Season 1: Episode 6 – Parenting with Christina Lafferty Neal

[00:00:00] Dr.  Alissa: Welcome to thanks. It’s the trauma. I’m Dr. Alissa, and this is a podcast with my friends, Mickey and Heidi. We’re connected by a unique and unusual experience. And we talk about it and other traumas with honesty, booze, and cuss 

Christina Lafferty Neal: words.

Dr.  Alissa: He’s in one episode six parenting. 

Heidi: Welcome everybody. We have a really exciting episode today talking about parenting because we have someone to interview us again.

And her name is Christina Lafferty Neal, and she is a licensed therapist. Christina is the person that we were hoping that we would have our hands on. When we found out that our spouses are we’re transgender and we had all of these questions. Each one of us had a difficult time in different ways, finding resources and finding the right people to talk to.

And so, for anyone out there, that’s listening to this podcast that isn’t just being entertained by [00:01:00] Heidi, Nicki, and Dr. Alissa. And that maybe you find yourself in a similar situation. We’re going to talk about parenting today. We’re going to ask Christina a whole bunch of questions. And then the second half of the episode, he Alissa and I are just going to rip into the trials and errors that parenting with an ex-spouse, who is a transgender woman.

So welcome, Christina. Thank you for joining us. 

Christina Lafferty Neal: Thanks for having me, 

Heidi: Christina, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Christina Lafferty Neal: Yeah, I’m a licensed mental health therapist in Nashville, Tennessee. Um, so I work in private practice. I work with teenagers and families and individuals working through anxiety, big life transitions and working with LGBTQ individuals.

Heidi: We’re so thankful for you. And I know the audience is thankful for you today too. So, we hope to get a lot out of you. No pressure, 

Christina Lafferty Neal: no big deal. 

Heidi: All right, Alissa, you want to kick off the questions? 

Dr. Alissa: Yeah, sure. I like how you’re trying to lay hands on her and [00:02:00] get things out of her. You know, 

Heidi: it’s been a long time.

Dr. Alissa: Sorry about that, Christina. 

Heidi: It’s been too long. I just want to touch everybody these days.

Christina Lafferty Neal: Yeah. Okay. 

Dr. Alissa: Yeah. So, we came up with a few questions. Each of us did that we thought were pertinent to being in the position that we are in and have been in. And so, the first question that I thought about, and this is something that I thought early in this process is how do I tell my kid. That their parent is transgender.

So, I’d love to hear your thoughts 

on 

Christina Lafferty Neal: that. Things come to mind for me with that. And the first, I guess what my initial responses is really just a question of what are some of the biggest worries that come up for parents in wanting to talk to their child about this. So. You know, and just wondering what’s the hardest part or the worst part of all of this for parents and what are [00:03:00] some of the fears that come up in wanting to talk to their child?

And so if any of you wanted to speak into that, that’s kind of like my first question of like, what are some of the fears that come up and talking to, to your kiddos? 

Dr. Alissa: Yeah, I think, you know, the fear is one that he’s not really going to understand, or they’re not going to understand what it means. Not being able to articulate it in a way that.

Makes sense to them or that they’re not going to know how to even articulate it to their friends or to other people that they’re not going to know how to talk about it. So just those kinds of things I would say are some of my concerns. 

Christina Lafferty Neal: Yeah. And that would be just like the first thing that I would lead with is.

Acknowledging your fears and kind of the responses that come up from your stress ahead of time in planning for what this conversation could look like. Because I think with kids, when you’re having these hard conversations about a big life change and trying to [00:04:00] navigate how to help them planning for how to deal with something hard, that’s the first acknowledge your own fears and what that’s drawing up inside of you.

And so planning ahead of time and knowing that a child might not respond very well. The first time that you bring this up, they might have a lot of questions. Some of those questions might be hurtful. They might lash out and just priming your nervous system. For that, knowing that this won’t really be about me and this is their stuff, and I can be with that as it comes up for them.

Allowing for questions to come up for them, if you’re not sure what the answers are yet for yourself, either because this is likely new for you. Knowing it’s okay to answer these questions and perfectly, and really just practicing being present with them and a calm, nervous system to help them co-regulate as they’re hearing this news.

So it’s perfectly okay to just not know the answers yet as well. So you’re not sure what, what to say to any of the questions as they [00:05:00] come up with. It’s okay to say, well, I’m not sure about that yet. Can we talk, can I come back to this tomorrow? I 

Dr. Alissa: think there’s a lot of freedom in that being able to. Say, I don’t know.

And I think like a lot of the time we think we should have all the answers for our kids. And so just having that permission to be able to say, I don’t know everything about this and a lot of this we’re going to figure out together. 

Christina Lafferty Neal: Yeah. And I think it’s good too, to have a plan ahead of time in talking to your spouse or your partner and just deciding what feels most appropriate for them to know ahead of time.

What feels comfortable for yourself or your partner? What, what they want the kids to know? Um, and just with this realization too, that there’s probably going to be this urgency to want them to feel calm and to feel safe, of course, and to have all the answers, but as a person comes out as transgender everybody’s process is going to be different and how they choose to transition or not transition.

Um, how [00:06:00] they express their gender identity, what that looks like for them. And so that is a longer process for a lot of people. So it’s okay. Again, it’s okay to not know everything yet, but just to really make sure you are supported and have what you need, um, as you regulate your own nervous system and create a supportive, calm presence for your kid.

As you’re, you’re talking about something really hard. Just going to happen pretty suddenly. 

Heidi: Christina, thank you for that. I want to dig in a little bit deeper to that, but first I think it would be really important for the audience that we reframe the ages of our children when we found out. Um, so if anybody’s just chiming in to this episode, I found out that my spouse was a transgender woman when my children were three and four years old.

And then Nikki, how old you or your sons? Um, 

Christina Lafferty Neal: 14

Nikki: and 10. 

Christina Lafferty Neal: Yeah.

Dr. Alissa: Yeah. And then my son was two and [00:07:00] my step sons were nine and 10, I guess. Yeah. 

Heidi: The reason I think it’s important to mention as kind of, as we dig in a little bit deeper in this episode. And, and later when you hear a different paths, it’s because.

There are some age restrictions with what you can say at certain ages that’s appropriate for a teenager versus like a two year old and, and things like that, Christina. So my own curiosity, I’m not good at the self-regulation thing. 

Christina Lafferty Neal: And so could you 

Heidi: speak a little bit about some like practical tips or advice for calming your own nervous system in preparation for these types of conversations?

Christina Lafferty Neal: Yeah, for sure. So making sure you have everything you liked using need to support yourself ahead of time is huge finding your community, having your own therapist, having your own friends that you can vent to and talk to and be anything that you need to be in front of them [00:08:00] is huge. So that, that doesn’t get placed on the kid to kind of hold some of that with you.

You know, for, for y’all and for anybody who has a spouse, who’s coming out to them as transgender. That’s gonna kind of flip things upside down and create a lot of change suddenly for you. And of course your body’s going to respond and have some automatic responses to that stress. And what happens with our autonomic nervous system is that.

Our body responds first, uh, picks up on it to our sense of safety or connectedness, um, in some way. And what happens is the body responds, it shifts into a state of survival mode, so that can either be the sympathetic part of our nervous system, which is the fight or flight or this anxious arousal part of our nervous system.

We get that flood of stress hormones going into our body, our muscles tense up. We get warm. And the body gets prime to run from this impossible feeling or to fight it off and try to get, [00:09:00] try to get it away. And if the body is under a prolonged amount of stress or it has this disconnection from safety or connection, And if the body doesn’t know it has what it needs to be.

Okay. And get back to a sense of connection again, uh, the nervous system will brilliantly do, let’s go further into survival mode of shut down or freeze or collapse. And so there’s a wide range of experiences that can happen within both of those nervous systems. But regardless if you’ve gone into to survival motive, You know, any kind there isn’t a verbal language to kind of calm those experiences down and say, Hey, it’s going to be okay.

Or, you know, the kids will be all right. They’ll have what they need. The body needs to feel safe first. So it’s more of a felt sense of getting yourself back to a sense of safety and connectedness. Having friends who, who can be there for you. And, you know, you can depend on them having some sort of practice for yourself and making sure that I’m getting some sort of movement and I’m getting some amount of [00:10:00] sleep.

I have my own therapist to have that I can rely on to build my own toolkits with. And so just making sure. Your needs are getting met first. And then as you’re filling your own pep, you know, you can be present for your kids and they still might send you into those stress responses. It’s likely that that will still bring up a lot of stuff for you.

But my hope is that in preparing ahead of time, uh, you can be more present with them instead of working on being perfect. 

Dr. Alissa: I think that’s great. I think that is super helpful in this situation, but also in a lot of, a lot of different kinds of situations where we feel activated. And I’m just trying to have hard conversations in general and being able to do that from, from a regulated place, like you said.

Yeah. That’s super helpful. Yeah. Another question that I have is that, you know, I don’t know if there’s any research out there on this, my guess is probably not a [00:11:00] time. Um, do you know, or, or, you know, in your experiences in working with trans people and family members of trans people, if there are any kind of long-term impacts for a child of a transgender parent, 

Christina Lafferty Neal: Isn’t a lot of information on that, or like studies or research on that.

Um, which is why I think y’all have even started this podcast is because there’s not a lot of support for, you know, all the ways that a family can be impacted by such a big change. 

Dr. Alissa: And 

Christina Lafferty Neal: there might be of course, initial strain on family dynamics as you’re learning to navigate a new way of doing things.

But. There are some things that I’ve, you know, have read and also heard in sessions from people is that, you know, having a parent come out and transition and be fully expressed as who they are, can actually strengthen relationships over time because that parent is having the opportunity to live [00:12:00] according to their authentic, true self.

And so that kind of frees them up to be. You know, more present with their child to be more authentic and really lay a foundation for a happier and more connected relationship and modeling to that. Like it’s okay to talk about hard things. It’s okay to be who you are. And yeah, it has a possibility of course, to really strengthen family relationships and dynamics over time, knowing that hard things will come up, but we can do hard things.

Dr. Alissa: Oh man, I think that is so great. And such a, a perspective shift from. I mean, probably for each of us, from where we started in this journey of like, how much is this going to hurt my kid? You know, that’s really like the fear. Yeah, but I mean, for me personally, and I don’t know if you, either one of you, Heidi or NICU want to speak to this either.

You know, I will say, as Jamie has come into her true self, you know, she is more emotional and I would say like really positive [00:13:00] ways. And I think that that communicates. Such an amazing message to the kids too, you know, like, uh, just that she is expressive in her emotions and that she has emotional language that she didn’t really have before because of, you know, not being hurt yourself.

So I can definitely see what you’re saying. That like, as hard as this may be, in some ways, in other ways, ultimately in the long run, this could be really valuable that the transparent is allowing themselves to really be fully 

Christina Lafferty Neal: them. Right. 

Heidi: It makes me want to like, raise my hand for a research study, like at, uh, for, you know, someone seeking their doctorate or something at some university across the country to say we don’t have research on it, but like, Hey, I’ve got two children whose parents started to transition at three and four and Alissa, a two year old and, um, Nicky years or 10 and 14, you know, I mean, there’s a lot more of us out there too.

I mean, just from this podcast, we’re getting, [00:14:00] you know, emails and Facebook messages and different things. And whoever’s ready to start that research project. 

Christina Lafferty Neal: Maybe it’s 

Dr. Alissa: Christina. I know 

Heidi: maybe Christina 

Christina Lafferty Neal: doctorate. Absolutely not, but I do hope somebody takes y’all up on that. Yeah, it’s needed for sure. 

Dr. Alissa: Well, Nikki, did you have a couple of questions for, 

Christina Lafferty Neal: yeah.

Nikki: So, of course I’ve got teens, um, and they’re older now they’re 18 and 14. And you know, my oldest son struggled the most with it and getting him to therapy was very difficult. Do you have any advice on how to get a resistant teenager who resists everything with your teenagers, the therapy, and admit that they maybe need 

Christina Lafferty Neal: help?

Yeah, that’s hard. I’ve definitely had my fair share of resistant teenagers that I’ve worked with. And I’ve definitely sat in some sessions before where. [00:15:00] We’re kind of just making eye contact and, um, that’s about it. There’s definitely a certain amount of patience required to just let them, let them be where they’re at.

And if they’re still holding stuff in and not willing to admit that this might be beneficial. That’s cool. I’m okay with that. I have space for that, but I know it’s a totally different, um, experience as the parents, you know, wanting to see them be okay. And dealing with the frustration that might come up for you when they’re being resistant.

So. You know, if they have any willingness to have like a hand in choosing a therapist, maybe if you call together to a couple of different people and let them be involved in the choosing process, that can be, um, super helpful, but also. You know, remember that in this situation you are the stronger, wiser, kinder, bigger person in this situation, even if you might not always feel that way.

Dr. Alissa: I don’t know. You’re 

Christina Lafferty Neal: like, am I?

[00:16:00] Nikki: Yeah, exactly. 

Christina Lafferty Neal: It might bring up some really tough. So for you, but finding ways to kind of negotiate that and see, you know, okay. Give it a try. You don’t have to love it. I don’t need to know how it goes, but this is what we’re doing this week. And so just kind of being the firm, the firm voice in that, making it a non-negotiable.

With that too emotion coaching is super helpful. So we’re not trying to fix the resistance or tell them to feel differently about it, or to be more open, but through emotion coaching, just noticing and trying to imagine what might be going on. On for them is huge to begin with. So saying, Hey, I can imagine that you’re feeling nervous or upset that I’m asking this of you.

Because, because, because, so where I think kids tend to stay shut off or stuck is when we say, Hey, I know you’re really upset about this or resistant to it, but you got to go or, but we need to make this happen. [00:17:00] All they’re going to really hear is anything after, but what’s the consequence here? Why, why, what is she making me do?

Try and switch it up too, because, and just, even if it’s not rational because teenagers often aren’t rational, but just validating. Imagine where they’re coming from so that their Barnes can go down and they can really hear you say, I get why you’re upset. So I can imagine you’re feeling upset at me for scheduling this because you don’t want to talk to a stranger or because you’re not really feeling like there’s a problem here.

Or because, because, because, so whatever it is, you hear them saying or noticing, and then you could get the chance to collaborate. And the problem is I can see you’re having a hard time talking with me. And the problem is the more that you hold this in the bigger it’s going to get inside. And I really want you to have the place to, to talk honestly, and get what you need.

Lend them your own calm, nervous system, if they have a big reaction to it. So just slowing your tone down, slowing your own heart rate and your own breathing to help hopefully help [00:18:00] them mirror that back to you and say, I know this is hard, but we can, we can, we can do this. Okay. Yeah. 

Nikki: I’ve let my kids.

Decide who they want to tell as far as their friends and when 

Christina Lafferty Neal: yeah.

Nikki: But teachers and school staff, if needed, or do you have to, should you, what is the best? I’ve only told when one of my sons was having issues at school and I brought it up and, and it was pretty new. So it was clearly a result of what was happening.

And he, you know, he phased out of it and, and he stopped, you know, acting out at school, but what is the best solution? 

Christina Lafferty Neal: Well, that’s an important thing I had that, you know, come up before of how, how do we safely plan for talk for talking to friends and getting the support of friends in a way that feels best for them.

And for a lot of kids, You know, if there’s resistance or fear or some [00:19:00] agitation that comes up to talking to friends about, uh, the same change in the family. Um, it’s typically around, you know, this fear of people being mean to them or being mean to their parent or hearing hurtful things. And so it’s really more of a protective factor of like, well, I just don’t want to talk about it.

And so really just acknowledging that what, you know, what might be the harder or more difficult emotions that are below that, that anger, that frustration or resistance, and trying to just happen to that and work with that. I think it’s a great idea if you know that, uh, they’re going to need some safe people to talk to, to maybe plan ahead and write an email to teachers.

Or, or maybe like one or two teachers that, you know, they have a good relationship with just to give them a heads up saying, Hey, this is going on for them. This is what they might need from them. Or emailing parents of some of their closest friends saying, Hey, this, they have this big change going on right now.

They’re going to need a lot of support. [00:20:00] So their kid, you know, if you want to talk to your kid and let them know that they might need them a little more this week and they might just need a friend to hear them and listen to them and we could really use, you know, your support. So just a heads up that this might come up in conversation with them.

And so, however you want to help them with that conversation or any questions that you have just please feel free to reach out. Yeah. 

Nikki: Yeah. That was helpful. I wish I had you a few years ago. 

Christina Lafferty Neal: And this is helpful to, you know, in thinking of separation, uh, or if you, if you decide that you’re going to separate, so not all couples stay together.

That’s the reason for this whole podcast is that you guys found that you have a whole separate situation where staying in the marriage isn’t going to work. And so this is a helpful thing to ahead of time in planning or talking to them about. Separating or that you are going to be, co-parenting moving forward, sending out an email to friends and the parents of your kid’s friends are super helpful saying, Hey, this is going on for us.

We’re going to [00:21:00] need your support. They might be reaching out. They might text. And so doing that with teachers as well.

Heidi: Well, now that you know, almost everything about us, let’s hang out on social on insight. You can find us on. Thanks. It’s the trauma podcast, everywhere else, including our website just thinks it’s the trauma. And if you have any questions or want to email us, we would love to get back to you. Thanks. It’s the trauma podcast@gmail.com.

So Christina, 

Dr. Alissa: we’ve talked a lot 

Heidi: about already about like preparing in advance and how to prepare in advance. And just a little background of my story is that my spouse and I did a nesting divorce because our children were so young at three. [00:22:00] And four years old, meaning we just didn’t tell them anything.

When you were saying, like, to get prepared and to calm your nervous system down, that really resonated with me because I felt like one of the reasons I couldn’t share anything with them besides their age. Was because I felt like I couldn’t say anything to them until I was okay. Because I felt like they’re going to look directly at me for my reaction.

And if my reaction is like, I hate the stuff, you know, debit, um, the ship is going down, you know, so I was like, Hey, let’s just not say anything. And then that went on for far too long, more than a year. And so I really want to know what your perspective is, is when you feel like you’ve done all of that upfront work and that your nervous system is calm.

What are some strategies for telling your children that you’re breaking up? 

Christina Lafferty Neal: Um, especially with kids that young, um, [00:23:00] because there isn’t going to be anything you could say to make sense of that for them, they are just going to be looking to you to kind of mirror back to them a sense of calm. And so I would say, you know, if possible, uh, definitely tell the kids together with your spouse.

Um, and to keep things simple and straightforward, um, not sharing anything that you’re not ready to share yet. Um, but being sure to answer the questions that they have come up as best as you can, you know, reminding kids that this is. Not their fault and it has nothing to do with them and really reassuring them that both can be, will always be their parents.

Yeah. And really allowing for the big fields to come up. Um, knowing that it’s not too big, it’s not too much to handle. It makes sense. Um, and so whatever is there, you know, I can be with, um, so really just normalizing that, keeping it as simple as possible and the questions will follow, you know, they’ll see things, but [00:24:00] yeah, just laying that groundwork and deciding with your spouse ahead of time to what when’s the best time to do that.

And can we do this together? So just having a plan. 

Heidi: Yeah. That’s perfect. A follow-up question to that is, and maybe it’s just an alerting to people who are listening. I wasn’t prepared for the ripple that was going to come. A week or two later. So in the moment I didn’t get a lot of feedback from the foreign five-year-old, you know, at the time, but about two weeks later out of the blue was the big question.

Well, I’m confused, mommy, if you love daddy and daddy loves you, then why. Are you getting divorced, you know? And he kept saying that it doesn’t make any sense, but what do parents do when they’re caught off guard by some of these questions 

Christina Lafferty Neal: since returning it back to them, you know, your parents still love you, sometimes relationships change, but we’re still your parents and we’re still here [00:25:00] for you.

And just doing everything that you can keep it simple for them so that they see that. You know, cause those questions might come up. If their feelings, their body might respond, their nervous system might go into the survival mode of, well, I still have what I need, which is parents who love each other, um, a safe home to go to.

And yeah, so having their needs met in that way. So the story that follows in their brain might be well, mommy and daddy won’t be there. I might not be safe when I go home. So it’s really just reassuring them and keeping your language and your posture. Um, opened and gag your breathing and your heart rate slow so that they can kind of meet you there, letting them see that you are still courteous with each other.

You are still communicating well with each other and that your priority is them. Right? So that’s the biggest thing for co-parenting is regardless of any struggles that you all might be having or in arguments or issues that might be coming up for between the two of you, the kids just need to see that you all [00:26:00] are okay.

And that you are. Willing to keep them as your priority, you know, keep the peace in front of them. 

Heidi: Yeah. It really does help. Um, yeah. Yeah. I think, you know, I’m just asking all these questions because. We did all this preparation upfront, and then we came together and we were ready to deliver the news. And then it’s really hard to prepare for like, they’re about to like, get out of the car to go to preschool.

And they like Jap this question on you. And you’re like, yeah. Okay. So now here are some tools to slow it down. And be positive and just share the very minimum. It sounds like. Yeah. 

Christina Lafferty Neal: Yeah. And the kids can see too, like if you’re not really quite able to keep it together, like how could you, if this just, that dropped on you.

That’s totally. Okay. Again, kids don’t need you. Perfect. They just need you present. So it’s totally okay to go back to, if you feel like you didn’t handle a lot of say, Hey, you know, I didn’t handle that well, but I want to talk about what that was like for [00:27:00] you. What can we do together? Do you want to go for a walk and doing anything you can to try to repair that connection for them?

So they feel a sense of security. So it’s not all on you to do it perfectly all the time. Um, that’s not real life, but you know, that’s modeling self-acceptance too. And some compassion for moments where we mess up. So thank you. We still want any situation where, you know, if there is some fighting going on or some frustration coming up, that the kid doesn’t get put in this spot where they’re trying to understand and resolve adult issues with the adults that are in charge.

Heidi: I just have one final question for you, and it’s more of like a data or outcomes. And again, We’re all over here reaching for data because data is something that we feel like might be comfortable. But do you know of any data or outcomes in general? Maybe not on the transgender front, but on the divorce front.

When parents get along. Versus when they don’t get along. 

Christina Lafferty Neal: Yeah. I mean, there’s definitely plenty of research on, you know, that shows children definitely do better when their parents [00:28:00] can work together to minimize minimize conflict that goes on, um, in front of the kids into have, uh, A real effort on cooperating together on behalf of the child or the children, you know, a lot of studies on divorce, you know, you’ll hear kids talk about that.

They do need things to be simple. They do need to see their parents communicate. They don’t want to be put in the spot where they have to choose one parent over the other. Or how, you know, schedules get navigated. They don’t want to be put in the middle to like communicate from one parent to the other.

So anything that you can minimize to have them as that middle person, between the parents is super helpful. Um, having some sense of predictability over their schedule and how you do pick up and drop off between homes of the parents is, is huge. Maybe even having using some of the apps, like cozy to have a family, like calendar or schedule.

So there is some predictability there [00:29:00] and minimizing them having to be in charge of communicating things, but kids almost never even care about what’s going on for parents or what they might be fighting about. They really just want the fights to stop because if the parents can’t. Stop arguing in front of kids.

The kids are going to think this because of me, like why can’t they keep the peace for me? Yeah. I mean, there’s lots of studies on, you know, if you can get along in front of them, the kids will be all right. 

Heidi: Excellent. Thank you so much, Christina, 

Dr. Alissa: to have one more up question before we let you go. My question is like, okay.

So I noticed that the kids. Particularly the older kids do not use the pronouns that their dad would prefer. So they use the old, he him pronouns. And then our youngest, like he was doing great at using mushy her pronouns for a while and then big brothers or not really. I mean, they’re just not used to it and they’ve been around much longer with pronouns.

[00:30:00] And so my question really comes down to like, as the other parent, as the not transparent and the one who is trying to be, you know, affirming and supportive of our former partner, um, or in some cases, you know, partners, a transition like would, do you think like correcting is appropriate or do you think it’s mostly just modeling both.

For sure. 

Christina Lafferty Neal: Modeling that first, including sometimes getting it wrong, but yeah, I think it’s okay to say, Hey, what’s going on for you? Or is there, what’s the struggle here or is this, are you having a hard time with this? Yeah, modeling it first and then also encouraging some conversations. With your former partner or spouse to like address that with the child too, just to, you know, have them know that they can go to their other parents to talk about this.

Talk about, what’s hard to figure out what boundaries looks like between the two of them. I imagine the frustrating part of that is not wanting to be [00:31:00] responsible all the time for correcting the kid or having that be another thing that you’re responsible for having to change in your life. But I think when it comes down to it, if the kids are resistant to it, they’re not willing to, to use the affirming or proper pronouns yet, then that can be just something that you model, maybe not even at some points gives us a whole lot of attention to like, if they, if they’re really insisting on using the wrong ones and trying to be hurtful, just being curious of like what that’s coming from, continuing to do.

What’s right on your end and revisiting those boundaries and that conversation as needed, but it’s just another change and their resistance might be. Whether it’s intended to be hurtful or not coming from a place where they, they’re not quite sure how to talk about, I don’t know that how that changed might be hurtful or too much or scary.

Dr. Alissa: Yeah. That makes definitely a lot of sense. And I’ve just had. Challenges of figuring out, like, how much do I [00:32:00] say, like actually tally is she, but you know, and we’ve had those conversations, but it’s certainly not. I mean, most times that they use the wrong pronouns, I just use the correct ones when I respond.

Um, instead of being like, yeah, 

Christina Lafferty Neal: Right, right. Yeah. Is the resistance there around, are they forgetting to do, to use the right pronouns or is it they’re not quite ready for that change? Is it too much too soon? 

Dr. Alissa: Maybe all of that, you know, I don’t think at all that it is intended to be hurtful or not affirming on their part.

I think one, especially the older kids, they’re just. Really used to a certain way. And I think they’re just used to dads being, he, you know, in general, I think all of that makes that, and I think, and I wonder, and I don’t know if this is total speculation, but I wonder too, if they started using the she, her pronouns and then did that with friends and they’d really, don’t have very many friends [00:33:00] that know that might be even sometimes like when I’m meeting new people, Like I, I met somebody new the other day and I started talking about, you know, my former spouse and then being like, I just need you to know that my former spouse is a transgender woman.

Cause I’m about to start saying she and it’s going to be really weird. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it is, it’s hard enough for me as a grown up person. 

Christina Lafferty Neal: And so 

Dr. Alissa: only imagine like it’s so hard to be a kid and just all of those challenges with all of that and like wanting to make sure that. Again, we are affirming 

Christina Lafferty Neal: for partners 

Dr. Alissa: and, and affirming co-parents.

And so, um, but also not like policing our kids right. Either. So 

Christina Lafferty Neal: yeah. So another thing, a couple of things come up, come to mind too, is. As they’re, you know, stretching and kind of adapting to this change, um, maybe talking with your former spouse or [00:34:00] partner about, okay, well, what are we willing to do different here?

Can we, can we maybe give it three months where we allow for this uncomfortable kind of stumbling, trying to figure out pronouns and how to talk about. Ourselves as a family, how to introduce me as a dad, as a mom, which pronouns do we use and just give like a timeframe for where you can be flexible with that.

And then agree to revisit that topic, uh, in a few months. All right. So what’s needed to, what do we need to change here? Um, and if it continues to be hurtful, just modeling this, these communication skills and saying, Hey, when this, when you continue to use the wrong pronouns, or when you continue to talk about me like this in front of your friends, or I feel and use the emotion that comes up, react, feel hurt.

I feel disrespected. I feel sad, but this is hard for us. And just really modeling to them like how to communicate. What that’s like for you. So when this happens, I feel this, and [00:35:00] then moving forward, I wish we could find a way that we can both agree on, um, on how to talk about me, um, and how, how to, how to address me, you know, what does feel right for both of us.

And so it’s not just putting it on them to make the change, but saying, you know, what’s your experience? How does it make you feel and how can we collaborate? Um, on doing this differently, moving forward change is hard being a person’s hard, you know, and I can imagine as the other parent in this situation, you know, watching your kids kind of struggle with this and knowing how to be a supportive and affirming, um, co-parent and that’s a lot of work.

And then just being your own person with your own feelings and your own stuff. I mean, that’s just, yeah. 

Heidi: Yeah, 

Christina Lafferty Neal: yeah.

Dr. Alissa: It’s horrible. Thank you so much that, uh, that is. All such valuable information that, again, like Nikki said, I mean, I think we all wish, like we could have all had access to immediately right away.

[00:36:00] Um, you know, because I think probably all of us. Looked out there for information. I certainly did. And there’s very little like actual like books on this or research on this. I mean, there’s tons of books for kids who are transgender. Um, but having being a kid whose parent is transgender is just, it’s just not a, well, I don’t know, there’s not a lot of material out there for kids, so I really appreciate that.

You’re. Willing to come on here and help us kind of answer some of these questions. So thank you. So we just wrapped up with Christina and that was so wonderful to be able to get that kind of information from her and to be able to ask her some of the questions that were on our minds. And now we’re just going to kind of talk about what our real lived experiences were like and telling our kids that their other parent is transgender and just kind of different experiences along the way with parenting.

So. Uh, we’ll start with Nikki. [00:37:00] You’ve got some, you’ve had some different experiences because your kids were older. And so like, what are some of the, what are some of the things that stick out to you? We did not 

Nikki: tell our kids together. I was not there for that. We probably did everything wrong. We didn’t ever fight in front of them.

We never, um, got angry with each other. You know, we weren’t the happy-go-lucky family we used to be, but they’re fine. We worked it out. We communicate well and everyone gets along. 

Heidi: Can you tell the story that recently happened with you and your oldest? 

Nikki: Yeah. I was listening to my episode of the podcast to find edits that I might need to take out.

And he came and I was cooking breakfast and he came out and was standing here and it was playing and I thought I’m going to stop this cause he probably doesn’t want to hear all this. And I didn’t. And I said, listen, I’m listening to the podcast. You’re going to hear things about me. You know, I was. Not always a mom.

And, um, you’re going to hear [00:38:00] things about me and your dad and things about your, you know, that happened that 

Heidi: you maybe weren’t aware of. 

Nikki: Do you want to listen to this or not? And he said yes. So he listened to it. And there was a part, the part where we’re talking about, um, moving here and his company losing its backer and him finding another one.

And he said, You know, I’m really proud that dad was able to keep his company going and, you know, keep going. And I’m really proud of him for that. And I was like, wow. I mean, my kids still use the wrong pronouns because that’s, they haven’t made that transition yet. And then he said, I’m really glad that dad has found his true identity and he’s living the life that he wants to live.

And that was a huge step for him because he was having anxiety and panic attacks and crying himself to sleep for a while. So he’s come a long way. 

Heidi: Wow. That’s really powerful. You guys have done a good job. 

[00:39:00] Nikki: Totally unexpected. 

Heidi: What do you think has been the hardest part about parenting with an ex who’s a transgender woman.

Nikki: Um, watching them grieve a FA a parent 

Heidi: that 

Nikki: is still alive, but they’re losing a part of it. You know, their parents that they grew up with and getting to know this new parent, this new person, watching them struggle, watching them try to hide. Things and feel the shame that they think they had to carry.

Those. Those are the things that are hardest because you don’t want your kids to have to carry that kind of weight at that age at any age. 

Heidi: Yep. How about you Alissa? What’s been the hardest part of parenting this last 

Dr. Alissa: year? You know, I think probably the hardest part was all the anticipation. And I would say that’s true for me and probably the older kids, not, not so [00:40:00] much the youngest one, but is the anticipation of all the changes, you know, like before I moved out, You know the anticipation of, okay, I’m going to be taking one of the dogs with me and they’re not going to live with me anymore.

They’re not gonna live with the dogs anymore. And that, that was, uh, that was a big, hard thing. And my anticipation of how bad is this going to be? How much is this going to hurt the kids? And thankfully on this end, it’s, it’s been okay. You know, my three-year-old is obviously the one that I see the most in the one that I’m parenting these days.

And so, you know, his back and forth sometimes can be challenging for him just like in any divorce situation of like, well, I actually want to be with the other parent today and just kind of for logistics and, and, you know, whatever, just sticking with our parenting plan, um, in most cases. And so sometimes that’s hard that that’s normal divorce stuff.

Uh, but thankfully Jamie and I get along [00:41:00] so well that, um, Those are some of the issues that come with normal divorces. We don’t experience with ours, with the kids. What about you, 

Heidi: Heidi? Oh, um, I would say the hardest part has been not I’m going to get teary, um, not being witnessed to my children’s lives a hundred percent of the time when I was pregnant.

I remember like finding out I was pregnant and wanting to be a mom my whole life. And I never envisioned that being a mom would mean that I. Didn’t pair it or see my children 50% of the time. 

Dr. Alissa: Yeah, dude. 

Heidi: Yeah. I feel like probably bad. 

Dr. Alissa: Yeah. Do you feel like that now that you’re doing it now that you’re actually doing it, you’re not doing the nesting divorce anymore.

You’re not doing the nesting. You’re actually doing the war. Um, I don’t know if it’s 50 50 at this point, but splitting up time, right? Do you feel like that’s getting easier? Because I will say for me that what you’re [00:42:00] saying absolutely resonated with me in the beginning of this was, I mean, I wanted to fight for more time, even though I knew it was the best thing for my child.

And really I had to do research and see like, okay, the research really shows and you and I, we, I, I shared that research with you and. I know that was hard, but, you know, uh, is that ultimately it’s best to have the 50, 50 kind of split. And so, but as time has gone on, that’s gotten easier for me. Has that been the case for you or no, 

Heidi: it has surely gotten easier.

I mean, the first week that they went away, they went on vacation with their dad to Montana for a week and it just, I mean, it ripped my soul open. It was the first time in their life. I had ever spent a day away from them. I mean, it just ripped me open. I will say now parenting as a single parent is more exhausting than parenting together.

And so, and I’m a work at home mom. And so when I’m working at home all day and now homeschooling and all of the [00:43:00] things that go along with that, On Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, when they go to their dads, I will say, I am thankful in a way that I don’t have to do bed and bath and dinner on top of everything else I had to do that day alone.

So yes, it is getting easier. I am appreciating solitude and breath and you know, all of the things that can come from getting a break. So I try to have perspective, like, it would be similar to if we were married and I had a night out with my girlfriends. Um, and instead of me being out with my girlfriends, you know, and their dads putting him to bed at my house, like their dads, just putting them to bed it at her house.

And, uh, and I’m still out with my girlfriends. So yeah, it is getting a little bit easier, but still that’s the hardest part for me. Before we sign off to you guys. I just wanted to see if we could [00:44:00] share some of the resources like Christina was talking about preparing in advance. And so we’ll link them in the show notes, but we specifically use several books that I wanted to make sure audience knew about before we ended a podcast on parenting.

So whether you have a spouse who’s trans or a child who’s trans, or a friend of a friend of a friend who’s trans. Or you’re just curious of being more affirming, wanted to share some of the books that the three of us use that we’ll link in the show notes that were really helpful. The first one is Julian is a mermaid.

A red crayon is another one. I am jazz. And the last one is something like, who am I or who are you? It’s amazing. But we’ll link to all of them in the show notes so that you can purchase them on. 

Dr. Alissa: Thank you so much for listening today to us. Talk about parenting with Christina Lafferty Neal. Thank you so much to Christina for joining us.

For answering our [00:45:00] questions. Join us next week for the season finale called, where are we now?

Nikki: Thanks. It’s the trauma podcast is not a substitute for therapy or mental health advice. If you or someone you love is in crisis, please call 1-800-273-TUCK +1 800-273-8255. You can also text the word home to seven four one seven four one to reach a trained crisis counselor.

Heidi: It’s the trauma.

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