I don’t often endorse books because if I did, I’d probably have 100 books waiting at my mailbox every day. However, when renowned Child and Family Therapist, Parent Educator, Advice Columnist and Registered Clinical Counselor Michele Kambolis sits down to write, people like me usually listen. For those who don’t know about Michele, not only listening, but putting her strategies in place for the health of your children is simply one of the smartest moves you can make!
In a recent conversation, I had the opportunity to find out more about Michele and why her new book Generation Stressed; Play-Based Tools to Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety is a must have for every parent and caregiver of children regardless of the current emotional state of their children.
Many times when we hear of strategies to help kids that come from therapists, to be honest, we cringe at getting bogged down with intense language and thoughts on cognitive behavioral therapy. That is not always the biggest help when parents are simply trying to get by on little time and find the best way possible to help their kids reach optimal health both physically and behaviorally. In this book, Michele makes it easy for all of us at every stage to simply “get it” and work through it. She says “first and foremost I’m a parent.” As a child therapist of 18 years and living with her own kids, she has a real life view of the nuances of raising kids inclusive of gauging stress and anxiety levels. She also notes that the Anxiety and Depression Association of America states 1 in 8 kids in today’s world has a clinical level of anxiety with many more on a lower level and this needs to be taken seriously.
I asked Michele some questions to help me understand why parents and caregivers need to have this particular book on hand and what we can do to help our kids:
Me: What are the red flags of stressed or anxious children?
Michele: “Anxiety is an internal state, so often missed because it’s hard to describe, even for adults. Along with the obvious symptoms like fear and panic, keep an eye out for soft signs; headaches, stomach-aches, sleep problems, irritability, problems at school and even temper tantrums can signal elevated stress and anxiety.”
Me: What are must do things parents should pay attention to and what are complete no-no’s in the caregiving/parenting process?
Michele: “More than 80 percent of kids say what stresses them the most is their parents’ stress. Let’s settle our own internal waters first! (No-No’s) – Shaming, judging and powering over kids. When we impose our agenda without taking a moment to really hear what our child is thinking and feeling, we lose the chance to help them feel safe in our presence. We fail to guide them towards key skills like self regulation and problem solving.”
Me: Why do you feel anxiety is an issue in today’s society and what do you think is causing childhood stress and anxiety?
Michele: “We live in a culture of disconnect – both parents and kids describe being lonely. One out of five say they have no one to talk with when life gets hard. And our locus of control has changed drastically; how much wealth you have, how famous or beautiful you are and how many likes you have on Instagram matter more than it should. When play,connection and purpose replace the external obsessions, anxiety dissolves. Childhood has fundamentally changed and the list of risks to our children is long. This generation is more hurried, worried and over-scheduled than ever. Lifestyles have changed, with many families struggling to meet nutrition and activity guidelines. But parents are the greatest buffer children have in the face of stress.”
Me: What are your best tips to help kids?
Michele: “Children are capable of something extremely powerful. They can consciously choose certain thoughts and actions that can strengthen the part of their brain that increases resiliency and combats the physical and emotional impact of stress. Tools like mindful meditation, progressive relaxation and negative thought busting can help kids observe their thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judgment. It is very empowering. Imagine taking the negative thoughts that go hand in hand with stress, like “I can’t do it” or “It’s too scary” and blowing those thoughts into a balloon and letting it go. See the balloon (and thought) fly all around the room! Then imagine breathing the opposite thought, like “Maybe I CAN do it” or “I can be brave” into your mind instead.”
This is Michele’s first book and she’s done a terrific job. Coming from being an advice columnist, she has learned a lot about her own growth as she has written this book to help others.Personally, I have to admit the balloon exercise that came along with her book was a “must try” on my end after a long day of trying meetings. And yes….it helped me let it all go.
Finally, when I asked Michele what it was that she ultimately wanted parents and caregivers to know she responded:
Michele: “Two things. First, I want parents to know when we clear away as much of our own emotional interference as is realistically possible, we can head down the path of our highest parenting purpose, living the message that children and parents matter to each other. Second, I’d love to see this generation of children become anxiety free, better able to hold their authentic voice, with the tools they need to thrive. They will make the world their own better place.”
Parenting is never easy but when given tools like this one from Michele Kambolis, we can certainly handle bumps along the way a little better and that is what may make all the difference in the lives of your children.
Michele Kambolis (MA) is a registered Child and Family Therapist and Parent Educator and a Registered Clinical Counselor dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues. Kambolis writes a popular weekly parenting advice column, “Parent Traps” for The Vancouver Sun and Postmedia network chain of newspapers.