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July 5, 2022

Children and Anxiety

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In this week's episode, we discuss childhood anxiety with clinician Dawn Friedman, MSEd. Dawn has been working with kids and families for more than thirty years as a preschool teacher, family case manager, and psychotherapist. She has her masters in clinical mental health counseling and has additional post-graduate training in infant-toddler mental health, postpartum mood disorders, and child anxiety treatment. Come listen to Dawnś incredible wisdom on this topic.

 For more resources on this topic, visit Dawn Friedmanś website at 

Join us on our Facebook group at to continue this discussion and share resources on anxiety.  

Dawnś favorite parenting resources:  How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk.  (Note: This is an affiliate link, at no extra cost to you, but we will earn a small commission on this purchase)

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Welcome to Real LIfe Momz I'm your host, Lisa Foster and Real LIfe Momz is a podcast that is all about parents having real conversations, sharing resources, and telling their inspiring stories. Our mission is to connect moms by talking about these topics that parents deal with every day and to continue these conversations in our Real LIfe Momz Facebook group, where we would love for you to become part of our community. This week, we are joined by Dawn Friedman. Dawn has been working with kids and families for more than 30 years as a preschool teacher, family case manager, and psychotherapist.

She has her master's in clinical mental health counseling and has additional postgraduate training in infant and toddler, mental health, postpartum mood disorders, and child anxiety treatments. In today's episode, Dawn will help me discuss children and anxiety.

Hi, Dawn. Welcome to Real LIfe Momz, I'm so honored to have you on the show today to help me talk about children and anxiety. 

Hi, Lisa, thank you so much for having me.

Of course, I'm really excited about our topic today. So just to start, can you share just your background?

Sure. So currently I work as a therapist here in Columbus, Ohio, and I work with, I always say little kids, big kids, teens, and adults, and all the kids that I see are anxious. Anxiety is a big issue. And so I've gone to get extra training about anxiety and I have an anxious kid now grown myself and through my training realized, oh, I was an anxious kid that sure explains a lot. And with COVID I realized I could offer some of this information to people online. So my COVID hobby was building out more direct offerings for parents around child anxiety.

Okay. Well, there's a lot there. I have so many questions to ask you already. But let me just start with you mentioned like anxious, right? Can you actually define anxiety? Cause I personally kind of get confused if someone's just anxious, that's not necessarily that they have anxiety. Anxiety is a healthy emotion. We need to be anxious. Like I bet you're a little bit anxious before you, you interview someone on this podcast and so you're extra careful. You probably make sure there isn't any weird noises in the room. You already told me you do a little reading, so you know who the heck I am. And so you prepare that. So anxiety is healthy and it's necessary. And it's great. The problem is if it interferes with our functioning. So if you yearn to start a podcast and your anxiety, doesn't let you do that, then that's a problem.

That's an anxiety issue.

Okay. Well, and then you also just said, that you were an anxious kid as well, right? And your child was also anxious. Is that a common thread?

It can be. Anxiety is nature and nurture. So you cannot make someone who is not going to be prone to anxiety. You cannot give them an anxiety disorder. So some people will experience a trauma and develop PTSD, which in the old DSM was under anxiety disorders. And now it's its own thing. Not everybody will get PTSD. We have brains that make us more prone to things than not. So it is never a parent's fault.

If they have an anxious child, that child had an anxious brain, however, we can teach anxious children, how to tap more into their anxiety than maybe we wanted to. So for example, if I'm very afraid of water, I don't like swimming in water that goes over my head. And because I was aware of that, I deliberately avoided going in the water with my kids and ask their dad to do all of the swimming lessons because I knew they would catch my anxiety. I knew that I would not be able to react in a nonanxious way and that they would pick up on that.

And I wasn't so great about not being anxious about other things that I was less aware of, but I could be very deliberate about not passing on my water anxiety to them.

Um, I, and I had so many thoughts come to my head. Um, you know, my mom was very anxious at driving, and to this day does not take parkways or highways, whatever you call them out here. Um, but I as well, I drive, I take highways. Um, but I always feel anxious and I do feel like somehow I'm going to blame her a little bit. Honestly, that, that anxiety that I always saw as she stepped into the car, kind of like rubbed off on me.

So now my daughter just started driving and that was definitely one thing I didn't want to do for her.

Yeah, yeah. That makes sense. And because anxiety is very catching and it's supposed to be catching because if we're out there in the world, we need to catch somebody else's anxiety. So we know, oh, I need to get ready to do something. I need to be prepared that there might be dangerous. So anxiety is meant to be catching. And of course, we are very, very, very connected to our children and they're very connected to us. And so they are hypersensitive to when we are anxious and they are always watching.

And then also sometimes we pass on the anxiety in a much more obvious way, like saying, oh no, there's a spider. Don't touch spiders in our house. We do not go anywhere near spiders. So there are many ways we can pass on pass anxiety onto our children. But that doesn't mean it's our fault. It means once we realize that we have the opportunity to do something differently.

So here's another question. So my daughter is very anxious. Our whole family's anxious. I always struggle with when to push and when not to push. So here's an example my daughter is much older. Now, this is something from when she was younger. She was afraid of bugs, specifically bees to the point she did not go outside. I mean, it was, it was bad. In preschool, she would stay inside at recess to the point where the teacher made me go get her an allergy test to see if we could even push her outside.

Um, so when do you push? And maybe push is not the right word, but when do you coax them into that fear? And when don't you.

That is so tricky. Like you're asking is such a big one because yes, we do need to help our children face their anxiety. So I had a kid who was afraid of bees too. I also had a kid who one summer, the backyard, we had an apple tree, there were always bees around it. So I hear your scream sister about that. So it's what we have to do is we have to figure out what is the thing that is holding our child back the most, and maybe that's what we need to go towards.

Now. There's a whole complicated system to figuring it out that involves sitting down with a child or with yourself, with your partner, somebody who knows the child. Well, if the child is not interested in doing this with you and kind of figure out a fear ladder, which is here, is at the very bottom, I can look at a picture of a bee and it doesn't scare me.

And up here at 10 is maybe cleaning out a beehive. And then we figure out where can we start stretching the child a little bit so we can do it in a very systemic way. On the other hand, if you lived in, I'm trying to think of someplace where there might not be bees like in the north pole and there are no bees. We don't have to worry about it. It's not an issue. It's not holding the child back. But generally children who have a specific phobia like bees, they often will be anxious in other areas too.

And what we're trying to do is not solve their anxiety or fix it or eliminate it. We're trying to teach them how to manage it. Because if your child one day can sit out at a picnic table and there's a bee around and they don't go run and run screaming, that's a success story. They can take those skills and tools out into the world. So in college, when it's finals and they're freaked out, they can go, I know how to do this because I conquered bees when I was seven. So I know how to do this.

Yes. Yeah. And it's interesting that you say that like the fear ladder, so what was recommended to us at the time honestly, was we went to the butterfly pavilion. And so there there's a bee hive thing. That's kind of it goes outside and inside, but it's in a case, so you can watch it. And we just would sit for hours watching the bees to just know that they're there, they're doing their thing. You know, they're not really there to come and attack us, but yeah. So she did conquer.

I mean, I think we're all still afraid of bees, but you can go outside. I love that story so much. And it really it's, that's exactly it. So the more that we can deal with the discomfort, the better off we are, but sometimes we need to start really low on that fear ladder. So that we're only just a little bit uncomfortable. Like we're not ready to full on go out there into the world with our bees, but we can look at bees from behind glass. Yeah, that's great.

Okay. And then what, if, you know, what if the parent is also has the same fear as a child?

I really love that you asked this because all the research shows that it's working with parents that makes the difference. And when I was working with kids, I don't really do that as much since COVID, but when I was working with kids, it became really clear to me that I could only get so far because 50 minutes with me once a week, or once every other week was not going to do anything I really needed to get with the parents. And also we're asking children to do heavy lifting that maybe they don't want to do. Like maybe they're like, I love not going in the backyard. It's terrific.

I am not interested in tackling my fear of bees. And so then we really need to talk about that intervention with parents. And when I would do an intake with a family and it was clear, the child had a lot of anxiety and I could see the parents had a lot of anxiety about their child's anxiety.

Well, then it was clear. Anxiety was running rampant in this family. When parents learn to manage their own anxiety, they can pass that on to their kid too. So just like we can teach them how to be anxious by mistake or pass on a sort of anxious mentality. We can also pass on being calmer and learning to manage our anxiety. But again, it has to be a fear you care about conquering. So if mom is not interested in not being afraid of bees, I wouldn't start with that. I would find out another place.

And very often its helping them manage their worry about their kids. That's the first, most present anxiety in our discussion together. And so maybe we start there.

And I'll give you another scenario. It's almost my own private session. Um, but there's another scenario that we are through. But at one point my daughter had a very big fear of just things like, um, like gun violence, like going to the mall. So we live in Colorado, we did have a shooting back when in a movie theater. And so that was a big fear of going to the theater. I mean, I remember even being in the theater and a strange person walked in and we were together and she had to leave, wanted to leave.

That fear is not hers alone. That is mine as well. I feel that when trying to, you know, go through the motions with her to talk through this, um, it was very difficult because it was such a big fear of mine. I couldn't say anything to almost comfort her.

Uh, so I'll share here we are a transracial adoptive family, my husband and I, and our bio son are all white and our daughter is black. And she also recently started driving. And a lot of, you know, she's really afraid about getting pulled over because, in Columbus, we had a couple of kids who were killed by the police. And I, yeah, I share that fear with her. So all of you parents out there. Yeah. My heart is with you. It is a scary time to be a parent.

And there are very real things to be afraid of. We can look at the news and what really lies at the crux of anxiety treatment and management is how we learn to live, to be happy in a world that is scary. How do we learn to continue on with our lives and go to movies and drive around and know that we cannot guarantee our own safety.

That is the great existential work of anxiety. There's no easy answer. It's really about, we have to learn to tolerate it. Our children have to learn to tolerate it. And I venture that many, of your listeners when they became parents, they felt like all of a sudden their awareness of the scariness of the world really becomes apparent. And whether you went through postpartum anxiety officially or not, that is an awakening for parents.

What's that quote about having your heart walk around, outside your body. And yet we have to learn how to parent. We have to learn how to let them go. We have to learn to let them get on the bus. We have to learn to let them move away. That's what we have to do. So, I'm glad you asked that because the bad news is, there's nothing you can say. We have to learn to live with it. We have to learn to live with it.

Well, that's not good news, but okay.

It's not great news, but we can learn it. Right? There are specific skills we can learn. There are specific coping that we can learn and to be with our children as they come to this realization is really a profound gift because it is an existential crisis. It is confronting. I mean, frankly, it's about confronting death really. And that's one of the ways that we come alongside our children is to say, how do we learn to be people when it is so scary?

And we are so fragile and we love each other so much, it's big, big work.

Are there any tips or tools that you have that parents could even just try at the moment, an anxious kid who is anxious about whatever it is going to school or, you know, their homework or social issues?

Well, the big thing is don't try to fix it cause it's not fixable, anxious. children ask us to reassure them over and over again. And we get stuck in a reassurance loop with them, but we can't really reassure them, right? Because their anxiety is bigger. And they're not really there.  It is this great big, but the world is unsafe and you can't protect me. And that is too big of a thing for me to understand. So we can reassure them once we can let them know that, um, I know that dog is not going to get you cause there's a fence there.

And I know you're not going to flunk out of school because you do pretty well. You can reassure them once, but then you just have to be with them in the moment. And that's about validating that emotion.

I understand why you're anxious. It's scary to be five and to have to do a show and tell it's I know bees what can you do? They are, they're kind of scary. We have to learn to live in a world with bees so we can validate them, let them know that we are with them and not get sucked into the argument that keeps them trapped. And then in the times when they are not anxious, we can notice the things that make them happy. I notice you're really calm when you play with Legos. I notice you really love to be cozy under that blanket.

I noticed when you hug the dog, that you have a big smile on your face because we're trying to get them to tune into the way their body feels when it feels good. And then when their body feels anxious, we let them know that's anxiety. That headache is anxiety. You're probably pretty tense. Let's see what we can do to relax. Maybe you could hug the dogs. I noticed you have a big smile on your face when you do that. So it's really long over time work because our children need to learn over and over again. How does my body feel when I'm anxious? How does my body feel when I'm calm and then keep bringing them back to that?

Kids learn things over and over again at every new stage of development. So sometimes we have to be broken records.

That is so helpful because, okay. I just want to put out there that my child did go to therapy, but it's so helpful to hear that because I do feel it's almost like it's exhausting. It's exhausting as a parent with a child who's anxious because it is that constant loop of no, you got this you're okay. And I feel maybe I get stuck in that loop and forget to, um, maybe just step back and listen and be in the moment with them versus trying to help them feel better.

You know, I get stuck cause I want them to feel better. 

Me too, me too, me too. I mean, that's one reason why I went and got that training is because I could sense. I wasn't helping and she wasn't listening to me. The kids in my office would listen to me. She doesn't listen to me. I'm her mother. And so the more I dug into the training, the more I realized, oh, I'm contributing to this. I didn't mean to. And it makes sense because my other child who is not anxious, or at least doesn't have this level of anxiety, those exact same tools worked. So that kind of reassurance and encouragement worked.

It doesn't work for an anxious kid. It's not our fault that we go that way first. Cause it makes sense. It would work. It just doesn't work for an anxious kid. And if we're feeling stuck, then you know, we call a therapist and that's what we did too. Because like I said, I wasn't helping her. She needed someone else separate from me and I needed to do my work too. And again, anxiety is catching. If my kid wasn't feeling good, I wasn't feeling good. I wanted to help her feel good.

And it felt very distressing for me not to help. And the way I really yearned to help.

Now, when you were saying training, is this training for your profession or was it a parent training?

It's actually for my profession, I got trained by, uh, Ellie Lebowitz who designed the space program. And I forget what space stands for, but he's out of the Yale child study center. And he basically went and took all the research about, they call it accommodations. It's when we're accommodating instead of supporting anxiety and accommodations, keep kids stuck. So I went through his formal training and then went back and read through all the research because there's a huge body of research about this that came out of really looking at OCD and how people get stuck in OCD loops.

And the more they did the research, the more they realized that parents get stuck in anxiety loops with their kids. Uh, what Ellie Lebowitz did was formalized a structured program. That's very specific and I like it, but I messed with it a little bit. You can mess with it that he does have a book and people can read it so you can follow his plan. Or you can structure it to better suit your family. I'm a pretty casual person. So something that was that formal, that's not the way that we did it in our family, but I will do it that way with clients if that's their preference.

Okay. That's good to know. So you do talk about the pandemic a lot. Are you seeing more anxiety within children or adults? I mean, everybody, right? You see everything.

Yeah. Everybody. And, and of course the problem is those of us who work with kids, we're all full right now. So it's really hard to get in and see someone. So that's a big issue, but I will say too, that even before the pandemic, 25% of kids, five to 18, I think would meet criteria for a diagnosable anxiety disorder and what I would see in my office and still the calls I get are at five and at eight for boys just so happens.

Usually around nine or 10 girls. That's when I got a lot of phone calls and then on into the teens. And, and I think there's kind of specific reasons for that. And it's totally anecdotal. I'm not going to go dig up. Research, anxiety crosses the lifespan. But I think part of that is five is when we start saying, I thought you would have grown out of this by now. And I think we see that in boys sooner than girls cause our expectations for boys are different and boys tend to externalize anxiety. So they're more tantrums and yelling and hurting and girls tend to internalize. So I start seeing that nine and 10 for girls, I think because they start getting kind of depressed really. And parents spot that and start seeing some anxiety in that.

Oh, so nine and 10, they're getting depressed. Why is that?

I think this is my guess. And again, this is anecdotal. It's just happened in the past two weeks. I've gotten three calls from parents of ten-year-old girls. Um, I, because of the social stuff, there's a lot more social pressure at around nine or 10 for girls and the relationships get a lot more complicated and that's a hard time to be a kid.

Well, and for me, I'm a physical therapist and I'm happen to be a pediatric physical therapist. Um, and I also do cranial sacral work, which works with the nervous system and what we're seeing a lot more is it's interesting ticks or Tourette's.

Yeah. Have you noticed that?

I just talked to somebody about this. So they've said that they've, they're noticing pandas like behavior after COVID infections in some kids. So I'm curious about that.

Yeah. And so you're saying after actually having COVID.

Yeah. And sometimes of course we don't know if kids have had COVID so there's that now, now the other thing about tics though, is that they are developmentally normal for some kids they'll go through periods of ticks. And if they don't last longer than six months, we can just chalk it up. Okay. So that was a weirdness, which what that tells me is that for many kids, ticks are a way that they attempt to self-regulate and sooth, and we are seeing rising levels of anxiety.

So I would expect to see more coping, more coping mechanisms coming up, both functional and dysfunctional.

I got some listeners who had some questions as well. So I just want to make sure I get to those as well. And one was, how do you know, or do you have insight on when somebody needs medication?

I say that have that conversation with your pediatrician anytime you want. So, you know, well, what are the options? What makes sense for a child this age? When would the pediatrician think it's a good idea to prescribe it? Because the more information have, the more you can make a decision before you need it. Like you can just say, okay, I have this information set aside. Should I need it generally speaking? I mean, it's above my pay grade and outside of scope for me to say at this point, but if your child is really, really, really trapped and really stuck, and you're already working on it, you're already doing all the things and you don't seem to be gaining any traction.

It is definitely a good time to have a conversation about it.

And you're seeing the pediatrician. For some reason, I was thinking like a psychiatrist, is that not?

The truth is I would always prefer that someone have access to a psychiatrist because kids are a special beast and they're growing very quickly. And so having someone who really understands and knows how to prescribe for, for kids is ideal. However, at least here in central Ohio, and I know many places around the country, that's nearly impossible. So again, I would start the conversation with a pediatrician and then maybe start, uh, get on the radar, find out who is a prescriber, who is a psychiatrist or a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

There's probably a waitlist. Many of them are full fee. So families may need to save up money to go see them depending on if they have an HSA or FSA or so starting that conversation now, before you think you might need it, or when you're just thinking about it, because starting that conversation doesn't mean you've decided your child to go on meds. It means you've decided that as an option you want to know about so that you can make a good decision about, but I would start with the child's doctor because you're going to need it for a referral, if anything.

No, that's a good point. Um, is there an age that, um, if you are looking at medication with all the brain development, is there any, anything that you know of that there's an age that you would wait to, like do not do the medication before five.

And again that is a discussion for a prescriber  it's definitely outside of my scope. Um, but I will say that I agree with you that the younger your child is the more you need someone who is trained in prescribing psych, uh, psychiatric medications for kids. Definitely. It's just so complicated and difficult, and it's not that your pediatrician won't do it or can't do it. It's that it's really a good idea to have someone with a really strong grounding in what's going on.

But again, treatment has shown to be very effective. And so you have a lot of options before you get to meds. The concern about the meds is generally their antidepressants and they do sometimes increase suicidal ideation in kids.

Okay. That's good to know. Okay. So switching topics. So the other question that came up through the listeners is screens and social media and how that might affect or contributor to anxiety.

Ooh, it's a, it's a big one because we have to be realistic here too. And our kids aren't going to be on screens more and more it's they get iPads at school, right? So they're going to be on screens. They need to learn how to manage it. And also I've seen parents try to limit social media for kids. And what happens is the kids are getting it on somebody else's phone, or they've figured out how to download it on their phone or iPad behind their parents' back. So, basically this happens a lot in my office.

The child will download Instagram. The parents will say, you're not allowed to download Instagram. And I saw that you did it. And so now you've got to delete it. The kid goes, oh gosh, but the, if the kid downloads it again, the parent doesn't see that it got downloaded again, because it's already, it shows sort of in the cloud, in the shop.

And so then, what kids do is they download it at school and they undownload, it, they delete it before they get home. So what I'm saying is give up, if you think you can keep your kid off social media, you can't. So what you have to do is have ongoing discussions about it. You have to participate. Maybe that means scrolling through with them. If you can limit it, if you can do parental controls, although the kids are really good at hacking, you can do some of that. Ideally, we want to grow children who say to themselves, I, this is not good for me.

So my youngest, uh, she downloads Instagram and then deletes it when she realizes she's looking at it too much or it's upsetting her. So she has sort of learned to manage her own intake of it. And that's really what we're hoping our kids can do because yes, absolutely. It's not good for their brains, but we have to show them that we have to show them the information that shows that those tummy trim tees and the filters, we need to let them know about that and explain to them how it works and not shame them for wanting to look at it because of course they want to look at it's what everybody's looking at right now.

I agree. It is really hard to limit social media because our kids if they have a phone, they're not with us all the time anyway. Right. So they're at school and they're doing whatever. And at school they have Chromebooks and they're on, they can kind of navigate, even if there are things in place to block them, there still seem to be navigating social media. So it is really hard to try to control.  I would love to either be totally free for all and not give a care or totally locked down and control that would, it would be such a relief to just be on one side or the other, but we're in this, this tricky middle of I'm going to allow this, but we're going to negotiate it all the time. It's, that's a harder way to parent, but it's the, it's the better way to do it.

Yeah. Yeah. I know. It's difficult. My son, um, when he was younger was very addicted to it. Um, that was not that it caused anxiety, but I feel like there was almost an addiction to it. And a friend, who also has a similar situation or someone's older and there's more of an addiction. Do you find that? Do you have, like, kids are addicted? I don't know if that's even a form of anxiety, but.

Yeah. You know, I know that there's, there's debate about, are we using the term addiction, right. But yes. Do I have kids that never get off their phones? Absolutely. And  lots of parents too, it does give us a dopamine hit. And I work with a lot of postpartum moms that their only connection to the outside world is social media. And they're scrolling through their phones too. It's, it's a very real thing. And again, we have to figure out how to live in a world with social media and how to manage it and not shame ourselves that sometimes we do get stuck because it's built to get us stuck.

It's built to do that for us.

Yeah. Oh my, my, uh, way of handling it when my son was younger. Um, cause he would have tantrums. I literally took it away for a year.

Oh yeah.

And one Christmas. Um, I gave it back about a year later he had a very bad meltdown and I just deleted every app. There was, I don't know if it was a shining moment in my life, um,  but I did. I sat in the car cause that's where he was and I deleted every app and I said, you'll get this back when you can handle it. And then a year later, maybe longer, it was around Christmas. And one of the presents, I was like, okay, let's try this again. And never again, had he ever, um, not turned it off when needed no more meltdowns.

I don't know if that was the move or him, um, maturing, but yeah, we don't have to deal with it anymore.

I, you know, I tell parents all the time, you can get your kid a flip phone if they really blow it, whether that's, you know, whatever it is that they're doing, you can get them a flip phone, a phone is a privilege and they do need to be able to handle it. And again, it's hard because some of the kids that is their connection to friends is whatever messaging app. But I think, you know, you could have a flip phone that you say you're going to have to have this for a month or whatever. And you have to, you're going to have to tap out every single text laboriously on the little key pad.

I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing to do that, do it that way.

Right. Yeah. And then, yeah. And then when they can handle more, they can get more, you know, and at least they've learned. So I think for my son, that was important how to deal without, you know?

Yeah. Yeah. Well, I was lucky, so my son is 25 and so social media was not really a thing when he was a teen, but it's, we've definitely had to negotiate it more with our, our daughter who's 18.

Well, good luck. Oh, those teens. So for people who are looking for mental health resources, um, where's the best place for them to kind of look and find, I guess for me when it was time to, for me to find a therapist that, um, I found that very tricky because you have to find someone, I think that your kid will be able to connect with. And sometimes it's an insurance thing.

Uh, but I did, you know, you have these sea of names and it was really hard for me to, to find who to send her to.

Oh yeah. Okay. Okay. So you've totally nailed it. That the greatest predictor of success in therapy is the relationship even more than the training. However, that said, there are an awful lot of therapists who don't necessarily have a lot of training working with kids. So when we come out of grad school, we are technically able to just start working with whatever age and we might not necessarily have the training. So I think it is perfectly kosher for parents to grill therapists. I say this as a therapist and ask us what our training is, ask us what makes us capable of working with that particular age.

It is okay to make us jump through hoops, just going to tell you that you have to like the therapist to your child has to like that therapist. They're going to be working with them and you have to like them for two reasons.

One, the younger your child is the more you're going to be part of therapy. And as I said earlier in the podcast, you have to be because you're going to be the one who's living with your child and continuing to work with them. But you also have to like the therapist because you've got to trust us with your kid. And so you need to make sure that I am going to be able to reflect your values. If you're talking to me that I'm not going to undermine you in any way, let's say that you feel strongly, that all children should learn to ride bikes.

And the therapist is anti bike riding. Well, that's a bad fit therapist. It doesn't matter what their training is because you want somebody. Who's not going to tell your kid, that you don't want to ride a bike.

Right? So, so there's that. And then there is all the insurance stuff and finding someone that the big thing with kids is you're probably going to have to take them out of school to come to see the therapist. Cause very few of us have evening and weekend hours. And those of us who do those are the first hours filled up and the hardest to get into. So there's all of that. The best way to do it. Talk to your pediatrician because they should know about some therapists in the community. Talk to the school, especially the school counselor, because they should have some names too and talk to other parents.

And that's actually the best way to do it because parents will tell you what they loved and hated about the therapist. They'll tell you, I didn't like her because she cussed at her kid and somebody else will say, I love that. She cussed in front of my kid. She's so relaxed. Well, it'll give you a better idea of that therapist as a human being, who is a therapist, and then interview us, like I said, call us and ask us about us. And if we're not willing to talk to you before, you're a client, maybe that shows that we're not a great fit for you because you need someone who's going to respect that you care a lot about your kid and that you might put them through a ringer a little bit.

That's fine.

I think that's such a good point to know that you can call before you even schedule to talk to the therapist. Because I think, you know, we're just trying to get in. I know with the pandemic and everything, especially now that the spots are tight, you're just like, oh my God, take me. Right. So, um, but taking that step back and knowing it's okay to ask for that conversation first, I think is key.

It is because my big concern, cause sometimes parents want me to see their kid who does not want to be seen, really does not want to be seen. And maybe they can drag them in to meet me once. And, and often if I meet a kid, they'll want to work with me because some of them are just scared about it. So they just need to see me the first time. But sometimes they really do not want therapy. I tell parents, I don't want you to poison this. Well, I want you to let them know that therapy is, should be a place where you get to decide to go.

You get to feel welcomed because sometimes people will say, if you don't shape up, I'm going to take you to go see Dawn. Oh no, I am not supposed to be a punishment. So if you want your child to see therapy as a place to go, when they need help, please do not force them to go.

And that is the thing. Remember anxiety research shows that parents are actually the ones who will benefit, not from therapy, but from sort of coaching and consulting. So even if your kid doesn't want therapy, maybe you can get therapy to parent this difficult kid. Maybe that would be helpful to you. And that would benefit you. And maybe there's more flexibility there because you might not have the same constraints. So if you can't get into a child therapist or your child is not willing, please consider whether or not it might benefit you.

 I guess consider whether or not it might be helpful for you to talk to someone. And again, you want someone who mirrors your values, who you can see respects you as a parent who, who respects your expertise on your kid, because you are the expert, you know, best. You're just needing someone to help sort of guide you to get over some specific bumps and bruises and hurdles with your child.

That could be so helpful. That's such a great recommendation. Um, if your child can't go or, you know, doesn't want it to go. Um, yeah. Having the parent coach, what a great idea, because I mean, even in the interim, um, my daughter ended up meeting an amazing therapist. She's no longer in therapy, but um, I mean thank goodness for her. Uh, but in the interim while waiting to get in, oh, I didn't even think that I could ask someone to help me to help her.

And there's lots of us who really love to do that work. So we love parents.

Yes. Parents.

I know. Cause it's so hard.

So with that, is there anything else you'd like to share with our listeners?

I guess the only thing is I know that some people are hesitant to reach out for help for themselves around parenting because they're afraid of being judged like that. The therapist is going to say, you're just doing it all wrong. You're a bad parent and we need to start from scratch. And I don't know any parenting therapists, consultant, or coach who does that. And I think if they did do that, you could probably figure that out by a quick phone interview. Please don't let that stop you though.

Because again, I used to say, cause I used to teach parenting classes before I had kids and the parents would, would naturally go, what, what do you have to tell me? You don't even have kids and I'd say, well, but you have all the expertise about your kids.

And I have expertise about like child development and, and specific tools and tricks. And together we are going to figure this out. You should feel like, that the therapist is sort of like somebody who's coming alongside and helping you plug into what you already know because the parents I see at least are terrific. They're doing so many things, right. They're just sort of like me with my anxious kid. I was have blinders on about it.

It was different. I couldn't see it objectively until I went and got my continuing education around anxiety. And then I had the light bulb moment. And then I knew how to find her a therapist who would work because we went through several therapists that were lovely people, wonderful therapists. And they didn't work for my kid.

So I like to ask, um, what has been your favorite? Doesn't have to be dealing with anxiety, but just as a parent resource, what has been your favorite go-to resource as a parent?

Oh, that's easy. It's my favorite resource before I was a parent, as a parent, and as a therapist and parent educator is how to talk so kids will listen and how to listen so kids will talk and I always say it's actually the only parenting book you will ever need. It is so fantastic. I'd love that book.

Oh, awesome. Well, I'll put that in the show notes so that people can check it out. Well, thank you for taking the time to discuss anxiety and all the other stuff you added to this amazing topic. I really think it was just so helpful.

Well, I loved it. Your questions were so good that you really had me racking my brain, which I loved. It was a life fun.

Thank you for listening to this week's episode, Dawn has so much knowledge and wisdom to share with us on this topic. Both as a parent and a clinician, Dawn has incredible resources on her website at Please join us on our Facebook group where we can continue sharing our stories. And don't forget to follow Real Life Momz so you don't miss an episode.

Dawn FriedmanProfile Photo

Dawn Friedman

Parent Educator

Dawn has been working with kids and families for more than thirty years as a preschool teacher, family case manager, and psychotherapist. She has her masters in clinical mental health counseling and has additional post-graduate training in infant-toddler mental health, postpartum mood disorders, and child anxiety treatment.