Mental Health Fitness Strategies with Dr. Caroline Leaf

Leaf, Dr. Caroline.headshot

Written by: Where Parents Talk Staff

Published: Feb 28, 2024

by Katherine Martinko

Global mental health surveys reveal a world in crisis. But as Dr. Caroline Leaf explains, “The bigger story represents a shift that has occurred over the last 40 years, a shift in how we are helping children and adults to manage their minds. The real problem is how we are allowing ourselves to be human.”

Dr. Leaf has had a 38-year career as a communication pathologist and clinical neuroscientist and is a bestselling author and mother of four.


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Welcome to where parents talk. My name is Lianne Castelino. Our guest today is a communication pathologist and clinical neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf is also a best selling author. Her area of research for over 30 years has focused on the mind brain body connection. Dr. Leif is also a mother of four. And she joins us today from Miami. Great to have you here. Thanks for being here.
That’s lovely to be with you. Thanks so much.
Let’s start first of all, Dr. Leaf with having you describe what a communication pathologist does?
Well, we’ve the mind brain body connection kind of gives it away. So we trained to look at how a person is showing up in the world. So how they’re communicating how they’re functioning in every aspect of their lives. And then to trace that back to your way that what what is the source of that? How’s that? Where is this coming from and to help them to embrace process and reconceptualize it. So there could be you know, it could be as a language issue, it could be a relationship issue, it could be a trauma issue, we or it could be a combination of different things. So we looked to be look to sort of the neurological Foundation, we also look to the source like context, whatever’s happening in a person’s life, which can affect how they function, we trained to deal with trauma, we tend to deal with neurological issues like Parkinson’s and dementia, ADHD, all that kind of thing. And I specialize in clinical neuroscience, I went a little deeper in that aspect. And still do I still research, I still do have do a lot of research. So
when you put both of those areas and fields of study together, and you add to it, the whole world of the global epidemic that we’re currently in of youth mental health and that crisis, what are you seeing that concerns you the most? Is there a statistic, for example, that we should really all take pause and look at and reflect on as we continue to live through this through this global issue?
Excellent question. And yes, what gets there, there is a statistic and the statistic that worries me the most is that we have shifted over the last two years, two to three years, when they do global world mental health surveys where they look at different parts of the world, generally, adults come up worse than children. But for the last couple of years that swapped with children, as young as two and three years of age, all the way through to adolescence and young teenager hood, are basically backing more, if not as much more than what adults are. And that’s a tremendous concern. And then you look at all the numbers, there’s so many different numbers, there’s so many different ways of looking at it, you can look at the W H O you can look at. And generally the idea is that there’s a problem, and we all accept that. But that problem I don’t what concerns me the most. And is that a debt, that the numbers, the statistics, they aren’t telling us the full story, they are symptomatic of a bigger story. And that bigger story represents a shift that has occurred over the last 40 years. And that shift has dealt with how we are helping our children and adults manage their minds. So the real problem is how we are allowing ourselves to be human and how we are processing and developing the mental skills to cope with what we’re exposed to in a changing world. That has changed dramatically. And if you take that aspect out of how we function as humans, if you take the managing of the mind aspect away from humans, or reduce it, you’re going to land up with a enter it and you would you change that into a focus on the biological kind of in a reductionistic way, you’re going to end up with the epidemic that we see. So it’s not like the world’s facing issues. For the first time. There has never been a time in man’s history that we haven’t faced some crisis. There’s always crises, that’s just the nature of humanity. So if we talk about why this increase, most of the time, people will say, Well, it’s because of technology. Yes, that’s a contributing factor. But technologies, you know, there’s been advances all through time and history. So we can’t blame it on an advance like technology, social media, AI, you see those kinds of things as being major causes? They are not those are external causes. They are not the cause they external things I should rather say as opposed to causes. So they’re not the problem. What is the problem is how are we managing them? And how are we teaching ourselves and our children how to manage the impact and what those mean for the changes in the world that we live in. And that involves processing it involves having the mental skills to, to know what to do with those emotions when someone’s bullying you at school, or when you’ve been lifted out of a group or you’re getting all these horrible messages on social media or you are spending so much time just on on jumping from one social media platform to the next and tick tock and watching a lot of TV and that kind of thing without balancing that awkward reading that creates disruptions inside the brain in the book. already, that will make you feel anxious and depressed will generate a sense of dis ease that will then make a child react in certain ways. And it’s in that isn’t because they’ve got brain damage. And because they’ve got a mental illness, that’s because they are, the brain has been stimulated incorrectly. And the mind has been stimulated incorrectly. And that’s not managed, and we don’t teach ourselves and our children how to recognize that. All of those cumulatively, I’ve just mentioned a few things in there. How does a child deal with what’s going on in the change in terms of politics? What are you doing in terms of your own life? As a parent, you go through changes, how are you explaining that your children, you add all of those factors up? And you’re, you’re putting a child in the world with all this stuff? And what on earth do I do with it? So I’m feeling weird. And that weirdness is coming out in certain emotions and certain behaviors. And when it comes up in certain emotions and certain behaviors, the current model is Oh, my gosh, my child’s showing anxiety, they must be mad, they must have a mental health problem because of what the media say mental health, mental health, oh, my gosh, my child showing anxiety, my child’s not sleeping, my child’s showing, oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry. This is what I didn’t want to happen. Let me put them, I’m so sorry.
Is building going on outside, and it’s been disturbing them constantly. And that was hoping that they wouldn’t be so I’m so sorry about that. Okay, so just the natural cut point is you put a child into an environment that we’re currently in, and you don’t give them the tools and the mental skills to understand that, if I’m feeling this anxiety, maybe it could be because I’ve been looking at too much social media, or maybe you don’t, that if you don’t tell them that if I’m sad as an adult, or I’m going through stuff, and I don’t explain to my child, like I’m sad because of this, and this is how I’m managing it. If you don’t give those kinds of skills, and you just hide, try to hide or sadness, children’s children respond to authenticity, they respond to being honest, they respond, they they do what you do, they can read body language better than an adult. And if they don’t get things explained to them, all of that, they’re going to then think there’s something wrong with them. They’re going to immediately think what have I done? So then I did, the identity gets challenged, and now they’re trying to deal with stuff at home and all the changes in the world and no one’s telling them how to manage that. You put that together, you’re going to have a mind management crisis that will manifest as a mental health crisis. And it’s a long answer. But I hope that makes sense. And you’re welcome to dig deeper, if you need more clarity. Well,
you know, lots to unpack, certainly. And I’d like to start with the fact that I think a pain point for a lot of parents who don’t have the background and experience and expertise that you do is how do I recognize what is age appropriate for my child, in terms of explaining to them, whatever the situation is, explaining my emotion. So that’s number one. Because you did allude to the fact in the title of your book, the subheading talks about, you know, children ages three to 10, struggling with anxiety, depression, and mental health challenges. age three, is, you know, unfathomable for going to be unfathomable for a lot of our listeners and viewers. So how does a parent know what is age appropriate and where even to start?
It’s overwhelming, especially with everything going on up there and the message we’re getting. So the first thing to recognize is, the reason I wrote this book is to try and help parents do this. So the first thing is to recognize that children as young as two in the in through United States, Canada, unfortunately, Australia, these kinds of sort of more, very psychiatrically dominant type countries are labeling children as young as two with things like bipolar, depression. And first of all, Bipolar depression is it’s a description, it’s not a thing. It’s not a disease, and there’s a lot of inaccurate science around that particular concept. There’s also no ways that you can actually make the kind of diagnosis of what’s happening, which also relates to first question is there’s a lot of pathologize ation, or pathologizing of normal childhood behaviors or medicalizing of misery, instead of discussing the behavior and expand the misery, okay. So, based on that, we need to recognize first of all, as parents that our children need to understand the world that they’re in. So if a child and the child is not in it, and secondly, a child is not intentionally ever trying to be difficult, children aren’t trying to be a behavioral problem. They’re not trying to be naughty. They’re not trying to do things to upset you. They are trying to understand the world around them. And if they don’t know they experiment, and they are they’re like little scientists and they’re trying to understand and yes, they do things and hurt, maybe throw toys and whatever, but it’s not their their intention is to learn to understand to process that’s what they doing. So when we see our children Manifesting with a pattern Have behaviors and emotions and perspectives and bodily sensations for things, we may see our children starting to show up with a pattern. Now, the four signals are emotions, behaviors, bodily sensations, and perspective. Those are the four categories of how we show up as human. So if you look at those four categories, and ask yourself, what are my child’s emotions, behaviors, bodily sensations and perspectives? How are they looking at life? In a pattern, what are the patterns that are showing up a pattern means it’s become a habit, something’s that happened more than just once. And it’s not being managed. So it’s not become a day that something’s happened more than once and a child thing that’s wired into the mind brain body connection, and a child will then develop a coping mechanism. And that coping mechanism manifests in those four signals. So what we do is you look for patterns in those four signals. So if you if your child does something one off, like a one off, you know, they come home schooling is a one off crying or tantrum incident. And it’s that it’s pretty easy to sort of resolve because it’s something different, it’s out of the norm. And you can see, and you can talk to her, you know, what’s happening, you really upset today, that isn’t what we do all the time. It’s when you see a consistent pattern that you notice your child is doing more every day. And you’ve noticed that for the last few weeks, and you’ve noticed that they sleep, things change. And you notice they’re having nightmares, and any combination. So not sleeping would fall under behaviors, nightmares would fall under behaviors, showing anxiety would be an emotion, not wanting to go to to the park, where they all used to love to go to the park would be a perspective, these a shift in their perspective, behaviors, body sensation, complaining of headaches constantly, constantly complaining of stomach aches, or especially when you’re going to a certain place or going. So any sort of So in summary, to look at those four signals as a way of showing up in a pattern, what patterns is your chart showing that are different? And then when you see okay, this is the these are pattern for sure something’s happening repeatedly. I’ve noticed that for more than a week, I’ve noticed that for three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, and then to second what is the pattern? Break it down to what are the behaviors? What are the emotions? What are the body sensations? What are the perspectives in the book, I explained this in incredible detail, but simple detail with a lot of techniques. So it that walks the parent through step by step how to do this and what to look for. What I’ve also done is broken it down into age groups in terms of this a table, which is like what do you ask a three to five year old versus a five to eight year old six to eight year old versus a nine to 10 year old that kind of thing. How what what is what is a signal, this three to five year old would show versus a 10 year old. So like a three year old, if they’re very upset about something that’s happened at school, may may throw a tantrum, so they get in the car, they kick the car seat, they throw the juice over, they don’t want to talk to you, they may be scream, a 10 year old may just withdraw not look at you just sit very quietly go straight to the room, that kind of thing not going to eat much. So you know eating bit. So that’s the sort of thing that you can I’ve got a lot of those kinds of examples that can help make the distinction. But to start with, what’s the pattern? If it’s just a one off? It’s okay, what’s the pattern and before you think oh my gosh, this, this is a mental illness, we’ve got to be very careful of that biomedical model. Don’t pathologize or medicalize your child, just remember that that pattern is actually telling you something that’s the child’s trying to tell you through the behaviors and emotions and perspectives and bodily sensations. They are now unconsciously trying to tell you something and you want to then sit down with him and process that. Does that answer your question? Is it giving
you It absolutely does. And we should mention that your latest book is called how to help your child clean up their mental mess. And we are going to talk a bit more about the research that you undertook for that book. But Dr. Leif, I did want to ask you, you talk about pathology pathologizing. And I wonder if there’s ever times where parents are key contributors to their children’s mental health, stress strains distress. Are there examples shown through science where this is the case?
Absolutely. So unintentionally, we affect our children. It’s just one of those things we’re going to our parents missed AP US as AP and we’re going to miss our children. But now that sounds like such a negative statement. But it’s a very realistic statement. It doesn’t mean that we can’t get through it because whatever is broken, can be repaired. And when we when we recognize broken and we repeat, we grow. So that’s just encouraged people. So the guilt that goes along with parenting especially with a more influencer and although every single social media out there is very, very hard for parents to deal with. So it just starts with saying this is okay to be a mess. I have made a mess and started that point giving yourself just some grace and permission in soccer. So let me see how I’m affecting my child so the Son It shows that all stress is basically going to become the stress of our child or anxiety or depression. Now all of those aren’t the things, they are all emotional warning signals. So being stressed is a behavior. being anxious and depressed is an emotional warning signal. The stress is a behavioral warning signal. So whatever we experience is from something. And if we don’t manage it in front of our children, to a certain extent, explain the difference of what do you actually show your child in terms were mentioned? What don’t you show your child because you don’t need all the details. But then enough, whatever you experiencing, however, is going to pass through to the child, they’re going to see it, they’re going to feel it, they will think that they respect as I said, authenticity. So the research is very, very clear on that children are way more insightful than what yours, the literature’s actually said. And there’s almost being a dumbing down of the child, an 18 month old, even younger, they know what you are, they really have a sense of what’s right and wrong, even younger than that. A two year old is quite good. My youngest patients, between three years old, I did family therapy with families of, you know, with children, and that young, and children, they, they, they see things that their ability to understand is way, way way in advance of the ability to express what they are processing and taking in, but because it’s through the filter of a child, that they have insight, but that insight is very much guided by the parent. So the best way and I get asked this question you’ve asked so often is what would what would similar to the question you’ve asked, What would I do if I had to do one thing to help with this mental health crisis? And it kind of relates to a question? And my answer is help the parent first, educate the parent first, if you want to help your child, it’s going to start with you. So throughout all the work that I’ve done, with adults and children, when it comes to children, I will tell the adults work on yourself. First, you need to be honest with yourself and you need to be honest with your children. So if you come home from work, or you and your you’re going through something in at work, even if you don’t go to work, so much so many of us work remotely, is if something’s happening, and it’s affecting how you are functioning neck moment, don’t and you’ve got young kids, don’t pretend nothing’s happening. It’s way better for you. If you come at your office or something and you feeling really disturbed, they’re gonna see it on your face, they’re gonna see it in your body language, it’s way better for you to say,
I’m really not feeling great at the moment. I don’t want to snap at you. But I’m probably a mace snapper, too. If you scream too loud, when you’re playing with you demand my attention right now, I’m just not in a place because I’ve got to sort out something. And whatever the age appropriate language, if you’re dealing with a three year old, mommy’s feeling not so good. Now, I’m going to play with you a little bit later. And in an older child, here, I’m not feeling great. Now, there’s something that’s happened. And I’ve got to resolve it. And this is what I’m going to do. And the key thing here is you then acknowledging your feelings, acknowledging those false signals, I’m feeling not so great. Now, I it’s going to make me potentially be a bit quiet. And I might be a bit snappy behavior. I’m a bit worried about something prospective, in this moment, because I’m trying to solve it. And I kind of got a bit of a headache because of this. So I’ve identified for the child, and I’ve demonstrated, I’ve modeled what I’m going through. Now, that’s the first step. And I know one of one of the things that we were going to talk about on my five steps. So if I can blend that in here, we’ll make it very easy for people to understand. So the first thing you do as a parent to help your child so that this, the research shows goes through in order to in both ways, the research shows that if we are unmanaged stress becomes the unmanaged stress of the child, or manage stress becomes the manage stress at the child. So that’s what the research is showing. So the work I’ve done is to say, Okay, well, if that’s the case, let me manage my stress in front of the child, and we’ll manage my anxiety or manage whatever, you know, whatever I’m going through the situation and how to make them react, and they they form teaching the child. So then the system that are developed to do that is called the neuro cycle. And the neuro Psych was basically a five step process that is based on the most hectic signs that I’m not going to go into these books and researcher in my work to people want to know the science behind it. But essentially, it makes the mind brain body connection, which are three different things mind is sort of our energy and our ability to psychologically mentally operate. And it drives the body or brain is the physical brain and the body is the body they three separate things that have to work together for us to function. Every experience we have goes into the mind brain body connection, as a as a change. So every experience we have all day long as parents children is wiring into the mind, brain body network all the time, the more stable and the more established it becomes the patterns that it makes, or habits, those in drive how we function. So that’s the basic operating principle of the neuro cycle stuff gets in to the mind brain body connection and then influences how we function. That’s that whole question of what is the communication pathologists do. And a clinical neuroscientists, we look at, okay, how are you showing up? And where’s it coming from? And how can we rewire it? How can we read as we rewire the network, so I’ve made all their complex stuff, as simple as I can for people to be empowered to help yourself and to help your children because the administrators or the parent becomes the administrator for the child. So, essentially, what what, what you the way that you you help yourself to help your child is by you applying this system, which then helps to, to rewire their driving force inside of you into something that is manageable, so you embracing processing and reconsider centralizing you reconstructing so the five steps of the neuro cycle, do all this amazing brain science stuff, as you’re doing, all these changes are happening in your mind and your brain and your body and changing then how you show up by you going through the cycle, I’ll demonstrate one in a moment, you then are giving your child through them observing you managing your issue, you’re giving them the mental skills, once they see you do that, you’re then in a position to collaborate with them. And to help them say, hey, when they come home from school and, and they are upset, or they come back from a friend, or they read something on social media, or they you see this pattern react, you can say, hey, remember when when mom was so sad the other day when this thing happened at work. And remember how we did that thing that are called the neuro cycle. And you helped me to resolve them, but you helped me to fix it. And I will demonstrate in a moment, do you want to try doing that with us how you feel now. And they weren’t going to be much more inclined then to say yes, I need some help. And so you can establish that, that framework. Okay, so let’s quickly come back to the neuro cycle. And then I can show if you want, I can then give you a simple way how you can get your kids into this process. So essentially, you’re going to gather awareness, first step is to gather witness, and the gathering of witnesses for you to item to make all little sentences, I feel anxious, and I feel I feel a bit upset. To give our example, might have got a bit of a headache. So upset emotion, headache, body sensation, behavior, I might be a little bit quiet. And I might be a little bit irritable today. So you’ve identified that, and my perspective and feeling very upset about something, you know, I’m not so good at the moment, the way I’m looking at things. You could even use sunglasses, if a child’s very young and say I’ve got these broken sunglasses, you could put those on, you can have little boxes, but all those four different emotions, you can have pictures, you can have objects, you can just have them available in an area of your house, you can have a toy box, filled with these things that give you lots of examples in the book. And you could if it’s a very young child, you could literally go and pick out a picture and say, This is how I’m feeling or you could draw it, that kind of thing, then you would go to the next step. And you would say, This is why the next step was to reflect and keep it very simple. If it’s a three year old, it’s gonna say mommy said and just one sentence with all those four things. When we said we’ve got a bit of a headache and it’s because something happened when it mommy’s work when mommy was busy on the computer, something simple like that. So you’re giving a bit of a why of why you feeling that due to the water went away. Why so could be worried because my my boss shouted me work or we’re doing something very difficult that I don’t know how to do and I’m very scared or something, you know, whatever, be honest. Because then you want them to collaborate with you, then the third step is to do like a mind dump, is to get out what you’ve experienced down onto paper. So you can either have a little chalkboard, you could paint a section of your house, if you want to my sister in law painted a wall in her kitchen with chalk paint, and that was where they would write, you can have a notebook inside their toy box with those other boxes. So you can have an area that’s designated or something like that, where you can write and you pull that out, and you actually just write pictures or words opinion, it’s a child or picture, smiley face, sad face, if it’s, even if it’s a child is not literate yet, you could still put words because you’re teaching them the picture word association. So it’s pre reading skills, so it’s very good for them. So it becomes, you know, a whole interactive activity. In doing that you’ve invited your child in to facilitate and collaborate with you, which is teaching them the art of empathy, collaboration, sharing, it’s safe for mom to share with me and for me to help mom so it must be safe for me to share with mom and mom to help me or dad or whatever brother’s caregiver. And so then you draw a few pictures, if it’s a young child, maybe a few words to just describe how you feel maybe a little phrase. There’s lots of ideas of how you can do it, you can even dramatize that you could pick up a I have this is my brain, it’s actually the plush toy that we’ve created in a coloring book. You’re not in my office at the moment. And that’s the other character called brainy who walked on mental health journey with you. It’s throughout the book, the whole books, got the cartoons of Brady in and we’ve got the toy and coloring book and everything. Great for the younger child, even even the adults are using this for inner child work and for older children and themselves and so on. So you write it down, that brings stuff out and invites this collaboration so it’s making sense of the chaos. That is Any kind of disruptive experience can do like a horrible conversation at work or something, which is example we’re using now, then what you do is you look at what you’ve written, and then you invite the collaboration, they may or may not join you, but children are very, very caring and very actually full of empathy and are very excited to jump in and help, they may just come up close and, and touch your face, they may actually pick up a piece of chalk and write on the wall, they may pick up a pen and start drawing, but you inviting them to enable you to connect. And so you then now go into the fourth step, which is to recheck. So this is what’s happened, what can I do, I wonder what I could do, maybe I could, you know, we could bake something, do that to make me feel better, and I can, and maybe your child sees, and you’ll be amazed at what kids come up with when added family therapy, I mean, years of being in this field, kids will come up and you as a parent will have experienced this, they come up with solutions that are so simple, and may not be the most accurate solution, but they have a grain of something that you could actually get away with. So in other words, you your first step is you reconceptualizing, this is what’s happened, what can I do about it, then the third step is okay, let’s do an action. That’s a great idea, thank you for that idea, I’m going to do I’m going to see my boss and email. But you know what, let’s come back something together, let’s take the dog for whatever. So that’s very simple run through of how you can use it, there’s a multiplicity of different ways that you can use the neuro cycle in different scenarios which have created, like, for example, if you recognize trauma in your child on identity issue, or their sleep issues, or whatever, but the big thing here is you use it, which then invites them. So you working on this together.
So much to unpack, and what you just said there, but I think one of the key points that maybe our listeners and viewers may take away is, you know, a lot of them would have grown up in a different time and raised in a very different way, and conditioned not to share their feelings conditioned not to wear their stress, etc, etc. Now you are coming along, based on the science saying there’s nothing wrong with sharing your emotions, that’s a big leap. For a lot of people, a lot of parents, the other piece that really comes through what you’re saying is the importance of self awareness as a parent, and role modeling. So when you were sitting down to look at all this research Dr. Leaf and put it together into the book, how to help your child clean up their mental mess, what would you say your approach was, in terms of distilling the science to give an act to make a guide? Ultimately, for parents?
I had to work. Excellent question. By the way, I had to work with young children as young as two. So you can’t tell them a heavy science. But children as young as two will love pictures of the brain and will love to know that that you can you know that you can they relate to science on a very basic level. So I had to be able to distill the science to that level, as well as to parent that so freaked out by you know, a child’s behavior or something that’s going on or dealing with the trauma situation of a child’s been abused. And you know, this pattern is emerging, or dealing with a child who’s got a major learning disability or dealing with an adult who’s gone through trauma, who is dealing with dementia themselves or parent with dementia. So we worked with our work with all those categories. So in that situation, you can’t use a lot of big words and big science, but people do love science. So I that’s what I’ve tried to do is to take I’ve done I’ve used to write scientific journal papers, I do all that stuff. But I’ve learned to I’ve had to learn to take those very difficult concepts and make them very simple. So when I say something like awareness, you know, just say four sentences, it sounds so simple, which it is. And it’s so powerful, and it creates a level of awareness. But it definitely, it comes from based on huge amounts of science and experience of working with patients. I’ve been in the field 38 years. So that’s really trained me to distill it. Probably the easiest example to kind of summarize this idea is if you think of flying a plane, the neuro cycle concept is like that helping our children with a mental health is a bit like flying a plane, not that you’re going to have pain. But the idea, you’ve the plane gets prepared in the airport before plan, there’s a whole plan around which plane takes off and what time and that particular plane is gonna be on the runway, that it’s a lot of preparation that goes into it. So the first thing we need to do is prepare our brains and bodies and minds because there’s three parts. And that’s where when a child is highly anxious, or you highly anxious or something, you’re not just going to dive in and do the neuro cycle, you’re first going to calm down. And that’s the good old fashioned breathing, and I’ve got so many decompression, all that kind of stuff. So there’s lots of help for that I have an app as well. I’m not sure of you from your way. I have an app called a neuro cycle, which is available on iTunes and Google Play and also on wave and that essentially, has got all the stuff in like a therapy program and it will support parents. Okay, so you you, you prepare the plane, and then you take off when they take off incredibly organized, and you’ve got to know the skill. Now if you don’t take if you don’t take off. You’ve got all this preparation that you’ve done, but you don’t go anywhere. And this is what a lot of people do with me For health, they do a lot of breathing and that kind of stuff, but then they don’t do anything else with it. So they don’t move forward. It’s kind of a band aid. If you if you prepare, and you get gather awareness, that’s great, because now you’ve taken off, but if you don’t, the pilot doesn’t know how to fly, the pilot is going to crash. And what we’ve seen from the research is that if we don’t, if we just get awareness, and then we just do an action, if you jump from step one to step five, step five, the action, you must have the middle, you’re going to crash. And a lot of current therapeutic approaches to mental health are pretty good at preparing the breathing stuff, and pretty good at creating our feel this and that, but you got to link that I feel to the other three signals, you got to see the internet, you got to go through the whole process. So the middle part is flying. So the to reflect to write into a check. And then the act of reach the action at the end, that’s learning the plane. So always think of working in a cycle, many people crash, because in the children crash, because they just prepare, or they don’t prepare, they just go awareness, or they just do a technique or to some hodgepodge, so that, that doesn’t change the moment body connection, it doesn’t have sustainability. And that often leads to labeling and all kinds of things.
Now, your book focuses on the age groups of three to 10 years old, but I wonder if you could summarize the impact of not addressing what you’ve described, when kids are younger, on the long and the short term when they become teens and adolescents and young adults? Absolutely.
So the unmanaged stress of ourselves goes through into or later stages of life. So that’s a net of the effect of stress on unmanaged stress has been very well established. I’ve done a lot of work and research around how this changes the mind brain body connection. So if we have an unmanaged suppressed issue that we don’t deal with, so let’s say something happens, like a major trauma, and it’s like a big thing, like sexual trauma happens, and that child, the child, as a child, they’ll develop a coping mechanism. And depending on how severe how long etc, the the coping mechanism is that it cope, it’s to cope. But it’s not something that’s sustainable, if it’s not dealt with it, that is a whole physical thing that’s built into the mind brain body connection, it’s part of the things that drive them. That thing shows up at different stages of their life in different ways that, you know, they can get very depressed, they can battle with relationships, in church, and behavioral problems, they can get addicted, all of those aren’t diseases, they are just the coping mechanisms that have got out of hand, because of the undealt. With issue. So what we never forget anything, nothing ever goes away every experience that you’ve had that sexual trauma, whatever it may be, never goes away. But what we can do, which is what we’re not teaching children, which circles and adults circles back to the very first question is, how do we manage that, because if we don’t, it will go through to adolescence and adulthood and impact all manner of our life in different ways, and whatever. And that’s basically what we call mental health. So that’s Toby, what we have to do is recognize where it’s going to break down. And that’s what the neuro cycle concept I’ve tried to do is to try and help people understand this, this recognize the things that are showing up as patterns, and then deconstruct that down to where did this come from, okay, this is not going to go away. But with children, you can explain it like a tree. And what you’re doing is the roots are the source of the roots or the trauma, the sexual abuse, the bullying, what happened to you. But to get that you got to do the work to get down this than your sacral helps you to get to the root. Now you can’t pull the tree out, because it’s happened to me, but you can plant food on and you healing the roots. And that’s the whole it takes time. It’s a daily process over cycles of what what my research has shown, it takes around nine weeks, cycles of nine weeks. So it’s about anything from five to 45 minutes a day, over a nine week period. And you might need multiple cycles. But that’s how long it takes to heal those roots and we and grow that tree that the toxic issue shrinks. If you think of the big ugly tree at the beginning of the tumor. As you go through the process. You then eventually by healing the roots, that ugly part of the tree shrinks and becomes just one branch on the tree. And now you’ve got this beautiful green tree, which is the new way of how it’s going to play out in the future. And that’s scary. We can teach our children now as things happen in life which they will you’re proactively teaching in that skill. And then as adults when things happen, you’ve got to skill as adults. My first work began, I will parallel but some of my first research was with adolescents and adults so I also have the books and app and everything for adolescents and adults as well as the children.
Dr. Caroline Leaf so much that you have shared with us today, communication pathologist, clinical neuroscientist, author of How to help your child clean up their mental mess. We so appreciate your time and your expertise today. Thank you.
My pleasure. Thank you
Dr. Leaf.
We just made it I think we’ve got

She spoke to Lianne Castelino, host of Where Parents Talk, in a video and podcast interview from her home in Miami, Florida.

As Dr. Leaf explains, crises are not new to humans, but the ways in which we process and cope with them in the modern world is wrong.

Changes create disruptions in a person’s mind and body and, if mismanaged, a child can react in certain ways that cause anxiety and depression. “A mind management crisis that will manifest as a mental health crisis,” she says, and that is what we are experiencing now.

Dr. Leaf emphasizes the intimate connection between parental well-being and a child. Anything a parent does affects them. “The research shows that our unmanaged stress becomes the unmanaged stress of the child; our managed stress becomes the managed stress at the child.” Therefore, it is crucial to “help the parent first” to ensure a child’s well-being.

There is a tendency to “dumb” kids down, to assume they cannot understand, but Dr. Leaf maintains that children are far more insightful than we sometimes realize, even toddlers as young as 18 months. A parent should be keenly aware of the mind-body-brain network and how every experience goes through this neurological cycle. The more stable the network, the better the parent (and their child) will feel.Book cover.Leaf, Dr. Caroline

Dr. Leaf encourages parents to follow a multi-step process to process difficult emotions. Gather awareness, describing how the emotion manifests in the body, i.e., “I have a headache” or “I’m feeling sad/scared/overwhelmed at work, so I might be a bit grumpier than usual”.

Reflect on why, i.e., “My boss yelled at me” or “I read something on my computer that upset me”. Do a mind dump, such as writing down words or drawing pictures on a chalkboard that illustrate for the child how you feel; invite the child to collaborate and make suggestions for solutions. Take an action, i.e., “I’m going to call my boss” or “Let’s go for a walk.” 

These actions help to “make sense of chaos” and to give kids the tools to understand their parents better and to know how to cope with their own mental turmoil as they grow older. 

Related links:

drleaf.com

Related articles:

The Current State and Future Vision for Youth Mental Health Services

Digital Detox Summer Camp for Youth Expands to Canada

My Mental Health Journey as a Dad: Corey Hirsch

Key Findings on The State of the Mental Well Being of the World’s Children: A Report by Unicef

Podcast: Tackling the Rising Mental Health Condition of Eating Disorders with Nutrition Therapist Alida Iacobellis

Practical Tips to Address Mental Health and Wellness Challenges in Families: Psychotherapist POV

 

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