269: Reclaiming Community: Climate, Parenting, and Social Connections, with Bill Weir

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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We’ve all but outright rejected the old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child,” in American culture. We’re more fragmented and lonely than ever. Yet, there’s clear evidence that community and connection are key to happiness. It certainly takes a community to raise a happy and resilient child, even if “community” looks different in modern life.

In this episode, I'm joined by the amazing CNN journalist and storyteller, Bill Weir, who takes us deep into the emotional journey of being human. Bill shares his personal path toward acceptance and learning what comes next, while also discussing the crucial role of community and nature for happiness and resilience.

We explore his global travels, the shared humanity he’s discovered, and the impact of climate change on future generations. Together, we dive into crucial parenting insights from Abraham Maslow, discuss the importance of balance between virtual and real worlds, and the necessity of giving ourselves and others grace.

This episode will resonate with you if you (or your child) are struggling to find balance and connection in today’s fast-paced, fragmented world. It’s packed with heartfelt stories and valuable advice. Tune in to discover how accepting life’s challenges and asking “What’s next?” can lead to action-oriented solutions that foster a healthier, more connected world. Don’t miss it.

3 Key Takeaways

01

The Importance of Acceptance and Next Steps: Bill emphasizes the necessity of accepting the challenges parents face and the significance of continually asking “What's next?” after reaching acceptance.

02

Community and Connection: We stress the importance of building meaningful connections and resilient communities, especially for parents of neurodivergent kids, while addressing the challenges posed by modern, often segregated, suburban lifestyles.

03

Balance Between Virtual and Real Worlds: Bill discusses the balance between participating in virtual reality for solace and ensuring substantial connection with the natural environment, highlighting the mental health impacts of early exposure to social media and the crucial role of nature and community in achieving overall well-being.

What You'll Learn

Acceptance and Moving Forward: You will learn about the importance of reaching acceptance when raising a neurodivergent child, and how to continually seek out what’s next.

Community and Connection: You will understand the significance of building and maintaining a supportive community, especially for parents of neurodivergent kids, and explore strategies to foster meaningful connections in the modern age.

Balancing Technology and Nature: You will discover the impact of technology, particularly social media, on mental health and gain insights on creating a balanced life that includes both the virtual world and time spent outdoors.

Self-Compassion and Parenting: You will explore the concept of giving grace to yourself and others, understanding that everyone is doing their best given their circumstances, and how this mindset can positively impact your parenting approach.

Resources

Some of the resources may be affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission (at no cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s 5 Stages of Grief Model

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My Guest

Bill Weir

Bill Weir is a veteran anchor, writer, producer, and host who came to CNN in 2013 after a decade of award-winning journalism at ABC News.

In 2019, he was named the network’s first Chief Climate Correspondent, drawing on his experience creating and hosting the primetime CNN Original Series “The Wonder List with Bill Weir,” now streaming on Discovery+.

With his distinctive storytelling style, lush photography and a focus on our connected planet, Weir and his team produced four seasons of the show across 28 countries, highlighting wondrous people, places, cultures, and creatures on the brink of seismic change.

In 2022, Weir earned a News & Documentary Emmy® Award for his CNN Special Report: Eating Planet Earth: The Future of Your Food, and Columbia Journalism Review called his 2020 CNN Special Report: The Road to Change “one of the very best pieces of climate journalism ever run by a mainstream US neoh ws organization.” His first book, Life As We Know It (Can Be) is available now.

In his network career, Weir reported from all 50 states and more than 100 countries, covering breaking news and uncovering global trends. He was among the first reporters into the floodwaters of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and Japan’s tsunami zone during the nuclear crisis of 2011. He dodged Taliban bullets in Afghanistan, led network coverage from Iraq and was the first American to broadcast live from Tibet. As a writer and anchor, Weir produced several special hours for CNN and ABC prime time on topics ranging from religion, brain science and Woodstock to the business of mail-order brides and the rise and fall of General Motors.

His live shots have come from atop the Golden Gate Bridge and below the waters of the Great Barrier Reef while his adventure reporting includes jumps from hot air balloons, hikes deep into the Amazon and one fun night spent lashed to the side of Yosemite’s El Capitan.

Before joining ABC News, Weir wrote and hosted projects for the FX and USA Networks and was an anchor/reporter in Los Angeles, Chicago, Green Bay and Austin, MN.

Transcript

Bill Weir [00:00:03]: To become a parent of a neurodivergent kid, you have to mourn the ideal kid that maybe you thought you were going to raise. You know, you can bounce between the different stages, and there's days where you're gonna be angry, and there's days when you're gonna be bargaining. But the people that can at least get to acceptance of, doesn't mean surrender, doesn't mean I'm giving up, but acceptance that this is the hand that I've been dealt. Now what what's next?

Penny Williams [00:00:30]: Welcome to the Beautifully Complex podcast, where I share insights and strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started.

Penny Williams [00:00:52]: Welcome back, friends. I am crazy excited today to have Bill Weir with me to talk about all things happiness and resilience and parenting, and some of the lessons that he has learned in his travels and investigations for ABC News and CNN. I wanna first introduce him though for anybody who has not had the pleasure of seeing Bill yet. Bill is a veteran anchor, writer, producer, and host who came to CNN in 2013 after a decade of award winning journalism at ABC News. In 2019, he was named the network's first chief climate correspondent, drawing on his experience creating and hosting the prime time CNN original series, The Wunderlist with Bill Weir, which is one of my favorite documentary series. His first book, Life as We Know It Can Be, is published by Chronicle Prism and available now. Thank you so very much for giving us a little bit of your time.

Bill Weir [00:01:59]: Of course.

Penny Williams [00:01:59]: I know your schedule is busy. Anything you wanna add to that? What else do we need to know about Bill Muir?

Bill Weir [00:02:06]: Oh, let's see. You covered it pretty well. I like, you know, hiking, slow walks on the beach, friends who aren't afraid to cry, you know, turn offs are smokers in war.

Penny Williams [00:02:20]: Sounds pretty good.

Bill Weir [00:02:21]: Yeah. No. You covered it. And thank you for your kind words. I'm so glad you found the Wunderlist out there and the panoply of choices.

Penny Williams [00:02:28]: Yeah. Yeah. I think we have a shared propensity for awe and wonder. Okay. And I think that's what really drew me in is just you've been to so many places that can teach us so many lessons about humanity and places that a lot of us don't have the pleasure of traveling to.

Bill Weir [00:02:49]: Exactly. Yeah.

Penny Williams [00:02:50]: If you had to pick maybe one thing that you learned about being human from traveling, from investigations that you've done, what would you choose?

Bill Weir [00:03:03]: I think most people would be shocked to know the shared humanity that transcends cultures and languages and and, you know, at at our core, we're all human beings, homo sapiens for better or worse. And, you know, the person walking the other direction, you're passing on the street, whether I'm in Beijing or, you know, Brooklyn, is so similar to mine. You know, con concerns about the kids, concerns about the job and security, and what about dad and your aging parents? You know, everybody has has all of this mixed up in them, and so I wish I could share my passport and my express account with everybody. I think we'd have a much different foreign policy or view of ourselves in the world. Mhmm. And ultimately that, you know, and this comes up as a pretty big theme in in my latest work is that we're just made of stories, you know, that the stuff we take for granted in our lives is permanent as as mountains. The borders, or the flags, or the maps, or the currencies, or religious denominations, political parties. All of these are just stories we agree upon in the moment, and they're under constant revision.

Bill Weir [00:04:13]: And we live through periods where those revisions come fast and furious. Yeah. Like the first few months of my little boy's life, he was born at the height of the pandemic in 2020. And so I use my kids as sort of living, breathing units of time measurement. My daughter inspired the wonder list when I realized she was we have the same birthday, Olivia and I. We were born almost to the same hour. You know? Uh-huh. And so it's a special and on her 11th birthday, I did the math and realized, wow, she's gonna turn my age in the year 2050.

Bill Weir [00:04:44]: And I had been covering climate for a lot, and that's a very sort of red letter year. And when you think about, you know, by the time my little boys are ready for a mortgage, these projections are expected. You know?

Bill Weir [00:04:57]: And so they they influence my work as well, but I what I bring back to them and and whether it's practical advice on how to live, where to live, how to build shelter, and and all of your pyramid of needs is that sense of shared humanity. And that, ultimately, your health, wealth, and happiness depends on a planet imbalance Mhmm. And an immediate ecosystem imbalance, which includes your neighbors and the people who have a different yard sign than you across street during an election year. You know? Mhmm. And connecting around each other and nature these days now when things are relatively calm, I think is just the best way to heal our environments around ourselves, but then our interior environments too. And and, you know, the the people that I met on the wonder list, the healthiest, happiest from the blue zones of Greece to, you know, Bhutan or whatever, we really had the strongest trust and ties with each other and the nature, the seasons, the rhythms of the planet around them. And it's so easy for us to cut ourselves off from that in the modern age.

Penny Williams [00:05:59]: Yeah. Yeah. I think especially in the United States.

Bill Weir [00:06:02]: Yeah. For sure.

Penny Williams [00:06:03]: We don't have as much community as we used to, and I think that is really a sad thing. I think we need that community. It sounds like in all the places that you've been, that community is kind of that constant.

Bill Weir [00:06:17]: Well, it's everything.

Penny Williams [00:06:18]: That determines happiness and resilience.

Bill Weir [00:06:22]: Yeah. I mean, we've we've sort of conflated ease and frictionless existence through our phones and our devices Mhmm. With happiness or, you know, a sense that's not how we evolve. You know? We are at our peak as a human machine out in nature, moving our bodies with 10 other like minded folks doing a task, seeing the results of that, and virtual all the 1,000,000 virtual likes in the world from strangers are never gonna fill that up. You know? And, yeah, like, you go to a place like I talk about in the book, but one of the first wanderlust we shot actually, the very first we shot was at the blue zone, these pockets of longevity around the world, and this was in Ikaria, Greece, this Greek island.

Bill Weir [00:07:05]: And you go there thinking it's gonna be this silver bullet that they're eating some sort of, you know, herb or something that's that extends their life. And it's really a buckshot of a lot of lifestyle nudges, movement throughout the day. But key among them is you're it's a kind of place where if you don't show up at church, someone's gonna come knocking on your door, you know? Or it's a kind of place where in an emergency, you can hand your baby to a dozen options, you know. Right. Right. As we built in the you know, I don't see these once you become a new old dad and you live on this beat, you you see the the same world a very different way.

Bill Weir [00:07:43]: But now when you look at, like, suburbs and folks, you know, to get away from each other, get away from sort of the dense community and sprawl out in these segregated, sprawled suburbs, then we set up a story that, well, it's not safe for mom to live in the city, so she we gotta move her to the suburbs. But once she get to the suburbs, there's no place for her to walk and hang out with friends, and there's she can't drive. And so, you know, it's all of these decisions get added up in ways that can bring us tighter together or or drive us apart. And I think after the pandemic closed down, some cities, people are sort of thinking about, wow, the the Europeans have it pretty figured out with these piazzas where people get together and commune, and all different ages mingle together in shared third spaces. And maybe building around cars wasn't the best, healthiest idea, you know. And so, you know, it's an interesting time.

Penny Williams [00:08:38]: Yeah. And for this audience in particular, parents of neurodivergent kids, it's often a very isolating existence because we have a different parenting journey. Our kids have a different way of moving through the world. And so what we need more than anything, I think, is community.

Bill Weir [00:08:57]: Yes.

Penny Williams [00:08:58]: And sometimes we really struggle to find that community. Do you have any insights or advice on how do we connect with each other in this day and age in a meaningful way?

Bill Weir [00:09:13]: Yes. So that that I really is is now a life's work is to try to figure that out because I'm coming from the place as really a gypsy loner, and I have a a very unique upbringing in that. I'm from Milwaukee originally. My dad was a cop, and my mom was a secretary, and they split up when I was a baby. And my mom became a very zealous evangelical Pentecostal Christian and announced one morning at breakfast when I was, like, 9 years old that she'd had a dream from God and God wanted us to leave Milwaukee and go so she could go become a televangelist in in the bible belt and move to Texas. And she put me on the phone with my dad to, like, negotiate out of joint custody for No. It was very strange. But we moved, the dreams kept coming, and I went to 17 different schools in 6 states before I left for college and might spend my summers with my dad who is this atheist outdoorsman, you know, and hiking in the woods.

Bill Weir [00:10:07]: And it was this pendulum between these two very different world views. And my mom, you know, her family did not embrace her faith and and did not convert the way she had hoped, and so she just split. And so I was raised with the notion that family is optional, and community is temporary. And because she was just like, okay. This church, it's not lining up with my views. I think we're going to Fort Worth. And for and she invent you know, it was like a new life was just a U Haul rental away. She shot it through the lens of her spirituality, her faith.

Bill Weir [00:10:41]: I think it's just a uniquely American sense of, you know, reinvention. And, but at least it instilled me with that sense of, like, if you're bored, you can always move. And I never appreciated the cost of that until, honestly, my first marriage came apart. And in reflection, one of the reasons it did is is that I'd come back from these fabulous, wonderless shoots where I was filling up on other communities in, like, you know, Iceland or New Zealand. And when I got home with my my daughter, only child, and my wife, I just wanted to go out to this little lake house we had and, you know, hang out with them and not Yeah. Not build a community, not lead into a congregation of whatever it is, whether it's at a church or a club or, you know, a nature gathering, whatever.

Bill Weir [00:11:28]: I rejected that, and I threw my mom's, you know, faith, the baby out with the bath water in terms of a congregation where you gather together with folks, at least around ideas that are better use. So the closest thing that I get to it is concerts. Right? Or when you're surrounded by people who know the same lyrics.

Penny Williams [00:11:44]: Yeah.

Bill Weir [00:11:44]: It moves you in that fundamental way. And so I write in my book, you know, and this is written as letters to my kids, both as sort of apologies, a guide, and rallying cries to them, but also this lessons learned. And and that I grew up thinking that a rolling stone gathering no moss was cool, you know. But it turns out that moss is a really good indicator of a healthy environment. And we all need to be mossier, and we need to be more connected. And my stepmother, who was sort of my, you know, archvillain as a little boy, is now much closer to my family than my actual mother, you know, who took me on the road. And we're estranged, but my stepmom, after my dad died, she became a model, like a role model for this for what I am hoping my son and daughter emulate in that she was living in Colorado. It was too hot for her.

Bill Weir [00:12:38]: She's too much land to manage, so she just sold this little hardscrabble farm they had and picked out the Oregon coast because she'd been there and loved it. Visited several different towns in the temperate zone. She wanted a temperature between this range.

Penny Williams [00:12:53]: Right. Sounds good.

Bill Weir [00:12:55]: And how far from the coast should she be and, you know, tested the towns based on politics and just social vibe and picked out this little town, settled in, knocked on every door. It's like, hi. I just moved in. Mhmm. Having a housewarming. You wanna come? Everybody came. And then they're the kind of, you know, retirees who are like, if if there's something happens to us up here, we gotta be prepared. Like, who's got the generator? Who's got the chainsaw? And they have a plan.

Bill Weir [00:13:20]: They have a resiliency plan around their community, which is, I just think, the key, I think, for this for the communities of the future. At least, I hope so.

Penny Williams [00:13:29]: Yeah. Putting yourself out there to connect.

Bill Weir [00:13:32]: Yeah.

Penny Williams [00:13:32]: You know? And it's amazing to me as a person with social anxiety that somebody would walk around and knock on doors and introduce themselves. And I had a somewhat similar upbringing in that I went to countless schools as a child. We moved all the time, and it kind of did the opposite for me. It made me retreat into myself Mhmm. And stop connecting for a long time, which, of course, wasn't healthy or good or the way that really any of us want it to be. But, you know, I think that illustrates that we all have a different experience under similar circumstances. Mhmm. We're all, you know, human beings, and we have a lot of similarities, but we also have differences.

Penny Williams [00:14:15]: And we have to, I think, embrace those differences. You know? She's not out there knocking on only certain doors that match, you know, her Yeah. Interests or people she thinks might, you know, be aligned with her thinking. Yeah. She's just saying, hey. Welcome, everyone. I'm open to everyone, which I think is so magical.

Bill Weir [00:14:38]: It is. And it's and it's so easy to lose sight of and and I get surprised. I'm lucky enough to travel a lot for work, and I'll go down, you know, to do stories in Southern Louisiana or or the Permian Basin in Texas. And I'll go in with a preconceived notion of, like, there's probably not a lot of CNN viewers here or what you know, whatever. And be surprised, you know, when a car gets stuck in the mud and somebody's like, Bill, you know, immediately embraces you. And, you know, communities that I grew up in somewhere, you know, people who run for the city council, it's nonpartisan, because if the sewer line breaks, you know, poop is nonpartisan if it's spilling into the streets. Like, you gotta work together just to run a civic society, and and we forget how often that really works every day. You know, we do the stories about it breaking down and people being super angry at each other, and that is a a valid concern these days.

Bill Weir [00:15:34]: But I think, you know, whether it is connecting with other neurodivergent parents who wanna find a hiking trail that works for their kids, you know, and work on tree planting or mangrove, you know, clean up or whatever, you know, can use that shared sense of wonder about whatever's in your backyard, the closest wonder you have. You know, I sound like a like the grouchy old dad. Put down the phone. And outside. I go outside. But I really do believe I was I I had this amazing experience. I had a back injury a couple months ago, and I'm like, I gotta get a a massage to work on this kink in my back. I just booked whatever was the closest place in the neighborhood.

Bill Weir [00:16:18]: It was a day spa kinda place. And I go in, and this therapist who's working on me is black guy, maybe 22, 23 years old, and was really good. And I'm like, wow. This is really helping me. You know, he goes, well, thank you. I've just started in this job. I was a professional video gamer. And like, wow, good for you getting into a tactile world of physically helping people instead of living in a virtual universe.

Bill Weir [00:16:44]: And I started making fun of like, you know, I refuse to go into a world where we're taking virtual hikes, you know, with our headsets on. And he was laughing at me. And I I realized that he and then he we began arguing over from his point of view, why should I have to worry about a world that's out of balance when I can create my own outdoors with virtual reality, you know. That's that was his safe space. That's his happy space. He grew up not reading books, but he living in these game universes. Right? And so how do we connect with those kids too, you know? Right. Yeah.

Bill Weir [00:17:15]: And and get them used to the idea that their health and wealth and happiness depends on the outdoors, you know?

Penny Williams [00:17:28]: My kid is very into VR as well, and I think part of it is that he can create a universe or he can choose people to be around there that are supportive

Bill Weir [00:17:40]: Yeah.

Penny Williams [00:17:40]: And open and willing to interact with someone who's different, willing to maybe work with him if he misses a social cue or,

Penny Williams [00:17:48]: you know, things like that. And so I get why kids go into these virtual worlds. Totally. But then how do we get them to balance? Did this masseuse tell you why he was stepping outside? I mean, I'm sure he's still a gamer.

Bill Weir [00:18:07]: He he, you know, the life changing moment for him was he went to do a tournament on Twitch, I believe, is the website or, you know, where there where Yeah. Where people basically pay to watch kids play. Right? And he was expecting it to be a huge crowd and, like, 4 people showed up, and he was crushed by it. You know? And he's humiliated. Yeah. And what it shows to me is, and it took me a while to get there to think this way about social media interaction. I was addicted to Twitter and, you know, either being combative or or performative or whatever, but none of it worked. You know? Mhmm.

Bill Weir [00:18:43]: Is that we have devalued that human contact. It's so much easier to cancel on somebody's party when you don't have to look them in the eye. Right. You know, it's so much easier to avoid all the tough stuff of being human, and humans Yeah. Can be a pain in the tush. You know? Yep. And I'm as much of a loner as anybody. And we've created this golden age of isolation when I don't have to look a person in the eye to get a 5 star meal delivered side my door, you know, if in the big city or to reconnect with a high school friend, you know, over texting before I fall asleep.

Bill Weir [00:19:18]: That's not reconnecting. You know, reconnecting is hugging and sitting around a fire or, you know, moving a couch. You know? So I have to force myself out of that comfort trap. Mhmm. You know? Because it's really seductive too. And my daughter, you know, I I write about my biggest regret. I structure my book around Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the idea that the stuff at the bottom, food, air, temperature, you know, shelter, the the bottom two layers, I just took for granted as a kid. Yeah.

Bill Weir [00:19:49]: But now that with the more severe climate, we can't anymore. But by addressing those primary needs together, I argue that you can fill your love and esteem needs, which are higher up in the pyramid. Agreed. And so the the early part of the book is addressed to river my little boy around the basics of, like, where to live and and and the latter chapters to and I love and esteem needs it to my daughter, and I talk about one of my biggest regrets was giving her an iPhone at age 10 and teaching her how to use Instagram. I was a tech reporter at ABC News at the time. I just profiled Kevin Systrom who founded Instagram, sold it for a $1,000,000,000, just come back, you know, from the inside tour of this place, and she was Olivia born on my birthday. I also got my first Ipod that day. So, you know, when she turned 10, it was like, alright.

Bill Weir [00:20:38]: An Apple, you know, moment for us to go get your phone. It just and, again, I you know, we didn't know any better. Right? And I thought I was giving her a tool to help fill her safety needs, you know, at the bottom of the pyramid to connect with us, maybe hold her Taylor Swift collection, but didn't realize we're giving her this anxiety machine, you know, as she tried to fill her love and esteem needs in an impossible space. And without, you know, equipping her with with this, it's on me. You know, the story of Icarus, people talk about a little boy who's who flies too close to the sun. I see it as a story as a boy who died trying to impress his dad. That I that whole flight was his dad's idea.

Bill Weir [00:21:19]: It was a prison break plan. And he told this kid, don't fly too high or the wings will melt or don't fly too low or they'll get wet. But if you're a dad, you're gonna take your kid off, jump off a tower, at least give him a parachute. And I didn't give Olivia a parachute and any kind of training. I was too busy becoming addicted to Twitter and, you know, in that space as a reporter. And so I hope that now that people are talking about the the anxious generation, you know, and the lessons we've learned from those things, I definitely will be very different around River. I have a second chance with my little boy. And Olivia, who's now 20, we've had to work.

Bill Weir [00:22:00]: You know? She's been through that generation that really struggled with this and had to think about mental health in ways that I never imagined she would when I when she was 10 years old, and I and and we started that.

Penny Williams [00:22:12]: Yeah. And what I would say to you is you were doing the best you knew how to do at that time. Right? Totally. We didn't know

Bill Weir [00:22:19]: We didn't know.

Penny Williams [00:22:19]: Starting out. And we can have all of this regret and guilt as parents, but it doesn't serve us. And, you know, in my journey as a parent, I leaned heavily on that quote, I believe, from Maya Angelou that says, when you know better, you do better. Right? And so I'm able to give myself grace because I know that at any given moment, I'm doing the best that I can for my kids, and that's what we have to lean on. I think as human beings, understanding that everyone is doing the best that they can given their circumstances at that moment in that environment.

Bill Weir [00:22:56]: Totally. And and then the big breakthrough is giving that grace to your parents. Right. And realize that they they were doing the best. Yeah. But so absolutely. But one of the things that I that came up in the in my research into Abraham Maslow who inspired a lot of the structure of this book, you know, sort of a a giant in psychology came up with the idea of humanism at a time when there was just sort of behaviorists and and psychotherapists. But he he studied, did field work on a really abundant Blackfoot reservation in Canada and went there with this sort of idea about cultural relativism, you know, that you shouldn't judge a cannibal for his not that the Blackfoot were cannibals, but you shouldn't judge any indigenous people's behaviors because that's all they know.

Bill Weir [00:23:49]: That's the story they grew up with. That's what they live. And then he went and lived on this reservation. He goes, no. There are people just like us and there's great people here way more better than the ones I know in Brooklyn. And it this whole relativity thing, like, we're people. We're human. We're messy.

Bill Weir [00:23:59]: We're all over the place and that's okay. And it this whole relativity thing, like, we're people, we're human, we're messy, we're all over the place, and that's okay. But what he observed there and then what he observed later when a bunch of his family moved in with him in Brooklyn is that the American parenting sort of nuclear family, the child is way too dependent just on the on mom and dad. And so when that relationship sort of frays, there's nowhere there to catch it. And whereas communities that he had seen where you're able to hand the baby around and and there's a lot of love Right. There to where if you have a falling out with mom, you know, there's there's an auntie and a host of other folks there to pick you up. And his remedy was was, like, for that sort of codependency is a lot more sleepovers, You know, a lot more summer camps away Yeah. For the kids, both to foster independence and and that sense of community as well.

Bill Weir [00:24:51]: So my little boy's turning he just turned 4, and is now, like, we're trying to and he's an only child, you know? So his mom is really concerned about, you know, so being so social and stuff.

Penny Williams [00:25:03]: Connection.

Bill Weir [00:25:04]: But I think the really the pandemic sorta, I don't know your perspective, made us forget how to be human with each other sometimes, you know, and made it tougher to socialize.

Penny Williams [00:25:13]: It made us so much more anxious, I think. And, you know, when our nervous system is triggered by anxiety, we don't have as much access to our thinking brain, our cognitive, our reason, our rationality. And so, you know, we sort of retreated into ourselves because we had to to be safe, but then I think that became more normal. And you add that layer of anxiety on top of that, and we're just not functioning in the same ways that we were. We're kinda having to relearn it, I think, in a in a lot of ways. You know, I mentioned earlier, I have anxiety and social anxiety. And for me, you know, I was doing pretty well before the pandemic. The best I had done, you know, all my life, I was not caring as much about what other people thought after, I turned a certain age.

Penny Williams [00:26:00]: Right? And things were really sort of getting to a really manageable place. Right? And then the pandemic happened. And once we were going out again, I was like, You know? I don't I don't really wanna. It doesn't really feel as good as it used to. Right? And I had to Right. Get back in that pattern. I can just see our younger kids, our teens and young adults are really struggling with that. Just, like, their normal was rocked.

Penny Williams [00:26:29]: Yeah. And now they're trying to rebuild some semblance of whatever normal looks like, which is just this concept that doesn't really exist anyway. Right?

Bill Weir [00:26:38]: Right. Right. Yeah. And I've seen studies about the fear to congregate, you know, to to hang out at a mall the way I cruise the mall when I

Bill Weir [00:26:47]: was a kid. Whatever the watering hole is, you know, whatever options you have, if there's now some sort of hesitancy to even go there and create smaller and smaller circles around you, it's tragic.

Penny Williams [00:27:00]: Mhmm. Mhmm. Yeah. I wanna touch real quick before we close on something that you have mentioned more than once in our conversation, which is basically the stories that we tell ourselves or we tell others about things that happen. I do a lot of work with parents on mindset

Penny Williams [00:27:17]: Because acceptance of the fact that we have a kid who struggles more than other kids might or in different ways is really powerful and really important if we're gonna be able to help our kids to have success and joy for whatever that looks like for them as an adult. Mhmm. And part of the work that I had to do on myself before I even recognized that it was the work that we all should be doing really was on the stories that I was telling myself about things that happened in a very victim mindset. And so, you know, why did this happen to my kid? Why is this my parenting journey? Right? Why do these people not understand my kid? And I realized through a lot of research, a lot of podcast listening, that I was choosing that story. I had that choice. I had that power. And so when you mentioned it now a few times, you know, it sticks in my brain because it's something that I focus a lot on. And anything else that you wanna kind of share about just sort of taking ownership, I think, of those stories that we're telling ourselves? How do we do that, and how does that really benefit us?

Bill Weir [00:28:34]: One person I came across that helped me along with with Maslow, just frame how I think about this stuff, is Elizabeth Kubler Ross, who is best known for the 5 stages of grief, but her biography is stunning. She's this girl from Switzerland who witnessed death at a very young age in in both in beautiful ways and and sort of horrible ways where it was shrouded in shame and secrecy and it informed her. She defied her with father's wishes to become a doctor. And when she started practicing at the end of the sixties in Chicago, 95% of doctors did not tell their patients they had cancer. And it wasn't until they're really advanced that they would tell somebody that they're terminal. And it was just this dirty word, but everybody in the hospital knew who was terminal. And so the clergy urged her and she was starting wanted to practice medicine, drifted to psychiatry and psychology. And she said, well, ask them if I can interview them after you tell them the news.

Bill Weir [00:29:31]: And they all said yes. And so she interviewed hundreds of people and that's where she saw them cycling through these, the 5 stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. And I was working on a climate special at the time and and sitting with somebody who said, look, if we do everything the scientists tell us, the world is gonna change. We're gonna see a lot more turbines, a lot more solar farms, you know, just things will be built differently. And if we do nothing, well, things will be very different for much more destructive reasons. Mhmm. And then you realize, well, you have to grieve what was lost that, you know, if once you accept that the Goldilocks planet that we grew up on is gone, then becomes like a road trip through the 5 stages, and you go through big stretches of denial depending on the politics of where you're going. Or in Charleston, they're bargaining by building a seawall.

Bill Weir [00:30:21]: In Miami, they're bargaining by raising the streets. And but until you get to acceptance, like, okay. The physics of what this problem are unfolding, and it's coming. So what's next? You know, My dad would say 2 things when I complained. Good thing you're tough. And so what's next? Yes. That was horrible that happened to. So what's next? Right? And so I imagine of of a neurodivergent kid, you have to mourn the ideal kid that maybe you thought you you you were going to raise.

Bill Weir [00:30:48]: Yeah. Right? And and the sooner you can cycle through that, but Kubler Ross was very careful to say it's nonlinear. You know, you can bounce between the different stages, and there's days where you're gonna be angry, and there's days when you're gonna be bargaining. But the people, whether you've just been through a wildfire or hurricane or 911 or or a horrible diagnosis, the people that can at least get to acceptance of, doesn't mean surrender, doesn't mean I'm giving up, but acceptance that this is the hand that I've been dealt. Now what what's next? And that keeps me sane because I can get as dark and cynical as anybody if I think too much if I focus too much on the enormity of these of global problems and stuff. But if I think locally and I think about what can I do if I get up out of this chair and go talk to somebody, or what can my kid do this weekend that's gonna make the world half a percentage more resilient, you know? It gets me out of that.

Penny Williams [00:31:42]: Love that. Yeah. Acceptance doesn't mean surrender. I had to write that one down. That is so good. Yeah. Yeah. Well, Bill, it has been such a pleasure to talk with you, and I'm so appreciative of

Bill Weir [00:31:56]: Thank you, Penny.

Penny Williams [00:31:57]: You just sharing with the world, you know, in general. You're you're a journalist, but you also are a storyteller, and you're sharing all these insights that you get to gather to help us to create a better place for ourselves, for our kids, for generations to come, and I'm just so appreciative of that work. I want everyone to make sure that they check out your new book, which is life as we know it can be. And, also anything else that we've we've mentioned, resources we've mentioned are gonna be linked up in the show notes for this episode, And they are at parentingadhdandautism.com/269 for episode 269. And I hope everyone takes good care, and I will see you next time. Thanks again.

Penny Williams [00:32:52]: Thanks for joining me on the Beautifully Complex podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share, and don't forget to check out my online courses and parent coaching at parentingadhdandautism.com and at thebehaviorrevolution.com.

Thank you!

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I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

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I'm your host, Penny.

Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

My approach to decoding behavior while honoring neurodiversity and parenting the individual child you have will provide you with the tools to help you understand and transform behavior, reduce your own stress, increase parenting confidence, and create the joyful family life you crave. I am honored to have helped thousands of families worldwide to help their kids feel good so they can do good.

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