"I'm right here with you. You are safe."
"Let's count to 20 together."
"Tell me what you think will happen next".
How can you help a child with anxiety? Join Jess and her guest, Elyse Laing, licensed professional counselor and a certified clinical child and adolescent anxiety treatment professional, as they talk about anxiety in children and teens.
Elyse discusses the process of raising children with anxiety, how anxiety looks different in children compared to adults, and how you can help provide them with the care needed to manage symptoms, allowing them to live more freely and with ease.
Produced by Jessica Warpula Schultz
Music by Jason A. Schultz
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 family therapist, trauma informed fitness expert, and your host. Our topic today is Children with anxiety.
Approximately 7% of children aged three to 17 experience issues with anxiety each year. And research shows that 50% of all lifetime mental health conditions begin before the age of 14, and 75% of them start before the age of 24. . However, identifying warning signs or symptoms and seeking treatment early can make a difference and reducing the impact of mental health conditions on a child's life and on their sense of identity and self. Our guest is Elyse Laing. Elyse is a licensed professional counselor and a certified clinical child and adolescent anxiety treatment professional.
She specializes in anxiety and ADHD treatment for children and adults. Elyse places a strong emphasis on relationships within the therapeutic process and works from a strengths based perspective utilizing various approaches with her practice to meet the client's. Elyse believes in the power of play, laughter, and authenticity in the therapeutic process to encourage growth and change.
Elyse, I know this isn't your first time on Insight Mind, Body Talk. You've joined us before to talk about anxiety in general, but I'm really excited to have you back because you're known at Insight for your work with children and families helping kiddos develop skills to cope with anxiety and. You're an amazing resource and I'm happy to share you with our listeners.
So thank you for being. Hi Jess. Thanks for having me back. Yay. I'm glad you're here. So our topic is children living with anxiety, but even more specifically, raising a child with anxiety. Anxiety being the most common mental health disorder in the us. Yet, child and adolescent therapists are much less common and you know, even kind of rare in our field.
So I'm curious to hear what influenced your choice to focus your therapeutic practice on children and teens? I think it's just that, um, there's not a lot of child and adolescent therapists and. I have, as you mentioned, a very playful approach in therapy. I love to laugh and joke around and, and you really get to do that with kids.
Um, I, I think kids are fun and they bring such a unique perspective to therapy, and I really enjoy that and I love learning from them. Hearing what's all going on in today's world and all. Mm-hmm. , all of the things that they bring are, it's. , they're magical. That's why I like working with kids and teens.
They are magical. They bring a lot to the table. And, you know, one of my favorite parts when I do work with a teen, um, or even just spend time with the children in my life, you just, you forget. How the world is seen. And it's just such a joy to spend time with them and re-experience and rediscover. And I think in my work as a therapist, when I have been able to help a teen, uh, cope with something stressful in their life or gain more skills, it, you know, you're just really, you know, you're helping them set the stage for the rest of their life and there's just something really powerful about that.
Yeah. And you get to see the change happen before your eyes. typically, and there's nothing more rewarding than that. Agreed. So, at least in case someone missed our episode on anxiety, which I mean I don't really understand how that could be possible because it's amazing little plug for our other episodes.
But nevertheless, in the event today's listener wasn't able to tune in, can you please give us a brief review or an explanation of what anxiety. You bet. So anxiety in general is normal. It is something that we all experience, We all feel, um, when it becomes abnormal, which is why we're here, is when our nervous systems get so overly excited and we go into fight or flight mode, um, fight, flight, freeze, and fon.
Um, and it's preventing us from doing something that we want to do or engaging in our life as we would normal normally do. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . Agreed. So, I think one of the re emotions. With anxiety is fear. Right. Right, right. And, and, and we feel it in our thoughts. We have emotions around it. And you're right, we do feel it in our bodies with that.
That normative, very normative. We all experience it. Every mammal does, but we have a defense response, many of them systems in place to help. Protect us. And I, I often think of anxiety as like this really natural reaction that's kind of like stuck in overdrive, right? Where it, it's like, yeah, that's good that that's happening.
Oh wait, no, that, you know, the pedals to the metal and we wanna ease up on that. And it can be hard to kind of do that, which is, you know, especially with kiddos. So, Right. So explain to me how is anxiety different for children? Because, you know, believe it or not, they're not little adults and we cannot treat them as such.
Um, at least in my opinion. I think that what's one of the scariest things for the caregivers of children who have anxiety is that it isn't like anxiety in adults. It can present differently. It, it may be needed to be treated differently and. You know, I, a lot of the adults I know who talk about their children with anxiety is that that unknown is so petrifying.
They just Right. You know, they want to be helping their children and they maybe their adult strategies, you know, aren't quite working. Which again, so glad you're here with us today. So in your opinion, what are the, some of the, like the common misconceptions about children, teens, and anxiety? Yeah. So let's look at how anxiety is different for children than adults.
Mm-hmm. , um, anxiety can show up in so many different ways, and I know we'll talk about this in a little bit, but, you know, it can show up as avoidance. Um, it can show up as meltdowns. It can show up. Struggling in school. There's so many different ways and everyone's going to be different. You know, I think of myself when I was younger, my anxiety presented as like shutting down completely.
Um, as I got older, I, it then presented as me becoming a mean girl. Oh, interesting. Yeah. And that was during high school. And since then, my anxiety now has kind of. Transition to, to be an overthinker, um, to really like, need all of the answers. And i, I pick up on like the different energy people give. Uh, I am really sensitive to it, um mm-hmm. , but it, it evolves over time and it can be very overt or it could be covert as well.
Kids aren't going to come up to you and say, I'm nervous. or I'm worried or anxious. Sometimes they do, but most of the times they're not going to unless they're prompted. And I think it's important for parents to, to understand that it's not going to always present the same. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. , Um, then moving, which again, is scary, right?
I mean, not, not to make it confusing, but you know, it, it does present differently and I think that's where that relationship between yourself and the child, the caregiver and child, is so important because you do know them the best. You know, and, and you, you can help be part of that puzzle piece as to, you know, how, how anxiety shows up for, for your young.
Right. Right. And so if we look at the common misconceptions, um, for childhood and teen, I guess adolescent anxiety mm-hmm. , um, I think the biggest one that I hear is they don't have anything to be anxious about. Mm. And that makes me so sad because who are we to say what someone should be anxious about or shouldn't be anxious about?
Yeah. Our little ones are humans too. They experience the world in their own way, and we don't get to dictate if something makes them nervous or if something's not a big issue, right? Mm-hmm. , it's. I think it's important to remember that we all experience the world differently. You know, I think that's really validating for, you know, not that they're listening right now, but you know, for an adolescent or you know, you're representing the younger ones out there that we do forget, You know, when Abby Kerns was on the podcast, she talked about how sometimes as adults we, we.
You know what the first heartbreak really feels like? Mm-hmm. , or we forget what the pressure of school. Gosh, sixth grade, I remember from fifth to sixth grade. Sixth grade felt like a huge leap to me, and it was a really stressful year. And if someone would've just said, Oh, well, I mean, it's not high school, so don't be stressed about it or wait till you get to college, you know?
How does that help you manage? in your moment, in your mind, you know what's overwhelming you, So, Right. I think that's, that's a very validating approach you have there. Yeah. And we say, we say it all the time, like, wait until you're an adult, then you'll get it, right? Mm-hmm. , ugh. Yeah. Yeah. I hear it all the time and I, I'm sure I've said it too.
Yeah, we're, we're all guilty of it. Um, but I think it's just really, really understanding that kids do have anxiety. They do worry about things to a point where it does control their lives. . Yeah. Yeah. You know, I think sometimes also there's a misconception that the anxiety is like a manipulation tactic, you know?
Mm-hmm. that like, they maybe don't wanna go to school or they don't wanna follow through with their assignments or, you know, Um, and I mean, what do you think about that? Like when you hear people kind of. Try to manage their, the child's anxiety just by kind of brushing it off as like a strategy for getting their needs met.
Right. Um, first, first thing that comes to mind is ouch. Yeah. Um, they again, experience their anxiety in a different way and. They're looking for control in some way. And you know, it might be that they're manipulating you, but really they're looking for a way to control what is going on with their, with their body and looking to not feel the way that they're feeling right now.
Mm-hmm. , um, and. Honestly, it's a strength to me, or at least that's how I see it, is they're looking for a way to get their needs met and to feel safe. Mm. Agreed. You know, it's, you know, I think back to when I was trying to do athletics in middle school and those symptoms would just kind of like running up and down those runners and basketball practice, like I wanted to be able to do that so bad.
But all it would do is create like overwhelm and trigger, like panic like symptoms and. . And I remember, you know, if, if my mom hadn't been so compassionate, like, and let me stop doing that. If, if it was the message of like, well, you pay, we paid for it. So you have to, you know, or you'll get used to it, you know.
That doesn't give anyone coping skills. Right. And it doesn't support them. I mean, I think there's potential to have conversations of like, well, what is happening for you in that moment? Or, you know, what are you noticing? And, and really, you know, just backing them up too, right? Like you're saying, we don't know what it's like for them, so how can we, you know, support them, back them up a little.
Right. And, and I'll talk about that in a little bit, but like, ask the questions, be curious. Um, you know, you, we don't want our child to go to basketball practice and hide out in the locker room the whole time because Yeah, we don't wanna have a panic attack or they. A lot of times I hear about kids who are diagnosed with sports induced asthma.
Right? Mm. And it's really, it's not asthma, but it's, it's that panic coming up and their, their anxiety excitatory system is going off and they're struggling to breathe. Well, they're at, oh my gosh, performance anxiety. Right. And I have never heard that before, but that makes complete sense. Oh my gosh. Wow.
Yeah. So we don't want to just minimize their experiences and think you're just trying to manipulate me. We signed you up for this, and you're going to follow through on it. Mm mm-hmm. , let's actually ask what's going on. Before we force our child to go do something. Yeah. What, what do you think about the other end?
Maybe? What if it's, you know, showing up as achievement, um, over self-reliance, perfectionism? Uh, you know, often, you know, have you ever had anyone like. . I think that's where anxiety can be sneaky because in a lot of ways it, it can help, you know, be performative and you know, in our society we really support those, you know, driven athletes at, you know, age 15 years old or the ones getting all straight A's and are just completely dedicated to their studies.
And yet, are we asking if there's any underlying anxiety kind of pushing them? Right. And I see that a lot actually. Um, kind of that perfectionistic type, um, the people pleaser, right? So there, I, I really encourage parents to look at the function of the behavior. Like why are they doing what they're doing?
And look to, again, be curious and to understand, um, And it's a reflection or it is reflecting on yourself at that same time. Um, am I giving my child space to tell me no? Am I giving my child space to make mistakes? Am I giving them space to learn and be independent And, um, Yeah. It's, it's really, it's looking at, you know, do we encourage them to, to be their own person and are we allowing space for mistakes and growth?
Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And that can be really hard for parents too, to like look at themselves, but it's, it's part of parenthood, right? We need to take a look at our. And how we're showing up. And if we're really placing pressure on our child to overperform or to say yes all the time, you're not allowed to say no if we're sending that message, you know?
Yeah. Yeah. I agree. I'm, you know, I'm not a parent, but I can only imagine, you know, the.
The complexity of having to do that self-reflection work as well as the work of like supporting your children. You know, I, I don't ev envy y'all, but I respect y'all for doing it, right. Yeah. It can be really hard and emotional. Yeah. Yeah. Well, Elyse, I mean, speaking of emotions and, you know, parents and being real people, uh, I know you poll people on social media and gather questions from families, so I would love to hear what real time listener parents are wondering about for their children and, and for their adolescence in regards to, you know, anxiety disorders.
Well, one of the most common questions. and concerns is around sleep. So, um, how do I get my child to sleep in their own bed? Oh yeah. Yep. Okay. Yep. . So as a parent, we have to take a look at ourselves, right? As I just said, sometimes there's a part of us. That is also reinforcing the anxiety. Mm. And we need to be aware of it.
Um, we need to ask, if we're allowing this to happen, we have to ask ourselves how are we, how are we setting the stage for like, If they wake up in the middle of the night, are we allowing them to come into our bedroom or, um, are you going and responding every single time and like, wanting to comfort them?
And so they're struggling to figure out how to self soothe. Um, It's important for them to know how to fall back asleep themselves. And I'm not a sleep expert by any means, so, Sure. You know, this is just, just a, what I usually will ask parents to look at. Um, and, and then it's asking your child questions.
Do they feel safe in their room? Is their room comfortable? Is their bed comfortable? Um, And you want to, if they're already sleeping in your bed, start the transition to their own bed small. Have them maybe hang out in their bedroom during the day and you know, not sending them to their room, but allow them to like go play in their room for a little bit, spend some time alone in there.
Um, and then it's setting those little goals like. Let's try one night a week in your bed, okay? And moving up from there. Once they are starting to find success, or let's start the night off in your own bed and see, see how long you can make it. Really challenge them to challenge them in a good way, right?
Mm-hmm. , and be excited for. When they are sleeping in their own space. Um, and it's okay for you also to spend time with them in their room. It's okay for you to lay in bed as they fall asleep, um, or, you know, have some snuggle time. Have those convers have conversations about their day or what they're looking forward to the next day?
Mm-hmm. . It's just helping them feel comfortable and feel safe and having a little bit of say about their sleeping arrangements too. That's a good point. Yeah. I I really like the, like taking it slow. Cause I think as humans we sometimes are like, There's a problem, I gotta fix it. Okay. I. I'm finally like, I've been letting it happen, and then now I'm putting my foot down and you're no longer and it's a hundred percent you're in your room.
You know, if you knock, I'll send you back. You know, And I think that like, it's so natural that we, maybe that's how it rolls out, but if you, if you take a step back and you. Mindfully. Think about like what is the best way to coach or teach someone to find success. It is in those smaller steps, really ensuring that people feel safe, feel good, feel confident, and have choice.
You're right. Neat. Right? And so the second question that came up is, I'm struggling to get my child to go to school. Is this anxiety or is my child just being defiant? I would start by asking your child why they don't want to go to school. The answer is probably going to be, I don't know, or school is boring or, I just don't want to, Right?
Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . Um, let's look at if your child feels safe. I know schools are chaotic, right? There's a ton of variables. There's other kids around, there's fights happening, and sometimes it's not the safest environment. and Sure. I'll put out there like, it's not that the schools aren't trying to keep them safe and um, like decrease the exposure to fights.
I know they're trying to do as much as they can, but again, there's a lot of variables. And then also following up with your child, like, are academics becoming more difficult? Is that why they're avoiding school? Mm mm-hmm. maybe. Maybe they need a tutor or maybe they're going to need accommodations. Maybe they need a break during the middle of the day.
More than just the 15 minutes they get at recess. Yeah. Yeah. Um, another problem or another thing that can happen that causes. Kids and teens to avoid school is problems with their friends or they're being bullied. Right? Yeah. And so it might be, it might be looking at that and helping them problem solve or talking to someone who can support them.
help them through that at school. So reaching out to the school counselor. I think building a positive relationship with an adult at the school is incredibly important for many kids. Mm-hmm. . And it's not even just the kids who had come to me because of school avoidance. Kids have to feel safe, Teens have to feel safe.
Having an adult who is able to support them and they know that adult is on their. It makes a huge difference. Mm, mm-hmm. , I had, I had a lot of trouble going to school, like even, and I was thinking about this as we were preparing for this episode. Um, man, you just don't even know it's anxiety until you're older and you're like, Well, they're doing up.
That's a lot of anxiety where I had a lot of separation anxiety. So I remember in first grade I literally, cuz this was like an old building, so the class, the classroom had like the bath, the bathroom in the classroom in first grade, but had like the old school vent in there where it was just kinda like some wicker, whatever.
I went in there once and I like splashed around, hoping someone would think I was like sick. Like, Oh wow, what's going on in there? And then no one noticed. And I kept like looking through the vent to see if anyone would notice. Cause I just wanted to go home, right? No one's noticing that. Finally I just go tell the teacher like, Oh, I've been sick in the bathroom.
And she's like, Hmm, you have, So, you know, she more, she walks in there and, and uh, I was like, I think you really need to go home. I think we should call my mom. And I remember my mom came to the. And talked to me and gave me a hug, and then she left and I was like, Uh, I'm not going home. And it was like this perfect balance of like, I'm here, I came.
And then teacher was like, No, you know, it's, I think you'll be okay. I think you should toughen it out. But you know that, that not wanting to be in school played me. Prob, I mean, almost all the way through till high school. And, um, that having that one adult, which was the school librarian, Mrs. Ruland, she, I mean, she had such a presence in my life and I spent a lot of recesses putting away books and just kind of being in this space that felt safe.
Yeah. Where, you know, I didn't have to be left out all the time, which was what was happening a lot. No one was that mean, but I was. Left out and really lonely. And so, um, building that relationship and having, you know, letting them find ways to build relationships in, in the school, I think is really important.
Right, right. Help your child find a purpose for going to school. Yeah. Yeah. And the last question, how do I know if my child is actually anxious? Mm. Okay. Let's ask them, let's ask your child if they are really anxious. Have open conversations about emotions, help your child, label their emotions. Describe what you are seeing for your child.
I think all of the above, like. , I often hear, Well, we don't want to put our emotions or put thoughts into a child's head, right? Mm. Yeah. I don't wanna say, Are you feeling anxious? But that's how we learn, isn't it? Even as I have a toddler, so I say, Oh, I see you're smiling. Are you feeling happy? . And so he associates, like, if I smile, I'm feeling happy.
Hmm. This is how we teach kids about emotions. Um, so if your child is coming to you with something and like they're saying, I have an upset stomach, I don't wanna go to school. Yeah. Ask them. Ask them about what's going on. Um, and, and when you ask them and they tell you, stay calm and just listen to what they have to say.
as humans or as adults, we wanna go straight to, I need to problem solve for you. Let's fix this. And we don't wanna do that. We want to send the message. feelings or anxiety is normal and it's okay, and we trust that they're able or they will be able to problem solve and maybe not right away, but we're there to help them and we're there to support them as they're learning to problem solve whatever is going on.
Um, And again, it's that self reflection of looking at yourself and are you also like uncomfortable with your child being uncomfortable? Mm. Right. Um, that discomfort that we get when our child is coming to us with a problem, we have to sit with it. Because, Yeah, otherwise we're not giving them the opportunity to gain skills.
I think there are many times in my life where my anxiety would really peak and my mom, you know, doing the best she can would fix, like, come in and fix the problem or, um, kind of not knowing it by any means, right? Cause we're talking like 1988 or whatever, like almost side with the anxiety of like, well then we can not do this so that you feel better, you know?
Um, I had a huge fear of the dentist and, um, I would avoid it and avoid it. And I remember throwing the worst tantrums like. Long tantrums and oh, they're so bad. And well, I don't know if I should even call them tantrums, but a lot of like refusal and crying and anxiety and she would just do the best she can by not letting me go.
Right. Yeah. And you know, and then when I was an adult and I'm still scared of the dentist and I'm not going and I'm not getting like some important things done. I remember this moment in therapy where my therapist was like, You can do it. I know it's really scary, but I trust you're capable of doing it.
Mm-hmm. , and I don't think you should cancel that appointment. I really think you should. I'm not gonna tell you that you don't have to go, Jess. And I was like, Ah. But it was such a tr and I cried. I I even told her, cause I was an adult with enough of a prefrontal, like my brain was online. I was like, I want you to tell me I don't have to go.
And she's like, I'm not gonna tell you. Right. You're just, you say, I trust you. You can get through it. I mean, I don't have a fear of the dentist anymore. I did a lot of like other skills around it to get there, but that was like the start of like, okay, mm-hmm. , I, I, I have to trust that I can do this. Right, Right, right.
And. We don't want to do the disorder. Right? And so what I mean by that is we don't want to reinforce the anxiety by potentially allowing our child to avoid something because it makes them anxious. And so we have to walk the line of, you know, I'm going to push you a little bit to do something that makes you anxious, but I trust that we can do this together.
I trust that you can do this. Yeah. . Yeah. Which, you know, thanks mom. If you hear that, thanks for, you know, letting me volunteer our story and your vulnerability as well. But even today with a lot of the parents I work with, right? Like that is, it's a common coping strategy of I want them to feel. Safe. I want to help fix it.
And so I'm gonna like help reduce whatever is causing the anxiety. And so it does take kind of this mindset shift and it is really scary to like, it's kinda like sending them out there and just hoping, hoping they figure it out. Like that's, I'm not, I'm not a parent. And that sounds petrifying to me, Right?
To just send them out there and hope they figure it out. But you're right, when we start participating in siding or doing the disorder, It, it, it feeds the anxiety versus like, gives the skills to reduce the anxiety. Right. And that's where the self-reflection of, am I doing this because I don't like the discomfort of seeing my child uncomfortable?
Or, you know, it's just that self reflection piece. That's where that comes in. Mm-hmm. . Well, thank you. That's really helpful, Elyse. Um, so speaking of, you know, Trying to assess like where our kid is at and what they need. Let's take a moment to kind of talk about the severity, um, of a child's level of anxiety.
So, you know, talking with so many friends, family, you know, clients about their children and adolescents, I mean, I'm at least often asked well, What's to be expected for their age or what, what anxiety level is Normative Air quotes for like what they're going through right now during like this year, like, you know, freshman year of high school or kindergarten, you know?
And so how do they know? Like what's, you know, kind of life and what, how, how can they know when maybe therapy would be helpful? Do you know what I'm. Yes. Yes. So again, it's going to all depend on the child. Um, it's going to depend on the age and who your child is as a person. Mm. But I would encourage a parent to ask.
And also there's something to be said for like listening to what your gut is telling you, right? Mm-hmm. , um, we. We have intuition. So if you sense something is off, something is probably off. Um, another thing I think we often are told not to compare our child with others their age, but looking at how others that are similar age are doing in like interactions.
watch them at sports, see how they're interacting with their peers or performing. Um, and it is also okay again, to ask your child how they're feeling. Talk openly about the emotions and the experiences. Um, our kids are pretty insightful. Teens are really insightful. They're able to tell us what's going on in their bodies, and it's just asking the questions and listening without judgment or immediate reaction.
Mm-hmm. , um, I guess. If I wanna get specific for red flags, I would watch for things such as like being overly agreeable, being a people pleaser. Okay. Um, if your child is struggling to have their own opinions or looks to you for reassurance consistently, Yeah, you can add like the little. That's a red flag.
That was me, . Yeah. Like if my mom did not give me the Okay. It was like so anxiety provoking. I, I really wanted her approval on everything and then I also really wanted her to tell me everything would be okay. Like, Yeah, a lot. Yeah. Okay. Sorry, I interrupted. No, that's not trying to make this all about just as anxiety in childhood.
Okay. Moving on red flag though. You're right. People pleasing a lot of my high achievers who show up and there's a lot of anxiety. Just they put themselves aside so many times and just really want to like be the best for other people, Right. And to make sure everyone else is okay because. If everyone else around them's okay, then they're okay, right?
Like, there's nothing that will trigger the anxiety maybe or nothing that will cause like uncomfortable feelings. So, yeah, that's a good one. Thanks for sharing that. And you can only sustain that for so long. Yeah. So, um, another, another red flag is them seemingly. It's irritable all the time. Um, or having strong emotional reactions to smaller everyday things, um, withdrawal from family or friends, that is typically a warning sign.
Um, even activities that they once enjoyed, uh, struggling to get along with friends. Those social, those social interactions, especially for our teens, are huge. Right? Um, so if they're switching friend groups a lot, if they are always in a fight with their best friend, like what's going on? , Are we trying to control people around us?
Are we, um, responding to things out of fear? Mm. Let's take a closer look. And, and I know teens don't always wanna talk to their parents. No. So if you're observing these things and your child doesn't, your teen doesn't wanna talk to you about it. It is, that's when maybe seeking therapy for them would be good.
Um, I think another red flag that I often see is struggling with school. So like if they're struggling to do homework or they're struggling to pay attention and their grades are changing, um, They are just really not interested in doing schoolwork. Is it because of the fear of failure? Is it because you have other things going on in your head?
Um, things that you're worried about it kids aren't choosing to just get poor grades. Yeah. Right. Um, another thing like, especially with teens, it's how much time are they spending on their phone or how much time are they spending in front of a mirror? Mm. Has their self, their self view changed? Are they talking really negatively about themselves or are they really nitpicky about what other people are doing, like mm-hmm.
Those are some red flags. Um, , and we know that the more time we spend on our phones, the higher level of anxiety we have. Mm mm-hmm. , especially media. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. The comparing that now exists Right. Before we, That could be a whole nother topic on just like how social media has changed the brains and lived experiences of, of children and adolescence.
For sure. For sure. Right. And so if you see those sort of things, if you feel like something's off, talk to your child. And if they're not willing to talk to you, get them in to see somebody. Mm-hmm. . Yeah, no, I completely agree. Um, I think that, you know, sometimes we don't wanna hear what our parents have to say or we don't believe them.
Right. Like, you know, it's, it's part of that totally. Developmentally appropriate. Mm-hmm. personal fable. That like you are the star of the show. Your parents totally don't understand you. Um, no one gets it. And sometimes, I mean, that's when finding the right therapist that that feels comfortable, that you can talk about.
And sometimes maybe even it's our families that there's a lot of anxiety around. Right? Right. And so having that safe space where you can talk about school without your parents like jumping maybe to try to fix it or maybe. The divorce and the family or other conflicts happening and that you don't feel like you can talk about?
Well, um, no offense mom, but like you are the source of my anxiety, right. And, or one of the sources. So like that therapist can really just be that, you know, anchor in a storm that is only there for you and in a nonjudgmental like really compassionate way and, and role model kind of how to like work through those things.
Family isn't therapy. TV isn't therapy or friends aren't therapy. Therapy is like a treatment, a medical treatment for mental health that will give true skills and, and really help work through a lot of things that, that we can't just get through reassurance from our family or friends. Right. Right. And so, yeah.
You know, and even as parents, if we think that it's just, I do air quotes with that teenage angst. Yeah. And there is no harm in going to see a therapist or having your child see a therapist. There is no shame in it. I know there's still stigma around going to therapy and, and seeing someone outside of your friends for help, but.
It, it can be life changing. Oh, it definitely can be. I mean, I think it is, which is why we're so mm-hmm. passionate about it. And, you know, I give a lot of credit to like the younger generations, right? Like, I think that, you know, social media, if we're gonna talk about a strength about it, is that it's really, I, I believe, opened the doors for mental health treatment in a.
Shows how nudge non-judgmental it is. And you know, TikTok, I mean, there's a thousand things we could complain about TikTok, but the mental health presence on there is amazing. And you can see all these different types of therapists, all these different people that look like you or that you identify with, and you can hear them talk about mental health.
And I honestly, Think, at least in my experience, as many young people are carrying like this judgment around therapy maybe than people in their forties, fifties, or sixties have around it. Like I think at least the ones I talked to were like, Yeah, that makes sense. Like therapy's important, right? We should all have a therapist because they're just really.
It's been introduced so many times to them it's, it's, it makes sense. Right? Right. And let's break the cycle of that generation trauma. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Which is probably a whole nother topic, but . Oh, yes. Yes. So if someone is listening and they're interested in like what therapy services for the child or adolescent in their life would look like, you know, I, I know we're kind of wrapping up here, but what, what is a typical therapy session, at least with you, Elyse?
You know, cuz all therapists are different, right? We have different approaches we gravitate towards, but what are some of the models or um, strategies you use with children and teens? Well, I really like to. Take the anxiety out of them. So what I mean by that is like, let's give it a name, let's give it a personality.
Let's, let's draw what they would look like. Um, let's make it a character. Mm-hmm. . So it's not them, it's just like Right, like externalizing it, right. Like you are. Anxiety, like this is anxiety. Anx, anxiety's name is Bob. Bob is like five 11 and wears glasses. You know, something like that Where Bob sometimes, Yeah.
Yeah. Okay. Okay. Right, right. Um, another piece of it is like, It is not, you are not anxiety. So it is a part of you and let's figure out how we can get that part to work with you or you can like overcome that part. Right? Let's take charge, um, because anxiety is all about controlling you and keeping, keeping you.
Potentially from enjoying life, So, mm-hmm. , let's, let's take it out of you. Let's make it a different, or let's create its own part. So, um, we can create stories, we can look at different, different ways that it's showing up. Mm-hmm. , uh, I also like to really focus on. I have, I use a lot of visuals in therapy or in, in my practice.
Um, so we'll look at, you know, what are the, how's it showing up in your body? And then let's figure out how we can engage in an activity that we would typically feel anxious during. But also make sure that you're feeling safe so then we can build a positive experience. So some exposure therapy. Mm-hmm. , My teen clients always laugh about that because you always think of like crazy exposures for therapy.
But, uh, so I try and do that as well because again, it goes back to like you have a safe adult with you who is going to be supportive and non-judgemental and mm-hmm. , we learn skills before doing something like that. . So like for example, you could go with someone who has some social anxiety showing up and, and just be that safe adult next to them as maybe they give their order at a restaurant or they talk to the cashier and pay for their, you know, bottle of water instead of you doing it for them.
Like they're very anxious about doing it, but let's, let's practice kind of that skill or even. Saying hi to someone at the grocery store that you don't know or something like that. Like, Oh, thank you. And yeah, have a good day. And those are the small things that anxiety can stop you from doing. And, and ice, you can feel really isolated.
So I like that. Or like sending an email or having or seeing something to your parent that you feel that you're like nervous, they're gonna explode about or they're going to be very judgmental about. And, um, so. Doing. Doing those real life exposures I think is, can be really impactful. Mm-hmm. . And another thing that I do in my therapy sessions and.
I, this is unique to me, but I have a therapy dog. Um, so yay. Shout out to Siggy. Right? Siggy . Um, but he's really helpful in sessions too. It gives my clients something to. Focus on, It takes, it takes the focus out of their head and more onto him, so they're more engaged and able or willing to talk about like what's going on with them.
Um, and he, he's got this weird thing about sniffing everyone's eyeballs and they'll all tell you, and he does these little sneeze. He's a little pug, so he, you know, he brings a lot of laughter and joy to sessions too, and just, We'll talk about this potentially in a different episode, but dogs or animals in general really help us.
Calm our nervous systems and ground ourselves. Mm-hmm. . So I love that I'm able to bring him to work with me every day in Verona. And I know. Yeah. And you know, Elyse, I always complain about pugs. Like I, I don't know if I told you that, but I always like, Oh, they snort so much and like . They like. I wasn't sure if I would like Siggy, but I love him.
I do. And like, you know, I can be super stressed out and I walk in the door and here comes Siggy, like greeting me and saying hi to me. And you know, when you and I sit in our office and we kind of process our life and days and, and work and, and he just like likes to hop up in your lap, you're. You know, and the cutest ways he sleeps or sits, right?
Like he is literally just a little ventral, vagal anchor running around the world. I, yeah. Yeah. He, he brings a lot of joy and he does. He is just so cute. I love him, obviously. He's so cute. We'll post like, maybe we'll use Ciggy as like, You know, one of the little like marketing tags on Facebook or something, we'll have to post Siggy in connection to this episode, I guess.
Yes. So that, you know, he can get his, you know, um, light shined upon him as well, right. As he deserves it. Oh yeah. I know. I'm glad he's here with us. So, you know, I think for me, one of the ways that I work, you know, as we're talking about working with, I don't specifically work with children, , but I've worked with adolescents on and off throughout my career in nonprofit and, and here as a therapist.
And, um, is sharing, you know, that quote that we need to share our calm with them. Mm-hmm. . And so when I'm working with parents or other people, we, we, we do a lot of talking about the nervous system and, and what is their internal response, like you said earlier, to their child who is maybe hurting or suffering and does it create a.
Response or flight response, or like where does their nervous system and brain and body go? And how can they regulate that response so that they're, they're the calm, nervous system for their child's experience. Calm, because you know, what we know about, um, you know, kind of what happens with our nervous system under threat is that, um, there, it's like it mirrors the other ones around us.
And so if someone's nervous, if a parent's nervous system and is like, anxious and, and, and elevated. Most likely they won't be able to support their, their child, their teen calming down because their child's nervous system will follow along. Right. With it. Right. It'll mirror it. Right. So we, there's so much research out there and we know it, that when we.
Can bring a regulated presence. It doesn't happen every time, but that co-regulating force does guide the other nervous system to feel calmer and feel safer. And then our social engagement system pops online then. Our prefrontal cortex comes back and, and we literally do strengthen our, you know, the myelination in our, you know, in our brain to like feel safer when we're around other safe spaces.
So if you think, Oh my gosh, what is going into the bathroom and taking three deep breaths before I respond to my kid, really gonna do in this situation mm-hmm. , I gotta take action. It's like, you know what, no. Be that centered, grounded force. And you were creating so much change in their minds and bodies.
I mean, it, it's just unimaginable, right? So, so trust what you can offer and you know, I think the body and, and being grounded and centered is, is such a good place to begin. Yeah. Yeah. That, that modeling behavior of mm-hmm. being regulated. Is incredible for kids and teens too, especially, especially teens when they are, when you're not meeting them at the heightened state that they're in, you know?
Mm-hmm. . Sometimes, you know, you make me mad, but you know, it actually show that you care. Yeah. Show a little passion and, But don't meet them at their level and help them calm. Show them that like, Yeah, I feel really strongly about this too, but I am here for you and this, We'll get through this together. Mm.
And, you know, as we wrap up, I love, I mean, this is showing up now, at least in Madison, like preschools are teaching mindfulness, right? Mm-hmm. , it's, it's like, okay, you know when, when you're feeling overwhelmed, imagine blowing out a candle and then smelling a flower, right? And then we blow out the candle and we smell the flower, breathe in through her nose, out through her mouth.
And so you. Um, I, I just think that's phenomenal that schools and and other places are getting on board and teaching these somatic skills to, to those who need it. And really, we all need it, right? We all need that kind of stuff. Yeah. Well, Elyse, thank you. Thank you for sharing your insight, your clinical approaches, you know, insight, mind, body talk.
We, we created this so that we could help people learn more about themselves and, and their loved ones, and gain skills and live with just a little bit more ease. So, I, I think in a lot of ways we accomplish that today. And, um, I really appreciate you being here and talking about, you know, a population that maybe doesn't get mentioned as much on this podcast.
And so thank you for shining the light on the needs and how to be there for our children and for our adolescence. I, I really appreciate it.
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 Jeanne and Jess. Please join us again as we continue to explore integrative approaches to wellbeing. Until then, take care.