Transcribed by Kanako Suwa
[ Introduction music plays ]
Welcome to the SENIA Happy Hour with your host, Lori Boll. We know you ‘re busy so we bring you 1 hour of content in under thirty minutes, leaving you with time for a true happy hour.
Lori: Hello everyone, today I speak with Doctor Elizabeth Henry, affectionately known as Doctor Liz. Doctor Liz is a nationally renowned, board certified pediatrician, speaker, author, parent, coach and youth advocate. She is a trusted advisor to parents and youth and the founder of Doctor Liz Consulting, a company created to empower parents and uplift youth. After graduating from Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and Georgetown Pediatric Residency Program. Doctor Liz has spent over 20 years as a pediatrician and youth consultant. Doctor Liz has written a book entitled “You Are Not a Bad Parent. A Pediatrician’s Guide To Reducing Conflict and Connecting with Your Teens”. We discuss her approach to communicating with the preteens and teenagers in your life, whether you’re a parent, teacher and uncle, what have you all of us can benefit from learning more about teenagers and the best way to communicate with them and as Doctor Liz will tell you, communication is key. So let’s dive right in. And now onto the show.
Hi Doctor Liz and welcome, welcome to the podcast.
Dr.Liz: Well, thank you for having me Lori.
Lori: I’m really excited to talk to you today. Uhm, you are a pediatrician, a speaker and author, parent, coach and youth advocate. So tell me how you became interested in writing a book about parenting, teenagers, named “You are not a bad parent”.
Dr.Liz: Well, that’s an interesting story. When I was in practice, many parents would ask questions like why doesn’t my teen listen to me? Or why does everything have to be an argument? Or some parents would say why are they closing the doors and shutting me out? So what am I doing? Boy, am I a bad parent?
So I would always end up reassuring parents, most parents, that they weren’t bad parents, because I often refer to adolescence as the Jekyll and Hyde phase of life. Like teens are hot and cold they’re on and off. They have these unpredictable moods and knowitall attitudes, and it’s, and it’s really hard for parents to communicate with them. And I know from first-hand experience, because I remember those years they were so frustrating. I have a 23 year old daughter now, but those teenage years were rough. If I said if I said the sky was blue and you probably can relate to this, Lori, that the sky was blue, she would say what are you talking about? It’s not blue, it’s gray”¦ so I wrote this book to break this stormy cycle for parents. It’s really about breaking the cycle for anyone who has a team in their lives you could be a grandparent and aunt, and uncle or mentor or teacher. It’s about bridging the gap, so you can finally connect and communicate with your teens from a place of love, compassion and understanding, so for all of you out there, all of your listeners who have ever questioned your parenting skills? I just want to tell you that you are definitely not a bad parent.
Lori: Love it, yeah I I used to get why are you so mad and I would always be like, well I just you know was coming down to ask if you wanted you know rice for dinner or so you know fried rice for dinner like, but my facial expression, she would read it incorrectly and you know, we all know that based on that teenage brain and and those myelin sheaths not being quite”¦ all built up to that executive, sorry, it would be the CEO of the brain less prefrontal cortex so. Yeah, teenagers are are just so fun.
Dr.Liz: They’re fun at some sometimes, but a large amount of times. It’s it’s just so frustrating and you just wanna you know, rip out your hair.
Lori: Yeah, well and you talk about parents or sorry teens closing their door and you know so often you’ll go to a friend’s house when they’ve got their teenagers and their teenagers are always locked in their room, they come out they might grunt, uh, when you say hello, so it’s it’s always interesting watching that process of this vibrant young child who’s full of life turn into a teenager who might grunt at you when you say hello.
Dr.Liz: I know it’s like where did that cute where did my sweet little boy or little girl go? It’s like.
What what happened to them? Who took over their body?
Lori: Invasion of the body snatchers. Why does parenting become exponentially more difficult for so many parents during these teenage years?
Dr.Liz: Well, I mean this is because we have to understand that as teens become more independent, which inevitably they will be, and preteens it really starts in your preteen years, right? They need and want to step out of your shadow as a parent and that can be very scary for them, but painful for for us as parents. Fear, uncertainty. You have the hormonal changes. The changes in the brain they’re all experiencing this and it’s it’s a source of a lot of the turmoil and this has nothing to do with you as parents. They start acting out, testing boundaries, slamming doors, arguing. And they’re just trying to find their way and as you mentioned earlier, Lori, the teenage brain is continuing to develop. It develops way into the young adulthood. But you know the connections are are continuing to form the areas for executive functioning and judgment and and insight and abstract thinking. They’re they’re continuing to to mature and grow.
Lori: So you have a breakthrough approach that you’ve written about in your book. What process did you go through to create that?
Dr.Liz: Well, as a pediatrician for over 20 years I’ve had a window seat, an inside view to the chaotic world of parents and teens. So I had the opportunity of witnessing first-hand the breakdown that occurs in the parent teen connection. I studied the language and the dynamics of the relationships and I watched the body language. You know those those side glances and those eye rolls.
Lori: I love the eye rolls.
Dr.Liz: Oh yeah, the eye rolls. And I also got the here in in in the office visit the size and and the frustration and the resignation in in the voice of the parents. And so these were the same kids that used to come into my office holding their parents hands and willingly giving them hugs and kisses. And now in their teen years, they’re sitting at the farthest most corner of the room, like with their hands crossed, contradicting everything their parents are saying.
Lori: Of course.
Dr.Liz: So I began to see a pattern that was consistent across the board. It didn’t matter who the parent was, it didn’t matter who the teen was. There was conflict during the adolescent years, no matter what. But I also knew that despite this conflict, it was possible from my first hand experience to have a strong parenting connection. So I had a really strong connection with my mom. My mother was she was strong. She was determined, she was the first in her family to go to college and she got her masters in social work from Columbia University. So she was trained how to listen and she listened to me powerfully and I told her everything like she, she was my best friend growing up. I I she raised me with my grandma and I got that I developed that same relationship. I use that model so I have that same type of relationship with my daughter, so I know that close relationships are possible. But communication is the key. So over the years I’ve developed a mastery in bridging the communication gap between parents and teens so that they can connect and communicate powerfully and transform their relationship.
Lori: That sounds magical. I imagine there’s a lot of parents out there going, yeah, right?
Dr.Liz: Yeah, right, right? Now I’m sure so so. It’s like in what world, right? Yeah, yeah.
Lori: So could you give us an example, an example or two of how this approach does make a difference for your families that you’ve worked with or that have read the book?
Dr.Liz: Sure, sure sure. Uh, so I. When I was practicing, I started sharing it with parents and I started sharing my techniques and my tips and all of a sudden I started getting all of this positive feedback so parents were coming over to me and saying things like I can’t believe that my daughter is actually coming to me for my advice or another parent said I got through a whole day without an argument like this is movable so and then I want to share with you of this story that one day I was in the supermarket, minding my own business, getting my groceries when a parent of one of my patients came up to me and and she and she says, like I don’t need to bother you out of the office, but I just want to thank you for how you helped me with my son. And she said, remember, when I came to your office, and I was so worried that something was seriously wrong with him, like he was locked in his room all the time. He wouldn’t talk to me about anything that was going on and you took him aside by himself. And when you talked to him, he shared with you that the reason he stopped talking to me was because I never listened.
And she told me. Well, I want to tell you that the strategies that you gave me to connect with him really worked. He talks to me now. And I mean every parent needs to know about this. Did you ever think of writing a book so as soon as like, so as soon as she said that, like a light bulb went off in my head because I had always thought about writing a book, but I never was certain what I would write about and so now like when she said that you know the light bulb went off and it all made sense. So in that moment in the produce aisle of the grocery store, I decided to write a book that would give parents everything they want and everything they need to authentically connect and communicate to their teams and transform their relationship.
Lori: Nice, and I bet you’ve never looked at a vegetable the same way again.
Dr.Liz: And I know I wanna add because so this is not like uh, like it. It’s not like you’re going to be perfect, right? Like like tips and all of a sudden, Uh, so amazing relationship? Because I, you know, my daughter and I can go at it, right? So it’s not like like perfect, and, you know, we can like, you know we can have our arguments and we’ve fuss and we hang up on each other and and all of that. But the point is that you argue when you disagree and you have all that conflict, but it doesn’t last. Right? You continue, your connection is still there. You you know how to communicate with each other in a way that you know love is still present and you you don’t have that distance. You don’t take it personally.
Lori: Yeah, I love how you mentioned, you know, listening listening is such a key aspect of it.
SENIA has had Dr. Ross Greene as a speaker quite often and he talks about talking to the student. You know, when there’s a problem when there’s a behavior so often we as adults try to solve the problem without actually speaking with the student to understand what’s going on in their lives and and their perception of things. And so once we we talk and we or we listen to them quite often they come up with the solutions themselves, or we come up with them together.
Dr.Liz: Exactly, and that’s one of the that’s one of the tips I I give. It’s is like listening not to respond right but but listen for the sake of listening and as you said, for teachers as parents, it’s it’s natural to want to jump in and try to fix things right and make things better and fix it and figure it. But as you said, uhm, sometimes our teens and pre teens and young adults, they don’t want us to fix things, they just want to vent and they want to use us as sounding boards and often as they talk it out, and if you give them the space to talk, they can figure it out for themselves.
So one technique I I use with my daughter is when she talks or when she’s when she’s talking, I’ll say OK, so how do you want me to listen? Do you do you just want to vent or do you want me to give my opinion? So which way? And sometimes she’s like, I just want to vent. I I you know I don’t want your opinion at all. And and you know, and that’s fine. And then so I know, you know how to listen and and and so if I I stopped myself, I I have my opinion in my head and I form it.
Right? And and it takes me so much not to say it. But but but I honor that. And you know, let her vent and then and then we move on.
Lori: Well, it sounds like this would be a good book for spouses to read as well, so, just throwing that out there.
Dr.Liz: Yes, yes it can apply to many different situations.
Lori: Well, I’m thinking some of the challenges that our teams faced today that maybe we didn’t face as teenagers, I imagine technology might play a big role as well as worries of you know, violence in schools, mass shootings as things they see on the news or social media. Yeah, these things didn’t exist when we were teenagers, right?
Dr.Liz: Exactly these are totally different times.
Lori: Right can you can you name a few more?
Dr.Liz: Uh, a few more of”¦?
Lori: The challenges that our teams face now.
Dr.Liz: Well, yeah, you listed a lot that we have”¦ We’re in the midst of the pandemic, right? Like you got the COVID-19, which it was unimaginable, unimaginable when we were growing up up the, you know, threat of terrorists. You know terrorist attacks was an existent when we were growing up. It didn’t loom over our heads. Just the the. With the technology, the cyber bullying like now they, they can be bullied within the confines of their own bedroom right. And you know before it’s like you can, you know you go to school and you have to deal with a bully but they can be silently bullied in in, in in their home and it’s what should be a safe place and parents may not even know it and it’s really with the social media trying to keep up with people and and and and thinking that everyone life is rosy as they present themselves on social media. And so there’s a constant battle to compare yourselves with other people or not to compare themselves with other people. And you know we’re seeing in Pediatrics a rise in anxiety in in the Gen Z population.
Lori: Yeah, it’s it’s quite sad to to watch actually. I I think about you know my daughter is also 23 and I’m I’m thankful that she didn’t have technology until she was about in, I don’t know, I want to say middle school where they got their phones and things like that, but now our our kids are getting technology from birth basically so, you know? I think that could really play a role in in that anxiety piece as well.
Dr.Liz: Yeah, it it definitely. It definitely does, and so that the the the kids now who really that that the iPad they’re born with it basically right, you see these little like 2 year olds? You know they know how to navigate the iPad or or or electronics better than I do and”¦ And so it’s hard. They’re in like a totally different world than than we grew up with, and so and a pitfall a parenting pitfall is to say, well, when I was a child, this happened and I don’t see why they can’t do this. You know, because I did it, but it’s like comparing like apples to to eggs.
Lori: Ha ha ha.
Dr.Liz: Not even, not even fruit, another piece of. I mean it. I mean you can’t”¦ You cannot compare the two and can you imagine just growing up with, you know, technology at your fingertips? You can look up anything. You can connect with somebody in in Europe or on the other side of the world and chat with them. I mean so, so that’s one reason why I wrote my book, “You are not a bad parent”, it’s because to really have parents see the differences.
First of all, how how they’re different? How growing up differently impacts, you know, how you connect with your teens and you know, put them kind of on the same page so that they can connect and communicate, they can understand each other.
Lori: Right, right. Well before we sign off for today, can you give us a few strategies to help parents deal with the challenges that their teens face?
Dr.Liz: Yes, well I gave you one, which we talked about was listening”¦
Lori: Yes, yes, so I did listen. Yes, I get.
Dr.Liz: I gave one, so I’ll give three more. Or at three more, I call the Do ‘s and Don ‘ts so the second one is if if if your teen is feeling bad about something, don’t quickly try to make them feel better, but give them permission to feel OK. So what do I mean by that? It’s difficult seeing our kids.
When they’re sad and disappointed, I know it’s awful to see mine when when they’re upset, but when you brush off their feelings, it’ll only make them not want to share them and shut down.
So if they say I’m sad.
Don’t say like oh don’t worry about it or or you’ll you’ll get over it or you’ll feel better tomorrow because you know, that’s our natural tendency just to want to want to make them feel better.
But what you want to do is continue the conversation by asking them.
Like why are?
You sad like what’s what’s going on?
Because we all have emotions and what we resist persists.
So it’s important to validate.
Allow them to process their emotions, validate their emotions and have these open, honest conversations with them and it’s important now more than ever, as we’re kind of coming out of this pandemic slowly and it’s really important to give them space and grace so.
That they can.
They can readjust and and and re acclimate as we’re kind of re engaging and and and the world is slowly opening up.
And number my my third UM?
A tip is to share your stories as a lecture.
Not as a lecture, so share your stories not as a lecture, but as an open, honest dialogue.
So often as parents, we don’t.
We try not to show, you know what’s really going on and, but it’s important to be vulnerable in an age appropriate way and and share your struggles.
As well as your successes.
Because your teens then learn that failing is a part of life and that they can rise from it.
It makes you as a parent also more relatable when you’re vulnerable, and it gives your team permission to to be vulnerable, and in doing so they feel comfortable they’ll start to feel comfortable opening up to you and learning that there is a strength and vulnerability.
And my first tip last but not least, is it’s important that when you feel angry about something they said or did and notice I said when because.
If there’s no if ands or butts, they they will do or say something that you that upsets you now.
You may not like it and you can let them know that, but it’s important.
That at the end of the day that.
You say 3 words and those three.
Words are I love you.
And and that’s because your words become their inner inner voice and your inner voice.
That inner voice will get them through when you’re not there, so knowing that they’re loved is key to unlocking the relationship.
And it’s important that they know that you accept them.
For who they are and that you love.
Them unconditionally, no matter what.
So those are my 4 strategies.
Now you can get a lot more in the book.
That’s an and my book is called.
You’re not a bad parent. A pediatrician’s guide to reducing conflict and connecting with your teens, and it’s available on Amazon or you go to.
You are not a bad parent com.
Cool and I’ll add those all to the show notes.
You also offer a course, right?
I do I do so you can implement like the strategies in the book.
It’s great to read the strategies, but then you’re like OK, this sounds great, but how do I put it into action?
So I have a a 21 day boost. Your connection with your teen email challenge course and what that does. It gives you daily exercises that will bring you closer to your teens. So if you’re interested, all of that can be found on my website. Doctor Liz.
Consulting.com, but what I what I also want to mention to your to your readers, that I often forget to mention, is that when you go to my book website, which is, you are not a bad parent.com. There is a link to get a free bonus audio.
Called my extraterrestrial approach to listening, which is a 10 minute audio.
It’s really quick, but it will really be helpful in starting to strengthen that connection and to.
Uhm, shift your listening.
Wow, this is great I I’m past the teenage years myself with my family, but I know there’s a lot of people out there in the thick of this.
And we’ll really love your material, so thank you.
Yeah, you’re welcome, and but it’s it’s not just you don’t have to be a parent as as you said before, you could be a teacher you, I mean it.
It’s anybody who interacts with teens and and communicates, so it’s really for, you know, teachers and mentors and and.
Anyone else who who is really passionate about working with teens, which is a difficult task.
So it is and and you’re right.
And I I used to teach middle school, so this would have been really handy back in the day, so.
Thank you so much, Doctor Liz for your time today.
Oh well, thank you Lori for.
Having me, it’s a pleasure.
Thank you for joining us for today’s show. For more information, including how to subscribe and show notes, please head to our website, thatssegnainternational.org/podcasts until next time. Cheers.
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