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Meltdowns, Anxiety and Depression in Kids: Listeners Ask Lynn

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Show Notes

This has been a crazy 2020. I mean, things were changing month by month, then week by week now, day by day, and what I’m hearing and perhaps what you’re experiencing as parents is that kids are feeling more emotional. Maybe you’re seeing an uptick in their anxiety, they’re a little more withdrawn, more depressed, maybe there’s an increasing feeling of anger or fear or frustration about what’s going on in the world with the virus and with the protests.

So today, we’re going to take questions from you, the listeners, about the things you’re seeing emotionally in your kids and what we can do to help as we try and navigate what continues to be such a tricky time. Lynn answers five questions from members of our Facebook group. And we discuss our next episode on ways to make your summer still memorable with several ideas for socially distanced family fun.

Our affiliate link will get you $20 off of a Circle, and I highly recommend one.

Episode Transcript

Lynn Lyons  0:00 

How are your kids doing?

This has been a crazy 2020. I mean, things were changing month by month, then week by week now, day by day, and what I’m hearing and perhaps what you’re experiencing as parents is that kids are feeling more emotional. Maybe you’re seeing an uptick in their anxiety, they’re a little more withdrawn, more depressed, maybe there’s an increasing feeling of anger or fear or frustration about what’s going on in the world with the virus and with the protests.

So today, we’re going to take questions from you, the listeners, about the things you’re seeing emotionally in your kids and what we can do to help as we try and navigate what continues to be such a tricky time. Hi, Robin.

Robin Hutson  0:47 

Hi, Lynn. How are you doing today? Just riding that Corona coaster. It’s definitely… it’s a heavy time.

Helping Manage Anxiety and Depression in Kids

Lynn Lyons  0:53 

It is a heavy time. And I think that what we’re going to talk about today, I think is just how this is becoming almost too much for kids in a lot of ways. And, of course, I don’t mean to sound hopeless and negative, because that’s not how I feel about kids and their resiliency and their ability to manage things. But I think probably the way that we feel like it’s just sort of, you know, oh, one heavy thing after another, I think they’re feeling it, too, and parents are noticing it.

Listener Question: Meltdowns

Robin Hutson  1:21 

Definitely. I have the first listener question that we’re going to ask you, which is,

“My typically emotionally-regulated, six-year-old daughter has started to melt down and be so defiant, at the smallest frustrations or requests. It’s so hard to know when to give love and grace, usually in the form of a hug and a snack and when to move to consequences for rude behavior and disobedience. I feel like the line is always shifting and I want to avoid either extreme. What do I do?”

Lynn Lyons  1:51 

Well, first thing you do is let’s remember she’s six and so there’s a lot of developmental stuff that’s going on in six-year-olds. It’s a really busy time because they’re figuring things out. They’re moving into more what used to be called the latency stage. They’re moving, you know, they’re firmly out of toddlerhood and into sort of developing their personhood.

And so it can be, it can be a tricky time, what we want to pay attention to with a little six-year-old who’s feeling to you as if she’s more fragile, her bucket gets filled up quickly, she isn’t able to tolerate things, maybe she’s feeling a little bit more rigid, is that she doesn’t have the ability in all that has been happening in the last few months to really understand or fully articulate what’s going on inside her. So, there’s a lot going on. I’m guessing that she wasn’t in school because nobody was and that your lives have changed and she’s not seeing her friends and she’s not able to do the things that she normally likes to do. And remember that when you’re a little person time moves along differently. So, a year in your life or a half a year in your life when you’re six is a huge chunk of your life.

So, what I would do with her is that when she is melting down, when she is being defiant, I would offer her and, again, not right in the middle of the storm, because no learning happens in the middle of the storm, but I would offer her some language so that she may begin to understand what she’s feeling and what’s going on. So, one of the things that I do in therapy is, say I’m talking to a child, and I’m saying, “Do you have any idea why you might be reacting that way?” Or, “Do you have any idea about what might be going on?” And they’ll say, “No!” Or maybe it’s pretty obvious, maybe their parents are going through a divorce, or maybe their puppy just ran away, or maybe they didn’t… but I say, “Do you have any idea why you’re feeling this way?” And they say “No,” and I say, “Well, I don’t know if this applies to you, but here’s what I know about kids. That when this is happening, or this is happening, they could feel really frustrated, or, they could feel as if their bucket is full and they cannot handle one more thing in their bucket, or else they are just going to overflow. And I wonder if that feels like it for you that when [you know, and you can give the situation] when this happens, or when this happens, you start to feel really frustrated.

Sometimes, I’ll… for a little six-year-old, you might say, “Where do you feel it in your body?” And I’ll say, “You know, when I get really angry, I feel it right between my eyes and sometimes in my throat. Where in your body do you feel all that frustration and all that melting down?” And you just give her the language to be able to talk about it, you’re prompting her. If she says, “I don’t know,” that’s not the end of the conversation. That’s when you say, “Well, maybe this is happening or maybe you’re feeling this.” Even if she doesn’t say, “Mommy, you’re exactly right. Oh, you’re brilliant. I am feeling frustrated with the lack of social contact I’ve been having lately.” Even if she says, “Oh, no, I don’t know. I don’t know.” You say, “Well, that’s a possibility.”

It’s really okay for her to just hear you talking about it because then you’re modeling for her putting words to her feelings, you’re modeling for her how we can sort of understand the interaction between what’s happening in the outside world and what’s happening in our inside world. And then you’re showing her how to do that. So, you’re really just sort of leading the way for her, and it’s okay if she just sort of stares at you blankly, you’re still showing her how to do that.

Robin Hutson  5:19 

Yeah, there’s still that, the validation point of, you lead in with validating that they’re feeling something, you don’t have to solve why they’re feeling it, because that might be a little harder. And it might be something that they aren’t equipped to do. Right. But if you could at least say, “Boy, I see how frustrated you are,” and those ideas that you had, and “I can tell you’re really frustrated.” That’s the first step, and it’s also easier on the parent, it’s not that hard to validate their feelings.

Lynn Lyons  5:45 

It’s not and you know how I always say the two words I couldn’t do my job without would be the two words “of course.” The other, the three words that are really helpful for me and I think really helpful when you’re trying to help a child work through something and figure something out is, “I don’t know,” because I say to kids a lot, “Now, I don’t know if this is the case with you,” or, “I don’t know if you’ve had this experience,” or, “I don’t know if this makes sense to you.” And right away, you’re just opening the door, you’re not telling them how they’re supposed to feel. You’re not telling them what, you’re just saying, “I don’t know.” And lots of times they’ll  sort of say… they might correct you, or, they might say, “Yeah, I think that’s right.” Or they might say, “Yeah, I don’t know, either.” So, think about using that phrase with your little six-year-old, “I don’t know if this is the case with you but here’s what I’ve noticed.”

Robin Hutson  6:27 

To validate a child’s feelings is easy, to remember to validate and not react, that’s the hard thing as a parent. I have to really work hard to remember, and I don’t always remember.

Lynn Lyons  6:39 

No, of course, because… and then the other thing, too, about, in terms of consequences and punishment. I just want to say this, too, is that particularly as this is such a hard time and kids are feeling things in so many big ways, you don’t want to just let the behavior… if she’s acting in a way that is not acceptable in your family, it doesn’t mean that by validating her feelings then you’re letting her off the hook for the way that she behaves. Like, for example, we used to have this family that we hung around with when my kids were really little. And a little girl… I can say this now, like, you know, I should be saying, like, “She was clearly feeling a lot of big feelings,” but also, she was just like a little pain sometimes.

And she would hit my kids and hurt my kids, and her mom would, she’d be like, pinching my kid and her mom would say, “I think you’re feeling sad right now.” And I would be like, “Oh, for the love of Pete,” right?

So, you still want to step in and say, “That behavior is unacceptable.” And what I often did with my boys, and I referred to this in a previous episode, I think when they were watching the video game till four in the morning or something, is that I’ll say, “That’s not acceptable in this house, right? In our family that’s not how we treat each other. What do you think you could do to make it better?” Or, “What do you think you need to do to help make the situation right?” And it might be if she was mean to a sibling or she yelled at you.

Let her begin to come up with some solutions, some ways of being able to accept responsibility for what she did. And then maybe it means apologizing. Maybe it means letting her brother use the favorite magic marker, maybe it means, you come up with something. But that step is really helpful in kids because instead of you doling out some punishment, you’re actually having them take ownership for what they did. And then thinking about how they can make it right. That is a really, really helpful relationship skill.

The other thing, too, is that, you say that the mom says that she feels like the line is always shifting. And that’s because it is. This is not a linear progression, and particularly when a child is six, and this happens at different stages in development along the way, there are times when kids feel more volatile or when they do feel like they’re going back and forth between different emotions. And this is certainly such a tricky time with so much change going on that I think our kids are going to pick up on that, so the line is shifting. That’s okay. We don’t want to go from one extreme to the other, of course, like you said, remember, there’s that big, huge sweet spot in the middle. Focus on the skills that you’re teaching your daughter to help her navigate her way through her tricky emotions and get a better understanding of how she operates.

Six, right? She’s six. So, we’re not going to have huge expectations that she’s going to have these great, insightful breakthroughs. But you are paving the path for language and understanding that’s really going to come in handy when she’s 13, for example. If you can begin to use that language, don’t be all psychobabble-ly with her because she’s not going to like that now, and she’s certainly not going to like it when she’s 13. But just say, “It seems to me,” or “I’ve noticed that,” or “I don’t know,” or “I can see you’re feeling this.” That’s going to help her with her emotional literacy.

Anxiety and Depression in Kids from social isolation and fears of the corona virus

Listener Question: Anxious Kids And the Pandemic

Robin Hutson  9:49 

The next question that we have is about anxiety, and the Coronavirus, and I have a follow up question to add to it. This is what the listener wrote:

“My daughter’s five and introverted and generally anxious. And the past few weeks since school ended, and her daily social contact on Zoom also ended, her mental health seems to be deteriorating and her anxiety increasing. She’s very good at maintaining six feet of social distancing when out in the neighborhood but has anxiety about going out in public as things begin to reopen. ‘What if someone bumps into me? What if I get someone sick or someone gets me sick?’ She’s more clingy with me and she’s upset more easily talking about how she wants the virus to be over, wishes she could go to camp and see her friends, and do your normal summer things and go on our usual vacations. Any tips for talking with anxious kids about virus-related fears?”

And my question to you before you answer this is, anyone who reads your books, sees you talk, follows you, knows that you believe that it’s really about the process of worry and not the content of worry. But given that we’re in a pandemic and that there all of these new ways we need to handle things, does the process change any?

Lynn Lyons  11:07 

A little bit. When I’ve been doing a lot of these parenting talks during the pandemic, one of the first things that I would say when I would open the talk is that if people are familiar with my work, you know that I always say it’s not the content, it’s the process, content doesn’t matter. And yet here we are in the middle of a pandemic, and there is some real content. And so, we can’t completely dismiss the content as irrelevant because it’s not a story being made up by your worry part that’s creating a narrative in your prefrontal cortex where worry lives. There’s a pandemic, and we need to think about these things.

So, we certainly have to address the content because it’s a real thing. However, what you will notice is that if you have an anxious child, and what this mom said is that her little five-year-old is generally anxious at her baseline, that you will still see the seeking of certainty that defines the anxious process. So, you’ll still see this child saying, “I need to know that I’m going to be safe. I want answers to all my questions.” And what we really want to help kids do is to be able to recognize that even in this pandemic, and we’re going to follow certain protocols and we’re going to do certain things to increase the likelihood that we won’t get sick.

Unless we are in our houses, completely quarantined and not seeing anybody, we have to accept reasonable risk. So, what the difference would be is that if you had a non-anxious kid, and you were saying, “Look, we’re going to go out and we’re going to keep our six feet of social distancing, and we’re going to make sure when we come home we’re going to wash our hands, and wear our masks” and all that kind of stuff.

If a non-anxious kid bumped into somebody, they might say, “Oh, Mommy, I just bumped into that guy.” And you’d say, “Well, that’s alright, this isn’t about perfection, but it’s, you know, just come over and pay attention a little bit,” and they would say, “Okay.”

But an anxious kid then, right, here comes the doubt. Here comes the uncertainty and here comes the imagination of an anxious kid going to that worst-case scenario. So, we still want to talk about reasonable risk compared to the demand for certainty that anxiety wants. So, we still can pull out that worry part. We can call it “Sally,” we can say, you know, Sally has to know everything, she wants to be 100% sure. So, there are skills that we want to teach you to be safe during the pandemic, but we still have to accept that it’s not going to be 100%. This applies to many things.

The example I can think of is having a child who had a bad experience with a dog. I even had a client, more than one client, but one client that was bitten by a dog. And then the anxiety became global, that “I can’t go near any dogs. I can’t go anywhere where there might be a dog, I have to have 100% certainty that there will be no dogs.” Now that’s not a reasonable way to go through life, but on the other hand, the content does matter, because we’re not going to say to this child, “All dogs are safe, that you should walk up to any dog. You know, you’re just worried about getting bit by a dog. But that’s just your worry making up the story.” We want to teach the skill of how do you recognize or how do you approach dogs? Or how do you have a certain way of dealing with dogs that you don’t know that increases the likelihood that you won’t run into a problem? Does it make it 100% safe? No, it doesn’t, and remember, that’s always anxiety’s criteria.

So we want to talk about the worry demanding certainty and how we as a family are going to instead talk about reasonable risk and how we have to tolerate not knowing everything all the time, which I bet that this little girl who’s five, that’s probably one of her patterns in and out of the pandemic.

So, we’re going to talk about the rules of the pandemic but we’re going to make sure that we don’t buy into anxiety’s demand for 100% of certainty. Or else, you know, you’re trapped. And that’s, again, out of a pandemic that’s what anxiety wants, it wants you to sit in the house wrapped in bubble wrap and not do anything, because that’s the only way we can guarantee that bad things won’t happen in life.

Robin Hutson  15:18 

When the pandemic began, it was funny in the sense that, when you think of the pandemic as a teacher of sorts, in some way, it felt like I had friends who were posting about stockpiling food very early on when other people were dismissing it, and they were like, “I am anxious and I was right.” You know, the pandemic provided all these opportunities for worst-case storytelling.

Lynn Lyons  15:42 

Yeah, my cousin who always have lots of toilet paper, and you know, everybody always we always teased him about how he always had such a supply of toilet paper. Well, you know what, he sent me a box of toilet paper. So, I was really grateful for that.

Robin Hutson  15:54 

That’s right. Right, and it is the ultimate uncertainty, as well. So, how we approach this is no different than really anything else.

Lynn Lyons  16:03 

Right. Because think if she’s, you know, if she hasn’t learned to ride a bike yet, that’s going to come up and she’s going to say, “How do I know that I won’t fall down? How do I know that I won’t hurt myself on my bike? How do I know?” Right? “I want to make sure that before I get on this bike, I want to guarantee that it will all go perfectly, that I will be safe, that I won’t get hurt.” And we have to make room for the possibility that when you’re learning how to ride a bike, you could fall down and scrape your knee.

You can still get caught in trying to create certainty around a pandemic in a way that will not work and will actually exacerbate the anxiety, for sure. There are certain things we’re not going to do. There are certain things we’re not going to, you know, take risks with now, because there’s a pandemic, but it doesn’t mean we’re all going to stay in our houses, you know, sitting in a bathtub full of Purel, right? We’re just not going to do that.

Robin Hutson

And yet I bet some people have.

Lynn

:Yeah, that’s not a good long-term strategy. I’ll just say that.

Listener Questions: Anxiety & Depression in Kids Who Isolate

Robin Hutson  17:02 

Yeah, so another question comes up for older children. For the teens and tweens who are starting to really become more withdrawn and showing depressive behavior. We had two listeners who talked about this. Here’s one listener’s question:

“My 11 and 15-year-olds tend to be on the anxious, shy and reserved side and often see growth opportunities through the lens of anxiety and the uncomfortableness involved in social interactions. School kept them practicing and engaging in the world and it kept them practicing with the uncomfortableness of it all and it helped them develop their confidence and their ability to act independently. And the anxiety with the outside world is creeping in now and taking hold now that school is over for them.”

And then another girl, because I think that this is actually really common with this age group, another listener says:

“My daughter who struggles with anxiety loves being cut off from the world and in the beginning of the quarantine, she was getting her school work done and she was texting friends and exercising. But the past two weeks, she’s been really struggling. She began watching YouTube videos on her school iPad instead of doing her schoolwork, she doesn’t want to go out for walks, she still stays up until 2:00 reading. And she doesn’t consistently try and connect with friends and lots of avoidance and denial is going on. And she doesn’t want to talk about it. Although she admits she’s avoiding things and that she’s happy she’s able to do so more easily during this pandemic.”

Lynn Lyons  18:28 

Yeah, so I certainly have been hearing a lot of this. And, early on, I think I was saying that I had several clients, one in particular who is just delightful and funny, she said, “I was social isolating before it was cool.” And so, there are some kids where this feels like they don’t particularly like this pandemic, but their anxiety, that part of them, it feels like it’s a dream come true because now they have permission to be able to isolate. And so, I think that in the first question what the mom has really recognized, which is fantastic, is that kids who are shy, kids who tend to be anxious, need to have continuous practice stepping out into the world and feeling that uncomfortableness.

And what her kids have done, unfortunately, which she’s aware of, too, is that they judge whether or not they’re going to do things based on whether or not it feels uncomfortable. And school, forcing them to step into it over and over again, allow them to have that experiential learning that basically retrains the brain. So, when we’re talking about anxiety, we really need to give that fearful part of the brain information continually so that it builds some new neural pathways.

The confidence comes from stepping into the situation, feeling uncomfortable, and then moving through it. Confidence doesn’t come first, confidence comes after. And so, with school not being that sort of automatic practice, then it’s easy for kids that tend to be more introverted and more anxious to sort of slip back into that comfort of not having to step into these things. So, it’s really important to talk to them. And if this mom (and for any of the moms out there who have kids that tend to be anxious and reserved) it is really important for them to understand why it is that we want them to get uncomfortable. And again, it’s not the content, it’s the process.

So, a lot of times we’ll say, well, it’s really important for you to get uncomfortable because someday you’re going to have to go into a job interview, or someday you’re going to have to this, or I need you to advocate for yourself. And that’s all true but focus really on the process. The reason that they need to get uncomfortable is because they are retraining the part of them that has convinced them that they can’t handle the world.

It doesn’t matter how they do it. It doesn’t matter what context you do that but being able to continually having them practice this, just as you would have them practice the piano if they were learning to play the piano, or just as you would practice anything, we’re laying down pathways in the brain so that they can begin to move in a different direction, away from the avoidance that the anxiety is so capable of. Robin: What’ve you done with some of the families of the clients that you see, what homework assignments have helped keep their withdrawn teens and tweens engaged in something, for right now?

Yeah, yeah. So, the first thing I’ll ask is, “Tell me something right now that makes you feel uncomfortable that you could do based on the fact that you’re not in school.” And so, they can usually come up with things or the parents are coming up with things that they’re avoiding. So, of course, they’re not going to school, but they know that they’re avoiding talking on the phone, or they know that they’re avoiding (and school is ending now) but maybe they were avoiding asking questions during their Zoom meetings, or sometimes even avoiding putting their camera on during a Zoom meeting. I will ask what’s something, and with kids that I’ve worked with before, they know that that’s where we’re going. Because that’s the question I always ask, “What’s something that we can do that will on purpose make you uncomfortable.”

And so, we’ve had to be a little bit creative because they can’t go and do the things that they normally would do in school. Even now, as we’re opening up a little bit, it may be that they’re the ones that, say you ordered takeout food, that they’re the ones that call and place the order, or they’re the ones that pick it up when you drive up. Anything that forces some sort of social interaction, coming up with things like maybe calling and asking a store, what time do they close, even if you’re not going to go to the store just calling and having that conversation. Looking… if you ask a kid, “What makes you uncomfortable?” Or, if I ask a parent, “What could he do that will make them uncomfortable?” They’re pretty good at coming up with things so I don’t really care what it is, reaching out to people, advocating for themselves in an email with a teacher, that kind of thing.

Robin Hutson  22:57 

So do you find that when you’ve instructed teens and tweens to reach out, like calling a store, and I actually recall you maybe mentioning this in one of your talks that you had one of your clients go to a burrito store and ask for Lo Mein or something…

Lynn Lyons  23:14 

Yeah, he went into a bagel store and ordered a pepperoni pizza.

Robin Hutson  23:17 

He had to get embarrassed, and he had to get uncomfortable. Do you find that that kind of interactions, that could even be done from the safety of your home, still help the discomfort of social anxiety?

Lynn Lyons  23:28 

Yeah, if you’re forced to do it in the home, which we’ve been forced, because of this, it’s not ideal. I’d much… in a perfect world when we’re not in a pandemic I want them to be outside of the home, but I’m going to use, I’m going to work with what I’ve got. And so, it’s better than nothing.

Yeah, I mean, ideally, do I want him to walk into the store? Do I want him to go to the restaurant and order? Do I want him to go meet with his teacher? Do I want him to…? Yes, I mean, I have one client, one boy that’s been working through this because he works at a store, an essential store that stayed open, and so he’s had opportunities that he’s needed to change his work schedule, or he’s had to talk to a co-worker about something or he’s had to let his manager know that he can’t come in until a certain time because he has a dentist’s appointment. So, all of that stuff, the more outside they’re doing it, the better for sure. But I’m just going to work with what I’ve got.

And the other thing too, and this is a question I thought you’re going to ask, Robin, is that when you ask teenagers to do this, do they do it? Or, why don’t they say “No, that’s stupid.” And that, again, is because they have to understand my rationale for this. I’ve got to get them to buy in. And to understand that this is why we’re doing it. I’m not doing it just to make them uncomfortable. I’m doing it because we’re laying down some new tracks in your brain and we’re giving you the opportunity to develop confidence through your actions. And then, you know, again, I don’t bat 1,000… so some kids are like, “No, that’s… I’m not doing that.” But if they understand and if I can get them to buy into it, then it’s better. So, this mom could even explain that to her kids. “Look, you know, we’ve gotten a little out of practice, and I want lay down some new tracks. So, let’s come up with some ways to make sure that you’re still working on your social connection.”

For the second one, with the girl, similar thing, this is not unusual at all. So, this mom was worried about her daughter that’s staying in her bedroom and not really motivated to get her schoolwork done. I think this is really, unfortunately, becoming quite common because these kids… the social interaction, I’m guessing it doesn’t say the age of this girl, but I’m guessing that she’s either, you know, she must be in teenager years, if she’s staying up till two o’clock in the morning reading, is that adolescents get their energy from their social interactions.

And I think what’s really important for us to remember is that it’s face-to-face, human interaction that they crave. So, all of the video stuff and all of the texting your friends and that kind of stuff, it’s not filling them up and it’s not energizing them. So all of the things that they looked forward to and they wanted to go and hang out with their friends or go to the movies or go to the dance or even just have sleepovers… with all of that stuff taken away, their energy and the stuff that they get that sort of pushes them and makes them excited and gives them things to look forward to, a huge part of that is taken away. So, they are feeling really deflated. And this thing has gone on for a long time.

And now that school is ending, they’re really feeling a little bereft about the fact that they’re not going to be able to do what they so look forward to. So I wouldn’t be concerned about your daughter, in that, there’s something terribly wrong with her and this isn’t what’s happening to other kids, because it is happening to other kids, but it still means that that you really need to talk to her, and everybody needs to talk to their teenagers about the fact that they need to take care of themselves by getting outside, by exercising, by walking by, getting up in the morning, by getting dressed even though they can’t have the contact with the friends that they want, we need to do the best we can. And we don’t want to go over into that other extreme of sort of staying in your pajamas all day, staying in your dark room, staying on screens all day, because that’s only going to spiral and make things worse.

Robin Hutson  27:13 

One of the things that I think has been super easy, you know, since we’re still in an environment where things are only slowly reopening, we’ll do very short visits, even from the car where we’ll pull up in front of a friend’s house. And the friend will come out and talk. Or, we did socially-distanced charades the other night with some friends, too. And I think that, and the point is, in the past, it might have been like a big effort to arrange family game nights. But I think right now, just like you said, seeing people in person, it can be spontaneous, and it can be 20 minutes, and it should be frequent. And I think that that’s where we need to acknowledge that it’s necessary and to get in the habit of doing that throughout the summer.

Lynn Lyons  27:13 

And let me say this, too, is that if you are a really anxious parent (because I’ve been talking to a few of them), and you are not letting your child do anything at this point, you may need to shift that. There are going to be ramifications that if your child is not having any contact with his or her friends, particularly if it’s a teenager, that you are going to get a result that you’re not looking for.

So, letting them be six feet apart. There are kids that are having, you know, putting out I saw one thing where they were, they were putting out like think of a clock and they put their towels around, you know, six feet apart a towel at 12, a towel at three, a towel at six, a towel at nine and they hung out together, staying six feet apart. And I had one of my clients actually tell me that she was feeling so, you know, blah. And she went and hung out with two of her friends. They stayed socially distanced. She said it absolutely changed her mood for days. And I said to her, you need to do more of that.

If you’re really anxious parent, and you’re really saying your kids can’t go out of the house, I had one family where they weren’t even letting the child out of a room, I put an end to that, but really pay attention. They need to see their friends. And it’s okay for them to see them. As long as you’re taking precautions, let them be in the presence of their friends, because we cannot keep them away from their friends. This is not sustainable. It’s not good for their development.

There was something else I wanted to say, too, about this: teenagers and the shy and the anxious ones. And I think it has to do with the fact that the mom in the second question said that the daughter is really not wanting to talk about it, and that she knows there’s avoidance going on, but she doesn’t want to address it.

I think again, you can have a conversation with your daughter where it’s okay if she doesn’t answer. You can even write her a little letter and have her read it. I think that’s a really good way to communicate sometimes with a teenager that you feel is talked out or is shut down. These are the questions that I would want to ask her if she were in front of me.

What is she going to learn from this avoidant anxious part of her? What’s that part going to teach her? And we know what the answer is. That part is going to teach her that she can’t handle things. And it’s just easier to stay separate from people and to stay isolated. What happens if that part stays in charge of her? What will— ’cause this pandemic’s not going to last forever— but what if that anxious avoidant part continues to get stronger and continues to be the dominant voice inside of her? And what are the skills that we want her to work on in terms of managing her own mind and body knowing that she might be a little shy? She might be a little introverted. What are the things that she has to pay attention to, as she’s taking care of herself so that this anxious part doesn’t rule her and doesn’t become stronger over time? Those are the questions that I would want her to think about.

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Robin Hutson  30:55 

I talk about it a lot. So, I want to recommend what we use to manage screen time and Internet safety in our house, we use the Circle, and it ensures age-appropriate filters for searches from little kids to teens. And it lets you set daily limits for different apps and social media. It also controls your kids’ Wi Fi schedules. Our affiliate link will get you $20 off of a Circle, and I highly recommend one.

Listener Question: Emotional Management And Current Events

The final question is about anger and fear about the news.

“My kids are picking up on how much I’m upset and angry by the current events, and I don’t want to shelter them from what is going on since we are a white family in a pretty white bubble the way I might want to shelter them about other disturbing news. I follow age-appropriate guidelines of talking about racism with my children, but I’m questioning what emotional management should be used here, too.”

Lynn Lyons  31:50 

I talk a lot about the fact that we don’t have to expose kids to disturbing things. But and when I’m talking about that I’m really referring to, there’s no need for your eight-year-old to hear about a nine-year-old who drowned in a lake. There’s no need for them to hear about some horrible thing happening to another person in an accident or something like that. So, it really is okay to shield our kids from horrible events that happen.

Racism is not one of those things that we should shield our kids from. So not talking to our kids about this in age appropriate ways, and not finding a way to have a discussion with your children about this is really part of the problem. So being able to say to your kids, “This is really upsetting to me. And let me explain to you why. And let me talk to you about some of the things that I’m learning about,” in age appropriate ways is really, absolutely necessary for us to continue this conversation and to make sure that we’re not in our silence perpetuating this.

Where emotional management comes in is that remember, our kids are looking to us to determine the best ways to manage difficult things. So, if this mom is lying in her bed sobbing, or if she is ranting and being furious and angry, and that gets in the way of being able to talk to your children in a very often emotional and sincere and heartfelt way about the things that you need to pay attention to and the things they need to pay attention to, it’s okay for them to feel uncomfortable with this. It’s okay for them to feel angry and upset about this. It’s okay for them to feel confused about this.

It’s the emotional management comes in making sure that your emotions aren’t so big and powerful and overwhelming that they’re not hearing the words you’re saying. They’re just reacting to the lack of control that they’re witnessing in you. Another analogy is that when you’re trying to get something across to somebody, as soon as you start screaming at them, they’re not paying attention to anything you’re saying. They’re reacting to the volume and the intensity of your voice. So just be aware of that. Show the emotions, and show the confusion, and show the sincerity of it, but don’t overwhelm them with your emotions, so they can’t hear the important parts of this that they should be learning about and that we should be talking about, particularly as white families now.

Robin Hutson  34:24 

We want to thank our listeners for submitting these questions. And we’d love it if you also joined our Facebook group for the podcast, where we ask what questions you have about your families that Lynn can answer on an upcoming episode. So, the Facebook group link is on our website, and it’s also in the show notes.

Next Episode:
A Family Summer Guide

And you know, 2020 and the beginning of summer this is a different time than we’re used to. this is not the beginning of a typical summer and even though many very important, very serious things are going on, there’s still an essential need for us to create some positive and happy memories with our families during this time and to nourish us all. So, we’re looking forward to sharing with you some phenomenal advice and ideas and inspiration that listeners have given for how they plan on offering their children some special moments this summer, in light of social distancing.

Lynn Lyons  35:21 

Yes, Robin, it’s, it’s exactly what you’re saying is that we’ve been really tackling some heavy stuff and dealing with really big feelings and really big events. But as always, it’s so important that we find those moments of joy in connection with our family. And if you’ve got kids, you need it, and they need it. So, I’m really looking forward to some great ideas that we’re going to be able to share next time.

I always am so grateful that you spent this time with us. I hope that you’re taking care of yourselves as well, getting out in the sunshine, enjoying moments of fun with your family and moments of peacefulness, whatever it is that you find joy in. I hope you find some time for yourself too.

Robin Hutson  36:02 

Thanks, Lynn. Great to talk with you.

Lynn Lyons  36:04 

Thanks, Robin. Great to talk with you, too.

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