Parenting Style Impacts Your Child’s Mental Health with guest Hansa Bhargava, MD

About this Episode

Ever wondered if your parenting style has impact on your child’s mental health? Did you know that your own stress could be stressing out your kids? On this episode of Brainy Moms, Teri and I interview Dr. Hansa Bhargava, pediatrician, renowned parenting expert, Chief Medical Officer at Medscape Education, and author of the book, Building Happier Kids: Stress-Busting Tools for Parents published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Dr. Bhargava talks to us about the importance of shifting our parenting style to be more connected and compassionate in order to help our children be resilient in the current youth mental health crisis that was exacerbated by the pandemic. She talks about screens, scheduling, sleep, self-care, and stress and their impact on the mental health of our kids…and on ourselves. New flash? It’s all related. Join us for tips on managing it all a little better and reducing the risk to our children. 

About Dr. Bhargava

Dr Hansa Bhargava is a board certified pediatrician, Chief Medical Officer at Medscape and a mom of 2 teens. She’s an expert in youth mental health and teaches at the Emory University Cognitive Based Compassion Training. Her new book Building Happier Kids focuses on reducing stress for families and is slated for publication on March 15th, 2022.

With her expertise in parenting, mental health and pregnancy, she has helped developed content for WebMD and the WebMD baby app. A regular contributor to Forbes, and working alongside Wellbeings.org, she is frequently interviewed by major news outlets on issues of wellbeing and health in kids and youth. She has collaborated with the American Academy of Pediatrics, and is an elected member of the AAP Committee on Communications and Media.

Connect with Dr. Bhargava

Website: hansabhargavamd.com
Twitter: @HansaBhargavaMD
Instagram: @DrHansaMD

Mentioned in this Episode

Order her book,
Building Happier Kids: Stress-Busting Tools for Parents

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Read the transcript for this episode:

Parenting Style Impacts Your Child’s Mental Health
with guest Hansa Bhargava, MD

Dr. Amy Moore:

Hi, and welcome to this episode of Brainy Moms. I’m Dr. Amy Moore here with my co-host, Teri Miller. Coming to you today from a very cold Colorado Springs, Colorado. I think it was negative 26 wind chill this morning when I first woke up. We’re a little bit cold. But we’re excited to welcome our guests today, Dr. Hansa Bhargava. Dr. Bhargava is a board certified pediatrician. She’s the Chief Medical Officer of Medscape Education and she’s also author of the brand new book, Building Happier Kids: Stress-Busting Tools for Parents.

With her expertise in parenting, mental health and pregnancy, she has helped develop content for WebMD and the WebMD Baby app. A regular contributor to Forbes and working alongside wellbeings.org. She is frequently interviewed by major news outlets on issues of wellbeing, and health, and kids and youth. She’s also collaborated with the American Academy of Pediatrics and is an elected member of the AAP committee on communications and media.

Teri Miller:

So, glad that you are with us. Thank you for being here, Hansa.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Thank you so much, Teri and Amy, I’m so excited to be here and to talk with you today.

Teri Miller:

Well, before we get into the meat of this amazing book and all the incredible tools that you have for parents and kids, tell us just real briefly, what brought you to where you are today, writing this book, being an authority on helping parents build happier kids. What’s your personal story with your own kiddos that brought you here?

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Yeah, absolutely. Well I don’t don’t think that it’s a surprise. We have been hearing about the mental health issues that our youth are experiencing today, but I would say that this happened a long time ago, that it has been growing over the last decade or so. And it certainly was for the pandemic that we were seeing kids basically suffering from stress and anxiety and depression. And what brought me to writes book is over the last few years, as a pediatrician, I began to hear more and more about wonderful families who are trying their best, the parents trying their best.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

And yet the kids were suffering from us and anxiety and stories about that. And then of course in my own family, I started seeing it with my own kids. And I talk about that in the book about my daughter and my son. And that’s when I realized we really need to talk about it, that we need to take this as an urgent matter and do something about it. And then of course the pandemic happened, which actually catalyzed everything, I think. So, we’re at a really pivotal moment in time and I really am so happy that we’re having these conversations.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah, I am too. And I think that you really nailed it when you said, look, kids have been struggling with mental health issues for a while now, but you talk about how the pandemic shined a light on that and brought that to the surface. Why is that?

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Yeah. No, and I think it was brewing for a very long time, but here’s the thing, Amy, the pandemic obviously we had to take public health measures. And those public health measures included social isolation. We didn’t know what the virus was. We didn’t know how it was spread. It was absolutely the right thing to do at that point. We didn’t want to collapse our hospital system. So, all of this was correct, but unfortunately the side effects or the adverse effects, every action unfortunately has consequences.

And the consequence was social isolation and schools shifting back and forth from online to not online as they tried to shift and make the best of everything. So, one of the main pillars that we need as people is connection, and that connection is so essential in our humanity. If you look back at thousands of years or you look back across every culture, connection is in the very fabric of being human. And when there was social isolation and that was all taken from our kids and our families and our parents. And I do talk about the parents then that actually, I think, really contributed to exacerbating the crisis.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah. And I see a lot of teenagers in counseling and what I’ve noticed this year is the social anxiety that they’ve been experiencing. It’s like they forgot their social skills. And they’ve had to walk through that whole process and awkwardness of adolescence all over again. So, not just depression from being isolated, but that social anxiety has just been overwhelming and paralyzing.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Completely. And I don’t know if you have experienced that personally, if adults experience it personally in your practice, Amy, but I would advocate that they do that. That when we went back to meetings, we talked about it actually. I had some meetings with Medscape recently last week in person for the first time. And we talked about how it was hard, even as adults to be back in a small group and talk face to face. So, you just imagine what it’s like for our kids and our teens.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah, [crosstalk 00:05:30].

Teri Miller:

Yeah. I think another interesting phenomenon that I’m experiencing and I’m just thinking of it as you’re talking about it, shining a light, a spotlight on mental health issues. I have nine kids. And so my four older kids are young adults. And in a sense, they were raised in a different world. Their middle school, high school experiences were very different. There’s a five year gap between the older four and then my kids that are still home at now, still at home, my five younger ones. And what I’m seeing is the four older kids. I think they had those same struggles, but they didn’t speak them in the same way. It’s mental health has become more commonly talked about. And so I’m seeing in my younger kids, more of a willingness to talk about, I feel depressed. I’m so unhappy with my friends.

Teri Miller:

I don’t like school. And I think the older ones have those same struggles. And yet, now what we’re seeing, for young parents, I think I want to say to listeners, if you’re hearing this and thinking, oh my goodness, there’s a huge mental health crisis. My kids are falling apart. It may be a little bit of a comfort to realize that maybe we’ve all always been falling apart. There are more stresses. But kids are more comfortable talking about it. They’re more comfortable bringing it to us. And that’s a good thing. It feels bad as a parent, feels really bad. I don’t want my kid to talk about how they’re depressed, but it’s a good thing that we’re hearing about it. You think that’s true?

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Totally, Teri, I couldn’t agree with you more. I could not agree with you more. Every cloud has a silver lining. This is a silver lining, the fact that mental health has become a conversation, whether it’s with adults, whether it’s with families, whether it’s with kids. And it’s an opportunity for us, because the first steps to making any changes is awareness and education of it. And so I totally agree with you, Teri. Those conversations, that is a learning opportunity. That’s an opportunity for us as parents to talk about it and to keep the communication lines going, which is literally a pillar of parenting. Communication with your kids. Whether they’re five or 15, so very important.

Teri Miller:

So good.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So, in addition to the social isolation that we you’ve all experienced during COVID, what do you think is one of the other biggest contributors to the mental health problems that we’re seeing right now among children?

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Yeah. Among children there’s so many. And I’ve talked about this, but I call them the S’s and the S’s really are okay, look, let’s just put it out there. Screens and social media. I think social media more, I’ll tell you I will tell my own kids that, “Hey, I want you off your phone, but we can watch a movie.” I know that sounds so silly, because it seems like … but there’s passive media and then there’s active media. And so I do think that there’s differences in those two. So, it’s not necessarily quantity of media, but the quality of media. So, what kinds of media raise your anxiety levels? And I’ll tell you right now, as an adult, and we can get into this if you’d like, about the self care, as an adult, as a parent, I take myself off of news feeds a lot.

And maybe I shouldn’t say that, because that’s part of my job to know what’s out there. I’m not saying I don’t know what’s out there. I’m just saying that my brain and human brains were not wired to have 24/7 drum beat of bad news. We are not wired that way. We aren’t. And if you think back about 25 years ago in parenting. My mom, when I sat at the kitchen table, she was not getting a newsfeed into her brain 24/7. She watches six o’clock news. She listened to the radio at 9:00 AM. She knew what was going on, but the anxiety level for her was not up here, because we’re constantly listening about what’s happening in Russia or whatever is happening at the time. So, I think that is one of them, the other S’s are really overscheduling, sleep, which is incredibly important for physical and mental health. So, the screens, the sleep, the scheduling, the social media, all those S’s have just created the perfect storm for our kids in my humble opinion.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Another S. Another S, storm.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Yeah, storm. Exactly.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So, I know Teri wants to ask you about sleep in just a few minutes, because she’s very passionate about sleep, but I am very passionate about scheduling and not overscheduling. And so to talk a little bit about that and what’s your stance on that and why’s it important?

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Well, I think unfortunately I call it keeping up with the Joneses. So, keeping up with the Joneses parent style. So, we’re not talking about big houses or fancy bags. We’re talking about looking over at our neighbor or hearing about a mom at school and saying, oh my God they’re doing travel team or they’re doing this and maybe I need to do that. And I will tell you right now, I am guilty. It’s hard not to be sucked into that. And I talk about that the very beginning of my book about how my daughter was overscheduled. She had so many things going on that it was just a merry go round. It was just like, get up, run, do this, do that, eat, go to sleep, get up, run. It was just like, and then rinse repeat.

And so that is a concern because one of, again, one of the pillars that we need as human beings to settle ourselves is to have quiet time, to have a pause, to have family time and communication time. And I know it seems unachievable, but the only way it’s achievable is to be able to prioritize and put boundaries down. And just we prioritize brushing our teeth, having our meals, I think in the schedule, there should be built that downtime. You have to have it, otherwise you’re constantly in sympathetic overdrive, which you both, obviously with your backgrounds, know about. Sympathetic overdrive. And the other thing I’ll just say before I stop, my monologue here, is that sympathetic overdrive is not just bad for anxiety, depression, all of the mental health issues. It’s also incredibly bad for our physical health too.

Teri Miller:

Tell us more about that. Describe that for our listeners, sympathetic overdrive, what do you mean?

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Yeah. So, sympathetic overdrive is really that fight or flight response that happens. We are wired as human beings in the caves. Oh my God, there’s a tiger, run. And so all our hormones like cortisol, all the hormones that make us run faster, get pumped up. And then you have the parasympathetic system, which is the opposite. Which actually balances it out and it tells the body, it’s okay to go to sleep and it’s okay to calm down. It’s okay to think. It’s okay to be creative. It’s okay to be connected. And unfortunately the way all those S’s have collaborated is to keep us constantly in that fight or flight response.

And what happens with the fight or flight response is there’s chemicals that are released in our bloodstream that cause harm, that increases the risk of cancer, increases the risk of diabetes, of heart attacks. And in fact, there’s been studies to show that your hair cortisol. One of my colleagues who is at Emory University just published a study, very interesting that basically she looked at hair cortisol levels, cortisol being the stress hormone and connected it back to the likelihood of having a heart attack. So, arterial buildup. It is real. And I don’t think we’re talking about that enough about how mental health affects physical health.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely. It’s interesting, back in the 80s Dr. David Elkind wrote a book called The Hurried Child and he brought these issues to light then. That when we overschedule our children, here’s the fallout. Here are the mental health ramifications for child. So, here we are in 2022, still talking about it. What do you think the resistance is for parents to adopt that idea that we shouldn’t helicopter our children. We don’t need to manage their schedules the way that we’re managing them. Talk to us about your thoughts on that?

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Yeah, absolutely. And I feel bad, because look, I can see it as a parent myself. We talked about keeping up with the Joneses, but the other unfortunate feeder of this is basically social media. And that’s us being on social media. It’s the Instagram mom, the Facebook mom, the Twitter mom. Because we’re constantly on that feed too. And unfortunately we know this cognitively that everything that people post on social media is not their life. Because it’s the best and most perfect of everything. However, if you see it over and over again, it’s really hard of subconscious is basically, I want to be that mom. I want to be that parent. I want to be that dad. And I think that plus the constant running for being the best athlete, the best this, the best that, and that’s American culture.

I hate to say it. And it’s just the American life, go, go, go. And I think, unfortunately those are the feeders of making sure our kids also are perfect. We want our perfect kids. And yet what we’re doing is harm to them. Because if you raise them as they are the center of the universe and we raise them as we are going to adapt everything around our child, then they don’t learn that they are not the center of the universe. And when they become adults, that is hard for everything. You can’t go around in life thinking you’re the center of the universe. Nothing’s going to work out for you. It doesn’t matter whatever work you’re doing. People are not going to like you and relationships are important in every facet of your life.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. I think, yeah. I would love to be able to scream from the Brainy Mom’s platform. You want to be a brainier mom? Stop learning so much. Stop trying so hard.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

So, true.

Teri Miller:

Slow down, rest.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Yeah. Yeah. And I talk about that, Teri, just going back to that, slow down, rest. You have to be the change you want to see in your family. You got to slow down and rest. You got to take yourself off of social media. You got to build in the me time, if you want that to happen for your kids. And we can talk more about why that’s so important, but so true, Teri. We have to stop with the helicopter and we have to stop making our kids the center of the universe. They aren’t, they’re not the center of our universe or anyone’s, unfortunately, as much as we’d want them to be. But they’re not.

Teri Miller:

I want to talk about, shift, you talk a lot about screen time and the dangers of social media and screen time. And I’m just going to share personal experience. The easy thing to do, and this is what I think we fall into as moms is we’re like, okay, I’m going to slow down. We are not going to have a bunch of busy stuff. My kids aren’t going to do the soccer and the dance and whatever. On Friday afternoon we’re going to do nothing. And what happens is we all come home with our kids and they get on their phones, they get on the video game. Everyone is off in their own little space having rest, having downtime. But it’s all on screens. We’re not outside walking in nature. We’re not sitting and talking. We’re not playing UNO. And that is the reality of the world we live in. It takes a lot of hard work as a mom to say, I’m not going to do that downtime. Whew, I got to make the effort to get the kids out on a walk, to play UNO. Talk to us about screen time.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

It is so hard, Teri. I just want to acknowledge that. It is hard and it is an added burden to parents. It is. This is something that we didn’t have, that parents 25 years ago didn’t have to struggle with.

Teri Miller:

Right, right.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

It’s everywhere. It’s persistent in our society. And we can’t just say, oh, well just toss our phones. No, unfortunately they are a way of life. Just like the telephone was a way of life when the telephone got created or the TV. You couldn’t toss the TV. So, we have to just accept that. But then ways to make it easier is to step … so, what I’ve done, I’ll just talk about myself. And it has been a struggle for me. I’ll just confess as a mom, it is a struggle. I struggle with it still. Some of the things I’ve done is one, setting up expectations. So, if you got that Friday afternoon off, you designate it way in advance, “Hey guys, we’re going to have this time, this family time.” Don’t call it screen free time, because then there’s this, oh, well we’re going to battle mom and dad about this, no.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

So, just say it’s family time. We’re going to do something fun together. So, always positive. Set up expectations. The other thing that I would say is that about certain times and places. So, for me, what I’ve done is device free time is in the car. So, if I do pickups, you don’t have to talk to me. And I have teenagers and they don’t talk to me. Sometimes they just don’t and one word answers like, how’s your day? Good, fine. We know that. And it’s okay, but they’re not going to pick up their devices. So, that’s one thing. So, certain times of the day, no devices at dinner, no devices at breakfast, no devices in the car. When you get in the car with me, you don’t have to talk to me. We can put on the music, but we’re not going to be in our own little worlds, because that increases the likelihood of communication, which is incredible.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Incredibly important pillar for parents. And then the other thing is just do, as I said, do what you want the kids to do. So, resist that temptation to just check that email or, oh my God, I need to text this person. I forgot to do it. So, for the period of time that is family time, you have to put down your phone too, put it on vibrate. And one last thing that I did with my kids since they were young, eight or nine years old, and they’re so sick of me saying this, because I’m a … “Okay. We know you’re a pediatrician mom.” But I talked about how social media can actually cause anxiety. I talked about how screen time doesn’t allow you to have creativity.

I talked about how it can actually rewire your brain, which we’re seeing the impact, you both know this, of too much screen time on our pathways and our neural pathways and the ability to think deeper versus shallow. The way that the wiring is in our brain. So, I actually said that to them from the very beginning. And when I said it enough times, I think they do understand it and believe it. So, now I have my kids saying, oh, I left my phone upstairs and I’m studying down here, because I don’t want to be distracted. And I’m like, yes, [crosstalk 00:21:19] in their head. As moms, they’re going to go off at some point, for college or job or whatever. You’re not going to be there 24/7. So, I go back to parenting when I was growing up and my mom couldn’t follow me everywhere. But she could put the voice in my head, which would follow me everywhere. Oh, you really shouldn’t do that. Is this really the right thing to do? And that’s always in our toolbox.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yes. So, you talk about the importance of letting kids experience and nurture being resilient.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Yes.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Why is that important?

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Yeah. And I think it’s really important. I can’t even emphasize it more. The reason it’s important is because we have to allow them to fall in front of us. And while they’re still in our home, under our protection. What you don’t want to do is send them off on their way and then they actually come up against those challenges when you’re not even around. So, let’s think about it that way. So, let them fall, let them fail, because they learn how to get up again. I’m a little bit of the science fiction nerd. So, I watch Batman. And there’s a point where the butler says to Batman that, “Why do we fall, Mr. Wayne? Why do we fall?” And it’s because we have to learn to get up again. And we’ve done that since they were toddlers. So, we have to stop trying to guard them. It’s so important for their learning, so important. You want that learning to happen in your arena if possible. I mean, some learnings will happen outside your arena, but it’s really important for them to be able to experience that.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Sure. And in the emotional safety of your home and your relationships so that you can then help them process that failure.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Absolutely.

Dr. Amy Moore:

And what are the barriers to success the next time? What can you do differently the next time and hey, by the way, you survived this.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Yes. Yes. And so here’s an example. If you have middle schoolers or high schoolers and it’s almost the anti tiger mom philosophy in a way. And my daughter said to me, she’s like, “Why aren’t you a tiger mom anymore, mom?” And I was, I was. My confession. And she was just like, why? And I’m like, “Because you need to learn how to deal with things not going your way.” And it’s okay. Because in life, there is nobody who has a perfect life. There will always be challenges and we have to learn how to deal with them. So, what if you got a C on that test? So what. Did it kill you? It didn’t, you just find out, figure out what you did, what you could do better next time and do better next time. It’s okay.

Teri Miller:

So, then-

Dr. Amy Moore:

So, what do you say to the parents that have it in their mind that my children have to get all A’s?

Teri Miller:

Oh.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Because I hear it all the time. That, that is the expectation. And then when a child disappoints their parent, then we see the mental health fall out from that. So, how do you get parents to relax?

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Yeah. Great question, Amy. So, first of all, I was that parent, just so you know.

Dr. Amy Moore:

You’re recovering or you’ve recovered.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Recovered A parent. So, I’ll just say that. Yeah, no, I think it has to be a shift. So, again, going back to what we started with, there has to be a shift in our way of looking at things, there has to be a shift away from thinking perfection is the ideal. Perfection is not the ideal. Happiness and healthiness is the ideal. So, how do we make sure that our kids are happy and how do we not wire them that their self-esteem is based on grades. Right, Amy.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Right.

Teri Miller:

On performance. Yeah.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

That’s not what it’s about. And gosh, that is a lifetime of anxiety if that’s what it’s about. Because you aren’t going to get be the best employee always. You’re just not. And it’s okay. If I could tell parents something and be like, it’s okay. Things work themselves out and we’re going to have ups and downs and it’s okay. So, I think that’s the pervasive philosophy.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. It’s like a phrase, I could frame it, hang it in my house. Perfection is not the goal. Resilience is the goal.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Absolutely.

Teri Miller:

Learn how to get up when I fall, teach my kids or just allow them the space to fall and get up when they fall.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

I love that. Allow them the space. And that means that the parents have to let go.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Let go. And this is why I go to self care. This is why I go to self care. Because when you take care of yourself and you learn in your own life that letting go is okay … We know about [Marie Conwell 00:26:37]. She’s like, tidy up, don’t hold on to these things that are not useful. That’s called letting go From a cognitive perspective. And flexing that muscle is just learning how to flex those biceps. You flex that muscle for yourself and it’ll start going into your life and into your parenting. So, I really think self come passion or self care is so important and helping us to, Amy, to getting to that point where I’m letting go of my kids not having A’s, because I know that it will be better for them if they stumble, fall and pick themselves up again. It will be better for them.

Teri Miller:

Okay.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yes.

Teri Miller:

We need to read a word from our sponsor.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Okay. Let’s do that.

Teri Miller:

Let’s take a quick break. And then we’ll come back.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Okay.

Teri Miller: reading sponsor ad from LearningRx

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Dr. Amy Moore:

And we’re back talking to pediatrician Dr. Hansa Bhargava. And so, Hansa, tell us a little bit about, well, first of all, let me back up and we talk about how parents need to help their children regulate their emotions through a process called co-regulation. And so they have to have control of their own emotions before they can help their kids learn how to manage their big emotions, but talk a little bit about how stress can be contagious.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Absolutely. Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

And what parents need to do.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Yeah. So, I think it’s interesting because we did a study, we did a survey actually a few years back at WebMD about stress in kids. And I was advising on that survey. And so they asked me, the group, the team that was doing it asked it, “As a pediatrician, how does stress manifest itself in kids?” And you both know the answer to this and the truth is, it can be body symptoms. Kids who are eight or nine who come to my office, that come to me saying, “Oh, I have abdominal pain.” Yes, appendix is on the list. But if I’ve ruled out everything else, I start asking about the family dynamics. Was there a death in the family? Was there a job change? Did something happen? And that’s when you see that kids can have headaches and stomach aches and things like that.

So, what we did was we actually asked parents about their stress level. And then we asked them about kids and having those symptoms. When the parents were stressed, the kids were much more likely to be stressed. And that’s what happens actually. Stress infiltrates into the children. And I’ll give you another example. Another example is just the news, the 24 hour, 24/7 news we talked about. And right now it’s anxiety provoking for all of us. And so when you listen to the news a lot, you get stressed out and there’s certainly studies to show that. But even as a parent or as a person, if you listen to someone else talk about the news, that could be stressful for you too. So, you might be in a …

Dr. Amy Moore:

Uh-oh, froze there for a second.

Teri Miller:

[crosstalk 00:30:47]-

Dr. Amy Moore:

Let’s see if she pops back on.

Teri Miller:

Little tech glitch.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah.

Teri Miller:

Oh, [crosstalk 00:30:52]-

Dr. Amy Moore:

We were talking in a prior episode about mirror neurons. Do you remember that? And the importance of how those operate in terms of co-regulating kids’ emotions. And so I think that same idea comes into play when we’re talking about stress. So, you see your mom yawn, you yawn, because of your neurons, you see mom totally stressed out, then you’re going to feel that and perhaps adopt that way of responding to situations.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. And Hansa, she talks about in her book, she has an entire section on that self care on parents handling stress so that they can better equip their children to handle stress.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Okay.

Teri Miller:

So, yeah. So, Hansa, your section on parents self care, parents handling stress. Tell us a little bit more about that.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Yeah, absolutely, Teri. So, with parents and their stress, basically, if they are exposed to stress, unfortunately the stress can manifest itself in kids. And a recent, a few years ago, we did a study at WebMD looking, surveying the parents about their stress level and body symptoms and kids that are often associated with stress like abdominal pain, headaches, things like that. What we found was that when the parents were stressed out, sorry, when the parents were stressed out, the kids got stressed out, regardless. And whatever you’re around. And even as an adult, I’ll just say, if you listen to the news, it might make you stressed out. If you’re thinking about something at work, that’s problematic, it might make you stressed out. Or even if a friend comes over and starts talking about stressful situation, that could raise your stress levels. So, it’s really important to pay attention to ourselves and our stress levels, because absolutely the kids are little sponges and they will take in whatever you’re feeling, even more than what you might be saying. So, they will see your actions and they always speak louder than words.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Sure. And kids don’t necessarily have the tools that adults have to manage that stress. So, we have to be super careful not to impose our stress upon our children. They have their own stress, there’s enough for them to deal with in the world. So, they don’t need us to, we don’t need to engage their mirror neurons in creating stress that isn’t doesn’t even belong to them. So, we have to manage ours. Talk to us about self care and how we best need to manage our stress.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Absolutely. And I talk about the oxygen mask, like you’re going on a plane and they always say, put your oxygen mask on first before doing it for the kids. Because if we don’t manage our own stress, if we’re not coming from a calm place, I promise you that everything will look different. It’s the lens. We have to clear our own lens. And again, I’ll just point to work. If you are having, if you’re upset, stressed, depressed, and you’re trying to work on a work project, chances are, you’re going to interpret everything in a different way and you’re not going to be in your maximum productivity. So, let’s shift that over to our other job at home with our kids. Or do we want to not be as focused and as a hundred percent as we can dealing with our kids?

Yes, we do. So, we need to clear our own lens. And what that means is literally taking that time for yourself to unwind. And it’s not just about baths actually, or the bubble baths and sitting there. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the three C’s, going back to the fundamentals that you need as a human being. And I talk about this in the book, the three C’s. And one of the biggest C’s that we need as human beings is connection. Connection to ourselves. And that could be meditation or taking that walk in nature, whatever that looks to you, maybe it’s just petting your dog without a device around, but also connection to our inner circle. And I call it the NRP. It’s three to five people that are in your life that you can go to with anything.

And you would be there for them. That’s your connection circle. That’s your inner circle of care. And then the outward circle that we all need as human beings is community. So, definitely make sure that community is there now, is that community like a book club? Is it a tennis club? Is it just your neighborhood, your neighbors that you get together with for barbecue, whatever that looks for you, make sure that outer community, outer circle of care is also there. So, these are fundamentals and the third C is compassion and compassion is really important.

I think we forget that, but I will go back to our culture of thousands of years, no matter what religion or country or whatever you look at, that is built in. Compassion is incredibly important. And there’s a really important reason that’s scientifically proved. And that is the person who gives also receives. Our happiness hormones go up when we’re compassionate to others. So, it’s a two way street. And so those things are really important as part of your self care journey. So, it’s not just about bubble baths and having a beverage, it’s not about that. It’s really about connecting on all of those levels and making sure that’s built into your week.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So, speaking of connection, if you’ve been listening to this podcast for very long, you’ve heard me say over and over again, that connection is the number one buffer against mental health crisis. And so it’s, we just can’t emphasize that enough. But what do you say to parents who their first instinct for imposing a consequence on their child is to remove their ability, their child’s ability, to be connected to their friends. They’ll take their devices away, they’ll ground them. And especially in the social isolation that we’ve been experiencing because of COVID. Do you suggest that there might be alternative ways to [crosstalk 00:37:16]-

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Yeah, absolutely. I think you’re right about the connection. That is how our kids communicate. That is just what they do. And it is important to keep that connection, especially if you’ve had a stressful discussion or a disagreement. I do agree with that. Having said that, I think it’s hard for parents too. And I think the best way is to have a time out of sorts for yourself and for your kids. And then recalibrate, come back into the discussion and discuss it in a calm manner. And again, I’m sorry, I keep talking about the self care, but the self care is really important so that you know how to handle those discussions. And I often I’m guilty too. Look, have I lost it sometimes? Yes. We all do.

But what I’ve noticed is I tend to lose it more when I’ve had a bad day at work or I’m stressed out about something else, or I’m hungry or I’m tired. And so that’s why I have to be in a stable place to be able to communicate in a stable fashion to my kids. So, again, going back to you, Amy, having that calm discussion and talking together about what the consequences are, and here’s a great tip. I don’t know, one of my friends actually said this. She said, “When my child became a teenager, what I would say is like, okay, do you agree that, that was not the right thing to do? And he would say, “Yes.” And then I would ask him, “What do you think is an appropriate consequence?” And most of the time he would come up with a consequence that was far more severe than I would’ve thought for him.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Right, right.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

But having said that, she would laugh about it internally, but she’d be like, “Okay, no, you don’t have to be in time out for 10 days. No, you don’t have to do that. We’ll do a little bit less.” And then she looks the star because she actually went [inaudible 00:39:08]. But the communication lines are open and the child feels they’re part of the plan. So, it’s teamwork, communication, and you got something good out of a bad situation.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Sure. And not every mistake or misbehavior is deserving of a consequence. Most of the time, the natural consequence is enough. The kid was embarrassed or the kid failed, or the kid suffered an uncomfortable situation with a friend. And so a lot of times it’s just a teaching opportunity and an opportunity to say, gosh, can you think about what went wrong and how you can keep that from happening the next time. There doesn’t always have to be a consequence.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Amy, that is so true. And that goes back to us going through the tough times in order to get stronger and more resilient. I think that’s so important. There’s a song by Ariana Grande, Rain On Me.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Oh, yes.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

I don’t know if you’ve heard it, Rain On Me. And there’s another song that I always tell my kids about, and it’s I fall down and get up again. Do you know that song, it’s from years ago, but the point is that you need to go through some tough times and it’s okay. Because if it doesn’t rain, how are you going to appreciate the sunshine?

Dr. Amy Moore:

Exactly. Exactly. Well, hey, speaking of stress, I do not want to put stress on you, Hansa. And you’ve got to catch a plane. So, we need to close up what we’re talking about here. There’s so much we could talk about, I wish we could just bring you back and do another podcast maybe here in a little while. You have a wonderful book. Now that is not out in-

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Well, it will be when this episode is released.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Okay, good. I was going to say, if not, we got to bring her back when this comes out and really promote it so much we could talk about, but we got to close.

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Well, I really, really appreciate this, Teri and Amy. And I would love to come back, first of all. I love talking to you guys. I would just say if there’s a couple of closing comments, I would just say that I really would love parents to realize that it is time to reset, that we cannot be helicopter parents anymore, because our kids are in a state of crisis and so are we. So, I think just the two things I would say is let’s talk about this. Let’s figure out a way to shift our style of parenting. And the second thing, so important, is take care of yourselves. It is hard. The pandemic has been hard on our kids, but it’s also been hard on our families and our parents. So, please make that a priority as well, because that is how you can be the best parent. You want to do the best for your kids. Do good for yourself.

Dr. Amy Moore:

All right, excellent. So, in addition to reading your book, how else can our listeners find out more about you and your work and where you are in the world?

Dr. Hansa Bhargava:

Yes. Thank you. So, you can call me on social media @HansaBhargavaMD on Twitter, @DrHansaMD on Instagram. I do write for Forbes and WebMD and several organizations and then always feel free to reach out to me on my website, which is hansabhargavamd.com.

Dr. Amy Moore:

All right. And we will put all of those in the show notes so that our listeners know how to spell it and can find you pretty easily. So, this has been a wonderful conversation, too short. We would to invite you back. So, we’d like to thank our guest today, Dr. Hansa Bhargava, pediatrician, for sharing this important information about connection, about self care, about stress for not only kids, but for moms and parents too. So, again, we will put the links to Hansa’s social media, website and a link to purchase her book, Building Happier Kids: Stress-Busting Tools for Parents in the show notes and in the transcript.

So, thank you so much for listening today. If you liked our show, we would love it if you would leave us a five star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. If you would rather see us, we are on YouTube. You can follow us on social media @TheBrainyMoms. So, look, until next time we know that you’re busy moms and we’re busy moms. So, we’re out.

Teri Miller:

See ya.

 

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