Talking to Your Kids in Times of Crisis - Part 1 (Transcript)

Dr. Dobson: Well, hello everyone. I'm James Dobson and you're listening to Family Talk, a listener supported ministry. In fact, thank you so much for being part of that support for James Dobson Family Institute.

Dr. Clinton: I'm Dr. Tim Clinton for Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. Before we begin today's broadcast, I want to encourage you with a message from the Bible. During these uncertain days, read Psalm 62. I hope you'll do that. In this passage, King David praises the many dependable attributes of God. Here are just a few of them: God is our refuge; rock; fortress; defender; rescuer; and our salvation. I hope you'll remember these qualities in the midst of these trying times. He is there for you. And we will get through this, with God's help.

From Dr. Dobson, his wife Shirley, their entire family, and everyone at the James Dobson Family Institute, have a blessed Christmas season. Let's begin.

Roger Marsh: Welcome friends, to today's program! Right now, we are going to revisit another program that made our 2020 best-of-broadcast list. Hope you enjoy it.

Dr. Dobson: Well, greetings everyone. I'm Dr. James Dobson and you're listening to Family Talk. Shirley and I have been praying for you and for the entire human family around the world, and if there ever was a time of the need for concerted prayer, this is it. The COVID-19 pandemic has literally turned everything upside down. Who would have believed that churches would be empty on Easter Sunday, or that businesses that were flourishing like nothing in history are now shuttered and languishing like ghost towns. We're going to get through this, but President Trump and his advisors have been dealing with several enormous challenges that had to be confronted in sequence. And the first priority of course, was caring for the wave upon wave of sick and dying people, health and wellness had to be their first preoccupation, helping hospitals get the equipment and the supplies that they needed to help very ill people.

The result was a program of distancing and sequestration that have closed down American business. The second task was getting cash in the hands of families, and institutions and businesses to stave off starvation in some cases, and avoid a complete collapse of the economy and that will soon be in place. The third task, yet to be confronted, is to reopen American business and get the people out of their houses and back to work. The president said this is his greatest challenge that he has ever faced and it rests squarely on his shoulders. If he opens the nation too soon, an unknown number of people are going to die, which is unthinkable, but if he is too late in preserving businesses, an economic collapse like the Great Depression could occur, which could take years to recover from, if ever. So, those are three challenges that The White House and governors and other leaders have been grappling with, certainly the medical community.

And it's where the issue sits at this moment, and we must be in prayer for our leaders during this time. But let's move on. We want to talk to you now about a fourth challenge that hasn't had as much attention, certainly not at the governmental level to my knowledge, and it's rising now right before our eyes. It's the mental health crisis in this nation. Studies are now revealing that when families are isolated together for months, with no work to do and no schools to attend, that takes a toll on mental health, and this is where we're going with today's program. I have on the line with me, my colleague Dr. Tim Clinton, who is education director of the James Dobson Family Institute. Dr. Clinton has been, for many years, a licensed marriage, family and child counselor. He holds a doctorate in counseling from Liberty University and he's been a professor there for a number of years. Tim, I'm so glad to have you on the phone. This is such an important issue. Welcome to Family Talk.

Dr. Clinton: Dr. Dobson, thank you. And you're right, things sure have changed, at least for now. I saw an article, Dr. Dobson, ABC news published it last week, said that the US Helpline actually had a jump of 891%, and The White House was being warned of a mental health crisis. As a matter of fact, in the article, even the president said it's common sense to expect a massive jump in mental health issues like depression, substance abuse, he even mentioned suicide, Dr. Dobson. I think when you get cooped up, I mean, a lot of us are talking about cabin fever, but there's so much more here. The fear and anxiety is just unreal.

Dr. Dobson: Well, put flesh on those bones. What kind of mental health problems, other than those you just mentioned, are occurring?

Dr. Clinton: You know, on a personal level you continue to look around your community and there's no one going to the restaurants. There's no one really going to work and it's eerie. The sun is out and the temperature is up, it's almost unbelievable. Julie and I were seated together, Dr. Dobson, in our home, and she had been tracking the numbers like everyone's doing. How many people actually got the coronavirus? Is it in our community? Is it local? Anybody around us, is anybody in the hospital, on ventilators, has anyone died and more? And Julie looked over at me, after a few days of this, and said, "Tim, I've got to turn this TV off. It's making me crazy."

Dr. Dobson: For other people it's the only thing keeping them from going crazy.

Dr. Clinton: You're so right. There's so much happening here. It's such a new kind of world for all of us. But for a lot of people, the fear and the anxiety can get overwhelming. For counselors, psychologists and more, you know this, a lot of people when they come and they wrestle with fear and anxiety, it's often that they're worried about things that may not have happened, not based in reality. We talk to them about how to control their mind and we still have to do that. But in this situation, there's this virus that is everywhere. People who already have a propensity for fear and anxiety, and maybe they've lost their job, there's no money, they've got real concern. I saw a piece from the American Psychiatric Association that said 62% of Americans are really afraid that a loved one's going to contract coronavirus.

Dr. Dobson: Well, that's a very real fear, isn't it? I mean, that one's not hypothetical.

Dr. Clinton: No, and so as a result, here's this unseen enemy that's ever present and it's making us really... Well the longer we're cooped up, it isn't just cabin fever, we're locked down, everything's changed, doctor.

Dr. Dobson: Just loneliness too, is its own challenge. Shirley and I are sequestered out in a little condo in California and we walk every afternoon and there's nobody out there. I mean it, we go block after block with nobody there. And then some people, of course, are alone in the house or alone with someone they don't get along with. And imagine just how disconcerting it is to be unengaged in conversation that matters to you. You mentioned Julie, Shirley and I enjoy being with each other. We're not going through what we're talking about here, because I have always enjoyed being in the house with her.

So, this is really kind of a godsend for us just in terms of having this time of our life to sit and talk and be together and cook together, and do things like that. But not everybody feels that way. And I worry about the people who are out there who live alone; single women, single men, those who are older, spouses died and they're alone day after day after day. That could unravel emotional stability, couldn't it?

Dr. Clinton: Absolutely. We know that one of the antidotes to trauma, and I really think this is a trauma based situation, one of the antidotes to trauma is relationship, and so you're right. The social distancing, and everybody's heard the debate, or the correction about - it doesn't mean social isolation, but you're right. I think loneliness is going off the charts. The things we used to do to help calm our self or to fill our life, we can't do them, like go to the gym or go hang out with the other family members at a restaurant or something. That's all changed for now.

I saw articles, Dr. Dobson, where alcohol use is going up, domestic violence. Think of the marital tension and more going up. Think about the financial crisis that's going on. How many millions of Americans are without work? They've lost their job. They don't even have money coming in and they're staring at the wall and crying out and saying, "God, help us, help us in this moment." And then when it comes to our kids, Dr. Dobson, and I know your heart about our children, a lot of parents think that kids are immune to all this if we don't talk about it at the house, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Our kids are like we are, they're overdosing. They're getting intoxicated on all this news that's on television, but for them, it's on social media. They're getting bombarded, they're getting messages from their friends and more. And so, it's quite a perplexing challenge that we're in right now. I think the mental health issues, we already had a mental health crisis going on in America, some 60 million people living with mental and substance abuse disorders. Think about where this is going right now on top of everything that's happening as a result of this crisis and pandemic.

Dr. Dobson: A couple of years ago, the early part of the Trump administration, you and others at The White House called for a meeting, bringing together experts and authorities on mental health problems. I was there. And even then, we were worried about what was happening to our country and the evidences of unraveling of the social order, and now here, you put this on top of it. You talked about children, too. Children base their security largely on what they read in their parents' faces and voices. If they're anxious, if adults are anxious, if they're fighting, if there's fussing, if there's tension, and if there is fear, that will go right straight to the brains of your children. You've got to shield them from that as much as you possibly can because they don't know how to deal with it.

Dr. Clinton: Dr. Dobson, I was talking with a friend of ours, Dr. Dan Amen, who's a psychiatrist, and Dr. Amen was talking about how the brain actually kicks into hyper alert when there's a lot of fear, stress and anxiety. The amygdala, I mean, it just goes on red alert. And as a result, around home, normal things... maybe the kids playing a little loud, wrestling or something like that... maybe rated about a one or two on the irritation scale, become a three and a four. And a three and a four become a five and a six and more.

And so tension begins to escalate around us. And you're right, if you've ever been on the receiving end of someone else's anger and frustration, you know what starts happening, and that kind of drives us instead of toward each other, away from each other. I do think the old symbol for crisis was danger plus opportunity. There's a lot of danger here and I think there's also a lot of opportunity on the home front. Meaning, here's an opportunity. I think people are now talking, Dr. Dobson, a lot more about, hey, we're playing games again. We haven't played games, dominoes or Rook or something like that, in forever. We're playing games. We're having dinner again and having conversations, albeit maybe awkward in some homes, but we're having it again.

Dr. Dobson: Well, that's the upside of it, that many parents are using this time to be with their kids. I read an article that said that the children are loving it. Those that have parents that are involved with them and talk to them. Whereas dad's been gone all the time, and when he'd come home he was too tired to talk. Now, dad's there and if he knows how to handle it and he's not stressed out himself, this can be a good thing. The way it goes and the emotional stability of the parents translates directly into how the children are handling it.

Dr. Clinton: I could not agree with you more, Dr. Dobson. I've seen it. I've had many conversations with people. Children need parents, by the way, who... you're right... who bring a level of stability, first of all, to them because kids need that structure. They need to be able to regulate their life. But when they have things that trigger them and it throws them into chaos, they need parents who are attuned to those children. In other words, who are emotionally connected with their child. They know that Johnny is a little more anxious than Tommy is. They know that Johnny needs maybe a little more touch and, Dr. Dobson, I talk a lot about trauma destroys our sense of safety. And so, we've got to, and the only way you can bring safety back into a child's life, is through relationship. They've got to feel connected and bonded with you. And mom and dad, you've got to be attuned to your son or daughter. Dr. Dobson, I know early in your career you talked so much about those very things of being really connected. I mean, that you're emotionally close with your son or daughter.

Dr. Dobson: Yeah, I did talk about that because it was important then and it still is, maybe more so now because of this situation. You know, Tim, this has never happened before. I don't believe there's ever been a time in American history, maybe elsewhere, but in American history where the whole country was indoors and not able to even go next door to their neighbors.

Dr. Clinton: I know.

Dr. Dobson: I talked in the early part of my introduction about the world being turned upside down. I've talked many times about our childhood, the kind of world I lived in, where you knew your neighbors, they knew you, you knew the names of the people in your town. And I remember times when we would be in the living room at home and somebody would rap, rap, rap on the door and some lady would be there and say, "Hey, anybody home?" And it'd be a neighbor friend. You didn't make an appointment in those days. You didn't say, "Come see us. Why don't we go get together next Saturday or Saturday week or something?"

You just showed up. My mother would open the screen door and in would come this lady and my mother would go to the kitchen and get a piece of pie that she had there. There was always a piece of pie in the kitchen, and that's why I love sweets so much today. But she would come out with coffee and we would all sit and talk. That's the way it was. Now, you have to make an appointment and you probably will change them three times. So, the whole world is different now and it's the worse for it in my view.

Dr. Clinton: Yes, I love that. I know people often ask, what are some just basics that we could do as a family to help us overcome some of this fear and anxiety, this challenge that we're facing? When you have a trauma situation and, Dr. Dobson, I know we've talked about a few of these before, but being together, I mean, what do you mean Tim? We are locked down together, but no, no, no, I'm talking about something a little deeper than that. I'm not talking about just being physically in the same place, but being together where you're connected with each other. Kids need to know, like Dr. Dobson was saying, that mom and dad are working... they don't have to be perfect, it doesn't mean that they have to be rid of fear or anxiety, it means that they have to communicate that they're finding their way through and that they're okay in the shelter of mom and dad.

Dr. Dobson: Yeah, it's going to be okay.

Dr. Clinton: Yes. And Dr. Dobson, times like this, when you pull in with your kids, you don't have to spend all day with them, but if you could give them 20 or 30 minutes a day in what we call command free special time, when you're on the floor, when you're stepping into their world and you're a part of their world. You're not pulling them into your world, you're participating in their world because they live out their world through the world of play. Right?

Dr. Dobson: Right.

Dr. Clinton: And in that moment, whenever you're participating with them, what starts happening is you're able to look through their eyes. Your presence communicates something special. It means we're together. Proximity is so beautiful here. And I think if parents could see that, this closer dynamic, Dr. Dobson, it would bring a lot of calming effect to children. It reminds me of the significance of making sure we practice the presence of God every day. I know when fear and anxiety overwhelm us and it's natural, I guess, to reach for other things to calm and soothe us. But until we anchor our lives in Christ, until we find ultimately our own safety, our own place of refuge, like Psalm 46, "He's our refuge and our strength", Dr. Dobson, I don't know that we manage or make our way through this kind of challenge.

Dr. Dobson: Talk about that conference we had at The White House. What is the concern? What is the Trump administration hoping to do with this matter of mental illness?

Dr. Clinton: I think first of all, there's an acknowledgement of the massive gap between those who need mental health care and those who provide it. In terms of just availability of people who actually can step into another person's life in a meaningful way and give them hope and help. One of the burdens I have is to see the church step into that significant role. But the administration, I think, recognizes that. They're looking for faith leaders and more to figure out how to bridge that gap. Could the church be that kind of a special place?

But going back to an acknowledgement of the issues is a big deal, and also then trying to get some type of parity in terms of insurance and more, getting the care out there and helping cover it through third party reimbursement. I think it's very significant. There are a lot of people who just are not seeking out services because they can't afford it or it's not covered by their providers. Dr. Dobson, that needs to be dealt with and when you recognize this kind of a pandemic exploding onto the scene, mental health issues again, like the president said, is intuitive. It's just going to happen, and we've got to figure out how to minister to these people, because if we don't, only the Lord knows what could happen to us.

Roger Marsh: It's true that kids do feel a sense of security when we as parents step into their worlds. What a great reminder that is during this difficult time. I'm Roger Marsh and this is Family Talk. You've been listening to part one of a conversation that Dr. Dobson had with Dr. Tim Clinton about the importance of talking to our kids during this time of crisis. Dr. Clinton warned us as parents that if we don't anchor ourselves in Christ, we are going to have a tough time getting through this calamity. I know for myself that when my kids were younger and at home, I enjoyed opening the Bible and reading to them and with them from the Holy Scriptures. A favorite book of mine is the book of Psalms and in Chapter 119, verse 50, the Psalmist writes, "This is my comfort in my affliction, for your word has given me life."

Indeed, God's word does give us life, and I pray that you will get closer to God by reading the Bible as a family together and you'll find comfort in his word even today. Now, before we sign off for the day, I want to let you know that in the midst of this crisis, we have a resource that is perfect for you and your family. If you go to you can request a copy of Dr. Dobson's book called, When God Doesn't Make Sense. Now, this is one of his bestselling titles of all time and it's so relevant for what we're experiencing right now.

Throughout this timeless work, you'll learn why we must hold onto our faith, especially during difficult times. You can get your copy of the book, When God Doesn't Make Sense, as our way of thanking you for a gift of $20 or more in support of Family Talk today. So, learn how you can support our ministry and receive this resource by visiting That's D-R James Dobson .org. Well, that's all the time we have for today. Be sure to tune in again tomorrow for the conclusion of this discussion, on the next edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.

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Roger Marsh: Do you remember Dr. Dobson's touching interview with Lysa TerKeurst?

Lysa TerKeurst: I had to start understanding that forgiveness was as much for my heart as anyone else's, and it was a great first step of healing.

Roger Marsh: Or what about the powerful interview with John Eldredge?

John Eldredge: We'd rather be distracted than spend ten minutes quiet with ourselves.

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Dr. Dobson: One of the unfortunate characteristics of life in the modern world is the high level of anxiety that so many people experience today.

Roger Marsh: For Family Talk, here's Dr. James Dobson.

Dr. Dobson: Most of us have moments when we endure emotional discomfort of one kind or another. For many people however, gripping fears and uneasiness are everyday companions. This anxiety may manifest itself as dizziness, headaches, nausea, stomach cramps, and inability to concentrate and persistent conflict with others. For those who find themselves in this situation, let me offer a couple of common sense suggestions that may help. First, we must take care of the physical body. We need to get adequate amounts of sleep and take time for exercise and relaxing activities because there is a connection between mind and body. Second, we should dig for insight. If we're bitter over a wrong, we must find a way to forgive. If we're afraid of our own anger or lust or greed, we must come to terms with our imperfection. Only when we've begun to clean up the powerful emotions that we've stored away in the toxic dump of our minds, will we rid ourselves of their seepage into our daily lives.

Roger Marsh: To get involved, go to
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