Episode summary:

As parents, it’s easy to make our children’s needs front and center, forgetting that we also need support. Susan talks with Debbie Reber from Tilt Parenting about the importance of finding our tribe, and knowing we can lean on others when we’re overwhelmed or just having a hard day. 

Debbie Reber is a parenting activist, New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and the founder of TiLT Parenting, a website, top podcast, and social media community for parents who are raising differently wired children. Her newest book, Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World, came out in June 2018. After living abroad in the Netherlands for the past five years, Debbie, her husband, and 14-year-old son recently moved back to the NYC area. A regularly contributor to Psychology Today and ADDitude Magazine, she recently spoke at TEDxAmsterdam, delivering a talk entitled Why the Future Will Be Differently Wired. www.tiltparenting.com

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Transcript here:

Speaker 1: (00:14)

Hey everyone, welcome to the parenting without power struggles podcast. You’re here, you made it. And I’m Susan. Stiffelman. I’m your host. I’m a family therapist, a pair of coach and the author of parenting with presence and parenting without power struggles. My work and this podcast all aim to help you have more connection, more love, more enjoyment, and fewer power struggles with your kids. And I’m very happy that Debbie Reberhas joined me today to talk about parenting. Hi Debbie. Hi Susan. Debbie is the founder of a wonderful online community called tilt parenting. And she’s also the author of differently wired, raising an exceptional child in a conventional world. Such a great title. Debbie and I did a class together recently on different raising differently wired kids. And Debbie, I don’t know if I told you this, but one of the parents who attended that class wrote afterward that she was just crying half the time, but she was so full of hope. I have a feeling you hear that a lot. 

Speaker 2: (01:17)

I do. I do get emails from a lot of parents that I make cry and I’m hoping that that’s a good thing. 

Speaker 1: (01:24)

All right. We made me cry because, well, parenting is hard enough for, you know, in those rare people, I don’t know if they actually exist in, in reality they do in fantasy land. The rare people who have this idyllic experience raising a child who’s super easy and you know, even temporary, pretty cooperative most of the time. But Gosh, when you have a child who just is wired a little bit differently, any kind of inspiration support can just bring on a lot of emotional stuff, which is good. Right? 

Speaker 2: (02:02)

Yeah. I think what I hear from people is for the first time they felt as though their experience was it related to someone else, you know, they felt seen for the first time. And that can be such a powerful thing when you’ve been kind of living in isolation and, and secrecy. 

Speaker 1: (02:19)

Yeah. Well, I’m super happy that you’re here and I’m excited to be on your new podcast. No, it’s such a big advance where I was actually, I don’t get nervous too often, but I, I wouldn’t say I was exactly nervous, but I was, you know, a little extra fidgety and Pacey when I finally launched everything cause I felt like I’m not ready, I’m not ready. And I don’t know if I’ll ever be running in China. It’s happening. People seem to be responding and people are sharing and you know, it’s so sweet. People sometimes leave a rating or review, which I know is a big deal. And so for any of you who want to do that or subscribe, thank you. But let’s move into the content for this. Um, for our session today. You know, one of the things that I believe with all my heart is that every child born once and deserves to be celebrated for exactly who they are. And sometimes the child that we’re blessed to raise is not the child that we expected. Maybe you can share a little bit about your story and then we’ll move on from there. 

Speaker 2: (03:22)

Sure. Yeah. And I, I actually think it applies to all parents because I think we all go into this journey with a vision of who our child will be, even if we’re not conscious of it. You know, we, we expect certain things are going to happen for them or their rites of passage that will unfold. And we also have expectations for who we will be as parents and how that dynamic will work. And when you have a child who is so different, you know, as a, you know, Andrew Solomon writes in title was book far from the tree. You know, when you have a child who is so different from that vision that we had, that can be a very painful realization. It can take a lot of time to kind of untangle and deal with what that actually means, you know, for your child, for you and for your family. 

Speaker 1: (04:16)

Yes. And I liked that you said pretty much all of us, every parent goes into parenting. Well, first of all were all clueless. We just know what the truth of parenting is about the joys and the challenges. But I think, um, I think that there is an unconscious subconscious element that really gets brought under the spotlight, particularly when the child that you’re raising is challenging in some way or challenged in some way. There’s a beautiful story. It’s called welcome to Holland and the short version, because I’m going to, you know, there’s, there’s beautifully delivered versions and this won’t be one of them, but the short version is that you’re preparing for a trip to Italy and you’ve got your maps and your guidebooks and you’ve kind of snooped out where you want to stay and visit the things you want to see and the climate and everything about it. 

Speaker 1: (05:09)

And you’re really excited and you get on the plane with all your gear for Italy. You’re talking to the other passengers about her going to Italy and how amazing it’s going to be and the places you’re going to have adventures. And then the plane lands and you get off the plane and it doesn’t really look like anything you had read in those guidebooks and you look around and you know, the weather’s a lot colder or the sites. And the scenery don’t look much like Italy. And at some point you hear someone say welcome to Holland. And you’re like, but wait a minute, I’m going to Italy. I was supposed to be going to Italy here, this not all it. And as you accept, come to accept and understand, no, you’re actually going to be in Holland here. You start looking around and you see the beauty of the scenery in Holland and you see what’s for you in Holland and you, you kind of adjust, make that adjustment, which initially might be, oh no, this isn’t what it was supposed to be. And I’ve heard this story told them the context for parents whose child has a challenger or is diagnosed with a disability or um, or ends up on the spectrum. But, but this is Holland. It’s not what I expected. And I know you have your own version of that maybe you could share a little bit with, with your son Asher. 

Speaker 2: (06:25)

Yeah. And it’s funny to hear that story because we ended up moving to Holland for a, you know, five years of our parenting journey because we needed a, we needed a different environment for him. But yeah, so I have one child, he’s now 14, but when he was, you know, pretty little in the preschool years, we started getting feedback that, you know, that his behavior in certain environments was not appropriate or you know, just wasn’t kind of falling in line or doing things that were expected. And, you know, we knew that he was very bright and precocious and, and an intense kid. And as he became older and we moved into elementary, we got more and more feedback because the way that he was showing up in those situations was becoming more and more different from, again, what was considered appropriate or quote unquote normal behavior. And so, you know, we went through many years of trying to figure out, is something going on with this kid or are, you know, are our expectations to,, kind of inflexible or are we being helicopter parents? 

Speaker 2: (07:45)

Are we paranoid? You know, it’s, it was kind of a real challenge when we were getting contradictory feedback from pediatricians and therapists and teachers. But ultimately, you know, we discovered that he is neurologically divergent. Uh, you know, I call him differently wired. He’s profoundly gifted and he has ADHD and he is a complicated person. And so it really took a number of years to realize that, you know, we could not kind of move ahead on our path. We couldn’t follow the, you know, to use the, the story, the itinerary for Italy because we were not, that was not where we were going and we had to figure out what the path was going to look like in a way that would actually serve his needs and help him thrive and help our family feel good and the process. And that took a number of years. Wow. Well 

Speaker 1: (08:46)

thank you. And I know that you were in one of the, maybe more than one of the summits that I’ve done online where I bring, you know, 20 experts orare teachers or writers together. And we did one on raising children with challenges, which is actually still still on my website. Susan stifelman.com 

(09:03)

But I still remember a conversation that I had with you where we were talking about the need for support, the need for propping up which every parent needs, and I’m going to be shouting this from the rooftops because so many parents parent in isolation, they, they can be very lonely when they’re parenting. They’re not supported in the way they need to be. Um, but you told a little bit about your mom and times when you would call her in the wee hours of the night and found the kind of support that you needed. So can we talk more about that? The importance, and I know this is a lot of what you’ve created with tilt parenting. So I’d like everyone listening to know more about not only the importance of support, but how to find it. 

Speaker 2: (09:54)

Yeah. And I think again, when you are getting feedback and information that your child isn’t thriving or there could be something going on that could really cause problems and challenges for them. You know, we always just go to what the child needs and that’s what I was very much doing. I was focusing on getting him the kind of occupational therapy he needed, social skills groups and you know, supporting the teacher. And, and a friend of mine at one point who was, she was getting a life coaching certification and we were working together and you know, we were working on my career but she kept bringing it back to my life. You know, I didn’t realize that they were all related, but she was the first one who said, sounds like you actually need some parenting support for you. And she gave me that homework assignment to really try to find some help for me. 

Speaker 2: (10:52)

And I think Asher would must’ve been six or seven at the time. And it had never occurred to me that I would benefit from actually supporting myself. And I’m so grateful that she pointed that out to me. Cause I did find myself a parenting coach and that really helped me start reinforcing myself and taking care of myself in this. But you know, that is what I have found in creating this community is that, you know, we have all these thousands and thousands of parents who are going through very similar journeys. But because of stigma and fear and worry and you know, just overwhelm, we tend to, to deal with this very privately. And you know, when really we’re everywhere, you know, there are other parents walking down this path and our kids classes, we just don’t know that they’re experiencing this. And so one of the reasons why I did create till parenting and a lot of my advocacy work is about empowering people to talk out loud about their experience so we can find each other. 

Speaker 2: (12:08)

So we can normalize this conversation and, and really know that we’re not alone. Because when we feel isolated and disconnected, then we do kind of go to that default of fear. Uh, we feel really limited in our options. I think that we create more limited possibilities in the future for our children. So I think it’s a lose lose when we’re kind of not, um, connecting with other people. So it is so important to just to find our tribe and yeah, I, you know, my mom, I remember that sharing that story. My mom had no clue what I was going through. Right. She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t have any like personal experience raising a child that was like my son. But what she did do was answer the phone and this, listen to me when I was crying or just overwhelmed and she would just say, Gosh, I’m so sorry. This must be so hard. And you know, just having even one person to validate your emotions. For me, that was such a gift. 

Speaker 1: (13:19)

Wow. Thank you. Yeah, I love hearing that again. And the simplicity of it. It’s not, it’s not that she necessarily had pearls of Wisdom, oh, do this or try that. It was simply, as you said, answering the phone and listening and acknowledging. Yeah. The other thing that comes to mind when you’re talking about having support and community is that particularly in today’s age where every, everybody’s, every, every child, every movement is posted on social media. You know, in some cases all their accomplishments and all their achievements and their moments of glory. And if you’re raising a child who is more challenged to, isn’t maybe keeping up with the markers, the developmental markers or accomplishments of their peers that can just reinforce that sense of loneliness or isolation or shame or sadness or anger and frustration. And so we want every child, as I said at the beginning to be celebrated. And we, we want people to celebrate our child who they are just as they are. And that means find your people, find the people who when you post this, maybe what isn’t the same accomplishment as the kid the same age and you know, down the street but is an accomplishment or an achievement or something that your child has done that was hard, that will celebrate and you know, rejoice with you. Right? 

Speaker 2: (14:48)

Yeah, absolutely. And you know, as you’re sharing that, I will just fess up and say that the last few weeks have been pretty tough for me because, you know, as we’re having this conversation, it’s June and all of Asher’s peers from the school that he started out on and that we were asked to leave halfway through first grade all graduated from eighth grade. And I’ve been looking at so many pictures on Facebook of these kids that, you know, had our story look different. Asher would be in those pictures. And even though, you know, we ultimately embraced our different paths and I wouldn’t trade anything that we’ve gone through in terms of our homeschooling, in our, in our journey and our travel, but it’s still is painful to see and, and, and brings up that sense of loss and wow. Um, sadness for me, sadness for my son. Uh, I don’t think he cares, but I project that he does. So it is really important too, to find people who can relate to that feeling because it can feel, you know, jealousy’s a strong emotion. Um, that doesn’t necessarily feel good to be in this space. And, uh, so, and it’s important to, to find people who can 100% relate to that emotional experience. 

Speaker 1: (16:14)

Thank you. let’s leave people with a tip because, as we wrap up, I always try at least to leave something practical and I love this tip to be tied to support. So I’m going to turn it over to you, Debbie, to, to think of something in for sure. Let’s make sure it includes tilt parenting because that’s an option for parents that, that live wherever they live to to be supported online. 

Speaker 2: (16:40)

I think it’s really important to notice where you’re being quiet in your life, where you’re not fully showing up and use that as a clue to change as you might consider making. So if you are kind of community, you know, communing with groups of people where you don’t feel fully accepted or you don’t feel that you’re, it’s a safe space. Talk about what’s real in your life. Start noticing that because we, what we really want to do is spend time with our people. We want to gravitate towards communities where we can show up as ourselves and where we know our kids will be safe and embraced for who they are and so that is something that I’m trying to create through tilt parenting and I’ll just share that what’s been so exciting in the past five months is that these in person communities have started cropping up called tilt together groups and they’re run by parents in the community. They’re all independently run around the US, Canada and the UK and they are specifically designed to support in a very optimistic way, parents so they can have more in joy 

Speaker 1: (17:50)

in their day to day life. Yay. It’s so cool. Yeah, I love seeing those groups happen. There’s just nothing like sitting in a room with someone when possible. Online is great if that’s all you’ve got, but when you can sit in the room and tell them, one can take your hand or you know, just look you in the eye and nod their head and commune in that way. Being attuned in that personal way. Especially, I mean this is true for every single parent I believe, but especially when you’re feeling isolated and lonely and overwhelmed by the particular challenges that your child might be facing. So thank you. Thank you for that. It’s tilt parenting.com and I hope you’ve all enjoyed this conversation. I’d love for you to subscribe or rate. Like I said, you can find out more about my, my work at Susan’s stifelman.com if you want to submit a question because I will be addressing questions from time to time from parents that site is SusanStiffelman.com/podcasts and if you want monthly support, if you’d like me to be more a part of your life twice a month we do a call where parents can just get actual personal guidance and support in addressing a situation they’re stuck with or untangling something. 

Speaker 1: (19:07)

It’s a very affordable way to, for me to be able to work personally with parents and that is also on my website. SusanStiffelman.com under help for parents. So Debbie, thank you again. It’s always a joy to talk with you. And we have our class on the website raising differently wired kids. So follow Debbie’s work. Debbie, I’ll just say a directly, the kindness and compassion and dedication that you have to supporting parents really inspires me and touches me and I’m very, very glad you’re doing the work you’re doing, so thank you. Oh, thank you so much, Susan, and for everyone listening, I look forward to joining you on our next episode. Remember that no matter how busy life gets, look for those moments of sweetness and joy. Ask for support when you need it. 

Speaker 3: (19:59)

And thanks for showing up. I’ll see you next time.

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