Venting, empathy, and acceptance: Wisdom from Dr. Lisa Damour

I don’t often post things geared towards parents of older kids, but this piece by the amazing Lisa Damour touches on a number of concepts that I often discuss with my mom patients and include in Mom Brain. She writes in terms of the parent-teen relationship, but these ideas apply in many other types of relationships as well.

  1. The difference between venting and problem solving: I often hear about this in relation to moms and their partners. Moms often just want to vent to their partners, and instead are met with advice about how they can best solve their problems (any Parks & Rec fans will recognize this scenario from the episode where Chris is trying to solve all of Ann’s pregnancy issues, and Ann just wants him to say, “That sucks”). I encourage moms who want just to vent to convey this to their partner before they even start venting (e.g. “I am having issues with Ellen at work, and I want to talk about them. I don’t need you to problem solve for me, though; I just need you to listen.”)
  2. The importance of empathy: This is a consistent theme throughout my work with moms. It is critical for moms to express their emotions openly and to find people (partners, parents, friends) who will empathize with them. And in turn, moms need to encourage their children to express their emotions, and empathize with their children.
  3. The balance between acceptance and change: This is a major theme of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). When faced with a stressor, we need to consider what aspects of the stressor/situation we can change, and what aspects we can’t. We need to try to mindfully accept what we can’t change, while at the same time work on improving the things we can.

Parents of older kids should definitely check out Lisa’s two fabulous books as well as her other Times pieces!


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I’m Ilyse Dobrow DiMarco, Ph.D., aka DrCBTMom. combines the expert advice of a self-help book with the warmth and readability of a mommy blog.
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