Cathy Adams on Zen Parenting & Caring for Ourselves and Our Children in an Unpredictable World

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I’m kicking off this winter season with someone I admire as a professional and as a friend, Cathy Cassani Adams. Cathy is a clinical social worker, certified parent coach, former elementary school educator, and yoga teacher. She is also the co-host of one of my most favorite parenting podcasts, Zen Parenting Radio. Cathy is also the author of the brand new book, Zen Parenting: Caring for Ourselves and Our Children in an Unpredictable World, which is the center of our conversation today. I had a chance to read an advance copy of Cathy’s book and, I won’t bury the lede, I loved it. In fact, here’s the blurb I wrote for it: “Cathy Adams is a gentle, inspiring guide for becoming a more tuned-in, respectful, and connected parent AND human. What I love most about Zen Parenting is Cathy’s holistic approach to being present and truly showing up for ourselves and our families, no matter how messy, no matter how challenging. This book is a unique offering in the parenting space that focuses on our relationship with ourselves, which is, of course, where being a Zen parent has to begin.” In this conversation, we explore Cathy’s book and go into the deep inner work we need to do to show up as better parents for our kids and support them in finding their own identity with respect and dignity. This is a longer episode because there were just so many wonderful nuggets.

About Cathy Cassani Adams

Cathy Cassani Adams, LCSW, co-hosts the Zen Parenting Radio podcast and is author of Zen Parenting: Caring for Ourselves and Our Children in an Unpredictable World (Hachette, 2/1). She is a clinical social worker, certified parent coach, former elementary school educator, and yoga teacher. Cathy teaches in the Sociology/Criminology Department at Dominican University, and she lives outside of Chicago with her husband Todd and their three daughters.

Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • What the Chakra system is and why Cathy chose to use it to organize her book
  • What doing our own deep inner work as parents (and adults) offers our kids and forthcoming generations
  • How we can support our children in being who they’re uniquely meant to be in the world
  • The importance of parenting from a foundation of dignity and respect
  • Why having conversations about big topics like sexual education, equality, and racial justice with our kids is so important
  • What Cathy believes “mid-life crises” actually are and what they represent for us as adults and parents
  • Why it’s so important to have compassion for our and our kids’ journey as we evolve at different speeds


Resources mentioned for Zen Parenting

Episode Transcript

Cathy Adams  00:00
I feel like dignity — I actually have it at the beginning of my book — is a foundation that you have to understand first, and a bunch of other things in equality, discussing race, sex, education, mental wellness — you have to have a basic understanding, a working knowledge of these things, to dive into your own self awareness. Because if you’re not looking at these things, there’s going to be all sorts of holes, and all sorts of things you’re unwilling to look at and discuss, and something that feels undiscussable is probably the thing that needs to be discussed.
Debbie Reber  00:32
Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host Debbie Reber and we are officially back. I’m back for a new season of the show. And I have such a great lineup coming over the next few months. You aren’t gonna want to miss a single episode, so be sure to subscribe to Tilt Parenting Podcast on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. But I’m starting this season with someone I truly admire as a professional and as a friend, Cathy Adams. Cathy is a clinical social worker, certified parent coach, former elementary school educator and yoga teacher. She’s also the cohost of the Zen Parenting Radio podcast, which if you haven’t listened to I definitely recommend you check out. Cathy is also author of the brand new book “Zen Parenting: Caring for Ourselves and Our Children in an Unpredictable World, which is the center of our conversation today. I had the chance to read an advanced copy of Cathy’s book and I’m not going to bury the lead, I loved it. So I actually wanted to share the blurb that I wrote for Cathy’s book. Here’s what I said. Cathy Adams is a gentle inspiring guide for becoming a more tuned-in, respectful, and connected parent and human. What I love most about Zen Parenting is Cathy’s holistic approach to being present and truly showing up for ourselves and our families, no matter how messy, no matter how challenging. This book is a unique offering in their parenting space that focuses on our relationship with ourselves, which is of course, where being a Zen parent has to begin. You can probably tell I really liked the book. So in this conversation, we explore Cathy’s book and go into the deep inner work we need to do to show up as better parents for our kids and support them in finding their own identity with respect and dignity. This is a longer episode because there were just so many things I wanted to talk with Cathy about so I hope you enjoy it. Also, you’ll hear Kathy mention the Zen Parenting Summit in our conversation and that is actually happening this week, this first week of February and registration is free. All of the recordings will be available for the entire month. And you can listen to talks with people like Dr. Shefali Tsabary, Rosalind Wiseman, Mercedes Samudio. And I also joined Dr. John Duffy to record a special talk on Showing Up with Hope for our Teens in Times of Uncertainty. To register for the free Zen Parenting Summit, you can go to Or just go to the show notes page for this episode and there’ll be a link there. Lastly, with the start of this new season comes the return of Playback Fridays, just like I did last fall. Every Friday this season, I’ll be re-releasing a powerful episode from my library. Up on deck are episodes featuring Dr. Ross Greene, Alfie Kohn, Dr. Gail Saltz, Karen Young and more. If you’re already subscribed to the podcast, you don’t have to do anything. Just keep an eye out for new episodes on Fridays showing up in your podcast feed. And now without further ado, here is the very first episode of 2022: an extra long, juicy conversation with Cathy Adams.
Debbie Reber  04:08
Hello, Cathy, welcome back to the podcast.
Cathy Adams  04:11
Hello, Debbie. Thank you for having me. I’m so glad to be here.
Debbie Reber  04:13
I am so excited to get into your new book. And we you know, we had a conversation with you and your husband Todd last summer. And we teased the book a little bit, but I actually wanted to do a whole conversation about it because I got to read it in advance. I love it. It’s such an important contribution to this parenting world that we’re all living in. And it’s so unique in what it offers. So let’s just take a step back and even just give me your two minute spiel about kind of who you are for people who haven’t listened to that other episode.
Cathy Adams  04:46
Sure, sure. Well, my name is Cathy as you said, I am a social worker. My undergrad is actually in education and then I became a social worker clinician, worked at the hospital. Did the whole therapy thing and then I became a parent and kind of switched gears and became, in my first year of staying home with my daughter, decided that I still wanted to use my therapist skills. But I knew I couldn’t work in the hospital setting anymore. So I became a parent coach. When I was parent coaching, I did that on the phone, which it’s so funny, because I remember when I became a parent coach, and the whole training was you talk on the phone to people and it was so new. I was like, how am I going to learn how to read body language and do all these things to notice people’s eyes. I’m like, how am I going to help anyone over the phone. And now that’s the most normal thing in the world, you know, tele-therapy and everything, but it was new. So I became a parent coach, and then put out a book, a self published book, basically just essays I had written about new parenthood, I had a huge, huge identity crisis. When I became a mom, I went from that world of education. And, you know, being a professional and kind of climbing that ladder to staying home. It was really rough for me. And I know, it was for a lot of moms that I knew. And so I started writing about it and put out the self published book that I just thought I was going to use for classes that I taught, I used to do groups of moms, and I just thought I was gonna use it for that. But then, you know, things grow. And all of a sudden, I was asked to do a podcast. And the people who asked me to do it said, Why don’t you get a partner? I asked my husband or I actually signed him up for it before I asked him, but he’s a wonderful man who said, Sure. And he and I talk about deep things all the time. He’s a little more pragmatic than I am. But we have good discussions, you know, you know, Todd very well. So he’s wonderful. And we’ve been doing Zen Parenting Radio now for 11 years this month, actually. So when we decided to do a podcast, no one knew what that was. Thus, the title of our or the name of our podcast is Zen Parenting Radio, it can give you an idea of how old it is. So we’ve been doing that. And you know, I mean, there’s a million things I could tell you. But basically, a lot of our work is incorporated into the podcast. My husband’s a coach, I’m a therapist, we see clients, I teach at University. I teach social work. And then my love is writing. So I had written a few other self published books. And this is my first book that I actually went after a traditional publisher, which is a whole process of itself, you know, I know you know that. So it’s taken four years for this book to come out. And I’m really happy to have it in my hands, or at least this copy, the real copy comes out on the first of February. But it feels really good to have this almost in the world.
Debbie Reber  07:39
Almost in the world. And listeners as you’re listening to this, the day this comes out is Cathy’s book birthday. So you will be able to read the book and I will just say if you haven’t listened to Zen Parenting Radio, the podcast, please listen to it. It is so good. Of course, I love you. And Todd. And your conversations are very comforting to me. And you always seem to be honing in on something that is happening in my world. It’s one show that my husband Derin and I listen to together. Or if I’m just making dinner, you know, if I’m not in the mood for a reality show recap. I’m going to listen to the latest episode.
Cathy Adams  08:19
Me too…it’s like, either deep or entertainment world.
Debbie Reber  08:22
Yeah, exactly. So tell us about the book. You know, for the past, I think a year ago you started sending out emails with these kind of shorter essays and tackling little themes and things that you were musing about, and really contemplating. And those have been such a pleasure to read. But tell us about what you hope to do in this book and what readers could expect.
Cathy Adams  08:45
Well, it’s interesting, Debbie, that you bring up those, they’re called Zen parenting moments. And I’ve been sending them out for over a year now. They just used to come out twice a week. Now they come out once a week. And my original proposal for a book, it was also called Zen parenting, but it was the Zen Parenting Moments. And so I didn’t have a final title. But then I got a lot of good feedback from publishers, they’re like, this is great. But could you make this into more of a chapter book, like so people can actually look in, we get what you’re trying to say. But can you make this into more of a chapter book? And I found that to be because, you know, if you read things I’ve written for the last, you know, 20 years, I always write in story, an essay. So I was like, okay, a chapter book, you know, like a traditional book. And I took it as a challenge to be like, Okay, how can I piece together all these concepts that I’m trying to write about without making it really stale? And also making sure people understand these things are not just ideas that first of all, they’re not my ideas at all. They’ve been around forever, and that they’re research based. And then I’ve used them in my own practice, in my own life and my own personal life. It was like it was a puzzle, right? When you’re writing a book like I love your book for that. I always bring up your books. You know how much I love it. But you know, like how, you know, coming up with all those chapters, you know, that there tilts that there? How do you piece together all these things? And that was my big, you know, challenge. So basically, I tried, I went through a lot of Zen Parenting Moments that I’ve written a lot of a lot of our podcasts, and I was like, what are the concepts that I talk about the most, and I brought them together, and then I used, you know, we’ll probably launch into this, but I use the structure of the chakras, to put them in some kind of order, where people could actually access these different concepts without feeling overwhelmed. So, you know, it took a year and a half or something like that, you know, like, who knows, I, you never know, where you start and begin, you know, sometimes you’re like, Am I done yet? Am I still editing? But that was the challenge. Somebody said, we’ll publish this, but we want it more in a narrative form. And I think I enjoyed it very much. I enjoyed the puzzle. And I think it came together the way I wanted it to.
Debbie Reber  10:59
That’s great. Yeah, it is very different. Even though they asked you to have it be more of a traditional parenting book, it still feels very unconventional. And the way that it’s written, it feels fresh, it feels to me like this really just a thoughtful companion for parents. And the organization of the book into Chakras was super interesting. To me. That’s something I certainly am kind of, loosely familiar with, but hadn’t spent time exploring what that is and what that means. Can you talk a little bit about the principles behind chakras and why that felt like the right organizational tool to bring together your message?
Cathy Adams  11:38
Sure, well, the overall of the chakra system is that there are energy centers in our body. And there’s seven of them, starting basically, from the base of your spine, going all the way up to the top of your head. So you know, and I can go through each of those. But the reason why it felt right for me as a writer is because I’m also a yoga teacher. So I spend a lot of time focusing on the body, on alignment. And it’s funny, I became a teacher 10 years ago, and I taught for a few years. And then I went right back to studentship. There’s things I love to teach, I love, you know, the podcast we do, I love teaching my social work students, but there are yoga teachers out there that are so much better than me, where I felt like I’d be teaching yoga, but really, I wanted to talk about the things I was talking about on the podcast. And I was like, You know what, I’m a better student of yoga, that I am a teacher, you know, took me a few years to figure that out. But, but the principles in yoga, there’s, they’re not always but there is typically discussion of the energy centers of our body, the chakras, and I also, you know, have this, just who I am, I’ve kind of always had a more spiritual nature in the, the way I see the world. I think what’s been nice about being married to Todd, and, you know, building a life with him is he’s a very grounded person. And he, like I said, he’s more pragmatic, he’s more logical, I’m very, I’m emotional, I’m spiritual. We are just very, very different. And I have found by working with him and talking with him, I have figured out ways to ground some of my thinking in better concepts. So I can explain myself better. And I think this idea of using the chakra systems, the energy of the body, which can become really esoteric and difficult for, you know, and that’s, I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want this to be confusing. And I also didn’t want it to be off putting, I didn’t want people to think they had to have some basic knowledge of chakras. What I wanted was to be authentic to myself, this is something I talk about, and I think about and something I understand, but I also feel like it’s completely accessible. And so how can I, you know, how can I speak of it in an accessible way, and also give a lot of credit to the people who teach to kinda like just saying about yoga, there are people who live, breathe, teach chakras. And I try to give credit to those people like, this book is really about this. And I’m using this as a scaffolding and a structure. But if you really love chakras, go to these books, because these are the people that can really help you get a better in depth knowledge. But for those of us that kind of live in the in between, like you said, Debbie, where you’re like, I kind of have an understanding, I feel like it’s kind of a nice coming together of like, you know, like I said, a more practical way of seeing parenting or ourselves, and then a more spiritual way of connecting, you know, it’s science and mystery. That’s kind of the way I think about it.
Debbie Reber  14:36
I love that I want to just say for listeners to you know, if you are listening to this, and you’re someone who doesn’t consider yourself a quote, unquote, spiritual person, or woo woo, or are those things that is not what this is, and so I just want to kind of put that out there. And I love this idea of grounding it in science and the mystery, and I think it works really well the way that you’ve organized it.
Cathy Adams  14:59
Thank you. Thank you. you very much. Yeah. And I want to reiterate that too, because even that word spiritual, you know, we’re getting into this place with language now where we have to be so well, not good. It’s always been this way. But we have to be really clear, spiritual to me just means I’m very connected to a kind of an inner internal feeling world that cannot always be seen. And it can be about emotions, it can be about the way that I experience or understand energy, we’re all energy. This is science, you know, this is the way that I, you know, things come to me like ideas. And there is nothing special about it, everybody has access to all of these things, you know, gut instincts, intuition, you know, all of those things. I use the word spiritual, because it’s kind of an all encompassing way that I understand. Because to be honest, like, if I can back up a little more, I grew up, I’ve been this person since I was born, I feel like at least as far back as I can remember. And growing up, it wasn’t really a thing I could talk about. So I felt oversensitive. I felt like I was doing something wrong, I felt like there was something wrong with me. And I felt like I was, you know, that I wasn’t experiencing the world correctly. And as I got older, and understood these feelings that I have, my understanding of emotions, they’re actually gifts. They’re the reason I became a therapist. And the reason that, you know, I can do what I do in the world, I have a different understanding, and more appreciation. Whereas I had to kind of, you know, as a kid, it was really just about, you know, don’t talk about your feelings, you’re being dramatic. You know, there’s, I think a lot of us in this generation kind of understand this now. And we’re trying to talk to our kids about emotions and mental wellness and self understanding and a different way than maybe we were talked to about it. So, you know, so really, it’s just a reclaiming of what I know best. I wouldn’t write a good logical book, I’m not a very logical person.
Debbie Reber  16:56
Yes, that would be a completely different book, it would not be a Cathy Adams book. But I love what you just said, because I think that’s something that you and I have always been so aligned on is this, the importance of us as parents doing our own deep inner work and really kind of going there and leaning in to, to the hard stuff in order to be able to fully show up for our kids. And that is a newer concept, you know, certainly not something many of our parents were doing, or was being talked about. I’m just wondering, Where do you think we are then as a kind of society and a willingness to explore and examine our inner experience and kind of lean into all of that?
Cathy Adams  17:37
Well, I’ve definitely, you know, the good news is I can see how different it is now, compared to let’s see, I had my, my daughter is now 18. And I remember doing a class I was like, 31 years old, and I was doing a class about self care and self awareness. And I remember, nobody knew what I was talking about, like, you know, like, the whole concept of self care was like, I don’t have time to get my nails done. Or I don’t want to go find a babysitter, it was so difficult to discuss it in terms of this is not about you looking good. This is about internal. And I also believe like, I will say over the past 10 years I’ve been teaching at a university and mindfulness and meditation are a big part of my, my lesson plans and my syllabus. And 10 years ago, again, nobody knew what I was, my students didn’t know what I was talking about. And honestly, I didn’t have a lot of research to pull from. So I remember saying things to my students, like, doesn’t that just feel right? Like, you know, I was trying to like, tap into that place where it’d be like, doesn’t just feel good. Now I have boatloads of research about mindfulness and meditation. All the students know what I’m talking about. They may not have experienced it themselves, they may need some deeper understanding, but they all have Headspace or Calm on their phone like they are there. We have come a long way in terms of our emotional intelligence. And I kind of feel I don’t know about you, Debbie. But I feel like what I’m seeing right now is we all got it. We all understand emotional intelligence, or at least what it is. But now we’re getting into self regulation, self, you know, emotional agility as Susan David would say, like, now we’re like, okay, now I got this, but what do I do with this? Like, I understand I’m supposed to feel this way. But how or I understand I should share my emotions, but with who and I feel like we’re getting into the nitty gritty. So I think the good news is we’ve come a long way. But there’s, we’re never going to be done. Like, you know, our emotional awareness and how we impact each other and how we connect is going to be ongoing and I say this a lot in the book, there is no end. But the more we can be present for what’s happening right now, the easier our lives will be.
Debbie Reber  19:46
And what does that mean for our kids? Part of the reason why I wrote so many books for teenagers well into my 30s was because I was still recovering like I was still grappling with my horrible teen years and figuring out who I was so when we’re able to do this work, what does that actually give to our kids? How can you see this impacting the future generations?
Cathy Adams  20:08
Well, first of all permission, right, it gives them permission to trust their feelings, it gives them permission to listen, to feel them, to share them, to connect through them to learn what it means to be vulnerable, you know, again, and Brene Brown talks about this all the time. But when I used to discuss vulnerability with people, it was always thought of as weakness, where now our kids understand that vulnerability is how you connect to people, you have to share of yourself in an authentic way, or else there is no connection, you’re always just passing each other. I think that, and again, I work with a lot of different groups of kids. So I can’t be like all kids today, because I work with some groups of kids who have this, so much so that I think the pendulum has swung way over here, where everything is like, everything is emotion, everything has sensitivity. And, and I’m not calling it bad, I’m just saying it’s wide open. And then I work with some kids who, mostly because of the way where they’re growing up, or who who’s parenting them, they kind of know, it’s out there in the ethers, but they don’t feel like they really have permission at home, or maybe in their school or with their coach to really do that, you know, they don’t feel like they have the foundation quite yet in their social setting to be that open about how they feel they’re still felt, you know, my husband, he works with men, he founded a men’s organization. And so he focuses on this man box that men can be trapped in. And it’s this, like, you know, having to be macho all the time and not talking about your feelings, and, and, you know, you know, sexualizing women and things that that tend to, we still see with a lot of the young boys that we work with, and then the girls too, who downplay things about themselves, you know, because they don’t want to shine too bright, like, the same issues are here. But there’s more awareness of what’s possible. Like they’re not having to learn it from the bottom up. They’re like, How can I jump into this a little here, or, you know, my daughter who’s in college this year, I mean, in college, there’s so much more of that, you know, the freedom that the kids at least that she, that I’ve met through her and my students at my university tend to have more freedom to discuss. So there’s no final answer there. But I think they have more permission. Like I think they feel more empowered.
Debbie Reber  22:29
I would love to just talk about some of the chakras in the book. I think one of my favorite chapters was chakra three, which is about identity and autonomy. Probably because I am raising a teenager, one of the things you wrote is that many parents and cultures struggle with reconciling their own dreams with their children’s autonomy. But eventually, this process is necessary for an individual to align with themselves and their life purpose. And I read that I was like, Whoa, that is a big pact statement. And it is also I know, as a parent, it’s such a journey to actually really authentically lean into that you talk actually about the hero’s journey and that chapter, could you talk more just about this chakra, or this concept, even of walking with our kids and kind of navigating that idea of really supporting them and being who they are meant to be in the world?
Cathy Adams  23:25
Yeah, absolutely. Well, you know, it just starts with understanding child development. Like the whole intention of like, two and three years old is the is the first their first chance and individuating, right, where they’re like, I do it myself and don’t and by myself, and you know, me, you know, all of that, which again, I you know, I still work with parents with young kids who get so offended by these things. And I’m like, No, that’s exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. Like they have, you know, for so long. They really believe they’re our third limb, and we treat them like our third limb, we’re literally holding them doing everything, getting everything. And eventually they have this inner knowing that it’s time to separate. And not completely, this is not about love. It’s actually a lot about love allowing them to do it. But it’s not, they’re not saying I don’t love you, they’re saying I know that I am separate from you. And I have to start that process. It continues on but it gets a little bigger, around 13 or 14, there’s another separation individuation again, typical part of child development, where they have to be like, I have to even separate from you more I have to listen to other people’s viewpoints. I have to spend more time with my friends, I have to do things and maybe choose something opposite from what you choose to kind of see how that feels. I may tell you, you can’t stand it when kids wear hats and I’m going to wear hats and see what that feels like. Not because I want you to dislike me, but because I need to kind of you know like I remember one of the stories I wrote and it’s not in this book but was about I remember when my daughter was around Three or four. And every time she played with her kit, her friends, she would want to be like the villain. And at first as a young mom that kind of bothered me like, why do you want to be the villain, but the more I watched her and eventually she, you know, kind of came in and out of that, they have to feel what it’s like to be all these people, they that’s part of growing up, and play and imagination is a great place to do it right where you can pretend to be, I’m always envious. I’m not a good actor. But I’m envious of actors and actresses who get to kind of really dive into those things and feel what it feels like to be all those people. I think my point is, our kids are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do. They’re supposed to individuate from us, and their life will not be like ours. It’s not supposed to be, it was never supposed to be, maybe when, again, you have to evolve from before. My grandmother had 11 brothers and sisters, and they lived on a farm. And they had lots of kids because people needed to work on the farm. Okay, that was part of my history, life, things are not like that anymore. That’s not we’re not, you know, they’re right now evolved, you know, what’s going on with our generation is allowing our kids to separate from us as they should and become who they are, because they have other things they need to do in the world. This is where we are. And so if it would have been helpful back back then to like when, you know, in my grandmother’s generation, I’m not saying it’s like some new concept, there was a lot of trauma that they experienced a lot of things that they were not able to vocalize a lot of things that came out of that, but now we know better, right? You know, we know better we do better now we we understand the importance of having our own voice, we understand that there’s some internal knowing that we have about what we need to do, we understand that it’s okay, if we’re not identical to our parents, and as a parent, because, you know, you and I are, all of us are kind of walking both sides of this, we’re experiencing our history, and kind of like, you know, recovering from that. And also, like, what do we want to pass on, because, of course, there’s some wonderful things from our childhood we want to pass on, there’s some things we don’t, and one of them, you know, that I always talk about with my girls is, you know, I want to set you free, I want to keep you safe in the basic ways. But I also want you to not feel like you have to choose the Chicago Cubs as your team because that’s my team. D and I’m using a very like not a, you know, a very easy thing to understand, like, there’s bigger things than that, I don’t want you to think you have to be a therapist, because I’m a therapist, I don’t want you to think that you have to have long brown hair, because that’s what I do. Like there you get to choose. And a lot of that’s you have a teenager, a lot of that comes naturally in the teenage years, they’re pushing and pulling. But the more we can understand that rather than be offended by it, the more connected, we will stay with our kids where they can continue to come to us with any challenges and issues they have. And the more empowered they will feel to be themselves. And as we know, again, I there’s all sorts of research research, I could, you know, put in here that our children’s emotional intelligence, their sense of self, their belief in who they are, that’s what propels them after they’re done with this educational process where they have to make grades and do all these things. The reason someone is successful is not because they were valedictorian, in you know, in life, they’re successful, because they know themselves, how to get along with others, how to stay connected to people they love, how to maintain relationships that are healthy, that’s what it is. And that all starts with these separation, individuation, this, you know, this sense of who I am is worthy and enough. And it’s just so interesting that part of that process is us letting go and allowing that rather than say, you didn’t do it the way I said to do it. Instead, it’s tell me how you did it and how that worked out for you? And is there anything I can do to support you? It’s just these subtle shifts, and it’s not easy. I have three daughters, 18, 17, and 14. And I don’t claim that any of this is easy, but it is what keeps us connected.
Debbie Reber  29:16
I love the way you just explained that and it brought me back to something you talked about in the very beginning of the book, which you know, if I were to say what your personal values are, I have a feeling that dignity is one of them. That’s something that you and Todd talked a lot about on your podcast, parenting with dignity, treating our kids with respect and dignity. And you do explore that in the beginning of the book but you know what you’re just describing is part of that. Maybe you could talk a little bit more about that foundation of dignity and respect and why that is so critical and the way that we parent our kids.
Cathy Adams  29:53
Yeah, you know, I actually used Rosalind Wiseman’s definition because Rosalyn, who’s a friend of ours, has an organization called Cultures of Dignity. And I love that, like, I wish I could steal it for myself, cultures of dignity, right. And basically what she, you know, there’s so many things she does in her organization, but one of the things she starts with is the differentiation between dignity and respect. And respect is, you know, thinking about someone in terms of how they treat themselves and others and whether or not we feel empowered, inspired by what they do, you know, we can decide whether or not we respect someone based on how they treat themselves in the world. Dignity, though, is inherent, no matter who we’re talking about dignity is there a human being in this world, and that they have inherent worth period. Now, you know, people argue this point a lot, and we can go into, you know, the deep depths of why people are like, but this person did this, they’re undeserving of it. And this is where this is why the dignity and respect, the differentiation is helpful, because we don’t have to respect that person. We don’t have to invite that person to dinner, we don’t have to stick up for that person, or, you know, make them our friend, but we can feel grounded in, they have the dignity to be here and alive. And if we lose that, that’s scary to me. Because that’s when we start to get into dehumanization, and believing that other people for whatever reason, are less worthy humans, you know, where we start to treat them, this is where it gets into a little bit of a scary area for me is that if we don’t believe in dignity, if we believe that these people can be treated this way, and these people can be treated this way, we’re going to lose ourselves. And again, like I said, it doesn’t mean that people don’t deal with consequences, that people don’t get prison time, that people lose privileges, these things happen because they are not making the best choices. And those they need to, you know, deal with those consequences. But it’s like if you know, as a social worker, this is very, this is one of our ethical standards as a social worker, somebody who is in prison, who has committed a crime, maybe even a heinous crime is still a human being. And their whole life wasn’t you know, I I’m so grateful for someone like Bryan Stevenson, who talks about this all the time. You know, he talks in his Equal Justice Initiative, that you know, a person who commits a crime that is not their entire life, that one moment is not everything they are. And it doesn’t mean they don’t have to pay the price of being in prison. But we, we can, we don’t need to dehumanize others, because I think it’s a slippery slope. So again, talk about something that’s difficult. I don’t have fond feelings about many people. Some of them are politicians, and I struggle very much with very strong feelings of anger, and frustration, and in the lack of justice. But I try to catch myself in that dehumanization piece of I can feel all those things, and I have a right to and I have and I have picked sides. This is where I stand, this is what I believe. But I also don’t believe that they should be harmed. You know, I don’t believe that, I think words can even be really harmful. Sometimes we saw that, you know, and something like January 6, or something, you know, like we’re words can work people up into a place where they do dehumanize others. We’ve seen this in our history. I mean, we could go through everything. So I feel like dignity, I actually have it at the beginning of my book as a foundation that you have to understand this first. And a bunch of other things inequality, discussing race, sex, education, mental wellness, you have to have a basic understanding a working knowledge of these things, to dive into your own self awareness. Because if you’re not looking at these things, and there’s going to be all sorts of holes, and all sorts of things you’re unwilling to look at and discuss. And something that feels undiscoverable is probably the thing that needs to be discussed. For sure.
Debbie Reber  34:09
Yeah. Again, the way that your book starts and listeners I’m sure you’re now realizing this is not your typical parenting book, which is what I love so much about it. And it feels again, like it’s almost a companion for how to show up as a human right, not just as a parent, but how to be in the world in a way that contributes something positive in the way that we just show up in different spaces. And I love that you talk about race, sexuality, gender identity, and all of those things earlier in the book. Is there anything else you want to add about why you brought those pieces and before we talk about another chakra?
Cathy Adams  34:47
Well, similar to what I was just saying about dignity is all of those pieces are our way back to each other because a lot of those things at the beginning are what’s keeping us apart. And sometimes we use big words like politics or you know, Trump, ableism and those are the big, you know, those are the big words. But what’s inside of that? What are we missing? Like, what are we not talking about. And these are the issues that if you do, it’s very difficult. And again, this is not my quote, and I’m going to probably butcher it the way I say it, but it’s very difficult to hate someone close up, right? It’s very difficult to really, if you understand someone’s story, and you understand, you know, all these pieces of them, and then they just so happen to be gay, or transgender, or have a different race, or have a different socio economic background, that those things won’t matter as much. Because you know, this human, right, you’re like, Oh, I’ve talked to them, or they’re funny, or we’re friends, or they’re friends with my friend, or we had the and it’s very difficult to dislike someone when you know them, regardless of all those pieces. And yet, we will take a group of people, and we’ll say, I don’t like that, or I’m not okay with that. And that’s, again, a dignity dehumanization issue. To me, it’s like, you know, and again, people have their reasons. And I always listen, like, that’s a big part of being a clinician, a social worker, like, everybody has their own background and reasons and everybody deserves to be heard. But when we really start to break down these pieces, what is our foundation? What do we really want? Do we want to ostracize groups of people or make other people into them and you know, we are right, they are wrong, that binary and just this whole idea of that there’s, you’re either here or there, it makes no sense. Everything is gray in between. And I just wanted to kind of, it’s funny, Debbie, I think I was writing this part, during or I was finishing up during the summer of last year, you know, during the racial justice protests, and just making sure that we can’t avoid these discussions anymore. As parents, like, that’s what makes you know, this is, like you said, it’s not a very traditional parenting book. But there is this parenting element of these, we have to talk to our kids about history, and race, and sex education. And, you know, like, I always laugh about that piece about sex education, because I’m also a therapist for women. And a lot of times, they’ll come to me and they’ll sit down, they’ll be like, well, nobody talked to me about sex, and I’m fine. But our whole session is about their issues with sex. So I’m, like, nobody talked to and you’re still dealing with these things, and bringing up these conversations, you don’t have to have solutions with your kids, you don’t have to say this is the absolute This is the end, because there is no end to these discussions. They’re ongoing, but if our kids know, that they can talk about these things, and they can see, and you know, in our world is changing like this is, you know, my children are surrounded by so many different types of people now, that to believe that there should be one way doesn’t even make sense to this generation anymore. You know, they’re like, there’s so many ways. And so, as parents, we need to make sure we continue that sense of ally ship. And that just becomes who we are. We’re allies for each other. And it sounds so cliche when I hear myself say it, but I don’t understand the other way. Like I don’t I, I understand it, but I don’t know how that sits with us. Like how we can decide to hate a group. That doesn’t work for me.
Debbie Reber  38:08
Yeah, and I, again, what you just described, the words that came up for me are just really seeing our kids too, as being creative, resourceful, and whole individuals. And so having these conversations, thinking about these things in our own life, doing that deep inner work allows us to more wholey show up for them so that they can actually just skip, you know, the 20 years of therapy to figure out who they are, and just hopefully marinate in that as they grow up.
Cathy Adams  38:38
Totally like you know, we have had to unlearn so much. So why would we teach those layers again, to our kids, where they have to unlearn so much like, why it’s, again, simplifying, but it’s like, what if we told the truth about things or did our best to do that? You know, it’s everything’s like I said, there is no truth and false. There’s a lot in between, but what if we allowed for interesting discussions and allowed for different perspectives, allowed our children to be who they are, and tell us who they are. And you know, Debbie, I don’t know about you, but I feel like my girls are teaching me more than I’m teaching them at this point. Like, I will say something they’ll be like, No, Mom, that’s not the way we say it anymore. Like, and I’m, instead of being like, Oh, this is too hard. It’s like this is really interesting. I’m super curious. I love learning these things. And if somebody feels more valued, because I’m learning these things, if somebody feels more hurt, how is that hurting? It’s just, you know, if someone is like, No, this is who I am, and I prefer these pronouns or this is who I am. And I prefer you to understand these parts of me emotionally, spiritually. Like you, I would love that because I know I would love that. Right? I would love to have somebody understand me in that deep way. That’s what connection and intimacy is. So if we can offer that first to our kids, but then teach them how to do that with their friends. If we don’t need to teach them, if we do that with them, they will understand how to do it with their friends. So it’s great.
Debbie Reber  40:10
Yeah, I love that learning too. And it happens any time, invariably, like just watching a show that I used to like, or something with, with Asher. And you know, you, you, you and Todd have a podcast where you go back and revisit movies as well. And you have some really interesting conversations. But so many times something’s pointed out that I never saw it that way. I’m like, Oh, my gosh, okay, thank you for that. I need to really think about this a little more. So it is, uh, a lot of learning opportunities, if we’re willing to be curious about it.
Cathy Adams  40:41
It’s actually, you know, and as you said, Todd and I also have a podcast called Pop Culturing and where we like, dive into these things. Like, we love pop culture, and TV and movies. And it’s shocking, sometimes the movies we’d love from our childhood, we’ll go back and watch it be like, Oh, my gosh, the words, the misogyny, the, you know, the, the language that’s used with people, the, you know, I It’s shocking, like, I just stare, you know, I’m like, wow. And again, it doesn’t mean we throw it away and say, Now I will, you know, that person isn’t worthy, or it’s, it’s interesting, it’s shows are evolving. It’s not about now that’s bad. And all those people are horrible. It’s about that’s where what I always say to my girls is that’s where we were, then, you know, that episode of Friends where they were saying this, and that that’s where we were. And we didn’t think a thing about it … isn’t that interesting? So it’s really more of a placeholder than it is like something we need to cancel. That’s the way I look at it, at least. It’s like it wakes us up in itself, where we’re like, oh my gosh, we don’t we don’t do that. Or we wouldn’t say that anymore. Or so that’s kind of the way I view pop culture.
Debbie Reber  41:46
I love that. So chakra six is about senses and intuition. And one of the things you say is that you see in your clients, they typically have this kind of spiritual awakening between 35 and 55. And, you know, that is an age when we’ve got kids who are, you know, may still be living at home. And you say this is something sometimes referred to as a midlife crisis. But really, it’s a shedding of the false self and a desire for something more meaningful, and real. So, I would love it if you could just say a little bit more about how we can kind of lean into that unique time in our lives to more kind of deeply tune into ourselves.
Cathy Adams  42:31
Sure, yeah. So like you said, I tend to see women anywhere between 30 and 60. And somewhere in there, women tend to feel like they got all the things they wanted. Some of them, you know, I have the job, I have a kid, I have a house, I’m married, some of them. And they’re like, but I’m still completely lonely. I feel like there’s something missing. I don’t know what I’m doing every day. I don’t know  – it’s like they’ve lost track of themselves. And the thing I would say to people, and this is for men and women because I don’t think it has to be gender specific. You know, that for all genders, I would say, you know, all these things I’m learning is to expect this rather than be afraid of it, like I think when I was going through it, it started for me, started kind of early, like in my late 20s. You know, I went through my own depression. I’ve dealt with anxiety, the majority of my life. I’ve had a lot of things happen as we all have in you know, my personal life a lot of challenges with people passing away getting sick, I had several miscarriages, just life just tosses you round, you know. And I started the process kind of early and it was really scary for me because I felt like I was alone because I didn’t see a lot of people talking about it. And I write about this in the book. I remember early on when Jaycee was a baby and toddler were married that I thought if I dove too deep into myself and learn too much about myself, I might leave my family and like become a monk like, and I know people would be like, I’m not saying that in a cliche way. I was like, Well, I might end up on a mountain like, because, you know, just like trying to chant all day, like I didn’t know cuz I was reading a lot of that information and about silence and about meditation. And, and I was afraid because I was confronting my false self I was confronted not just me personally, but the outside world what they expected me to be as a woman like the our own, like, you know, societal pressures of how we’re supposed to show up and what we’re supposed to think and what we’re supposed to say the good girl stuff that we learned so early on. And so I had to kind of go to my deepest fears and my terror and be like, who am I and why am I doing this and unravel it over time? And I’m still unraveling it. I remember it at 35 thinking, Wow, I did that great. I’m done. And here I am. 50 And I’ve had like 80,000 more things that have happened like You’re never done. You’re always evolving. But I Think that first one where you really are like, Hmm, am I happy? Like, is this who I am? Is this what I want? Or am I doing exactly what we’re talking about before the individuation? Did I never really individuate from my family? And am I following a pattern that I’ve seen either in my bio family, or that I’m seeing that society is telling me to follow. And sometimes if we follow that and kind of just close our eyes and shut our ears, we get to a point where we’re like, my body won’t let me do this anymore. I feel sick. I got really sick. Like, I got so sick. I tried to shut it out. I tried to be like, No, I’m just going to keep doing these things. I’m going to stay in this my own box and, and I couldn’t like I got sick. I started fainting all the time. And, you know, we all go you know, if for anybody who knows The Body Keeps the Score, which has become a lot more popular, but it’s always been the way of things that your body can only be false for so long. And so I guess my point is, is that instead of like what I say to women, when they come in, and they say I’m so scared, I’m not sure what comes next. I’m like, this is exactly what’s supposed to be happening. It’s okay. It’s okay. If you feel a little lost, it’s okay. If you’re wanting to kind of really figure out who you are, and you’re not going to do it in a day. You may not do it in a year. But the curiosity about it, I remember with one of my best friends, this wasn’t even a client, she was like, I don’t even know what my favorite color is. And to say to her, what, why don’t you spend a month and figure out what your favorite color is? Just for fun, you know, like, look around, what’s your favorite color. And for some people who consider themselves evolved, they may look at that and go, Well, that’s ridiculous. But it’s not. For some people, they’ve been following a pattern for so long. They don’t even know what they like. And, I even think sometimes people who claim to be so evolved, are following a pattern also of what it means to be evolved. I do a whole chapter in the end of the book about what it means to be enlightened, and a lot of people and I don’t have a definition for it. By the way, it’s a process of evolving, but a lot of people wear the right clothes and say the right things and do the right mantras. And, you know, they’re like, Okay, I’m enlightened. But that’s not what enlightenment is. It’s a moment to moment process. So, I don’t know, did that kind of answer your questions? I know, I will be different ways with that.
Debbie Reber  47:14
No, it did. And it also, you know, as you were talking, I’m thinking about so many adults in my community who have really uncovered more about who they are, from a neurodivergent perspective as adults. And maybe they’ve been masking their whole life and didn’t realize they were doing it. And so there’s a lot going on with that piece of really starting to think about who really am I and how do I get to be in this next phase? And it’s, it can be scary, right? Because it is, it’s kind of like moving into the unknown, but I believe as Do you that it’s work that’s well worth doing?
Cathy Adams  47:54
It’s always hard, but it’s the only, you know, I don’t even like the word hard anymore. It is. Okay, so I’ll use this as an example. Like this morning, my daughter and I did yoga before she went to school, just a short thing, every day before she goes to school. And we’re always like, man, we never want to come down here and do yoga. But every time we do we feel great. And we got deep about why don’t we ever want like, why do we kind of want to avoid this, but when we do it, we feel great. And it’s the same. It’s the same thing with self awareness work. It’s like we’re always like, I don’t want to do it. But once you go into it, it’s the most freeing thing in the world. It’s just, it’s like a workout. It’s like checking things. It’s actually looking and not living on autopilot. And autopilot can be easier. And I’m putting that in air quotes, because you don’t have to think too much. And you can just kind of go. But I loved what you just said, because it’s so true. Like, who has the world told us to be? And who are we really? And now we have more language about that. You know, I was just talking on a show the other day about just the words neurodivergent. Like what great, like, that’s great language, neurodiversity. Like that just is so inclusive and so open, and not scary. To me, at least I don’t know. Maybe I don’t want to speak for everybody, but it feels so vast. And the possibilities in there, all of us who have different ways of thinking and seeing things. This is us working together. Right. So is that language still right? Neurodivergent?
Debbie Reber  49:27
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s more, more and more becoming the norm. The neurodiversity movement was really started by autistic adults. And I think neuro divergence is becoming a bigger bucket. And it is really exciting to see it’s not medicalized, it’s not deficit based. It’s very full of possibility and openness, which is great. So oh my goodness, Kathy, there’s so many things that we could talk about, but what I would love as a way to wrap this up is to just hear from you. You have a hope for this book we all do when we put something out into the world. What is your greatest intention or hope for how it supports humans?
Cathy Adams  50:06
Oh, my favorite word that has been used to describe it has been compassionate, because that was my intention when I was writing it. Because just the things we’ve discussed, you know, today, they’re all kind of tough. They have edges, right? You know, they’re like, look at myself, or meditation or any quality or, you know, neurodiversity, like people, like, sometimes people are like, I don’t, that feels hard, or it feels difficult, or I feel ashamed, or I feel guilty, or I feel like I should have done more. And my hope in the way that I wrote it is that it’s a compassionate approach to viewing yourself and your kids. Like, there is no right time to start these kinds of things. There is no, there’s nothing that can’t be revisited. You know, the possibilities are endless. And so, you know, a lot of times, I already had a few people who, you know, reviewed the book, who were like, Oh, I really liked this book. I liked the structure. I like the way it was written. But I didn’t do any of that with my kids. So I kind of feel bad. And I was like, well, that I’m trying to say that your kids are still here. And your relationships there. This isn’t just for like, you know, zero to four years old. This is ongoing, this is like adult relationships and your marriage, like the principles are universal. And so I think my long answer is I hope people feel when they read it a sense of self compassion, that there are no, there’s nothing they’re supposed to do or say this or do this. It’s more like, how do I feel about myself. And if I feel this way about myself, and I treat myself with dignity, Oh, I get to do that I get to treat other people that way. Because I feel that way about myself. And, and that feels good. And then we connect, like, it grows. And also knowing that you have days where you’re pissed off, and you’re frustrated, and you don’t want to do it, you don’t want to think that you want to watch TV and binge watch a show. Me too. Like it’s not, you know, we don’t have to be woke, as they say, every second, we don’t have to be in a self awareness loop. I think I actually do a whole chapter about why it’s good to take a break, and how sometimes binging a show for a week is a good idea. Because you don’t want to get too focused on making this your identity. But that’s what I’d say w is compassion, self compassion, and compassion for other people. We’re all evolving at different times, you know, like, there’s somebody who you may be looking up to, and you’re like, they’ve got it all together, they may hit a wall tomorrow, and someone that you’ve been looking at, and like you’re not respecting them, you don’t, you know, have any faith in them. And they come through, and, and allowing for that, rather than pigeonholing people and saying they’re this, they’re that. And I would definitely say that with your kids, they’re going to have tough years, they’re going to have easy years, they’re going to have one year be interested in math and maybe the next year be interested in English and the next year, choir in the next year, nothing. And allow them to have that, that breathing room to figure these things out. And just make sure that they know that you’re there and that you have faith in them. And then when they need greater support, maybe reminders that things are unsafe, or support from others that you’re there for that too. It’s not one or the other. It’s both.
Debbie Reber  53:21
It’s great. I love that. And it kind of ties in with the last chakra, which you talked about. It’s about enlightenment, but you call it the chakra of humanity, and the realization that we’re connected to something larger, I loved that I loved the way that you ended the book. And that understanding that we’re part of something greater than ourselves. So I love this book. I’m so excited for it to be out into the world. And I will have links listeners for all the places where you can connect and listen to the podcast and sign up for the Zen parenting moments and check out the book. Is there anything else that you would want listeners to know about or anywhere to direct them?
Cathy Adams  54:00
Well, one thing I can share that you’re actually involved in with us, Debbie is we right now if this is coming out around the time of the book, we’re having a Zen Parenting Summit this week. And you can jump in at any time like registration has been open for a while. But Debbie is part of our summit. She and Dr. John Duffy have a conversation. And that’s and they’re some of the thought leaders in our summit. So all you have to do is go to You’ll see it right at the top sign up for the summit. It’s free. It’s virtual. You don’t have to do anything. Like it’s really just to celebrate the release of this book and to bring some of our friends in, you know, besides Debbie and John Dr. Shefali did. We did an interview with her and Rosalind Wiseman and some new people that we just met that we think are amazing. And so I just you know, the Zen Parenting Summit is another thing I think people would enjoy.
Debbie Reber  54:49
Yes, absolutely. It’s a great lineup. Mercedes Samudio I saw is on there. We’ve had her on the show. She’s amazing. And yeah, so links for that also will be in the show notes page. Definitely check that out. Cathy, thank you so much for everything that you shared for the work that you do in the world, the way that you support families and parents and kids. Because what you do is so powerful for kids like you personally have helped me be a better parent. So just thank you for that. And all Thank you and happy book birthday.
Cathy Adams  55:21
Thank you, Debbie. Thank you for the support. I’m so excited. And I’m so glad we’re friends and for all the work that you do in the world too, because you know, I adore you and all your your, your podcast, and your book has meant so much to me too. So thank you.
Debbie Reber  55:36
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