Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell regularly talk about their two daughters in interviews and on social media, but they just shared what might be their most relatable parenting moment yet. The couple opened up about their stressful trip to Home Depot to buy Christmas trees in a new episode of Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast, and how they turned the experience into a teachable moment for their family.
According to Bell, the couple was dealing with some tension on the way to Home Depot after having a fight over priorities. Bell realized when they arrived that she had forgotten her purse and a mask, so she took Shepard’s credit card and mask to use while he waited in the drive-through checkout line with their daughters Lincoln, 7, and Delta, 6.
According to Shepard, a woman in the pickup line “tried to go down the wrong way of the one lane.” She wasn’t moving, so he went to her car to let her know she was going to need to back up. “She rolled up her window and was yelling at me,” he says. So, Shepard went back to his truck and started backing up. Others followed suit, but things didn’t improve for Shepard.
“She starts clapping out the window in a very antagonistic way,” he says. Cut on over to Bell, who says she heard “screaming” while picking out a tree. “Funny enough, [it was] my husband’s voice,” she remembers thinking, along with, “I need him in a mask if he is going to be speaking to another human being.” So, she dropped the Christmas tree and ran over.
The woman moved her car and, per Shepard, “just barely misses hitting the truck,” causing him to get upset all over again.
Meanwhile, the couple’s kids were “in a wrestling match on the front seat of the truck,” Shepard said, noting that it was “altogether too much for me at that point.” So, he told the kids he was going to go sit outside to decompress. “Now, the windows are down, now they’re both hanging out the window, they’re screaming ... Delta is hurt, now Delta is screaming and crying, now Lincoln is saying, ‘You gotta come in here, she’s hurt’…one of the kids opens the door into another car…” Shepard said.
When Bell arrived on the scene, she said, “I see my husband hot-faced, trying to calm down... The girls are banging on the windows, honking the horn, screaming crying... I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, here we go.’”
Bell said she went inside the truck to “hear them out…they have a lot of grievances about dad and how he handled it.” Bell joked that her kids were also smart enough to throw in phrases like, “I was frightened.”
So, Bell explained to them that what the woman did was “rude” and that their father “was in a situation that made his temper flare and he was in a situation where he needed some privacy.”
Things got even more stressful from there: The kids fought with wrapping paper rolls when they got home, the tap water stopped working in their house while they were watering their tree, and Bell realized at the end of the night that she had lost Shepard’s credit card, which she dubbed “the icing on the cake.” (She later found it next to a planter at their house.)
Bell said she ended the night with a talk with her daughters, saying, “even though tonight felt scary and stressful ... we still have to maintain how grateful we are.”
The story is oh-so-relatable and can make any parent wonder about the best way to decompress when life and your children push you to the edge.
It’s important to explain to children that everyone, including adults, needs time for a breather, Dr. Gina Posner, a board-certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells Yahoo Life. “It’s OK for them to do that and for you to do it, too,” she says. “Explain to them that, when you come back, you can feel a lot better and things can go a lot smoother.”
It’s also crucial to understand that you need these moments, Dr. Robert Keder, a developmental pediatrician at Connecticut Children’s, tells Yahoo Life. “First and foremost, you need to put your oxygen mask on first before you’re going to help your child manage their own needs,” he says.
John Mayer, a clinical psychologist and author of Family First: Find Your Balance in Life, tells Yahoo Life that it’s OK for people to acknowledge that it’s tough to be a parent, even when you’re not stressed. “What parents don’t understand is that the energy, the responsibility, and the attention needed to be with children on an activity is draining for adults,” he says.
When you’re not in a heated moment, Keder says it’s important to teach your children about emotions and learning to regulate them. “We take for granted that kids just learn emotional regulation and they don’t,” he says. That’s why he recommends giving your children tools to help them identify emotions, like labeling them and affiliating them with color-coded zones (a red zone, for example, is when you’re incredibly angry, while a yellow zone could be when you’re getting close to being upset).
“That can give kids the tools to understand what these emotions are,” Keder says.
As for explaining in advance that you need a break sometimes, it's a good idea to try to have this talk using examples your kids can relate to, Thea Gallagher, clinic director at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perlman School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life. “Saying that mom and dad need to decompress when they're stressed doesn't mean anything to kids,” she says. So, she recommends talking to your kids about a time when they’ve been at the end of their rope, like when you asked them to clean their room when they were tired or how they felt when a little sibling ripped their favorite Pokemon card. “Using examples from their life can help them understand empathy,” Gallagher says.
When that inevitable moment comes that you hit your breaking point, Keder recommends telling your children just that. “Say, ‘Honey, I’m angry. I’m not going to hit or yell, but I am going to take a deep breath or a five-minute chill out,’” he says. If they keep pushing your buttons, repeat yourself. “Teaching them to respect these decompressing moments is important,” Keder says.
And if your child won’t respect your request, Keder recommends reaching for an “in case of emergency” thing or activity, like putting on a video on your phone or pulling out a fun board game that will keep your child occupied. “If you need it, it’s OK,” he says.
But, overall, it’s OK to have these moments here and there, Dr. Anthony Tobia, a psychiatrist at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, tells Yahoo Life. “This is just part of normal parenting,” he says. But, he adds, if you’re doing this a lot, it may be a sign that you’re struggling with something else. “It may be as simple as you needing more alone time in your day,” he says.
Keder recommends that parents be aware of the need for their own time-outs, and to actually take them when they come up. “Work on getting your five to 10 minutes of zen. We all need that,” Keder says. “It helps you to be a better parent.”
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