Supporting Kids with Phobias

It’s easy to say, “face your fear” but a fear can be truly paralyzing and kids can feel thrown into a situation that really sets them up for failure. Even just changing classes a few times a day can put undue pressure on some kids - so imagine facing public speaking, separation anxiety, discipline - if that’s your anxiety trigger - all the while maintaining your composure. And we don’t even always think about it in this context - some kids are even simply afraid to go to school. 

We hear about these challenges every day - from children being separated from their parents and being afraid to show up at school because they may be deported, to kids feeling anxious about a school shooting or even failing a class.

And then there are kids who are afraid of dogs, water, or bugs. These fears can be very difficult for families to deal with. So, how can we help our kids overcome them? Sarah Cody and I spoke with Brianna Benn-Mirandi, founder of Art and Soul Art Therapy on the latest episode of Parenting Beyond the Headlines.

Metric Anxiety

Photo by  ROBIN WORRALL  on  Unsplash

Metric Anxiety Defined

How many reposts/likes/shares/retweets did you get this week? As human beings, it’s natural to seek approval from society - and many tweens and teens crave it. However, when these types of metrics begin to affect your self-worth, confidence, and wellness, you may be suffering from something called Social Media Metric Anxiety;  an intense feeling of stress or discomfort based on how you perceive your level of popularity on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. You might be feeling it, and your tween or teen is likely feeling it too.

On average, we spend about two and a half hours per day on social media. These applications can be a valuable communication outlet used to connect with friends and family, potential customers, and those with similar interests. The harm comes when we become fixated on quantifying the attention our own posts receive  and equating them with our value as people. 

Social Media Currency

It can be easy to fall into the pattern of thinking, “I got X amount of likes and reactions on this post, it was a good day,” at any age. When we share our lives publicly – whether it’s vacation photos, career successes, parenting milestones, etc. – we want others to acknowledge and approve of our achievements. If we become too digitally invested in the numbers or “metrics” of a post, it may become easy to find ourselves missing out on the magic of those very real and fleeting moments when our focus is “what angle/caption/background will get the most likes?”.

Breaking the Cycle

The next time you find yourself checking alerts, tallying views, and looking for acknowledgement on social media, it may help to remind yourself of why a moment was special enough to begin with to want to share it.  The why is the most important factor after all. Recall the real emotion behind the post - was it joy, pride, sadness, reflection? 

Another solution is limiting your time on social media. If you are bored and find yourself gravitating towards your phone, pick up a book instead.  In lieu of opening your laptop, open the door and go outside. Create boundaries for yourself and your kids. And hold yourself accountable to your new routine!

If you frequently use social media, it is important to take a moment every now and then to assess how it makes you feel. Anxiety, low self-esteem, and stress are signs that you may need to limit your exposure. It can be hard to see it in your own behavior - make this a family conversation. And always remember that photos and status updates and witty captions are only one side of the story. YOU control your sense of self-worth. 

Conversation Starters

Consider talking with your kids directly. Be open to their ideas and suggestions:

  • Start by sharing your own experiences and concerns

  • How would you feel if you didn’t check your phone every day, hour, minute? Why? Should we try?

  • What would happen if you didn’t check every app every day?

  • Are there apps that make you anxious or you get excited about:

    • Do you dread checking any of them for fear of not getting the kind of response you were hoping for?

    • Do you get really excited about checking any of them?

  • Are there any apps we could try deleting to see how it goes?


Normalizing Trauma

Photo by  Tammy Gann  on  Unsplash

Photo by Tammy Gann on Unsplash

We’ve seen some recent high-profile suicides of people affected by the Parkland, Columbine and Newtown tragedies, including the father of a Sandy Hook victim, Jeremy Richman.

These deaths have happened amidst a health crisis: The CDC reports that the suicide rate for males and females has increased since 1975. The rates for females has doubled from 2007 to 2015.

In the most recent episode of Parenting Beyond the Headlines, Sarah Cody and I talked with Alicia Farrell, Cognitive Psychologist Specializing in family issues. She helped us better understand trauma and think through the idea of normalizing trauma to help us support loved ones and ourselves.


Stop Should-ing On Yourself!

Photo by  DANNY G  on  Unsplash

Photo by DANNY G on Unsplash

Do you find yourself regretting the small stuff, harping on the details of the day, or justifying your decisions? I know I do. I think it helps to know you are not alone. Just the other day, while on a walk with my friend, I realized I was chastising myself for not getting more work done before heading out on a walk - as if I hadn’t been working all day. As if I didn’t deserve to go for a walk because my whole to-do list wasn’t complete. Moms can be harsh on themselves and we tend to expect more of ourselves than is reasonably acceptable. This is one of the reasons I wrote my first book - I was sick of people saying, “I’m such a bad mother,” or “I’m the worst parent ever.” I guess that could be uttered in jest, but it’s telling - we often leap to the negative. And I was one of those people labeling myself without true cause. I mean come on, forgetting to pack a snack really isn’t the worst thing ever.

I tend to see what I have left to do more often than celebrate what I have done. My friend turned to me as we walked and she told me to stop should-ing on myself. It really resonated with me. I should on myself all the time - I shouldn’t eat that, I should’ve run that errand while I was already out, I should be working…. and the list goes on.

Photo by  Dawid Zawiła  on  Unsplash

Stop Should-ing On Yourself - I have embraced this as my motto for the summer. So this past weekend when all of Sunday had gone by and I had “only” done this and that, instead of announcing (as I often do on Sunday evenings) everything I should have done, I turned on the television with my kids and enjoyed some down time. When I hear myself use the word should, I am attempting to reflect on if it really is a should moment. It’s silly the amount of things I regret in a day. I welcome you to join me (and correct me when you hear me doing it).

Let’s enjoy a summer of cans, wills, oh wells, and maybe laters and stop should-ing on ourselves!

Dealing With Grief and Supporting Others Dealing with Grief

We all experience loss in many ways and when we are processing such deep emotions it can be hard to even make it through the day. Often we feel the pressure to act what others would deem appropriately and in fact, sobbing or anger might actually be appropriate but not accepted as such. And when someone close to us is going through the stages of loss, it can be hard to support them and often we find ourselves at a loss for words..

Sarah Cody and I recently had the pleasure of talking about dealing with grief and supporting others who are dealing with grief with Christa Doran, Founder of Tuff Girl Fitness. Christa bravely shared her own journey and how she works to help others build strength physically and emotionally.

One major take-away: sometimes we have to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and simply endure the experience. Please listen to the newest episode of Parenting Beyond the Headlines. And if you like what you hear, share it with others!

Supporting the College Transition

Photo by  Nathan Dumlao  on  Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

The college admissions scandal has certainly peaked the nation’s interest and it has definitely peaked mine, as my son just recently went through the entire search, application, and response process. It’s a huge challenge and we all want to support our kids through it. The very fact that some parents feel the need to cheat their kids out of the application process leads us to conclude that we are not putting our full faith in our kids.

And then, once we are through the process - whatever it was like, it seems we assume our kids are simply ready for college. But there is a missing piece to that puzzle. We are seeing record numbers of kids dropping out and an increase in anxiety and depression in college students.

Photo by  Alexis Brown  on  Unsplash

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

In addition to the idea of sending them off to live on their own and worrying about the big decisions like whether or not they will be safe, if they will be homesick, if they will make the most of the opportunity, we also need to consider if they are ready to manage their own time, get their work done, and figure out the social scene.

Sarah Cody and I were lucky enough to sit down with Marc Lehman, a marriage and family therapist and Co-Founder of Dorm Room Counseling. Marc he talked to us about preparing kids and supporting them through this huge transition.

Supporting LGBTQ Youth

Photo by  Steve Johnson  on  Unsplash

In 2016 we saw the introduction of a law that mandated people to use bathrooms that matched their birth gender. Since then we’ve seen lawsuits on both sides of the issue. Recently the US military stated that you must identify with your biological sex to serve. Connecticut banned conversion therapy a year ago and Puerto Rico did the same just this spring.

Research suggests that LGBTQ youth are at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, suicide ideation and attempts, substance abuse, and sexual health risks - not because of their innate identity but because of how we message and support them as a society. So what does this mean to our youth who are still figuring out who they are and how they fit in the world? And how do we support them?

My colleague, Sarah Cody, and I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Laura M. I. Saunders, Licensed Psychologist, Assistant Director of Psychology and Clinical Coordinator of The Right Track/LGBTQ Young Adult Services at the Institute of Living, Hartford Hospital. She walked us first through some of the terminology to help us have conversations with our families about these and other related issues. And she leaves us with practical strategies to help support all of our youth.

Please subscribe to our podcast to hear more topics. And, if you know of someone who might enjoy, feel free to forward us along.

Talking About Specializing and Parent Involvement in Sports

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

We are seeing kids’ sports taken to a new level. We often sign our kids up for sports to teach them some new physical and social skills, and I know I assume it’s good for them to be moving. Kids have a lot of pressure on them and this is one more thing - and perhaps not a healthy thing to add into the mix. An article in Hartford Courant questions when a child should - and if a child should - specialize in sports? And, a in a recent article, Science Daily suggests that “Rushing kids to specialize in one sport may not be best path to success.”

And while we’re on the subject, I have recently been shocked by the parent conversations and engagement during kids’ games. What do you do when you hear something inappropriate? Are you guilty of getting a little too excited?

In our podcast, Parenting Beyond the Headlines, Sarah Cody and I talked with Peter Vint, an internationally recognized expert in sport science, performance technology, and sport analytics about the topic. He offers great advice on how to think about our approach to sports as parents and how to encourage kids to think about their own goals.