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Empowering Parents: Effective Strategies for Parenting Anxious Children [Podcast]


I am excited to share this podcast with you, where I dive into a great conversation about parenting anxious kids on the Ani +Wren podcast!

As you may already know, my passion lies in supporting families and helping children thrive in their mental health. In this podcast, I share valuable insights, practical strategies, and evidence-based interventions specifically tailored for parents with anxious children. We explore the world of child development, discuss the crucial role that our behaviour plays in our children’s anxiety, and uncover effective tools to empower your kids.

Join me as we talk about the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the challenges of raising anxious children.


Or listen here on Apple Podcasts:

Dr. Zia joined Ani & Wren on The GOODS

Remember, you are not alone.

If you are struggling with a child who experiences anxiety please reach out. I offer a number of group and individual options to support caregivers and children.

Dr. Zia Lakdawalla - Foundations for Emotional Wellness



Tools for Parenting Anxious Kids with Dr. Zia – via YouTube

(00:02) one two three four [Music] welcome Zia Lakdawalla to the podcast thanks for having me we are so excited to have you here um I’m sadly can’t be here because I know she wanted to be part of this conversation um but I have all the questions and we’ll do a little intro before we kind of get into it you’re a child psychologist I am with a focus on kids Mental Health okay and maybe you can just kind of share with our listeners a little bit about yourself before we get into it okay so I’m a Child and Adolescent

(00:44) psychologist I have been practicing how long now over 10 years and I’ve done a variety of things I did my training in the states and then when I moved back I started my career in in Community Mental Health and I worked there for a little while and then I wanted to get more practice doing direct service and working with families and so I worked in a variety of different private practices and now I am on my own and I do a lot of work with parents over covid my practice has like shifted pretty significantly just trying

(01:17) to get more information out to families help parents more support more we sort of got inundated around the pandemic yeah yeah so um so I do a lot of parenting intervention I do a lot of group work now and I’m pretty passionate about disseminating good evidence-based parent interventions hope you don’t mind my dog on you he loves loves being on the podcast okay I have a new audience um and yeah so that’s that’s pretty much what I do one of the things and and why why I wanted to have you on is whenever

(01:55) we have posted in the past about our own kids anxieties on our social media platform we get inundated with languages like it is insane the number of parents who are dealing with this yeah um and I had actually messaged you so I just finished your Workshop probably about a month ago um which is another reason why I wanted to have you on I have kids who experience anxiety and I’ve gone to experts in the past or child psychologists in the past I guess and their approach is dealing with the kids yes and honestly it never worked for me

(02:31) and after doing your Workshop um in which you work with the parents it makes so much sense why you go through the parents yeah because it’s all in our behavior and what we’re encouraging or accommodating that kind of helps to perpetuate that anxiety totally right so this is one of those things that over the pandemic thinking about I was seeing kids in the office obviously before the pen stomach happened and then I’m on zoom and I’m seeing a lot of you know depressed teenagers in the dark I’m like

(03:04) turn the turn the light on beside you right and it very I I very it became apparent very quickly that I had my best audience is going to be working with parents and really supporting parents to support their kids in these really challenging times and it’s really what the research supports too that like the environments that these kids are immersed in are really predictive of how they fare and how parents respond to emotion what what uh what they do how they shape the environments how they’re skillful in

(03:35) managing child emotion really predicts in the long term how those kids fare right so that’s really most of the work I do now because I feel like I have a really good customer and parents they’re motivated they want to learn new things um and it’s just been very effective at ultimately treating the child right and or the Adolescent or whoever’s really struggling but if we can Shore up environments that’s really the first step not to say that there’s not a room for individual therapy for kids because

(04:02) there absolutely is I just think the first step is around environment yeah yeah and then you yourself um an anxious mom I was an anxious kid I you know when I started grade one my mom came to have lunch with me every day because I wouldn’t speak I wouldn’t eat um and so you know I struggled with anxiety throughout my life and sort of trying different things doing different things I’m now a mom and I have an anxious kid and so I think about these things a lot and I really think about you know what shapes their world how can

(04:36) I position my kid to be resilient and successful take risks do new things and really set her up for success in the future so a lot of it is like you know personally motivated too and I really fall into like all of the same traps that parents do as well you know I talk about this stuff all the time and I often do things that are very ineffective and I have to check myself and go back to the things I know right um but I think we’re all sort of doing the best we can and it’s a journey we’re just keep learning you know well that

(05:03) makes me feel better yeah honestly it really makes me feel better and that Workshop also made me feel better because because you’re on a call with all these parents who are struggling you know the the anxiety may present itself differently but they are all dealing with this overwhelming feeling of you know their their kid is going through so much and how do I help them and that’s the beautiful part about a group is like especially like I think we live in a parenting age where we’re all in silos we think we’re not doing a good job we

(05:31) you know negative emotions are bad we try to mitigate them yeah there’s all this like weird messaging around our struggles uh with kids and being vulnerable and being a group is such a nice safe space to share that parents really like that part of it I I love that part of it and I wasn’t expecting that and I think part of it when I was dealing with my own um you know when I was really in it with my child anxieties um you know she was three or four and I actually remember sitting in that chair and crying to my husband because I felt

(06:05) so isolated and so overwhelmed and I think when you’re dealing with you know a child who is really you know has big emotions it’s like all encompassing and when you have contagious too and when you have a regular kids it’s like you feel like the guilt do you know what I mean it’s like you can’t be there for your kids who don’t need you as much and you’re you can’t be there for you know your child who needs you so much it’s it’s very overwhelming so I think to be able to you know kind of like find a

(06:34) safe space with other parents like you do in your workshops is incredible um okay let’s this was one of the big questions that we got okay and I think it’s an amazing question for so many parents is how do you identify if your kid is anxious or if they’re just going through a phase yeah it’s a good question so I think so a couple of different things when we’re looking at Child Development we’re really looking at patterns of responding so if you you most parents know that from a early age

(07:04) they have a temperamentally anxious kid they’re a little bit more clingy they stay close they’re a bit more inhibited they may be the kid that when they’re in novel environments they have difficulty separating or trying out new things so that’s one way to sort of like most parents that come to me are like I’ve always had this kid who’s been temperamentally anxious another way to know is um there could be like a sudden stressor or some kind of an onset of a stressor a parent separation maybe some kind of

(07:31) like horrible thing or death or tragedy that’s happened and then you can see the onset of some kind of anxiety come after that but usually there’s a way to sort of tell there’s a build up to these kinds of things right I would say though to think about you know if you think about I never really like to compare kids to other kids however there are certain developmental tasks that kids have to do around individuation separation going to a birthday party saying hi to a grandparent or to you know the parent of

(08:01) the person whose house they’re going to for a play date and some kids struggle with those like typical developmental tasks and if your kid is struggling in a in a domain that might be an indicator that there’s some anxiety there’s some onset of anxiety I really try to move away from diagnosable disorders right especially when they’re this little right because there’s so much malleability there’s so much plasticity and yes you may have a kid who’s temperamentally anxious and there’s so

(08:29) much you can do to really set them up for Success right and so even if it’s a fate whether it’s a phase or it’s you know long-term anxiety I think it always comes back to what parents do how you respond what your plan is around those things to really try to course correct and get kids back closer to that bulk of the bell curve right what are typical kids doing how are they functioning how can I get my kid closer to that area yeah and that’s always the goal right right so they don’t feel more fragile

(09:01) feel more different yeah I think well that’s how I for sure identified it in my one kid because I was like oh my other kids are not behaving like this when they go to an activity or to a party or to a play date I’m like and it’s not a one-time thing I think that’s the other thing it would constantly totally I mean woof there were some real doozies there I’m like do you have to do this in such a public setting I mean like I remember this one time I took her to a hockey practice and my other

(09:29) daughter was with her because they were on the same team and she just did a throw down kicking and screaming right at the door where all the players were coming in but if you think about what’s happening for her in that moment and I’ve had this experience for myself and my kids it’s like sheer Panic it’s a teacher there’s threat I’m not safe totally and it looks completely disregulated yeah and then you’re a panic because you’re like oh my gosh no you’re like this is mortifying

(09:57) um Okay so you identify the anxiety yes um now this was one of the biggest things for me when I did your Workshop um and I talked about this like a couple episodes ago is this curve that you showed us the first week yeah so the curve is okay your child is getting to the top of some big emotion and what a lot of parents do what I did um is basically say don’t worry you don’t have to do this you don’t have to go you know whatever it is and then they go back to kind of the start of this curve versus experiencing the struggle yeah

(10:37) yeah and then and then writing it out so talk about the importance of parents letting them ride it out versus saying don’t worry don’t do this yeah so every emotion that we have sort of functions that way in this curve something happens emotions Peak over time they stay at the peak of that curve and then they come back down to Baseline on the other side and we know now from lots of research that humans have to experience complete emotional experiences so what does that mean it means they have to go up they

(11:10) have to stay up there for a period of time and they have to come back down the other side and when they’re at the peak that’s a lot of discomfort think about the last time you got really anxious you felt sad felt guilt whatever the emotion is you’re if there’s a lot of physiology associated with that right like you know your heart’s racing your chest gets tight all of these things happen and uh it’s uncomfortable we’re all motivated to get out of that state as quickly as possible right when you’re a little

(11:37) person you get to the peak of that curve it’s very uncomfortable to be there and they’re wired to look for help in the environment from a caregiver right so they signal distress they have a tantrum on the floor maybe they cry they stay close they withdraw whatever those things are they’re trying to get back to their Baseline they want to come back down to like a lower State and so what parents do at the peak there is really important in term terms of how they complete the curve how they ride the

(12:03) other side of the wave out and parents often you know and for like very good reasons and all well-intentioned do all kinds of things that kind of make that curve wonky either parents fall into a camp where they allow Escape of the curve right so things like what you’re talking about don’t worry it’s going to be fine or you don’t have to do that thing and these are parents who maybe struggle with their own emotion regulation this is mired for sure as a parent is I want to rescue and get in there and help right

(12:34) um and essentially you cut the curve off right and so when you do that you don’t allow kids to learn and to tolerate the other side of the Curve the other camp that parents sometimes fall into is they tend to escalate things right and they can be you know minimizing emotion it’s not a big deal you’re fine or it can be problem solving too much and when that happens sometimes kids feel invalidated they feel like you’re not seeing me you don’t understand what’s happening and so it becomes really explosive right and they

(13:04) move into maybe anger or more dysregulation in an effort to really try to get their need back right right so if we come back to anxiety though if you think about the you know the peak of the wave of anxiety many parents move in to do things right I was definitely very guilty of that yeah you wanted to make it better and it makes so much sense why you would in the short term it does actually help I think you just want to protect your kid I think there is this need right now with parents that it’s like I have to protect them and I have

(13:31) to keep them happy yeah and that is doing them a very big disservice it’s helping in the short term but in the long term it’s creating low self-confidence totally and it’s creating this thing like you said that kids cannot self-regulate because you’re intervening before they’re able to emotionally regulate themselves absolutely I think also we have to be thoughtful of the kinds of messages we’re sending to kids right and so when we rescue or we accommodate or we do things to alleviate their distress in

(14:01) the short term we also send messages to them that they can’t cope right they’re not able to do the same things that their same age peers are doing and so you know I’ve heard this before like we’re sort of the mirror that they see themselves through and so if we reflect back fragility they show us more fragility right and so we really want to reflect back we get it yeah we see them we know that it’s anxiety provoking for them that’s how they’re wired that’s how they’re built

(14:28) there’s like just some acceptance because it’s there it exists yep and that we have the confidence that they can do these things right right and so a lot of the work that I do is helping parents to even just like think about some of the things that they’re doing identify the accommodations that they’re making and then come up with really good plans for how to remove them and that’s the hard part well because it’s all the parents right it’s on them to make those changes it is and so okay let’s just

(14:55) give a few examples because I feel like this will be very helpful to so many of the our listeners okay so um my daughter the one who has a bit more anxiety she had a birthday party a couple months ago it was a sleepover party she’s like and I could see I could see in the car she’s like my stomach hurts I don’t you know it’s like I feel like it always presents itself with a stomachache I feel nauseous and then she’s like well I’m not going in and I’m like okay well let’s go in you’ll

(15:23) celebrate the birthday and then we can see about actually sleeping over so she’s like you got you have to come in with me you have to you know and I know the mom and it’s so she’s a friend of mine so I’m like okay I’ll come in yeah and I can see the whole time she’s there she keeps coming upstairs and she’s like my stomach hurts I don’t feel good I don’t want to stay I don’t want to sleep over and I think I’m doing her favor by saying you know what you’ll stay you’ll

(15:44) stay for the cake and then if you’re not comfortable we’ll leave yes you will not sleep over yep hey okay so that’s what we did okay and I was like I did so good I was like I crushed it I was like she went to the party she wasn’t feeling too good we got there but I didn’t leave the party and then she didn’t sleep over yeah okay so how would you have done it differently because I feel like three examples yeah accommodations are helpful when they maximize potential right so if if she would never have gone to that party had

(16:18) you not gotten out of the car and you would have had to you don’t want to force her you’re not going to bring her into the into the house Kicking and Screaming if she would never have gotten out of that car and you would have turned around and gone home she would have missed out she wouldn’t have participated in any of the party right so like it is likely that your accommodation of getting out of the car and going in with her was helpful in her participating in some part of the party right right the sleepover that she opted out of

(16:44) maybe like so that’s a harder one yeah if she had a sleepover every single weekend at that house she’d be able to sleep over to that house right the dosing really matters right right around how often these things happen how much exposure do they get to actually ride out the other side of the curve right right so that the accommodations that I often recommend parents really go after are the ones that happen every day right like are the the kid the kids that can’t be on a different floor of a home or

(17:12) can’t go to the bathroom by themselves right have difficulty separating at bedtime or at school or have to have their food certain way you know all these kinds of things that happen with some regularity those are the ones that we really want to Target right and reflect back confidence that they can do these things remove the accommodations with the hope that in the long run kids take more risks right they internalize the belief that I can do her things my parent has told me over and over and over again that they believe I have the

(17:41) confidence to do this and then that’s how kids start to self-validate oh I think I could do this right so your suggestion would be okay so birthday party aside you’re probably making other accommodations throughout this child’s day yeah that you could make her feel more confident in she’s making the decisions on her own where maybe she’ll take bigger risks with activities with parties with things like that yeah so then is that the same okay so let’s take activities because this is another big question this is

(18:09) something I’m personally dealing with right now is you sign your child up for things and they and I’ve been witness to this activities I’ve been a parent to this myself where they’re just like Kicking and Screaming either at the activity and are like I’m not doing this or beforehand you know one of my kids keeps saying I’m not doing this I’m not going here I’m not doing that yeah so my thing lately is like that’s cool you’ve signed up for it you’re doing it um if you don’t want to do it you have

(18:35) to tell the teacher okay I like it and so they’re like okay I’ll do it okay um so that actually seems to be working yeah um and I don’t know what your recommendation there is because I know there are so many parents they pay a lot of money they sign up for all different things either their kids starts out wanting to do that and then they’re like I don’t or maybe they don’t really want to do it and they just they they don’t want their kids to just quit right because that is such a bad message to

(19:03) send but it’s also really hard to force your kids to do things it is yeah and I think these things are sort of like complicated and layered yeah right like if you go to the active I think there’s sort of a lot of soft skills that parents can learn around instilling confidence what you reflect back how much you negotiate how much air time is going to this activity even taking up in your day right even things like reassurance like providing a lot of reassurance providing a lot of information is an accommodation right

(19:33) like why are we talking about this so much if there’s nothing actually scary about me going to my new tennis lesson right right and so I think there’s a lot of stuff around actually getting there that positions kids to think that like if I try hard enough to negotiate here I’ll get out of it maybe this will work well and oftentimes it does because you’re just like I can’t deal with this well and then don’t go totally and when you do give in and when you when you actually opt out that’s like learning

(19:58) that is fused and on fire for kids right don’t do that so so if I opt out like if I just try hard enough they might give in right yeah yeah so I mean I think it’s it’s hard to say like one kind of prescriptive thing to say yes every situation is so different it is different but I would say like two things are really important being warm being loving acknowledging the fear and not minimizing it and then being really sturdy and firm right right and that’s kind of true for like all of parenting

(20:26) around like maintaining a connection and also maintaining sturdy healthy good boundaries right that’s how kids Thrive right that is hard it’s hard it is a very hard balanced strike yes especially in a public situation I feel like at home is a little bit easier public is just like you’re like woof I gotta dodge a bullet here it’s really it’s hard and and but all also it like 90 of the time it is at home it starts at home yeah if you are if you have an environment at home that’s very skillful yeah and you

(20:56) are using the principles sort of going back to that framework of thinking of the wave and complete emotional experiences it does sort of translate to other areas especially as their brain grows and their frontal lobe gets like bigger and they can plan and predict and all these things happen it makes them more confident well let’s talk about the other thing I really want to talk about which I found very impactful in your Workshop is shaming kids and shaming their emotions and I was like woof I was like I don’t do that what parent does

(21:25) that that’s crazy yeah but I think when you frame it in the way that it’s not validating a kid’s emotions that is actually shaming so when my child would come to me and freak out and I’d be like okay let’s calm down you’re overreacting you know your milk one in the pink cup and not the blue cup that is psychopath Behavior right um don’t do that and a lot of parents do it and I didn’t realize that when I was doing it you’re actually making them feel bad and shameful for feeling their

(22:02) emotions right yeah I mean again it comes back to that curve right like what you do so your child’s freaking out about the pink cup in that moment if you sort of shut the emotion down either you’re communicating that’s not a good feeling don’t have that one and kids sort of like stuff them down and they don’t feel it right and I always tell parents if you have a pattern of responding to dysregulation like that those feelings don’t go anywhere they sort of like pitch a tent they set up a

(22:28) campfire in your body right and then they’re going to come out at really inopportune times right like when you’re at this hockey rink or something right or you know you’re an adolescent and you’re struggling with something it’ll come out very inconveniently and so it’s what we do with that emotion is really important in terms of like the messaging that this emotion brings people way this emotion pushes people away from me those kinds of things and so validation is really what’s really helpful in riding that wave out

(22:57) it creates more connection it helps kids to feel seen accepted understood I mean like is it psychopath behavior that she’s freaking out about that maybe right and don’t tell them that yeah and also timing is important right right like when she’s up there at the peak and the throes of her tantrum right um if you minimize it she’s likely going to get more dysregulated because she wants you to see how upset she is about it and if you can just stay calm and validated and sometimes validation doesn’t have to be like you know I see

(23:27) how upset you are about the pink cup it can just be like waiting right staying close and staying calm when she gets down to the bottom then you can sort of problem solve around like okay what are we gonna do about this it’s a it’s a pink cup right let’s plan for what we’re going to do about this right right um as opposed to like we don’t want to make everything valid I think the tendency for parents is to invalidate the entire experience so we invalidate the behavior the words and the feelings

(23:54) and the like everything related to The Experience and the approach that like I come from is that the feelings are always valid the Behavior’s not always right you can’t hit someone you can’t have a huge tantrum out in public like some of these things are not valid but what’s driving it totally valid and then do you usually address that after they’ve had their freak out right so maybe you say I understand why you were frustrated but that behavior is not appropriate yeah and that’s fine to say

(24:23) it is and we use the word and instead of but right because if you say but that behavior is not valid you invalidate the first part of your validation oh Jesus look yeah butts are a big thing in mental health yeah so so it’s much more helpful to use and in that kind of a scenario um but I was going to say something else about about that and I lost it about the validation yeah um there was something else that I was going to ask oh I I think this is the other thing too that I was just listening um this is the most actually amazing

(24:57) parenting book that I think I’ve listened to um it’s called I’m gonna screw up the title it’s from brene Brown I think it’s called the imperfect parent or the gift of imperfect parenting I haven’t read it so much of what she talks about is actually the same things you talk about um it’s a lot about just kind of like shame and behavioral stuff and vulnerability and I think one of the biggest things that she just talked about which was also really important I think when you’re talking with your kid

(25:27) about their own anxieties is your vulnerabilities um you know your fears things that you might be able to kind of like identify them um with them about because when you sort of come on their level it’s de-shaming it’s like oh my gosh my mom has also been through this or she’s scared about um you know something at work or fear of failing at presentation so I think the more that you know you sort of like humanize these emotions to them they’re like oh well they’ve they’re nervous too and they can get over it too versus

(26:00) feeling like I’m always happier I’m always this or I can do no wrong and I think I used to always sort of hide if I was upset or um you know with something at work or something personally or frustrated and now I actually find myself telling them I’m like I was really frustrated today because of this or I was angry or you know I was really sad about this and I think it’s so important to also kind of like label your emotions with your kids well and there’s the research act also supports that right around like you

(26:28) think about the kind of models that and kids like we have like so many decades of research around observational learning kids do what parents do right and so the best kind of model for kids are not perfect models that are experts in something stay fully regulated and you know know their their skill really well the best kind of model for kids are coping models right the ones that are fallible they mess up they make mistakes makes they also make good repairs and they show vulnerability yeah right and they show that they actually you know

(26:56) coming here this morning I was like I’m so anxious to go on this podcast babe she’s like you are you know like what are you gonna do and I was like I’m gonna do my very best that’s what I’m gonna do right right and like sharing those kinds of things it’s so much more relatable yeah right yeah but also like I remember what I was going to say related to validation when I teach it to parents I I always tell them like think about your friends your partner your family members who do you go to when

(27:21) you’re struggling likely that person is warm is validating doesn’t try to one-up you with whatever’s happening doesn’t try to Silver Lining your problem just as like oh man that really sucks you know like I’m really sorry that’s happening to you right and that’s kind of what our kids want too in those moments right they just want like an acknowledgment that this is real it makes sense and it’s okay I don’t think that it’s always so helpful for us to just like leave it

(27:49) there though yeah yes it’s valid but if we trust our feelings all the time they can also also also steer us wrong in particular with anxiety right like it’s valid that you’re anxious but if we trust it and feel like you’re in danger all the time we’re not going to do very much right we’re going to opt out of a lot of different opportunities and so that’s where really checking the facts waiting till the brain comes back online and doing things that are much more effective from like what we call like a

(28:15) wise mind place in the long run serves them much better and when you talk about riding out that wave yeah so your kid is like at the peak of some insane emotion yeah you you validate you say I I hear you I understand this might be scary yeah and then do you just leave it and let them basically just get to the bottom yeah that’s it yeah you don’t even actually say much I don’t say much okay yeah sometimes it depends on your kid right like and every kid is different some kids hate validation some kids are like

(28:47) don’t do that thing that you’re gonna say it makes sense and it doesn’t make sense or you know like they get really disregulated with that uh but real essentially you just have that sort of wave in your mind that you want them to try to ride it out whatever it’s going to look like so you try to stay close you try to stay regulated yourself parent regulation is probably the biggest thing around co-regulation yeah because our kids tend to dysregulate us right like how many times is my daughter dysregulated and I’m like

(29:13) you know my heart’s beating fast and I’m thinking like what’s going on how am I gonna fix this how’s it going to get better just wait you just wait hey well I think that’s helpful for a lot of parents because I find even myself it’s like if one of my kids is freaking out then you just try to not only help but I feel like talk like to your point it’s like the less you say the better yeah and just listen yes okay I think that’s really important for a lot of parents yeah I think so too because I mean again

(29:41) going back to what you said around I think the urges to like make have happy kids yeah right and like I think you pointed out very aptly that we do them such a terrible disservice to not struggle that’s what you know like if you think about all of the people that you guys interview that are successful likely they have struggled yeah in their life you know and that’s we’re sort of preventing that for our kids and I think it’s not fair to them yeah in some ways yeah yeah um okay another big question that came

(30:10) up and I feel like we probably will need we talked about this before a whole separate podcast on this is sleep okay so so many parents deal with sleep issues I know I do too two of my kids have had so much anxiety around sleep that actually just put them together because I’m like well you’re anxious and you’re anxious so you can both just sleep together yeah and you won’t bother me and now I have an issue where it’s like they’re both heading to sleep away camp and they’re like one of my kids is

(30:36) like I’m fine because she’s already been but my other is like I’m not going yeah I’m not going so um I mean I know this is probably a very blanketed question but for parents who are dealing with kids with sleep anxiety um you deal with that it’s hard and it has I feel like sleep anxiety has different flavors right it’s like some parents some kids will go to bed on their own they wake up in the middle of the night they spend the rest of the night in a parent’s bed there’s musical beds that

(31:03) are happening yeah we do that a lot um or some people some kids can’t fall asleep on their own and parents are spending like you know at the end of the day an hour two hours lying in bed with their kid waiting for them to fall asleep have to stay on the same floor as their child after the Sleep has happened just in case there’s like calling out to see what’s happening all kinds right 20 bucks the score yeah Annie I’m like this bedtime is taking five hours yeah yeah so let’s go back go if we go back to

(31:30) accommodations right so I don’t think we actually talked about this so like the theory around why accommodations are helpful and why parents do them is because they actually work in the short term right so your kids distressed around bedtime you stay with them they calm down there’s the reward in there for them and for you everybody’s calm but then there’s sort of this cycle that gets maintained where there’s a continued dependence on a parent every time you run around you come around to

(31:59) the same situation so it’s hard it’s really hard but it does come back to figuring out a plan that’s going to it comes back to parents right figuring out a plan for parents that they’re motivated and comfortable to start working on um and whatever that plan is to try to pair back those accommodations as much as they can and be very sturdy and firm in what their plan is going to be right sleep is one of the hardest ones it’s the end of the day we’re exhausted you just want to get to bed you want them to

(32:32) get to bed it’s also the time when parents lose it the most because they’re tired the resources are low yeah um and you kind of just do what you have to do to get through that time right and it’s a harder time to really stick to a plan to be consistent because they’re so desperate for sleep right so if you have the kid that’s coming into your bed in the middle of the night like it’s exhausting I’m just like come in I can’t deal with this anymore that’s your point I think accommodations when people think

(32:56) about it they don’t have to be big things so if you’re reading your kid if if the issue is like bedtime just actually getting them to bed and you’re reading them 20 books and singing them 20 songs and cuddling for two hours then maybe your next step is reading five books and cuddling for five minutes and just slowly pairing it back versus saying yeah I’m not cuddling or I’m not reading any books you know it’s kind of like I think also as parents it’s like you go to these extreme situations yeah

(33:27) so it’s like the accommodations are very slow with whatever you’re doing they can be very slow but when they’re slow it takes a long time right right so don’t be slow no it depends it totally depends on the parent it depends on your motivation it depends on what you’re willing to do for some parents it is unbearable yeah to think about just really Shifting the plan right and this is where you know parents really struggle with this idea of removing things because there’s like this like

(33:53) unspoken contract between a parent and a kid like I get anxious at bed and you stay here that’s what we do and parents feel like if I’m gonna remove that like what about my relationship with my kid it feels like I’m not being there for them and I’m not doing the things that not being a good mom by doing these things and and so I always like I try to reframe that for parents around by removing some of these things now you’re sort of investing in the future right and things don’t change unless you

(34:21) change something I’ve never met a kid who’s like oh they want me to sleep at this time and they’ll get better sleep and I will too let me do that thing that’s never happened before um so so it’s a hard decision to figure out what to make but it really depends on what parents are willing to do right and how committed they’re going to stick to whatever plan they come up with right and it’s communicating that to the kid right it is communication yes like we want to be transparent and open with our

(34:47) kids we don’t want to like one day just say like I’m not doing that thing I often recommend that parents are like really prescriptive about it and like say to kids in advance this is my new plan on Sunday this is how we’re going to start right right and I’m not mad at you you’re not in trouble I just realized that this thing that I keep doing is not helping you right in the long term and I need to shift what I’m doing right I believe in you I’m confident you know you could do this

(35:09) yeah right and then when the rubber hits the road and it’s that Sunday night parents have to really work hard to stay regulated to stay calm themselves and stick to a plan right that’s the hardest part right we could talk about all these things but when you actually have to do it you know it’s hard to do yeah and we were doing that with one of my kids I mean he was like um following or sorry we he had a lot of separation anxiety yeah so it was like keeping the bathroom door open not going to the second floor on his like just all

(35:43) this stuff that I didn’t even realize almost we were doing and then it got to this place that was so bad so we did exactly that we wrote the letter we spoke to him about it we’re like we are you know we are going to close the door when you go to the bathroom We’re not gonna walk upstairs with you all this stuff yeah and and I just was telling you like he does not do it anymore so such a good job it’s great I know but now he doesn’t want to do any of his active I feel like it’s like you know

(36:05) anxious kids there’s always something for sure for sure no but it was like it was a really big thing and the letter worked really well so it was just kind of like slightly changing our behaviors and it made such a big difference um like another good example around like doing this with their best interest for the long term is if this was a medical issue if we took this out of the world of mental health and you had a kid who had diabetes and they were like I don’t think I’m gonna take that needle you

(36:30) know two or three times a day I just don’t really like needles and I don’t want to do that like no parent would be like okay that’s fine we would pin our kids down we’d do anything yeah the needle in them so that their body could function and they could go to school and do all the things that kids can do it’s very similar yeah right it’s very similar around doing the things now that are painful and hard that we don’t want to have to do to set them up for later right a lot of work a lot of work these kids

(36:54) are a lot of work a lot of work it is and what like would you say is sort of like the biggest thing if there’s one thing that parents can do that you kind of constantly see that’s an easy thing yeah I mean I think the number one thing is listen we all want to raise resilient kids we all want them to kind of go out to in the world and be able to handle things on their own without crumbling what’s the biggest thing we can all do oh my God that’s such a big question I know it’s a little bit loaded but

(37:24) I would say to prioritize connection and relationship uh as you parent right and so I think my most magical strategy for myself with my three kids uh and that I talk about a lot in my practice is um playing with your kids right and so like just really good child directed where kids are leading parents are commenting they’re building up positive experiences um that kind of that that the knowledge that your kid has that they can generate a laugh or they can generate a good moment with a parent is super important

(38:07) for any other parenting strategy you’re going to use it is so weird that you say that because I was literally just finishing that book that I was talking to about and that is her last thing she talks about and there’s a book I think it’s called The Art of play anyways I will find it and we can link it in this episode but she’s she literally ended her book saying the exact same thing she said in order to build confidence um with your child is literally it’s the art of play and and play I think was

(38:39) defined as um something that makes you feel uninhibited where you lose track of time that it’s just so much fun that you literally forget where you are so and that can obviously mean different things for different people um and for her family like she literally sat down with her kids and was like what what is this like when you think about play and you think about these things what is it for you um and so they made a point as a family of doing whatever it was hiking swimming make believe like whatever it was but it

(39:11) was the exact same thing and she was like that is really what builds confidence and it is and also like it’s hard I mean you have four kids I have three kids like it’s hard to play with each kid every day one to one yeah in a child directed way with my kids had four kids so they could actually do with each other play with each other I’m like everyone’s like oh four kids must be so hard I’m like no they literally entertain themselves that’s awesome yeah and there’s a couple of times when you

(39:37) know that maybe this is something you come back to right so if I have that feeling and I use I just use myself a lot in my work because I just feel like if I go through it maybe others do too if if there’s something going on with me where I feel like I have this like tight chest around like if I ask this kid to do something they’re gonna give me some Flack or they’re not listening or you know that walking on eggshells started where my kids are short if there’s that kind of a feeling that I have in my body or if I

(40:06) have a kid who’s just going through something yeah you know kids go through all kinds of things we don’t always even know why like maybe they had a fight with a friend maybe they got a bad grade on a test or whatever if there’s a wobble that they’re experiencing and it comes out in Behavior that’s another reason um or just like as a as a baseline good strategy right like if you have time do it but when those kinds of things happen if you can carve out like even five to ten minutes a day with that kid yeah

(40:32) right and just say like let’s just do something and see if you can use that time and really make it golden like how can I generate positive experiences I’m not teaching I’m not trying to like there’s no teachable moments here I’m just really trying to lay it on yeah for this 10 minutes not a long time right and just generate good moments because that really seals up all the cracks that might be happening it feels like you’re more aligned again all of the things that you know are coming

(41:00) up around oppositionality maybe irritability that they’re throwing back at you sometimes consistent play just sort of tampers a little bit of that down because they’re more motivated to work for your attention right and to please you and to want to be the good kid that you’ve reflected back to them yeah well and I think it goes back to connection I think I used to and probably a lot of parents who have multiple kids feel this pressure of like having so much one-on-one time with each of your kids so I used to do this where

(41:29) I was like I take one kid to Sky Zone or the movies and dinner and then I have to do that with all my other three kids and I’m like this is totally unmanageable and I was I was trying to do it and I was like okay screw this I and I then I started doing exactly what you said so if I was able to you know go grab a hot chocolate with one of my kids one day or take the dogs for a walk the other day another day with them and it was just these small moments of it doesn’t have to be Tit for Tat but you’ll each get a

(41:56) little bit of my time at some point and I feel like it just kind of took all the pressure off yeah um and those little moments with each kid was they didn’t care where I was going they didn’t care to go to Sky Zone or their movie or whatever they just want to be with you just want to be with you so I think that’s a big thing too for a lot of parents who have multiple kids and also sometimes parents will I think the dosing really does matter right like when you’re using it for a specific function when you’re really

(42:19) using it because it feels like things are challenging in a Time the dosing does matter it’s way more hell helpful for you to find five to ten minutes every day to do something like this than to spend a day with a kid on the weekend yeah right because there’s also more opportunity for things to take when you’re spending like four or five hours with your kid on the weekend and then resentment grows and like if it feels like it’s not effective like small little doses every day are manageable and it feels like parents can commit to

(42:45) something like that yeah yeah about every day sounds like well I mean I mean not I mean in a time when you really feel like yeah there’s a bunch of time to make a connection yeah when you’ve got the time or you’re like this kid is struggling yeah right like and I’m gonna I’m gonna make an effort with this kid to really try to commit to a series of days you know maybe not every day three to four times whatever it looks like right but you know you have it in your mind that that’s the function of this

(43:10) time yeah right it’s always once I and I feel like this is the good thing with kids it’s like there always just seems to be one who’s struggling and the rest are okay and I’m like I don’t know how that happens I know thank God it does because I don’t think I could deal with four kids all struggling at the same time um so yeah um okay I think we’ve kind of I’m just looking at all the questions we’ve gotten I kind of think we sort of covered it all um this was super super helpful awesome

(43:38) um I think our listeners will find this incredibly valuable um and I hope at least also feel not less alone yeah I think that was a huge thing for me me like I said when I joined your Workshop is it can feel really isolating to have a child who’s going through these outbursts and I feel like when they’re we’re dealing with them you’re like why is no one else dealing with it at least it feels that way especially after the pandemic when we actually were alone yeah a lot of the time with our kids right and there

(44:05) wasn’t a lot of sharing or vulnerability around totally well and I don’t think social media helps either because I feel like I’m just like all you see are perfect families and perfect Children online and it’s really not the case so I think the more we kind of share and talk um it just makes people feel less alone yeah so okay if people want to do one of your workshops if they want to speak to you what is the best way for them to reach out so I run lots of groups I run I’m starting up some like summer

(44:33) intensive programming for kids with anxiety I run some kids anxiety groups and parent interventions that are coming up this summer so the best way is through my website okay I have a contact me page through there that comes directly to me you can book a time to connect and your website is www.ffew.

(44:53) ca okay and they can also reach out to you on Instagram they can yeah okay yeah I don’t check it as much I try to stay off social media but yeah foundations foundations for emotional Wellness or number four yes okay amazing well this was so good thank you so much I feel very calm do you do you you can speak up Ryan I yeah no I uh I kind of resonated what you said I I I find that a lot of the stuff that my parents almost like didn’t help me with as a kid is like kind of rearing its head yeah now like just dealing with things like head on I’m a

(45:28) big avoider and I feel like they always like went ahead and solved my problems for me so now I’m almost 30 and I can still feel that maybe they should have been harder on me maybe they should have thrown me in more difficult situations so I’d be better equipped to handle yeah certain things yep yeah I mean it reminds me of a client I had a little while ago who was like a qualified social worker and she was working like a very part-time job that was you know not with people and she said to me something

(45:55) similar around like I really wish my parents had just pushed me when I was a kid it’s so much harder now right when I was little it would have been easier to like go to my ballet lesson and do the recital and now it feels like a bigger hurdle to do yeah for sure yeah so I mean I I mean at the same time you look back and maybe that they did push me I wouldn’t have such a great relationship with them but they’re they’re I’ve learned my lesson is when I become a parent that I’m gonna try and not be

(46:18) like pushy but I’m gonna try to make them get more involved in different certain situations so they’re more prepared when they get older totally yeah I mean I I do I try to do that with my anxious kid as well where I try to put her in situations where I know she’s going to be anxious if I need like you know bread from the bakery or if I need to run into a convenience store or something she’s for sure the kid I’m gonna ask because I know she’s anxious about it she doesn’t want to do it yeah

(46:42) even just like at a restaurant like when your parents order for you totally like different things like it’s something as small as that yeah makes a difference when there’s little drops in the bucket of those things yeah for sure make your kids uncomfortable do it that is that is the that is the message that is the lesson yep feels resilience awesome okay well thank you so much yes thanks for having me okay bye [Music] thank you



Dr. Zia Lakdawalla

I am a registered clinical psychologist who specializes in working with children, adolescents, and parents. My goal is to help clients cope with uncomfortable feelings, improve relationships, and increase competency and efficacy in managing the demands of each new stage of development. I am also a strong believer that the environment in which kids are immersed is a critical factor in how they learn to regulate their emotions and build resilience.
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Build Emotion Regulation | FFEW Dr. Zia Lakdawalla

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