75: The Not So Empty Nest (COVID-19 Social Distancing) Number 4 with Katy Oliveira, March 19, 2020
Hello, my ah-mazing empty nest friend!
In our Not So Empty Nest series, today I chat with College Success Strategist Katy Oliveira. If your child doesn’t already know about Katy, it might be time to introduce them to her. She has a podcast that helps them to become their best selves through college!
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What You Will Learn in this Episode
Meet Katy Oliveira
- What tips and advice Katy has for your college student
- What tips and advice Coach Christine has for you
First Time Here? Try This Order of Episodes
- The Your Empty Nest Coach Podcast Trailer
- Series 1: Empty Nest Prep – starts at episode #3
- Series 2: The CEO of Your Life – starts at episode #64
- Series 3: The CEO Toolbox – starts at episode #88
You are listening to the Your Empty Nest Coach podcast … Episode number 75. I’ve had to do such a pivot, that I’ve realized that I’ve been leaving episode numbers out and all that jazz. But you know me; I’ll eventually get it together. This is episode number 75. … I had the privilege to talk with Katy Oliveira last night, and in this episode, I share our off-the-cuff conversation.
Christine: You are listening to the Your Empty Nest Coach podcast [kitchen noises] — Christine? Yes, Christine? You know with the social distancing implemented due to COVID-19 that your listeners may not be in an empty nest right now, and they may be struggling with an unexpected full nest. I mean, listen to that racket in the kitchen. You’re right about that. You are listening to the not-so-empty nest podcast, with Coach Christine. Is that better? I think at least for the near future, it might be a good call. Sounds like a plan. Episode number 75. I’ve had to do such a pivot, that I’ve realized that I’ve been leaving episode numbers out and all that jazz. But you know me; I’ll eventually get it together. This is episode number 75.
I had the privilege to talk with Katy Oliveira last night, and in this episode, I share our off-the-cuff conversation. But before we jump in, I have a few things to say. Of course, I do. First of all in episode 73, I mentioned that my daughter was doing “Dance Dance Revolution” videos. I believe that’s what I said, and I feel the need to clarify that my facts were wrong. Actually, doing just dance videos. Okay, and update on my chair. I needed to run into the office yesterday for what I expect to be the last time for quite some time, and with permission, brought my office chair home. Cleaned it off very well, and so yes, my tushy (yes, I said “tushy”) is feeling better right now.
Tomorrow is Friday, which means you’ll have one of my usual episodes in my feed. I recorded it about a month ago, and you know, I figure we need some normalcy in this, don’t we? I’ll be back on your feed on Monday with a conversation with Tammy Collins. I did mention before that I’ll be offering daily support calls. These will be, definitely, in my GPS Support Flock, but I’ll open them up to others, for free, to check us out. Should you want to join the GPS Support Flock, use the coupon: COVID COPING. It will be at the top of the checkout page, to receive an amazing membership investment price. And yes, you’ll get to keep that for life. Should you watch this video with Katy and I, on Youtube (yeah, we did video), you’ll notice that I’m having fun in my spinny chair. Here’s the thing, I need to move a lot. I’m one of those people where my leg is always moving or I like to walk around, so yeah, I might need to switch chairs when I do video interviews. My friend, remember to be super present. Remember that you are strong enough to handle all of this, and remember to have fun.
Katy: Welcome to another special episode of “Collegehood Advice” and the “Empty Nest Coach.” I’m Katy Oliveira, the host of “Collegehood Advice,” where I help college students thrive and succeed during their college experience. I am joined by —
Christine: Hi, I’m Coach Christine of the “Your Empty Nest Coach podcast,” and I typically help mothers who have children in high school and help them adjust to the empty nest as their kids head to and go through college, and right now, that nest is not so empty, so here we are.
Katy: Here we are. We thought, on the fly, that it might be really helpful to produce an episode of our podcast together; to help students and their families navigate the sudden and abrupt situation we’ve all been thrown into; in the case of students, having to college from home; in the case of the families that they’ve moved in with, working from home at the same time that that’s happening; that it might be helpful to kind of talk through some of the places that we see could be some rough spots or some places that we have to kind of negotiate and work through. We’re going to just riff. We brainstormed a couple of topic ideas, but mostly this is a conversation on helping both students and their families problem-solve through maybe some expected and unexpected challenges that are going to come with us all working and co-existing together in our homes for an extended period of time.
Christine: Yes. This is no winter break.
Christine: Katy and I were talking earlier and one of the things I think happens naturally, is anytime your child is home, and students, when you come home, is that you automatically fall into these roles where mom takes care of you, or dad does your laundry, or you expect things to get cleaned up, because it’s a week, and parents miss you and that’s what we do, and that’s okay, but this is a new thing. This is an extended period of time, and it’s an opportunity to really find yourself as a parent and child, and to fall into your new roles. I’m looking at it as an adventure in my house.
Katy: Yeah, you know it’s interesting, one of the things when I’m talking to parents, especially of high-school seniors, about their student going off to college, I like to tell them that the college senior that’s leaving your house, that teenager you feel nervous about, is going to come back to your house in one year a totally different person. They’re going to be much, much more adult. But they’re still developing and growing into their full self, but we become adults really quickly, and I think sometimes the transition from having a parent-child relationship to having an adult-child relationship can be sort of tumultuous and rocky in the early twenties. This is one of those times where we might expedite that transition, and so I think acknowledging that the dynamic is a little bit different is really important.
Christine: It is. You’re right. Just noticing it and really, it’s okay when you fall into those roles. Catch yourself and it’s a good time to talk about that, and what should change, what should be different. Parents, you may see them as your five-year-old son or daughter, but they are grownups now, and they had a completely independent life, that now is in your house and I don’t know if you’re aware, they can’t go anywhere. This is a huge opportunity to learn about each other in a different way. It’s incredible, actually. For my audience, in particular, a month ago, they were all, “I wish my son or daughter were home.” Well, we got it. Let’s see how we do now.
Katy: Right. We are all wishing for time off, and we’re not completely off, because we’re working, but more time at home, more time to do those projects we always were hoping to do, and now’s maybe an opportunity to do that. I think the roles we’re talking about that we revert into is I think, when we come home, I do it. I’m going to turn 40 in a week, and I will, when I’m with my parents, revert into my role in my family, like really unconsciously, and I think, no, I’m a grown adult. I think that this is a natural and normal thing that we do. But the thing to remember is that if you want to be, in the case of students, your coming home and you want your adult life to be respected and your boundaries to be respected, then acting like an adult who’s coming back to stay temporarily, with family, in this unprecedented and unusual situation, can be super helpful from your own mindset perspective as a student. To think about as like, I’m not going home to live with my mom and dad, and mooch off of them for a couple of weeks, which is I think sometimes how we approach summer and breaks, but thinking about it like, I’m going to home, I’m going to live there, or wherever you’re living, and I have to coexist with them as an adult, and that might mean picking up some adult responsibilities, maybe making a meal, maybe helping out around the house while you’re there. Maybe acknowledging that maybe your parent has got anxiety, worry, fear, uncertainty in their environment, in their work, in their job. I think we’re all sort of navigating that together, and so remembering that you are an adult or an emerging adult, depending on your situation, and where you are while you are in college and you’re reeling from disruption, but so is everyone.
Christine: Absolutely. Yes, the one thing I always tell my empty nest moms is, they go into the empty nest transition and it applies to this. It actually applies to any huge event. Be patient with yourself. I do PSPF; so first, be very patient with yourself. You are going to find one day you wake up and feel fine, and the next day, you’re going to miss your friends at college. Mom, you’re going to wish the house was empty. Be patient with yourself. It’s okay for you to feel different, from one moment to the next, and then, have self-kindness, so when you catch yourself thinking things that are upsetting to you, just be curious about it. Don’t be mad at yourself, and say kind things to yourself. If you wouldn’t say it to a friend or a loved one, don’t say it to yourself in your head. That internal dialogue will make a big difference. The next P is patience for others. So everyone in the house, including the pets, have all been through this very huge experience that no one in my lifetime has experienced anything like this. The level of patience that we need to have for each other, in this house, is huge. Yeah, your pets are going to notice that suddenly the house is full, you know? Your husband, wife, your siblings, your mom, your dad, we’re all going to have different emotions at different times, and that’s the thing. If I’m feeling sad one day, that doesn’t mean my whole house feels sad. They might be happy, and that’s all okay. I’d also like to say have fun, because this is an opportunity. None of us would have even thought would be possible, that we’d spend so much time together, so find the fun in it, too.
Katy: Yeah. I think that’s so important. It’s funny, I know where I am, I’m in Austin, Texas, and we are on spring break and so we all went onto spring break, and then have been told to not return after spring break, but will be transitioning to distance learning. Our time home started as a break. Everyone had break-mindset, right? You’re home, you want to sleep in. You want to watch Netflix. You want to play video games. You know, all the things that you do when you’re on break, if you can’t go out or travel anywhere, right?
Katy: Making the transition back, I think the mental shift that you’re not on a break, this isn’t just a massive snow day. That it’s figuring out a different way to have your normal working reality. It’s not that your working reality has gone, or that you’ve lost it. It’s just transformed. How it looks, feels, and is delivered. I think that’s tricky, right? Because we’re like, it looks like a snow day. It smells like a snow day. It seems like a snow day, and snow days I don’t do nothin’, right? I think that transitioning out of sort of crisis/natural disaster/snow day mode, which is I’m lookin online all the time to get the latest news and I’m talking to everybody, and I’m panicking and I’m buying all the toilet paper, which we get into that energy. We get sucked into that energy. Which is totally normal. I’m guilty of it, too. Then starting to kind of settle in to, oh, this is my new normal for right now. How can I make the most of it? How can I still live my life and be productive, and to your point, have fun and make the most of it, and see it as, oddly, an opportunity rather than this terrible time. Because this is going to be one of those things in life, y’all, that you’re going to be like, you remember when it was coronavirus, and it’s going to be transformational.
Christine: Truly. I know my daughter keeps saying it’s so bizarre to live something that you know is historic, and it is huge. We all feel that. It’s wild. It’s a wild ride, and I think whatever you label it, be careful what you choose to label it. I’ve chosen the word adventure. Everytime someone asks me, I’m like, it’s an adventure, because that word just feels better for me. Watch what you use to label this. It will make a big difference.
Katy: In my own life, and just observing people I know and love and know very well, respond to this, I’ve seen really three responses. I’ve seen panic. I’m going to hit up Costco and I’m going to buy everything. Don’t leave your house. This is the end. You know, all those responses. I’ve seen kind of denial, like it’s not that big of a deal; we’re overreacting. I’m still going to go out and I’m going to still live my life. You only live once. Those kinds of responses. Then, I’ve seen in the middle, prepared, measured acceptance of the situation and how can I serve others, how can I move forward? One of the things that I’ve noticed about those three responses is that the denial and the panic come from this place of resistance and fear. Like, I don’t want to look at it, I’ve got to avoid it, or I’m freaking out and I’ve got to resist it. That the middle one, comes from a place of sort of surrender, acceptance and love; how can I make this a better situation for myself and those around me? In my life experience, the one that’s like love-based, the one that is absent of fear, is usually the best response, the healthiest response. Just checking yourself, because I veered into overreaction, like this is an overreaction, and I’ve veered into I’m panicking, what’s going to happen, and then I just have to pull myself back to the middle of this just is what it is, and it’s beyond our control. But what I can control is how I choose to react and how I choose to spend this time, and focusing there.
Christine: Yes. One of the big things I teach is presence, and normally, I have to take women out in the woods in a campsite to get them to be present. I feel like the whole universe is just making us all forced to be present right now. Because it just pulls you out of everything that’s normal. So if you focus on that, it’s very easy for me to be sitting here talking to you, Katy, and get wrapped up in, oh, what’s happening in Italy, that’s what’s coming, and I don’t have enough toilet paper, but meanwhile, I have a whole closet full. So our minds can go to that place, and when you just realize I’m sitting here looking at lovely Katy’s face, this is the real moment. This is what matters. The more you can do that, the easier it gets. It takes a lot of work at first, but there’s moments where if you start to feel yourself spin, moms and children, just really, you know, find the cat. Find the dog. Focus on a picture, do a hobby, and really focus on that, and be present, because your mind likes to take you to places that you really aren’t. It’s like your body’s one place and your mind’s somewhere else, worrying.
Katy: We can spin each other out, so just be aware of other people’s energy or place, and letting them have that. Instead of being like, gosh, my mom’s crazy, she’s overreacting, which is just — right? Or vice versa. My student doesn’t care enough. They’re not taking it seriously enough, or vice versa. Right? Those roles can be reversed. It’s like saying, okay, this is their response to this crisis, and it’s coming either from a place of fear and uncertainty, or a place of care, and trying to forgive them and give them grace for that response, and then maybe go in the other room.
Christine: It’s true. Space is good. I will speak for the parents, some of them, especially if you have parents who don’t usually work remotely and now they are, or their office situation has changed. They may not tell you what their anxiety is, or what their pressures are, but they have it. Because I think the biggest thing is all of our routines are totally out of whack, and when there’s nothing the same, it’s very difficult to figure out. You might have this one thing that you do in the day that brings you peace or calmness, so you just have to all find that. I will tell you, that there are adjustments with the parents, too. I have a whole team that we’re trying to learn remote, and it’s so interesting to see. It’s our new normal. It’s fun. Yes. But going to a new room is a great idea, or walk around the house, if you have that ability.
Katy: Yeah. Or even if you can go outside and go for a walk around your block or go into an outdoor space. Something you brought up is about routine. So, we’re riffing here, and that was another one of our topics that we were kind of talking about, imposing your own structure. I talked a little bit about this over in “Collegehood” on our social feeds and on our podcast. But when you’re in an unstructured environment it can be actually, this is counter-intuitive, but it can be incredibly difficult to be productive. Think of the days where you have nothing to do, how many hours do you spend just doing nothing, phone nothing, like streaming, looking on social media, looking at Netflix, and moreso than ever, your abilities to impose a routine or impose structure on your own day is super important. You may find that you can be more efficient and effective and take less time to do what you would normally do, because so many things that we would normally spend our time doing have been taken away from us, in this time. But almost that unstructured time can be overwhelming in its own way for people.
Christine: Yes. Totally. I think if you’re finding yourself currently, completely unstructured, pick one thing to add tomorrow, and then the next, another thing, whether it’s like you’re going to put your shoes on today, or for me, I put my earrings in, even though I’m not going anywhere, like little things that just bring you joy and bump you up in your mind. It helps. Maybe it’s get a cup of coffee. Maybe it’s exercise; do yoga for a half an hour somewhere in the house that’s different from where everyone else is. Find things and just keep adding them on.
Katy: I think, thinking through what is the thing I need to accomplish today. Is there an assignment, a class, a couple chapters of reading, whatever task it is, that you know you need to do to move you forward in your classes? Take that priority and make that your top objective of the day, and do it at the top of the day. Get it done early, and then move forward and see if there’s time to do something else. Because one of the things I’ve seen people afraid of is, are they going to be successful for the rest of the semester. That’s a place a lot of students have a lot of anxiety and fear, and so one way to do that is to make sure that you’re still honoring the priority of getting your education, even though the class part, and especially if you’ve been listening to me, is only one small part of the college experience, for sure, right?
Katy: It’s only one small part.
Christine: If you’re not listening to Katy, you need to.
Katy: Yeah, and it’s not the most fun part, I get it. It is not the fun part, but you still have that part, and you still can connect and network, and get to know your professors really well during this time. They’re going to remember you, because you are in it together.
Christine: Yes, aren’t they though?
Katy: Yeah. It’s a really good opportunity to get a lot of good references. Think about those kinds of things, like how are you bonding with people in a different way. How are you able to engage with people in a different way, and build those things in?
Christine: That’s really good advice. My daughter seems to be doing okay, but I will tell you, and I think you can speak to this, Katy, is one of her biggest concerns was that she’s also more of an arts kid, so I would think kids who have labs and art courses, their first thing is, how are we going to do this online, and that concern about being successful is really there. Anything you can speak to on that, that might help?
Katy: Yeah. I don’t know the answer, but I don’t think your professors probably know the answer either. That’s the good news. Just anecdotally, I had a conversation yesterday with someone in my life, who is making a transition to online, and they were like, “But what about this? Well, what about this? But what about that? Well, how’s this going to work? How am I going to do this?” I said, “You know what? Everyone expects that you don’t know how to do it, and everyone expects that we’re going to figure it out as we go.” Though, it is comforting to be able to anticipate exactly how it’s all going to go down, so that you know, you know? In this situation, you have to give that up. You have to surrender that, and that’s, as cheesy as this is going to sound, is a really important exercise if one of the things that I really talk about is you have to be able to be pivotable and adapt, and flexible, and that picking one major that leads to one job, and then, the rest of your life is set and done. That’s happening now, right? This is an example of what I mean. There is no one on this earth who, six months ago, knew that this was going to happen, and could’ve put it into their strategic plan. You know? No one. That means we all have to pivot. We all have to figure out how to negotiate this, and it’s going to shift the trajectory of our lives, and we’re going to have to make sense of that. This is an opportunity to cultivate that skill. When you’re going to write your novel or your statement, or you’re going to do your interview later on in your life, you’re going to talk about how you coped with your COVID-19, and what it’s impact was on who you are. I think just pay attention to that. Be an observer. Give yourself a chance to take yourself off the hook and just kind of go for the ride, and let other people figure it out and know it’s okay not to know.
Christine: Yeah, that’s great advice. Really. It’s fantastic, and I have this unique perspective in that my day job is in a college enrollment office, and just as Katy said, no one knew. No one is remotely prepared for anything like this. Sure, there’s plans if the colleges close for a week, but there is no plan to suddenly take everything online and look at big events cancelling, and how we’re going to do that. You have professors who maybe don’t do anything online, that we now need to train, and then there’s people asking about refunds, and there are all these questions, that I will tell you the college knows you have the questions, and they are trying to figure out the best answer for everyone. Trust that they have your best interests in mind and be patient, because they’re figuring it out and they want it to be the right answer.
Katy: Yeah. I think that’s the take-away, is that we’re all just figuring it out, and that’s okay. It’s completely and totally okay. In that line, I think when you are home, and I talked about this a little bit. I did an episode right when this happened, about some tips to being successful online.
Christine: Yeah, it’s very good.
Katy: The number one tip in that episode is to take school seriously. You still paid for school and this is still part of your investment, right? Same thing for parents.
Katy: Help your student take school seriously, because sometimes parents are distracting and detracting, too —
Christine: True. Yes.
Katy: — and vice versa. But still support your student’s vision for investing in themselves, because one of the things clearly, I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life, either, but there are two experiences that I’ve had, that many of us have had, that are reminiscent of this. One for me, at the very beginning of my academic advisor career was when Katrina happened in New Orleans, and I was at the University of Houston, and the University of Houston was one of the primary colleges that took in students who were displaced from colleges in Louisiana, and so a lot of the students who were displaced from Hurricane Katrina came to the University of Houston. One of the things that they struggled with was feeling like this doesn’t matter, because they were so distracted by the disruption, uprooting, the uncertainty of having to move suddenly. Loss, true loss of material possessions, of homes, right? I think there’s a lot of loss. I’ve seen a lot of loss amongst the students I’ve been talking about, talking to, as well. They felt like what they were doing didn’t matter any more, and they felt very unmotivated to see it through and take it seriously, and they lost semesters. They lost that money because they didn’t pass. They failed, or they got D’s and F’s. They didn’t feel like it mattered, and semesters later, many of them were like, oh, I wish I had just kept my head down and kept working because it was temporary, and I still needed to graduate, and I still need to go out and get a job, and I still need to go out and build a family, like some kind of normalcy will return, and you will be there standing, holding the bag with whatever you chose to do during this time. Not to say that you have to be so productive and that’s all you do. But take it seriously and do what you can do to salvage and make the most of your semester so that you don’t lose all the work you’ve done up until this point.
Christine: Absolutely. Great advice. I don’t even know what to add to that, because it was good advice.
Katy: Yeah. I think, too, parents, I’ve seen this in my own community, like, are we going to get refunds? Parents, especially, are concerned about that, because there’s a lot of financial uncertainty.
Christine: With the dorm. Yeah.
Katy: You know? I paid for you to live there. I paid for meal plans. I’m not really getting the same education I paid for. I’m not getting all those other things. The thing is, is nobody knows the answers to those questions, and you still have a chance to connect and grow, and learn and interface, and get enrichment from your university in this time.
Katy: I think just kind of keep that in mind. A lot of what you’re able to squeeze out of the investment in college has to do less with what your college offers and more with how you engage with it. Your opportunity to still engage is still there. It’s just changed a little bit, how you’re going to do it. Keep that in mind. How can I engage? How can I communicate with people on my campus? How can I stay connected? How can I be creative? How can I come up with creative solutions to still do Art and connect with my class? Still practice Science in my environment that I am in? I think there’s some opportunity, too, for us to lead and contribute, even as young people who feel victimized by what’s happening.
Christine: Yeah. I know you speak to this all the time, about how experience and what you make of the experience is what’s important, and that’s right on. Throughout life I have noticed that there are people who go through a path, they check off the same boxes, but their experience is completely different. You’re given all the resources. I know Katy always talks about this. The resources are there, but you need to take the step. You need to take the initiative, and you need to do what you need to do, and put your own life in there to grow and to be who you are meant to become, and the same with the parents. Because this is a whole new ride, and you may be asked to do things that are not in your normal job description, and you know what? Times are different. It’s okay. But it really is. It’s what you make of it. I mean, I heard my daughter talking on the cell phone to one of her professors today. Hey, that’s awesome. Whatever you need to do. She felt very connected, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them.
Katy: Yeah. I think that’s really important advice, is to communicate with your professors, know that they’re displaced, too. That you can talk to them, and they’re just people. They’re just people trying to figure it out.
Christine: Yeah, I think her professor said I miss you guys.
Katy: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Professors don’t want to do it this way. They want to be in connection with you.
Christine: They really do. That’s why they do what they do. This is huge. This is huge.
Katy: Yeah. Well, I think my topics that I had on the top of my mind, we’ve covered a lot of ground I feel like, and I’m sure there’s so much more. Everytime I record something, I’m like, oh, I should have said this or that.
Christine: Always. Yes.
Katy: So, if anybody out there has questions or concerns, or advice or pointers or resources, that we’re not thinking of, put it in the descriptions, wherever you’re listening or watching this episode. Email us, DM us. I’m @collegehoodadvice on Instagram. That’s the very best way to get in touch with me.
Christine: I’m @emptynestcoach, that’s my handle pretty much everywhere, so you can find me that way.
Katy: Yeah, reach out to us. We’re committed to trying to make creative just-in-time content to support you through this experience as best we can and know how to, so don’t hesitate to let us know where you need help and support, and know you’re not alone out there.
Christine: Absolutely. I believe in you. You can do this. You’re strong enough and this is going to be a wild ride, and we can have fun.
Katy: Remember, you’re in it together, whether you’re a student and your families, are all in it together.
Christine: Yeah, awesome.
Katy: Thanks, Katy.
Christine: Thanks, Christine.
Christine: Bye, all.
Christine: Well, Katy’s amazing. Please check out her podcast. I know sometimes our children don’t like to listen to our recommendations, but maybe try recommending it. She will have so many resources for them, with the pivot that they have had to make. Remember, my friend, you are amazing.
Thanks! Thank you! A huge shout out to every member of my GPS Support Flock. I invite you to fly on over to my website, or see my show notes, for a link to learn how you may become a GPS Support Flock member, where you will gain access to all of my programs, monthly workshops, group coaching, and more. See you there!
You are preparing for the empty nest ahead as your child(ren) prepares, heads off to, and experiences college.