Katie Hurley on Supporting Stressed Out Kids and Adolescents

gender nonconformity kids

Are you struggling to support a stressed out kid? This episode is for you. My guest is Katie Hurley, a child and adolescent psychotherapist, parenting educator, public speaker, and the author of the award-winning No More Mean Girls, The Depression Workbook for Teens, The Happy Kid Handbook, A Year of Positive Thinking for Teens, and her newest book which we’ll dive into in this interview, The Stress-Buster Workbook for Kids

This is such a timely conversation as we as a society are learning more and more about how children and adolescents’ mental health has been impacted during the past few years. Katie and I talk about how the current world situation is affecting teens and tweens, why so many kids are struggling with anxiety and depression, what’s going on with kids’ social lives right now, ways parents can be supporting their stressed out kids and bolster their emotional well-being, and the importance of parents getting support for themselves if they are parenting a depressed child. 

 

About Katie Hurley

Katie Hurley, LCSW, is a child and adolescent psychotherapist, parenting educator, public speaker, and writer. She is the founder of “Girls Can!” empowerment groups for girls between ages 5-11. Hurley is the author of the award-winning No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls, The Depression Workbook for Teens: Tools to Improve Your Mood, Build Self-Esteem, and Stay Motivated, The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World, A Year of Positive Thinking for Teens, and her newest book, The Stress-Buster Workbook for Kids.

Katie covers mental health, child and adolescent development, and parenting for The Washington Post, PBS Parents, Psychology Today, Everyday Health, PsyCom, and US News and World Report, among other places. She practices psychotherapy in the South Bay area of Los Angeles and earned her BA in psychology and women’s studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She splits her time between Los Angeles, California and coastal Connecticut with her husband and two children.

 

Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • What Katie has encountered in her work with teens and tweens in the past two years of living through a pandemic
  • The difference between having depression or anxiety versus feeling depressed or anxious
  • Whether teens and tweens who are experiencing depression or anxiety right now will struggle with these things later on in life
  • The biggest challenges teens and tweens are facing socially as we re-emerge from the pandemic
  • Whether or not online friendships can meet a child’s social and emotional growth and development
  • Ways parents can support their children’s well-being and mental health at home (and at school)
  • Katie’s advice for ways parents can take care of themselves if they have a depressed child at home

 

Resources mentioned for supporting stressed out kids

 

Special message from our sponsor

Forman School, located in Litchfield, CT, is a coeducational preparatory boarding school for students in grades 9-12. Forman educates bright, motivated students with learning differences, such as ADHD, dyslexia, and executive function delays. Through a diverse curriculum and individualized learning, students are empowered to understand how their brains function and how they learn. Here, students embrace their differences and build a foundation for their future.

Learn more about what sets Forman apart at formanschool.org.

Episode Transcript

Debbie Reber  00:00

Forman school is the Connecticut co-ed college prep boarding school for grades nine through 12, dedicated to empowering bright students with learning differences like dyslexia, ADHD, and executive function delays. Get more information at formanschool.org.

Katie Hurley  00:15

Or you can always say to teenagers, you need to be in the driver’s seat of your own brain. And the way you do that, as you learn how it works in every brain is different. So you have to learn how yours works because mine isn’t the same. You know, I can give you guidance, but I’m not you. So you have to learn how your brain works. You know, when do your moods dip? What kind of triggers affect you? So just really awareness because so many kids go through this and they suffer in silence.

Debbie Reber  00:43

Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host, Debbie Reber. We are coming close to the end of this season on the podcast, but I still have some great interviews coming like this one. today. My guest is Katie Hurley, a child and adolescent psychotherapist, parenting educator, public speaker and writer. She’s also the founder of Girls Can empowerment groups for girls between ages five and 11. Katie covers mental health, child and adolescent development and parenting for publications like The Washington Post, PBS Parents, Psychology Today, and Everyday Health. Katie is also the author of several books, many of which are on my bookshelf, including the award winning No More Mean Girls, The Depression Workbook for Teens, The Happy Kid Handbook, A Year of Positive Thinking for Teens, and her newest book, which we are going to talk about more in this interview, The Stress Buster Workbook for Kids. This is such a timely conversation as we as a society are learning more and more about how children and adolescent mental health has been impacted during the past few years. Katie and I talk about how the current world situation is affecting teens and tweens. Why so many kids are struggling with anxiety and depression. What’s really going on with kids social lives right now, ways parents can support their child’s emotional well being and the importance of parents getting support for themselves if they’re parenting a depressed child. Katie is so knowledgeable on these topics, I know that you’re going to get a lot out of this conversation. Before I get to that, a reminder that if you haven’t read my book for parents, Differently Wired, or maybe you’ve read it already, but you could use a refresh and want to go through it with a group of parents, for the first time in three years, I’ll be running a virtual book club to go through Differently Wired together, starting April 25. We’ll meet once a week for four weeks over zoom to go deeper into the book and discuss the key takeaways, and I’ll be available to answer your questions. I also have a downloadable workbook so you can take notes and explore ways to apply the strategies in your own family. This book club will be free. The price of admission is a copy of my book, whether you’re buying it now or you already have a well worn copy on your bookshelf. You can get all the details about registering at tiltparenting.com/bookclub. Again, this starts on Monday, April 25. You can register at tiltparenting.com/bookclub. Thanks so much. And now here is my conversation with Katie.

Debbie Reber  03:32

Hey, Katie, welcome to the podcast.

Katie Hurley  03:33

Hey, thanks for having me.

Debbie Reber  03:35

I love our conversations. And there’s a lot that we can talk about today. But I wanted to, just as a way to get into it. Just hear from you kind of what’s happening in your world right now. I know you on a personal level. So I know that you’re day to day really in the trenches right now. But could you spend a little time just telling our listeners kind of where your focus is in your work world these days?

Katie Hurley  03:58

Yeah, so in my practice, I work with a lot of tween and teens. And though I don’t just work with girls, I happen to have a lot of female identifying tweens and teens that I work with right now and a lot of LGBTQIA kids. So we’re focusing a lot on just the reentry which I know sounds weird to say that in January, except that because we’ve had this start, stop, start stop all well for two years and going. Everything constantly feels like reentry. So they get things figured out whether it’s friendship stuff, academic stuff relating to their parents stuff, and then a new thing happens and they have to start over again. And it feels like they’re starting from scratch. So there’s been a lot of stuff coming up about friendships. In particular, I was just mentioning earlier how in my parent groups on Facebook, a lot of parents are just really feeling helpless on the sidelines watching kids, teens in particular struggle to find their friends. They kind of have a lot of teens connected on social media. Your online and through gaming and it was all really positive while they were not in school, and then they returned to school. And it’s like, all the rules are different. And it’s really hard to manage and navigate. So kind of been doing a lot of that. And we know that, you know, the surgeon general put out a warning just a few weeks ago about the increased rates of anxiety and depression, one in three high schoolers is identifying as anxious or depressed. Not necessarily a surprise to me, my colleagues, people in the field, we sort of saw this coming, but we are seeing it very much. So in our practices in the schools, I mean, I just, I’ve never done so many suicide assessments in my life, you know, in my entire 24 year career, the last two and a half years has been your constant, I’ve probably done more in the last couple of years than the entire 20 years before that. So it’s just really over, it’s an overwhelming time to be a parent and to be a teenager or a child of any age, really.

Debbie Reber  05:54

And it’s an overwhelming time to be a service provider. I mean, you know, I’ve talked with a couple of people through the course of the pandemic, who are really working directly with teens, adolescents, kids who are struggling. And so before we even get into it, I want to just check in on you and ask how you are doing, you’re also a parent, and how are you personally taking care of yourself through this?

Katie Hurley  06:17

I really appreciate you asking that. I feel like I don’t get asked that a lot. And part of it, I think is because I am going going going and I sort of put on this brave face. And just, you know, every day is a new day, I’m super exhausted from eye contact with, you know, I stay in a lot of contact with colleagues, and we’re all exhausted. And you know, we’re referring to each other left and right, we are desperately trying to find referrals in just about every area of every state, we’re all very, I would say we’re more connected now, virtually than we ever have been, which in some ways is good because I can, you know, reach out to somebody in Idaho and say, Hey, I need a referral yesterday, you know, who do you have, and we’ll find someone. But also, we’re all just really retired. And so you know, I try to prioritize running, it gives me some time and space to just hit the street and not think, you know, just kind of watch the world go by me while I take a run. I’m by no means any sort of professional runner, I run about two and a half miles. And that’s my limit. But it’s enough, it gives me a little serotonin boost and just a little time and space to myself. I go to bed at 930 every single night. Just every night, I go to bed at 930. That’s it, I’m done. Which sounds silly, but it is what it is. It’s what I have to do right now to kind of stay energized and face the next day. And I know a lot of my colleagues are feeling the same. It’s you know, get to bed early, get some kind of exercise, drink coffee, connect with people as much as humanly possible.

Debbie Reber  07:47

Well, thank you for that. And yes, running has been my, I’m not in the trenches in the way that you are, but running has been kind of my savior during this, these last couple of years, for sure. Paired with podcasts of reality show recaps. Anyway, I just wanted to touch upon what’s happening with kids. And you said, you know, that Surgeon General’s report that mentioned one in three kids, which, you know, I read that report, and it was wasn’t surprising, as you said, but I wonder, you know, I think when we have a child who’s struggling with depression, or anxiety, and mental health, we often think hopefully, this is just a situational thing this is about we’re gonna deal with it. And we’ll get through it, as opposed to we all have people in our lives who are depressed, and that’s just part of their makeup, and they medicate for their whole lives. And they kind of navigate it that way. I’m wondering what your thoughts are in terms of these one in three? Is this very much, in your mind, COVID related, is it something that our kids can move through and get past and kind of not necessarily face depression moving forward? Once we kind of get on the other side of this?

Katie Hurley  08:52

Yeah, so what I keep telling parents and educators and other people that that call for consultation is this. You can feel depressed without having depression, you can feel anxious without having an anxiety disorder. And I think we’ve lost that knowledge a little bit in the influx of knowledge that, you know, we’re constantly bombarded on social media, and I’m not a person who’s against social media, because actually, I think it’s a great way, particularly for parents and adults to connect, and, you know, gather some information or help from one another. So I think there’s a lot of positives. But one thing that’s hard, I think, right now for people is that we’re bombarded with information from all kinds of websites, health sites, you know, mental health sites, even just, you know, NPR and news sites, and it’s hard to weed out what’s what is, so we have forgotten that you can have symptoms of these things without actually meeting the diagnostic criteria. And in social work, you know, I’m trained as a social worker. And so in social work in particular, we’ve kind of moved away from running to the DSM a little bit every time we confront something Because as social workers, what we do is we say, instead of saying, What’s the problem that needs to be fixed? What’s wrong with you? We say, Well, what happened to you? Tell me what happened? Tell me where you come from, tell me what’s going on. And we start there. And that’s an important shift in conversation. Because it’s sort of, we have this tendency to pathologize, everything we want to run, we want to find the diagnosis, we want to find the evidence based treatment, because that’s going to be the gold standard for fixing everything. Well, right now everybody is under a constant stressor. There’s not a single person who who doesn’t feel any stress right now. So we’re living through this sort of bizarro world, as I say to teens all the time. And it’s really normal to have these feelings. So I think when the fog clears, and we, when we come out of this, I think a lot of teenagers are going to be okay, I don’t think they’re going to face a lifetime of anxiety or depression. But I think it’s going to take a long time to climb out of this, because what they’ve endured is like nothing we’ve endured before. And it’s just been very difficult. And the stress and anxiety is coming from all different angles, and it’s layered, there’s all kinds of layers to this stuff. So it’s going to take time for us to hit the reset, and for them to feel okay, again, but I think that a lot of them are going to be okay again.

Debbie Reber  11:18

That’s a really good thing to hear. And you mentioned what was really like a Groundhog Day, right, this re entry and then re entering again, and then re entering again. And, you know, thinking about this, I’m thinking the last time we had a conversation for my Facebook Live, it was fall of 2020, which was a really dark time in the you know, pandemic journey. And I’m feeling a little more optimistic right now. Maybe it’s because I’m selectively choosing which infectious disease experts to follow. But can you talk about what you think that transition will be like in terms of kids coming out of that fog? And, you know, you said it’s going to take a lot longer? And I completely agree, but how can we support our kids and kind of making that transition? What do you think is going to be the biggest things to pay attention to?

Katie Hurley  12:09

Well, in general, pre-pandemic and from now until eternity, one thing I always say is that we really need to strengthen the bridges between home, school and community. And one thing I don’t want to see is the return of intense pressure, you know, the race to the finish line. When we come out of this, we’ve already seen it a little bit. If you talk to enough high schoolers right now, they will tell you how, you know, my primary focus is how many get into college and when I keep getting sent home for exposures, and then my grades are going to suffer. And I need to get into A, B and C and I need to do all these things. You know my own 15 year old who is a freshman in high school, she just finished her first semester of high school came home and said, Oh my gosh, they came to my math class again and told us what exactly what math classes we have to take if we want to go to a four year college and what we have to do to go to a four year college. And so the messaging out of the gate for kids is you have to check all these boxes to do this. And this is what we want you to do. Right, the message is clear out, we want you to go to the four year college. Now, I always say the gift of the United States is that we have 1000s of colleges, universities and community colleges. So having choices galore for kids in our community colleges can be a huge gift for a lot of students, particularly students who don’t know what they want to study. They don’t know what their next step is. So they can explore without the high stakes pressure of some of our other colleges and universities. So, you know, I would like to see that we can take a slower approach to really getting kids back on track. Yes, academics are important. We want kids to learn, but primarily we want them to care for their mental health. We want them to care for each other. You know, we want to bring back empathy and compassion, which is severely lacking in a lot of areas right now. So I would really like to see, you know, for families to be speaking up to schools and saying, Hey, how can we work on this together, and I know that that’s pie in the sky to some degree. I know, families try. And they feel like, well, we get what we get. And that can be really, really frustrating. I do think the more people work together toward common goals of really caring for our kids instead of worrying about where their head is important. And that makes a big difference.

Debbie Reber  14:27

Yeah, caring for our kids. Just that language right there. It’s not what we often hear, you know, and I’ve got a junior in high school now and I find myself constantly having to check myself because I  have very clear messaging to my child, your terms, your timeline, whatever this looks like, is perfect, right? But I have to check myself almost daily because I’m getting information from outside sources, social media and all those things and that we’re still moving forward as if none of this has happened.

Katie Hurley  14:57

Yeah, that’s right in You know, inside the schools and with each other, you know, the things kids talk about too. It’s like when you, you know, I have the gift of being able to go into schools and talk to middle schoolers and high schoolers, and you hear them, you know, when they really start talking, and they really open up, it’s, they feel all these different pressures, whether it’s sports, music, even kids who are coding, you know, that are going to all these coding camps. And that used to be kind of like, the cool thing that kids who were interested in coding did, and it was fun, and it was engaging. And now it’s like a whole thing, right? It’s a whole industry. So everything’s become high pressure, even just things that were hobbies. Everything’s become high pressure for kids right now. I was talking to a student recently. And I was like, but what’s your hobby? And she was like, but I don’t have hobbies. And I was like, but But what could be a hobby? Let’s figure out what could be a hobby because everybody needs something they do you like to bake. I like to bake? You know, what’s something you can do? That’s just for no reason. There’s no award. It doesn’t matter if it stinks. You can burn the bread, throw it out and make anyone Yeah, like, what is your hobby? And there’s not a lot of hobbies right now. And that’s a missing link for our teens. You have to do stuff just because it’s fun. Yeah, absolutely.

Debbie Reber  16:12

Yeah, we created a new schedule, just to really protect Asher’s private time, you know, because there are a lot of extra things happening right now. And so there were a couple of days of just big afternoons that are just for like, whatever the hell you want to do. That’s what this day is for. And you don’t even have to be, I happen to have a child who always wants to be productive. I’m like, I think you should give yourself permission to be unproductive. On purpose. I love that. Yeah, I’d love to talk a little bit more about this social piece. You know, you mentioned earlier that that’s one of the biggest things you’re seeing. And of course, for listeners of this show, we are raising kids who even in the best of times struggle with social connection, and just really fitting in and I also we were talking before I hit record, just what an interesting time it is for especially our middle schoolers and high schoolers to be really doing their identity exploration online. And then going back into these live relational situations with peers and trying to navigate that. So can you talk a little bit more about what you see as the biggest challenges socially with the teens that you’re working with?

Katie Hurley  17:20

Well, an interesting thing I did notice when kids were learning online was they would come to me and say, Oh, my gosh, this one kid is so funny. He never talks in school, but he’s like, so funny on Zoom, and he, you know, he changes his name to these funny things. And he’ll make these jokes. And he’s funny in the chat, and I would, my heart would just be like, Oh, yay, those kids are finding their way. And there’s, you know, they’re starting to show who they are because they have this vehicle. And, you know, all those kids went back to school, and not all of them are struggling, but a lot of them are and they’re feeling like, Oh, I was able to shine in this other capacity. And now I’m standing back not knowing how to do this. And then another thing that’s happening is even kids who had established groups, I can’t tell you how many teens came to me and said, I’m not in the group anymore. I don’t know why. You know, I got ghosted on social media, they’re icing me out in person, I’m just not in the group. I don’t understand. I’m asking. They’re not telling, you know, I’m trying to talk to them, they just won’t talk to me. So things changed and in really secretive ways, and I’m not really sure how that happened. I mean, you know, we know that parents and families had all kinds of different comfort levels. During the pandemic, I was on the more cautious side having a child with asthma. And, you know, I knew other kids that were out sort of doing regular things, right. So they were kind of doing their normal socializing, where my kid I was a little more like, you know, holding back a little bit on certain things, and you do have to wear a mask. And, you know, we’re making these choices for the health of a person in our family. I have heard from lots of kids that that was part of it. Some students that weren’t allowed to kind of be out and about or weren’t in some kind of learning pod or just socializing pod came back and felt like their whole worlds were turned upside down. Everything changed. So, you know, I’m spending a lot of time trying to empower kids to widen their circles, you know, just little by little, you know, find one who’s one interesting person that maybe you only know, as an acquaintance, but that might actually be someone that’s really fun to get to know, how do you do that? Because there are a lot of them. There are a lot of these kids right now who are sort of outside circles, looking in wondering where they’re supposed to go and how they’re supposed to do it. Instead of trying to break into some established group. What if you looked around and found someone else who was also looking and you just tried it out? You know, you just share something that you’re interested in, see if that person is interested, maybe it’s a class that you both have, and that’s how you know they might be interested in the same thing. So really talking to kids about the nuance of friendship and how do you find your people? Because what I say to teens all the time is even though You know, in the world, everybody supposedly has these groups, you only need one, you just need one person who’s your person that you can connect with. And if you have that one person, you’re going to get through whatever it is that comes at you. So really focusing on instead of looking for who’s your group? Who’s your person, you know, starting there.

Debbie Reber  20:20

Yeah, that was going to be one of my questions. What is enough? I think a lot of us raising these kids who, again, struggle, typically, socially, may not have a friend circle, even going into the pandemic. A lot of them have their connections online. You know, I hear from so many parents that their kids are playing Roblox or Minecraft or Lord knows what games together, you know, is that just to kind of help those parents not stress as much when meaningful relationship or someone a connection point of appear, even if it’s doing zoom games, like that matters? Would you say that?

Katie Hurley  20:58

Absolutely. That is enough. I mean, I think we’re so afraid. Because, you know, the first messaging was like, Oh, just let them be online as much as you want. And then it was like, oh, no, they’re online too much. And so now everybody feels ashamed, like that their kids are online too much. For some kids, those online connections are everything, whether it’s one or it’s 15. Right, those online connections are everything. And that is friendship, we have to revamp our thinking on what is friendship, because for some kids, that is the best, most logical way to connect. It’s how they do it. And it fills their cups, and they have a friend and so why are we stressing so much that it’s on Zoom or discord, or whatever it is, whatever game that they’re playing, you know, they’re playing with someone, isn’t that what we want, we want them to have someone that they can connect with and have some fun with at the end of the day. I just think that’s huge and important. And we have to shift our thinking and stop worrying that everything we do online is bad. It’s what you do that matters, you know, if you’re doom scrolling Instagram for seven hours a day, not great, right? But if you’re connecting with a friend and you’re playing a game, that’s super great. I just think you know, that’s one of the best parts of technology is that the kids who don’t have the face to face connections can have those online connections, and they can get those same supports. And look at us. I mean, Debbie, we are friends. Because we met online. Right? So let’s acknowledge that.

Debbie Reber  22:28

Yeah, 100%. And I think our kids too, they often feel and it’s probably because of social media or, you know, movies or whatever, right? That their life is supposed to look one way. And of course, their life looks very different from what they had hoped for and what they think they almost deserved to have, right? As a team, you’re supposed to have these experiences, and they’re not. So I think part of that is us messaging that. This is a real friendship. This is a real relationship. This is like there is no one way that this looks even again, in the best of times.

Katie Hurley  23:01

Absolutely. I sometimes find myself wishing that they would remake You’ve Got Mail except it’s for teenagers, and they’re connecting online and making friends. I really want to normalize it. I just think you can make powerful friendships, through gaming and through you know, being online. I just thing we have to normalize that.

Debbie Reber  23:19

Yeah, totally.

Debbie Reber  23:23

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Debbie Reber  24:07

You know, you work with children and adolescents who are struggling and again, you said, you’re there’s a lot of referrals I hear from people constantly on boards that I’m on, like, people looking for practitioners. I’m wondering for parents who have kids who are struggling right now, in addition to trying to find outside support, what are things that we can do at home, even to help support our child’s emotional and mental well being?

Katie Hurley  24:34

Yeah, well, you know, part of the reason I’ve written a couple of books just for teenagers and kids and I don’t like to sell myself but is because, and Janine Halloran has written some amazing coping skills book for kids and teens. Because we do need these resources at home. It’s too much to ask parents to be therapists. It really is. But when we have resources in our hands, we can kind of talk about things and we can look at an activity He in one in a book like that and say, Hmm, okay, let’s, let’s figure out some like coping cards, if we were going to come up with a list of things that we know work when we’re upset, what would be mine? And what would be yours, let’s get out some index cards, and we’ll make some together. And it’s just a way to process, you know, how do we get through hard things, because we have to do it as adults, kids have to do it, our ideas are not going to be right for them. Most of the time, I would say, and even you know, when I write these kinds of resources, and Janine, and I talk about this, it’s like, we put in so many ideas, because we know from working in the field for so long with kids, that they don’t all work for every kid. And in fact, often they’ll adapt to them and come back to us and say, Well, I took this, and this is what I did with it. And now it makes sense. So I think just having an open door policy, I always say, you know, have a feelings thermometer that the whole family uses, you know, or some kind of mood meter that the whole family uses. Because we’re all going through stuff. We all have shifts in moods and emotions. And the more we just talk about this stuff, as a family, and even with my own kids, like sometimes I can really see and I know people listening are gonna nod along saying, I can see the minute my son gets stressed out, I just, it’s not a word that comes out of his mouth. It’s a look that passes over his face, I can see it in his eyes. And it can happen in an instant. And I’m like, oh, no, he’s going to the bad place, you know? And so I’ll just walk up, gently put a hand on his shoulder and say, Hey, you’re looking a little stressed, buddy? What’s going on? What just happened? First, he’ll shrug it off, I’m fine. Like, no, it seems like you’re a little stressed. Let’s try and figure it out. And he’ll slowly start to talk. So you know, just having that sort of open conversation as much as you can. And a lot of teams will shrug it off, shrug it off. And then on the 50th time, they finally say something, just when you are about to give up asking you know, so it was a you know, check in often, when they say no, I don’t need anything, walk away, come back later, check in again, you know, just make yourself known make yourself present, when you’re having a moment own that. And I do that a lot, I’ll say like, you know, because sometimes I do a lot of virtual therapy right now. So I have zero commute, which is really hard. So it’s hard to like, see six teens, and then walk downstairs and be a mom. And so you know, I’ll take some time in my room, or I’ll say, You know what, I need to just walk the dog for 10 minutes, I’m feeling totally overwhelmed with everything that just went into my brain, just give me 10. And then I’m ready to reset myself. And so just kind of modeling and talking a lot is really important.

Debbie Reber  27:29

Such great strategies. And, you know, you said you don’t want to sell yourself, but I want to sell your resources. I mean, I want people to know about them. So the book that you just released is called The Stress Buster Workbook for Kids 75: Evidence-Based Strategies to Help Kids Regulate Their Emotions, Build Coping Skills, and Tap into Positive Thinking. Perfect timing. So beautiful cover, by the way. So tell us a little bit about you know, you said you have lots of strategies in there, because every kid is different. But what is kind of your goal in getting this book out into the world?

Katie Hurley  28:04

Well, my goal is to give kids some hope right now, actually, and to sort of empower them so that they can learn how to work through these feelings. Because look, as much as mindfulness was sort of having a moment before the pandemic, right, some schools were starting to do mind up or Yale’s ruler program, which are both great programs for schools, both excellent programs, well written curriculum, but they were having a little bit of a moment. And they were doing it in little bits and pieces, and then the pandemic hit. And it’s like, everything went kaput. And these kids were left to just deal. It was like you have to stay home, because you’re dangerous, because you’re the vector. So you have to stay home, protect everybody else, learn online, just get through it. And it’s like, well, who could get through that? That’s such a tall order. So you know, when my publisher came to me and said, Would you want to write this book or something like it? What would you do with it? And I, you know, shot them some ideas, I thought, yes, because they just want kids to have a resource that you don’t have to work through all at once. But when you’re having a day, you can open it up and flip through and say like, yeah, I want to work on some breathing exercises. So there’s a whole portion of the book that’s about breathing exercises and how to do that correctly. Or, you know, I want to work on my self esteem. So I’m going to do some of these things in this part of the book so that I can really start thinking about things like, How can I feel better about myself when I don’t feel good about myself? Just wanted them to have a resource and things that make sense to them.

Debbie Reber  29:26

That’s great. It’s an awesome book. I don’t know if you know this, Katie. But I wrote a book for Teen Girls that came out in 2009 called Chill: Stress-Reducing Techniques for a More Balanced, Peaceful You. And I was asked to write that by my publisher, because the stressful lives of teens was suddenly this hot thing like, oh my gosh, teens are stressed. We need to do something about it. So of course I wrote that book. I’m like, good, I fixed that problem.

Katie Hurley: 

It came back.

Debbie Reber:

It came back on steroids. So I’m just wondering if we could look into the future and have this conversation 10 years from now, where do you kind of think we’re heading in terms of the stress and emotional lives of young people?

Katie Hurley  30:09

Oh, gosh, I really hope it’s gonna be better in 10 years. Here’s what I see, though. So when we strip away all this haze that everybody’s living under, right? Teenagers, middle schoolers too, except that they’re so their brains are so under development, that, you know, they tend to be a little impulsive. But young teens and older teens and young adults, they want to change the world. And they want to start by changing themselves, and how they function in the world and the choices they make. So they kind of focus on different things, you’ve got kids who are really into the environment, and how they’re going to make a difference with their behaviors and empower other kids to make a difference with their behaviors. Then you’ve got kids starting mental health clubs, in schools, you’ve got kids starting LGBTQIA clubs in school. So they’re raising awareness about all kinds of different issues that affect them. And they’re demanding change. They’re asking their schools to do more for them, you know, they’re not afraid. They start petitions, you know, they walk out when something is, you know, they walk out, I mean, I just, I always say it, but after that, you know, school shooting in Parkland, Florida, by God did those kids use social media to get every kid in America to walk out of school at the same exact time on a Tuesday morning, and it worked. So they are very empowered, and they want things to change, they want a safer world, they want an emotionally safer world. So my hope is that 10 years from now, some of the momentum that this group has begun will trickle down and trickle down so that younger and younger kids are getting on board with, Hey, we got to take care of ourselves, because the people the grownups up top, they’re not doing it for us. And that’s not to say parents, that’s to say, systemically, we have a problem in this country with how we treat young people. And that’s not news. So but they’re making changes, they’re asking for it. So I want to say that 10 years from now, they’re going to be managing their stress better, there’s always going to be problems. Absolutely. You know, there’s always problems in the world, but I think they’re gonna be better equipped to cope.

Debbie Reber  32:09

That’s a great optimistic outlook. And I agree with you, I am so impressed with these kids. They really blew my mind on a daily basis. I want to be cognizant of the time, but I don’t want to go without spending a minute or two talking about another book, you’ve written a number of books. But there’s a book that I bought before we even knew each other. And that is The Depression Workbook for Teens. And so I just want to make sure that listeners know about that resource as well, because I think it’s just a phenomenal book to have on hand if you’re raising a teenager right now. So can you tell us a little bit about that?

Katie Hurley  32:43

Yeah, so that was another book that, you know, I’ve just, I don’t think I set out to specialize in anxiety and depression with tweens and teens. I don’t think that was my initial goal a million years ago when I started this career. But the more time passed, the more I saw kids just really struggling with regulating their moods, understanding how they were feeling. And it’s normal for adolescents to experience periods of depression, there’s so much happening in terms of brain development, hormones, massive growth, boys are always left out of the equation. And I’ve seen with my own eyes, watching my own son just, they grow at such an alarming rate, and everything happens at once. And it really can impact their moods differently. Wired kids are sometimes left out of that equation, because the focus becomes on you know, how they relate in the world, when really, they can be struggling with depression. And it can, that piece can fly under the radar. And so, you know, when I was given the opportunity to write this resource for teenagers, I thought, you know, I just really want them to understand that they can feel this way now and overcome it, that there are things that they can do themselves, to work on things, to learn about their moods, to learn about their brains and how their brains work, so that they can sort of, I’m always saying to teenagers, you need to be in the driver’s seat of your own brain. And the way you do that, as you learn how it works in every brain is different. So you have to learn how yours works, because mine isn’t the same. You know, I can give you guidance, but I’m not you. So you have to learn how your brain works. You know, when do your moods dip? What kind of triggers affect you? So just really awareness because so many kids go through this and they suffer in silence. Girls do too. But I’ve found lately that boys in particular suffer in silence with depression. They’re not often given the words to come forward, even still, you know, look at 2022 but boys will often tell me like no, I just swallow my feelings. Like that’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m just supposed to get through it. You would hope that by now the general messaging in society at large would be boys have feelings, too. Boys try, it’s not we’re not there yet. You know, so it’s just it’s a comprehensive resource that starts with understanding you know, what your brain is doing and why this might be happening and what could be causes Isn’t what puts you at risk to understanding your triggers to understanding, you know, positive ways to reframe your thinking, because that’s huge, you know, learning how to reframe your thoughts in a realistic positive way, is a great way to work through a depressed Thought Cycle. And it just takes practice, it takes work, but it can be done.

Debbie Reber  35:19

Yeah. And it’s also a book just like The Stress Buster Workbook for Kids that you can, you know, as a parent, you can leave it in your kid’s room, or you can sit down and go through it with them, which is what we did. And so it’s just a great resource to have. I’m going to ask you one last question. And then I’m letting you go. I remember hearing you say, one time that parenting a depressed kid is kind of this all encompassing ordeal for a parent. And so for parents who are listening, who are really in the trenches themselves right now, do you have any advice or thoughts on how they can support themselves as they’re navigating this,

Katie Hurley  35:51

I always say to parents with a depressed kid, you have to take care of yourself. And as hard as it is, because we still don’t talk about these things enough. And we still worry about the stigma, you’ve got to tell some people, you have to tell people who you trust, who are close to you so that when you have a day, where you just can’t anymore, that person can come in for you and you can leave, because you have to you have to get spaced from it. You have to have your time away from the depression because it can sort of be contagious in a way where it starts to feel hopeless for the parent, you know, you’re doing all these things, you’re doing a workbook, you’re going to the therapy appointments, you’re making sure that medication is being taken, you know, you’re doing all the things and it’s like this full time job. And still, you’re watching your kid, you feel like you’re watching them slip away, you know, and then some days are great. And then some days, they back step 12 steps and it’s like, Wait, what happened. So I really think having that village, you know, we say it all the time that parents need to village parents of depressed kids need a close knit village, they need the friend who will show up and play video games with the kid while you go out or you know, read magazines, or whatever it is they want to do, while you take some space from it, and you get a minute to just breathe and refocus yourself on something else. And I always suggest getting if you can, you know, if you have the resources, getting some therapy for yourself just to work through it. Everybody needs an outlet. And you know, therapy is still sort of framed as this thing we do when there’s a problem. But you’re allowed to just go and talk about your day. You don’t have to have a problem. I say that to kids all the time when they say, I’m not really sure what to talk about, because my week is going okay, I’m like, great. Tell me something funny. You watched on TV, like you’re allowed to just go connect with a person and talk about something that’s happening to someone else. It doesn’t have to be this giant problem that you’re trying to fix for yourself. Just support.

Debbie Reber  37:44

That’s great. Thank you. Thank you for such great advice. And thank you for just gosh, just knowing you’re out there. I feel that the team to get to work with you are so fortunate. And I know that it’s not easy what you do, and I’m just really grateful that you do it. So thank you so much, and thanks for everything you shared today.

Katie Hurley  38:04

Oh, thank you for having me. It was a pleasure.

Debbie Reber  38:08

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