Why Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard want to tell their kids the truth – even about the hard stuff
Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard’s family unit worked out rather neatly.
The couple, both famous for various acting and comedy roles, including The Good Place (Bell) and The Ranch (Shepard), share two children – Lincoln, nine, and seven-year-old Delta – and say their daughters both take after each them.
Speaking of Delta, Shepard, 47, says: “She’s a mini Kristen to a tee, they’re identical” – and this can bring with it a whole host of benefits and challenges.
“She will have to have the last word,” Shepard continues. “We had to figure it out – you’ve got to just give her the last word, or it’ll never end.”
Bell, 41, cuts in: “Which was really hard for me, because I always have to have the last word. When she and I interact, especially if it’s about something snarky, [one will be like] ‘That’s fine’, [the other will say] ‘One piece of broccoli is fine’, ‘Yeah, I know it’s fine’, ‘I mean, two would be better, but one is fine’, and he [Shephard] has to go, ‘Honey, you’re an adult’, and just give her the last word.”
Shepard adds: “One of you has to surrender, and it’s not going to be her.”
The couple agree Lincoln, meanwhile, is just like Shepard. “Which is great, because she [Bell] can deal with the older one much easier than I can,” says Shepard. “It took a while, but the beautiful part of staying together is I started recognising I need to talk to Delta the way I talk to Kristen. And then watching the way she deals with Lincoln, I thought, ‘Oh my God, I would have loved to have had that’.”
Bell feels the same way about how Shepard speaks to Delta. She would have loved “someone who allowed me to feel powerful once in a while, when I felt like a pipsqueak”, she reflects. “And with our more sensitive older daughter, I’m able to let her say her feelings at the time she wants to, be patient about when they come out, recognise when she feels embarrassed, and how that affects her.
“We’re each a little bit better with the kid that is opposite [to us].”
Not that the journey to these realisations was easy, and both Bell and Shepard admit they had to let go of a lot of control and preconceptions when they became parents.
“I certainly thought there was a one-size-fits-all – I read every parenting book and thought, ‘Here’s my creed as a parent’,” says Bell. “And then when they came out – particularly when we had the second one – realising how it is so individualised, and being more child-led in watching how they adapt to situations, what they need in a particular situation, what calms them down, what revs them up.”
Another thing Bell discovered is “multitasking is somewhat pointless, and presence is important”, she says. “I have learned how connective it is to have the same experience as someone. There were many moments where I wanted to get something done while they were watching TV, and yet the greatest sense of intimacy and bond-building I could have with my child is just to sit on the couch next to her and do the same thing.
“This is still a constant lesson for me, because I have all these priorities in my head and to-do lists, but just slowing down and doing the same thing they’re doing is profound for them – and me.”
On Shepard’s part, he says: “They have forced me to confront my biggest character defect, which is patience. You’ll die if you’re not patient. I’m also a little type A, and you have to accept our house is going to look like s**t for the next 15 years. Don’t even try – and wow, that was a huge thing for me to surrender.”
Being open and honest about the realities of life is characteristic for Bell and Shepard. They’ve become known for not sugar-coating the truth, speaking in interviews and on social media about their rows, why they go to therapy, and their daily niggles – like Bell leaving loo roll on the toilet seat.
Bell says: “It’s not authentic to be anything else” – and the need to be truthful runs even deeper for Shepard.
“My thing comes from a life and death struggle of mine, which is addiction,” he explains. “I have found great comfort in being around other addicts, because I feel less ashamed of who I am. And so I’m always on high alert of inducing shame in someone else.
“When people would be like #CoupleGoals or say we have some kind of an ideal for a relationship, it was super important for both of us to say: this isn’t easy. We didn’t meet ‘the one’, we didn’t see each other from across the room and fall in love and it’s been easy. It’s been as hard as sobriety, it’s been as hard as managing a career, it’s as hard as it is to stay in shape, as hard as it is to eat right. It’s equally as hard, and equally as rewarding.
“I would just hate for someone to feel s****y because they didn’t find their Kristen Bell.”
And just like the couple are open with the world, they’re also keen to tell their daughters the truth. After being sober for 16 years, Shepard announced he had relapsed following a motorcycle accident in 2020, getting hooked on prescribed medication. He got clean the same year, and has been sober since – and suggests it’s hugely important to talk about it with his children.
“It would be very weird if I left the house every night, five days a week, to go to meetings, and just pretended I was in a bowling league,” he says with a wry laugh. “I’m not ashamed at all to say I’m an addict. I didn’t go shopping and pick out ‘addict’ as a personality – I had a childhood, I have genetics, and here I am. They [his children] have genetics. Hopefully they won’t have the childhood I had – thus far they haven’t.
“But 100,000 people die in the US a year of opiate addiction. I don’t know when people think they’re going to start talking to their kids – but if you’re waiting until they’ve already tried opiates, it’s going to be a little late.”
Shepard is a powerful speaker when discussing his addiction – so much so Bell seems to get emotional, particularly when he mentions their children.
He finishes: “All I ever want my kids to know is no one here is expecting them to be perfect or do it all right. And you shouldn’t ever be afraid to tell someone it didn’t go right, and you need some help. That’s all I hope they leave the house with.”
Bell and Shephard’s baby product line Hello Bello is now exclusively available in Asda and online at Asda.co.uk and HelloBello.co.uk
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