In this episode of Real Talk, KJK Student Defense Attorneys Susan Stone and Kristina Supler are joined by Dr. Christine Whelan, an academic researcher in helping people find purpose and meaning in life. They discuss topics around a growing portion of young people not wanting to have kids. The conversation includes how young women view having families versus having a career; the impact of Covid and changing social interactions on wanting kids; and how young adults can find purpose and meaning with or without having children.
- (02:40) The Ups and Downs of a Declining Birth Rate
- (03:43) Historical look at Women in the Home
- (05:42) How young women started looking at their careers versus family
- (07:42) A different but accurate viewpoint of young girls looking at motherhood
- (09:26) How women look at satisfaction from something meaningful and purposeful
- (11:34) How Dr. Whelan balances work with raising a family
- (13:59) Looking at the costs of raising a child
- (16:16) Did Covid negatively impact young adults on wanting children?
- (17:58) College students are becoming more socially awkward
- (20:04) Is finding purpose in life done through having children?
- (21:12) Are adults without kids happier?
- (22:36) How one Harvard Study defines happiness
- (24:32) How Dr. Whelan teaches kids about purpose and meaning
- (27:25) Dr. Whelan’s perspective on how her kids shaped her life after 25 years
- (28:34) How parents can talk to their adult kids about parenting
- (31:45) Teaching young adults who don’t want kids about being pro-social
- (33:46) Changing from young adults into older adults: the evolution of our nature
- (34:50) A simple exercise for parents to use to help their kids find purpose and meaning
Susan Stone: Around a year ago, I started hearing high school and college kids tell me that they don’t want kids. When the first college student told me this, I thought that the sentiment was particular to that student. However, since that time, I’ve been hearing this from a lot of different kids. Kristina, what the heck is growing up?
I mean, I remember when I was a little girl, fantasizing, what? What am I gonna name my babies when I have them? And now nobody wants babies.
Kristina Supler: I don’t know. It’s a really interesting question, Susan, and I’m really excited to explore today. I understand wanting to put off having children to develop a career, to launch yourself professionally, but I’m still sort of struggling with hearing from young adults who just say, I, I don’t wanna have a family at all.
Susan Stone: This seems to become more prevalent since Covid. And I’m wondering if it’s just a coincidence. I’m hoping our guest today is gonna help us explore why students don’t want children. Is it new or has the thought only been? Has it thought been around for a long time and I we’re just noticing? It might be new to us.
Kristina Supler: We’re pleased to be joined today by, Dr. Christine Whelan, a clinical professor in the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin Madison. She’s the author of Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women, and Marry Smart, the Intelligent Woman’s Guide to True Love. She also wrote another book called The Big Picture, A Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life.
And it’s really a small steps program to help young adults figure out what matters and how to make it happen. And I just have to mention, there’s one other piece in Dr. Whelan’s that I love. And that is that at the age of eight, she hosted a nationally syndicated radio show called No Kidding, A Health Talk Show for Kids by kids.
Susan Stone: Today would be a podcast, not a radio show.
Kristina Supler: Welcome, Dr. Whelan. We’re happy to have you with us.
Susan Stone: Oh, and I love that you wrote about purpose in life. I’m gonna be 57 and I keep telling everybody that after my last goes to college, I wanna find my purpose at life. But let’s just kick this off. Am I right?
Students don’t wanna start a family. They don’t dream about being mommy or daddy.
Dr. Christine Whelan: So the birth rate has been declining for, quite a while now. And, and in a sense we’re seeing some positive trends. We are seeing fewer people getting pregnant accidentally. And, fewer unwanted pregnancies. We are seeing folks waiting longer to have kids perhaps until they are stably partnered and financially secure.
So on the one hand, we, we can see some positive trends there. On the other hand, what we are seeing is that the United States is below replacement rate at this point. Which means that there are more people growing old and passing away than we are replacing with new babies born here. Now certainly you can have folks, who come to the United States by other means like immigration.
But when we look at changes around the decision to have or not to have a child, I think it’s kind of of important to like sort of take a step back in history a little bit. Because part of my own history is the beginnings of this discussion.
So in, even as late as the 1960s, It was assumed that a man and a woman would get married and the woman would have children. And there was this assumption that you didn’t really have a choice as a woman. You definitely were gonna have kids.
My mother was an epidemiologist and she looked at all sorts of demographic factors, including the choice to have children or not. And when she and my father were considering what to do, they actually went to all these child-free meetings. And so for the first couple years of their marriage, they decided they were not gonna have kids.
And that this was really a radical idea in the mid seventies that a couple could get married and not have kids. So that, but then along the way, My mom thought, huh, maybe I should talk to other people who are making this decision. And she wrote a book called A Baby, Maybe A Guide to Making the Most Fateful Decision of Your Life.
And she interviewed all these women who were saying, Gosh, should I have a child or should I not have a child? Which was a new topic in the 1970s. Crazy, by the end of the book, crazy. By the end of the book, She made a decision and and here you are. And here I am. So I’m, I am the Baby Maybe. But these Do have, you have siblings?
I don’t. I am the one and only,they obviously broke the mold when they made me. But Right. But the Baby Maybe thing is wild. so this question was coming up even the seventies.
Susan Stone: That’s great. And I didn’t realize that, and I wanted to comment that I read an article and I believe it was in the Times, don’t quote me that China is actually rethinking.
Yes, it’s policy because for so long it was a one child rule and now the country is below replacement rate. Who would’ve thought? Yeah.
Kristina Supler: So what’s the cause or the reason why young adults now are reevaluating. Life goal?
Susan Stone: Is it worse? is has something changed since the seventies?
Dr. Christine Whelan: Yeah. So first of all, in the seventies, the blame was placed on overachieving women who were not doing their responsible thing and staying home and having babies. And there was a lot of cultural commentary about these women who were getting too much education and wanted to work and weren’t like, doing their part. How dare they. It became a sort of politically polarized issue.
And,and what the role of woman was.
Then as we see, then as that began to fade, and especially as a nation, as we became,less religiously driven, and right, and more individually driven in our career choices. We then saw that in fact, those women who were highly educated and successful in their careers, we saw the tide turning. And it was those women who were in fact, more likely to get married, more likely to stay in stable relationships and more likely to have children. They were just doing so at a later age.
So in terms of lifetime childbearing, we were seeing women having children in their thirties and into their early forties, as a much more common occurrence rather than in their early twenties.
And so that’s what we began to seein the nineties and the early 2000. But unfortunately for, for those who are hoping for more of a replacement rate in the United States as that age of first birth kept getting pushed back and further back, yes, there were, there were advances in terms of in vitro fertilization and other treatments to help women have children, past normal childbearing age.
But we also saw an increasing number of people saying, That ship has sailed. I have chosen to do different things in my life.
Susan Stone: So what’s going on now? Why are younger kids, high school kids saying, I, I don’t wanna do this. What’s making them
Dr. Christine Whelan: think that way? A couple things. First, they watch their parents and how their parents are struggling.
At one point, one of my kids, oh my God, mommy, that makes sense, mommy. It doesn’t look like it’s very much fun to be a mommy. You have to work, you have to do, all this stuff at home. You never rest or get a, abreak. This doesn’t look like this is that much fun. And the mother in me, just cringes and says, oh no Ma, now I have to, on top of everything else I have to do now, apparently I have to make mothering look more fun. Otherwise I’m gonna raise a generation of kids who don’t wanna do this.
It. so I think first of all, kids are seeing the challenge of working motherhood. Second, we are really being raised in a very individualistic culture. And when it’s all about me, me, me, and what makes me happy, parenting by its very nature, is a sacrifice, right? It is a giving of yourself. It is a generative thing, and that’s not something our culture talks about.
Kristina Supler: Totally agree. It’s the ultimate act of selflessness in many ways because your life becomes about others.
Susan Stone: I, it’s interesting because I am your statistic. I had my first child in 97 and my last child in the early two thousands, and I had three did my best to get them done with, but I will say age makes a difference.
It’s hard getting up the older you are in the middle of the night with that crying baby. And then you never sleep. Let’s be real. You never sleep the same. I still am up at three in the morning thinking about my daughter who’s 25. And so how do we present it in a way that’s joyous? I think the joy comes later.
Don’t you think?
Dr. Christine Whelan: That is, yes. That is very true. And so in the academic world, we would say that it really, what you’re talking about is Eudaimonic happiness. That’s what Aristotle called the idea of,satisfaction from putting your all into something that is very meaningful and purposeful for you.
And Eudaimonic happiness is really wonderful. Hedonic, happiness is happiness in the moment. And, I think we really need both. So what these young adults who are saying, I don’t wanna have kids, what they’re seeing is decades without any hedonic happiness in front of them. And, and so Eudaimonic happiness out in the distance doesn’t seem quite as appealing as giving up all of your hedonic happiness right now. If that’s the way society frames parenting.
And the reason I, in part, we frame it that way, is because we have this idea that you have to be a superwoman. You have to do it all. So you have to have a gr big career, and you have to, somehow be with your children all the time and leaving women feeling like they’re failing all the time.
And interestingly enough, leaving the kids feeling like they are to blame for their parents overwhelm and discontent. And so then we wonder why kids don’t wanna have kids themselves.
Kristina Supler: You have my thinking about the idea of it all. In essence, it all starts at home. I mean, when Susan and I are representing students across the country dealing with various form, Issues that are essentially crisis.
So often the root of an issue, you know, you can trace it back to various family dynamics. And I’m just wrestling with this idea of children, seeing their mothers, struggle to balance it all and achieve professional goals. And it is a struggle.
But then also this idea and perhaps that, makes them not want to have kids.
But then also you have to show, it’s important to show your kids’ happiness and joy. And I think it’s important to, to have kids see both of that. But it sounds like there, there’s risk in having your kids see moms struggle because it’s hard to have it all and do it all. what are your thoughts on what the right balance is there?
Dr. Christine Whelan: Man, I would love to know what the right balance is because I’m trying to figure it out on a day-to-day basis. I, there’s that old adage that, you have to fill your own bucket before you can, before you can give to others. And so what I decided for myself is that I would not be who I am unless I did paid work of some sort
At the same time, I also realized that I can’t be who I am if I didn’t spend a big chunk of my time with my family and, and mothering and engaged in all of the childcare activities. So what that meant is that I had to kindpull back in both and try to do a little bit in different, you know, at different times.
Now it’s not that I do 50 50 on a daily basis. There are some days where tomorrow I’m gonna be gone all day giving a guest lecture at Emory Law School. I will be gone all day and I won’t see the kids in the morning when they get up or at night when they go to sleep. That’s not a balanced day in terms of mothering. That’s a day dedicated to my career. Sure.
But then there are plenty of other days where on Friday they’re gonna be off school. I’m gonna be with them all day long. And so I think of finding the balance that works for you is important and also important for the next generation to see that there are choices that they can make to do things either differently than what I did, or differently than some of the other cultural messages that they’re getting.
Optionality is really what everybody wants, and yet not having, a clear path also stresses people out. So it’s a double-edged sword.
Susan Stone: What is also stressful is just cost of raising children. Ugh, so expensive, and I’m not talking about the tennis lessons and the high price colleges. I’m talking basic copays for the pediatrician.
They need medicine, all of it. Therapy, clothes, some people have kids that I have a really good friend, her son, she blinks and he needs new pants. And not everybody can afford that.
So the stress of economics has got to impact that choice. And then I hear students say, there’s only so much to go around and I want that money that I make for me, is that selfish or realistic?
Dr. Christine Whelan: I think it’s quite realistic. So these students are also gonna be coming out with a whole lot of debt. So how do you think about adding another dependent person to your budget when you yourself are very much in the red?
My grandmother used to say that every baby comes with its own loaf of bread. And I, that was such a sweet expression and so not true.
I was trying to sake,
Kristina Supler: I was pondering that. I’m like, wait, what?
Susan Stone: No. Even formulas expensive. Exactly.
Dr. Christine Whelan: Even formula diaper first. Sure. And and they’re, and while there are ways to keep the costs down and to do sharing economy things. it’s very difficult. The other thing that, that, by the way that is difficult is childcare.
And because we have a generation of folks who, who are pursuing their careers, we also don’t have a bunch of grandparents who are interested in giving free childcare to their grandchildren. And so that because they can’t afford to do so.
Susan Stone: Yeah, that’s really interesting. I remember that when my daughter was in elementary school, that she had a project called Notable Woman, and she picked Indra Nui, who was the CEO of Pepsi. And we went to visit her.
She shared that her dream would be that eventually when her children had children, she would give up this role of running a major conglomeration and help raise her kids because that was her culture that her parents helped her. Now, I was a single mother and boy, I could have used that help.
Kristina Supler: Oh yeah. you think about single parents and all the complicated dynamics that bear on child raising today. And,I’m just thinking to the comment about food and formula.
And it popped into my head not that long ago, there was the formula shortage. Iwho would’ve predicted that? The stress of, oh my gosh, I literally don’t know if I can give my child a bottle in two hours.
Susan Stone: That’s scary. But do you think the pandemic and that the fact that more people can work from home, will that encourage maybe some rethinking of this issue?
Dr. Christine Whelan: No. And in fact, I think it actually might make it worse. So what we’re also seeing is young adults having first sexual intercourse at later ages. And while that is good from a disease and pregnancy, un unplanned pregnancy perspective, one of the things that we’re really seeing is that the reason why young adults are not being physically intimate with each other is because they’re not physically together.
Yeah, a lot. And wow. You ha Yeah. So then you have a generation that’s increasingly physically isolated. And the more that we physically isolate people, the less likely it is that you’re going to create a family. As we delay marriage, as we delay,these kind of,these kinds of intimate partner bonds then obviously we’re going to be delaying having children and, and making babies the normal way, right? So I worry that the pandemic actually is going to make things worse rather than better. And by the way, for all the moms out there who tried to raise their young children, during the, that, those early days of the lockdown, which is, youjust three years ago, we remember what it was like to try to do our jobs and have a toddler or two or three running around.
So no work from home is not easier with kids.
Kristina Supler: I read some media interview you did where you were speaking about th this issue and the fact that there was no pandemic baby boom. Eventually, hopefully, fingers crossed when we all come back together at some point and we’re not so in this idea of working from home, although I’m assuming we will come back together, perhaps we won’t.
Do you expect though, eventually to see birth rates climb again?
Dr. Christine Whelan: I worry about this a little bit because with my college students, they are really still socially awkward. They don’t have the same, social skills or even really the desire to hang out with other people that I would have expected young adults to have at this age.
And if we see a shift more toward virtual worlds, more toward virtual interactions, then just basic, basic, physiology. If you’re not there together, it’s gonna be really hard to, to make babies and raise them in co environment.
Susan Stone: I wanna shift a little bit because you’ve written a lot about finding your purpose in life. And I come from the philosophical belief that we’re all here to correct our character defects through finding meaning and that we all have a unique gift.
But I gotta tell you, nothing holds a mirror to your face as to your character defects or your strengths then having children. When you see that kid, I both good and bad. You know my daughter, I love to cook and I watched my youngest this weekend create a homemade focaccia. And she’s mom, I just wanna be a good cook like you are. You always make such beautiful dishes. You feel pride.
Conversely, I have a spitfire temper, and when I see my kids lose their temper, I know exactly where that came from and who’s to blame? But it gives me an opportunity to work on myself and say, ouch, I don’t like that character trait.
This is something that I need to work on to be a better person. And the more I model the mistakes I’ve made and how I correct them, I feel like I’m fulfilling my purpose through children. What are your thoughts on that?
Dr. Christine Whelan: That is very beautiful and very, a very evolved way of thinking about it.
It’s not the way that everybody else often thinks about it. If we, if the other way you could be thinking about it is when you see your children acting in ways that you don’t like about yourself, a lot of people lash out at their kids. And are, and are particularly angry at their kids because they are embarrassed that is also their behavior.
And so if you can do some really good work around it. And grow from it. That would be ideal. But not everybody is there. I, the joke that I make with my kids is that I will know that I have been a good mother if they are in therapy for different problems than what I am in therapy for.
Susan Stone: yes.
Kristina Supler: That, that is very funny. That is very funny. Let’s be real. We’re talking, having kids is not a walk in the park. It can, it’s high highs and low lows. And teens in particular can really be particularly frustrating and challenging and also awesome. But are people, what does the research say?
Are adults without kids happier?
Dr. Christine Whelan: Yeah. So this is the, this is the tricky bit. is that, At the end of life, whether you have had a child or not doesn’t really matter in terms of your happiness. It’s not that adults with without kids are happier. It’s that, and or that people with kids are less happy.
It’s that when I don’t know any mother who look or father who looks at their children and says, I wish I had not had these children. We don’t as humans, tend to have that feeling. So we make a choice one way or the other and we build a life around it.
And and it’s one of life’s, my, this was one of my mother’s wonderful lines. She would say, it’s just one of life’s many options. And,and she, what she meant there was that we all have a lot of choices. But also there is that, that underpinning of that which is, and then those choices have consequences.
So if you are the type of person that does not wanna have children, and you know that about yourself, don’t have children. Don’t do it because somebody else wants you to or you think you should.
And if you are the type of person that wants to have children and that, that really craves that, then don’t worry about whether you’re gonna be able to balance it all. Have the children. Create the family. Create the love. and you will. generations of us have figured it out. Live your life.
I’m just gonna say it’s live
Kristina Supler: your life it’s what we tell our kids. Peer pressure. Don’t succumb to it. You do you,
Dr. Christine Whelan: whatever it is, and
Susan Stone: whatever it is. If you want a baby, have a baby. If you don’t You will find meaning in other ways. But we know from Harvard’s happiness study And I love this study That the quality of relationships is what determines happiness. Absolutely. Yeah. it’s not quantity. It is quality.
Dr. Christine Whelan: And you can have those quality relatations outside of your nuclear family. Those quality relationships very much can come from friends, from extended family. But often those quality relationships come in your intimate family from children, from partners.
And that of course is the line with Ain’t. If Mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy or you are only as happy as your least happy child.
Susan Stone: Yeah, I will say that I still remember that moment than when I had my first daughter. And Alex, if you’re listening to this, it’s about you. And I will say, when they handed that baby to me, it really was like a holiday Hollywood moment.
I, I fell in love with her in a way that I have never experienced before. And yes, I fell in love with the siblings too. And you never did. You only
Kristina Supler: had
Susan Stone: that feeling once. Only once. No, but you do. When they hand you that baby. There is that euphoria that you get that depth of love. It’s just different from other love.
Kristina Supler: I’m gonna challenge you on that. That I think that is, I don’t know that all women feel that. I think a lot of women hold that baby and they. Oh God, what now? or probably done.
Susan Stone: Yeah. that’s a good point. Not ever. Some people feel depressed or overwhelmed.
Dr. Christine Whelan: Absolutely. And you can also have all of those feelings all at once.
And you can have the love and the overwhelm and the terror. And those feelings will last throughout the lifetime. You know, we’re all an experiment of one, right? This is, there is no one size fits all approach to this, which is why I really like teaching young adults about the idea of purpose and meaning. Because it’s about asking questions of what are your core values? What are your strengths? Who do you wanna positively impact? What are the fears and anxieties that come up for you in a day? in a, when you are trying to tackle a big project or make a decision? And then how can you make purpose-based commitments one step at a time to do the things that matter to you?
And what I, when I break it down for young adults like that, it really helps, I think, because these are huge topics that might otherwise emotionally paralyze us. And breaking it down hopefully demystifies it and allows people to make a decision that’s right for them.
Kristina Supler: In that. In the introduction, we mentioned that you are a mother of five. And so if I may ask you personal question, tell our listeners what inspired you to have such a large family.
Dr. Christine Whelan: I have a Brady Bunch family. I have my, okay, so we’ll start with my, so I have a seven, nine, and 11 year old who are my biological kids. And then I am stepmom to twin 14 and a half year old boys. and. It is. and of course, because we had to be a Brady Bunch family, we also added a dog so who is a girl.
So now we have three girls and three boys, and we can do the whole squares. And we have a fabulous household manager who keeps me sane. So she’s our Alice. and we have the full, you
Kristina Supler: really are the Brady Bunch. We,
Dr. Christine Whelan: we really are. Now. That’s funny. The Brady Bunch Square thing going, and it’s total chaos.
I was an only child. I grew up in an apartment in Manhattan. I am now the mother of five and a dog with a minivan in the Midwest. And I often have those moments of, I have no idea how this happened. But yet I do because, the, I love the the energy, the chaos, the the joy and the laughter. And I, it is not at all what I expected.
My life did not at all turn out how I expected. And yet it is so beautiful as a,as a teaching tool for me in terms of letting go of my otherwise type a personality and control freakness and wanting to everything to be just so, because do you know what, with five kids and a dog, It can’t be perfect.
It’s not gonna happen.
Susan Stone: It depends how we define perfect. What is perfect for you might be just getting dinner on the table and having that really good conversation come up. I
Kristina Supler: agree. That’s a good point. Iperfect is obviously very, it can be different for everyone and so
Dr. Christine Whelan: Absolutely.
Now my 20 year old self would have defined perfect, in a much more organized and precise fashion. My 45 year old self would wanna give my 20 year old self a hug and say, it’s gonna be a wild ride, honey. But, but you’re gonna come out the other end of it with a lot of self-growth. So really to your point that children are wonderful teachers and mirrors into yourself and where you need to grow.
Now, thinking about this from the kids’ perspective, you also wanna make sure that you are supporting them in their own individual journeys. So that they can be a mirror to themselves and make good choices about their own future.
Susan Stone: Is it even worth having a conversation with young adults when they say they do or don’t want kids?
Because part of me thinks you just don’t know until you are at that point in life. I remember in my early twenties, cuz I was, I waited till after law school to think about it. I wouldn’t even really envision what that meant. And then all of a sudden, when you want that baby, it’s like you see babies everywhere.
Dr. Christine Whelan: pregnant women everywhere, and that’s all you see.know, when I hear a young adult say, I do or don’t want children, is it something that you just let them articulate and go? Mm-hmm. Because you and I know Man plans, God laughs and you just don’t know until you know. Yes. And it’s worthwhile to ask those questions because they can get at deeper issues.
So if somebody says, I definitely don’t wanna have children. Then explore why. What is it? Do you want to build a particular kind of life for yourself? And if you do, let’s take some steps toward building a life that is going to fulfill those needs and those values, and use those gifts. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not gonna have children along the way.
If I could go back to myself with a, with an infant, the first time round, I would,would wanna remind myself and all young mothers that you can strap the baby to you and go do just about whatever you want. And, and that’s a really cool, so by the time I had my youngest, he was just on me and I was off and gone.
And it was great. Because you have more confidence of how the child can also incorporate into the life that you wanna have. But when you’re young, you see it as an either or. and that kind of dichotomy scares people.
Kristina Supler: That’s funny that you, you say that because I know with my first, there were times I was literally afraid to leave the house.
Like I loved her so much. But I was like, okay, how am I gonna go to the grocery store with the baby, get the food I need, get it all in the car. And it just felt incredibly overwhelming. And of course, obviously you figure it out, but, you know that, that idea of strap the baby on you, go wherever, do whatever is, for first time mothers or just some mothers in general? it’s, they just can’t get there and they need a lot of support and encouragement to have that realization.
Susan Stone: I do have to ask a value-based question. I agree. Not everybody’s meant to be a parent. And that’s a perfectly wonderful choice for someone who has a vision of their life being different.
Here’s where I’m struggling. And maybe even being judgy. I’m gonna get a little judgey here. What be the first time? I struggle with this though. Maybe, Kristine, you’re gonna give me a little soul correction. I don’t have a problem with someone saying to me, I don’t want children because I wanna pursue my passion for art, or I don’t like children.
Where it bites me a little bit is when I hear. It out of complete selfishness. Like I want all the money for me, me, me, me, me, me. It’s not like I wanna volunteer or I wanna go into service, or I wanna go into government, or I wanna run for political office, or I wanna pursue a passion. But are we devolving as a sathi, as a society where it’s just the hedonistic value?
And should that be corrected when you hear it out of a teenager’s mouth? Do you as a parent have to say, It’s not always all about you. Yes. And why is that desirable?
Dr. Christine Whelan: Yes. And the answer doesn’t have to then be kids. But I teach lots about agree, the importance of pro-social behavior. Pro-social behavior means doing something that benefits someone else.
And the research is absolutely clear that we have, when we use our limited resources of time, of energy, of money in a way that is pro-social, that involves others and helps others, we as individuals are much happier.
And so to the person who says, no, I don’t wanna have kids. I wanna spend all that money on me. That kind of self-focus is not a recipe for happiness. However, a when this is a person who potentially was raised not having the things that they wanted because they could see how much their parents struggled to put food on the table to make sure that their kids could get stuff, they might not want to repeat that.
And at this stage of their lives. So then maybe focusing on the idea of, then great, you’re gonna have this extra money. What pro-social things are you going to do with it so that you can use your gifts in keeping with your values to make a positive impact on the lives of others? That’s purposeful and doesn’t have to involve kids.
Kristina Supler: For what it’s worth. Susan, I don’t think that was a judgey question slash comment. I think it was a very good one.
Susan Stone: Thank you. Thank you. I, and I really love the way you frame that because it’s okay to say I don’t, like children. I don’t want that path. But how are you gonna give back? What is gonna be your contribution?
Dr. Christine Whelan: The one other thing that I will say though is that there are periods in your life that evolutionarily, and by their very nature and structure, are going to be more selfish than others. And that’s okay.
So young adulthood is a fairly solipsistic selfish time of life. It should be that way because you are investing in yourself.
You are, you’re, do in your own education, in your future career. You’re making decisions. You’ve gotta focus inward on you during that period. That’s understandable.
As we get older, we tend to be more generative. We tend to wanna help other people more. We tend to wanna share our wisdom. And there is a sort of an arc and various religions and cultures have seen this,that, youthere is a, there’s a time in life where you are focused on yourself a time in life when you’re focused on others. And then potentially a time in life when you’re focused on thinking and legacy.
And, and then what comes next? If you have a selfish teenager, if you have a selfish, kid in their early twenties, yes talking about pro-social behavior is important. You can also put in that kind of pro-social behavior will make you as an individual happier if that’s the language that they best understand.
Kristina Supler: Last question, Dr. Whelan. What advice should parents give to their own children to help them find their purpose as they look to the future?
Susan Stone: She’s asking for a friend. For a friend.
Kristina Supler: Asking for a friend. That’s right. not my own two children. No.
Dr. Christine Whelan: listen, I do this with my own kids too, so I have this purpose statement exercise.
It’s free, it’s on my website, on christine wheeland.com. You can download it.
But the but what I have my kids talk about, with me, and then for themselves is those questions of what do I value? What are the strengths I wanna use and who do I wanna help? And then what are the things I am anxious about and what are the goals that I can set?
And these are five questions that are in this madlibs purpose statement.
I do it myself. And then I share mine with my kids. The teenagers absolutely roll their eyes. I’m not gonna sugarcoat that one. They think this is ridiculous. However, If I model purposeful behavior and I talk about how even by making a baked potato bar for the family, I am living on purpose and why that is using my values, why that’s using my gifts and keeping with my values and how I’m positively impacting them.
Honestly, you gotta model the behavior that you’re seeking. And so we talk a lot about this, as a family. And it might be worth having a conversation about your family purpose statement for,for the week if you do a Sunday meeting or a,or a summer purpose statement and any way that you can get this idea of values, strengths and positive impact while acknowledging fears and anxieties, cuz that’s a really important this. Otherwise this gets, of sugar coated too much. Acknowledging those fears and anxieties and then saying, you know what? I’m gonna do these things and I’m gonna feel good about myself when I do these.
Have that conversation. See how it goes.
Susan Stone: I’m just gonna make a wish. I don’t know. Is your mom still around?
Dr. Christine Whelan: She unfortunately passed away nine years ago.
Susan Stone: I am so sorry. Well, I won’t get my wish because my wish would’ve been for Kristina and I could to create a trip and sit with a bottle of wine with you and your mom.
So since I can’t get your mom, I’m grateful that we could talk about your mom and hopefully one day I can have that wish and meet you in the flesh because I would love to sit down with some rosé with you and continue this conversation offline.
Dr. Christine Whelan: I would love that too. And my eldest daughter, Eleanor, who’s nearly 12, would love to join in as well, because while I had my first radio show, She started, her Health is Everything,
No Kidding podcast when she was eight and she never liked
Kristina Supler: her mother
Dr. Christine Whelan: like daughter. Oh, and mother, like daughter. She has lots of ideas on this topic as well.
Susan Stone: Let us know if she would like to be on our podcast because we had students talk to us.
Dr. Christine Whelan: I love it. Yes. I’ll send you, I’ll send you the link to her podcast and Okay.
Kristina Supler: well listen to that too. Thank you so much for joining us today. It was a real treat speaking with you and I’m, our listeners enjoyed it as well.
Susan Stone: This was a fun one. Thank you.
Dr. Christine Whelan: Thank you.