Motherhood is a continuing lesson for Mira Sorvino.
The Oscar winner recently sat down for a conversation with PEOPLE's Celeb Moms Get Real, discussing her feelings on her older kids' transition to their teens years and how all four of them — Lucia, 8, Holden Paul Terry, 11, Johnny Christopher King, 14, and Mattea Angel, 15 — are coping as school starts again amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
"Sometimes you just have to hear other people's troubles, like their sadness about the schools not opening or their sadness about not being able to see their friends, and just meet them where they are and not try and talk it away," says Sorvino, 52. "I think my tendency before was always to talk things away: 'What if we did that?' And I [would] try and come up with ways that it's not so bad, and that's really not what they want."
"They just need me to hear them and be there for them, then try and help if I can but also just to allow them to express themselves and not always think that you can do something or relating it back to yourself," she adds. "And to comfort them, and just try and change their expectations for what is going to be normal this year. … They were so disappointed and depressed that we were going back into more quarantining and distance learning."
"And just trying to talk to them about having grit … because throughout history, people have gone through things like this — and harder things than this — and this is where our character is tested," the actress continues. "These are not the best of times, so we have to show who we are even not in the best of times, and show each other that we love each other and that we're there for each other and that together we can get through it."
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In the meantime, Sorvino is grappling with the fact that her kids are "not always going to stay these adorable, tiny Muppets that are just so cute and funny every second" and embracing the individuals they are becoming.
"As they grow, they become more complex human beings and they suffer more intense issues the way every person does, and you have to be there for that and learn to grow and adapt to deal with them coming of age," she tells PEOPLE. "And that's challenging, but you have to build bridges to them as they are turning into teenagers, and being faced with all the same issues that we were faced with as teenagers — but now all new issues because of COVID, and also the social justice and Black Lives Matter issues that the whole country is, rightfully, going through right now."
Sorvino says the current national social, health and political goings-on "affect [her] kids a lot," noting that "they're all very motivated, involved and passionate for justice and equality."
"But it changes — parenting changes. It goes from being constant delight, laughing and exhaustion to starting to realize your kids have so much to give back to you, and you have to sort of meet them halfway and see them as these emerging individuals who are going to have this whole incredible life," she says. "And you have to change your way of being with them, but still give them enough authority and protection that they feel safe and confident."
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Another thing the Romy and Michele's High School Reunion star is learning from her kids, especially Mattea? How to keep up with current style trends!
"Mattea already is so much more fashionable than I ever was, and she's always correcting me on my style: 'Oh no, Mom, don't wear … no,' " says Sorvino. "I was this hapless kid, always dressed in things that were not really in fashion or too short because I was growing really quickly."
"I'm still not such a fashionista, but my daughter is very conscious and she wants all of my good bags," she adds. "She's like, 'Mom, why don't you wear these every day?' And I'm like, 'Where am I going? I'm going to the grocery store. I need a practical bag that I don't want to get germy, and I'm not going to bring a Prada bag out shopping.' "
Mattea's response? " 'But you should.' " Yet despite her daughter's insistence, Sorvino still draws the line at the grocery checkout: "I'm like, 'No, I'm just going to Ralph's. Why would I wear a nice bag to Ralph's? I'm a mom.' "
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