Kristen Bell on being 'flexible' as a parent: 'Sometimes you've just got to throw away the rule book'

Erin Donnelly and Katarina Vasquez
·4-min read

Despite her Hollywood status, Kristen Bell can always be counted on to keep it real. From her marriage to Dax Shepard to her most important role as mom to their two daughters, 6-year-old Delta and 7-year-old Lincoln, the actress and entrepreneur is never not transparent about the highs and lows. It's little surprise, then, that she was an open book when discussing the challenges of parenting during the pandemic with Yahoo Life.

"Obviously the homeschooling was really, really hard," the former Good Place star admitted. "It was really hard. I had this like romantic idea that it was gonna all work out and it did not. Teachers go to school for a reason ... trained teachers are really, really important. School is so much more than just math and writing. It's about social interaction and adjusting to authority and being flexible and communication. It's about so many things that we couldn't give them via homeschool."

Bell says she and Shepard took pains to educate their girls about the pandemic, explaining, "We're always honest with our kids — that's a really big commitment."

She adds, "There were some specials on TV — one of which I hosted on Nickelodeon — that explained what COVID was and why it exists and how to keep yourself safe. We told them everything really early on, and we just reminded them that we're luckier than most people, and we have to do what we can to help others during this time. And my daughters even drew pictures of the virus and did science projects on how it spreads. We did coloring books about how to flatten the curve. It was [about] trying to stay positive during a really hard time."

Acknowledging that her family has been "luckier" than others during this time — with plenty of space inside and out at their home, and close friends with whom they could form a pod — Bell has focused on giving back. While her Hello Bello baby brand already donates a year's worth of diapers each week to a family in need, Bell decided to double it during the pandemic. Now, each week's recipient can choose another family to get their own year's supply of diapers.

"I think that's just the responsible thing to do," the Frozen star says. "When you have a company, you have to be a for-good company."

Offering, and asking for, help is intrinsic to Bell's outlook on parenting and community.

"Any advice I would have for other parents that feel like they're struggling is, lean on others," she says. "We're not doing this alone. 'It takes a village' is a cliché for a reason. Whether it's a phone call or a socially distanced, masked walk, we're social animals and we need each other."

She adds that she and Shepard have benefited greatly from therapy. Making their mental health a priority is also something that they communicate to their kids.

"Therapy has been big for us during the pandemic," she says. We both rely on it, my husband and I, for personal growth and ultimately bringing what we learn individually into the relationship. And during the pandemic, we've all had a lot of growth, so we've needed some therapy.

"I always find it good to give them some, like, biofeedback about how their brain works," she says of their daughters. "Like, 'your brain has all these emotions inside.' And there's a great set of books [Diane Alber's A Little Spot of Emotion series]. So to sort of dissect what's happening in their brain and let them know that's all OK has helped us a lot. We talk a lot about what feelings they're having, what feelings they think they need to sit in for a while... [The book series] has been our main way to communicate mental health and feelings to them at this time."

Bell says she's learned to be "nimble" as a parent during the pandemic, which she considers a silver living.

"Sometimes you've just got to throw away the rule book and you gotta be flexible," she says.

Another lesson was inspired by a hectic trip to buy a Christmas tree last December, which turned into a hectic afternoon of screaming, tears and fighting.

"It was absolute mayhem," she recalls of the day. "There were so many tears, it was a complete debacle. We barely got the Christmas tree up, but when we did it was beautiful. And I think that's a pretty poetic metaphor for this time. You've got to search for the joy amidst the chaos."

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