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anxiety, shame and teens:Helpful Strategies with Dr. Melanie McNally| 2.23.2022

In this episode, Kristen talks with Dr. Melanie McNally about what parents can do to help their teens manage anxiety and overcome shame.

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This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about ideas on stress management and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not psychotherapy/counseling in any form.

Kristen Boice 0:00
Welcome to the close to Chapter Podcast. I am Kristen Boice a licenced Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice Pathways toHealing Counselling. Through conversations, education, strategies and shared stories we will be closing the chapter on all the thoughts, feelings, people and circumstances that don't serve you anymore and open the door to possibilities and the real you. You won't want to miss an episode so be sure to subscribe Welcome to this week's close the chapter podcast I am absolutely thrilled to have Dr. Melanie McNally with us today. She's a licenced clinical psychologist. I was just telling her yay for getting your doctorate, who helps Gen Zers become the superheroes of their life stories. I love that she provides online support through teletherapy and coaching online programmes and books that teaches Gen Zers. How to build self confidence, managing anxiety and achieve their goals. She's also founded therapy boot camp, an app based psycho educational service for Jen's ears to get therapy tools delivered right to their phones therapy boot camp is an eight week programme where boot campers build self awareness and develop coping tools when they can use all while being able to DM Dr. McNally directly. And the next one starts April 4 In case you are interested, she has worked in the mental health field since 2005, and teaches the skills strategies and tools that she herself has used and continues to use. She lives in the forest of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with her husband and three dogs. I love this so much welcome Melanie to the podcast.

Unknown Speaker 1:47

Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Kristen Boice 1:50

Yes, I need to call you Dr. McNally.

Unknown Speaker 1:52

No, you can call me Melanie.

Kristen Boice 1:54

Okay, well, you've earned the title. I think that's so fantastic. Thank you for joining me today's conversation is one I just told Melanie, that I'm moving her up in the podcast release date. Because this is such a pertinent topic, as research right now is showing 53% of teen girls are having suicidal ideation and 4% of teen boys, which I thought was really a dramatic difference. Let's jump in and talk about we're going to be talking about anxiety and teens and how to handle it, what to do with it. So let's jump into the deep end here. So what do you think about those statistics?

Unknown Speaker 2:27

Well, I mean, first of all, I'm not surprised. And sure, you know, you saw it with even the at the end of 2021, when the surgeon general released that big report and talked about the mental health crisis that we're in for youth right now that the anxiety and depression among youth has doubled since the pandemic started. I know for anxiety, you know, one of the things that the pandemic has really brought out, and this might be related to girls, I don't know, this is just kind of a theory. But there's such a huge shift in social relationships during the pandemic. And girls, especially teen girls are so much more relational, you know, the relationships are a huge part of teen girl identity. And you know, in boys, it's a little different, they identify a little bit differently as they go through high school and middle school. But for girls, I could see that big shift in relationships being something that's really hard to process and really hard to manage. I've had so many teen girls where their friend groups completely shifted and changed during the pandemic, through no fault of their own. At first everyone was great about staying in touch. And then people kind of got bored of texting and FaceTiming. And they all started to kind of move apart from each other. And then maybe they started to develop some other friendships and those friendships shifted and changed. And a lot of girls are left kind of, you know, either feeling like they don't have a friend group at all, or they have a friend group. But maybe it's one that they're not really connected to. And they're not deeply rooted in so they don't feel like they can be themselves. So I'm wondering if that's a part of it, just kind of something that could be contributing to that discrepancy?

Kristen Boice 4:07

That's a really good point, the relational component for girls in particular at that boys aren't, but the girls in particular really crave that connection. And when you don't know if you trust somebody, like do they like me? Do they not like me? What do they think of me? I'm afraid of being rejected. So they don't want to put themselves out there? Have you seen that as a big struggle for teens?

Unknown Speaker 4:30

Definitely. And you know, and one of the big issues I think that contributes to that is with what we see on social media with the filter upon filter that's used, where people are, you know, just filtering themselves so much where they look like an avatar version of themselves, or you know, they're only sharing their highlight reel and they're only showing like the good moments and then a lot of the teams that I work with, I'll talk to them about how you know you're not putting that picture of yourself. With the double chin and the huge pimple on your cheek, your friends aren't doing that either. So you've got to keep that in mind. Like they're not showing the realistic kinds of versions of themselves, just like you're not. So you can't trust what you're seeing online. But it's so hard when you're just scrolling constantly and especially with tick tock, or they are on tick tock for hours and just constantly scrolling. You're not keeping that in mind. These are filtered images, these are highlight reels. And then you start to really lose kind of a connection, like a real world connection with other people or even just the ability to feel good about yourself, because it looks like everybody else is better looking than me. Everybody else is having more fun. Everyone else is smarter than me, you know, and you feel like you're not enough no matter what,

Kristen Boice 5:50

yeah, that shame of not enough. And like there's something wrong with you, you're defective, you're not thin enough, you're not smart enough, you're not pretty enough, you're not successful enough, you're not light enough, you're not popular enough, that seems to plague teens with that social media comparison.

Dr. McNally 6:04
Definitely. That's a huge part. And I know teams today, you know, I don't want to discredit them by saying that they're not aware of the filters. And they're not aware of the highlight reels because they are and they will even call out posts or they'll you know, call people thirsty or like their impression hunters like they are aware when people appear too desperate, but at the same time, they contribute to that to you know, where they contribute by the certain celebrities that they're following, or following like the popular kids at school and then being so concerned with what are the popular kids doing and oh my gosh, they're, they're going to parties, or they're doing so much more than me. And they kind of they recognise it, but only to a certain level. And then they also kind of fall into the whole cycle, have it and contribute to it as well. So when you

Kristen Boice 6:53
are working with teens, how do you help them because we know brain development brains aren't fully developed that executive prefrontal cortex, it's like the rational brain CEO of the brain tour 25. How do you work with teens to recognise the comparison of reality versus non reality or truth versus fiction?

Unknown Speaker 7:12

It's a process, you know, it's helping them become aware of first of all the types of things that they're posting themselves, and asking them why they're posting those things. And so that they think of, you know, oh, because I looked really thin, or my skin looked really good that day, or made it look like I'm really social and constantly hanging out with friends, helping them recognise those things that they do themselves. So then they can start to apply those to the images that they're seeing online, that that's probably what other people are doing. That's one thing that can help also having them take breaks from scrolling. So they can stop and check in part of one of the things that I do in my therapy boot camp is I have them do like a little bit of a cleanse like a social media cleanse, where you're looking at it with like a critical eye, you're looking at your feed and checking in with yourself about how certain things make you feel, and certain posts and certain people that you're following. And maybe you need to unfollow certain accounts, or maybe it's your cousin and you're not comfortable unfollowing her but maybe you can mute her for a while. And so she's just not popping up for the next 30 days. And then you can kind of check in and see how you feel if you notice a difference in how you feel when you're going through. I even have some teams where I have them create a whole separate account, where it's just an account that's dedicated to following things that inspire and motivate. So when they go on that account, and they're scrolling that versus their personal one, what do they notice in terms of how they feel as they're going through their social media. So it's really about helping them build that awareness. But with teens, you have to be so careful, because you can't tell them what to do. They need to figure it out themselves. So it's trying to ask the right questions to get them thinking differently. And then eventually, you'll start to see them make these little baby step shifts and changes.

Kristen Boice 9:01

That's really helpful. Parents always want to go well, what kind of questions should I ask? This is what parents want to know. Do you have questions that you really encourage parents to ask their teen?

Unknown Speaker 9:12

Yeah, so just seems like when you know, if they've been on their phone for a little while, the parent can ask something like, I've seen that you bet on your phone for the last two hours, like how are you feeling? How's your mood? Or how does your body feel? And so just a real general check in it's not a parent telling them, hey, you've been on your phone for two hours, you need to go take a walk outside, but instead kind of like checking in like, how do you feel? Do you feel any different or on a day like I'll have some families where they'll do a screen free day, so the whole family will do you know, shutting off screens for let's say, a Sunday afternoon or something, and then checking in with the team at the end of that, like so. How was it for you today? How did you feel? Did you feel like you were missing out on things? Did you feel more connected to your family? Did you feel like you weren't so distracted. So just asking those kinds of checking questions to get them thinking, and they might not give you the answers you want, you know, they might tell you, you know, after scrolling on Tik Tok for two hours, I feel great, I'm happy, I'm so excited. And then the parent could just be like, okay, great, and just kind of leave it alone. But doing that enough, you'll start to see the team will share a little bit more honest feedback. And then you can use the feedback that they're giving to help them develop a different plan on how to approach social media.

Kristen Boice 10:29

It's such an interesting conversation, because I have a 16 year old, she just turned 16 daughter, and then a 14 year old, the 16 year old does not have any social media, she came to me and she's like, can I have Instagram. So we talked about feelings that can come up the shame it can create, and how that can make her feel. And then after she had it for one day, she came to me and said, I want to delete my account. And I said, really what's going on? So she wants to get off social media, she says that she's comparing herself to other people. And she's feeling so much shame. We've taught the Word shame in our home since birth, practically. So she was able to name that and say, I want to get off this social media. So we did, she got off. And I was so proud of her for recognising how that made her feel, and the empowerment to say this isn't going to be healthy for me. You know what

Unknown Speaker 11:18

that is incredible. And I think that speaks so much to the type of non judgmental atmosphere you must have at home. Because I think a lot of times teens are scared to say something like that to parents because they might be met with and I told you so or something kind of judgy and critical. And that speaks volumes to the type of kind of open non judgmental atmosphere that she could come and just in chair, something like that was very

Kristen Boice 11:47

kind. I definitely took my deep breaths before I responded. I said, I'm so proud of you for noticing how your body felt and how you felt emotionally. And then it was creating a lot of shame and how I noticed that I go, did something happen at school? What's going on that attunement piece I could tell something was off and what was off she was feeling so much of that not good enough. It took her you know, 15 minutes to say it's really the social media because she didn't want to hear I told you so. And I knew if I went well, this is why because I've had to manage that response. When if I start with this as why that's my I told you so. And it lands a shame. So I was like, Okay, take a deep breath when you are working with teens right now, in anxiety is sky high. Would you say it's an all time high? Or what are your thoughts on that?

Unknown Speaker 12:32

Well, I know from the Surgeon General report where they talk about how it's doubled during the pandemic. But we even know that prior to the pandemic anxiety and depression were increasing among teens and tweens. So it's not that it's new, that it's increasing, or only the pandemic. I mean, if you think about all of the things that kind of contribute to anxiety and teens, when you think of real world events, like climate change, you know, social injustices, income inequality, they get that information. I'm 45. And when I was growing up, I was only aware of what was on the nightly news. And that's if my parents had it out in the background. It's not like I was watching it, where now they are getting that information fed to them through not even just if they're on Twitter, but even on Instagram, you know, where someone they follow might share something, why not. And so they are way more connected to what's going on in the world. And that has a really big impact too. And I'm sure that that contributes to anxiety. I think also that this generation is more aware of mental health issues, because we've been getting better and better and our culture of talking about mental health issues and trying to educate people about it, trying to de stigmatise it a bit so that they are feeling more comfortable talking about anxiety or saying I'm anxious or being able to put a finger on what's going on. Whereas when I was a kid, and I was anxious, I didn't know what was anxiety. I didn't know what that really I didn't know what that word meant. They now know what that word means. So they have the emotional vocabulary that previous generations didn't have.

Kristen Boice 14:16

Well, how important when we're working with anxiety, depression in teens, is it the parent relationship with the teen how important in your work? Do you see that?

Unknown Speaker 14:25

It's probably one of the biggest protective factors. There's other protective factors. So if that relationship is really poor, I don't want to stress parents out because I know that there are parents out there who are doing the absolute best they can and they still don't have a good relationship and I don't want them to think oh my gosh, then it's lights out. There's nothing I can do. There's no hope because there are a lot of protective factors in place for mental health. The parent team relationship is one of those protective factors but it is an important piece, you know, having a home environment where teens Feel safe is really important. And also where they feel safe to be themselves where they're not going to be made to feel embarrassed because you know, maybe the kind of music they like. Or maybe they're starting to question their gender identity or their sexual identity, where they're not going to be shamed or made to feel awful for those kinds of things. So when there's a relationship between a parent and teen that's open, and there's some trust there, even if they don't agree, but the team knows, I can tell my mom or dad pretty much anything, and I know they're not going to disown me, I know that they're going to kind of talk me through it, or they're not gonna make me feel awful. That definitely helps tremendously.

Kristen Boice 15:41
How do you help parents that have had this hybrid schedule with their kids, the kids are frustrated, the parents are frustrated, how do you help the family system to move through this?

Dr. McNally 15:56

Yeah, you know, one of the best things for mental health is to have a pretty consistent routine. And when things shift and change suddenly, as has been happening over the past couple of years, that isn't helpful for mental health, but especially like for kids who are prone to anxiety, or are prone to emotional dysregulation that can be a little more challenging even for them. So anything that parents can do to look ahead at schedules and put it on the family board of or put it on the fridge or in the kids room. So they know exactly what to expect for the week. Or I know, you know what you were just telling me off when we weren't recording and how things kind of shifted very quickly if this wasn't a pre planned thing. And so then you have to be able to just adjust on the fly, when the school suddenly makes a shift and change. And to maybe even expect that, yeah, this is probably going to be a tough day. Because think about even adults, we don't like it at work when stuff gets shifted, you know, if we're at work and all of a sudden a supervisor comes in in throws a meeting on our calendar for the day thinking of as an adult, how much that impacts us, that can give us some empathy for what teens are going through. Because adults don't like it either. This isn't just like a team. Just as humans, we all like routines, we like consistency, we like to know what's happening. So anything that we can do to kind of know ahead of time what's happening, but then when things shift and change on us at the last minute, maybe even planning some extra breaks during the day, or be really flexible, like, Okay, so there's a really good chance today that we're probably not gonna, you know, finish everything. And I'm just going to be okay with that I'm, as a parent, I'm going to let down my need for my kid to get all of their schoolwork done, because maybe they're just going to have some missing assignments this week. And I'm going to be okay with that. And I'm going to help my kid be okay with that too, because their mental health is more important. And then if you can, if there is the opportunity to plan a mental health day, like down the road, maybe even to look ahead and say okay, since this week, everything kind of went down the drain the school changed things on us. Let's look at next week and see where maybe there's a day where we can take the day off. And you can have a day where we're gonna go for a walk, or we're gonna go get a manicure or something to just kind of take a break from it all.

Kristen Boice 18:15

Yeah, it's interesting, as we look at the ebbs and flows of just life, and flexibility is so essential to coping with those ups and downs. And teens, like you said, and kids thrive on structure and consistency. And here we are, it's kind of a roller coaster ride. We don't know what's going to happen one minute to the next. And that's why I love therapy for kids are programmes for kids that helped them develop the ability to self soothe the ability to learn how to self regulate and deal with the shame and the fear of rejection, and abandonment and all those things, how they learn how to take care of those emotional rollercoaster rides that they can get on in parents as well. So what are some of the tools that you teach, to help parents and teens learn how to self soothe and self regulate?

Dr. McNally 19:09
As far as the tools go? One thing is, this isn't even necessarily a tool. But just thinking of on a daily basis, we have to have good mental health habits in place on a daily basis. So thinking of what are some good mental health habits that maybe I want to get into place, or maybe I already have them in place, but I need to highlight them as habits that I've created that are really good for helping me manage stress and anxiety and depression and highlight those things for teens so that they see oh, so mom does yoga, not because she's worried about weight, Mom's doing yoga because it really helps her with stress. So we want to first of all just have some really good mental health habits and if parents don't have those in place, maybe working on developing some and getting those in place. And so that might be you know, turning off devices by yourself. time every night, because what we know, you know what paediatricians say is that kids want to be off devices and screens about 90 minutes before bedtime. So parents might even want to just have like a household rule of getting enough devices by a certain time. But Parents also need to have good mental health habits in terms of how they talk to themselves, and how they talk about other people. Because those things really impact our mental health. If I'm talking, you know, if I'm constantly saying things like, if I made a mistake, and I'm talking about how dumb I am, or Oh, my God, I screwed things up again, like, Would I want my kid talking to herself like that? No. So I shouldn't be talking about myself like that. And so parents might have to work on their own self talk, they might have to work on how they talk about other people, especially around their kids. So those are just getting some really good mental health habits in place. And then once we have those in place, then we can start to add some really good tools and some things that we can do when our stress or anxiety is starting to get really high. We know one of the best things for our mental health is physical activity, it doesn't matter what it is, if it's dancing, if it's bike riding, running, yoga, whatever. But physical activity, some form of movement is one of the best things that we can do specifically for anxiety and depression. So if parents can add that as a tool, and then again, highlight it to say, I'm so stressed out about my presentation, I have to do at work tomorrow. So I'm going for a bike ride, like you guys, I'm turning off my phone, I'm going for a ride. And then when they come back to even talk about oh my god, that I feel so much better about my presentation tomorrow, like I'm not as nervous now. And so they're kind of highlighting how that tool was helpful for them. So when their teen needs something like that, they're able to say, hey, you know how I go for bike rides, like, it sounds like, we need to find something like that for you and see if that works. So physical activity is a really important tool, the deep breathing, kind of like how before we started the podcast, you'd had us take a couple of just relaxing bras, it is amazing what a couple of good deep breaths does to our central nervous system, it really does create a physiological response. And so if parents get in the habit of if their stress or anxiety is high, maybe their kid is really, really upset. And so if the parent makes a point of just doing like a nice, slow, deep breath first, before responding, they're modelling a really great tool. And they're teaching them how to kind of slow themselves down. So doing some deep breathing is really great. And then another one of my favourite tools is to have a mantra, something that we can repeat over and over to ourselves to help calm ourselves down. It could be something like it's not the end of the world, or I can do hard things, but just something that we can repeat during really tough times that's going to help just regulate and calm ourselves down above.

Kristen Boice
It is life changing. And I don't always do it. Well, the main thing that I know I noticed in my own physiology is when one of my teams, you just got to witness it, Eloise, like I'm like, can you please hold, I've got a dysregulated teen downstairs tried to work on elearning and she's screaming at her computer. I know adults do that too. And so I could feel my nervous system because I'm like, I don't want to waste Melanie's time. Here we are on the pond cat has she's so gracious enough to come on, I could just feel myself going okay, breathe through it stay regulated, because we tend to match, we can match. So if they're flipped, we're flipped, that all goes we met were south of pretty quickly. And it's hard to do. I mean, that's why I say it's practice, like you saying having doing it daily. So then when you can feel your team getting dysregulated or your kid you can go, I know what to do breathe. I know what to do, I can handle this, I can handle this, instead of going make it you want it to stop. Like that's the first thing you just want it to stop, you want them to stop, and then I'm not in control. I'm dysregulated we're all flipping our lids,

Dr. McNally 24:02

right. And you know, and because we are as humans, we're social creatures. So a lot of times what happens is we will match other people's breathing without even realising that we're doing it. So if the teen is really anxious, and their breathing is really rapid, we might also start breathing rapidly. And we don't even know that we're doing it. But then that rapid breathing, it starts to trigger that whole physiological response inside of our nervous system, which is now going to make us feel more anxious. So if we make it a practice where immediately we slow down our breathing, we are interrupting that loop. So we're not going to get as anxious, we're not going to get pulled into their anxiety, first of all, but then we might also help to calm them down because now their breathing is more likely to fall in line and start to match us. And so now they might start breathing more slowly, even if they don't intend to.

Kristen Boice 24:57
Exactly and I've watched it happen The more regulated I am the more regulated the eventually become, it may take a while. And if you can continue just to focus, put your oxygen mask on first, you know that hope aeroplane metaphor breathe through that it really does work. It's the pause, it's teaching people to get to the pause for the teen. Also, if the parent can pause first, like you said, we're modelling what that looks like, because with anxiety, we tend to go super fast. And so to disrupt the anxiety, we want to slow things down, because the anxiety wants to see, right and nervous system.

Unknown Speaker 25:32

And we are trying to not get pulled in because it is so easy to get pulled into someone else's anxiety or someone else's sense of panic. So we have to be able to do that pause and calm ourselves down. So we're not getting pulled in. But also it helps to because it creates a little bit of a boundary between us and the team. So we're not taking on their feelings as our own. And now we can be a little bit more of an observer of what's happening. And we're seeing a little bit more from the Wiseman space, that's a big part of DBT, where they talk about they teach an emotional mind, a rational mind. And then the intersection between those two is the wise mind. And that's typically where we want to be, we don't want to only be in the emotional mind, we don't only want to be in the rational mind, we want to be in that little intersection. So that's kind of what that helps us do. Where we can still have empathy, we're not being really cold, and aloof to them are what they're going through. But at the same time, we can see things from more of an observer perspective. And we might be able to help, you know, either give them space, or listen, see if they're ready to go into problem solving mode. Or if they need help coming up with a coping tool to help themselves calm down.

Kristen Boice 26:51

I think one of the greatest things I've seen over the last three years is the pandemic, it's invited us into deeper work of our own. So as a parent, and a human on this planet, to do our own healing work with teens right now is one of the greatest gifts you can offer. So I see a lot of parents want to bring their teen in, which is great to have a therapist and I think do that. And I think that's helpful. I also think parents that are willing to do some of their own inner child work, or if they're got some trauma, or they just feel so dysregulated. And so triggered by their child, the child isn't triggering them triggers already there. I feel like the whole system, the generational transmission of all these unconscious ways we've parented or been parented, or conditioned is a way to disrupt it like that parents saying, You know what, I want to also sign up and do my own work, I'm gonna also take this class, I'm gonna also listen to this podcast, read this book, do this group programme, I feel like that is really the secret sauce in a lot of ways to their support. And the parents do too.

Dr. McNally 27:58

Yeah. And it's so helpful, because then the team sees that their parent is willing to grow and evolve. Because when they see that their parent, first of all can admit that there's an issue or, you know, can admit that, hey, you know what, I've got anxiety too, or I don't handle my own stress. Well, I know that I blow up way too easily. Now the team is getting to see their parent model, something that the parent wants the kid to do, you know, the parent wants the kid to take accountability to take responsibility. Now, here's the parent modelling that. And then on top of that, the parent isn't saying, you know, by extending only the teen to therapy, and I'm saying that you're the issue, you're the problem, but I'm going to and I'm getting my own help, I'm recognising that this is a systemic issue, or this is something like we all need help. We all need support, and there's no problem. Like with getting support. I'm not embarrassed, I'm not ashamed to get support to teens, I cannot even tell you, I'm sure you're well aware. But parents out there listening, teens are paying so much attention to what they are doing. And they notice. So if a parent isn't taking care of themselves, if they are hypocritical in terms of what they're telling their kid to, you know, you need to work on this and you need to control your temper, but they're screaming it at them teams, they might sit there in the moment and just kind of be like okay, mom, but then they come to therapy. They're just like, oh my gosh, my mom needs to see paid attention to all of that.

Kristen Boice 29:36

They tell the truth does tell everything and what I tell my children, here's the key what you're saying is so powerful. There's a term called differentiation for those that are listening. I've done an episode on it where we can have our own thoughts, feelings, opinions, emotions that are not exactly the same as the family system and the parents or the family system. The caregivers can tolerate it their window of tolerance because well that's okay. That's healthy. I'm not threatened by it. That and that is the key work is the parent can hear that feedback to say, my kids will tell me because I've allowed them to tell me the truth. And they'll say, Mom, you just said, calm yourself down. But you're all worked up. It was okay. Yes. Thank you for that feedback. You're exactly right. Radical ownership. Yeah, thank you. Like, I can tolerate it. It doesn't mean my feelings aren't gonna be hurt. They're not trying to hurt my feelings. They're trying to help wake me like they're trying to give me truths of things I need to hear to grow. Now, they're not responsible for helping me grow. That's not their job. That's my job. So that is like, they're able to differentiate and have their own thoughts, feelings and opinions, and it's not threatening to you, it actually creates more connection, I feel like that creates less anxiety for kids, that they're not like hiding, they're not masking, placating trying to please all these defence mechanisms that we've learned to survive, they can actually speak truth with love and grace.

Dr. McNally 30:55

And absolutely in those that type of if their truth is different than a parent's, it doesn't have to mean that the relationship isn't healthy. And actually, that's a sign of a very healthy relationship, when you can have very different opinions and thoughts and feelings on things. And yet you can still support each other. And when parents take that as a threat, then like you said, All they're doing is causing all of these other defence mechanisms to come into place. And then the teens grow up to be adults who now have to unlearn all of that stuff.

Kristen Boice 31:30

Oh, my gosh, this is such a good conversation, because I feel like that's the crux, if we can create an environment where we can handle all the emotions now in a respectful way, they're going to get dysregulated that's part of the journey, I get dysregulated. I mean, this is part of my work, right, we all just soothe myself. And when we can say you know what, I really do want to know the truth. I'm not just saying I really do want to know the truth of how you feel that takes a secure self

Dr. McNally 31:58

100%. And you know, in for parents who don't quite feel like they're there, they're ready to do that. One thing that I've had a lot of parents do with a lot of success is they keep a journal that is just between them in their teen. So whichever parent is going to keep the journal and sometimes Mom Will have her own separate one with the teen and dad will have their own separate one. And everyone's in agreement. No one else is looking at this journal. So let's say mom and the team have their own special journal where they're writing back and forth to each other in it. And sometimes that can be a really good way to start this because it gives you time to kind of digest what they're saying, and to work through any feelings that pop up. So if you notice that you feel really time to read something that your team's written in, you instantly just tense up and you don't know how to handle it. It's like, okay, good thing. This is through journal, because I have time to kind of work on this to cope with it a little bit to calm myself down to figure out how I can respond from that wise mind spot paper space. And so then I can continue to build this really great, healthy, honest relationship with them.

Kristen Boice 33:05

I love it. Do you find that they want to text rather than write in a journal? Some kids love journaling? And some kids don't?

Dr. McNally 33:12

Yeah, I have had. It's funny because I constantly suggest journaling, like, Can we do this in a group text instead? And so absolutely, if a group text works better, or just a text between just one parent and the teen, if that works better, because you know, it's more instant, the only problem with the texting is that it doesn't give you quite the same amount of time to digest. Because people expect with texting, they expect that immediate response. And if let's say your kid tells you something that, you know, like, I can't sit on this too long. Maybe they're telling me they're coming out to me, I can't sit on this too long. I need to say something bad, but maybe the parent feels really dysregulated. So that's the only issue with the texting part. It doesn't give you that time to regulate. Whereas with a journal, they're leaving it with you before they go to school. They know they're not getting it back until night. That gives you a lot more time to process.

Kristen Boice 34:05
I agree. I agree totally. Is there anything else that you would offer that we didn't cover on just the state of teens now in how to help them how to hold space, how to be present with their pain or their fears or their shame that we didn't cover?

Unknown Speaker 34:24

I guess some one thing that comes to mind is just helping them figure out what they have control over and what they don't have control over. So when we think about anxiety or mental health in general, when we think of current events, and it can be really overwhelming. Let's just take wildfires, for example, where maybe a kid on the East Coast is reading about wildfire on the West Coast. That's obviously something out of their control, but it's having a huge impact on them to teach them. Okay, what part of this Do we have control over and what choices can we make that will help us feel empowered? Howard so that maybe we're doing something to help the environment, maybe we're going to ride our bikes to school instead of getting a ride every day or once a couple days a week, something so they feel empowered, but then the things that they have absolutely no control over, like watching the news of the wildfires, they have no control over that. So now we have to figure out a way to let that go. And I know that can be really hard for teens and for adults too. But we have to find ways to let that go. And so that might be through teaching meditation, teaching them some yoga, that's for relaxation, it might be doing like a news fast in the house or limiting time on devices. So we're not doing scrolling, but helping with that distinction between what you have control over what you don't have control over and then being able to problem solve for those certain parts and let go of the others. That's helpful.

Kristen Boice 35:54

And then that kind of ties into hyper fixation, where teens kind of hyper fixate on something. Do you see a lot of that as well?

Unknown Speaker 36:02

Yeah, it depends. You know, the kids with ADHD, definitely, that tends to be a little bit more of an issue. I feel like with so many teams, they're just bombarded with so much that sometimes I almost see the opposite. Because they can't stay on one thing for long. It's like Dave Chappelle said it best in one of his standup skits, when he said, how teens today, it's like experiencing 911 Every day where they see one, you know, news event that's like really traumatic, but don't worry, a few hours later, there's going to be another one, you know, they're just constantly experiencing that so that they end up jumping from one crisis to another.

Kristen Boice 36:39

Yeah, it's really something I mean, because it's opened up, like you said, We're the same age fairly close in age and our parents that we just had the news on, I mean, and that was already I remember seeing in the background, and some of those things were traumatic. So here we are trying to help them be able to deal with hard things. That's what we're trying to do. equip them, help them name their emotions, process them, acknowledge them offer empathy, allow a space for truth telling, I just feel like that is the key offer a space now is it going to be pretty all the time No, just like today when mine was having a meltdown over the computer. And she has the tools just like I have the tools. And sometimes I lead Glitz flipped and and then accessing the tools.

Unknown Speaker 37:23

But yeah, and you just made me think of something else that a lot of times these things don't have to happen at these like pretty little moments. So around the dinner table, or you know, at a yoga retreat, these moments like these opportunities come up, you know, in car rides, or on a day home from school to do elearning like they pop up constantly, but they're not going to necessarily be structured time. So it's kind of like, okay, here's an opportunity, here's a chance for me to give them space and to help them process like you said, but also to help them figure out how to cope with this.

Kristen Boice 37:59

So glad you said that. Because people like it's not a good time. I'm like, there's micro moments of time, where if you're paying attention, and you can stay regulated, because they get afraid they're gonna trigger their teen or they're gonna upset their team. And that holds them back from having some of these really powerful conversations,

Unknown Speaker 38:15

right. And teens are they are aware of what's going on, they are aware of what's going on at home and in the world a lot more so than I think a lot of adults give them credit for so parents usually aren't protecting them. And instead, when they don't bring up certain things, all they're doing is teaching them that that's a topic that's off limits.

Kristen Boice 38:35

Yes. And then they start to doubt themselves. Like, if we name it, and you're like, yeah, what you saw in the house, so and so has an issue or whatever it is. They go Oh, I knew it. They begin to trust themselves. They develop self trust, that they weren't just they know it, but then they can get talked out of it or if it's ignored or not named or hidden. Even though it's still there. It becomes this almost like a mind game. Like, is my reality true? Is my reality. Not true? I know it is but they're saying it's not or they're just not acknowledging it,

Unknown Speaker 39:07

right? Oh my gosh, yes. That's like a whole other episode. Yeah, with some of the gaslighting that goes on in homes that yeah, definitely teens are aware and they need to build that skill of trusting themselves and and parents can help by normalising certain things, but also naming things not being ashamed of something, you know, if there's like a marital conflict or issue, to be honest about it, but from a developmentally appropriate way. You don't want your team to become your confidant or your friend, but just something that yeah, you know what, Dan and I are having some issues, but we're working with a marriage therapist, and we're working on this, but sometimes you might see us get really frustrated with one another, but that's why we're in therapy together as opposed to trying to hide it behind a closed door.

Kristen Boice 39:55

eautiful thank you so much. I love this conversation. If it was the first where I'm like in, we're having a team have a meltdown in the middle of having the team specialists, the team expert here on the podcast. So powerful. I think it was just exactly how it was meant to go. So where can people find you? I know you have some exciting things I mentioned about the beginning. But where can they find you in your work?

Unknown Speaker 40:19

Yeah, so Well, if you're on social people can follow me at Dr. Melanie McNally. I have a website, which is destination u.net. And if you go to the website, too, you'll see that I have some self guided programmes, one of which is called therapy boot camp. And that's one that you had mentioned earlier, where it starts April 4, that's my next cohort. But therapy boot camp, I'm really excited about it. It's an eight week app based programme for tweens and teens where they learn I kind of walk them through almost what I do for the first eight weeks of therapy with my clients where Week One is about building self awareness. You know, another week is all about learning how to trust your body and identify signs and symptoms of anxiety in your body, knowing when they're warning signs knowing when you need to ignore them. Another week is all about coping tools for really hard feelings. There's a week that's about interpersonal skills. So each week has a different topic. And then they need about 15 to 30 minutes a day, they get an exercise or an activity based on that week's topic. And throughout the entire bootcamp, we can chat so there's a an ability to chat, not just with me, but with other boot campers.

Kristen Boice 41:32

That's exciting. I can tell you're excited about it.

Unknown Speaker 41:36

I'm so excited. I'm getting such great feedback from the I just launched it this year. So my first cohort is already getting such great feedback from them from the parents. My next you know cohort that starts April 4. I already have you know, a waitlist where I'm going to kind of divide them up by age. So I'm going to do the the tweens are going to have their own cohort, the teens. But I'm really excited because I just feel like it's such a great accessible way for teens and tweens to get mental health support. And it's on their phone, which they already are on constantly anyways. But now they're on it for something that's going to promote good mental health.

Kristen Boice 42:16

This sounds fantastic. So I'm excited for you. Yes, go check it out. Go check out the programme and Melanie's work and all the important impactful transformational things you're doing. Thank you so much. I had loved our time together and look forward to another conversation at some point.
Dr. McNally 42:35

Yes, thank you so much. I loved our conversation too. Thank you for having me.

Kristen Boice 42:39
Thank you so so much. Thank you so much for listening to the close the chapter podcast. My hope is that you took home some actionable steps, along with motivation, inspiration and hope for making sustainable change in your life. If you enjoyed this episode, click the subscribe button to be sure to get the updated episodes every week and share it with a friend or family member. For more information about how to get connected visit Kristin k r i s t e n d Boice Bo IC e.com Thanks and have a great day.