Ep 214: Resilience Through Emotional Management

Episode Summary

Kate Lund, author of Bounce, joins us to explain how teens can face obstacles and practice resilience when life gets tough. We also discuss the importance of stress management, goal setting and trying new things.

Show NotesInterview TranscriptGuest Bio

Full Show Notes

Your teen might have the perfect life plan–become class president, get a basketball scholarship, and go to the medical school of their dreams. But no matter how put-together your teen is, they’re likely to encounter plenty of obstacles on the road to success. They might not make the school basketball team at all, or maybe they’ll receive a rejection letter from the college they swore they’d go to

If teens let these challenges bring them down, they might not reach the future they’ve envisioned. But if they’re resilient enough to push past hardships, they may find that all of their dreams are entirely possible!

Building resilience is no easy task, however. That’s why we’re talking to Kate Lund, author of Bounce: Help Your Child Build Resilience and Thrive In School, Sports and Life. Kate is a psychologist and life coach with over 15 years of experience helping people of all ages overcome hardship.

In our interview, Kate and I are discussing how teens can gain resilience from learning to manage their emotions. We’re also talking about how teens can stay motivated, and why teens need confidence and courage if they want to strive for greatness.

Modeling Emotional Management

There’s no shortage of frustrating situations in life, especially for teens who are still figuring it all out. When things go wrong, teens tend to get stressed–and how they deal with this stress makes all the difference, Kate says.

In order to find resilience, teens have to master stress management, she explains. When teens manage their stress properly by exercising, painting, or spending time with friends, they’re able to remain even-keeled and calm most of the time, explains Kate. But when they let their stress run free, any triggering situation can put them over the top and cause them to melt down. By scheduling time to regularly de-stress, teens can stay grounded when challenges arise.

To help teens gain emotional management skills, try modeling them yourself, Kate suggests. When you’re dealing with something frustrating or overwhelming, you shouldn’t hide this from teens, she explains. Letting teens see your negative emotions can remind them that stress is totally normal. When kids see parents handling their emotions in healthy ways, they’ll be reassured that they’re capable of the same, says Kate.

Another way parents can model healthy emotional habits is by practicing kindness in a visible way. When anger or sadness go unmanaged, these emotions can lead us to become unkind to those in our lives, says Kate. Showing teens that we’re capable of being kind to anyone, no matter their beliefs or opinions, is an incredibly powerful way of modeling emotional management, she says.

If kids are truly striving for resilience, they’ll have to keep their motivation going, no matter what obstacles are in their path. In the episode, we’re talking about how teens can stay motivated through any challenges they might face.

Motivation and Goal Setting

To maintain motivation, Kate recommends that kids set attainable goals. They might have a grand goal of getting into their dream school, but they’ve got to have smaller goals along the way if they want to stay motivated, she says. Their first goal might be getting all the necessary letters of recommendation by a certain date, and their second goal might be finishing their essays in time for early admission. Reaching these small goals helps teens feel accomplished, which in turn motivates them to keep going.

Sometimes parents push teens to pursue activities that teens just don’t seem to care about. This might be because we don’t want kids to be quitters or because we have our own selfish interest in the activity. This can cause kids’ motivation to stall out. Instead, Kate recommends that you encourage teens to pursue what they actually enjoy, letting their natural motivation take over. As a parent, you can help kids stay motivated by encouraging them to follow their passions.

What if your teen doesn’t feel motivated to achieve anything? Kate says you should give unmotivated teens time to figure out where they want to direct their energy. Not every teen moves at the same speed, she explains. She suggests that both parents and teens remain open to new experiences and connections through their teenage years and even into young adulthood. We never know what might inspire us, and teens shouldn’t hold themselves back from the possibility of finding their spark.

There are a few other things that factor into resilience, including qualities like confidence and courage. Kate and I are discussing how teens can gain these traits and find resilience.

Courage and Confidence

For teens who are facing the impending world of adulthood, confidence isn’t always easy. But the more kids embrace challenges and overcome them, the more confident they’ll be the next time an obstacle comes around. Resilience comes with learning to be uncomfortable, says Kate, and if we want to raise confident teens, we’ve got to encourage them to leave their comfort zones.

The same goes for courage, Kate explains. Kids might be scared to try something new, but courage comes from trying anyway, she says. If teens fail, parents can push them to approach the activity from a different angle, or prompt them to simply try again. Once teens realize that they’re capable of overcoming failure, they’ll eventually gain the courage to try anything they desire, Kate says.

Although it’s typically helpful to encourage teens, there are some cases when we should refrain from pushing them too much, sys Kate. Some parents tend to overschedule kids, filling up their day with sports practice, test prep, tutoring sessions and chess club. This overscheduling can lead teens to burn out, and hurt their ability to focus on anything at all. Kate recommends we monitor how much teens are sleeping, eating or socializing to make sure they’re not overworked to the point of exhaustion.

In the Episode….

I enjoyed talking to Kate this week about resilience, stress management,  motivation and more! On top of the topics discussed above, we also talk about:

  • Why teens might benefit from meditating
  • How teens can fight distractions to stay focused
  • Why it’s important for teens to have hope
  • How parents can model motivation

If you enjoyed listening, you can find Kate’s book, Bounce, on Amazon. Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget to share and subscribe! We’ll see you next week.

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Complete Interview Transcript

Andy: You have a really powerful story at the beginning of this book called Bounce, Help Your Child Build Resilience and Thrive in School, Sports and Life. And you talk in the beginning of the book about what got you interested in this topic and your struggles going through your childhood. Can you talk a little about why you have a unique perspective on this topic?

Kate: Sure, absolutely. And thank you for having me, Andy. I really appreciate it. I appreciate being here. But yeah, I wrote Bounce, which is a book looking at how we help our kids as parents build resilience and thrive across domains of their lives. And for me, the topic really has been the lifelong interest, so to speak. I grew up with a pretty significant medical condition called hydrocephalus. Diagnosed when I was four. And that is a condition which is manageable with something called a shunt, which is surgically implanted in it circulates the cerebral spinal fluid for one when it can’t circulate themselves that the foundation of hydrocephalus. And so, in and out of the hospital a lot, I missed a lot of school. I had to come back to school looking quite different than my peers strange haircuts as a result of the surgeries and such.

Kate: And so I learned early what it was like to be different, to be on the outside and I had to find ways to figure out, okay, what could I do and how could I focus on those things to help me move through and beyond the challenges? And it was certainly a tough early lesson, a tough struggle that lasted throughout my childhood really. But I was lucky. I had support from my family, from my teachers, from friends, parents of friends. So I was very, very fortunate despite the challenges, but definitely was a very, very formative experience for me in terms of how my life and career have developed.

Andy: We may not all be dealing with something like that, but we all deal with a lot, especially during, at the teenage years. And you point out so many, I think really practical examples in the book of just situations that teenagers are going through and how important resilience is and how we can help. And I love you break it down into these seven pillars or seven of steps. I’m curious where these came from or how you came up with these. And I love the framework that you’re presenting here.

Kate: Right. Absolutely. And so the seven pillars of resilience, as I describe them in the book really have come from my 20 plus years as a clinical psychologist working with a myriad of kids and families and people actually across the lifespan actually, because the book Bounce is written for parents in terms of building resilience in their kids. But the principles outlined in the book apply to all of us across the lifespan really. So this idea of tolerating frustration and managing emotion, managing our stress response is something that I’ve seen regardless of the challenge time and time again in my work as a clinical psychologist. So these pillars all came out of my work over time as some of the central themes that folks are struggling with. What can we do to help folks navigate, move through and beyond challenge in the best possible way and help them to maximize their potential within their own unique context. That’s how the pillars came about.

Andy: I love that. You also have an example in the book that I really loved from when you were just getting ready to head off to college and your mom really pushed you to take up golf and to get out of the house and go, I guess you’ve been really recovering from a procedure and we’re ready to get going, but hesitating to take that next step. And so I thought that was a great story and a great example, but just how we can inspire teenagers with just some really simple gestures because it wasn’t that much that she really did to push you.

Kate: Right. That was a really challenging time for me. I went through high school, things were good with my health, and then right at the end of high school I had a major medical setback and ended up in the hospital much of that summer. And what ended up happening was I had to defer college for a year while I was actually home recovering. It was a pretty massive setback that happened from time to time. That was actually the biggest one and deferred college for a year really was lucky in the way that I was able to recover and bounce back from that. But emotionally, it was tough. By the end of that spring, right before the summer, I was trying to get back out there, but really was hesitating as you mentioned because things had been so tough. And so my mom really, I think just knew what I needed and that was to get back out there.

Kate: So she gave me that little push like, “Hey, take the car, go to the golf course, the local golf course and check out golf, see if you like it.” And it was really cool. I connected with some folks at the golf course. I ended up loving golf and I’m an avid golfer today and my husband is as well, and my boys are also. And so that might have been the pivotal moment where golf became a big piece of my life. But in that moment it was just really important to of move out there, move back out into the world in a way that helps me to experience and believe that it was possible to be back out there, that I was going to get back on my feet and that possibility existed. And sometimes parents just need to give that little extra push like, “Hey, just give it a try. Maybe it will work out. You can always take another angle, but give it a try.”

Andy: Yeah and believing just that they can do it is, I think so powerful and helpful as kids. Just knowing that our parents are confident in us helps us just take that on for ourselves as well think sometimes.

Kate: Exactly. This idea of watching and noticing our parents believing in us as kids is so, so important.

Andy: You talk in the book about aptitude and I thought that was really an interesting point to make, I think because as you point out, aptitude is another important variable that drives potential. And pushing children too hard in an area where they don’t show a fundamental aptitude or love of what they’re doing is unlikely to lead them in the direction of their true potential. As parents, it’s like, “Well, we think you’re doing this thing, or this is just what everyone in the family does.” Or this is whatever it is for some reason, or you started this thing and you got to finish it. And we feel like a lot of times resilience is about pushing through things, but also I think weighing that with, as you point out, things that you have a natural aptitude for and the love of is really important. So I wonder how do we balance those things or find that where the line is between those?

Kate: Yeah, yeah and that’s a great point that you pull out and it’s so important because here’s that tendency to want to push our kids in the direction that they’ve started going in, even if they find that direction is not for them by virtue of finishing what they start. And sometimes that’s the right way to go, but oftentimes it’s not. And particularly as our kids are getting older and really starting to understand themselves and what they need, it’s important for us as parents to watch that process unfold and pick up on the cues and when necessary, redirect and reposition, but also encourage the exploration of various angles, various involvements, various things that might turn out to be passions. Because really fostering that idea of passion is important because that’s when a kid is involved in something they’re truly passionate about and plus there’s an aptitude to go along with that. That’s when the true magic’s going to happen. That’s when we’re going to really move towards our potential and we’re going to thrive.

Andy: I love that you have all these really illustrative examples throughout the book from real situations that kids might find themselves in school or in sports or just in their daily lives with friends. And we get to see how they play out for in different little sample situations with kids throughout the book that really illustrate the concepts, I think in a cool way. And you talk about this first pillar here, which is about really dealing with emotions and especially frustration dealing with tolerating emotions like frustration. And there’s one example about this 12 year old tennis player who’s been playing in tournaments for a long time and is really well nationally ranked and lately has been really having trouble during matches. She’s losing games as she knows she was capable of winning and having trouble keeping her composure and getting really more and more frustrated that’s affecting her confidence.

Andy: And I thought that it was a really great example, but also seeing how frustration and the ability to deal with frustration plays out in so many aspects of life for teenagers. And I wonder what you recommend that we could do as parents to scaffold that or to help kids with this first pillar, to build those skills, to be able to deal with that and cope with those emotions.

Kate: Yeah. And that’s such a real phenomenon and a great question. And so this idea of tolerating frustration in managing emotion is so, so important because as you say, when that’s not happening, everything’s affected, right. And so the big idea is that we want to help our kids from an early age, but particularly stressing this during the teenage years, but hopefully they’ve already built the foundation prior to that of managing their stress response, picking up the tools, the strategies. Because the thing is when we’re managing our stress response, we’re at an even keel, right so that then a challenge will emerge and we’re able to go with it, ride it like a wave. But if we’re not managing our stress response on a consistent basis and we’re say up here at baseline, a stressor hits, boom, we’re going to just escalate.

Kate: Things are going to intensify to a point where shut down is likely. It’s much harder to navigate through and beyond a challenge when our emotions are of state. Our baseline state is not well managed. So it’s a question of helping kids to develop some a practice for managing that stress response consistently, whether that’s through a mindful breathing technique that they practice every day, if it’s perhaps through one of these apps that’s out there like Headspace or something along those lines that just helps them to calm their mind, calm their nervous system on a consistent basis. It’s so, so important. But could be also through sports or through painting or drawing, depending again on where their interest lies, where their aptitude is. And I will tell you that I have 15 year old twins and so I’m seeing this adolescent thing play out in real time here in our house.

Kate: And for one of the boys who is a bit more anxious than his brother naturally at baseline Headspace has been tremendously helpful for him. He does it every night before bed and really has had a calming effect on him and he notices when he doesn’t do it. So really important to help our kids, help our teenagers to get into a habit to make these practices a routine, to really integrate them into their sense of themselves so that it just is, it’s a part of them and then their stress response is more consistently managed.

Andy: I like that. And just understanding that there is differences in what different kids might need in terms of that. And also that different things might work better for different kids than work for others. And so being open to that and experimenting, knowing that what works for one kid might not work for another and being willing to explore a different possible solutions with your children, I think is also really a helpful thing that you can give as parents.

Kate: Yes, absolutely. That idea of collaborating with your kids, of joining with them in trying to help them understand what works best for them and you understanding as a parent what works best for them, because the idea is really moving towards potential as the big goal. And so that which works best will help them move in that direction.

Andy: Another big portion of the book is related to focus and being able to sustain attention on something. It’s a key to a lot of things in life. There’s so many things today that are competing for our attention that sometimes it feels like it’s so hard to find time to give attention to things. You mentioned it. So the third pillar, I just think this is something that is only going to get more and more challenging for humans and general as time goes on. And I wonder what you think we need to do to equip our children to have those skills to be able to direct their focus and attention in the right ways.

Kate: Yeah, yeah. It’s such an important skill, as you mentioned, and one of the cornerstones of that is to help our kids to set attainable, manageable goals, right? And that doesn’t mean that we can’t have reach goals, we can’t have lofty goals, but then it’s important for help them to break that lofty goal down into process goals, smaller steps along the way and encourage one or two things at a time as opposed to wanting to do a gazillion things at once and not following through on any of them. So it’s really those starting from a foundation of where’s your passion, where are your aptitudes, how can we set goals that are in alignment with those things, which helps to maintain the focus because you’re making progress. If kids can see progress, that is helpful in maintaining focus when progress is not really there, a little bit vague, that’s when the tendency to jump from thing to thing really starts to kick in more heavily.

Andy: Yeah, yeah. It’s easy to stay motivated and focused on something when you’re seeing that it’s like, “Hey, yeah, it’s working. All this work I’m doing is paying off. Oh yeah, yeah. It’s still, it’s getting, It’s work. It’s moving forward. Yes, progress.”

Kate: Exactly. Yes. And that then builds belief in self and belief and possibility and all that. So it creates and then maintains momentum is what we’re thinking here.

Andy: Yeah. So much of this is related to like hope, I guess, or just knowing that we can do it gives us just a reason to think that we should keep pushing forward, “Hey, yeah, I’ve done this before. I’m capable and I know how to be organized and focus on something and there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to do this now.”

Kate: Exactly. And that you point out this idea of small successes along the way and how small successes, when we are noticing those and internalizing those, they help us to keep moving forward to attaining that bigger goal.

Andy: Are there any things that are you think mistakes that parents might make in terms of focus or things that might detract from focus and attention in our kids?

Kate: Well, the big thing that comes to mind, and I’m not going to necessarily call it a mistake per se, but it’s something to keep an eye on, is this idea of overscheduling. Kids who might be playing in a really high level elite travel team, whether it be hockey or soccer or football or whatever, but then they still want to do every single activity at their school. What I’ve observe in those types of scenarios is exhaustion and burn out and not really being able to engage fully in any one activity. So that would be a place where I would caution us as parents to really be careful. Maybe if you’re doing the elite travel soccer team, you don’t play soccer or football at school this season, but who knows, maybe next season it’ll open up. But the possibility of burnout, the possibility of overstimulation, exhaustion, which will then take away from focus is very real.

Andy: But how do you know because doesn’t it just seem like your kid can handle it until it goes too far? So how do you can hold back from crossing the line?

Kate: Yeah, it’s very, very challenging, right and also really important to note that it’s different for all kids. One kid might be better able, better equipped to manage all of that than another kid. So it’s really a question of being attuned to your own child and their needs, and also just on a fundamental health and wellness level to really be watching for signs of overtired, for watching, for mood changes or changes in sleeping behavior or anything along those lines, temper, that sort of thing. So really a clear attunement to your own child is what’s going to help you to navigate that type of a scenario because there’s really no one size fits all, but just the global construct of this over programming overscheduling that in many cases can lead to burnout and exhaustion.

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About Kate Lund

Kate Lund is the author of Bounce.

Kate is a clinical psychologist, speaker and life coach who’s been helping people overcome hardships for over 15 years. She also served as an adjunct professor at Bastyr University for seven years and is a renowned speaker.

She is also the author of the children’s book, Putter and the Red Car: A Cross-Country Family Adventure which uses the story of a fictional family to help kids understand change and resilience.

She lives in Washington State with her husband, her two sons, and her dog.

Want More Bounce?

Find Kate Lund on her LinkedIn, and Facebook.