Jessica: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the Going Scared podcast. This is your host Jessica Honegger, founder of the social impact fashion brand Noonday Collection. Join me here every week for conversations on living lives of purpose by leaving comfort and going scared.
Alright, this is our last week in our Digital Health series, and it is a little break time now for the Going Scared podcast. We are going to be back in August with a new series, and it’s all about how to learn to listen and agree to disagree in a world that has become more polarized. These are going to be such rich conversations, so just get ready to come back in August with some fresh listening ears.
I wanted to thank hummingbird09 who left a review a few weeks ago saying, “Jessica, oof, where do I begin? I truly feel like I have found a friend in you through the grace, elegance, and wit of this gem of a podcast. My courage lights are growing y’all, it is such a rare combination in a friendship to have this real support wrapped in love and combined with truth. Thank you for the bottom of my heart for sharing your heart and inviting your guests to do the same by curating a safe place.” Oh, this one actually brought me to tears because this is so what I feel for you. I feel like you are my friends, too. And as I sit here alone in my office having these conversations, I am imagining you right now. I’m imagining you on a run, or a walk, or folding your laundry, or listening during a Zoom call when you’re really supposed to be paying attention to an actual meeting. And podcasts are a little tricky because unlike social media or even email communities, it can feel a little one-sided. I talk with someone and you listen. So, I really appreciate your honest reviews, and trust me, when reviews say something like “Jessica comes off as more intelligent than you would think she would,” guys, I’m here for it. I am here for your reviews because it’s a way for me to get to actually hear from you. So, if you haven’t ever left a review, I would love for you to do that. It’s especially helpful for when we’re in between series and we are really getting to know you as a listener over there. So, it’s super easy. Head on over, leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts.
Alright, on to today’s show. Susan had me standing up and fist-pumping the air during this episode. She had me with chills, she had me in tears. And while it’s geared towards moms, you will learn from this episode no matter what. And what still sticks out to me is how she anchors all of her decision-making through her defined values.
Susan is a friend of mine here in Austin, Texas. We first became friends when we were in a small group together that discussed anti-racism and racial reconciliation. This group would eventually become the founding group of Tasha Morrison’s Be the Bridge organization. But what I noticed in that group is just how intentionally she parents her children. I’ve always learned so much by watching how she parents, and her work is all about providing encouragement and helpful tools to moms. She hosts the podcast Mentor For Moms, she hosts seminars and one-on-one coaching for moms as well. In this episode, we sit down to talk about digital health for ourselves and our families as well as what digital health looks like in the current conversation around how Black Lives Matter. I am really excited to invite you in to get to know my friend and most-wise woman, Susan Seay.
Susan Seay: Parenting in a World of Tech
Jessica: Well, you’re just deep and you were honest, and you are a mom where there’s just nothing that is not on the table to talk about. Connection has been the goal of your family and you see that with your kids now. So, tell us just a little bit of background about Mentor For Moms and how you kind of decided, “I want to be a woman who invests in other moms.”
Susan: Oh goodness. So, yes. For those who haven’t met me, I am married to my college sweetheart, Ron, and we’ve been married 25 years now, and we have seven kids. Right now, my oldest is 23 and my youngest is 10. So, I find myself, at any given day, going back and forth between conversations about jobs, and cars, and insurance, and future, and marriage, and, you know, “Have you showered? When did you brush your teeth? Like, are those clothes clean? How do you define clean?” So, I’m all over the place in different stages of life. And I remember being a mom with little ones and desperately wanting an older woman in my life to give me some guidance and share wisdom and help me because I just felt overwhelmed and lost and so desperately wanting to do right by my kids, but not sure what that was.
And I never really found that single one person that did that, like there would be a book that would come my way or there’d be a radio interview because it was pre-podcasts and all these wonderful things we have. But it was never that one person. And I remember saying deep in my heart, "You know, when I become an older woman, I want to still be willing to create space in my life, to share with the women coming behind me." And I must say that that came sooner for me than I thought. I still felt young, but I realized that I was older than the women around me. So, I guess that made me the older woman.
Jessica: Right. I know. I know. It’s like my next-door neighbors, I just found out they’re 78 and 79. You would never know that, but we’ve gotten to be really good friends during COVID because, you know, we just hang out in the front yard and she … at the very beginning though, immediately, I was like, "Can I go to the grocery store for you guys? What can I do for you?" And they were like, "Well, no. We’re fine. Maybe you need to help some of the senior citizens on our street," you know, because there’s Pam up the road, you know, she’s 90. And I’m like, "Oh my God. They don’t see themselves as senior citizens."
Susan: They don’t see, no they’re like… No. They’re like, "We’re good. We can get to the store.”
Jessica: Well, that happens to us sometimes, when suddenly you’re like, "Oh, I’m the wise one now. I’m the wise one." And I get to give, and you have done that. You’ve done that so beautifully, but would you just help level set us first with founding your families, your values? What are your values as a family? And then what’s the quick 101 on how we could, sort of, begin a process of discovering our unique values that we have as a family?
Susan: Oh, that’s so good. Okay. This is some of the favorite conversations I get to have with moms. So, first, I think it’s important to set some context. For me, I like to have conversations around being intentional with our families, and I wanna define what intentional looks like for me. And the definition that I use is having both the courage and the confidence to live true to your core values. I’ll say that one more time. Having both the courage and the confidence to live true to your core values. And from there, from that positioning, I encourage families to figure out what are your core values? I encourage you to have three core values because you can remember three. I get pushback all the time. People try to have four or five, six. I’m like, "I know all of them sound good, but they’re no good to you if you can’t recall them on a dime." Because they’re gonna be so integral to how you interact with your kids, how you are having conversations with your kids, that when you’re correcting them, how you’re having conversations with your kids when you’re instructing them. Like how you are positioning yourself in a conversation with your kids. Are you listening? Are you open? Or are you, you know, are you respecting the core values you all have set?
“I like to have conversations around being intentional with our families, and I wanna define what intentional looks like for me. And the definition that I use is ‘having both the courage and the confidence to live true to your core values.’” Susan Seay
So, there are several ways you could go about finding your core values, but I will say this. Every family has them. And one way that you can determine what is a core value to you is what upsets you? What sets you off in your home? Because usually, that’s a core value that’s being violated. You just have never verbalized it. And our kids sometimes might feel like they’re walking through a minefield because they’re like, "This was okay with mom, but this really set mom over the edge," not knowing that there’s a core value in you that is violated when they do that action. And you might not even have been able to be aware of it and verbalize it. But when you do, it really helps your family to all operate from a place of understanding core values and respecting those core values within your home. And then the conversation is not about their mistakes or their failures, where they could get the messaging, "I’ve been good today," or "I’ve been bad today," as much as how are you aligning with our core values today? "Well, I was in alignment with our core values well today," or "I missed it. I dropped the ball." And then it’s not just about the kids, it’s us as parents as well. Are we in alignment with our family core values? Are we living true to them? And how do we do that? It’s gonna take courage and it’s gonna take confidence for us to do that.
So, if we wanna raise confident kids, there’s this juxtaposition that’s happening with the word courage and confidence, that if you want to raise confident kids, you have to give kids the opportunity to express courage. And that means they’re gonna look different from their friends. Sometimes, they’re gonna do things differently. Your family won’t be the same as all the other families around. And that is what actually is an opportunity to have a beautiful display versus everybody trying to follow the same rules and do things when maybe those rules don’t support what’s really true and best for our family.
Jessica: I love that. It makes my own reaction to my kids being on tech because I do, and that is a minefield for me. But what it is is two of our core values are connection and adventure. So, when I’m feeling like tech has disrupted connection or we haven’t connected in a meaningful way, but you’ve been scrolling TikTok for an hour, or I don’t know what your adventure is gonna be that day, what are you gonna do to get, you know, outside and use your curiosity? So, that actually helped me identify why it’s triggering for me when my kids go outside of these tech boundaries. And I think it is because it’s a violation of these core values.
And honestly, we haven’t done the best job. Joe and I have done some work around what our family core values, but we kinda got stuck stuck in perfectionism a little bit, you know, where we like, we did an activity about six months ago. We’ve done them twice over the years, but we haven’t gone to that next level of, "Okay. This is what they are. We’re gonna share them with the kids. We’re gonna write them down. We’re gonna put them in a visible place." It’s like Joe and I know what they are, but we haven’t shared those with the kids. So this is good. I’m gonna be doing this. So, let’s tie that in then to technology. First of all, you share us with, you know, you’ve got your core values. And can you tell us a time when you ran into, sort of, a digital health situation where you were able to use your core value as a reason to guide your kid in maybe the right direction?
Defining Our Core Values
Susan: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. So, our three core values for our family are faith, love, and respect. And even in those words, someone else could have the exact same core values but the meanings behind those words of what that looks like will still be unique. And I still love that. That’s one thing I love about championing core values in families. And as I have navigated kids who are at the age where they’re saying, "All my friends have a cell phone and I don’t have a cell phone" or, you know, "All my friends have these social media accounts and I don’t have this, and I’m really curious about this, Mom. Can I get on this platform?" And there’s always a new platform, there’s always a new request or desire. Like those things will never end.
“So, our three core values for our family are faith, love, and respect. And even in those words, someone else could have the exact same core values but the meanings behind those words of what that looks like will still be unique. And I still love that.” Susan Seay
So, for me, I pull back to really saying, "Okay, what do our core values look like for this child?" Not saying because you’re 12, that means you can get your first phone. Like, we don’t do things by age. We look at each child and where they are in development and maturity. Things like how are they doing about listening and following instructions and guidance? How are they about honoring the commitments that they make? Like, "Oh yeah. I’ll get that done. I’ll make sure I take that trash out." Like, are they true to their word in everyday life? Then we say that’s marks of maturity that say you’re ready for these privileges and having a cell phone and getting on social media accounts and whatnot is a privilege. It’s not a right. And then we determine if this child is ready for that next step.
So, as we do that, I’m having conversations with them about our core values, and what would that look like in using your social media. So, if you’re on social media and you’re coming across things that are contrary to our faith, whether it’s language or visuals that are contrary to what we hold true to in our family, how will you handle that? What would that look like? One thing that was triggering for me is I would find my older kids laughing sometimes and they would be sending each other like, Did you see this? Did you see this?" And so, I would grab, you know, somebody’s phone because I’m like, "I wanna be in on the joke."
And I would see them laughing at maybe someone else’s calamity. Maybe somebody fell down some stairs or something. And I would just say, "I could see why you guys found that funny, but I’m gonna tell you that that is really bothering me that you’re laughing that hard because I feel like you’re desensitizing yourself to someone else’s pain, and I don’t like that." And then we would have a conversation about how it’s tempting to just laugh at this because someone put funny music to it or whatnot, but really to take in that when we think about our core values of respecting another person, of loving another person, how is that being reflected when we laugh at this video? And what would that look like if we were in-person and we’ve now adopted this habit of laughing at someone’s pain and calamity instead of loving and respecting them?
Jessica: So good. So good. And I just love it because I feel like oftentimes, when we’re talking about kids and tech, we’re immediately talking about safety and filtering out what they’re seeing in screentime locks and all of this stuff. But really, the most important conversation is around values and connection and creating a space in your family where your kids gonna wanna talk to you and hand their phone over and, kinda, know like, "Yeah, I did something that was out of integrity today with our family values." But let’s do get just a little bit logistical because you — ages 10 to 23, is that right, 23?
Susan: Yeah. That’s right.
Jessica: So, we got TikTok, we got YouTube, we got Snapchat, Instagram, I mean probably, none of them are on Facebook really anymore. They’re, kind of, young. I mean, we’re old now, right? Facebook users. All of the things. So, how do you go about managing that? Are your kids on those platforms? How have you taught them about how to manage themselves?
Susan: It has been an incredible challenge. I remember something as simple, I thought it was simple, is my younger kids wanted to play Roblox, and I was like, "Cool." Like, "Let me see this game. Okay. So, you’re gonna be building your own virtual community. Cool. All right." And that was like off letting them play the game. And before I know it, they’re saying things like, "Hey," of course, this is gonna be dated pre-COVID here. They were like, "Hey, our friends are gonna be in town this weekend. Are we gonna get to see them?" And I will be like, "How do you know that? Like how do you know they’re gonna be in town?" "Oh, we were chatting about it on Roblox." And I’m just like…
Jessica: I didn’t know what Roblox is. So, you’re just adding something new to my list.
Susan: It’s a game that kids can play and they can build their own community. And they, kinda, look like walking Lego figures on this game.
Susan: And I did not know that there was a chat feature and that they can create private chats and groups. And there was this whole world that was a part of that that I had no idea. So my point is, every time I think I kinda know what’s going on, there’s always something new that’s happening. And my kids love music. So they had these Spotify accounts and I was like, "Well, when did you get a Spotify account, and how is this working?" I feel like more like my kids are educating me about what interests them. And one of the postures I try to take with my kids is to stay curious about what they’re curious about.
Instead of me trying to safeguard them from all the bad stuff, finding out what they’re curious about, and then continuing to stay curious about their curiosity because it’s in that pursuit that I think one, they will begin to find their place in this world, but also find and discover the places where they tend to fall, or fail, or get out of line. And I can instruct them as they’re making that pursuit instead of me feeling like I need to always be ahead of them, and guard, and protect, and show them the way, that instead, I’m taking this posture of saying, "I am here as a guide, as a voice of protection for you, but I don’t know all of your steps. I don’t know the direction in which you are uniquely to walk in this world, but I’m here to walk beside you, I’m here to guard and protect you when I need to, I have no problem taking that posture with you." But especially when I’m talking about tech, those that tend to be my older kids.
“Instead of me trying to safeguard them from all the bad stuff, finding out what they’re curious about, and then continuing to stay curious about their curiosity because it’s in that pursuit that I think one, they will begin to find their place in this world, but also find and discover the places where they tend to fall, or fail, or get out of line.” Susan Seay
So, let’s talk early teenagers and teenagers, young adults. They’re in a place in this world where they’re starting to try to figure things out and they’re trying to navigate it. So, my kids have accounts. I have no problem grabbing their phone at random, and just saying, you know, "What’s on here? What are you doing? What’s the latest thing? Show me how this works." I do a lot of that instead of me acting like I know, I just say, "Show me how this works." And then I just start pushing buttons because that’s my way of engaging with them. And I also want to have conversations with them randomly. I’ll be in the kitchen and I’ll just say, "Hey, so, what did you see on the internet today? What did you come across?" Instead of assuming I know where they’ve been, I wanna ask them, "What did you see? What did you hear?" And maybe it’s things around race, maybe it’s things around sex. I’ve had people come across pornography online, and at first didn’t wanna admit it because they thought, "I don’t think I was supposed to find that as interesting as I did, but now I feel bad because I wanna see it again." And me having the conversation, like, you were created as a sexual being, like that’s a completely normal interest.
However, there are parameters. And then that goes right back to our core values of our faith, of how we engage with that and when we engage with that part of our being. Instead of saying, that’s wrong because it’s not that it’s wrong. It’s wrongly timed. So, the interest is good and healthy and normal. It’s the timing is not proper and good for you. And putting that paradigm for them helps them to now say, "It’s not wrong for me to have interest in this. It’s wrongly timed. I’m not wrong. It’s just that this is not for me right now." So, now I’m dealing with, "How do I begin to navigate or really guard my desires and learn how to do that in a healthy way, instead of the unhealthy assumption that there’s something wrong with me."
Jessica: One of the three lenses that we talked about in last week’s podcast is we can use tech for consumption, creation, and connection. And the consumption piece is the one we would wanna do less of, you know, like if we can use tech to connect, it’s awesome. If we can use it for creation, it’s awesome. I know one of your kids doesn’t, is a coder maybe or builds websites? There something I think you’ve shared, you know, were just really, you know, enjoys that part of technology. And so creation is different than consumption. Connection’s different than consumption. And I think it’s that consumption piece, just the scrolling, especially since my daughter has been on TikTok, that’s been my first foray. My boys don’t have phones yet. So, it’s so much easier to manage tech without phones. Does your 10-year old have a phone yet?
Susan: Not at all. 13-year old, not at all, 14-year old, not at all.
Jessica: Oh really? Okay. So, well, okay. Okay, but they’re on their computers during school. So, in that respect…
Susan: They do have access to.
Jessica: …they still can have social media accounts and…
Jessica: Okay. Okay. So, it’s, they have…they’re harnessing social and all of these things, but via their computer, which is much easier to control. So, since my daughter got TikTok and a phone just in the last year, and during COVID, it’s been like, "How are you managing consumption?" I love that question of just like, "Hey, what did you see on the internet today?" But that’s a question for all of your kids because your 10-year-old is doing school online and is YouTubing things. And certainly, is going down bunny trails like we all do.
Managing Media Consumption
Susan: In the past, I had these parameters. I, you know, you make sure that all your schoolwork is done. But once you put school on the devices, it’s like, "Okay, how did you determine this is legit school…"
Jessica: That’s hard.
Susan: "…this is you playing around." Like it’s very mushy, right?
Susan: And so…
Jessica: That’s what I found during suddenly my homeschooling stint. And I was very frustrated because before that, I had tidy boundaries, phones go here. I mean, no one was really on tech because they went to school, they came home, and maybe they got an hour of TV, you know, but like, and so, then during homeschooling and everything else, I just, yeah, I got… it wasn’t pretty.
Susan: It wasn’t pretty. And then let’s be real, as overwhelmed as we were, and still are, on what’s happening in the world, the fact that they’re preoccupied with something can be nice. You’re like, "I mean, just, I don’t care." Like, "You would wanna watch that whole series, I’m just fine." Whereas before, I would be like, "Oh, you’ve had enough time on that TV. Get off of it."
Jessica: Yeah. Like, I had more capacity to manage it. And then suddenly, my capacity was limited. And then I’m like, "I can’t even manage this anymore."
Susan: Yes, yes. So, I think that my consumption management with them is more personal. So, I look at myself and I have open conversations with my kids about, "Hey, I went overboard today on Insta, guys. I was just out there in people’s stories. I was like all over the place. I did too much." And here’s how I knew it was too much: because I wasn’t really engaging with people anymore. I was just scrolling. It was almost like my thumb was on automatic and I was just scrolling and, kinda, numbing out. And I have open conversations with them about my own consumption.
I also have open conversations, not only about my failures and where I feel like I just went too far, but I also let them know I’ve been on the computer all day today, and you guys looked over my shoulder and you probably saw all kinds of things going on. Here’s some of what I was doing. I was learning these things, I was producing this podcast, I did this interview, I’m working on this article to release. Like I share with them that though it may look like, "My mom was just over there. Every time I looked over her shoulder, she was on social media," what you don’t know is that some of that was research, some of that was design ideas. Like there was a lot going on that you don’t know. So, I think a conversation around what I’m doing with that helps you to understand that this is not me just playing games and being, you know, just having a great time on the web.
So then I’ll just turn to them and I’ll say, "You know, what are some signs for you that you can begin to notice that you’ve been on there too long? Have you noticed sometimes that you don’t even really care about getting your chores done or spending time with the family because you’re just in your thing? Have you noticed how you start to want to self-isolate?" And then let them say, "Oh, no, I haven’t noticed that." I could say, "Well, I noticed that we were in here talking and you didn’t even wanna be with us. You didn’t pay attention to our conversation and we missed you and we wanted you to come be with us. And I think that that’s a warning sign for a pitfall for you, that when you are in the tech zone too long, you begin to pull away from us. Instead of being a part of this family, you start to self-isolate." And it begins to give them language for what they’re doing, that they can begin to then express that back as they get older because this is now a normal conversation to have in the household.
“It begins to give them language for what they’re doing, that they can begin to then express that back as they get older because this is now a normal conversation to have in the household.” Susan Seay
Jessica: I love this phrase like, “we miss you.” Because it’s not coming from this like, “It’s too much time on tech. It’s bad for your brain,” it’s, you know, whatever. It’s like this — Oh my gosh, Susan. I am recording this podcast, and my two boys are out swimming, and one of them just took the other one’s swimsuit and flung it across the pool. One of my boys is swimming around without a swimsuit right now, and Amelie has been gone for like a week.
Susan: You have a privacy fence at least, right?
Jessica: Yes, I have a privacy fence, but I’m in this moment where I am watching one of my kids, basically skinny dip unintentionally, and okay. That was a first for me. This is what we get during shelter-in-place and recording podcasts in our home settings. Okay. So, “I miss you.” I love that because my kids are allowed to interrupt my tech, especially outside of work hours, but they’re not really supposed to be doing it during work hours. But outside of work hours, it’s like, you know, they will come and grab my phone. I mean, Jack did it this week. Actually, Jack took my phone from me one night and never gave it back, and I couldn’t even find it the next morning. I’m like, "Where is my phone?" Because I do, I have a hard time self-managing and especially during the last couple of months, especially during the pandemic and the political situation, and then Black Lives erupting, Black Lives Matter, George Floyd’s murder. I mean, it’s like I thought I had gotten into a pretty good self-management space and then suddenly, I was back in the way back down the bunny trail again.
So, I wanted to talk a little bit about that. Amelie, the weekend after George Floyd was murdered, she had spent time on TikTok talk during her normal time. But I didn’t ask her what she’d consumed. So, I love just that simple question, but the next day, she goes, "Mom, I stayed up. I stayed up all night crying last night because we have to create a better world for Jack." And like, I mean, some of these Tik-Tokers are creating very powerful videos that really explain anti-racism, police reform. And so, suddenly, I’m like, "Oh my gosh, she is going deep into these things that I haven’t even…" you know, I mean, we’ve touched on these topics of course, because that’s a part of our family value is inclusion and diversity. So, you know, we live in a diverse area, diverse school. I mean, this is part, we have a black son. So, these aren’t brand-new conversations, but at the level that they’re happening now, I suddenly felt like I couldn’t get ahead. And I wanted to know a little bit about how you’ve seen technology aid, both aid and distract, from the national conversation and awareness around the Black Lives Matter Movement and cultivating a culture of justice and anti-racism. We haven’t had the chance to talk since all of this has happened and I was really looking forward to just hearing how you’re doing. And, yeah.
Susan: That question, this entire COVID and racial injustice time, anytime someone says, "How are you doing?" I find that to be one of the most challenging questions to answer. At the beginning, I was saying, "I’m somewhere between gratitude and grief." And then I would say, "Right now, I feel like I’m somewhere between hopelessness and really believing that there’s a better way and a better day ahead." Like I feel myself going back and forth between those. For those who don’t know me, you know, I’m a Black mom raising seven Black kids and I’ve got one boy and six girls. So, for me, when Ahmaud Arbery happened, it was a difficult time because my son is, like, the same age. I believe he was like right around like 23.
And my son, after work every day, he comes home, and he switches into clothes in the evening and he likes to go for a run. That’s his thing. He goes running every night, and I found myself wanting to support that healthy activity for him because he needs that to get out. I mean, there’s not many other places he can go in this particular, you know, shelter-in-place, everything closed environment, but at the same time fearful. Like the thought of my boy going out for his normal run and not coming home, like the thought of that experience was difficult. So, and then he was navigating that. So, you know, Jessica, you and I are raising kids in a time where our kids can be more informed about what’s going on in the world than we do. They could know about the murder or the latest hashtag going on before I even have a clue…
Jessica: Absolutely, yeah.
Susan: …about what’s happened. And they’re processing it and hearing about it from their peers and knowing more facts about it than me, and I’m trying to be their parent, their mom, their protector, and thinking, "Man, like it’s already out the gate." You already have seen the video, which I refuse to watch any of the video. I will never watch the video of someone being murdered or mistreated. I cannot do that. It is too much pain to my soul, but my kids have watched the videos, and they’ve heard the cries for help. And my son has been in this difficult season of navigating growing into a Black man in America at this time, he’s asking questions like, "What does my future look like? And what do I do to stay healthy and sane when it feels like I’m a walking target because all of these people that are continually being remembered on socials, they look like me?”
And for me, I’m saying they look like my son, they look like my brother, they look like my uncle. Like these look like, well, I know they aren’t just news stories to me. And I think that what’s challenging for me right now is that I’m in my own grief about it, I’m in my own pain. And because I have a platform, I’ve got people coming to me who are looking for some help and instruction because they wanna help. And so, they’re like, "Tell us what to do, tell us what you know, give us your perspective." And it’s an interesting dance to say, "Right now, I need to grieve and process and figure out how to get my thoughts together, and then I can come to you and say a few things." And one thing that I am saying to moms, which ties into tech, which just ties into a motherhood heart right now, is resist the urge to be so overwhelmed that you feel like there’s nothing that you can do.
“One thing that I am saying to moms, which ties into tech, which just ties into a motherhood heart right now, is resist the urge to be so overwhelmed that you feel like there’s nothing that you can do.” Susan Seay
If moms could catch a clue of the impact and the influence that they can have on their children, I think they would drop the whole myth that “I’m just a mom” and they would step up and recognize that they have such impact on their children’s perspective and understanding of what’s going on. And the conversations that we’re having in our homes, the way we’re showing our kids through our own personal modeling, and for the boundaries we set with them on how they engage in technology, will help them to build healthy ways of navigating this complex world that continues to change. So, instead of us having a paradigm that we’re gonna set how they can engage today when tomorrow everything could change, I’m saying, let’s teach our kids how to navigate from the inside out, how we can develop core in their hearts and minds that is settled in their understanding and identity of who they are. And when they get that right, and when they get that clear, they can navigate whatever changes the world wants to throw at them because they have a clear understanding of who they are.
Navigating a Changing World
Jessica: And the mic is dropped. The mic is dropped. Wow. That just came from your core. That just came from your core. I’m moved to tears just hearing your passion and connecting with that. And it really is about these open, honest, and vulnerable conversations and letting our kids into our own pain. And, you know, it is hard when you’re navigating such a wide age range. I even find with my 14-year-old, I mean, she’s on fire. She’s woke with many exclamation points and is in like, is pushing for these conversations every day. And it’s been really hard because Jack, my Black son is, is 11 and it’s different conversations with him, plus I’m not wanting him to feel like singled out, you know, and like he has to, you know, carry his skin color and suddenly this new and different way in our home.
So, and plus he’s also just so different than her. He’s a comic. So, we’ve actually been watching “Blackish.” We’ve been bingeing on “Blackish” and “Mixedish” and that’s been our place to just have these conversations. And even today we were at Target and the last episode we’d watch was about, like, the brother nod, you know, the Black brother giving the other black brother the nod. And, you know, in the episode, Dre was talking to his teenage son and the teenage son was like, "What not are you talking about? I don’t even know what you’re talking about, Dad. We don’t do that anymore." And then it became about that. And then today, we passed a couple of Black guys at Target and I’m like, "Jack, are you giving him the nod?" He’s like, "Mom, you know." But Jack is like, seriously hilarious. I mean, he probably will be your performer someday. He’s just really uniquely funny and witty. And so, like having these conversations during “Blackish” is more than like sitting down with Amelie and we’re about to do a book study around, you know, "Stamped from the Beginning," you know.
Susan: Well, that’s a good book, too.
Jessica: I know. I finished it a couple of weeks ago and wow. I haven’t even begun to totally metabolize it. But it’s so good. It’s so good.
Susan: I’m glad to hear that you are processing with Jack with joy. Can I tell you how important that is? In Black culture, we love to laugh, and it could seem inappropriate from people on the outside. But for us, it is a way of coping, because if you understand living in a hard and a difficult life, joy is its own resistance. It’s its own rebellion. It’s like, there’s so much other pain, like come on. The fact that we can laugh and have joy here, there’s an inner strength that that laughter brings and a healing that that laughter brings. And it also, there’s such a complexity to true comedy. Like to be able to take truth…
Jessica: Yes. Yes. It’s smart.
Susan: …and information and still find the humor in that and make a twist on it is really, really complex and a beautiful thing. So, the fact that that’s the way he is dealing, and learning, and finding his own voice and understanding in this, I think it’s a beautiful thing.
“If you understand living in a hard and a difficult life, joy is its own resistance. It’s its own rebellion.” Susan Seay
Jessica: That means a lot because I’ve been trying not to text any of my Black friends to say is, you know, because I’m like, everyone’s dealing with their own grief right now. So, you know, and in that respect, I’m like not asking my Black friends like, "Is it okay that we’re laughing about this and doing this and, like, getting permission?" So, I appreciate hearing that, you know, you’ve seen that in Rwanda. You’ve gotten to travel to Rwanda and it’s that resilience, right, being able to laugh and seize joy and claim joy as your own in spite of systematic injustices and perpetual suffering. It is an act of resistance. I love how you just said that.
Susan: It truly is. And it is part of how my son copes, but he loves a good GIF, a good meme. He loves all kinds of humor because I just feel like for him, it’s what he needs to cope. Because there’s so much hard, there’s so much difficult that when I see him laughing, I feel at ease. When I feel like my son is quiet and he’s not laughing, I check-in. I get more into like, "Hey, so talk to me, like what’s going on? What’s happening? What are you seeing? What are you hearing?" It’s just a check-in for me. And this is a personal goal for me. I’m not saying everybody should have this, but it’s a personal goal for me to laugh with every single person in my family every single day.
Jessica: Wow. That is so powerful! Oh, that is so powerful. Yes, because that’s connection.
Susan: It is. It really is. And my kids have to let their guard down. You know, sometimes when they don’t wanna talk to me or when they don’t wanna talk to anybody, and I’m still figuring out how can we have a moment of connection here? How can we find a way to have some levity in spite of the true hard and still have the real conversations? And it has created an atmosphere of joy in this household that when people spend time with us, they’re like, "You guys laugh a lot." And I’m like, yeah, we really do.
Jessica: Yeah, you are. You’re a fun family.
Susan: We are and it’s part of our way of connecting. And honestly, I did that because I know I can be an over-the-top, kinda, mama.
Jessica: Yeah. All right.
Susan: Like I could really be too much. I could just be too much.
Jessica: I get it.
Susan: And it was my way of bringing it in a little bit to say, "Susan, if you don’t figure out a way to laugh, your kids will not like you. They will not wanna be around you." And frankly, who could blame them, right? And I just thought, "Yeah, I think I take myself way too seriously, and let’s bring some joy here."
Being Honest with Ourselves
Jessica: That’s so good. I love that. I’m gonna adopt your goal, that daily goal because that can save us from a lot. I wanted to talk about the creation side because our kids and it’s the younger generation, they are on the front lines. And they’re creating a lot of the media and information. And I mean, sometimes, my daughter shares with me these TikTok videos, and I’m like, "That is smart." I mean, I, you just broke down systematic racism and what defunding the police means in a way like a 13-year-old can totally get. And, you know, how are you supporting the forward motion of this movement? And how do you guide your kids as far as the social media side? You know, like what are the boundaries for mental and emotional health, and then how can we use technology for good in this movement of elevating and promoting Black lives?
Susan: I basically continually try to remind my kids that your news feed, whether you know, whatever platform you’re on, is a reflection of you because it’s built on algorithms. And what you double-tap or what you like or what you continue to consume, it just feeds you more of that because it wants you to spend time on the platform. But the platform doesn’t have its own agenda. It just simply wants you to be involved here so they could get paid by their… what do they call them?
Jessica: Advertisers. Sponsors, yeah.
Susan: Their sponsors and their advertisers. Exactly, right? So…
Jessica: But you know what, that is so good. I love that. How you just… yeah, that’s so true because it’s easy to get so personal because there’s faces on there and it’s people and it’s, we call it a community. But at the end of the day, it’s a machine with algorithms that needs to make money. I love that. I’d love depersonalizing it in that way.
Susan: Yeah. I try my best to keep my kids’ identity intact and recognize that these things don’t attach your identity to your number of followers, or how many people responded to you or how many people hearted your comment. Like, these things can be such a way of building identity, but it’s so false and it won’t remain. It’s not sustainable, but who you are can be universal and you should show up as that truest person, no matter if people celebrate you and give you an attaboy and a clap, or if they’re completely silent. Be you in every way. So, that newsfeed, check-in. If that newsfeed is not feeding you good information, inspiring things, things that are helping you to be your truest and best self, then recognize that you are off track and you’re losing your way.
“Be you in every way. So, that newsfeed, check-in. If that newsfeed is not feeding you good information, inspiring things, things that are helping you to be your truest and best self, then recognize that you are off track and you’re losing your way.” Susan Seay
If you’re producing content that causes you to compromise on your core values and the truth that you know about the way that your mother and father have set boundaries about you treating people or sharing information, then you’re out of line and you’re out of alignment with our core values and you gotta course-correct. And that doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes. Making mistakes is different than saying you are a mistake and you identify yourself as a mess up and “I can’t ever do right.” You will make mistakes because you’re learning. You’re stepping into and you’re becoming more and more of yourself as you’re learning and becoming more aware.
So, we look forward to celebrating you creating content and stepping out there and trying new things. At the same time, when you get ready to hit publish, or go, or whatever the button is, ask yourself, is this true to all the core values that I know my family and I stand for? Am I in alignment with that? Yes, then hit go. Not sure, come check in with your parents. You don’t have to publish all this stuff out here just because you were in a moment of like, "I got to say this right now." None of that is so urgent that it can’t wait, it can’t be filtered, it can’t have the moment to take a full thought and take a full breath before you say what you need to say out in the public sphere.
Because it is a public sphere and let’s be real. We’ve got colleges and jobs and all kinds of opportunities that are watching you or contract you and check in on how you’re showing up. So, unless you feel like, "Well, I can just delete it. Nobody will ever know," you don’t know what has been screened captured, you don’t know who’s watching. And it’s not as free and you don’t have as much liberty as you think with no repercussions. Your decisions in the public sphere have real consequences. And you’ll trip up sometimes, you’ll make a mistake, but let’s be real about those expectations of the consequences instead of acting as if there will never be any.
Jessica: Let’s talk about taking a break because you just took a break. You said on Instagram, you were taking a break. And, you know, I think that, of course, I feel like Black users right now, Black Instagram users, or just any consumption right now, I feel like, for me, I feel like it’s white privilege to take a break. Because I can actually take a break, and then, well, I’m a little different because I have a Black son and I’m around Black people a lot. So maybe it’s a little different, but maybe for someone who lives in suburbia, who it doesn’t have a lot of diversity in her life, it’s like, "Oh God. This is just making me so upset and angry. I’m just gonna, you know, take a break," whereas, like, when you’re taking a break, it’s for your mental health, it’s because we need a rest. What do you think the balance is for taking those breaks while also engaging, still engaging?
Susan: Yeah. I think that it’s really about a conversation of honesty. I think we have to be honest with ourselves. Are we taking a break because we need to rest or are we avoiding, and running away, and hiding, and turning away from things that are just too hard for us and we chose overwhelm over compassion? So, I think that most people are not taking a moment to really be honest. So, they say, take a break because that sounds okay, when really, they’re like, "I don’t wanna talk about this. I don’t wanna face this. I don’t wanna know this. I don’t wanna engage in this." So, I think it’s really about being honest.
Jessica: Susan spoke so much life and purpose into me, as a mother, during this episode. And she also took away a lot of the stress around technology and digital health because she really made it about values. What are your values? What are your family values? And how do those contribute to the kinds of conversations that you are having in your home? There is something about that that disarmed me and breathe new life and hope in me for my remaining weeks in the summer, which can be really challenging when we are still working from home, the kids are home, we don’t have access to all the normal summer activities, and it still feels like a wild and weird world we’re living in.
So, I just hope that she also breathed some purpose and life into you. I love you guys so much. I’m so thankful that I get to do this podcast. The only reason I get to have a podcast is because of the people who listen! I have people who share these conversations with their friends. You guys post about them on Instagram and I repost your mentions in my stories and that is how we get to spread the good news we call these conversations on Going Scared.
I cannot wait to see you back here in August. I’m gonna be missing you. We are going to have a series all about how to learn to listen and agree to disagree in a world that has become more polarized. These are some really, really rich conversations, and I will a learner in all of them as well right along with you.
So, thank you so much for making this digital health season a success. Today’s podcast was produced by Eddie Kaufholz. Our music is by my friend Ellie Holcomb. And I’m Jessica Honegger, the host of Going Scared. Until August, let’s take each other by the hand and keep going scared.