Abby Kearns, LCSW and parent coach, joins Jess to talk about parenting. Follow along as Jess and Abby answer questions submitted directly from listeners about those tricky teenage years. The time when our kiddos (very appropriately) want to run, leap, dive (!) out of the family nest. It's a time of transition, of uncharted territory, and it can leave parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles – any adult who works with or cares for children and youth – scratching their heads and wondering, "Am I doing this right?!"
Produced by Jessica Warpula Schultz
Music by Jason A. Schultz
Edited by Jessica Warpula Schultz
[00:00:00] Welcome to Insight Mind Body Talk, a body-based mental health podcast. We're your hosts, Jessica Warpula Schultz and Jeanne Kolker. Whether you've tried everything to feel better and something is still missing or you've already discovered the wisdom of the body. This podcast will encourage and support you in healing old wounds, strengthening relationships, and developing your inner potential- all by accessing the mind body connection.
Please know, while we're excited to share and grow together. This podcast is not intended to be a substitute for mental health treatment. It doesn't replace the one-on-one relationship you have with a qualified healthcare professional and is not considered psychotherapy.
Thanks Jess. And thank you for listening. Now, let's begin a conversation about what happens when we take an integrative approach to improving our wellbeing.. Welcome to Insight Mind Body Talk. My name is Jess. I'm a licensed marriage and [00:01:00] family therapist. And your host today's episode is titled "Parenting Your Teen: how to help your adolescent navigate their life". My guest today is Abby Kerns. Abby believes in the person's intrinsic value. She has confidence in the potential of the human spirit to rise above painful life situations and believes that it is her responsibility as a therapist to assess what the client needs are to offer hope and support and to empower them, to make the necessary changes in their lives so that they can reach their goals and realize their full potential.
Jess: In addition to being an amazing therapist, Abby is the mother of two energetic, insightful and bright children. Both of whom are unique learners with learning differences and other co-occurring conditions. She lives here locally in the Madison metropolitan area with her husband, children, and dog [00:02:00] Scooby.
I'd also like to share the Abby's the clinical director here at Insight Counseling and Wellness. And I don't know what we would do without her, at least for me, Abby, you are my go-to person for so many reasons, especially when it comes to clinical issues regarding children and teens. Abby, welcome to Insight Mind Body Talk.
Thank you for having me. I think it's been a long time coming since I've been invited to do the show. So I appreciate it. You organizing it and getting a chance for us to be together. Yeah, I'm really excited. It has been a long time coming. I have been for the listeners. I've been asking Abby to come on and talk about parenting and, and parent coaching and teens and children for a long time.
With your passion for helping children and families. I'm really grateful that we have you here to talk about these tricky teen years. You know, it's a time when our kiddos are very appropriately wanting to run [00:03:00] leap, dive out of that family nest.
And you know, it's a time of transition where there's new beginnings, but it's also a lot of uncharted territory and it can leave, you know, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, , any adult who works with or cares for children and youth, you know, it can leave us wondering, how do I help? How do I stay present for them? It's a tough time. Yeah, absolutely. It's a really delicate time in a lot of ways, too. And exactly what you said to Jess whether it's caregivers, whether it's parents, whether it's co-parenting, you know, some of the things that we'll talk about today, it's really anyone who was involved in youth lives, because we also know that it takes a village to raise kiddos too.
It's not just one person, one thing. So any of the things we talk about could really be applied to anyone that's in that caregiver role. So thanks for saying that. Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Well, let's begin by giving a little bit of education about what [00:04:00] adolescence is, what makes this time in a person's life.
So challenging, in your opinion, why is it a difficult time Yeah. There's just so much happening during adolescence. It's really known as a time for teens to be able to assert their independence from family and begin to make decisions on their own. So through the younger years, you know, develop mentally, what happens is they kind of rely on their caregivers, their parents to make decisions for them.
. They're building those emotional attachments those feelings of trust with their caregiver or other people, . But this is the core time during adolescence when rapid developmental changes in the brain happen, that creates significant advances in their cognitive abilities.
So a lot of times people will say, oh, it's teens. You know, it's just hormones that are happening, browsing things. And certainly, you know, certainly that plays a role in what's happening, but really. What the research has shown is that it's their brain that's growing. [00:05:00] It's the increase in interconnectedness between neurons that allows for more complex and sophisticated thinking.
And that's what teens are trying to exert really. Wow. That's really interesting. Cause you're right. It's kind of the normative way of thinking about it is it's just their hormones. We can't trust them. They don't know what they're doing. You know, they're out of control and, and it's this chemical change.
And yet what you're describing is yeah, there are changes, but it's not hormonally driven. You know, the brain is growing and changing and preparing them to be adult. Correct. And the last part of the brain, you know, the frontal lobe that controls the executive functioning area, which is, you know, considering like what is long-term consequences controlling their impulses is one of the last parts of the brain to fully mature.
And in most individuals, it does not even initially developing well into their mid twenties with so no one even talks about that. Right. I think the [00:06:00] first time I ever heard that the front of your brain doesn't finish growing until your own 24, 25 was when I was volunteering at Briarpatch, a youth crisis agency here in Madison, they were doing education on, why is it hard for teenagers or young adults to be thinking ahead?
Like, why aren't they planning for their future sometimes? And, and, you know, cut them some slack, right? I mean, your brain is not done growing. You don't even have the ability to really think that far ahead until your, to. Yeah, absolutely. And it's just kind of like for teens, a lot of it is it's their world and we're just living in it and that's really normative.
But at the same time, it's a very, very difficult for parents to transition to that change and to kind of trust that this is what's supposed to happen. This is part of the process. This is part of differentiation and it really does create lapses in judgment. It can have, you know, increases in risk taking behavior [00:07:00] and mood I'm glad you mentioned that because we're going to talk more about that later. I think kind of the demystifying adolescents is to look at what would be considered, you know, in finger quotes.
You can't see me, but normative and appropriate for a teen. And what are some of the red flags? Because as a therapist, I know a lot of parents come to me and say, Jess, is this what should be happening? Or I'm concerned, what choices should I, you know, kind of roll with.
And then what are the choices where I really got to get on board and, and ask some deeper questions and look at, you know, what could be concerning and what isn't concerning at this. I think that's really helpful. And that's the same question I get asked by others too, is , help me understand you know, what's happening with them?
Is this again, air quotes, normal is this what's supposed to happen and it's confusing. And I think it's really confusing for parents and caregivers and what I see with parents and working in the whole family system. And particularly with parents a lot is they get caught [00:08:00] up in, am I doing it right? You know, like doing things correctly.
And I think that's just head to hard spot for parents to be in, you know, and to allow self-compassion for themselves and to say, I am doing the things I'm asking for advice, you know, I'm questioning my own decisions at this time. And that's something that isn't always talked about. Food, the parenting lens.
We talk a lot about adolescents and we talk a lot of blame things on hormones and mood swings, but we don't talk about what it's really like to parent, you know, and again, I'm using the term parents loosely here. But to provide support for ourselves for these kids. Agreed when you and I were talking about how we structure this episode, we also talked about how, this really is a time of first and that popped into my mind last week when I was working with one of my adolescents and I wanted to reassure this person that, oh, you know, this is the first time you've experienced this, but don't worry, it'll be fine.
And [00:09:00] dah, dah, dah, dah, and your voice popped into my head. That to not, you know, dismiss the gravity of how this person was feeling, just because I have the hindsight to know that maybe there'll be more experiences like this in the future. Can you speak a little bit on, adolescence as a time of first and how parents can better support their teen during those really big first, like first heartbreak first, time moving away from home
first time they get a job or lose a job and, and things to us that aren't as big of a deal, but maybe to them, I mean, it really is their world and it's a pretty big deal. Yeah. It's a very big deal. Right? It's all of those things are very big because it's the first time that they are experiencing any of these different things that adults know again, cause we have the ability to have hindsight and the temptation right. Is exactly like what you just shared. It's for parents to jump in and to say to their kid, oh, well, you know what, there'll be [00:10:00] lots of girls. There'll be lots of boyfriends. They'll be lots of people, lots of fish in the sea, you know, kind of they're there instead of allowing the teen or allowing the child to work through it and just kind of validating and sitting with that emotion and reality with them until they come to a different conclusion or a different reconciliation of their own.
And that will also form the patterns moving forward for them too, is how they felt supported, how they were able to build resiliency by working through those things. So we can be there and we can give guides. And we can say, if you have any questions, let me know. Or we can even say, I'm tempted to share my experience.
Do you want to hear it? And it's okay. Then if they say no, you know, I don't want to hear you know of my room and then respecting that's their way to say they need. That they're comfortable working through it right now, now, and then to kids and adolescents, especially preteens and teenagers too, just so [00:11:00] people know what their mood changes as quick as the wind blows.
And that that's also very normal too. So they are constantly, their brain is assessing. They're assessing what is safe. So sometimes they might even perceive something as a threat from a parent that isn't a threat. And one of my favorite examples of this is Dr. Dan Siegel. He gives a talk on, you know, the teenage years and the brain development.
And he says that one of his children come in the room and he says to them, hello, how was your day? And then they were like, you're always using that tone with me. Hello, to me. And it wasn't the neutral, right? It was a new general thing, keeping in mind that their threat level of things, whether they're perceiving it or
again, it's not lecturing, it's really sitting with their emotions and then providing them reassurance that it's normal. So again, not putting a judgment, like it's wrong to feel sad for a week, right? If we think that's an excessive period of time, let's say they've experienced a breakup and [00:12:00] our perceptions kind of like okay.
Time for them to, you know, buckle up and just some other things, but to not put our own judgments and say, you know, every person is different and they might need more time. They might need more space.
They can feel that how are they going to work through that? And if we can label it for them, that's great. And if we can't, that's okay too. But it's just so many firsts and I think it's helpful for parents to also remember this is a time where it's also really exciting, so there's really hard things, but it's still going to be really exciting.
First. They're going to have infatuation. They're going to experience maybe some degree of love, maybe. Almost the most pure love at times that means could even have, you know, people say to them, well, that's not real, that's 14, that's puppy love. But actually when you think about it, that's the time where it is the most unique where it's the most pure, it, it's not infiltrated by other things.
Like we have all of our experiences, there's not baggage. So in some ways it's probably the most real that [00:13:00] we've ever had. Mm. I love that framework thinking of it that way. I'm thinking of the special, you know, teenagers in my life and, and what they're going through. And I really appreciate that lens.
Well, let's, get into it a little bit. Parents submitted. some questions to ask you Social media,, which I'm really excited about and we've categorized them into three groupings. The first group of questions are themed what is appropriate for an adolescent to be going through and navigating in life.
And then what are some warning signs that it's a concern or parents maybe need to step in? Then we're going to look at how parents can respond to teenagers, right? And looking at emotional regulation, looking at boundaries, differentiation, allowing them to be their own person while still trying to be there as a support.
And lastly, looking at, the pandemic and how that's influenced our teens you know, our adolescents missed out on a lot during this time. And how can we support them to kind of [00:14:00] come back to more of this in-person world? the first question is my team is struggling with her friend group. She'll make plans only to be canceled on by her friends. And then she'll learn through social media that her friends were hanging out without her. And so that makes her obviously feel pretty alone.
So how can a parent support? Cause I know it can get tricky where you're trying to guide them on who they should be friends with, who they shouldn't what to do, but we don't know those inner working dynamics right. In those clicks and in friend groups. So how would you support a parent who's watching their child feel really left out and alone.
That is really challenging and really hard. And it's painful, right? When you can also see your kid's pain too. So that's the other thing with parents. We kind of take ownership of being in some ways, like the architect of this too. So like when they're wearing their emotions on their sleeve or particularly if it's experiences that are.
Well, [00:15:00] we feel that, and we feel that at, you know, sometimes our own visceral level. Right. So I think the first step is almost taking a step back. . And kind of being able to breathe into it and recognize from our own sense of self. What is this bringing up for me? Am I going to provide. And support in any situation that isn't coming from a place maybe of my own younger self that's come up or operating from a place like this is why I just don't like any teenage girl.
Right. Because this always happens, you know, again, we're just we're humans and we're triggered. So I think that's an important piece for parents to kind of disseminate and think about. And then for just in terms of more practical solutions, of how they can support. And I think you said it was a daughter in this example is one of the things I speak to parents about is diversifying friends group.
Okay. So again, friends are such a normal part and that is super, super appropriate. So teens and their friend group becomes their world. Parents become [00:16:00] secondary. And so I just want to normalize that to, and in some situations it almost even feels like life or death for them. And that part of like actually the mammal evolutionary.
As they begin to select mates as they begin to consider the world outside their new Keeler or their family of origin. So again, just want to normalize that when parents to first say, well, I don't even know why their friends are so important to them, you know, or like why this is such a big deal. They're going to make lots of friends.
Right. And again, we have that ability to hindsight to say, of course, they'll have tons of changing friend groups, but from an evolutionary perspective, it's super. So one of the things is having a diverse friend group. A lot of times kids pick up their friend group from school, right. That's kind of their main place or from their parents, friends like their parents, friends, and who they kind of associate with.
So casting that net a little bit wider. are there other things where maybe they can be friends or [00:17:00] involved in activities and things that are outside just the school realm and who their peers are. So maybe that, that looks like at times they're involved with a church group that pulls from a lot of different schools or maybe even different towns.
Maybe it's doing a club sport that isn't just the club in their town, but it's one, a little bit further or something outside where then again, they can draw different experiences, meet a different population of people. Maybe that even means just going to some recreational thing, if you were like in a suburb through something that's a little bit further out to kind of cast that net a little bit wider, because if you only have the one close friend group to pull from, it becomes very, very challenging for the kids then to say, okay, well, I'm going to do something over here that make other choices.
So again, making sure that their net is a little bit more diverse and if you see them spending lots and lots of times with the same group, maybe gently encouraging and [00:18:00] say, oh, have you heard from, you know, the, these other group of people in a while? Or why don't we invite them over for sleep over? I know you haven't connected with them for awhile, you don't want to lose contact.
So I think on a foundational level, that's something that's really important. Yeah. So when they're having maybe struggles with one group, you know, I remember having multiple different groups in my life as a teenager where there was, the, people I saw at work, which were my friends, you know, and the, maybe there was some theater friends, and then there was some neighborhood friends, and then some cousins or relative friends.
And, and when there's a little bit of, you know, some rupture may be happening in one group, you can go over to that other group and your whole sense of self or self-worth right. Like you were saying, our friendships are so important at that time that often we make sense of who we are through them.
And if. Giving us the signal. We're not good enough, you know, that can make us question who we are. So it's wonderful. Like you said, to hop over to another group where you're also affirmed and getting that [00:19:00] support and you can see the bigger picture and get more perspective. I also think this is a wonderful time to cultivate a little bit of empathy to, you know, when they're in the space.
So again, and when I say, when they're in the space, if your teen super activate did and you know, crying and, you know, could be almost to the point of hysterical that like what they said, they were here. Then I found out this and you know, I'm not even looking at my phone and crying probably again, not the time and space, maybe other than to just rub their back and to say, you know, I'm so sorry that you had to see that, you know, cry it out.
Let me know. Do you want some soup? I have food. That's one of my go tos and maybe not other people's, but just something like that, but just letting them have that space when they're a little bit more regulated. And I know some of this is like therapist terms too, but just when they're more, not, not in that state of hysteria or that too, .
It's an opportunity to cultivate some empathy and to say you know, you ran up to your room, crying, crying. That must have felt really bad. So this [00:20:00] sometimes is one of the downsides of social media. This is something that. So do you think everything that's put out there is in real time, what do you know to mean?
True. What do you know to be fake and to have a little bit of a dialogue and just to kind of learn from that too and say, so sometimes when you're posting, even if it's not a direct, you know, to other people that follow you still see that, you know, that's something we need to take into account. So it's also, again a learning and a little bit of time to create that empathy.
And especially with the social media, because it's out there and it's not going away and they're going to, face these things. That's helping them figure out the boundaries and using respect on social media understanding, where other people are coming from too, which I think is great.
Well, moving on to question number two. A parent says, I try to talk to my son about school, his day practice, and all I get back is the word fine. how do I get my team to talk [00:21:00] to me He spends the entire night in his room. Should I be worried? .
Yeah. And I say, you know, a laugh because it is hard. Right. And it is hard when you're getting these phrase documented answers, like fine. Another one is whatever, you know, almost like indifference to what you're asking. And as a parent, again, you're like, well, why don't you want to tell me? Or like, what does that supposed to mean?
And you're creating all of these stories in your head Again, asking yourself, what are the stories I'm creating is one approach, you know, as the parent or caregiver, like, am I telling my self things that are true that are not true. And am I bringing that into it?
Then the second piece is through the lens, of course of maybe asking me instead of broad questions, like more specific questions, if you want a specific answer. So sometimes that looks like a little bit of pre-planning and I do that even when I drop my own kids off at sports, because I know two on the way home, it's maybe an opportunity to [00:22:00] connect that I just didn't have before.
So I say, well, before you plug in your AirPods, instead of just saying, how did practice go? Because I can guarantee he's going to be like good, great. It was fine. You know, kind of like the same, the same short things I'll say. So who was on your team? Did you break into small groups? Was there anything that was really stressful about practice tonight?
Did you like who you were partnering. Did the coach say anything specific to you? So I'm asking really targeted questions and sometimes I'll get a response, you know, that's one word from it, like, oh fine, Caleb. And so-and-so were on the thing. It didn't go anywhere. But again, it's a little bit more, or I'll say, did you feel you did a good job?
And if he's like, yeah, I did a great job at practice, then I'll follow it up with, well, how do you know that? You know, and again, I might get an eye roll. I mean, to be great. And to be fair, it might get something that's like, you know, kind of ridiculous. Like, why was you asking me? How did I know? But at least they're engaged and [00:23:00] it's trying to build that connection So I think asking specific questions can be super, super helpful. I think also at times, you know, When kids are just, you're getting the fine, you know, and that's an entire night in your room is encouraging or setting those boundaries again, too, of like how much time should they be out? How much time shouldn't they be out?
What makes sense for your family? And again, are there other things that maybe aren't going well ? So sometimes when parents will say, well, I'm just getting one word answers, they're kind of isolating. I'll be like, what are they doing in there?
Are they retreating to their room because they're playing, you know, brawl stars or other games, whatever it is, you know, talking online gaming, but they're still with friends they're engaged, or the grades started to slip or they also, you know, having other warning signs that are kind of coming out.
So it's just asking yourself those questions too. Okay. Thank you. . Last question is [00:24:00] Last year, my team told me they were bisexual. We supported them 100%, but they have not brought it up since and neither have we. So this parent is asking, should I ask more about their sexuality? Do I wait for them to discuss it with me?
am I crossing a boundary by bringing it up? Or is this a moment to, show that I respect their privacy so basically, you know, I'm, I'm feeling this parents vibe. They just want to be there and they want to learn more, but they're not exactly sure how to do that without, you know, overwhelming.
Yeah. And of course, teens, the minute you say anything, that's sexual nature, for the most part, they are going to shut down, right. Or you are the last person that they want to talk to about anything remotely interesting or anything remotely sexual about it, even if you're a sex positive household. But again, I want to commend to these parents for supporting it a hundred percent so that I think right there speaks volumes a that the, the child felt [00:25:00] comfortable enough to come out to them and to say, this I'm experiencing speaks to their attachment.
It speaks to the relationship as a whole. So as a parent, hang on really tight to that nugget right there, like hanging on to that piece. And then the fact that they just were like, okay, this is what it is. This is, you know, how we responded in a really positive way. So should they respect their privacy?
Yes, because odds are probably good since they've shared that, that they'll bring it up when they feel ready or when they have a question about it. If you want to ask, a lot of times, again, teens move in packs, right? Then you hear sometimes their friends teasing them about something you could just ask and say, oh, I heard this name, you know, tossed round.
Tell me a little bit about that. And again, be prepared. You probably can get the eye roll or the nothing, mom, you know, time stamps for things. But again, you can gently ask, but I don't think it's necessarily something at this point that needs to be brought back up. Okay. Okay. [00:26:00] Let's move on to responding to our teens, you've brought it up already a couple of different times, like noticing when we're triggered ourselves around them, how much are we parenting ourselves instead of parenting the person in front of us noticing if we're getting overwhelmed and, and how we can regulate so that we can share our calm versus join in, you know, their storm
The first question is. I feel guilty when I let my child with dietary restrictions, eat what other kids are having, you know, for example, gluten, my child wants to fit in and enjoy what she sees others enjoying, perhaps at a sleepover or birthday party. And I struggle because I want her to feel included, but B I end up feeling upset with myself because it impacts her health.
And then that also impacts their mental health. I feel like I'm a bad mom, no matter what I do. So how do I get her to understand what's best for her?[00:27:00]
Well, Again, I take every opportunity I can to validate parents because they need that validation. So much. So you are not a bad parent, even because you wrote this in and tells me that you aren't a bad parent to tells me you're the opposite. It tells me you're loving, you're concerned.
You're Nick aged, you're working on attachment all of the things that are predictors of kids, building resilience and being able to function independently on their own. So let that sink in for a minute and hear that message that you are a great parent and you're doing a good job.
So when it comes to food or just, you know, specific to this topic, I think this is where as a parent or caregiver, it becomes really important to listen to your child and to see what their issues are because your, again, your issues might be more on like the health aspect or fitting in, but to really hear from your child, like maybe it isn't that bad, or maybe they are willing to, you know, oversee [00:28:00] an upset stomach or a morning, have a little bit misery in the interest that they eat that cupcake, or maybe that's less important.
They're like, actually I don't, feel singled out. There's so many people now that have dietary restrictions or, you know, just even for other principals, not even because of autoimmune or anything, just from their own choice that want things different. That we're again, kind of projecting and they don't feel that it's not normal.
They're like, yeah, he sent along a. You know, cupcake from somewhere else. Like it doesn't bother me actually. Like nobody has even said anything about it. So I think the key piece and the kind of key takeaway is like, what is important to the child? And again, can you come? And I say child, but it really teen too.
Can they make some of these own decisions independently? Can you listen and be their guide and come to a compromise of what works and what doesn't work for them? what happens if they in the moment are okay with it, but then it's really hard for a few [00:29:00] days or a week afterwards, So the parent can almost see that it's going to lead to something that's going to be painful, in the future or overwhelming in the future.
But the child really wants, or that teen really wants to make those choices. Is that like a moment of just. Helping them listen to their body and natural consequences, or, I mean, how does a parent step back in those moments? Of course. And I think it's, you know, it's all of those things right. Put together nurture.
So it depends on what the consequences, right? I mean, certainly if someone's going to have like an allergic reaction or there's a life-threatening then of course, probably not. Right. That goes without side, but that's not the time for the best natural consequence, but it is learning. And again, This gentle reminders for, for parents and for kids to have well, you know, this is what happened last time.
How did you feel when that happened? Did that make it better? Did it make it worse? Because you're right. And kids are going to [00:30:00] act really impulsively. One of my sons has severe migraines and you know, sometimes I'll try to talk to him because we know certain things, set it off, like spinning emotions .
But, you know, as a teen, he is hell bent on going on that fair rock side with their friends. And then later it becomes puking their brains out. I can't do a sleep over, you have to come pick me up. But in that moment, it's like they are making decisions and it's just there to kind of support them and say, well, this is what you learned about your.
Okay. Maybe perhaps a thing, you know, that you need to think about in the future or again, kind of having a friend group, I think too, that can also shift their opinion. Or again, this is just depends on the friends. Depends on the things depends on that peer pressure, but sometimes friend groups too, like I said, we'll be really accepting and if they can have a dialogue for the same example, not, you know, just using my son for that is that he also takes medications and his friends have said, did you take your medication this morning?
Like when you spend at [00:31:00] camp and I think that's phenomenal too. So it's the reverse, but it's really listening about what your kids need. And then just being there to pick up the pieces, and allowing them to kind of learn about their body, learn about their limits, , and then just say like, I love you and I'm going to support you.
And I hope you maybe make a different decision next time, but this is how you're going to experience it. And this is how you're going to. Okay. Really hard. And again, a lot of times you can see that, right? Like I could see like that vomit train coming from a mindset and I could predict it and use one to jump in front and like slow it down for on the brakes.
But no, I hear ya. I mean, how else do we learn how to listen to our body and how to tune in, again, if you go back to, being intuitive with your system and really listening to your body, , having those outside factors, whether it be the size of your plate or someone telling you to stop, that's still external, that's still them deferring to somebody else to be informed about what they need and [00:32:00] who they are.
And I guess it's just that uncomfortable period where we have to sit back or step back and know that there could be some uncomfortable or unpleasant consequences, but. Looking at the bigger picture, it's really going to help them with the right kind of coaching and prompting learn and reflect on what they really need.
And then that internal compass gets stronger and stronger. That's what, at least what I hear you saying. Yeah, absolutely. And I think, again, if you look at what are the alternatives, right? So the alternative in the example I was just talking about is like, I could intervene. I could , shadow over them and then embarrass them and break some of that attachment and trust and then have them push back further, probably still end up doing it, but then be super angry at me, you know?
So that's not probably the best solution either. And then other thing is like foreshadowing too. you can foreshadow some and that's where, like I said, the listening. Having them to figure out their own internal compass is really helpful. And to say like, what do you [00:33:00] think's going to happen?
This is what I saw, , kind of foreshadowing that piece too. When with the food allergies to say, what do you think? Do you think your friends are going to question you about it? Does it feel uncomfortable and seeing what their response and then going from there to, to make a plan, you know, and saying you need an out, , because that's the other thing then sometimes, I could say, when it comes to, this is a question that I get and now I'm on a long rant about something .
That's maybe we'll circle back to, I love this, but it's like, So giving kids kind of an out to an, a safe space for things. So let's just take a different example. I get asked all the time, what do I do if kids are experiencing or dabbling drugs and alcohol and, they don't want to be there.
Don't want to do it. And I say, pick, pick a weird, , text message, a safe word or something where they can have an out, which means like, you're going to call, you're going to bail them out of whatever circumstance. But if someone grabs their phone and says, who are you texting? They're like, oh, it was my mom.
You forgot the milk. [00:34:00] And then that's our cue that we need a calm, we need to bail them out. So again, helping them play with like options. So I jumped to the drug and alcohol, but it could be something even like that where they're I'm feeling really uncomfortable. I don't know how to work through this.
And I don't want to be the one to say it. Can you bail me out for now until I plan? I love that that's a really supportive team approach. I really liked. Yeah. And kids tend to respond really well cause you're helping them work through it. But then you're also saying, but I know sometimes the stress level is so high.
You're not going to be able to do it. So you're giving them a backup. Another question is my team wants more independence, but doesn't follow through with simple requests. I give them, they don't listen to me. How do I treat them like an adult when I have to nag them about everything.
I'm not even a parent. And I'm like, that just sounds like what parenting would be like all the time. [00:35:00] They want independence, but they're not doing anything, you know? So how does a parent kind of rationalize that? Like give them that differentiation that spreading their wings, if they won't even, you know, clean up their cereal, they spilled on the county.
Yeah. And with those, I mean, again, that is what parenting is, especially the teen years all the time. And so what I say is a couple of things. I mean, one thing is to being mindful and picking your battles The parents. Is this something that you were prepared to go on full battle mode for? You know, is this something that you're geared up and you're jazzed enough to kind of stake, whatever terms are on it.
So again, kind of asking yourself that question, but then really holding the expectations. Right? So if the expectation is they clean up the cereal, it shouldn't necessarily be tied to their frame of independence, right? Those are two separate things. One is not necessarily synonymous with [00:36:00] the other one. So keeping that structure, if the baseline is like, they have to have the room cleaned up because the expectation is that before they go out on Friday, Saturday, Sunday night, then you hold that you don't parse it down because that's just part of the expectation for things.
Now, if they walk and like you said, didn't clean up their cereal. Does that mean strip them of all privileges? Probably not. That's a pretty, like I said, extreme reaction of just knowing that probably their brain, they got tied up, they got a text message. It wasn't a direct slight to you as a parent, but they know again, just validate.
It can feel very much like a trigger that, oh, they are doing unintentional. I've told them a hundred times when really it was something else more interesting just flew into their brain. It didn't seem motivating. It didn't seem like a priority to them. So it's just working with those pieces of it and saying one is an exclusive and tied to the other one.
Like I said, whether they're following through on tasks, it doesn't have anything to do with their degree of independence. And then [00:37:00] not, like I said, making excuses or dumbing it down, they still have to clean it up. Cereal still sits there till they get home. And then it's , all right, they're still gonna clean this up.
So you're not changing the expectations because of their independent. No, I liked that because I think it can be a slippery slope. Right. And I think that's just human nature, if you're not following through with this task, then how do you work your way to trusting someone with other larger things, like being out on
Jess: own until, midnight or something like that.
Jess: not, cleaning up after
Jess: pet when they said they would. , I like how you really, parceled that apart, , their independence is not tied to maybe some very specific things that as parents or as caregivers we're looking at to equate, oh, they're ready for it.
And that's exactly the hard piece of it, right? Because you want these milestones to show you this giant thing, shining light on them that like, oh, this means that they're ready, but there's actually no research studies that I'm aware of that [00:38:00] says just because they throw trash all over their room doesn't mean they can't go out with their friends and make good decisions.
Like the two. Yeah. Like every teenager, like, please, I hope whoever, you know, keeps an eye on me hears that loud and clear. Yeah. It just means that again for how their brain is developing, that their friend group takes precedents that their evolutionary processes to be with their friends. It is to differentiate.
It is pushing them in the loop. It is saying, can I push the boundaries on this? Will my parents really follow through? If they said X was consequence on this? Like that is a normal process of their brain. But again, it isn't doing it to slight the parent that isn't doing it. Just be flat out disrespectful.
It's actually their brain kind of getting Dr. Siegel talks about pruning priming for those things we can be, non-reactive still hold the boundaries and again, not lecture, that's the temptation. And again, I get into that all the time where I want to be like, well, if you [00:39:00] can't even fold your laundry, how are you going to go out on your own?
You know? And then just rambling and you know what? They've already tuned out. They have something else. So instead of just saying, here's the expectation, you know, the rule, you know, the consequence for it, you make the. Very simple. Yeah. They might slam the door and say, I can't believe this. No other parent in the world clean up their room.
Right. They're going to want to push that back and say those things to you and say, I'm the only one, only one you guys are so unfair. Why does an ex point the brother or sister, I have to do it. You're going to get probably sometimes those responses, because again, they're not operating from a regulated place in this is to kind of ignore it.
And then when they do, if they do said, you know, what they were going to do to provide a lot of praise to then be like, great, I think you should feel really proud about making that decision. And then they'll be like, whatever, you know, can they hear that? Right? They hear that message. And it's like, [00:40:00] ignoring, not lecturing them, giving them that space.
You're still holding the boundary right. For things. And then moving on from there. And then recognizing that, like I said, a messy room, it's not tied to them going out, drinking. Making poor decisions driving fast, whatever. No, that's good to hear. I think that's good to hear. And you know, I really like how you brought in the not taking it personally as well.
As a marriage and family therapists, I work with families and parents a lot. And I think that adults in children's lives can at times, you know, because they care so much they do take it personally when an adolescent or teen is pushing back
and I think it's really important to slow down and be there for that part of yourself who is taking it personally, be there for that part of yourself and then go out and do the parenting piece or the coaching piece, . I think that's why people take it.
Absolutely because sometimes that [00:41:00] love, like I said, it's so deep and that connectedness to someone is just so powerful that. And again, a lot of like younger parenting. So you have to evolve as a parent. And if people are looking for a resource, I mean, Dr. Shefali "The Conscious Parent" is a really strong foundational book that I'm just kind of giving a plug out therefore, and how you evolve as a parent and how you have to change your perspective.
So it goes more from directive, right? No, no, no, you can't cross the street. This is how you have to do something. And like literally keeping them safe, a life and death. Now, a more abstract parenting approach, which is more one of coaching, one of leadership, less about control and saying, are you talking back to me?
What does that mean for respect and more of like, tell me why, why, you know, why is this important to you in this moment? Let me hear you, let me allow for space. But like I said, as a parent, it's super hard. It's almost goes against the rub. And, and two is most parents they're operating [00:42:00] under the premise of how they were parented.
That's the model, right? Or kind of some fake TV show or something else that realistic by any stretch of imagination. Or if, for example, you have someone who is trying to break intergenerational patterns and doesn't want to parent the way they were parented , you know, like, what is the new normal, like, how do I do this differently?
So I love that you referenced that book. It also reminds me of a lot of the blended families I work with like step parents coming in, or, other figures stepping into a child's life during their adolescent years. And, and how do I take this on and how do I help coach without, you know, taking it personally or thinking it's a slight against me when it's really just their brain and their life stage, Yeah. And keeping that perspective and keeping support to, for each other, as you co-parent or again, a lot of parents will say, well, I parent this way. Then my child [00:43:00] goes to a different house and then that way, and I think that's creating all of these problems and it's just like, perhaps that might be one drop in it, you know, that there isn't consistency, but the other thing that's happening there too, is that they're still going to test no matter how the parents is and that there isn't one right way to parent.
So again, you're all operating from a place of love and support, regardless if one's more authoritarian, if one's more permissive and things, they're still going to be okay because they have that strong foundational. So it's less about that. And just saying, it's just their brain, you know,
creating that blame doesn't serve anything. moving on. My son is in therapy. How much involvement should I have? Do I go to sessions? Should I be calling the therapist, asks how things are going? What do I do if he doesn't want to participate? What do I do if he doesn't want me to know what they talk about, you know, as a therapist, and I'm sure you've experienced this too, Abby, parents [00:44:00] are always curious about how do I support in this moment?
And, and what does it look like to have an adolescent in therapy? Yeah, so adolescents, and again, I just sign a lot because. All of these things too, are just so normal, right there. There's such hard things. They're questions that I see and get all the time. So if it's someone that's 12 and older, right?
There's specific laws in place in the state of Wisconsin of what a therapist can do, what therapies can do, what legal rights they have for a minor. We can even put that, , up on our website. If it's helpful for people to, read or look over if it's a younger child that's in therapy.
10, maybe 11, 12 tween. I am under the, you know, but I'm also a parent coach that it is best that parents be involved in some degree in the sessions. So then they can hear, they can help again, kind of coach. They can reinforce skills that are doing, they don't need to know [00:45:00] the exact content maybe per se, but they do need to know what's being worked on so they can reinforce it.
But again, that's my own personal as a therapist and parent coach that I see. So it kind of shifts. And again, the age varies a little bit. I'll just arbitrarily pick a number to like 13. And what I would say is most important for therapy is that the child feels seen, that they heard feel heard and that they feel connected.
So at that point in time, child, you know, 13 year old should be able to execute some of the skills that are being talked about. And you don't as a parent or caregiver necessarily need to know. Now if you want to provide as a parent or caregiver supplemental information, because sometimes, you know, teens can be tricky and they don't say on the sides.
I do encourage parents to say, I just want you to have all the information do with it, what you will, if you think it's helpful. Session based on what you're working on to bring it up. Great. If not, you know, I kind of trust what you're doing and then [00:46:00] most therapists, or at least myself, if I'm working with teens at some point, I'll say, you know, your mom and dad is really concerned.
They really want to know what's going on. Can I bring them in for some treatment planning, not going to tell them everything you're going to hear everything I say, you're going to be in the room with me, , when I talked to your parents. So they know you're not breaking any trust but let's talk about some themes.
Let's talk about some of the things and oftentimes that's enough. And even as a parent, you know, herself, if I hear, oh, great, they are working on relationships are great. I've heard, you know, that they're talking about this coach. That's been a problem or old grade, this teacher that then that's enough for me.
So I think again, it's trusting and just asking, do they want to still show up to therapy? Do they like their therapist? Just, you know, did they feel it's helpful listening to those pieces then directly being involved once their teen and onward. Let's transition to the pandemic. Talking about how the pandemic has influenced teens, how can we help [00:47:00] support our youth?
Abby, what would you recommend to a child? Who's trying to navigate through social media and online interactions with her real life friends , is there any specific approaches or ways parents can be there for their kiddos as they're jumping back and forth between in-person and online and,
yeah. The pandemic has been really, really challenging on our youth, because like I talked about earlier as. As their species, they are primed for those social interactions with their peer group for having those things. I think gently encouraging during the pandemic and just hearing what their perspective is, what they like about online , what do they like in, in person ?
Is there opportunities of more melding that can happen between the two and maybe being an advocate for them? But
If , you're starting to worry as a parent, like they almost seem stressed going out, in social situations now because they've been so removed or we've had to be protective in our home because we have some [00:48:00] auto-immune things. Again, it's kind of like dipping their toes in the water. And we know this as therapists too.
It's what we do with exposure therapy. It's so how you treat one of the gold standards for anxiety, but then maybe just saying like, okay, we feel safe enough. Can they have one person over? If that interaction goes really well, can they do something for small incremental amount of time? With, you know, a small group of peers again, can you kind of give them an out and say, we're going to kind of have to test some of these boundaries with the anxiety and the pandemic.
If it's feeling like too much to go to a full day of school, let's talk about it. Let's give it one week. Let's set a boundary. So their safety and structure within that, and then revisit it and say, how did that feel? What did you mean? Did you need to call me? Did you need to seek out the counselor? So I don't know if that really answers the question or, well, I mean, it kind of combines my other question too, because this parents worried that what happens if their teen isn't getting enough human interaction and does that impact them later in [00:49:00] life? And, and what does a parent even do? Like they can't force them per se. I mean, except can you force them to go hang out in person? How do you support them?
Figuring out what's best for them. Right. Yeah. And I think again, that's where the diversification and offering lots of different opportunities for them, both on larger scales, bigger scales and then smaller ones too. So even if they are homeschooled, there's lots of like little pods that have popped up and sometimes.
And within that pod, can you connect them with other homeschooling parents for a period of time? Could they learn this assignments that are virtually in some other fashion? Maybe they don't want to engage in a traditional social setting, but if they're a teen or old enough, can they have a job, you know, where they balance those things too.
Can they still do an extracurricular at some other, park and rec thing? You had to be involved with people too. So I think it's just like, kind of, again, these little like drops for things, I mean, encouraging and then assessing, , how do they [00:50:00] feel? What do they like? And then knowing too, like what's the driving force behind it.
And I think for a lot of our teens, cause like we talked about it's just new and if they haven't experienced it, a lot of people's natural reaction then is to pull back and shut down. So it's like if they haven't gone to a high school, you know, People that have transitioned from maybe smaller schools to larger school.
It can be really scary. It can be really intimidating. Right. So kind of, kind of saying, like, here's the parameters, we're going to take things again. One step at a time. This is what I'd like you to try. Or I hear you saying homeschool works. Let's try some other things and we're going to give it a semester and then we're going to reassess and we're going to see does this feel balanced?
What am I. Yeah, really bringing them into the process, you know, working with them to see what feels best. And then, and then kind of just experimenting, right? Like everything in life is an experiment. So let's try this, see how it goes. We can adapt. We can flow. The important word that you said too for parents is being [00:51:00] adaptable. And again, knowing that there's not a right way and you're not going to know a lot of times outcomes either. So it's just going with what information you have, making sure you listen.
And then I look one way this way and it might look different this other day. And , that's okay too. Because like I said, teens to their emotions are quick, fast moving too. So they're not going to hold things for an extended period of time. Yeah. Last question. Sometimes I hold back from talking to my team because I'm nervous.
It won't go well, how do I talk to them about their mental health, especially if I've seen a change in their mood, what are your thoughts? So what comes up for me first and foremost most is why is that difficult? Right? Like, is it difficult because you worry that you're going to say something that's going to like lead to behavior is a difficult, just because it hasn't been talked about as a whole, you know, so again, asking yourself those questions, this would be a [00:52:00] time to them.
If it is difficult for people where I say back to that village mentality, if you can't find the words or there's something holding you back, who else in that person's life could be a support and who you could then say, Hey, could you tap in because I need to tap out. This feels uncomfortable for me.
Can you ask, you know, I'm really worried. I'm seeing X, Y, and Z. Can you ask this person? And maybe that's not, maybe that's a grandparent. Maybe that's a teacher. Maybe it's a school counselor even, but if you can't find it and don't judge it. That's fine, but then you can find someone who can ask those questions .
Good point, good point. And the, in my approach to, and again, everybody has a different approach, but when it comes to mental health too, and teens, because teens are pretty blunt and again, with most teens and adolescents and even tweens, what you see is what you get, which I can appreciate it. So I say to try to be as straightforward as possible, you know, so if you have concerns, say I've [00:53:00] noticed X, Y, and Z provide examples.
Let me understand what's going on here. Or this looks like to me, anxiety type behavior, or I am worried about depression. Tell me, do you feel depressed? Do you know what depression feels like? So I tend to be very direct and again, every personality I respect is different, but I think again, the more honest and open kids respond to that too in particularly.
And I hear you talking about being transparent and clear. I think sometimes we shy away maybe from saying words like anxiety or self-harm or depression, because we are worried, maybe we'll put thoughts in their head or even that they don't understand it, but at least from what I've learned as working with the adolescents I do.
And having some of them in my personal life that I love and care for, they know they know what anxiety is at this point. They know what, self harm is. They know what depression is. Schools are talking about it more and more now, also we have things like, Tik [00:54:00] TOK you know, my niece and I were having a conversation about different mental health topics on Tik TOK the other day.
They're learning a lot about mental health and, , having those conversations and being clear , because I mean, I can talk a good game. Obviously I like to talk sometimes my niece, just her eyes glaze over because she gets lost in all the, me trying to beat around the Bush to ask this question about what she's feeling when I should just say does that make you feel anxious?
I appreciate you saying that even helps me, remember, oh yeah. Less is more sometimes it is. And that's what I said. I had a lot of times with kids too. It's like, you give them an inch, they take it a mile.
So don't even, you know, put that in shout there, just give them a centimeter, you know, dial it back a little bit with teens. And the other thing is too , they do respond well overall, too, to like humor. So yes, a lot of the things that teens experience like we've talked about, like sex and love and.
And jobs and money and friendships and all of those different things[00:55:00] again, yes, they're serious and they need to be allowed to process their feelings. But anytime you can add some, you know, brevity to the situation, anytime you can just insert, sometimes those like little, just those little things, it can be enough to, to kind of shift the energy.
And especially like I said, with teens, and I think that's helpful because I think again, as a parent, , it's hard and we get wrapped up in their emotionality, like I said, as well. And sometimes that's not helpful, but if we can scale it back and regulate and just kind of throw us in you're out there, something.
They will pick up on that and they'll, they'll come around to, I like that. I'll have to remember that because I can get real serious when I'm talking to my Niecy Pooh, because I care about her so much. And I know that it's like two seconds and I'll lose her because that certain tone will come on and I'll want to make very direct eye contact with her and let her know how much I love her.
And it's already, like, she's already probably lost thinking about something else. Cause it's another auntie just sit down conversation. [00:56:00] Or so yet I it's too long there for their brains and especially, you know, brain Saudi they're used to quick successions. Those little Tacs are 10, 15 cents. Yeah. YouTube video is there on the move too.
So it's like grasp it, maybe doing a little work on your end, like foreshadowing, what targeted questions you're going to ask, you know, keeping it light when you need to, to take takeaways too, we're here for you. That's always the message with kids. You know, that's, like I said, always the underlining is . We love you.
We're here for you. We want to support you if you want to be your guide. I really appreciate that. Thank you. Well, this flew by, I have really enjoyed asking you all these questions and hearing what you think. Are there any closing thoughts that you have for parents out there that you'd like to share?
Well, that puts me on the spot. But what I would say is, you know, try to sit back and enjoy the ride [00:57:00] and enjoy that. It is a chapter, it is a season. And like I said, teens too, can be really open, really vulnerable, really, really beautiful too.
And that they are going to fly and they're going to be just fine too. So if we can just kind of like settle in and learn to relax. And as Brene Brown says, like lean in a little bit to things, I think that the ride will be different and so much more beautiful than all of these various power struggles and things that happen on a day to day basis.
So just remember to look at the greater picture I love it. the other thing is talk to other parents too, because these things like everyone's like, oh, the teen years and they roll their eyes, but we didn't really talk about like the guilt that parents, you know, take on themselves or the questioning all the time was not the right decision.
And the parents down the road didn't make that decision. You know? So some of those things like these vulnerable with your friends be vulnerable as a parent with other people to say , well, I don't know if that was the right decision, but that's just what [00:58:00] came into my mind. That's so powerful and helpful than just questioning that alone let it go. That go and normalize the talk with other parents. You're totally right. . We talk a lot about the little ones and how they're growing and developing. And maybe aren't doing that as much with our teenagers. So to really connect with, and, , make sure you're relying on your support.
Yeah, absolutely. But it's fun. Teens are fun. They're interests. Yeah. And they just have, like I said, just so much to offer and they are, they're going to change the world out there. So, Well, thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for helping us navigate this life stage Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Thank you again for joining us on Insight Mind Body Talk, a body-centered mental health podcast. We hope today's episode was empowering and supported you in strengthening your mind-body connection We're your hosts [00:59:00] Jeanne and Jess. Please join us again as we continue to explore integrative approaches to wellbeing. Until then, take care.