234 - How to build a relationship of trust around substances with Jess Lahey

real life reparenting voyv Jun 01, 2023


00:00:00    Alyssa

Hey there. I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education and co-creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans, raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together. 


00:02:23    Alyssa

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Voices of Your Village. We have a returning guest. This time we get to hang out with Jessica Lahey, best selling author and speaker and podcast host. You might remember her from episode 102, which was The Gift of Failure, her incredible book on how the best parents learn to let go so their children can succeed. New York Times bestseller. I think Kbell shared it, which was rad. 


00:02:52    Jess

It was a moment. Yeah, that was a moment. 


00:02:55    Alyssa

Yeah. That is a moment. Well, I'm bringing her back this time to chat about her second book, The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence. Jess, I've been obsessed with your little miniseries you're doing on Instagram. 


00:03:12    Jess

It started as a miniseries and it's turned into a maxi series. I think I'm on episode, I was going to do a 30 day. So someone suggested that, okay, if people don't want to talk about substance use disorder publicly because it freaks them out, maybe you should offer it in these little digestible video segments that you could watch at home. And I'm like, okay, I'll give that a shot for a month and see how it goes. And it's gone. Great. So we're on, like, episode 150 something now or something like that. But it's really fun. If you don't love doing video or the process, then maybe don't do it because it's a massive time suck. But it's been a really nice way to not only work my way through the book, but to answer questions that people have sent me, which is really lovely. In fact, right after we're done today, I'm recording a whole bunch of episodes today. 


00:04:00    Alyssa

Oh, sweet. It's so fun. And I love that it is digestible. And as a parent of a toddler, I need digestible. I need here and quick and on the go and what can I take in? And what I find is kind of like how I rewatch episodes of The Office all the time. I've rewatched some of yours, and different things hit me at different times. I catch something new that jumps out to me. So let's chat about this. What sparked this book? The Addiction Inoculation. 


00:04:34    Jess

So Gift of Failure came out, and it did bait. And I do a lot of speaking still on Gift of Failure. Like, I'd say, 60% of what I do traveling around the world and speaking is for Gift of Failure. And there's real ask any author, director, actor, anyone who does anything creative who's fortunate enough to have something that hits big. People constantly ask, what's your new thing? In fact, I was at a book reading the other night in Burlington at the Phoenix, and a friend of mine was there talking about her book. And always someone's going to ask you, so what are you working on now? And you always want to say, like, oh, my gosh, can I have five minutes? This book just came out yesterday, so I have a wonderful agent. And she really gave me room to sort of think, and I pitched her a whole bunch of different ideas that sounded pretty good. And she was like, this isn't quite it yet. And then three years after Gift of Failure came out, I was driving down the highway, and all those pieces kind of clicked into place, and I had to pull off to the, I was right near the hooksit tolls, and I had to pull off. I was on my way to a speaking event, and I had to pull off on the side of the road. And I texted my two best friends, who are also my co hosts on the #AmWriting podcast, two novelists, and I said, I got it. This is it. And they're like, oh, my gosh. Yeah, that's it. And that's the wonder of the writing process. It's not linear. I don't know. There's so much writing that happens that's not going anywhere, but it's part of that larger process. So anyway, it also clicked into place for me. I was working at the time at a drug and alcohol rehab for adolescents. I had a few years of rehab, a few years of sobriety under my belt at that point, and I was thinking a lot about how I'm the child of an alcoholic and the grandchild of an alcoholic and so on and so on and so on, and so is my husband. So there was a lot of substance use disorder in our family. And immediately when I got sober in 2013, I started thinking about how do I break that cycle? And I couldn't find a book that was specifically about the things I wanted it to be about, which was the parenting angle and the education angle. And there are some great books out there about parts of it, but not all of it. And so coolest job in the world, which is especially as a research geek, is to get interested in something, get curious about something, and then have someone pay you to research. So it took me a full year to write the proposal for this book and get to the place where I felt like I could even just write the proposal. And then it took me a couple of years after that to actually write it. But as much as I love The Gift of Failure and I still love that book, and I'm so grateful people are still reading it and buying it, this is the book that I was born to write. It's sort of the book that made everything I went through as a kid worth it. All the hell that I went through as an alcoholic and all of that stuff. It's it's made all of that make sense to me. And the two young people that I profile in the book, they have said the same thing. They were adamant that I use their real names. They're both over 18. And no matter how many times I said, no, really, I can give you a pseudonym, I want to make sure that you don't suffer any negative outcome because of this. And they were both just adamant, no, this is too important. It's too important to own it. We've got to stop the shame. We've got to stop the guilt. We've got to stop the stigma. So we want to be all in. So this has been the place where I think I'm going to stick here for a while. I have a book in progress right now, but I think this is what I'm supposed to be doing right now, which is pushing it out there in any way I need to, including daily 9o second videos. 


00:08:40    Alyssa

I love it. That is so rad. And I think it's interesting when it comes from deep within. Right. We have a book coming out, Harper Collins, in October, and it's been a five year process of like, no, we're not there yet. We went and applied for research at the IRB and did research and really wanted to make it everything I wanted it to be. And I applaud the taking of the time. I think, especially in the urgency culture that we live in, it's hard it's hard to slow down and take your time. 


00:09:23    Jess

I think yeah, I think that's something that you learn with time. I mean, I have, like I said, an agent who's fantastic at helping me see the flaws in my own thinking. I mean, my agent and my editor are not there to be my friends. They're there to make me a better writer and to sell a book, and to sell a book that people will want to read. And that's been humbling, as you well know. But it also has helped me, and we talk about this on the #AmWriting podcast all the time. The value of that downtime, the value of letting your default network in your brain, sort of. And for me, gardening is an invaluable part of my writing. Walking is an invaluable part of my writing. Hanging out with my husband, with it being quiet and us just talking about our work, that's an invaluable part of my writing. I used to be a much more impatient writer, I think. One of my co hosts, KJ Dell'Antonia, who used to be my editor at The New York Times, she told me one time that I make her really nervous because I'm willing to throw together a proposal and toss it out there really quickly. But I also have an agent who's really patient with that process with me, and she'll be like, okay, here's what's good here. Here's what doesn't work. Here go cogitate on this some more. 


00:10:43    Alyssa

I love that. That's rad. 


00:10:44    Jess



00:10:45    Alyssa

Let's dive in to the addiction and manipulation. Yeah, a lot of our audience tuning in. We're in the early childhood space, so birth to age eight, and I want to hear about what we can do early on to facilitate addiction inoculation. And when does that start? I think it might be, like, so many things in early ed. We're like, oh, wow, that starts sooner than we thought. 


00:11:13    Jess

Yeah. I'm so grateful that you asked this question, especially given the sort of younger nature of the kids of the parents who listen to you, because I send copies to the addiction inoculation all the time to elementary school principals. One of the things we know about education based substance use prevention programs is the more invested the administration is, the better the program goes off as a whole. I mean, that's true for lots of things. So then I'll get this lovely note or email back saying, thank you so much for sending me this book. That was so kind of you. I have forwarded it along to the high school principal because that's where they do that stuff, and I'm like, oh, gosh, no, please, no. I'm trying to help people understand that even earlier. Let's back up just a little bit. Middle school is where if kids are going to initiate drug and alcohol use, that's where they do it. The average age of initiation for alcohol is somewhere around 13.5 years of age if they're going to initiate. So middle school, starting in middle school, you're already behind the eight ball. But the best substance use prevention programs that we know of start in preschool and kindergarten. And there's a whole huge section of the book that is about what we talk about with kids that age. And it is not about technically illicit drugs and alcohol. It's about our bodies and our safety and little things like the example I give a lot is when you're both brushing your teeth together, you can ask questions like, why do you think it is that we don't swallow the toothpaste? I mean, if it's good to put it on our teeth, wouldn't it be better if we were to get more of it, like inside of our body? And then we talk through that and we say, well, toothpaste is technically something that's supposed to stay on the outside, even though inside of our mouth kind of counts as the inside. It's a topical thing we're supposed to put on the top of our teeth, but we don't swallow it because it can make our tummies really upset and it's just not really good for our whole body. And then you move on from there to when kids are maybe first learning their letters or being able to do pattern recognition or number recognition, and you say something like, oh, see this prescription bottle on the counter? Can you find the letters of mommy's name on that prescription bottle? And why do you even think the letters of mommy's name have to be on a medicine bottle like the ones that we buy at the drugstore, like our vitamins that doesn't have our name on it? So why would this need to have our name on it? And that's where you can start having conversations about the fact that we don't take medications that are not for us. No, if you had the same sickness that mommy has, you can't necessarily take my medicine because we're different sizes and our bodies are slightly different. And my doctor prescribed this for me specifically, and it's really dangerous for us to take medications that don't have our name on it. We extrapolate that out to later on because we know that if kids are going to misuse prescription painkillers, for example, they are most likely to get that from their own medicine cabinet or a friend's medicine cabinet. So we need to be thinking about that stuff from a really young age and talking whether it's not eating Tide pods or not swallowing the toothpaste or not taking medication that's not prescribed for us. Those conversations start really small and then progress in developmentally appropriate ways. There's so many opportunities for conversations to start based on what we notice out there in the world, whether it's people smoking or vaping, whether it's something that happens at grandma's house, whatever that thing is, we as parents are really good at knowing sort of what our kids can and can't handle. And for those people who don't know, there's also a whole section of the book that's about what kids can handle both cognitively and developmentally. And from in Gift of Failure, I talk even about their motor coordination and what they can do in terms of their fine motor skills at various ages and stages so that we can offer that information in a way that they will understand it. 


00:15:30    Alyssa

I think that's huge because I think understanding what is developmentally appropriate is so hard.  


00:15:39    Jess

And that line moves a lot. Gift of Failure I looked at, for example, Maria Montessori's list of what kids can do at various ages and stages versus go out and talk to people about whether or not they have their 14 year old change the oil in their engine, that kind of stuff. Maria Montessori's indications for what kids could do at various ages and stages is very different from what a lot of people view now. So if we look at it in terms of take the emotion away from it, like, oh, no, my kid could never do that. That's too scary. There's a fair amount of projection going on there. So if we just know what kids can handle at various ages and stages in terms of we're sort of looking at the norms out there, I suppose it makes things at least a little more practical for us to think about. And it gives us stuff to think about, which is, I think, always important. I think it's important to question our assumptions every once in a while, 100% for sure. 


00:16:38    Alyssa

It is always a moving target, and I think you really hit something there that is important that so much of what might come out of our mouth is a projection. I wrote in tiny humans, big emotions. Like, sometimes I open my mouth and my mom comes out, and sometimes that's great. Sometimes I want to pass that on. And sometimes I've done a lot of therapy to try and not pass that one on. And a lot of the time when we're looking at these things that we haven't checked ourselves, and I would throw this body of work into it that for a lot of us, it's going unchecked. And now we're like, okay, I have to have this conversation. Okay, what did I do as a teenager? When did I start drinking? Or what was happening and basing it off of what was my experience? And thus, what comes out of our mouth is a projection of our experience. 


00:17:26    Jess

Yeah, we find that a lot with parenting and with education. Well, this is how I was taught, or because it's always been done this way, kind of thing. And that's what feeds, unfortunately, a lot of myths, too. So I talk. In fact, the most controversial videos, if you look at all the videos I've put out, the most controversial ones is busting the myth of teaching our kids about moderation. Teaching our kids, allowing our kids to drink at home in moderation so that they won't go crazy at 21, or whenever they first come across a keg. Or similarly, kids are going to do it anyway. I might as well have a keg at our house and take everyone's keys away. Or the biggie is the one that people get most pissed off about is I want to raise my kid like those European kids who can drink and be moderate and they're drinking. And the problem there, if you look at actual data around that, the European Union has the highest levels of drinking in the entire world and the highest levels of deaths and illnesses attributable to alcohol consumption in the entire world. So where on earth we're getting this idea that it's all romantic? Well, you've got France and Italy in your head and you're just imagining that wine with lunch and it just being a normal thing and drunkenness being not that big of it's, just working, operating from a place of myth, which I did fully like. All of my work, I think, comes out of a place of I did this thing. Was I working from a place of actual information and research and statistics, or was I working from a place of hopes and dreams and magical thinking? And where this sort of romantic European ideal comes from is a little bit of wishful thinking and magical thinking. And if you dive into the data, which I then had to cut, I had to do five follow up videos in response to the ire around the whole European Union stuff. And then people got mad at me for that because the European Union lists the European region and the European Union as separate identities and one of them includes Russia and Eastern Blocs, former Eastern Bloc countries. And then people were pissed off that I included those, which I included them because of the WHO. Anyway. 


00:19:52    Alyssa

Welcome to social media. Totally. 


00:19:54    Jess

Yeah. Well, and it's so interesting, I think also we're so invested in the myths, either because we've done them or that's the way we did it, and we don't want to admit that maybe we could have done differently if we'd had the correct information, not that we did poorly. Then I hope we do the best we can do with the information that we have on hand. But in Gift of Failure, the whole book is about modeling for kids that we do the best based on the information we have on hand. And then if we learn how to do better, we say, oh, I'm sorry, I was operating from this place of not understanding the full picture. Now I have better data, and I'm going to move forward, given that data. So I think people are just really invested emotionally in that myth and don't want to let it go. And I partially get that because I fully was emotionally attached to that myth too. 


00:20:48    Alyssa

I think it's overwhelming to let go of it, I think to say, like, oh, man, I don't know what to do next. Whereas if I'm just going off of how I was raised or what I know, or the myths that I believe, the biases that I have, it feels easier and less overwhelming. It's like, okay, I have a jumping off point than it is to say, like, scratch that. I don't know. And now it's a blank slate. And in a world where we're making 7000 decisions about our tiny humans all the time, and their health and safety is our priority, I think it's overwhelming to say, I don't know. And I studied abroad for six months as a 15 year old in Austria, and moderate drinking was not a thing. 


00:21:32    Jess

I met my husband at college in England and I lived in Italy for a while and have spent a lot of time in the UK. What's really interesting, though, side note on this, there are countries in the European Union that are outliers that don't have really high rates of binge drinking, have lower rates of alcohol consumption overall. And that comes down to culture. It comes down to expectations in community. So there are certain countries, southern Europe mostly, that where drunkenness, public drunkenness, is less acceptable sure. Which speaks to the power of community standards, whether that's your own family as a community, your village, your school, your city, your state, your country, all of these places set their own community standards. And they can drive public health initiatives. They can drive public health. They can be a very important part. So people get mad and yell about those exceptions, and that's a perfectly valid point, and let's talk about why those are exceptions. It's really important to talk about that stuff. And to your larger point also in education, we've known for a really long time now, we've known for a couple of decades that lecturing is a really lousy way of teaching. It doesn't really promote a lot of great deep learning. But I love lecturing and most of my colleagues who are teachers. We have this emotional attachment to being the sage on the stage and looking smart and all that stuff. And over and over again, from Dead Poet Society to the Paper Chase to whatever your movies are, I'm dating myself. Movies about great teachers or even bad teachers. Over and over again you see this moment of the moving educator giving the moving lesson in front of a lot of people and really making blowing people's brains wide open. But we know that that form of teaching isn't as effective for promoting learning. It's great for us. It can make us feel super smart, but it's not great for promoting learning. And so in education, we're seeing this a similar pushback against, well, this is the way it's always been done. This is how I was taught, and look, here I am in the ivory tire myself. It must have worked for me, all that kind of stuff. So there's a lot of pushback against nostalgia. 


00:24:01    Alyssa

Yeah, for sure. And it's going to challenge our biases. It's really hard to do. You talk a lot about the child's peer group, and that just came up for me. When you're talking about communities and the power of community. Let's dive into that here. How important is a child's peer group and how do we help them make healthy decisions around friendships? 


00:24:24    Jess

So it is, "common knowledge" and anytime I hear that, I'm like, my ears prick up. I'm like, okay, but where are we getting that? It is common knowledge that a child's, if your kid's friends drink or use drugs, your kid is far more likely to use drugs. Yes, that is true. That is absolutely true. There are a lot of layers here, though, and I tell a story in the chapter about peers that one of those two people, young adults that I just told you about, who really wanted their names used. My son Ben, who's now 24, was really good friends with this kid Brian, in high school. And that relationship made me really nervous because Brian got kicked out of school for using for behavioral stuff and using drugs and alcohol. And when my son was like, all of my friends would really like to go visit him at rehab and really buoy him and support him, and immediately alarm bells are going off in my head, like, I should forbid this friendship. I know what having a friend who uses drugs and alcohol means my son is more likely to use drugs and alcohol. However, what I did was I said, okay, I'm really proud of you for sticking with your friend. This loyalty is really important. At the same time, though, you have to understand, from my perspective, this does increase your risk, statistically speaking, of using drugs and alcohol. So we're going to have to have a lot of conversations about this as your relationship progresses. And so we did, and that was part of the understanding. And in the end, we got very lucky. Brian not so lucky. He got kicked out a total, I think, of three times out of high school. But the last time he got kicked out, my son and his friends took Brian on a run. They were all on, ran together. The run, the morning that he had to be off campus, the last day he was allowed to be on campus. And Brian points to that moment and those relationships as being the key, the pivotal moment. I talk about this in terms of understanding when you know you need help, as the 100th piece in his puzzle that clicked into place so he could see the whole picture. And on the flip side, watching Brian screw up and watching Brian have issues controlling his drug and alcohol use and understanding why Brian was misusing drugs and alcohol helped my kid, I think, I hope helped my kid also have an object lesson and a greater understanding in what using drugs and alcohol can do to you as a human being and to your prospects and to your future and all that sort of stuff. So overall, a really valuable relationship. However, at its basic level, it is true that if your kid's friends use, your kid is more likely to use. So you better know that. And we also know that we're parenting along with the parents of all of our kids friends parents, which for me was an easy thing to understand back when my daughter was in middle school, because I loved all of her friends parents, I trusted them. We had a good relationship. We could talk about stuff, especially about our expectations around drugs and alcohol. And then we moved, and suddenly I didn't know any of the parents of any of my daughter's friends. And that's more dangerous for me because I don't have a way of knowing they could be inviting my daughter over and being of the mindset that you might as well take everyone's keys and let them drink there, and that's where it'll be safe and blah, blah, blah. So there are a lot of factors that go into this. As with most things, it is a more complicated picture than if your kid's friends do drugs and alcohol. Your kid is more likely to do drugs and alcohol, no matter how true that statement is from a statistical standpoint. 


00:28:35    Alyssa

I love the respect that you have for Ben and that he seems to have for you in the ability to have the vulnerable, hard, honest conversation of, listen, I love that you want to stand by him and support him and be his friend. And here's what's real here, is I'm nervous that you are now at a higher risk, and we need to have but the ability to have that open conversation started with Ben knowing he could come to you and share this and that. He wasn't going to be shamed, he wasn't going to be shunned, you weren't just going to shut it down, that you were going to be open to regulating your side of the tracks so that you could have a conversation and a back and forth with him. And I love that so much. 


00:29:30    Jess

Let me give you another example of when that can be super important. Recently, with one of my children, we had to have a conversation. So both of my kids are now adults, but I was asked to be a part of a doctor's appointment because one of my two kids was nervous about that doctor's appointment. And generally speaking, and the minute that. They ask for me to be a part of it. I know that it's important to them. It's sort of like I didn't go to every track meet, but I definitely went to the ones where my kid was like, this one's important. Will you come? So we're at that doctor's appointment, and there's going to be anesthesia involved in this medical experience coming up. And one of the questions on the intake form that my kid had filled out was, do you use THC? Do you use weed? And for one of my kids, that answer, as it turns out, was yes. And they knew that I would not be cool with that, but they wanted me there. And we know that THC interferes with anesthesia. So it is far, your anesthesia 


00:30:39    Jess

and how much anesthesia you get during a medical procedure is going to depend on whether or not you use THC and how recently. So I, in that moment, was so overwhelmed with gratitude that I was being allowed into that conversation because it was important. And if my kid had lied, they could have been in deep trouble with that surgery and I was trusted to be there. And that's, oh my gosh, that's so important. And those moments for me are sort of the real moments I look to when I look at moments of pride in my parenting. Like the times when I'm either trusted or the time when one of my kids really screwed something up once, like, could have had a huge impact on their future. And they didn't tell me about it, but wanted to figure it out themselves and then came back to me later and said, I didn't tell you about this thing and I'm sorry, but I really wanted to show you that I could work it out myself. Those are the moments where I say, okay, parenting is not, your success as a parent. Your value as a parent is not built in these small emergencies that we freak out over every day. They're really built in those moments where you see progress, where you see the big wins and they may be quiet things. Like in that moment with the surgery thing, it was my choice at that moment to turn that into something about me like, oh my gosh, this is about you're using weed and after everything, blah, blah, blah. That wasn't what that was about in that moment. It can certainly be about that over the long haul. But in that moment, it's about gratitude for being allowed into the conversation and for the trust and all that kind of stuff. Because if something goes wrong with my kid, I want to know that my kid can come to me totally. Because as someone who's an alcoholic, as someone who has passed down the genetics for substance use disorder, which by the way, is about 50% to 60% of the risk picture, my kids have much higher chance than someone else's kids who do not have that genetic predisposition of running into problems with drugs and alcohol. And I want them to come to me and feel like they can come to me when they're scared, when they feel like they're worried, when they have a friend who's going over the deep end and they want guidance. That's far more important to me than a being right in the moment or than having everything look perfect in the moment. It just that can't be what parenting is about. 


00:33:27    Alyssa

Sure. Coming to you when it's not easy. 


00:33:30    Jess

Yeah, I screwed up. I need help, I need support. 


00:33:37    Alyssa

What does this look like, the balance between control and autonomy. A conversation in early Ed that's been coming up a lot lately is around sleepovers. And this kind of comes in here, too, of, like, the control versus autonomy and how do I support my child with tools to keep them safe and not put them in a scenario where they're at a higher risk and also give them tools to make decisions and trust them and equip them with this. I think it starts so young, and the addiction is a part of this. And so I'm wondering what that looks like and what your thoughts are there that balance the control versus autonomy. 


00:34:26    Jess

Yeah. So early on, from a very young age, I think it's just, for so many reasons, so important to raise a questioning child, to raise a child who can not only is curious I mean, that's for important for lifelong learning, but also is willing even to question authority when they feel threatened, scared, unsafe. I think, for me, when I first married my husband and we talked about having kids and we had these conversations before we ever had kids about what kind of parents we thought we would be. And being on the same page as your partner is really, really important. I was a little more invested in the whole kids should respect their parents just because they're their parents. I really felt that that was important. And my husband was raised by parents who really gave him a lot of respect and were very much in the camp of why, of explaining why. And I don't think I fully understood how important that was until I'd been a teacher for at least a decade. Thank goodness. Becoming a teacher coincided also with my having children. So understanding how important it is for a kid to be able to self advocate, to have a feeling of self efficacy, like, if they take action, it will have some effect on the world, their life, whatever. And then I've also had the opportunity teach, to teach lots of kids who have really, really low feelings of self efficacy either because I've taught a lot of kids who grew up in the foster care system, in group homes, who could not control anything about their lives. 


00:36:10    Alyssa

Sure. Hiatus.  


00:36:11    Jess

And who had been put in a position where their belief is their future is laid out for them. I had the touchstone the story I always tell is about a kid who didn't want to write an essay for me about how other people see him because his understanding of how everyone saw him is that every male in his family had always ended up in jail and that's where he would end up. And so why do you even have this conversation? Like his future is set? Sure, that's a kid who has really low feelings of self efficacy and we talked about the fact that no other male in his family had been given the opportunity to go to rehab and to get recovery. And so that's an important starting place and something that might differentiate him from all those other people. On the other hand, having taught really privileged kids, also kids who are really over parented, who aren't allowed, who have no autonomy in their homes, who have no ability to, who are as my friend Julie Liscott Hames describes the kids she used to mentor at Stanford as a dean there existentially impotent. They don't know what they want, they don't know who they are. They know what everyone else thinks they want and what everyone else believes they should be, but they don't know that about themselves. So on those two wildly ends of the different ends of the spectrum, you have kids who at a baseline level have difficulty self advocating and difficulty in feeling that sort of self efficacy and hope is wrapped up in there too, and optimism. So I think raising kids from a really young age who feel like they can speak up, speak up for themselves and advocate for themselves and ask why is so important? And yet it runs counter to a lot of parents that I've met, a lot of organized groups that would prefer that the people in those organized groups not ask questions. And I think that's really frightening to me and I think that's where all of this starts. Whether you're raising a lifelong learner who loves learning or you're raising someone who is able to stand up and say wait a second, you just said having a beer is no big deal and that everybody does it. But I know it's a big deal because we've talked about what it does in my brain and that no, I'm in 8th grade and I know that not everybody does it because my mom told me after reading this. Book by Jess Lahey that only 24.7% of kids try a drop of alcohol by the sip of alcohol by the end of 8th grade. So it's not true that everybody's doing it. So that's why it's really important for us to give kids really useful and true information so that they can have that place of oh, I know better than that, hold on. And I can speak up for myself. I think that's where it all starts. I don't think there's anything more important than teaching our kids to speak up for themselves when they feel unsafe or threatened or whatever, and to ask why. I think those two things are just invaluable in parenting. 


00:39:21    Alyssa



00:39:22    Jess

No matter how annoying it is, when you have kids, you ask Why? A million times. One of my very favorite podcasts actually is at Vermont Public, which is, But Why? And it's a podcast for kids. Jane Lynn Holmes podcast for kids because it is predicated on that very important moment where kids say, but why? Because as an educator, I know that's at the seat of all of the deepest and most important learning that our kids do. 


00:39:50    Alyssa

Totally. And a couple of things came up. One is finding that balance of allowing them to be in an unsafe situation or circumstance or whatever, like with Ben, where you were like, hey, I want you to support your friend. Love that for you. And here's what's coming up for me. Whether it's the sleepover or it's the substance, they're going to go to this party, or they're like, but why can't I go? Why don't you trust me to go and not drink? Why don't you trust me to go and make, you know. 


00:40:27    Jess

And that's an important opportunity. And that balance is so hard, and it really is an individual balance, whether it's answering the question of should I let my kid quit this thing? Or should I trust my kid to be able to go to sleepovers? Should I monitor my kid online? All of these questions are predicated on we know certain things. Like, we know that kids that are more closely controlled, kids that are more controlled by their parents tend to lie to their parents more. And my priority has always been preserving that relationship with my kid where he doesn't feel the need to lie to me. And then on top of that, it comes down to priorities. Like, am I going to let my kid quit something that, the story I always tell is about piano. We're not a very musical family. At least we didn't used to be. And so whether or not my kid plays piano isn't like a cornerstone of my or our family's identity. However, for another friend of mine, her baseline expectation for her kids is that everyone will play a musical instrument in their family. We don't care if you trade it up once a month. I mean, the kids learn that it's harder to start over with a new instrument, but that is a baseline thing. Like in our family getting enough sleep or whatever, we prioritize certain things and then other things. I'm going to be more likely to say, yeah, you can quit piano. However, monitoring our kids online has been a real sticky wicket, not only because I get asked about it all the time, and I've done a ton of research on this topic. So what I do is at one end, I say kids who are more controlled by their parents, lie to their parents more. Kids who have less autonomy tend not to be able to learn as well as kids that have more autonomy for various reasons that I go into in great depth in Gift of Failure and then the trust issue. So I'm on the far end of that spectrum, I think, because I have a fairly trusting relationship with my kids and I would like to default to that. Whereas I've never read my kids emails, I've never read my kids texts and I've just never done those things mainly because for kids now doing that is sort of the equivalent of when I'm almost 53, so I'm dating myself here. But that's the equivalent of if that kid who you really have a huge crush on finally calls you at your house and then you hear that little click of someone picking up the phone in the spare bedroom and listening in on your conversation. That's the same functionally speaking as reading another kid's text, your kids text because they don't use the phone, they use text. However, that expectation that I won't read your text, won't read your emails, is always up to change. I have the passwords at any time I could and if I felt like you were in danger, you better believe I'm going to be upping my monitoring of the situation. In fact, when I talk to parents about this, I have to know a lot about their individual situation in order to suss that out. But I think if those anchors of control control, control over here not being great for anyone and just sort of doing what some people think the gift of failure is about, which is like saying, oh, good luck, kid, and walking away and have the party. Anything to do feral kid parenting. There's got to be a balance somewhere in the middle. And unfortunately there is no easy answer to your question because it really depends a lot on your individual kids situation, your individual, their situation with drugs and alcohol and friends and all that sort of stuff and your family priorities. So I wish I could give just a blanket answer to that question. That's easy. But we do know also, like I said, that monitoring kids too much can really undermine trust. 


00:44:21    Alyssa

What I heard as a through line, through your answer was your self awareness and self regulation as a parent in the scenario to say, okay, what's coming up for me and is this is my concern right now that I might be feeling, is it actually curiosity? I want to know what's happening in their life or do I feel concerned for their safety? Because if we don't have that self awareness and then ability to regulate, then we don't have the self control to say I'm not going to check their text or peek in or whatever. But I think that that's really huge. There the noting of your and it happened in the doctor's office. And it happened with Ben of your ability to build awareness of what's happening for me. What is that reaction for me? Practice self regulation so that you can make a conscious choice, so that you can decide, is this a safety issue or is it that I just want more information because I'm curious and I want to feel involved and not feel like they're friend and whatever? 


00:45:24    Jess

Yeah, that's one reason that this all tends to fall apart in those emergency moments. Like the freak out moments where our Amygdala is really just in high alert and where we feel like the last time I had a panic attack was over something that happened with my kid. In that moment that my kid screwed something up, it was a different screw up from the other one. I talked about big screw up in the moment. It felt like, this has ruined everything. This is so embarrassing. I had to stop in a parking lot because I thought I was either going to pass out or throw up. In retrospect, this was nothing. It was such a nothing thing that has had no bearing on my child's life and success over the long run in that moment. And I was so freaked out that it was a full blown panic attack and I said inappropriate things to my kid because my Amygdala was blasting out all these signals that I need to react in this way. And I had to apologize after the fact, and we had to regroup and do some problem solving. And in the meantime, I through freaking out. I damaged our ability to have further discussions about how to do better next time and ways to strategize and come up with ways to not make this same mistake again. So, boy, your Amygdala is loud. Your limbic system, that area of your brain is loud because it's supposed to be. It's supposed to be what saves us and makes us run away from the saber toothed tiger. But it's where a lot of us are making our parenting decisions and it just can't be. I saw a really great talk. I was speaking at a conference in Abu Dhabi and I saw a really great talk about how to stop yelling at your kids. And it was so beautiful because so much of it was about I'm like, wait, I talk to kids about that all the time, about self regulation, about trying to pay attention to the upper part of your brain as opposed to the lower. And I'm like, all this stuff works for us as parents, too. It's ridiculous. And it was Hunter Clark Fields was the person doing this talk. And it was so beautiful because it was so full circle about we just, as humans, tend to really listen to that loud part of our brain that wants us to react as opposed to the upper part of our brain, which allows us to really think deeply and strategize about long term repercussions. Yeah, but it's so hard. 


00:48:10    Alyssa

So hard. I mean, the Collaborative Emotion Processing method is what a colleague and I co created, researched years ago. It's what our book is on. And it's five components. And one is Adult Child Interactions. The other four are about us. And it's the hard part, right? Like, man, it would be so nice to be this is a kid thing. And the reality is it's always an us thing first. Like I said, it's the three line I've heard from you this whole time is that in order to question what we grew up with, in order to do all these higher level things, we have to start with a baseline of self awareness and self regulation. So we access self control so that we can come at this from a regulated state. What does it look like for you in terms of allowing kids to be in those unsafe spaces? Like, could your kid go to a party? 


00:49:06    Jess

Yeah, so this is really great question. Now, a lot of the decisions that I make now, let's say five years ago, because whatever, my kids are older now, but let's pretend my kids are still in there the middle of the teenage years. So much of my decision making would be based on conversations we've been having over the past few years, which can be so frustrating because a lot of those conversations are difficult to have and yet they really work in a cumulative fashion. Like whether or not I can trust my kid to go to a party and make good decisions is not based on a conversation I have five minutes before they leave or because I said be careful, as they were on their way out the door. That's not how these things work. And know and safety comes down to not only they're making good decisions, but if they make bad decisions, being able to talk to me about those bad decisions after the fact or their understanding of how I'm going to react if they do make bad decisions and I find out about them. So I wish it was as easy as having some checklist of things that you do, like, here, sign this contract before you go out the door and everybody can feel good about this evening. But that's not how it works. And so I think a lot of this really we have to look at these cumulative conversations as Peggy Ornstein, who wrote Boys and Sex and Girls and Sex, two books that I love. The sex conversation is not one conversation. It's a thousand little conversations. And Drugs and Alcohol are not one conversation. It's a thousand little conversations that starts with the toothpaste and the prescription bottle and continue. I've got two kids out in the world now, one of legal age, one who's 19, and those conversations are still happening even though my kid is 24. We're still having those conversations because yes, about sex and about substance use, because that's just how our relationship has been designed since the beginning. And I think some people think, oh, my kids off in college now. There's no use in having these conversations anymore because they don't listen to me. And we know from research, from surveying kids at that age that they still look to us as good sources of information on their safety and on health. And the more reliable our information, the more fact based, the more evidence based our information, the more they will be likely to trust us. If I can turn to my kid and I can say, look, sweetie, I'm not telling you not to use drugs and alcohol because it's, "bad." I'm telling you not to use drugs and alcohol because the period from puberty till about 25 is the period of time when your brain is undergoing the most change of just about any other time in your lifetime. And it has to happen unimpeded. And a lot of the things that are medium to low risk in an adult brain are moderate to high risk in an adolescent brain. So over and over and over again, I'm saying when your brain is fully cooked out there, the decisions you make will be different, maybe different than the decisions that we need to make when your brain is still developing. And here's why and helping kids understand that I think we give kids and adolescents too little credit for being able to at least process that information and keep it somewhere back there in their filing system and working as pieces of those puzzles. So I can't promise there's no guarantee that my kids won't end up in trouble with drugs and alcohol. Like I said, they're genetically loaded for that, even if I've done every single thing perfect everything research and evidence based, however, that prevention stuff also acts as those pieces of the puzzle. So I got sober because my dad was the 100th piece of my puzzle at the time that I was ready to hear it after having had pieces one through 99 click into place when I wasn't ready. And I'm just hoping that all of this prevention stuff can act as pieces one through 50 maybe, so that my kid starts at piece 50 instead of starting at piece one. When it comes to, oh, my gosh, this substance use or whatever the thing is, is slipping out of my control and I think I might be in big trouble. So it does double duty, not just as prevention, but as those pieces of that puzzle of getting to recovery if they need to get there. 


00:53:45    Alyssa

Sure. I think it brings us full circle when I ask, what can we do early on? Because it's a cumulative conversation. It starts now. And you can start laying these foundations now so that when it is time for them to ask about going to the party, there's a foundation to work from and it's not the first time you're having a conversation or respect and trust. For me, as a parent of a two year old, I'm like that feels hopeful that it isn't just the conversation five minutes before they go out the door. It's what came before that, what foundation is laid. 


00:54:22    Jess

Well, and I would also like to say here's what also feels helpful to me when they screw up. Because, for example, in recovery, relapse is a big part of the picture, especially for younger people in recovery. I don't want to say it's expected that young people will relapse, but their brain's not done cooking and all that stuff. So I have a friend who I helped get in, get to the place where he knew he needed help only because I was there. Not like I had any control over his decision, but I was just willing to listen. And that person has relapsed a bunch of times now. And every single time they relapse, they text me and they say, I'm so embarrassed, I'm so humiliated, I relapsed. And I say, okay, well, what did you learn this time? Let's make this valuable so that you will be able to recognize the signs that you might be headed towards a relapse earlier next time. So whether it's a relapse, whether it's your kids growing up and making a bad decision, I'm still hopeful, I'm still optimistic that that information is a part of getting to where you need to be so that you can make better decisions as an adult. Adolescence is a time of pushing the boundaries and trying things that are novel and wanting to. There's all sorts of that's why I love writing about the adolescent brain so much is because it's so cool. I could talk about it for hours. But it's a time when all of these making mistakes is developmentally appropriate throughout childhood. So you better believe that we have right, exactly. So we have to be in a place where there has to be hope. There has to be the ability to look at that situation and say, okay, what did I learn from that? What am I going to repeat? Because it might work and what do I need to get rid of? Because it's definitely not working for me in this situation. And every single time that happens, that is hopeful, that is good, that is a benefit to your overall learning. And so when kids make mistakes, it's easier for me to say this about my students than about my own children, but every time kids make mistakes, it is a really important part of learning. It has to be. It has to be. 


00:56:37    Alyssa

And I think one of the most important parts of being in relationship, it's where it's easy. It's really easy to be in relationship with someone when it's easy, when it's good, whenever it's in a good mood, when they're not making mistakes, that's an easy thing to do. For the most part, it's when they make mistakes. It's when they do things that were out of your expectation or now you're feeling disappointed or whatever. That's where we really see like are we in relationship? Are we building trust? Are we operating from a place of respect or not? And I think we have a million opportunities all the time as parents to say like, yeah, I still respect you and I trust you and we can move through this together. 


00:57:20    Jess

I think we have to open our minds also about what showing love means. My kids now are being raised in two very different ways around drugs and alcohol. So my oldest kid pre writing The Addiction Inoculation was allowed to have sips, was allowed to have all kinds of stuff. I admit to in the book that I'm now horrified. But I have forgiveness for myself because I thought I was doing the best I could based on what I knew at the time researched Addiction Inoculation and now my younger kid is we have a blanket. No, not until your brain is done developing. For a lot of parents, I say you could say no, not until it's legal for you. But again, I think a better message is not until your brain is done developing because legal is about a blanket. 


00:58:12    Alyssa

Legal in America. Legal in Austria?


00:58:17    Jess

It's a blanket because I said so. And you should just respect it because if someone in authority said so until your brain is done develop and the bigger conversation is about till the brain is done developing. So this is a harder stance for me to take because it makes me exquisitely uncool. I am less likely to be my kid's friend, which frankly is not my job. So if my kid, if my daughter says, this is incredibly unfair, Ben got to drink, I don't get to drink. In fact, she brought a friend home from college and that friend wasn't allowed to have any champagne either because that kid's underage. But that kid comes from a country actually where the legal drinking age is. He is of legal drinking age in that country, which was interesting and she made a joke about it. But she also knows what I know because I've shared the information with her, the research that I did. She knows that the younger a kid drinks, the younger a kid is when they first try drugs and alcohol, the higher their lifelong level risk of having of developing substance use disorder is. And that I'm mostly interested in keeping her brain healthy and keeping her brain developing in a way that's supposed to. She knows that and she knows that if I were to do anything else, if I were to let her have sips, what I'm doing is defaulting to this is easier for me. It makes me more popular. It makes me more like your friend. But she would also know that I'm going against what I know the evidence to be. So. I'm saying, yeah, I know what is most effective in protecting you lifelong from substance use disorder, but this is easier for me. AKA, you're not worth it for me to take this stance that is harder for me. And we've had a lot of conversations around this. We've had conversations around, are you taking this stance because it makes you look good? And if it got out that I was allowed to have sips of alcohol at home, you would have less authority to do all of the speaking that you do? And she knows that that is 100% not 


01:00:27    Jess

the case, that my motivation is coming from a place of I love you, I'm your parent. And sometimes being your parent means I have to make difficult decisions based on the information that I have and the statistical evidence in my head. And it's hard to be a parent. But at the same time, I'm also role modeling for her, if she ever has her own children, that there are going to be decisions that she's going to have to make that are going to be difficult and yet in the best interest of her child. So I hope that all of this is about role modeling for our children and modeling what we want to see in them as humans, as parents, as growing, learning human beings. 


01:01:08    Alyssa

I love it, Jess, thanks so much for hanging out with me. Thanks for writing thanks for writing the book that you needed that so many of us need. The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence. Go snag it now, folks. Now. As in, don't wait until they're like, Can I go to the party? Go snag it now. Be prepared now and look at all the ways that we can lay these foundations right now and make it so that we have a foundation to pull from. 


01:01:40    Jess

There's scripts in there. Even the thing I found out from doing a lot of touring and speaking around Gift of Failure was people want scripts. 


01:01:50    Alyssa

Tell me what to say!


01:01:50    Jess

Exactly. And I hate the idea of putting words in other people's mouths because it feels so. 


01:01:58    Alyssa

I think it feels culturally irresponsible and it frustrates me that it's what people ask for the most. It is culturally relevant to me. The words that are coming out of my mouth are culturally relevant to me. And, yeah, that feels like irresponsible. And I understand, too. They're like, well, this is all I heard growing up, and I need a jumping off point for where to go next. Both of those make sense to me, and I find it hard. 


01:02:23    Jess

So what I did instead was I sort of said instead of saying X, you could say ABCDEFG and give a whole range of suggestions. But what was fascinating to me is just all I heard over and over again was, tell me what to say. Tell me what to say. And so there are lots of scripts in there, but actually, I have to say my favorite part of the book is when other teenagers gave me suggestions for things they could say at a party that would help them save face even if they didn't want to use. And that part of the book. Those two and a half pages, I think, are my favorite part of the book. And I didn't really write those because they were all ideas that came from other adolescents. Yeah, it's talking to kids and listening to kids is one of the greatest joys of my career. 


01:03:11    Alyssa

Thank you so much. Jessica, where can people follow you so. 


01:03:16    Jess

You can find everything at jessicalahey.com. But the videos that we've been talking about, the source for those, I put them up everywhere, but really, they're Instagram reels. I put them up as Instagram reels and posts on my Instagram, and they're 90 seconds long, and they come out almost every single day. Every once in a while, when I run out of content or something like that, I give myself a day off, but pretty much every day they come out. 


01:03:40    Alyssa

That's awesome. Thank you so much for hanging out with us. 


01:03:43    Jess

Im s grateful to you, for having so grateful for you to having me on. And I love talking to people who are in sort of a similar headspace around stuff. Oh, and by the way, I usually front end the conversation with this, but apologies for throwing the daughter stuff at you. I don't know if you know, but my daughter is trans. So usually at the beginning of the interview, especially someone who's familiar with my work, is like, wait a second, don't you have two sons? And then it throws a wrench into the whole interview. And I forgot to tell you at the beginning. 


01:04:19    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at voicesofyourvillage.com. Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at seed.and.sew. Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag seed.and.sew to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.


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