One of the biggest transitions a child can experience is a move away from family, friends, their school, and the life they knew…
For military families in particular, this is a challenge many are faced with over and over, so establishing strategies for supporting yourself and your children can be particularly vital.
Joining me today is military spouse and clinical psychologist Dr. Hannah Samaha. Together, we’ll share practical moving hacks for kids, creative ways to keep them connected with friends they leave behind, and highlight the importance of community for the health of children, parents, and the entire family system.
By the end of this episode, you’ll learn to embrace imperfection, practice self-compassion, and recognize that showing up for ourselves and our kids doesn’t always have to be perfect—it just has to be genuine!
Dr. Hannah (00:00):
It’s not all or nothing. This might not be the phase of my life where I’m exercising three times a week or going to yoga classes, but I can take a walk outside or I can just go put a blanket out with my kids and let them have a picnic to get some sunshine.
Dr. Sarah (00:25):
When families go through a big transition like moving to another country, it can be difficult for both children and parents to adjust. And having the bandwidth to support your child when you’re also going through a really big shift can feel daunting and overwhelming. For military families in particular, this is a challenge that many are faced with time and time again here today To offer support for parents going through a big move or any other major life shakeup is Dr. Hannah Samaha. Not only is she a military spouse herself with two young daughters who’s had to navigate a massive move to a new country, but Dr. Samaha also works as a psychologist offering support for military children along with support for all kinds of children in her clinical practice. So whether you are moving out of the country or just across state lines, this episode will provide you with practical moving hacks for kids, creative ways to keep them connected with friends they might be leaving behind. And highlight the importance of community for the health of children, parents, and the entire family system as a whole.
Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast, I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology, and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights. So you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.
Hello. We are joined today by Dr. Hannah Samsha, and she is coming to us from Okinawa, Japan. So it’s like 9:30 PM for you. It’s like 7:30 AM for me. This is amazing that we can do this. How are you doing?
Dr. Hannah (02:24):
I am good. I’m a little tired. This is like, I’m normally going to sleep right now, but we got this. I could talk about the move here all day long.
Dr. Sarah (02:36):
So getting an entire family to another country and working and working as a psychologist, no less, so that’s an emotionally taxing job, but there’s a lot of, I’m so curious how this journey has been for your family and for you professionally. Can you talk a little bit about how you ended up where you are?
Dr. Hannah (02:57):
Yes. So I am a military spouse. We are from Louisiana. My husband signed up with the military in medical school, so we had a very long time of not doing anything military related. And we were in New Orleans for five years for his residency and then expected we would go to San Diego or something and we’d get the orders for Okinawa, Japan. So we are here, which is crazy, but my daughter was nine months old, my younger daughter when we moved here. So I had finished fellowship and stopped working for a while knowing that we were going to be transitioning. So we moved here, two kids and two dogs, which is probably more difficult to get here than children if you know anything about moving animals overseas. And I became here. I got a job quickly at the Naval hospital, which was wonderful, but full-time work was very difficult with two young children, so decided to transition to working. So now I’m in private practice here doing telehealth, but also still working with military families at a clinic off base.
Dr. Sarah (04:21):
Wow, that’s so important work. So I’m assuming that you work with kids, right? Or do you work also with adults?
Dr. Hannah (04:32):
No, I have always worked only with children. I got my PhD in school psychology and then did a clinical fellowship working with children specifically from birth to six. So children, I have a specialty in birth to six, and I have two children that are under six. So that’s definitely an area that I love, but I work with kids of all ages and kind of variety in the individuals that I work with.
Dr. Sarah (05:01):
And so I’m curious working at a military base and working with military families, is that, are you working with kids who’ve done a lot of moves as well in your clinical practice?
Dr. Hannah (05:12):
Yes, working with kids who’ve done lots and lots of moves and probably know more about the military and the move experience than myself. So it’s interesting to see the kids who do great with that and really have adapted here. Some have lived here for quite a while because their parents extend for a while to keep them stable or maybe one of their parents is from Japan, so they try to stay here, but some kids have more difficulty. But overall, that wasn’t a big thing that I worked on with the families that I saw here because they had been here a little while and kids just really do adjust pretty well once they get over the transition period.
Dr. Sarah (06:04):
Yeah, yeah. I mean you have two young girls and obviously you’ve been in Okinawa for a little while, but how did they deal with the transition? What was it like? How old were they when you said one of your daughters was nine months old when you moved? How old was the other child?
Dr. Hannah (06:24):
Yes. My first daughter was nine months old and she was easy breezy, right? She didn’t really understand what was going on. She had us, all of her needs met, so she was really fine. The transition wasn’t difficult with her, but my other daughter was four and it was very, very challenging, way more than I could have anticipated even being a child psychologist.
Dr. Sarah (06:56):
And it’s like you never know. I think some people will, you have an idea that it’s going to be an adjustment or, I mean all transitions can have the potential to shake things up. I always say it’s shaking a snow globe and everything is floating for a little while before everything settles down. You don’t know how long it’s going to take a kid’s snow to settle because they’re so different. How did it show up for your daughter? What did you see that surprised you?
Dr. Hannah (07:29):
Yeah, so the transitioning signs for her were lots of meltdowns, lots of tantrums, little things that were never an issue before. I mean she was four by then. I feel like kids start to get easier, then you can reason with them more. They have a lot more cognitive skills and can talk about their feelings and their needs. And she just regressed emotionally I would say to where you could tell she just wasn’t. She was so out of control. Everything in her environment had changed. She had lived in the same house her entire life had been an hour away from all our family members her entire life. They could pick her up from school. So she had such stability for those four years and the loss of control was really difficult. And then we get here and there’s so much that you have to do for this move.
You get here and you don’t have cars, you don’t have a driver’s license, you don’t have a place to live, you don’t have a school for your kids. So as the caregivers, you’re so stressed out with all of these little details and then your kids are there feeling totally out of control and they don’t have those things that they’re used to either. So it was very difficult. It was difficult for a couple months. And that’s from just that I have kids of similar ages. It seems like it’s kind of a similar process that they go through for a few months of emotional regression with that loss of control and stability in their life.
Dr. Sarah (09:16):
Yeah, I mean you really paint a picture that I think even families who haven’t moved to another country can relate to. I’ve worked with a lot of people and it’s interesting because obviously if you’re moving to another country, it’s such a huge transition that it’s hard not to be able to see that and its potential impact if your daughter’s having all this regressive behavior. It’s not like you’re sitting there being, I wonder why it fits the picture. It makes sense, and I’m curious if you have this experience, but I do a lot where families will come to me and we’ll be kind of mapping out some huge change in their kids’ behavior and things are different and they don’t know why, and it’s like an hour into the conversation they’re like, well, we did just have a move, or we did just have another baby, or Dad just started doing a different job and he has to commute for an hour, two hours. He misses bedtime. Now, and I say this not to imply that families should know this, it’s not always obvious. I mean, you and I have a little bit more practice in noticing the patterns. We see it so often in the families that we work with, but I’m always like, ah, okay, so could it be that it might be a transitional issue? And so usually parents are like, there’s some relief in having kind of a, oh, there’s a reason that makes sense why my kid has been having these struggles.
Dr. Hannah (10:52):
Of course, I’ve seen the same in practice too of we talked for a while and then we mentioned the baby brother that is a month old or recently I was seeing a child and they started talking about their different houses, and I didn’t even realize that the parents were going through a divorce. I was like, okay, this makes sense. But I think even as a psychologist, I think sometimes it’s hard to see what’s going on in your own family or understand if it’s totally normal. So some of the best and most helpful conversations that I had when I got here were with people who were like, oh my God, the move is so tough. It is just so tough. And our kids were tantruming all the time and everything was so difficult. I think that really helped me to see that it really was the move and we really were going to be okay because they were okay. And I could see that they had gone through it and they were okay.
Dr. Sarah (11:57):
Which speaks to the power of a community if you were really isolated because of this move and didn’t have people to say, am I okay? Are we okay? Are you okay? Are we experiencing similar things? And just get that validation and that reassurance and that emotional support you might have come to different conclusions that may have not have been as accurate. You might have gone to more catastrophizing kind of thoughts of like, oh my, something’s really wrong. And yeah. How did you build community when you were going through this? You were talking about your kids transitioning, but you as a mom, what huge, you sort of touched on it a little bit of like, okay, I had all these pressures to find a school and driver’s license, and you must have been under so much pressure to keep things as stable as you can for your kids, but you’re still a person who’s going through a massive transition too.
Dr. Hannah (12:59):
Yeah. What’s it like for you? I think, yeah, that’s one of the hardest parts is that we know sort of why our kids, we might sort of know what’s going on with our kids, but when we’re not okay, it’s really hard for our kids to be okay and it’s really hard to be okay going through this. And I think that my expectations were just, I would look at all the beautiful Instagram counts of Okinawa and Okinawa is a beautiful island and there’s so many cool things about living in Japan. So I think I’m a pretty adventurous person. So I was excited. I got very excited and looking at all the ridiculous parks they have here and how cool the different groceries are. So I think managing expectations is sort of huge before you come here. And that’s something that I definitely did not do. I underestimated how stressful it would feel when we don’t even have our own house and we’re going into a grocery store and we can’t read any of the labels and we don’t know what to do with our groceries after we buy them because they just give them to us in a basket and there’s no bag and you have to buy the bag and it’s just a lot.
The military community is amazing, and that’s I think why people are able to survive these transitions, but also why a lot of the people stick with the military. And I think that overseas military communities are possibly even more tight-knit than others. So we initially wanted to live off base and live outside of the military community, but when we got here and everything was so difficult to navigate and we just decided let’s just live on base, we had friends who lived on base and just saw their kids running outside and playing and just having such a good community there that we decided this is going to make the transition easier for us. So the community is great. They assign everyone a sponsor before you come here. So we had a sponsor family who was wonderful and kept such close tabs on us before we moved here, and then picked us up from the airport and had groceries in our hotel room the night that we stayed there. So they were, I mean, extremely helpful, but not everyone has a sponsor that really kind of matches their family dynamic either. But community is huge. It’s just so easy to walk out of your door, and I literally have a playground right across the street from me so my daughter can run freely around, which is wonderful. So yeah, community has been huge and kind of taking care of yourself through the transition is very important.
Dr. Sarah (16:04):
Yeah. Tell me about that, because I imagine mean it’s so great that you have this kind of built in system of support that the military just, it evolves within that culture, which is really amazing that you guys had that experience of being so taken care of and ushered in because I could imagine it feeling very overwhelming to get somewhere and then be on your own having to figure it out. But I also imagine you left a lot of support from when you left the museum like family and friends as a mother having to imagine not being able to picture the, I mean you might’ve intellectually knew that there would be some systems set up when you got to Japan, but what was it like to leave?
Dr. Hannah (16:50):
Yeah, it was definitely very difficult to leave. I think for us, we were so focused on the details of, okay, this is the hotel we’re going to stay in when we get there. These are all the things we need to do. I mean, the military involves a lot of paperwork, so everything is a very long process. So our minds were very, very wrapped in on that. So I think when we left, it kind of hit us of we’re at the airport, we’re leaving, we’re telling our families bye. And I think it probably hit my daughter when we got here too, of talking about one of her friends from the neighborhood that she used to play with and really having to explain to her, we can’t play with her anymore right now.
We just live far away. But FaceTime is wonderful. I mean, one of the things when I was thinking about tips for if you are going to go through a transition is getting your kids used to FaceTime before because it can be a little weird when it’s like, okay, well now we only see someone on FaceTime that we used to see in person. And also having reasonable expectations of your kids might not always want to FaceTime, and that’s okay, we’re in a situation that’s not totally normal. But over the summer I took both girls by myself to Hawaii to meet up with my family while my husband was gone. And that was wonderful and it was hard to get there, but I was like, I’m just not going to overthink it. I’m just going to go and it’s going to be worth it. And it totally was. So trying to stay connected, but having reasonable expectations on our kids of they don’t want to always sit down and have a 20 minute conversation with grandma about what they did at school. They just maybe want to run around and grab the phone and show them the dog, and that’s okay.
Dr. Sarah (19:07):
Yeah, I think that’s a really good point of we have to remember how our kids communicate and what’s developmentally appropriate for a young kid for a 4-year-old isn’t going to not want to do a 20 minute FaceTime. We could do with our parents. But also I’m thinking one of the things, and I really would love any other ideas you have on kind of move hacks for families. One thing I remember having one of the kids that I was working with that was doing a move because she was little, I think she was three or four or no, I think she was six, and the idea that she had these friends that she wanted to stay connected with, but it’s not really easy to get another 6-year-old to hold you in mind when their world hasn’t changed. So you have these kids who are getting separated from friends who the kid who’s moving their life is getting very, very different, but the kids who they’re leaving, it’s the rest of the world, just the vacuum just kind of gets filled. And so one of the things that we had this kid do is the parents facilitated this.
So a parent would talk to the parent and say, can you help facilitate this? But she basically, the mom made self-addressed envelopes and gave it to her friend’s family so that the friend could very easily send her pictures or they come home from school with all this art that they make and parents are like, I don’t know what to do with it. What am I supposed to keep?
Dr. Hannah (21:03):
That’s very true.
Dr. Sarah (21:03):
Stuff it in the envelopes and send it off because kids don’t at this, it’s not going to be like pen pals, but they’re also not on phones. They’re not on phones yet either don’t, there’s kind of a black hole of communication skills for these young kids who are moving, but they want to hold these friends in mind. And so I don’t know, I thought that was something that could be perhaps a useful thing for young kids moving to be able to have this almost like old school pen pal situation where they don’t actually have to write letters because most of them can’t do that yet, but just…
Dr. Hannah (21:43):
Draw little pictures.
Dr. Sarah (21:45):
And nothing is better than getting mail when you’re a little kid that is addressed to you real snail mail. Oh yes. Yeah, my parents send my kids Halloween cards and Valentine’s Day cards and they always get so excited when they have, they’re like, it’s for me, the mail is for me. It says my name on it?
Dr. Hannah (22:07):
Dr. Sarah (22:10):
So it’s a little extra legwork, but I do think it could be kind of awesome when you have a kid who’s moving to be able to receive and send stuff from the people who aren’t leaving.
Dr. Hannah (22:24):
For sure. We definitely send boxes home regularly. And USPS thankfully is our address is technically a US address, so it’s really not hard to send boxes or expensive, so it’s fun. We’ll just buy silly Japanese snacks or Kit Kats are really big here. They have 8 million flavors of kit. We’ll pick a flavor of Kit Kat and she’ll draw stuff. We don’t have a set plan in place, but her grandparents send her boxes a lot and they’ll include drawings from her cousins. She’s been probably more creative about, she’s five now about figuring out kind of things to do with kids because like you say, they don’t want to sit down and they totally have a conversation on FaceTime. So one time she and her friend, she was like, let’s play Floor is Lava. And the moms held the phone, we held the phones for them and they started playing floss lava in their living room. She’s played hide and seek before where my 2-year-old will go and hide and she’ll have the phone and be like, okay, where do you want to look next? So she’s been very creative and I have to give her all the credit for that of finding ways to connect that are child-friendly and fun for her.
Dr. Sarah (23:50):
And I feel like people had to get creative even in Covid when we were all in lockdown. Because it was obviously not the same thing as a move, but the ability to communicate in person was also limited. So we had to get, I remember my parents would read books to my kids on the iPad. My parents were pretty good about being like, I don’t have any expectation of you sitting for this. I’m just going to be here reading you come you go, you come, you go. It was just me showing up. And so yeah, I think helping other family have realistic expectation too. They’re not used to little kids day-to-day communication skills. They might think like, well, why won’t you? It could feel like, oh man, I feel rejected that you won’t sit with me, or I feel frustrated mom that you’re not making the child sit with me because they want that connection too, but helping extended family have a primer on, Hey, this is what they can do. So just managing your expectations.
Dr. Hannah (25:06):
So much is expectations. And I think too, just having the expectation that we are not going to be as connected to our family in the states right now. It’s just impossible. I mean, the time difference is obviously a very big, so we can basically only talk in the mornings here and in the mornings here most days we’re getting ready to go to school and don’t have a lot of extra time, so it’s realistically limited to weekend mornings for the FaceTime calls, and then we want to do stuff on a weekend, so, so just having the realistic expectation of how our relationship is not going to be quite the same. But thankfully our orders here were only two years, so it’s already been a little bit more than a year, so it’s a little bit amount of time. I want to make sure that they still know all of these people and feel comfortable with them for when these relationships can be more in person, but it’s just not going to be exactly the same. And that’s just kind of the stage we’re in right now. And that’s okay.
Dr. Sarah (26:13):
Yeah, it sounds like it also helps on some level to, in the case where it’s a temporary to just sort of accept that, hey, this is temporary and it’s going to be what it is right now, and I’m not going to necessarily try to break my back fighting against that. There’s a level of acceptance and which probably is perhaps hard for some families because acceptance is challenging. But it sounds like for you guys that’s been really helpful.
Dr. Hannah (26:43):
The timeline is definitely helpful, but other families are here for a lot longer, and honestly, most people would get orders here for three years, which is a third longer than two years. So maybe people kind of have different levels that they have to take of how much we’re going to push this. Right. And I think if we were going to be here longer, it would be more important.
Dr. Sarah (27:14):
I also think the age of your kids, if you’re a military family and you have kids, it sounds like your kids are still kind of in this window of time where you are still their whole world.
I think it gets harder when kids get a little bit older and they start developing relationships outside of the nuclear family and then those separations become potentially pretty painful. Not that we can’t be resilient and we can’t figure it out. Kids are, like you said, so resilient and they really are very creative in how they can maintain relationships. But I imagine 12 year olds, 15 year olds, 17 year olds when they’ve been somewhere for a few years, developed some relationships and then have to go. That could be really hard. Do you see that in the work you do with military families?
Dr. Hannah (28:06):
Definitely, yeah. I mean, as kids get older, they just form relationships that are more so outside of their parents and their parents become a lot less central to them, as you say. So it is definitely more of a struggle for these children and not only the ones who are here for a brief amount of time, but for the children who are here for longer, it’s like every year they lose a set of friends. So that’s really hard too. If they go to the school with all the military children, then maybe they’re staying, but everyone else is going. So it’s definitely more challenging I think for the older kids who have had more settled relationships or those relationships like you say, are just more central when you’re a little older.
Dr. Sarah (28:56):
What are the, like, working with military families and having insight as one yourself, but also you are working with kids who are really living this out regularly. What do you feel like is unique to military families? What insights have you gained over the years in working with this population that sets them apart and is unique to them? As far as mental health challenges, I’m not even talking about trauma of PTSD kind of level, but just being a family member who has to go through what military families often have to go through, which is a lot of separation.
Dr. Hannah (29:40):
So I’ve seen a lot of the resilience of we just move different places and that’s our life and some acceptance of that, which is really cool to see of these kids. I’ve seen some really great relationships of kids who are 12 to 14 or even older with their parents that sometimes that relationship does seem maybe a little bit harder when kids are more settled somewhere. So I don’t know if just moving with your family a lot and that having to be more central to you does help these relationships in a way. Also, a lot of times, whoever is the active duty military member leaves for periods of time. So that’s very difficult on these families that either mom or dad is going to go away for however long it is. I think people with different jobs leave for different periods of time, but if you’re in the military, you’re expected to be gone for periods of time throughout the year, whether that’s weeks at a time or nine months out of the year you’re deployed.
So these kids do form really close relationships with their parents. And I think sometimes it’s really cool to see the kids be so excited when their parents are coming back in those close relationships. But I’ve seen a lot of that of 13 year olds who you wouldn’t think are so thrilled about a parent coming back and that relationship, but it’s really cool to see that that’s going to be home Friday, and we keep tabs on that. I’m like, did he come home yet? Did the day come? So that’s something really cool with them. But you mentioned trauma, and that I think is a big part of the mental health challenges that these families face too, is that a lot of the children that I work with, their parents have diagnosed mental health conditions. Some of that PTSD is possibly related to their military service, so that makes things more challenging for these families and for these children.
Dr. Sarah (31:55):
How do you support that in your work? What are some of the ways that you are thinking about kids that you’re working with in the context of the bigger family system and the health of that family system?
Dr. Hannah (32:08):
Yeah, it’s something I think as child psychologists, you’re probably used to this too, of we kind of are going to notice the parent’s mental health and know that that is going to be a big factor in how our kid is functioning. So it’s something that I’ve talked openly with so many parents about how are you doing? How are you coping with maybe your husband being gone for a while and having those conversations before the child is with us, to get a gauge on what is the household looking like right now? What’s the climate? And that people are a lot of times want to be so focused on the child and they say, okay, I’m not okay right now, but we’re focusing. I have to get my child help before I can get help. So having very open conversations with parents about how them getting help for themself really is helping their child and making it attainable for them of maybe they can’t imagine possibly doing child therapy and therapy for themself at the same time, but you’re coming to see me every week, maybe I could see him every other week, and you could see someone every week, every other week for yourself.
So just trying to work flexibly with these families and understanding that we all have a capacity for what we can handle at one time. So really trying to prioritize what would best serve the child and the family, even if that’s more of the parents getting help for themselves as well.
Dr. Sarah (33:48):
Yeah, I think that’s so important. I always say, I guess people want to, a lot of parents whose kids have challenges very understandably will do anything to support that child. And so I guess it’s not surprising at all to me, sadly, but I see it a lot that the parents just put their own mental health at the very bottom of the list. And it’s kind of like the challenge of parenthood in so many ways. Even when we’re not even talking about necessarily mental health. We usually put our needs at the bottom of the list, and your know…
Dr. Hannah (34:28):
Dr. Sarah (34:29):
Out of love for our kids, but to your point, that love for our kids, that causes us to put ourselves last may unintentionally be making it harder for our kids to do well, it’s paradox. And it’s so interesting that it’s, I think when parents can finally see that connection, when you can help them sort of see the connection between their wellness and their child’s wellness, that it’s like this light bulb goes off, this permission to take care of themselves is so powerful.
Dr. Hannah (35:12):
And I think working with kids who are really young, a lot, most work and intervention comes from working with the parents. Not to say that their parenting isn’t good, but we need them to be the interventionists at home. So we’re asking them to go above and beyond normal parenting. And so if we’re not at a place that we’re mentally well as the parent, it’s very difficult to add these extra strategies that the therapist wants you to do with their child because their role is just so important in child mental health.
Dr. Sarah (35:49):
I mean the family system, you can’t treat a child in a silo because they’re so interconnected. I always kind of describe the family as like, it’s like a spider web. You pull one thread, the whole thing moves. We’re all connected. We can’t isolate a member of the family, especially one of a child in that family from the entire system. They’re too connected. And so I strongly believe that even when I’m working exclusively with a kid, I’m never working exclusively with a kid. Even if I’m only seeing that child, I’m still working with the whole family. I want the parents to be very involved in that work because like you said, they’re with them so much more than I am, so they need to know what we’re doing and they need to be a part of the interventions because, and the kids trust them more than anyone. So the impact is greater. I might do something with a kid, but it might not land like it would if a parent did it.
Dr. Hannah (37:00):
Yeah, exactly. And I think something that I probably, I can’t keep tabs on what families is, what mental capacity doesn’t seem like they’re at. And there’s times where we’re just not at our best, so we might not have a diagnosed mental health condition, but if we’re going through just a regular life stressor, we may not be at our best. And just telling a parent straightforward, this is exactly what you need to do, might not come off the best. But if I sit at the table with their child and just really hardcore model some things that I want them to do and then just talk to them about, okay, this is kind of what I was trying to do there. I think sometimes that can even be as or more impactful then directly saying, go home and do this with your child.
Dr. Sarah (37:51):
If you feel whether you’re conscious of it or not, if you feel overburdened as a parent, if you’re just fried getting homework from a therapist to go and do something, it’s hard, more, it’s hard, and it’s just more of the load. We’re probably feeling really burnt out, adding more to do. And so many parents, no matter how carefully we might prescribe this gently, are going to go to the place of, oh man, I’m failing. I’m supposed to be doing this. It means I’m not doing it right. And it’s so hard. It’s so hard, to your point, to help a parent see something they could do differently without feeling like they caused the problem. And it’s totally true. It’s totally true that you could be part of a solution and not necessarily be the cause of the problem. But when it comes to mental health and behavior stuff, a lot of times we take that and we hold ourselves responsible if we really do hold ourselves to a very unfairly high degree of responsibility as parents, if something is wrong, it’s got to be our fault.
Dr. Hannah (39:12):
Exactly. It’s just the most personal relationship between the caregiver and the child. And it’s like you want to almost come to the defense of what you’re doing because you want to show and want the therapist to see how much you love your child, but as the therapist, I always have the assumption that the parents have the best interest for the child, and I’ve not seen a family yet that has proven otherwise. So that’s kind of always the assumption that I’m working with. And I think letting parents see that that’s how you feel and feeling non judged is so important. And going back to the modeling is we can tell someone do this and it will work, but if we’re sitting with a child and really showing off some good skills that we need them to do, and they see their child, the way their child is responding, the way their child is just kind of sitting and doing behaviorally what they’re expected to do, maybe because we told them this is what you’re expected to do and make things really fun, then if they see, oh, that’s my child’s really behaving well, when she does that, then that’s going to be really like, okay, maybe there’s something to this.
Dr. Sarah (40:33):
Yeah. Yeah, I think modeling is so critical, and I think nothing teaching and showing rather than telling is everything. And I think that’s a really useful strategy in general for therapists to do for parents and for parents to do with kids. You can translate the same thing if a parent wants a child to do something, telling them to do it versus showing them how to do it. If I want you to speak respectfully, I got to show you what that looks like by speaking respectfully to you. And it’s such an easier way to show kids how to live these skills and how to integrate them.
But yeah, no, and I also think, I always feel like it’s so important to be like it’s, as a therapist when I’m at work doing my job with a kid who’s probably got it pulled together more with me, it’s not personal. It’s not triggering for me when a kid in my practice loses it because I’m not their parent. I’m able to, I can access my prefrontal cortex, I can access my toolbox so much more easily when I’m, it’s my kid and I’m home with my own kids, even though I teach parents strategies for staying calm when their kids are losing it, I lose it with my kids. It’s so much more personal. And I just feel like it’s so important for parents to recognize that when a therapist is able to do it so seamlessly in the session and they’re modeling it and you’re like, oh my God, I just would be so flooded at this. It’s like, we are too with our kids because when it’s your kid…
Dr. Hannah (42:23):
Dr. Sarah (42:24):
When it’s personal, it’s harder. It’s like, it’s just so harder. I just feel like it’s important to just be like, you’re never going to get it right all the time. You’re just not supposed to be able to get it right all the time.
Dr. Hannah (42:36):
No, and sometimes the transition here was a perfect example of that, of I totally lost it on her many times, even though I know what I should do, and I know I should keep my cool and model for her, I lose it too sometimes. And if you’re going to go through a giant move, your kids are going to lose it sometimes, and you’re probably going to lose it sometimes too, and it’s not the best, but it’s okay and it’s normal and it’s a phase and you’ll get through it. But I think being a psychologist, it almost makes it sometimes feel more frustrating when my kid does lose it. I’m like, oh God, I hope no one here knows how much child psychologist. I know. No, we feel it. We feel the frustrations with our own kids.
Dr. Sarah (43:29):
True. And it’s so funny. Yeah. I remember once I was at my kids’ swim lesson and this woman, it was one of the first times anyone had recognized me from the podcast and was like, oh, I listened to your podcast. And I was like, that’s so amazing. And I felt so good that I was like, oh. And then I was in the back of my head, I was like, oh, crap. Now I got to be on my, I can’t lose it with my kids in the locker room. I got to be perfect parenting over here. Which then I had to check and be like, no, I don’t because I can’t. And I think to your point, whether you are a professional person who works with kids or not, parenting is, it’s a hard job and it is an absolute act of self-compassion and giving ourselves grace. And especially if you add onto that a massive move or any other big stressor, I imagine you probably had to really get into that practice of giving yourself grace because it’s hard.
Dr. Hannah (44:45):
And giving yourself grace sort of in all things. You are not going to be your best self as a human being going through a massive transition. So I think one of the things I was thinking about in the transition was just like, it’s not all or nothing. You can go off on your kid in public, but then you can calm down and you can accept it and you can decide, okay, now we’re going to go do this. And this is something that I enjoy doing with my child, they enjoy doing. I have the capacity for it right now. Or this might not be the phase of my life where I’m exercising three times a week or going to yoga classes, but I can take a walk outside or I can just go put a blanket out with my kids and let them have a picnic to get some sunshine so it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Because I think sometimes it’s easy to just sort of be like, well, this ideal that I have, it’s just unattainable right now. Right? I’m not going to be my best self in whatever area it is parenting anything. But there are little things that we can do that still are going to make a big difference, even if we’re not achieving our highest self-actualization because we have to meet all of our basic needs first.
Dr. Sarah (46:13):
Yeah. No, I think that’s such an empowering message that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be messy. We can still show up for ourselves and our kids in little ways, even when we can’t always feel like we’re doing it the way we wish we could, and that’s okay. That’s really okay. And so I think that’s a great message for parents anywhere. And if you do have any, I’m wondering if there are any closing thoughts you have for parents of kids that are in this sort of military family world where they’re having to move a lot or feeling maybe isolated from family back home, maybe they’re not feeling like they’ve always got their best self having access to that. What would you say to those families right now?
Dr. Hannah (47:08):
I would say that’s a very hard question. I would say to those families, I have worked with plenty of you guys and you are all rock stars because the power and the strength of these families and these individuals, I mean, I had no idea what military families went through before going through this transition and now being here, and I am a very newbie in the military world, but they’re really killing it and have so many stressors in life that before I was in this world, just never thought about or imagined. When you think of military families, it’s just hard to fathom everything they go through for all of these moves and transitions and changing absolutely. Basically every aspect of your life, whether you’re moving across the country or moving across the world. So the challenges are very, they’re very real. They’re very hard. But the families, I think as they go through more moves, it seems like they really get stronger in this, which is amazing.
And I feel like I’ve just kind of gotten this attitude more from being in this of like, we’re just going to do it right now. Travel is so normalized within the military community here, which is just so cool. You pack up your kids and you just fly different places in Japan or elsewhere, and you don’t give that much thought to, what if I don’t have the right airplane blow up, or what if we have a tantrum on the plane? It’s like, oh, we have been through that. It makes I think the other stressors of life like, oh, I got that.
Dr. Sarah (49:16):
Yeah. It sounds like a really confident and resilient group of people.
Dr. Hannah (49:21):
It is. It is.
Dr. Sarah (49:24):
That’s amazing. Well, thank you so much for coming on and sharing these amazing stories with us about your life and just pulling back a little bit of the curtain behind what it’s like to be a military family, because it’s not stories that we get to hear that much about. So I’m really grateful that you came on to share this.
Dr. Hannah (49:44):
Thank you so much for having me.
Dr. Sarah (49:46):
Yeah, go get some sleep and I’m going to go get my kids off to school. If people want to learn more about your work, more about your private practice, if they want to follow you on Instagram, how can people learn more about your work and finding?
Dr. Hannah (50:03):
Dr. Sarah (50:18):
Amazing. Thank you so much for coming on. This was awesome.
Dr. Hannah (50:21):
Thank you. Bye.
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