Podcast: Talia Kovacs: Building Resilience in Our Kids

More and more, our kids are anxious, afraid to make mistakes, and deeply shame-filled when they do. Our kids are refusing to try, and shutting down when things feel hard.

What’s a parent to do?

I’m pleased to host fellow Chief and resiliency specialist Talia Kovacs to the podcast to discuss her work and her Resilience Building Framework.

TRANSCRIPT

Talia Kovacs: 

If you’re caring for yourself, and you tell your own stories of resilience, and you show your kids how much you delight in them, and you give yourself time to, you know,freely play and freely, you know, explore your hobbies and make time for the things that you love. Your kids pick up on that and they see you as someone who can tackle hard things who doesn’t fall apart when a small bad thing happens, and they learn from that.

Sheila Akbar: 

Welcome back,everybody, I hope summer is going well. Today I’ve got a really wonderful guest, an old friend, Talia Kovacs, she and I met a little more than a year ago and connected immediately around the work that she does.Not only is this something I need in my life, just as a human, and as a mom and a business leader. But also, what I’ve learned from her had so much impact on how I think about guiding teenagers towards success, how I think about supporting the parents of those teenagers, and how the educators here at Signet approach issues of resilience when it comes to academics. So as you’ll hear,Talia is a resilience coach, and works with parents to raise resilient kids. Some of the things the sort of nuggets of wisdom and insight that she offers are really profound,beautiful truths. And so I’m excited to have you listen to what she has to offer. Take a listen. Talia, thank you so much for joining us today. You really are one of my favorite people to talk to, I learned so much from you. And I have so much respect for and admiration for what you do and your journey that that has brought you to this work. So can we start there a little bit?What do you do? And how did you start doing it?

Talia Kovacs: 

Oh, gosh, yeah,I’m so happy to be here and right back at you. So I am a children’s resilience coach, I support parents in raising resilient kids. And I got here really through my own journey. I mean, I was I was a classroom teacher, and a literacy coach.And I ran a company for many years that supported teachers in teaching social emotional based literacy. So I ran around the country to 1000s of schools,went into classrooms to make sure that kids were feeling supported and seen and heard.And my absolute favorite kids were the kids who really had some of the bigger behaviors that were called out in the classroom, and really big perfectionistic tendencies. And I started to really study those kids. At the same time, I was going through a lot of stuff in my personal life. Over the course of a few years, my mom died and my mother in law died and my grandmother died. And I lost three pregnancies. And I found myself one day, like lying in my living room floor,surrounded by a day’s worth of takeout containers, just totally knocked down and wondering, how do some people get up and like make themselves Okay, again, and some people just stay down and I was down, I was one of those staying down, I was like, I can’t, I don’t understand even how I get back to my normal life after this. And I started to really study resilience as a concept as a research topic. And I read everything, all of the longitudinal research studies,all of the, you know, kind of memoirs or the shorter, you know, smaller studies, and I started to really apply those concepts in my own life. And I started to support the parents and the kids that I work with and applying those concepts to so I came up with this resilience framework and this program that I run for parents,really out of my own research and my own trial and error and having something terrible happen and figuring out how to get back to knowing that I can handle it.

Sheila Akbar: 

That’s so wonderful. And that little bit you just said there knowing that you can handle it is something since I learned it from you is something that I use with so many people now that the world is an uncertain place, but our anxiety comes from not trusting that we can handle it.

Talia Kovacs: 

Yes. Yes. It’s not just not knowing what’s gonna happen. It’s not knowing if you could take it on.

Sheila Akbar: 

Right. I also think there’s something so beautiful about that. I sent it to a mom the other day, and she was like, yeah, that That’s such an interesting way to think about it because, well, I’ve spent so much time thinking about what could happen, all of the what ifs. And now if I can match my experiences, my skills,other people that I could bring in to help me for each of those scenarios, well, of course,we’ll handle like nine out of 10of them, right? And that just like really brought her down,brought her back down to earth,and she just felt like, a little more confident in rolling with the punches, whatever is gonna happen. So thank you for that. I think it’s such a great concept.So you mentioned that you work with children, they’re typically younger, right? School age,elementary school age, right?

Talia Kovacs: 

Yeah, elementary and middle. Yeah.

Sheila Akbar: 

Middle School.Yeah. And obviously, my work is mostly with teenagers. But I think immediately as we first met, we realized there were residences and things that applied to each other’s sort of audiences that we had in common.And at Signet, we had you come in to do a resilience training for our staff, with the idea that they would learn how to encourage resilience in their students. But since then, and this was last January, since then, so many of my staff members have told me how the material you presented, the workshop you took us through,has actually helped them build resilience in their own lives.So it’s just wonderful. And I’ve certainly felt that in my life,as well. And I’m curious,obviously, there’s like a slightly different delivery,when you’re saying, here’s how you build resilience in your life versus here’s how you build resilience in your child’s life.But I’m so curious what you’re seeing in terms of kind of those downstream effects of doing this work for parents targeting, you know, resilience in their children’s, what else happens in that family system? When you work with people?

Talia Kovacs: 

Yeah, I’d love that you use the concept of a family system, because I think that a lot of parent child interaction is focused around one parent and one kid, say this thing to your kid and have them be okay. But a family is a system, there’s multiple relationships happening at any time. And you want to make sure that everyone feels okay. And so, the work that I do is for parents, it’s a Parent Program,and it teaches them you know,certain concepts so that they can kind of take it home, and work with their kids on it. And what I see over and over again,is parents telling me, I’m so much calmer, I feel so much better. I feel like I can kind of tackle some of these things.And one, eight year olds, after a few weeks of working with her parents, she came up to the zoom that we were on, and she was like, I don’t know what you’ve been doing with my mom. But she looks great. That’s amazing.

Sheila Akbar: 

I want to hear that from my kid.

Talia Kovacs: 

Really, the work is, is yes, it’s for your kids.But resilience is it’s earned.And it’s not something that you can teach. So it’s not something for you know, parents to go home and give this like beautiful lesson to their kids. It’s something that day in and day out. If you’re caring for yourself, and you tell your own stories of resilience, and you show your kids how much you delight in them. And you give yourself time to, you know,freely play and freely, you know, explore your hobbies and make time for the things that you love. Your kids pick up on that. And they see you as someone who can tackle hard things who doesn’t fall apart when a small bad thing happens.And they learn from that. And they’re learning from the experience of I mean, the one of the biggest takeaways from my course I hear over and over again, is I just leave my kid alone more, you know, kind of let them be more. And kids being left to their own devices,allows them to have something go wrong and figure out a way to fix it because they look up and no one’s around. So they have to be the one to figure out how to fix it, or they decide to put it down and come back to it later,which is its own resilience skill. So I see a lot of parents caring for themselves and kids developing the ability to care for themselves, too.

Sheila Akbar: 

And it’s so clear that this is not just for little kids. Yes. Right. I mean,parents of any age child, even adult children could use some lessons around this. So it’s almost like you’re sort of sneakily teaching a parent to be more resilient, and then they’re leading by example.

Talia Kovacs: 

Well, you’ve found my secret plan. It is a little bit like that. I think that parenting now is harder than it’s ever been. There was that thing and then There are times that came out that was working mom in 2023 spends more hours a week with her child than a stay at home mom in 1973 did. So there’s just much more expected of us right now, as parents, and I think that some of those things, you know, great, we know more about social emotional health, we know that we can be there for our kids, that’s all wonderful. I think that there are parts of it that are to our detriment, there are parts of this expectation of caring for your kid to the point where you know, when they feel frustrated,you sort of take it on or try to take it away. Or just this idea,we’re in a massive experiment right now of what happens when young people and this very much includes teenagers are looked at all day, like, I don’t know about you, but like, when I’m cooking in the kitchen, and my husband, like can see me I’m a little bit more nervous, because I know, see me, you know, and,and right now we don’t,especially little kids, but also big kids, they don’t really have time alone, with no one looking at that they may go to soccer,but the soccer coach is watching them. And they may, you know,kind of come home and play on the iPad, but they’re in the living room and someone can see them. It’s like, make sure you’re somewhere where I can see you and, and I think that that causes this underlying level of nervousness. And the other thing is when something goes wrong,you look up and there’s someone to help you. So there’s not this learned idea of being able to handle it for yourself, because every time a kid looks up,there’s someone right there who can help them with something,and who wants to help them.

Sheila Akbar: 

Yeah. And I want to come back to the LinkedIn posts you made recently. I am how I am seen, I might be butchering that quote. But that’s very interesting. I’m also curious how much of those kind of parenting instincts that we have now to like, always be there always help try to make it easier comes from how, you know,my Gen X generation was raised where our parents really did leave us alone, and left us to figure stuff out.

Talia Kovacs: 

Yeah, I mean, I think that your point about who our parents were versus who we are, is really, it’s really important, every generation parents in response to you know what they got before. But right now, if you can picture, you know, a continuum of like,really disconnected parents, you know, all along to like the most kind of connected really emotionally intuitive parent,we’re moving to emotional intuition. And that’s great. And what comes from that, though,is, you know, if we see another axis, you know, our kids being really needing us or being really independent. I think that we can get our kids to this level of independence and keep our emotional connection. And that’s really my goal for folks is, don’t get rid of all of your beautiful emotional intuition that you worked so hard to build and you know, spent years in therapy talking about, like,when your parents weren’t there for you, and how much you want to be there for your kids. Like,that’s the fall, keep it? But how can we use that at the same time to give our kids and ourselves some space, and part of it is just what you said, I want to feel like a good mom.And I think that for kids and for really, really, really for teenagers, because there’s so such limited influence that we can have with teenagers, we want to really be there for them. And teenage mistakes can be so big and dangerous. You know, it’s much clearer than, you know, a seven or eight year old. And so,really thinking about what will happen? What are the stakes, if I let them make that mistake?Does this really matter to me,or am I hearing someone else’s voice in my head? You know, in my program, we talked about something called Legacy values,which is like, it doesn’t actually matter to me that you come to dinner with a clean shirt on, you know, that you like change out of your dirty clothes from dinner that really mattered to my dad, I’m hearing my dad’s voice in my head, you know, or it actually really does bother me. And so you do need to change your shirt. So which of those is true allows us to be pickier with what we pick at.And it gives our kids some space to figure out things for themselves in the process.

Sheila Akbar: 

Yeah, that’s so great. I was talking to another parent coach once who told me her secret was to just choose her battles. You know, there there are things that were it’s like, it really doesn’t matter if you are wearing two different shoes to school. That’s fine. As long as you’re not going to hurt yourself by tripping like, why why do I care? Why do I want to make this a bigger battle than it needs to be? And that helped me just let a lot of things go and I think your point that the mistakes that teenagers can make can have higher stakes you They’re like, physically, to their health to the mental health, and then to their academics, obviously, is a place that I really focus on. So do you have a framework that helps people think through? Well, what really are the stakes? Or what am I afraid of the stakes being?

Talia Kovacs: 

Yeah, I mean, I think for for parents of teenagers, especially, there aren’t actually that many ways for us to get involved. And a lot of parents of teenagers are like, Am I too late? You know,like, Am I too late to build up my kids resilience? And, look, I mean, they may be 1314 18, but they’re not 40, you’re going to know them for the whole rest of your life, God willing, so why not keep trying when I keep working with them. But because your parenting is limited, or because your influence is a little bit more limited than it used to be? It can be really helpful, just as you’re saying,to figure out what are the long term implications of you doing or not doing this, like what might happen and really play it out? And what might happen if you don’t turn in this essay,like I’ve been bugging you about this essay all week, it’s now due tomorrow, you haven’t done it on mad that you haven’t done it, or now that I’ve been bugging you, and you don’t seem to care at all. So what are we doing here? And I do want to allow parents almost like what you were saying, Sheila, at the beginning with that mom that you were talking to? I do want to allow parents to take that to the worst case conclusion? And really think about, okay, are they going to fail that class?And what happens? If they do fail? Is there going to be a makeup is, are they gonna be able to take it over the summer?Do they have to take it next year? Are they going to fail out of high school? If if they don’t do this? Are they not going to graduate? Is the school really pushing their graduation rates?So even if I think they’re not going to graduate? Is the school going to do absolutely everything they can to make sure my kid graduates, you know, in a way that has nothing to do with me and my kid? And so really taking this to the logical conclusion? And if the answer is just, the teacher is going to be mad, and they may get a worse grade, maybe we let that happen and see what the consequences are. And if it’s, no, my kid won’t graduate, and I absolutely need them to graduate, then maybe you get a teacher involved, maybe. But I really think that if our teenagers want so badly to be treated like adults, and adults have just natural consequences, like something happens, and then you deal with the fallout, I really think that the more we can come back to, I’m going to be here for you for the consequence,rather than I’m going to try to prevent this consequence.

Sheila Akbar: 

Yeah, that’s so valuable. I think a lot of the times the parents that I’m talking to are trying to avoid the consequence, right. But sometimes those consequences are the learning moment, right?That’s where you realize, oh,this student needs some other kind of support. Or they learn,oh, I don’t like the way this feels. I’m gonna do something different next time, or I’m willing to accept help now where I wasn’t before. Yes. And

Talia Kovacs: 

that is exactly what builds resilience. You can’t talk your kid into resilience. You can give them opportunities to learn and see the consequences. See what happens if they try x and y. And what am I going to do next? And what am I going to do next is the question that allows you to show yourself to yourself and see what you’re made of.

Sheila Akbar: 

Right, right. So to go back to your LinkedIn post, the I Am, as I am seen,tell us more about that idea.

Talia Kovacs: 

For all of us. I’m sure everyone listening has a version of this someone someone came up to me the other day, I drew a diagram in a class that I was teaching, I am not an artist, and someone was like,Oh, well, you know, you’re really good at drawing. And immediately what I wanted to say was, No, I’m not going to do it.My sister is an artist. I’m not the artist, my sister is. And that’s because I mean, my parents were wonderful to me.And that’s because my sister at home growing up was the artist and I was not I was the writer and that was how it was. And so I still have that voice. So I am as I am seen is not just for kids, though it is very much for kids. But whoever we tell our kids they are is who they will be. And so if we continuously are looking at our kids like oh my God and I work with parents who say there’s no shame in feeling this way, you know, our feelings are always okay, but oh my god, they’re so lazy. How did they get this way? I wish that they would just do what they need to do. I was never a student like this, like how are we? How is this happening right now? And you kind of project that even if you’re not calling them lazy out loud. They’re feeling like Like, okay, this is how you feel about me. And this is the role that I’m going to play because you’re assigning it to me.

Sheila Akbar: 

They’re just going to fulfill those expectations.That’s right.

Talia Kovacs: 

And so we can’t just change what we say to our kids, we actually really have to change how we see them in order for this to be lasting. So I am as I am seeing the concepts and what I work with parents on is,okay, so let them wear their two shoes to school, you know,Sheila’s in your example, and see what happens. Can you see this as like, Oh, my God, my kid doesn’t match? Or can you see it as like, look at my creative kid? Like, how can you see the competence? Where can you find your kids own internal competence? And focus on that and highlight that?

Sheila Akbar: 

That’s really beautiful, just sort of reframing everything as some hidden superpower of theirs.

Talia Kovacs: 

Yeah, and maybe not everything. But there’s a lot, there’s a lot that we can see your kids as, okay, this is a choice that you’re making.What can I learn about you from this, and your parents of little kids, it’s a lot about, you know, okay, so like, let them go across the street to buy the cheese that you ran out of when you’re cooking, and see that they can do it, they feel amazing, because they did it.And you feel great, because you’re like, Oh, look at this thing that they can do that I didn’t know that they could, I have a two year old and I very purposely on the playground, I just let her walk up the big kids stairs to the slide. And like she is not steady on her feet. But the more I see her do it and not fall, the more I trust that she can do it, and the less nervous I am. And so the less nervous she is. And that’ll always be true.

Sheila Akbar: 

Yep. And that cycle that you just sort of walked us through is like the essential one is you have to let them try and show you what they can do. And then you don’t have to worry about it anymore. And then they don’t worry about it because they see our worry as doubt in their ability. Right?So great. I want to go back as sort of our closing movement here to something that you shared in the resilience training that you are that I’ve seen you give I think this is the one that you did for our friends at chief, where you talked about related to, you know, letting the kid go get the cheese, giving your child real responsibilities within the family, and how that can do a lot to shift this dynamic and help them feel useful and confident in their own abilities. Can you talk to us about that a little bit?

Talia Kovacs: 

Yeah, we this is a little bit similar to we were talking before about the family system. And in a family system,everybody is, and I’m not talking family system, TN, like psychological term, I’m just talking about people in a family. And so inside of a family, everybody takes on a role. And so there are some families where the parents do all of the doing, and the kids get out of the way, you know,and that starts really early,okay, I’m going to do the laundry, just bring your socks down, you know, if you can, and like, leave me alone while I do it. And that can be in response to like, I was very adult to fight as a kid like that can be in response to parents who maybe had to do too much as kids are like, I’m not going to bother my kids with these tasks, I just want them to do their homework,and do well in soccer and do well in class. And, you know,that’s it. So it comes from a nice place. But what that does to our kids all day, they’re surrounded by all of these adults who like, Can button up their buttons really well and like tie their shoes and you know, drive a car and go out grocery shopping and like do all these tasks. And so if we let our kids in on the tasks, if we say like, Hey, I’m gonna go do the dishwasher, can you come and pass me the plates? Can we load together? Anything that we’re doing in a family together does two things. One is it allows our kids to be on the same playing field as us and I’m using kids as like any people under 18. It allows our kids to be on the same playing field as us, it shows them okay, this is something that I’m doing that you’re doing too. And so though there are times in the day where I’m doing things that you can’t do, this is something that you can do that also I can do it again presumes competence. It gives our kids a sense of I can do what the adults can do.That’s the first thing. The second thing is it allows our kids to contribute to the larger family dynamic. So it’s not just load your plate in the dishwasher. It’s Let’s load the whole dishwasher together. And so kids start to see themselves as responsible parties in this They’re not just being done to.They’re not just on the receiving end, but they’re on the giving end, too. And that really, especially for the kids that I work with, that have a lot of like oppositional defiance and just really don’t like are quick to say, No, the idea that they’re contributing members of the household and not just cleaning up after themselves, can really shift things for the positive because it gives them a sense of, okay,these are other people that I’m responsible for. And in that sentence, I’m responsible.

Sheila Akbar: 

Yeah, I really love that. And I will say, we’ve tried it with our five year old and it worked for about a week.And I think it was more about our consistency than is, which is probably true for most parenting things. But it was a really good week, when he felt like, oh, it’s time for us to do this thing. We actually did load the dishwasher together. He was in charge of the spoons and forks. It was great. It was really great. Well tell you we’re about at the end of our time here. Can you tell our listeners how they can learn more about you and the work that you do?

Talia Kovacs: 

Yeah, I’d love to send your folks listening, I’ll send you the link five steps to use your kids strengths to solve problems. All of our kids have these strengths that we can build on that can help foster their own sense of resilience.And the best way for us to help them use their strengths is to use their strengths when things are hard, not just when things are good. So I’d love to send you five steps to use your child’s strengths to help them solve problems and build resilience. And you can find me on my website at taliakovacs.com.I run parent groups, I run workshops, and I would love to see you.

Sheila Akbar: 

Well. That’s awesome. Thank you for those generous gifts. And I will make sure all of that is in the show notes for our listeners. So thank you, Talia. Have a great day.

Talia Kovacs: 

Thanks, Sheila. Thanks for having me.

Sheila Akbar: 

So you can find Talia as she said at taliakovacs.com Or on her LinkedIn page, and check the show notes for that free giveaway of five ways to help your kids use their strengths to solve problems and build resilience. And if you haven’t yet, follow me on LinkedIn for advice and tactics and information on how to support your child navigating high school and the college process.Thanks everybody. See you next time.

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