0:00:02 – Speaker 1
Welcome to the nextTalk podcast, where we share real stories and practical advice for parenting the digital world.
0:00:09 – Speaker 2
We’re your hosts, Mandy and Kim. Mandy is an award-winning author and the founder of nextTalk, and I’m the director of nextTalk, a nonprofit organization created to strengthen families through open communication. You can check out all of our resources at nextTalk.org.
0:00:24 – Speaker 1
We’re wives, moms and friends tackling culturally relevant topics from a Christian perspective. We’re sharing what we’ve learned and where we’ve failed. We’re so glad you’re here for this conversation.
0:00:37 – Speaker 2
So it’s me, kim, today, and Mandy’s not here, but in her place is our incredible Jamie Mershan. She is an MA LPC, She serves on our advisory council and she is our amazing counselor. That’s a part of our counseling program And I have to tell you, since the day that we have met her, she has changed lives, not only for us, but those that we send her way. An ongoing theme that we hear is I didn’t know there were counselors like that in the world, and so, jamie, welcome to the show.
0:01:11 – Speaker 3
Thank you for having me. It’s always a treat. I get excited As much as I love being in the counselor chair. this is a fun way to mix it up. So thank you for having me.
0:01:22 – Speaker 2
Absolutely Well, jamie. Even though she helps us and partners with us, she’s also a mom. She has three little girls and a wife to her sweet husband, and she’s a busy lady. I mean, she does a lot, she’s skilled in trauma therapy and ETT, which is emotional transformation therapy, and she’s often booked out for a while because she’s so good at what she does.
And so that was kind of the foundation of why we wanted to do this show is, we get contacted all the time by families who are struggling through something or they realize that there’s a need beyond what they can address, and so they want counseling, and there’s not a lot of great counselors out there. Especially if you’re looking for a Christian counselor. It’s hard to find, let’s just be honest. And so here, mandy and I were sitting over here, you know, taking all these calls and talking through these things and thinking, once people are able to get a counseling appointment, in the meantime, what do they do? Are there things that we can suggest or encourage parents to consider while they’re waiting for counseling? And so that’s why we wanted to have you on today.
0:02:29 – Speaker 3
Yeah, and I think that’s such a worthy and important topic to address because you’re right, and especially when you’re working with teens, they often find themselves in crisis mode and when they’re in crisis they want to go right now. And so that’s what’s so hard is in the waiting. Sometimes a crisis, you know, can figure itself out, or they can lose hope, or they can just get to a really dark place and they come up with their own solutions, and oftentimes those solutions can be very dangerous and very dark. And so that is the first question we want to just kind of access with our child is how dark and how dangerous is their place of crisis? Are we talking about self-harm? Are we talking about suicide? And if that is a situation, 911, emergency room or a crisis facility is always going to be our first route. But if they are not in that place, then the next question is, you know, and I’ve said this before is oftentimes they don’t want to go away, but they want a problem or a feeling to go away. So what is the problem? you want to go away, or what is the feeling that they want to go away? And sometimes they may not even be able to tell you the feeling because they may not even have the words to put to it.
And so if you just Google or even go on Amazon and put feelings wheel, that is a great tool for parents. And what I like about that is when we think about feelings we often think of just sad, happy, just kind of like generic feelings. And what I like about the feelings wheel is it takes it deeper, so it might take sadness and it takes it to disappointment and disappointment to shame, And so maybe somebody would initially say shame, but when you go from sad to disappointment to shame, you kind of trace it. Well, how do we go from sad to shame? And you can go through it. So I think that’s always a great tool and then allow them to feel okay, just to sit with it and not judge it.
Feelings aren’t good or bad, they’re needed. So essentially what I tell kids is like you know, somebody hits your dog with their car. What feeling is needed? Sadness and mad. Right, god created us where we need feelings and no other feeling would make sense in that situation. So you know if your friends are spreading rumors about you or they posted, you know, an inappropriate picture, it is good and right to feel mad. It is good and right to feel Shame because they just exposed something about you. That’s an appropriate feeling that you need to feel and you need to sit With that feeling. Now it’s not fun and it’s not comfortable, but it would make sense to sit with it.
0:05:27 – Speaker 2
That’s so good. So I love how you kind of did that in steps. You know that first question is assessing, you know, is it dangerous or is it a struggle, and kind of making that delineation So you know what kind of help to get your kid. And then moving into the feelings, like what is what’s going on, and then addressing those feelings And normalizing them. That’s so healthy because I think a lot of times I know with my kids There have been times where they’re struggling with something and they don’t know the word for the feeling. Like you said, they don’t. They don’t know how to express that, they just know that they feel something and giving our kids words sometimes is so powerful Just for them to be able to name it and normalize it like it’s okay that you feel that way.
0:06:11 – Speaker 3
Exactly and just even asking them like, where do you feel it in your body? You know, do you feel it in your chest, do you feel it in your legs? You know so lots of times, things between your head and your heart It’s grief, so maybe there’s something that they lost. Or if it’s in your legs, um, it just can just you feel stuck, and if it’s in your hips and lower back, it can often mean just we’re struggling with boundaries, and so maybe they feel like you know, they’re stuck in a situation where they’re people pleasing, or they feel like, you know, they’re just always bending to what everyone else needs. And so those are really good questions asked Where do you feel it in your body? and then even Equipping them on just a breathing technique, and so a very simple one is just one, four, two.
And so it’s just breathe in for one, hold for four and Breathe out for two, and that’s just a really Great way. Let’s get oxygen and just kind of reset you. And so sometimes kids, they don’t want to talk about it and that’s okay, but just giving them that really simple tool of just hey, one, four, two, put that in their planner for school, put it on their phone, just a reminder. Hey, buddy, you know. Hey, hey, sweetie, just breathe one, four, two and just giving them that tool of just knowing. If you don’t want to talk about it, breathe it out.
0:07:38 – Speaker 2
I love that. That’s just real practical. You could even text that to your kid. You know, hey, struggling today, one, four, two. Remember You said something that reminded me that sometimes they don’t want to talk. So let’s say, you know your kid’s struggling and you’ve got this counseling appointment is a couple months out and You think, okay, i’m gonna go in there and, you know, crawl into bed with them and they just don’t want to talk, or you’re in the car. Do you have any ideas on how to get them to open up a little bit that are simple, that mom or dad could do?
0:08:08 – Speaker 3
Yeah, i think that is such a great question And I think one of the things is is, sometimes you know it’s understanding how your kid may process. So some of them may be a verbal processor, so they just they don’t need you to fix anything, they just need you to listen. So you can even just ask that question Do you just need me to listen, or do you need feedback? Or hey, is there a song that really speaks to how you’re feeling right now? Do you want to just listen, to do it together? And so I always say, when your kids are even going through something, sometimes just like Hey, you know, if there’s a playlist, let’s make a playlist. You know, a lot of times kids will process things through music. Or do you want to draw this out, process it through creativity, or even asking just, you know, we can have a journal of writing back and forth.
If you don’t want to talk about it, we can write things like, you can write to me, i can write back to you, you know, and I think the biggest thing is that you can write to me. The biggest thing is you don’t have to tell me everything you’re going through, but you need to know that you don’t have to go through it alone, and if you’re not ready to talk to me, i need you to know, though, it’s not your job to carry this alone and not to let yourself get in a dark place where you feel like you have to carry this alone, and so if you just need to come into bed with me or you just text me a certain emoji, it just means that you’re just not in a safe place and you don’t trust yourself with your feelings and thoughts, and you’re scared with how you’re feeling. We don’t even have to talk If you just need to come into bed with me or we just need to watch a movie. You know, sometimes kids just they don’t even, like I said earlier, they don’t have the words to it, but they just need your presence, or they just don’t want to be alone.
Or you know, mom, you had that dinner tonight that you and dad were going to go to. Can you just stay home tonight?
0:09:57 – Speaker 2
Yes, that you know what. I’m so glad you said that, because one of the things we run into with parents a lot when we’re talking to them about these hard conversations is they’ll say I didn’t know I needed to say that. Of course they know I’m here for them, Of course they know I love them, Or if they need to talk to me, that I’m here And I just, you know, I want to encourage parents to hear what Jamie’s saying. You have to say it. You have to say it not just once. It’s an ongoing conversation. It’s a saying it in different ways and finding that way to continually remind your kids I’m on your team, I’m with you in this. You don’t have to be alone, And that’s just such a powerful tool that we forget sometimes because we think they know.
0:10:38 – Speaker 3
Yeah, and two, it can also be, you know, a thing like what are things that we need to maybe take a break from right now? So there might be things in their lives, like you know, there’s certain music that might be more dark. Or they’re following certain people on social media And it’s like you know you’re really struggling with this And they’re talking a lot about dark stuff. Or I noticed that you know they’re talking a lot about things that don’t really have a lot of hope in them. Or you’re listening to a lot of music that talks about dying.
Sometimes we can connect to that if we’re grieving or if you know we’re going through something hard, but then there’s other times where it feeds into a narrative or it makes us feel more depressed, and so maybe even just kind of doing an inventory of what your child is in putting into their brain at that time, like what are you reading, what are you, you know, because when kids are going through something hard, they’re avoiding them escaping through something What they’re reading, what they’re seeing, what they’re listening to, what they’re watching, and so it might just kind of be doing an inventory, too, of what are you inputting right now, what is helping and what is hurting or what is kind of weighing you down even more.
0:11:53 – Speaker 2
So you know we’re always saying that as you’re parenting a cell phone or their devices or their tablet, it’s really important to do those random checks. And it’s not just to find pornography or just to find a Toxic text message, it’s also to kind of get a sense of what your kid is putting into their psyche and their heart and their mind. And I mean I will crack up sometimes when I’m doing a random phone check because I’m like, okay, so this is the space my kid is in. That makes sense. And so it’s really like a parenting tip too, even if you’re in a healthy space, like Get a sense of where their head is at by seeing what they’re putting into their mind. And and then also when they are struggling, like you said, it can give you, you know, some information on how to talk to them. You know about creating some boundaries there. I think that’s so great, like taking a break from the toxic stuff.
0:12:46 – Speaker 3
Yeah, yeah, and just using that word right now, because they’re looking for a sense of control, because something feels out of control. Yeah. So just even just saying, hey, we’re gonna take a break from some things right now, you know, good, yeah, that kind of makes them kind of feel a little more disarmed. You’re not saying forever, you’re not saying like I’m taking this away, hey, let’s take a break from some of things right now. Or, you know, let’s go for a walk and talk. And sometimes that’s good too, because kids just feel That eye-to-eye can be really hard when they’re struggling with something They might feel exposed or they don’t know how to put the words to it. So even just saying, you know, taking a break from something right now, You’re like, okay, well, what do we feel our time with? and so maybe that looks like we’re gonna go for a walk Or we’re gonna add some movement. And movement is so great, and I think what is good about that is because it’s like that parallel you know it’s not eye-to-eye kids are so used to, you know, looking down that eye contact can be really intimidating sometimes. And so just movement pairing with either We’re just not gonna talk, we’re just gonna go for a walk, or maybe a walk and talk, you know, and it doesn’t have to be anything over the top.
I think too, for parents It’s just more than anything. We would love Just our child to open up and we would love to almost be their therapist and for it to be this intimate thing, but to also just keep our expectations just realistic. If it’s like if all we do is walk And we got them out of the house and got fresh air, that’s a win right. I mean, even as a therapist I feel that same way You. They got on the couch and they shared one song with me It’s a win right. Naturally, some kids are like I couldn’t wait to come to therapy and they open up, and some kids That’s just not their style and that’s okay, and so it’s just knowing your kid, having realistic expectations and just knowing where the wins are and not Pressuring them or having the unrealistic expectation.
0:14:49 – Speaker 2
You know it’s funny because you shifted naturally into what I was gonna ask you next, which is, i think sometimes as parents, when we know our kids are struggling, we can kind of go into panic mode because We don’t know what’s happening or we’re afraid of where they’re thinking or what they might do. What are some things that maybe can be not helpful as we’re waiting for that counseling appointment?
0:15:13 – Speaker 3
That’s a great question. I think one of the things that I say is keep it the right size. So sometimes, when things are going on, we can catastrophize and we can take, you know, something that’s like an apple and turn it into a watermelon. Yeah, we can take something that’s an apple and we can minimize it and make it a grape, and so this kind of almost is insightful for how we deal things in our personalized as a parent. So maybe we’re so overwhelmed by the situation where we’re like, oh, it’s not that bad, so we want to take something and we want to make it smaller because that makes us feel better, because it’s like we’re freaking out, so we minimize it and it’s like it’s fine.
You know, kids are going through stuff after the pandemic and we minimize it and we don’t see how serious it is. And then sometimes We, you know, are so nervous and so panicked. We take an apple and we turn it into a watermelon and we’re like, oh, my word, you know they’re gonna kill themselves. And I haven’t slept and I have an eight and I’ve called four different places to get them admitted And, like mom, all I said was I just feel sad. Sometimes, you know, they don’t have a plan, nothing like that. So I think that what I mean is keep it the right size, and so if it is a watermelon, let’s act accordingly, right? If it is an apple, let’s act accordingly, and if it’s a grape, let’s act accordingly.
So I think it’s just really meeting the child where there’s at, and it’s really just letting them know that we have them, because they’re freaking out and You may be freaking out, and that’s fair and right, and that’s where you call your people or your pastor or Spouse or your friends, but doing your best even to do the one, four, two, as you’re walking them through that and just Saying you know what, this is really hard, but we’re gonna get through this, i’m gonna make some phone calls, or or just stop and say, hey, let’s pray about this, mm-hmm, let’s come up with a plan and let’s see if we need to make some phone calls, or let’s see who we need to get involved in this to make sure you’re safe, or we get you the proper Help while we’re waiting for counseling. And so I think, just knowing that you have a plan and just knowing that the child sees, okay, my parent knows how to handle this. My parent is equipped on Unnavigating this yeah, that’s such great advice.
0:17:46 – Speaker 2
And you know that parent filter we talk about that all the time too. You know when your kids bring you something crazy, and so it’s that same thing. You know hearing them out and not losing your mind, because I think too sometimes kids like match our emotion. You know, if I’m freaking out then they’re like, oh, maybe I should be freaking out too. And so that’s goes back to your point number one of really assessing where your kid is at, and that means listening to them. I know when your kid hearing what’s really going on. If they are just saying sometimes I’m sad, it’s okay for them to sometimes be sad. We don’t have to make it a watermelon.
0:18:21 – Speaker 3
Right, exactly, and letting them know like, yeah, that in normalizing that, because they’re gonna feel that feeling again, and Getting them comfortable with you. Know, if your friend didn’t want to sit with you at lunch, yeah, i would be sad too, and just that’s a very normal thing that kids go through. When it makes sense that you’re sad, it’s probably best that you just sit with that for a little bit. You want me to sit next to you or how can I help you work through that? But just letting them know that they’re gonna be okay. But that is a normal feeling to feel.
And so sometimes we go in to fix it and we want to. We’re uncomfortable that they’re sad or we feel bad that they’re sad, but they have to get comfortable with feeling, a natural feeling that fits the situation. So we want to be careful too that we don’t go into fix it mode, that we Organically just help them navigate What they’re feeling and kind of I always call it a wave, but like a wave comes in and it goes back out. So how do we sit with the wave, how do we normalize the wave and then, okay, wow, how exactly did you do that? How did you allow yourself to be sad and you worked through that and now you’re laughing at dinner. It’s kind of good to ask them like how did you do that? And that’s good. That’s reflect on how did they move from sadness to oh, now I’m in a better place.
0:19:50 – Speaker 2
And what a great tool to learn as a kid How to navigate life essentially. I mean, this is what you’re saying, because that’s just a part of life sad, mad, all those emotions named earlier. That’s not ever going away. Yeah, so used to numbing with Netflix games on our phone, videos, whatever it is. Substances that to be able to sit with something and learn how to do that at a young age and learn a healthy coping mechanism Right lift to your kid Absolutely, and that’s something that I think you know a lot of parents are not Coming in with.
0:20:26 – Speaker 3
They did not learn that. Yeah, i learned that. So if you can make them uncomfortable Or they don’t feel equipped, so it’s something you can learn together. You know, and it’s even as your child is learning, to be comfortable with sitting in their sadness. You’re learning to be comfortable with seeing your child hurt and not feeling that you need to rescue or fix Because your child being sad or your child being wounded or your child being rejected That is, that’s part of growing up, and we want to wrecks, rescue and fix, but then your child doesn’t know how to sit with those uncomfortable feelings and so, as they’re learning, we can be learning too.
0:21:05 – Speaker 2
I Love that and I, um, i feel that, like I I mean, i noticed my own patterns. You know I like Or numb with food and that was hoping mechanism. I realized I was passing that on to my kids, even even celebrating, you know with what you could happen. Ice cream, okay. Okay, we feel sad. Ice cream, okay, like It’s so true We can learn with our kids, and not to shame ourselves for the fact that we don’t have all the answers. You know we are still learning and it’s okay. It’s okay to develop these skills later in life. The fact is, if we’re trying, i think that’s what really counts.
0:21:47 – Speaker 3
Yes, I agree, And it’s just that growth mindset And you know it’s feelings are needed And I think it’s recognizing when feelings become authoritative And that’s not good when we’re being controlled by them. But you know, when we do see, okay, Lord, you did create me with feelings and I need to honor that. You know I’ve been sinned against or I’ve been hurt And I’m worthy to feel that hurt. And then there’s times where it’s like, okay, I am not trusting God with this And I am being ruled by my emotions. And it’s been two days And I am still just, you know, bitter at this person And I am angry And I am cussing, And you know that’s a different conversation, And so I think it’s figuring out how do I honor myself And I am worthy to feel, But how do I honor God with my feelings?
0:22:37 – Speaker 2
So good Always. Jamie, is there anything else you know, as parents are waiting for some help you know with their kids, anything else that you want to encourage our moms and dads with?
0:22:49 – Speaker 3
Yeah, i think the other thing, too is just practical things, right, like tech time, what are they eating, how is their sleep.
I’m just a lot of practical things that we can be doing that can just be super helpful, you know, and your child may fight you on it, you know, but once they get in a better sleeping pattern or they’re eating, you know, more healthy or just more consistently, or just maybe even spending more time as a family and stuff like that, those are just practical things that I think that are always helpful because they just feel just overall better health, and so we sometimes can forget those things that we put so much stock in a therapist and like, oh, my word, you know like they’re the ones that are going to fix it. But it’s like, you know, we, we have a God who cares more than a therapist, more than you, and loves your child so dearly, and just the power of prayer and all the practical things that we can do. But then also that discernment as a parent of just praying over your child and just really leaning in and just that Holy Spirit of just prompting conversations too.
0:24:01 – Speaker 2
Yeah, i’m glad that you mentioned those practical things, because they do sort of go by the wayside sometimes where we get all caught up in the emotion. Even one I had a kid that was struggling with something and so much of it was fixed by adjusting his food for blood sugar drops, which didn’t realize he was so sensitive to that, and it was like, oh, you’re back, you know, and so it’s true, sometimes it can be a simple thing, and I love that you added on that. At the end of the day, the Holy Spirit is going to guide us in our conversation. God gave us these kids. He will equip us, and it’s just so imperative that we’re leaning into that and trusting that God can give us answers.
As far as counseling goes, being able to know when your kid needs a counselor is so important, and even though we’re having to wait a long time because there is a lack of really good counselors, these tips are gold, jamie gold. Just a great way to support our kids in the waiting, which sometimes feels so desperate and lonely and scary. But you’ve made it feel accessible, you’ve made it feel doable, and so thank you for spending the time to share with us today.
0:25:11 – Speaker 3
Of course, I’m so happy that I was able to join you today, Ken.
0:25:14 – Speaker 1
Thank you so much for joining us, listening and sharing our podcast. Because of you, this show is in the top 5% of over 2.9 million podcasts.
0:25:26 – Speaker 2
We have lots of resources for you, from counseling to live events. Or if you have a show idea or a question for our team, visit our website at nextTalk.org. We’d love to hear from you.
0:25:37 – Speaker 1
At nextTalk. We’re more than cyber parenting. It’s conversations to connect.
0:25:42 – Speaker 3
This podcast is not intended to replace the advice of a trained healthcare or legal professional, or to diagnose, treat or otherwise render expert advice regarding any type of medical, psychological or legal problem. Listeners are advised to consult a qualified expert for treatment.
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