start gathering these new friends that are outside of your workplace, maybe outside of the other, like social environments that you're in. I mean, it's almost like a new social I don't know, like a new social evolution in a sense for a mom. Right. And you're stepping into meeting new people. And I found this skill set like really important there. It's like, you know, I find myself in a new, often needing boundaries. Also, like it's a very it can be a very challenging world for moms. The social world, mom to mom social world.

Christina: Absolutely one. You know, sometimes your kiddo and another kiddo become really close friends and you realize you don't like the parents that much or like you wouldn't mesh with them or your maybe, your parenting approaches are very different. So that's when it's good to speak up and it's good for your kiddos to see you modeling boundaries. And I think what's been really cool about this book is, I knew it was important for my daughter and I knew it was important enough to have it made. So, you know, I reached out to publishers to have it become a real book. But the feedback that I've gotten since then has shown me just how much more important than I even realized it was, and that's for the kids, but also, like you said, for the parents, for the adults reading the book as well.

And so many people have been like, this speaks to my inner child or this touched home with me now with them, with the moms I'm dealing with. And I think a lot of us aren't that practiced in setting boundaries, or maybe we are good in certain settings, like at work or with our in-laws, but maybe not with our friends or with our partners. And it's like your personal superpower to have agency over your life and to make sure that the life you live is the life you want. And so to teach it to children where they can grow up with this, it's just a pretty magical thing.

Justin: And the way it's done in this book is really beautiful, because the child, like the main character, is letting the other child know that this isn't working for me. I'm not saying that you're a bad person. I'm not saying, you know, I'm not putting this all on you. I'm saying this isn't working for me. Right. You know, and so when this starts to work for me, we can totally bring this back on line. 

But I really appreciated that because, yeah, like a part of me wants to just be like, hey, this is your problem. And I want to, you know, tell you how to do things. But it's like, hey, you know, this isn't working for me. When we can play nice and we can have fun together and then we're back on line. You know, I really appreciated that. And then I felt like, oh, this is something that, as you said, adults can totally use, you know, that in this relationship, whether it be a family member or a friend or whatever, the way I'm feeling right now is not working for me.

Christina: Mm hmm. Well, that's where I feel like boundaries provide clarity. And what a beautiful thing to be able to bring to a relationship. It allows you to be authentic. It allows, if you're whoever you're in the relationship with, has clear boundaries as well. Very authentic. Your relationship is mutually enjoyable because you know what game you're playing. You all are showing each other your cards and you're like, these are the rules. And you're like cool, we're going to go play the same game in life together. 

Whereas, you know, if we're making these assumptions like you guys were speaking about before in communication, then it's like we're each playing our own game or we have our own rules and we're hoping that people know. But that's just not fair.

Justin: Yes.What comes up for me is that, you know, there is a fear around displaying your rules or being explicit about your rules, because there's a fear of rejection, like, oh, well, if I if I could just be like flexible with my rules, if I can just kind of keep some of my rules to myself, then I'll not be rejected.

Audra: Or a fear of some response. That's not a comfortable response. An uncomfortable response. Yeah. 

Christina: But so what happens is we hold it in. Right. And we stew on it. And then ultimately we generally explode on it, which I would say is more uncomfortable than possibly the initial discomfort of letting what you need or want or value be known. And I think boundaries also give you for every person that's able to uphold, to set and uphold their own boundaries. You have responsibility for yourself, because I think when we don't tell someone, because we're afraid of rejection or afraid of a certain response, we're attempting to control their experience. And that's not our job. We're only here to control ourselves. 

Justin: Beautiful.

Audra: I love how you refer to this as a muscle, to build. Like it reminds me of like the muscle of resilience. Right. But I resonate so deeply with that because so much of my work and I'm sure probably like most of your clients, like I feel like this is a thing of our time, really. Like it's kind of cool to go out online and see what's going on. We're all doing a lot of work around boundaries, which is really cool. It's becoming, I don’t want to say popular, but something we're probably noticing a lot more than before the need for boundaries.

So it's been totally my work. And I haven't been able to change overnight. I haven't been able to get better at this, like in an instant. You know, it's like a practice. And I feel like there are some areas that are still really, really, really hard. But, you know, I'm trying and inching my way there, and that really resonated with me when you refer to it. You know, it's something that is a practice. And that weekend, I think that was in the back of the book when you describe what boundaries are. And I really, really appreciated that. I found it to be validating and encouraging.

Christina: Good. Yeah. And it is, the more you do it, the better you get. But depending on the setting, the context, the relationship, some situations might be harder to set a boundary than others. I find that I have a harder time with strangers, actually, with my family and friends. I lay it out straight, but with straight I want to be seen as. Agreeable and accommodating. And so I have this version of myself in my mind of being very nice. But the problem with being nice all the time is that's to be obliging for the sake of being liked in return, whereas being kind is being benevolent. So I'm trying to shift my own thinking to be like I can be my kind, lovely self, but still have opinions and still have needs or wants. And that's ok.

Audra: I love that. That sounds to me like the work that I'm in, which is people pleasing recovery.

Christina: Yes, me too.

Audra: I really like that. I like thinking of benevolence and kindness. Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. So where can you repeat that again? So it is kindness over niceness, is that the shift?

Christina: So they’re interrelated because you can do something like hold the door open for someone. And that is a very kind act. But you may also be doing it to be nice, which is to get that thank you in return. So there is being nice has a bit more of that. I'm being obliging or amenable for the sake of being liked, whereas being kind is I'm doing it because that's what I want to do. So being kind is healthier ultimately if you're not looking for that response in return.

 And that also then comes from that bolstering of your own self love and self worth, where you don't need the affirmations or the thank you's or people to like you. You just know your value. And so the people pleaser in me, and it sounds like in you guys as well, wants to be told how great we are and how much people like us. And it's hard then to set those boundaries.

Audra: Yes, it is. Yeah, I mean, it takes some digging, you know, it takes some digging and some source work for sure you to do that. Yeah, I have a friend of mine who's a therapist helped me with this. I think for a long time in early to this book, to me, and for a long time, we were really like, no, compassion is not enough. We need empathy. And my friends, like, no, no, no. Compassion is empathy with boundaries. You know, let's start back to compassion. 

You know, I feel like I worked in higher education before the work that we do now, and I think we like moving to empathy from compassion, which was cast as like not cold, but l maybe disingenuous a little bit or like one-sided. So I love thinking of like actually there are many instances where I need to move it into compassion and out of empathy, because empathy can play into the too much self identification, I guess.

Christina: You become porous and you absorb. You're putting yourself in their situation so much and understanding to the point of identification. And that can be incredibly taxing. Whereas with compassion, there is a little bit of distance, which is maybe why it had that negative connotation. But it's a healthier way to be to offer compassion to people versus to, you know, like as a mom, when your child's hurt or sick, it's so easy to to feel the weight of their problems as their they are your own. But if you can can develop more of a compassionate point of view, you can be there for them and support them while recognizing that it's their problem to work through and to figure out and to grow from.

Audra: Oh, absolutely. As this really resonates, like thinking about my daughter and helping her try to sift through some of the things she's going through, being new, brand new at her school and making friends and learning. Then she goes, she's one of those kids who goes all in. She you know, she's like, let's do it all sleepovers like it. We're best friends. And then there'll be something that'll come up that sort of is challenging for her. And then she wants to just kind of like avoid and go in another direction. And so it's like trying to help her, like not give up herself, her sense of, you know, who's who she is. 

Like, what's that balance between, you know, trying to, you know, kind of like work with people, but then maintaining, you know, your sense of who you are, what you want, and like trying to create that for herself. And that's like really boundaries with some of, with some of her friends. But it's been challenging because you want to help her identify like how do you move out of like especially with girls in sixth grade? 

Christina: That’s a tough age. 

Audra: As they're talking about each other and that, you know, like it's there's not like you have good data to work with, you got some challenging data to work with, lots of emotions, lots of big feelings, you know, and then trying to figure out how to set boundaries when like this is such a great time in life to learn this. Like, I wish I had this in sixth grade. So I'm so grateful for your work because I think it resonates, like I said, with all ages. It's going to be so helpful for her.

Christina: Thank you. Yeah, well, and middle school age is just so hard in general. And then now our kiddos have social media and personal devices and things that we didn't have to deal with. You know, AIM existed, so I'd come home and maybe message with a couple of people on the house computer in the living room in front of my parents. That's a very different thing. When your kiddos have their own phones where they have access to the Internet and they can't get away from maybe those peers that they would normally leave behind at school when they come home.

Audra: That's a really good point, is that it all extends into your home life at some point, you don't have the ability to be like, yeah, I get on the bus, I'll see you tomorrow. You can have that... That's something that we really need to explore more. I'd love to be able to talk more about that at some point and help, especially with our tweens and getting there with technology and all of that.

Justin: We've got an article coming. 

Audra: Oh, good, wonderful. 

Justin: Cell phones and teens. Yeah.


45:04

Justin: So do you have a few small steps, just first steps for parents who might be experiencing this that they can start with today? Of course, the first step would be to get the book. But, you know, when today when the kid comes home, like what are some small steps that parents could start right away?

Christina: Well, so it goes back to communication and dialogue. And one of the really good ways that parents can help their kiddos to make sense of their own experience and then make choices are intentional going forward is to have a reflective dialog with them. Now, this depends on your child's openness to having these sorts of conversations. And if you're able to start these when they're younger, then it's easier to carry through as they get older. But if they bring a problem up to you. Play detective with them. What led up to that? And then what did you think when they said that? What were your thoughts? How did it feel in your body? And then what choice did you make? What was the result of that choice and really help them investigate their own scenarios that they've lived. What would have been maybe a better way to handle that would have resulted in a more positive outcome and help them problem solve in anticipation of more experiences like that. 

So that's basically you're fostering their social emotional intelligence, helping them to recognize and identify their thoughts and feelings and then make sense of them and put words to them, because sometimes we feel things and we're not sure exactly how to describe it. And as adults, we might have a better ability to let your child now. Oh, it sounds like you were really envious of your friend or you were really frustrated at this situation, whatever it might be, and give them the terms so that then they can express that as well. 

So that communication is really important. Modeling self-love for yourself and applauding it in your children is really important, because, again, we need to feel like we matter in order for our wants, needs and values to matter and to protect with a boundary. So if we're going to set a boundary, we need to feel like what we're protecting is important and that's ourselves. And so as the parents, we need to celebrate our own accomplishments, our own efforts. Same with your child. Really celebrate who they are so that they know that I think I matter and I think you matter. And then again, going back to modeling boundaries ourselves. So let's say you're at a restaurant and you get your meals delivered and it's not right. We could just say, no, I'm just going to eat it, whatever. I don't want to cause problems. Or we could say…

Audra: He’s nudging me.

Christina: Or we could say when the waiter drops it off and leaves and you're like, oh, my goodness to your child, this isn't what I ordered. I'm going to let the server know about the mistakes so that I can get the meal that I asked for. And your child says, wow, ok my parent thinks it matters. They're not making a big deal out of it. They're just standing up for themselves. And so by modeling it, then our child sees the power of doing it for themselves too.

Audra: Such a great example, too, because like the other side of it is, ok, so there's then there's a parent is like, oh, I didn't get the right order, but it's ok. I'm fine. And then, that's me. And then there's the one who is like, I didn't get the right order. So I'm going to passive aggressively mention it every time the server comes by. I used to work in the restaurant industry, which is why I have it is…

Justin: So there’s also the fact that like you feel…

Audra: Yeah, yeah, but you know, one thing that. Yeah, as a pet peeve for me is also the passive aggressive response, you know, of hmm. Or there it is…

Christina: Not going to get a tip because I got the wrong food. Well, but you didn't tell them. That's not very fair.

Audra: Exactly. Exactly. So I love the idea of modeling, and I think this could be done beautifully with young kids like really young kids, too. I mean, modeling, when you're let's say you're young child toddlers hitting you, you know, and modeling boundaries around. I was just learning about this on the Curious Parenting. I don't know if you followed them on Instagram, but she's really great. And just these little steps that you can take to, you know, model how to have the conversation of like, this hurts me. I don't want to be hurt, you know, and I'm going to ask, I'm asking you to stop hitting me now, you know, and like these sorts of things, like, I guess modeling just in our own relationships within the family. How we interact together, just in the home can be really powerful.

Christina: Absolutely. So, you know, I'm thinking of my kids are at the age, and maybe this doesn't go away, where they want your attention at all times. And so I'm trying to model that. I'm actually protective of my time as well. And so if they're calling to me, I'm in the middle of something. I'll turn my attention towards them for a second to say, “Hey, I really want to hear what you have to say. And I know you deserve my full attention. I'm focused on this right now. 

So I'm going to take the next X amount of minutes to do this, and then I will give you my time.” And so that also shows that I am important enough to do what I need to do. My work is important and my time is important, but also so are they. And they deserve to have all of me instead of that kind of half texting, half looking, half-listening version that we do a lot of the time because we're all so busy multitasking.

Audra: So powerful. 

Justin: And you're modeling for clarity and communication. And I think of Brene Brown's, clear is kind. 

Christina: There we go. Back to the kindness as well.

Audra: I love it. Yeah, this is really powerful. I feel like that I've just taken something that from you that I'm going to use every day. Now, when interrupted, you know, be it when you come down with a thought and you're frustrated that I can't immediately respond to you or…

Christina: Now, beware your family will start to use boundaries on you, too. I heard my daughter say that to my son. She'll be like “Sterling, I'm putting a boundary right now,” and I love that. But when they're like, “mommy, I'm putting a boundary because you told me,” you know, I'm like, oh, yeah, this is good for me. That's the other part we model and we encourage it as well.

Audra: So when he sets boundaries around timing of washing the dishes. 

Justin: Oh, my god. 

Audra: Yeah, it's going to happen.

Justin: Yeah. I'm going to need some time to process that. So this book is the first in a series called Capable Kiddos. So what's next in this series?

Christina: So the idea is Capable Kiddos as a series is to help our kiddos and ourselves have the skills to handle whatever life throws our way. And so this first book is about friendship and boundaries. The second book is well underway. The illustrator is sending me really fun illustrations right now. It's called Fear Not, and it's how to work through and learn to tolerate and live with anxiety and fear. And so it's not so much…

Audra: I love it. 

Christina: Thank you. It's not so much about overcoming per se, because I think that's a bit unrealistic. But recognizing that anxiety will come and go. But these are the skills that we can use to help ourselves manage it. So that's…

Audra: I think is so powerful, like if we can start talking about this when we are young, young, young, we really need that. Like, you know, we've learned over the years to manage going down rabbit holes, to manage fear castrates, manage like these are like, you know, kind of feel like very adult things. But there are things that we can as parents like as we're working through it. Like, I think there's a lot that we can do for our families. Like I think that, you know, we don't have to talk about our fears around paying for our daughter's horse lessons or horseback riding lessons, you know what I mean? And like what we can or cannot afford. And then instilling that, you know, kind of fear of scarcity in them. Like, I love the idea, the idea of this book, because it is we're going to have these fears. It's like, what do we do with this? What do we do with this and how do we manage?

Justin: It's wonderful because I don't think I realized that I had anxiety as a child. I didn't really realize that anxiety was a part of my life until I was in my 20s. And I was like, oh, wait, actually, this has been going on for quite a while. And then my best friend didn't realize until a couple of years ago going into therapy that he had been dealing with it his whole life. And so it's like how many people grow up and as kids have these fears and anxieties and it's not just a like, you know, what do they call it, like momentary contextual thing, but it's like the anxiety is kind of a low hum in the background. Right. So that's wonderful. So when is this book coming out?

Christina: Fear Not should be out in the spring. So I'm really, really excited for that. And the beginning of the story talks about how all kids, grown ups too, have different anxieties, because I think a lot of the time in our own mental health struggles, we feel quite alone. And so I really want kids to know they're not alone in what they go through and they're not alone in having to work through it. So I'm super excited for that book in the spring. 

And then the third book I haven't written yet, but my plan, and I love your guys input is to have it be about our inner voice in the way that we talk to ourselves. I think so many of us grow up critiquing ourselves and being most unkind to ourselves. So I think a story about that where kids can develop a kind inner voice from a younger age, hopefully maybe we'll give them a happier, more positive experience of their life. But then I was thinking maybe I do mindset in general, like a growth mindset book. And that's a component of it, too. 

Justin: So, Christina, are you familiar with Internal Family Systems?

Christina: I have heard of it. I haven't studied it, though.

Justin: Oh, my gosh. Because what comes up for me is and what has helped me is, you know, I'll be very, very brief because I can go on. Basically that, you know, we are not one mind, but we have a bunch of different parts in us. And all these parts generally are there to protect us. And they're there to protect childhood wounds, emotional wounds. And so what I have realized working in this therapeutic domain is that I definitely have at least one part, probably multiple parts that have a lot of anxiety around emotional protection. And so seeing my inner world, not as I am the one who has anxiety, but I have a part, there's a part, and it's very close to the inner voice. But I mean, it's like it's practically the same thing. But in the internal family systems world, it's not just one inner voice. Right. We have… 

Audra: A whole family of them that interact. And what I love about that, too, is that nobody, you know, it makes it so that we ourselves and no one in the world around us is something or some way. You know, we may have a part that or parts that might, that behavior exhibit or pop out in this way. But yeah.

Justin: Yeah. And then I also have parts that do not feel that way. I mean, internal family systems gets even deeper than that. It's so cool. But yeah, the idea that oh, it's not like I Justin, you know, as a unified mind being have anxiety getting away from that idea and that I have a part or maybe one or two parts that having anxiety as a way to protect me are always on the lookout for danger, are going to ruminate on possible problems that…

Audra: It helps a lot, too, because I never hear you say like my anxiety. My anxiety is popping up, my anxieties here, my anxiety, like, you know, like I don't know. You don't kind of like cast yourself in that way and you don't own that, you know, kind of like as...

Justin: I have a part that is being triggered right now..

Audra: Not that I'm triggered. But like…

Christina: Yeah, I'm an anxious person, but I'm person that has parts of me that have anxiety from time to time. Right. Right. And it gives you information then from your body or from your brain that you then can intentionally decide what to do with versus, you know, I like to think of anxiety like a fire alarm. Ours is in the kitchen, so ours goes off every time I burn toast. It is not a fire. Right. That's our anxiety system sometimes has that alarm that goes off when we're making smoky toast. 

And it doesn't need to. Or we can hear it when you think, oh, I'm going to press the dismissal button because it's not really a fire. And if we don't learn to differentiate between that sort of information, then we think, oh, I'm anxious and I need to act in a way that responds to the anxiety. Whereas if it's a part of me has anxiety right now because of X, Y, Z situation, I can decide if this is something I need to respond to or not.

Audra: Absolutely. Yes. 

Justin: Yeah. Christina. So I have an awareness that now I've mentioned internal family cells. And so now I'm going to mention another thing. And it might feel like Christina, I'm like, can I just write this book? I know one thing that has really been a game-changer for my anxiety, too, is learning about what happens physiologically with anxiety…

Audra: Like you mentioned, what's happening in your body. 

Justin: Right. So, you know, there's a whole cascade of biochemicals that like ready the body for some sort of action. You know, it's like the heart rate increases. And, you know, I start to breathe faster. My face might get red. Right. So there are physiological things going on. And then learning that I can feel into that and like actually get physical, like stretch or deep breathing and like. So the idea that, oh, I just need to calm down, don't move. Calm, calm was actually the opposite of what I needed to do, which might be to like stand up, stretch, breathe, maybe do some jumping jacks, you know…

Audra: And for kids it might be like, it might be a cry, you know. And then you say don’t cry, but what if they need to cry? Like, what are your thoughts on that?

Christina: Yeah, well, I know that comes out of my mouth sometimes. In all honesty. Right. Because when you are throwing stuff, too, and. Yeah. So sometimes I'm guilty of saying stuff like that, too. Like don't cry. It's like when I'm at my max and spent, I feel like I'm not capable of handling their own stuff, which isn't fair to them. But we're all human so we can kind of learn from our mistakes and apologize later when we handle stuff like that wrong. But yeah, our kids have big feelings and most of the time the best thing you can do is just validate, just validate and give love. And then later on when they're out of that state, because when you're in that anxiety or that anger or fear, whatever you're in, you're in a fight or flight situation. 

And I think it's Dr. Daniel Siegel talks about your upstairs brain, and your downstairs brain. And so you're in your downstairs brain, which isn't where you're able to organize or plan or make logical choices or problem solve. And so when you help your kids in the moment, not actually that helpful. Like give them love, validate them and then once they're in a state where they're calm, reflect with them. And that's…

Audra: I love that. And so when your kids are in their downstairs brain. Right, big feelings, all that. You're usually in your upstairs brain, right? So you're coming at it like even…

Justin: No then I get triggered and then I'm in mine. 

Audra: Then you go downstairs. Right.

Christina: That's not good.

Audra: Yeah. So we all need the time to just validate, kind of like hold the space love and then process later. I mean, that's just that's a good thing to just plan for and be like, this is how this is how we do this. And I know as partners, too, like you started saying, hey, wait to get clear. Are you wanting to just let it out or are you wanting to problem solve? Like, can we do that? But to plan for that with the kids like that helps me to just be able to sort of like plan in advance, like in our kids going to come home from school with some big feelings and we're just going to validate and love and then circle back later, see if we're ready to process. Right. That’s awesome.

Christina: That's great to plan in that way. And we have a calming corner. And that's the idea of that as well, is that this is the place we go to. You know, it's these conversations ahead of time in prep, and then it's the reflection afterwards. You know, when we're upset, let's go head over to the common corner where you've got different things you can play with, where we can to sit down and hug each other, whatever feels right to you to kind of calm down. And then later we'll talk about it and help you out.

Audra: Oh, my gosh, can we talk more about that on The Family Thrive like I would love for us to maybe have a little segment on, like how to create your calming corner. Actually, what that is, I have not heard of that before, but I just got a picture in my head of just a really comforting, comfortable space to go and to be and to be together.

Justin: So you're saying that you need a calming corner.

Audra: I love that. 

Justin: So, Christina, what is new and interesting for you in your own mental and emotional health journey?

Christina: I think every day I'm working to be the mom that I wanted to be or thought I would be. And I'm sure it's a goal that's unachievable ultimately. But as long as I'm good enough, I need to learn to accept that and really trying. And I feel like the pandemic did this for a lot of us, really trying to be present and just appreciate the time that we have with our friends, our family, my kiddos. Be grateful. We try and we try to do gratitude every night. And we have the kids do it, too. And it's been really fun to hear how their gratitude evolves. My son for a long time just said family like you couldn't come up with something new. But he knew he was grateful for us.

Every dinner he said family. Whereas my daughter would come up with something from the day, and now my son's starting to, he's three, so he's starting to make more sense of what we're doing and come up with something that he's actually grateful for. And so we try and be present and live in gratitude. 

But also, I think recognizing that life has its ups and downs and I have periods where I'm not the happiest or I'm a little depressed or my anxieties kicked in. And same with my husband and same with our kiddos. You know, they have periods where I'm like, what is going on them? Something big is happening inside of them right now. And I think just knowing that that's ok. 

I had a client several years ago who was a teenager, and she had a really hard time if she didn't feel, if she felt anything less than perfect. It was catastrophic to her. And it meant that then she self-harmed or felt suicidal because she felt like her life was supposed to look a certain way. So I think acknowledging the ups and downs are life, and that's good. We don't have shades of the beautiful world around us without having blacks and grays and browns. Right. So we have to have those downs in order to sometimes appreciate the highs and the goods. And it's just, it provides a variety of life. That's what makes it so special.

Audra: Oh, that's really powerful to hear like to hear of what I hear is like a journey for you. Like to seeking deep engagement in life with your family. Like, I think that's beautiful. And then to hear of this of this young woman, I had never that had never occurred to me that that could be a way of living and breaks my heart to hear. And it breaks my heart to hear it, something that I think could potentially be preventable and support along the way. You know, like it's something that we can support by creating just a more like open, vulnerable, kind. And then also like a kind of like an attitude towards resilience in kind of like everything around us. But if you do grow up in one of those perfection-driven environments, that's the fallout.

Christina: Right. Or a toxic positivity where. Yes, you know, it's fine. I'm not affected, but you really are. And you should actually deal with it, you know? Yeah. So that's another thought behind my mindset or, you know, mindset book or the thought of your internal voice and how you are resilient or deal with things. Because it is just so important.

Audra: Yeah. I can't wait for these and I hope that we can talk again. I would really love every time a book comes out. Let's have a conversation. It's fantastic.

Justin: Awesome. So how can listeners find out more about you and your work?

Christina: They can visit me on my website, which is ChristinaFurnival.com. And from there, I have links to my book currently and books plural in the future. Also, I have a form to reach out if you would like me to connect you with a therapist, or if I'm available as well. I'm licensed in California, which means I can only see clients that are residing or physically in California at the time of sessions. And then also I have a blog through the website, so it's ChristinaFurnival.com/blog. And that's kind of how even this whole motherhood, mental health and writing journey all converged in my real life, a blog that I started after having my daughter. And then on social media, you can find me. I have two Instagram accounts, one for the books, which is @capablekiddosbooks, and then my therapeutic motherhood blog, Instagram account, which is @thisisreallifemama. And so, yeah, I would. I love when people reach out. I love getting new followers and connecting with them. And I'm here to help and support all of you, so I would love if you reach out.

Audra: Oh, thank you for bringing yourself to the world. It's just so powerful. I'm so, so grateful for your work.

Christina: Well, thank you. I'm so grateful to have gotten to meet you guys today. I think you're fabulous and I love what you're doing. I was exploring your account some more and going on your websites and watching your videos. And I love what you guys are doing.

Justin: Oh, well, we would yeah, we would love to connect further. Yes. And we certainly will after the show. But before we go, we have…

Audra: He’s keeping us on track.

Justin: Yeah. So we have three questions that we ask every podcast guest at the end of the show. So the first one is if you could put a Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, big Post-it note, what would it say?

Christina: It would say you're doing better than you think.

Justin: Mm hmm. 

Audra: I love that. I was getting some coffee, but I need that Post-it.

Justin: All right. So the second one, is there a quote that you have seen lately that has affected the way you think or feel?

Christina: Yes. And it's actually kind of related to that first one. But the quote that has affected probably for a couple of years now, how I feel. It's “you don't have to believe everything you think.”

Justin: Oh, this is yeah…

Audra: Love this quote. 

Christina: Yes, it's so good. 

Justin: Yep.

Christina: It's so powerful. And it puts you back in the driver's seat. Your thoughts, again, their information. And then you can choose what to do with them. I think we think our thoughts are truth because we make, because we come up with them. But we're often using confirmation bias and looking for things that are firmer, confirm what we already believe, whether or not it's helpful or true. And so knowing that we don't have to believe everything we think, I think is valuable. And then going back to your first question, you're doing better than you think as a parent is your thoughts are, oh, I messed that up. Oh, I'm screwing up my kids. Oh, I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. You're doing better than you think because your thoughts aren't always true.

Justin: Beautiful.

Audra: Love it. I love it. I feel I want to like do a graphic of these posts and put them out.

Justin: We actually have an article that we're working on doing just that. We are.

Christina: I like where your head is at. I'm visual.

Audra: I like the visual, right. Like I want to actually have it on Instagram and then screenshot it and then. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Justin: I think that's a beautiful idea. Oh, I had a mindful meditation teacher once who said your thoughts are like sweat. It's like the body just produces sweat. You don't need to worry about it. Like you don't need to get upset about it. It's just like you're sweating.

Audra: It's like your mind sweat.

Christina: I like that.

Justin: My thoughts are just mind sweat. 

Christina: Oh, God, I love it. 

Justin: Oh, my final question. You know, as you know, there are many times in parenting when you're just exhausted and overwhelmed, you're like, oh, my God, what's happening? And so it's nice to always just take a break and to think about like what is so awesome about kids. And so what do you love most about kids?

Christina: I love their, the way their minds work, the randomness seemingly with which they come out with things or the way that they make sense of the world. I just think they're magnificent. You know the show from decades ago. Kids say the darndest things. I just they do. And it's unbelievable. We have a booklet that we keep and we write down what our kiddos say. My daughter's theory on how babies are made is pretty fantastic. And I just like I love, I love all of the way that they think. And you can see the wheels turning. I just think it's so fabulous.

Audra: Oh, that's such a good idea to try to capture the goodness, to try to capture those nuggets. Such a great idea.

Christina: Yeah. Because you think you'll remember. Right. Oh, that was so funny. I'll totally remember that. Right. 

Audra: You get to a point where you don't even remember like what year your kid was born, like, you know, her parents. And they're like you were the, you were two in that picture. I'm like I'm clearly like six months old.

Christina: Right. 

Audra: Yeah, write it down.

Justin: Oh Christina, thank you so much for coming on the show. This is wonderful. And we can't wait to have you back.

Christina: Thank you for having me. So much fun to get to know you guys.

Audra: Likewise. Thanks again. I'm looking forward to talking to you the next time. 

Christina: Me, too.

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