Eps 489: Identity development for mixed race teens with Dr. Jenn Noble

Episode 489

Listen to the podcast here.

My guest today is Dr. Jenn Noble, and she’s here to talk about adolescent identity development and support us all in broadening our lens around the experience of mixed race kids and families.

Dr. Jenn helps parents to see who their kids really are and helps teens express who they are to their parents.  We all know teen identity development is a total rollercoaster!  On one hand, we know our adolescents are growing up, but we sure like to hang onto who they were as children.  Their experiences and perspectives are real, but they’re often dismissed.  

As we dig into adolescent identity development, and Dr. Jenn reminds us that part of a teen’s job is to explore things, try things out, and push back with a safe place to land.  I ask Dr. Jenn what parents can do to invite your teens to talk to you, how adolescents can read our agendas (even when we think we’re being open-minded!), and how this plays out differently in mixed race households.  

Guest Description

With over 15 years of working with parents of mixed race kids as a psychologist, and a lifetime of being mixed race herself, Dr. Jenn is no stranger to the challenges of raising a confident, resilient mixed race kid. 

She is a licensed psychologist, a lover of adolescents, and a coach for parents of mixed race kids. She’s the creator of the mixed life academy, an online coaching community for parents to help them raise confident, secure mixed race kids. She has a private practice in Los Angeles where she works with teens and their partners, BIPOC women of color (including mixed race) and other marginalized groups. She has taught psychology as an associate professor at a socal community college for over 15 years.

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Takeaways from the show

  • What should parents know about adolescent identity development? 
  • Broadening our lens around the experience of mixed race kids and families
  • Seeing your kid for who they are – how do we really get to know & see them? 
  • Negative stereotypes around teens 
  • Teens need to try & explore new things with a safe place to land 
  • What makes adolescents feel open to talking and sharing more with parents 
  • Code switching (cognitive flexibility) 
  • Teens are seeking groups and are very sensitive to rejection 
  • How can we best show up for mixed race teens? 
  • Authentically affirming & complimenting teens’ experiences

What does joyful courage mean to you

To me, joyful courage – the first word I think about is freedom, especially if we’re talking about identity and journey to one’s self understanding.  To me, joyful courage would be reaching a place where you say, “Oh, I can be all of this.  All of who I am, and now I feel free.”  That’s happiness; that’s boldness.



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parents, kids, mixed race, teen, talking, teenager, adolescents, work, sri lankan, group, teenage, learn, identity, family, child, love, feel, experience, remember, good
Casey O'Roarty, Dr. Jenn Noeble

Casey O'Roarty 00:02
Hey, welcome to the joyful courage podcast a place for inspiration and transformation as we try and keep it together. While parenting our tweens and teens. This is real work people and when we can focus on our own growth, and nurturing the connection with our kids, we can move through the turbulence in a way that allows for relationships to remain intact. My name is Casey already, I am your fearless host. I'm a positive discipline trainer, space holder coach and the adolescent lead at Sprout double. I am also the mama to a 20 year old daughter and 17 year old son walking right beside you on this path of raising our kids with positive discipline and conscious parenting. This show is meant to be a resource to you and I work really hard to keep it real, transparent and authentic so that you feel seen and supported. Today is an interview and I have no doubt that what you hear will be useful to you. Please don't forget sharing truly is caring. If you love today's show, please pass the link around snap a screenshot posted on your socials or texted to your friends. Together we can make an even bigger impact on families all around the globe. I'm so glad that you're here. Enjoy the show.

Casey O'Roarty 01:23
Hi, listeners. Welcome back to the podcast. I'm so glad that you are here for today's conversation. I would love to introduce my guest to you today. She is Dr. Jen noble. And with over 15 years of working with parents of mixed race kids as a psychologist and a lifetime of being mixed race herself. Dr. Jenn is no stranger to the challenges of raising a confident, resilient mixed race kid. And can I call you Dr. Jenn, is that feel good to you?

Dr. Jenn Noeble 01:54
Yeah, everybody calls me Jen. Okay, perfect. Is it Jen? Or is Dr. Jen? Well, listen,

Casey O'Roarty 01:58
if I had a doctor in front of my name, I would be like all of you people. You can call me Dr. Mom.

Dr. Jenn Noeble 02:04
No. Oh, yeah, work only at work.

Casey O'Roarty 02:08
Let me tell you more about Dr. Jen. She is a licensed psychologist, a lover of adolescents and a coach for parents of mixed race kids. She's the creator of the mixed life Academy, an online coaching community for parents to help them raise confident secure mixed race kids. She has a private practice in Los Angeles, where she works with teens and their partners and their parents bipoc Women of Color, including mixed race and other marginalized groups. She's taught psychology as an associate professor at a So Cal Community College for over 15 years. And she's here to talk about adolescent identity development. I'm so excited. And to support us all in broadening our lens around the experiences of mixed race kids and families. I'm so happy to have you. Welcome to the podcast.

Dr. Jenn Noeble 02:54
Yes. Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here. Yes.

Casey O'Roarty 02:57
So I read you know, there was your bio, isn't it? Yeah. So interesting to sit while somebody else is like, let me tell you everything about you.

Dr. Jenn Noeble 03:04
Yeah, it's kind of weird. Yeah.

Casey O'Roarty 03:07
I would love to know about how you got into being a psychologist and into doing the work that you do.

Dr. Jenn Noeble 03:15
Yeah, I mean, I guess it could be a long answer. But the shortened version is, I have always liked kids. And I guess I've always liked kids and teenagers, you know. And I mean, that sense. I don't know, junior high. I was like, I'm sure a lot of psychologists have stories like this. But I just remember having peers in my classrooms that somehow would just be sharing deep dark stuff with me for no reason. And I think they did, because I was like, Oh, wow, wait, whoa, like in my head, like, that happens to people. And you're, you know, what happened to your brother? And oh, you did this and even like a kid that was cutting, and he would show me his scars. Look what I did. And I was like, Oh, you did that on purpose. Why, you know, I've always been drawn to, I don't know, painful experiences, but especially those of adolescents. And so that never went away. And so whether I was doing summer jobs, or you know, volunteering at my church, it was always with kids and teens. And then you know, at some point, I think my mom tells the story that I used to say I wanted to be a pediatrician, so I knew I wanted to work with kids. But then one day, I think we were talking about fluids and you know, something gross, probably and my mom was like, you know, you're gonna have to deal with that if you're a doctor and and she said soon after that. I was like, I want to be a child psychologist. I don't really know how I found out about that career, but it just stuck. And so that's kind of what I knew I was going to do. Yeah, so all of my training and everything was always with kids and adolescents. And then how I kind of moved into the work specifically with mixed race folks is I can't I had two separate things going on. So I was studying to be a psychologist and doing the internships and getting the training and all that. And on the side, I was volunteering in the mixed race community. So in college, I kind of got connected to some organizations. And I never knew that that existed, I had learned about some research. And then the research took me to the organization. So I was getting involved in like going to these events and just being like, wow, I never knew people were actually researching my group, and I'm a part of a larger community. So I would do that as a volunteer thing with a nonprofit out here in Southern California. And down the road, it's sort of like, I figured out how to make the to meet, because one of the things that I would always see when I was doing the nonprofit work is parents of the mixed race kids would come to our events, and ask questions like, What do I save this? And oh, I noticed that and how do I help my child with this, and we would always try to find ways to refer them to people, and oh, maybe connect to that person. And we would sit around and say, Gosh, I wish we had a network of therapists to refer them to. And then somewhere down the line, I was like, wait, I'm literally trained to do this. And I do it all the time with other people's, you know, parents, so then that's when I started being like, you know, what, I need to direct my efforts at a group I know very well, and bring the expertise that I have. So that's kind of how I got here. Yeah,

Casey O'Roarty 06:25
I love your work and found you on Instagram. And, yeah, and just really appreciate what you have to offer. I'm not mixed race. And I have friends that are in family systems that are and it's really interesting to me, I have lots of questions for them. And like, what is that, like, you know? And yeah, how do you nurture all these different parts of your kids, and just everything that you're presenting is so interesting to me. And, you know, my kids have mixed race friends, and I'm out in the community. And, you know, I think it's important for all of us to broaden our perspective about the experiences that other people are having. So I'm really grateful to have you on to shed that light. But also, you know, my people are parents of teenagers. Yes. And we are all a, you know, something that I say almost on the daily like, the terrain is messy. The messiness is not you not doing a good job, or having massive character flaws, this period of time is messy. And when we were talking about what we would do here on the pod, we started talking about identity, and individuation and identity development. And I realized, like, I haven't really dug in specifically to that here on the show. So I'm really excited. Yeah, to talk about that. And to we in the different layers that, you know, all the marginalized groups have extra layers. And so yeah, twofold there, right, to build the perspective of those of us that, you know, are swimming in the water that works out for those of us that are white straight says and broaden our awareness around that, but also like Brah, raising teenagers and holy cow, right. Their identity development feels like a roller coaster a train. Well, yeah, like, depending on the day, depending on the day. Right, right. Right, right. We get there when you have families that come in to your office to work with you. What are some of the themes and challenges that you're seeing with families today?

Dr. Jenn Noeble 08:32
I mean, it's definitely all the classic themes of you know, like you said, just the messiness and the struggle of an adolescent trying to figure out everything about life. But I do think if I was going to boil it down, once a family with teens gets to me, it's kind of a theme of, I would say, seeing and being seen, or I should say it's and or, but it's a parent having trouble seeing their kid for who they are, and having a totally different perspective and understanding of who their teen is. And or it's the teen feeling like no one gets me no one is trying to get me no one is willing to allow me to be me. You know, I think it's there are just a long list of conflicts that come under that larger theme. And so a lot of my work ends up being helping a parent, remove whatever is getting in the way of them seeing what their kid was actually saying they are, and then also helping a teen really express who they are to their parents, because I think they struggle with that. I mean, I think that's the broadest way to put it. I mean, I would also say, I do think from a parent's perspective, I think parents really struggle like they know in their head. My child is getting older and my child is growing. and they are now a teenager. And this means this, this and this, but they are struggling with the actual transition from what it was like to parent, an eight and nine year old to like a 14 year old that actually has been thinking about things and trying to learn stuff and read a couple books and has some like butting opinions. And the parents were like, wait, what? No, I tell you when to go to bed. So go to bed like yeah, no, I just think it's a lot of that, too.

Casey O'Roarty 10:26
Yeah, what's so interesting, I've been thinking a lot about this. And I think when our kids become teenagers, we really want to hold on to who they are as like a 10 year old, like the personality that starts to develop in grade school, and then they continue to develop, but what it feels like is you're changing, you're different. Like I've had parents say, you know, as an eighth grader or a ninth grader, like, they've always been a straight A student. And I'm like, wow, that, like they got threes and fours in elementary school. Like, you know, yeah. And so we something that I've been trying to remind the parents I work with, and myself as I raise my kids, like, I get to keep getting to know who my kid is, right? And challenge, the idea that they are, you know, I mean, I'm not who I was at 16 and 17 thing exactly. Be hard to stand. But yeah, so I love that being seen, feeling seen. And then creating a space where kids can express what they need and who they are, and helping parents recognize, like, the ways that they get in the way of that.

Dr. Jenn Noeble 11:40
Yes, definitely. And I don't think it's always quote unquote, parents getting in the way, I do think society doesn't really help us. I do believe like, adolescents are a marginalized group in that we don't try to understand them, we kind of have a lot of stereotypes about them, and they're never positive. Any family that's just having a casual conversation, they're gonna be like, Oh, wait till you have a teenager. Oh, you know, how if I can exit now, I would like all that kind of stuff. And the kid is like, dang, what did I do? Like I'm just growing. And it's another stage that we don't take the time to, like educate folks about and I think that's because of some sort of stigma, marginalization, I mean, from a nerdy perspective, if you try to go into research and look at, like, all the research on different age groups, you can find some just beautiful stuff on like toddlers, and like five year olds, and I mean, there's just like, a whole bunch of research on every possible aspect. When you get into adolescence, it really goes super negative. It's the teenage, you know, pregnancy, the teenage gain. And yeah, like the teenage drug addict, what do we do but the teenager? And you're just like, What happened to the positive? Is there anybody looking at like, what are the great things about adolescents? And so to me, if you look at that, plus, like any movie about teens, and any like TV show that has a teen character, we get this picture of like, they're just bad, and they're just going to come with this attitude, and I'm not standing for it, and it creates a battle that doesn't need to be there. Yeah,

Casey O'Roarty 13:15
I agree. I think there's a lot of dismissing of the experience of teens that as real for them, I think about my listeners are gonna get tired of me saying this, but I love that my marriage counselor always reminds my husband and I like you have equally valid separate realities like that equally valid part is so powerful when we think about our teenagers, regardless of the fact that it's their first timers. Right. And they have only the perspective and the experience that they have, it's still really real and valid for them and to honor that. And we've talked a lot on the pot about some of the teen brain development stuff and the power of relationship. That's really what I center here is the power of relationship. Yeah. And then so now bringing in this identity development piece, when you think about identity development, in your practice, in your work, what do you help parents to understand about identity development? Yeah,

Dr. Jenn Noeble 14:15
I mean, I think the hardest thing to have a parent understand is that this is a a journey, where the teen has to try things on. That's actually a healthy part of the journey is, do I want to do this? Oh, no, I don't like that. And oh, maybe I like this. Nope, I don't like it anymore. And do I want to present myself this way to the world? No, actually, I feel like it's this way. And that includes so many choices that parents may not agree with that maybe they don't hold as values in the home. Maybe they felt like I never taught you that and you know, all of those things, but you have to make space for that exploration journey. Also I would try to help parents understand that the journey includes pushing back on the things that the parents put forth in the family. And that that is you want a team to do that. It doesn't feel good in the family. And I don't think the teen always enjoys it either. But it is actually a good sign of a teenager feeling safe. And trying things out just like a little, I don't know, toddler that just learned to walk kind of walks away from the parent and then kind of falls down, and then looks back at the parent, like, are you still there, and the parents, like, you're good, you want to get up and walk back this way you can, like it's the teenage version of that. So when we don't see a kid pushing back and trying to let go out on their own way, and like try something new that nobody in the family maybe does that much. They're kind of doing, you know, when they don't do that. It's because they are like, Oh, I don't think I'm going to be supported in doing this. I better just do what everybody expects is going to happen at some point. So might as well support the journey, you know?

Casey O'Roarty 16:13
Yeah, I mean, I remember with my daughter, she's been on the podcast and shared her story. But we all moved through some pretty significant mental health issues. And I tell her now, like I always knew how you were doing based on the shade of your hair. And once we got to jet black, I was like, Oh, right. So my little blonde, right now she's a solid red, and she's staying there. But I remember thinking to myself, because she pushed back so hard. And she was such an advocate for herself, even as from the outside looking in was very off the beaten path. But I remember also feeling like, Damn, you are bold. Yeah, I could never have been this bold. I was very much like Mount. It's easier to just go along. Right? Yeah. And then I got to college and did all my individuating and identity experimenting, but which wasn't a safe container. But I made it through. Yes. I mean, when we can take a look at that when we can let go of our own baggage around some of the choices. Yes. And just be like, dang, look at my kid. Like, they're so brave. And they're so bold, and they're so all in? And, yes, sometimes they're all in in ways that, you know, we have some feelings around, right? And I think I find that parents get really freaked out myself included before remembering like, Oh, right. I don't like this is a phase because I heard that as a teenager and made me crazy. But like, nothing is permanent here. Like this is an exploration. Right? How do you help parents keep that in mind as they're watching their kids kind of move through all different ways of

Dr. Jenn Noeble 17:57
I wish it was just one reminder and be like, hey, just remember, and they're like, oh, okay, great. Thanks. No, it's

Casey O'Roarty 18:04
like, here's the post it note, put it on your forehead. Right?

Dr. Jenn Noeble 18:07
Right. It's like multiple levels and ways of because I think it's one thing because I do a lot of parent work is officially actually called that. So like, if I have an adolescent client, then I also see the parents separately for parent work. So I will try to do it more often before but just given some schedules of families, once a month, I would see the parent and do this parent work. And it really is to help them like I said, learn how to see their child, but also learn how to see what they're doing, see what buttons are being pushed for them and like move them away from their own reactions. And so that's what I mean by the constant reminders is really helping a parent realize, why is this little journey that your kid chose this week? Why is it so upsetting to you? What are you so worried about? You know, kind of going back to your example? Why are you so reactive? Did you either not get to do this when you are an adolescent? Is it a shock? You know, I mean, there's so much behind that. So it's different than just the head reminder. Like logical? Yes, I know. Yes. I now to stage Yes, I know. It's more they have to feel it in their gut, like, ah, oh, and when you can get that, then you get a real shift with a parent. It's like, All right, now I'm ready to ask you more about like, how you feel and what you want and remove themselves a little bit. I love

Casey O'Roarty 19:30
that. And I love how that supports our experience of ourselves. So, you know, I hear a lot of well, I would never have acted that way when I was a teenager. Right? And when I put it into my experience with my daughter, you know, yes. And how amazing I'm so grateful, like yes to her temperament. And I'm so grateful that we created a space where she could really advocate take a stand for herself and that we were willing to let her take the lead even though it felt very precarious. Yes, exactly that, you know, right. But we didn't go anywhere. It wasn't like, okay, yeah, do whatever you want good luck with that. But it was like, I'm gonna walk beside you on this. And, you know, the pushback from external family members was really interesting, too. But I love that parent work and recognizing like, yeah, had she been in my family if she had been me, and move through what she went through in the family system that I was a part of, it's kind of terrifying, to think about how that would have unfolded. And so anyway, go me. Yeah, exactly. Credit round would be like Mom, good taking all the credit.

Dr. Jenn Noeble 20:46
But I mean, it is a big chunk of the pie, let's put it that way. It's not all the credit, but it is, it does make a difference. And I do think you're correct. Like, I've worked with so many parents, where part of the work is helping them realize, you would never have done this way. Because you couldn't, actually yeah, almost helping them, like kind of what you're getting at is processing some grief around the fact that you may not have had as many privileges you may not have had as much, you know, stability as your teen has, or, you know, just the classic thing of a parent being like, she's got everything provided for her. And then she went and did this was like, okay, but you didn't. And so you only have these other choices to make, because of that, how wonderful it is that you created a place where your child could be stable and have an allowance and you know, whatever else things that you're sort of feeling salty about now, because you didn't have it, let's put that aside and look beyond what that allows your kid to do. It allows them to actually introspect and you know, get in touch with their emotions and learn about themselves and then go try something whereas you didn't have that. Yeah. So I fully agree with you. I think it's tough. It's yet to get there.

Casey O'Roarty 22:00
Yeah, yeah, it's work. That's why we call it work. Yeah, exactly. I read one of your blog posts that I really appreciated about when teens stop talking to their parents, and when the space to express themselves stops feeling safe. And three of the questions that you prompt in the post, I really appreciated where the teens are considering right? Am I safe? Is my parent going to listen? And is my parent going to try to fix my problem? Or let me vent and be heard? Right. So talk a little bit about that. And that's, I mean, again, listeners, you're like, oh, yeah, we talked about that here. Yes, we do. And we're going to keep talking about it. Just like you said, it's not a one and done opportunity. But talk a little bit about those questions, and how, you know, what things that parents can be aware of that might be influencing how willing their teen is to share with them and talk with them? Yeah,

Dr. Jenn Noeble 22:58
I mean, to me, I think the easy way to maybe get at that is to think about an agenda. You know, I think we use that word in so many spaces. But it is true that parents can often have an agenda for their child. I'm trying to be as nice as I can. And this is what we do. I think. I think all parents Yeah, exactly. Like all parents have an agenda for their child, even though they like to think they don't, you know, I just want my kid to be happy. I want them to like, and it looks like whatever they Yeah, I want them to follow this and just do it this way. That's all like. So I think to me, that's I guess, again, a broad word or thought that can help a parent check themselves in Am I creating safety, because if you know that you kind of have a wish and a path and some direction, then you can already deduced that a kid also knows that and therefore won't share because they know it goes against what you've either overtly or covertly said is the agenda. I literally met with a teenager yesterday. So she got into a couple schools for college. And she really wants to go to one. But she knows her parents want her to go to another one. And it almost was comical if I wasn't, you know, doing my job, because the parents, she said, Okay, well, this was like a little family session we had because the kids like I really want to talk to my parents about this, but I need you to be there. So it's sort of like, you know, what if I went to this school, and I've been thinking about possibly going to this school, and the parents are like, well, it's your choice, but also why, and what about this, but did you ever think about that? And I really don't think that this is this is you know, when the kid started? I mean, like I said, it's I'm smiling now, but the kid knew how difficult this was for the parents. I mean, she began to kind of get tearful through all of it because she's like, I know you guys want me to do this other thing. Yeah. And it's so hard for me to even ask this and discuss it. And they're like, no, no, no, we don't we don't have any preference. And she's like, that is not true. Yeah. So that's what I mean, you know, it's hard to, I had to sort of get in there and say, Let's really just acknowledge you do you do want this? And that kind of shifted the conversation? Because like, okay, yes. I mean, yes, we do. But also, okay, let's talk about the other thing. But it was very difficult for her to even make that statement because she knew how much it was against us. So she just didn't feel safe. That's how unsafe she felt she started to cry about it. Yeah,

Casey O'Roarty 25:35
well, we can really create a double bind for our kids. It's like, yes, choose to be me choose to be what feels true and authentic for me, and potentially, you know, disappoint or disrupt or, like, feel responsible for my parents experience, or release, or suppress or ignore my truth and my authenticity, so as to not, you know, go against the grain? And how does it show up? When we're talking about mixed race families,

Dr. Jenn Noeble 26:09
I was just gonna go there myself, because it's a little bit of a unique experience, especially if the parent does not understand their child's perspective in the world, meaning being a member of more than one group, at the same time, is hard for a parent who is not to kind of conceptualize Yeah, and so in those moments, there can be an expectation, quote, you know, or like a agenda, quote, unquote, that this mixed race child align themselves with one group, or that they maybe don't have permission to align themselves with another group. And so the parents without meaning to me set this clear kind of expectation, you should behave this way. So, you know, actually, I tell this story about myself off, just so your listeners know, I am African American and Sri Lankan. And what I always found interesting, or like, a fascinating observation when I was a teenager, was that sometimes I would be interacting with my mother, who is Sri Lankan. And she might, you know, in her parent way, be expecting me to do something, right and behave a certain way or think a certain way. And I would sort of push back against that. But she would say, well, you're Sri Lankan, then you need to did it. And so I'm like, in my head, I'd be like, Okay, that's interesting. Okay, but I feel like you're forgetting something, you know, and then I would be with my father, who's African American. And he would say, Well, you know, you got to remember, you're black. And this is this. And that, is that. And I'd be like, huh, like, they don't realize that they're kind of giving me one agenda to fit. So if I really took that to heart, imagine the pain of trying to please one, okay, okay, I'll do it this way. But then oh, wait, you want me to do it this way? So

Casey O'Roarty 27:56
in your story, probably felt like a triple bind, because it wasn't you and then your parental units, it was each parent separately, and then your experience. And so how did you navigate that?

Dr. Jenn Noeble 28:10
Well, I mean, again, I think for me, I just remember having that feeling of stepping back a little bit and observing it from afar, like, oh, they don't see what they're doing. So I'll just go ahead and navigate this myself, you know what I mean. And to me, this is where a lot of mixed race people, and we see this in research can develop the skill of what some would call cognitive flexibility, or maybe more, like the lay people today would say, code switching, which is like, learning how to, okay, when I'm over here, I will interact this way I can change the way I speak, I can change mannerisms. Not in authentic way, but just a way of like, I've learned so much I know the norms and the cultural expectations, and then switch it over here. I think that was the beginnings of me kind of learning and or using that skill of realizing, oh, okay, like, these two are very different, but also, it's okay, I can still be me and meet both, you know, but I do think for some adolescents, specially mixed race adolescents, it's maybe not as clear, they may not have that step back moment of, oh, wait, I have the power here or I have control over this situation. It really can feel like a threatening experience. Because even for any teen again, for the team that is taking the chance of disagreeing with what their parents want from them. It's only so upsetting because they are also risking a rejection, like a level of rejection, because the parents are like, we don't like that. And now the kid hears you don't like me, like because that's what I want to do. And if you don't like that, that means you must not like me as a person. So the same thing for a mixed race kid sure where they are facing potential rejection in their minds from one or both sides. And then sometimes, instead of just being a parent, it can be kind of broadened out to the whole racial group. And then that can be problematic, you know?

Casey O'Roarty 30:20
Yeah, so I'm a positive discipline trainer. So that's kind of that's the philosophy that I'm talking about here. And it's based on Adlerian theory, and I'm sure you are familiar with Adlerian theory. Yes, yes. And so that whole idea of belonging and significance for a mixed race kid First, there's the two parents, but then yeah, out in the world, which makes it ever more special and useful and powerful that you found this community when you were in college that was specific to mixed race people? Yes. But like, what is the experience of a typical mixed race teen who's, you know, trying on these different identities, which also include cultural identities? And then they're showing up in these groups? What kind of response like what are they navigating inside of that as well?

Dr. Jenn Noeble 31:09
Yeah, it's a great question, as there's a lot of different things. But again, I think the theme of belonging is just more complicated for those teenagers. Because yeah, of course, every teen is looking for their group, whether the group is defined by, you know, ethnic, racial background, or maybe it's just, oh, all the guitar players go and sit under that tree every lunchtime. I mean, you're looking for some group. And so what tends to happen is mixed race teens, one may try multiple groups. So I just was thinking of Barack Obama earlier today, for another reason, so I'll use him as a teenage example. Let's just say the teenage Barack Obama may attempt to hang out with the black kids for a while and like, see, okay, can I try this on? What's this like? And let's just say those black kids are kind of like, um, you know, we don't know if we vibe with you, or Brock is like, I don't know, if I vibe with them. Let me go over here to sort of hang out with the white kids, I have some white friends. And let's see what that's like. But maybe there's some experiences where the kids are like, oh, you know, anti black joke, or oh, we don't like you for this reason. Or maybe we're gonna exotic fie you in some way and be like, Oh, show us that new dance and the new rap song, you know, so then teenage Brock is like, Ah, I don't feel like I can fit here too. And maybe teenage Brock, either goes to the guitar crew at the, you know, tree, or maybe he sort of finds like a group of Filipinos. And he's like, Oh, these are my people. But the parents are watching all of that. And maybe outsiders are watching that, and may say, Ah, you don't know who you are, you're confused. Why are you not with the black kids? Or why are you not doing this? And you know, and that mixed race kid is like, you know, I have multiple layers here, right? And I'm trying to like, find the space and I'm trying to find the place. And then of course, it does get complicated by the outside. So some of those groups, even if that kid is like, again, let's just say this was not my personal experience. First of all, at my high school, we did not have a lot of Sri Lankans there is just a very small island. So you're not going to find a lot of Sri Lankans everywhere. But I had two peers at my school who were Sri Lankan. And I think because it's such a small island, and there's so few of us, the minute you find out that someone else's, you're like, oh, and so I could have easily just hung out with them. And you know, the same idea, perhaps, if it was a bigger group, or more recognized group, I might try to show up. And because my phenotype looks a lot more African American, maybe that group would have been like, Well, why are you here? And what are you doing here. And so then if there was a teenage me, I might be like, Oh, I shouldn't go there. I don't belong. They don't want me that, you know. So you do see that with mixed race kids feeling like they don't have permission, where they're feeling because they're very sensitive to rejection. So even a little bit of rejection feels like a full rejection. So this is for me, this is when I tried to step in, for parents to help that mixed race child, understand that this may happen. Number one, you may get a little bit of pushback from other people, because they're just looking at how you look, they don't know the details yet. But also to help the child. Remember, you have permission, you have every right to connect to those groups, because literally part of your family as part of your ancestry. And so let's help you feel confident enough to go up there and say, Hey, you might look at my face and not really get it but I'll help you don't worry. Just you know, stick with me for a second and you'll figure it out. Yeah, so yeah,

Casey O'Roarty 34:37
yeah. And that's such a big ask for a period of time where in the brain is like, don't stand out. Stay. Yeah, like all the things actly exactly. I wrote down something that you said that I think is so important, and like as we witness our kids moving through, you know, finding their people and the idea that they're are confused, you know, like, what if we held them as really clear, they're really clear that they want to feel like their authentic selves. And they're searching for that and trying things on so as to check that box. That's not the thing. Like, it's actually not being confused. It's actually being really clear about just seeking out this, you know, and God, don't we all want our kids to not settle, and to find the space where they feel good about who they are, and feel true and authentic to who they are.

Dr. Jenn Noeble 35:35
Right? Yeah. I mean, I always say, you know, when I'm working with parents of young, mixed race child, they know exactly who they are. They're not confused. They've known since they were three, or you know, the minute they go to the parent and go, you're this and you're that, and I'm this, like, so many parents have that story. So the kid is very clear, what happens, or where the quote unquote confusion comes in, is when society says, oh, you can't do that. Wait, you know, which one are you in? Oh, do it this way. And the kids like, wait, what? That doesn't make sense. You know, that's contrary to how I've known myself to be these last, you know, seven 610 years? Yeah. So it's learning to deal with the societal misunderstanding.

Casey O'Roarty 36:18
Yeah. Yeah. Good old society. Yeah, that'll love it is. Gosh. So I'm thinking about the people that are listening. And those of us that maybe don't have mixed race in our immediate family, yes. But maybe in our extended family, or in our neighborhood, or our kids friends, or, you know, people that are coaches or mentors of mixed race teens? What are some thoughts or tips that you have for all of us to show up better for them as they move through their identity exploration? Yeah,

Dr. Jenn Noeble 36:52
I think you know, there's so many ways, depending on what your role is, for example, you're saying, you know, extended family, I would probably give different tips or expectations to extended family versus neighbor versus mentor versus whatever. But since we're asking about all of it together, especially given your example, like, Well, my kids might bring some friends over that are mixed race. And now I'm just like, hanging out as the parent or just checking in on things. But how can I you know, make sure that I'm aware of this experience? To me, I think the word would be affirm, just affirm the kid whenever you get a chance, whenever it comes up in the conversation, so to me, it's complimenting the experience in an authentic way. But for example, it could just be, I don't know, let's say you're talking to Tanner, the kid who is mixed race, and I don't know, one of his parents is Korean, or something I don't know. And you sort of you can just be like, Wow, China, I love that you get this unique experience of the world of being a Korean and white man, what a skill you have, you know, or what a great perspective you get to have over your lifetime. I just think that's so great, you know, something like that, where you just leave it as a compliment. And let that kid hear from a quote unquote, stranger that someone thinks their experience is unique, is positive, has a strength to it is a superpower, all of those things, because at least for those teenagers and young children, they need that because again, they're already moving through a time where everybody is saying, What's wrong with you? Are you confused? And like, which one are you and all of that stuff? So saying things like that, you know, any

Dr. Jenn Noeble 38:37
kind of, again, compliment rather than? What's that? Like? Oh, is it difficult? It must be so hard to be Korean. And this, don't

Dr. Jenn Noeble 38:48
you think? Is it? Do you feel like, like, don't do that, you know, like, and it may be coming from a lovely caring place. But the lovely caring place is already starting from a place of this must be hard. This must be bad. Right? And I'm showing you how much I care about. You're really sad. existed. Yeah. And so that kid is going to be like, dang it again. Like,

Casey O'Roarty 39:12
yeah, society's already doing that.

Dr. Jenn Noeble 39:15
We don't need to add. Yeah, yeah. And it kind of just drives home this thing of like, Am I like a weirdo? Am I like the only one like, what is what's wrong with this experience that everybody's like, Oh, wow. So once that, you know, that kind of tone. So rather than viewing the child as exotic, just compliment, like, wow, you have a skill I don't have that's amazing. I wonder how that's gonna show up for you in your life. And I wonder, you know, that's probably going to take you a lot of different ways in your career, you know, whatever that might be. Well, and

Casey O'Roarty 39:52
I'm hearing you in this affirmation space. I'm hearing you also say like, it's okay. You don't I Have to not say anything either, because I think there's also the don't say anything. Yeah. You know, which also is sending a message? Yes, definitely.

Dr. Jenn Noeble 40:08
Definitely. I yeah, I always want to take the band aid off of like, the taboo of talking about. Yeah, culture, race, ethnicity, it's, it's part of the problem when we're like, don't say that. Okay. And it's coming over. And don't mention, like, what, why, you know, don't

Casey O'Roarty 40:29
talk about Korean food or oil tenders coming over.

Dr. Jenn Noeble 40:33
You know, and also don't go. So Tanner, show me how to, you know, like that kind of thing, either, but it's just, you know, oh, Tannerite I tried some Korean food the other day. What a great experience you have knowing much more about this cuisine, because of your upbringing than I did. You know, you must know, a lot of other dishes. I don't know, something like that. You know, just Yeah. A more neutral compliment. Yeah. And pay

Casey O'Roarty 41:01
attention. Everyone feel the energy, pull it back. It's not received, like, that's okay. Yes, you know, it's not about you. So I love all of that. I love that. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for coming on and talking about all of this. And thank you for having me. So grateful for your work. Yeah, for sure. And I always ask my guests at the end of the interview, what does joyful courage mean to you? Oh, that's

Dr. Jenn Noeble 41:29
a tough one. To me, I guess joyful courage. The first word I think about is freedom. Yeah. So you know, especially if we're talking about identity and like the journey to one's self understanding. To me joyful courage would be like finally reaching a place where you're like, oh, I can be all of this all of who I am. And now I feel free. That's like, happiness. That's boldness. That's, you know, yeah.

Casey O'Roarty 41:56
I love it. I love that share where people can find you and follow your work. Yes.

Dr. Jenn Noeble 42:02
So I do live on social media quite a bit, mostly Instagram. So my handle there is at Dr. Jenn Psych. So that's Dr. J, e n n. Psy ch so at Dr. Jen with two ends. And that same handle is on Tik Tok and a few other platforms, but I'm just not good at keeping up with all of them. So now, yeah, Instagram, Instagram, and Tiktok is probably like the only places that are best to go to. And then my website is free to be collective.com. That's the name of my organization. So you know, the www but the free to be selective.com. And yeah, so those are the best places to find me. Any of those same places you can find a way to either DM me or email I answer all my DMs on Instagram. So I just love hearing from people. Yes.

Casey O'Roarty 42:57
And you have pretty ongoing, you're doing workshops you have offers. Yeah, yes.

Dr. Jenn Noeble 43:04
So what I am building, which is called the free to be collective, it is a parent community against parents of mixed race kids. And it is a place where I just want parents to be able to come together and learn together and support each other. I meet so many parents that are like, are we the only family raising mixed race kids who are going through this stuff? Like no, you're not come join me meet other parents? And yes, you're right. I do live workshops, probably every other month on topics that are related to raising mixed race kids. So it's, you know, it is a growing thing, but I'm super excited about it. Because anytime the parents come together, they are like, I feel so empowered. I love you know, just connecting with these other people. I thought I was the only one you know, yeah,

Casey O'Roarty 43:50
yeah, I mean, that's what they say like I have a membership community as well as like they come in for the content and they stay for the community. Yeah, as it is being in community and you know, circling up as we do on Zoom. Yeah. With people that are in a shared experience. There is nothing like that and it can feel so isolating. So everybody, check out Dr. Jenn stuff. And I'm so excited to be sharing you with my community and thank you again for the work that you do. Oh,

Dr. Jenn Noeble 44:23
thank you so much. I really enjoyed this conversation. Me too.

Casey O'Roarty 44:34
Thank you so much for listening in today. Thank you to my spreadable partners, as well as Chris Mann and the team at pod shaper for all the support with getting the show out there and making it sound good. Check out our offers for parents with kids of all ages and sign up for our newsletter to stay connected at besproutable.com. Tune back in later this week for our Thursday show and I'll be back with another interview now Next Monday peace

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