October 9, 2023

Revisit: Michelle & Emiliano: When Your Kid Is Afraid To Do New Things

We’re between seasons right now, but for those of you who joined us later in the season we wanted to revisit this earlier episode about when children are afraid to do new things with my parent guests Michelle and Emiliano.

This is a common topic for many caregivers. If you’ve heard it before I invite you to re-listen, as a way to reinforce new skills. And you might hear something you didn’t hear the first time!

There is a newsletter that comes out bi-weekly! The next one is about living life according to your values and what to do when those values are in conflict. It happens everyday. In this episode Michelle and Emiliano’s values are also in conflict. Do they respect their child’s desire to say NO, or do they honor their value of exposing her to a rich experience. You can listen to this episode with the new perspective of what to do when your values are in conflict. You can find the link to this newsletter in the show notes. Or sign up at ismychildamonster.com

Show Notes

Credits: Is My Child a Monster is produced by Alletta Cooper, Dale Rubury, and Leslie Cohen-Rubury. Theme music is by L-Ray Music. Public relations is handled by Tink Media. Graphics and Website Design by Brien O’Reilly. by Eric Rubury. A special thanks to everyone who contributes their wisdom and support to make this possible.

TRANSCRIPT OF SHOW:

Leslie: Hi! I’m Leslie Cohen Rubury. Is My Child A Monster is between seasons right now. But we have lots of exciting things in development. We’re planning some mini-episodes about finding a therapist and managing holiday stress, and we’re revamping my bi-weekly newsletter that covers all sorts of relevant topics. The next one is about Living life according to your values and what to do when those values are in conflict. You can find a link to sign up for the newsletter in the show notes, or at ismychildamonster.com.

So today I’m bringing you an episode from early in season one that explores when children are afraid to do new things, a common concern for lots of caregivers. If you joined us later in season one, this might be new to you. If you’ve heard it before I invite you to re-listen, as a way to reinforce new skills. And you might hear something you didn’t hear the first time! So let’s get started.

[Music: The Wilds Beyond by L-Ray Music]

Michelle: She’s just terrified. And I don’t know if we are supposed to push her or recognize, is this too much? Is this going to break her?

Leslie Cohen-Rubury: This is Is My Child A Monster? And if this is a question you’ve been asking yourself, you are not alone. You’re in the right place. So welcome to this parenting podcast, where you get to be a fly on the wall and listen in as real parents share their trials and tribulations in therapy sessions recorded live.

I’m your host, Leslie Cohen-Rubury. A therapist with 37 years of experience helping parents navigate this question. I’m also a mother of three who has sat on my kitchen floor asking myself the same question. Though I am a therapist, this show is for informational purposes only, and not to substitute for therapeutic intervention. 

This is the third session in our three part series with Michelle and Emiliano helping their highly sensitive daughter, Willow, with her severe anxiety. In the last two sessions, we worked on skills to manage sleep, anxiety, her panic during unexpected changes, as well as day to day fears. If you haven’t listened, I strongly suggest taking the time to go back to sessions one and two, so you can get a fuller picture and get caught up. This session, we’re strategizing about a big event Willow has coming up and the anticipatory anxiety that’s been really taking over her life. As always, the names of my guests, and the name of their child has been changed, along with any other identifying information. So let’s get started. 

Leslie: Hi, again, it’s great to see the two of you. And today I know you are coming with a real specific concern and issue. So I’m gonna let you jump in what is going on.

Emiliano: Hi, Leslie, it’s good to be back. So the issue that we are facing now with our daughter, Willow is going away for four nights for her first school trip, which she has never done before. She’s 10 years old. We were counting yesterday, she has only spent two nights away from home without at least one of us. And this is producing a lot of anxiety on her. And she has expressed the strong desire of not going

Michelle was mentioning to me–I wasn’t there–but was mentioning that she said that she will run away if we try to trick her and send her to school that they have to go on the field trip, that she prefers not to exist. So this is in the height of her anxiety. And so, this field trip is in about a month. And so she’s been having this anxiety since the moment she found out, but more strongly over the last two weeks, we’d say…?

Michelle: Yeah.

Emiliano: We’re sort of back on having to hold her fingers at night and then just going into anxiety. And so we’re now under this situation… 

Leslie: Okay. Oh, my heartbreaks. The first thing we want to acknowledge is that, I hear a lot of pain. I hear this is causing her a lot of pain. She’s not making it up. She’s not manipulating you. She’s not trying to get out of anything. She is in pain. And when she says I will run away or I want to not exist, the pain is so intense, that that’s her solution. And that’s the way her mind is working. And we want to say, “You are in pain, and you want to find a solution.” So that’s really important to clarify. And it’s called having accurate expression, and really being clear on giving her the words that of course she doesn’t have; but being able to help her with those words. So when she’s crying really hard, and she’s getting very, very, very upset — What words can you say to help her communicate what she’s trying to say when, “I’ll just run away and I can’t keep going, you’re not going to make me go and if you try and trick me — ” Well, could you say back to her?

Michelle: I think the first thing I said is, “I can tell you’re really” — not hurting, I said, but, “I can see you’re really worried. And this is really upsetting you. Yeah, I can see you’re really upset.”

Leslie: Great.

Michelle: And I said, “Do you want to write this down? You want to put it in the worry pot? And no…

Leslie: It’s almost too big for the worry pot. 

Michelle: Yeah, I guess eventually, she did, actually. During the course of us talking, she eventually did write the three pictures that Emiliano described. She’s, you know, “I’m not going”– with a big X over a camping thing. “I want to disappear” is the other one, or, “I’m gonna run away.” Those are her options, essentially, it seems. And I also said, “It’s a month away, it’s sleep time right now, it’s not the time to talk about these things, or think about these things. Let’s put that away for now.” That sort of thing. But she’s just very much caught in the grip and hysterical and then she tried to get very strong, I love her sort of power. She tried to exert her power and be like, “I refuse to go, I am not going, I refuse, you cannot make me go.” I just listened to her. And I did mention, “I can see you’re really upset.” But I didn’t say, “You were going,” or “You weren’t going.” I didn’t hint, sort of, any direction.

Leslie: Okay, so let’s talk about some strategies for what to do in this situation. Because I imagined it’s very confusing as to know how much to push, and when not to push, right? That’s the issue. That’s the bottom line here.

Michelle: That’s the bottom line. And with her, we’ve learned with anxiety, baby stops are the way to get there. For her–same with swim–we couldn’t get her to do any lessons outside of school to do any sort of classes or anything. And we finally found a swim lesson class. And she’s been willing, she’s now willing to go. And we’ve talked about it, we found the right class that she felt really excited about, or at least willing to try. And so we got there over time and sort of baby steps in some ways. 

So that’s the thing with this, it’s going from like zero to four nights pretty much. And she’s just terrified. Right now, I’m really stuck. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know. I don’t know if we are supposed to push our how we’re supposed to get her there. Or in some way, recognize, is this too much? Is this gonna break her because I can really seriously envision us taking her to get in the car to go. And her just like, she’s so strong-willed to, I can just see her like, run, you know, and just, she’s like, “I’ll run all the way home.” She said to me, “I will just — you can’t make me.” And how do you put a kid who’s screaming in — I mean, and I’ve also seen her have panic attacks, where she’s screaming and kicking. And she’s a good kid. It’s not like she throws temper tantrums or anything. This is pure panic.

Leslie: Yes.

Michelle: And so I don’t want her to be in a situation where she’s trying to go to bed at night in an overnight place, without us, having a massive panic attack. And nobody knows what to do or how to handle it, either. That’s the other thing I’m concerned about.

Leslie: Yes. So she is highly sensitive. We’ve heard lots of examples that you’ve given us in the past of whether she’s having a panic attack at the theater or whether she’s having — when she was an infant crying going into the coffee shop, she very clearly has big reactions and big emotions. So this is not a one-off problem. This is who she is, this is part of who she is. And it’s very intense, and we want to help her become skillful and become an expert on her anxiety. 

That’s the overarching message you’re going to send her. “Whoa, you have a lot of anxiety. And your anxiety is running the show. We are going to give you skills and skills and skills and we’re going to educate you so that you understand your anxiety and you know how to live with it. So, we’re gonna put you in charge of your anxiety instead of right now your anxiety is in charge of you.” And so you, as parents, really need to understand that you need to create and want to create that framework for her. And that all of these panic attacks is when her anxiety is controlling her. And that anxiety is going to come and go and it’s an awful feeling. She’s safe. “You feel awful and you’re safe.” So there is a lot of work that needs to go in before she can maybe do this one big thing, which is going off to this camp to sleep away. 

I do want to and I think I used this before when she had to go into the — wanted to go into the show, but she didn’t go into the show. Avoidance actually means the anxiety wins. So we want to help you as parents because I get why you might not have gotten into the show for the pirate story that she’s so loved because you didn’t have the skills. That’s why we’re talking today, is to help you have the skills help her so that she can develop the skills. I want to help you feel confident that you are helping her name her emotion mind, teach her that there are ways she can handle it and that she’s actually safe and capable. But when she’s feeling her anxiety, she doesn’t believe you. She doesn’t believe a word you say, she believes her anxiety. Right now her anxiety and the way she feels is all she can believe.

Michelle: Oh, yeah, 100%. There’s nothing you can say in the moment. But then also the challenges. I tried to talk to her outside of anxiety when she’s totally fine and her regular mind. And she doesn’t want to — “I don’t wanna talk about it, I don’t wanna talk about it.”

Leslie: Okay, so that’s an exposure. Basically, we need to build the steps to get her so that she can live the life she wants to live. If her anxiety runs her life, she doesn’t live the life she wants to live, she lives the life that anxiety wants her to live.

Michelle: We spoke about that the other day, how important it was for her to learn the skills to manage this anxiety and fear. Because otherwise, I explained there are people that won’t leave their house, they’re so afraid of all the possibilities of what could happen. A tree could fall on them, they could trip and break a leg or I mean, they’re, they might be running through all the possibilities of what could go wrong, that they’re too afraid to leave their house. And I told her I want you to live your life. 

Leslie: Great. 

Michelle: She heard me say that, in general terms. But you know…

Leslie: It doesn’t apply to the moment. Right.

Michelle: Right. 

Leslie: Right, I get that. Totally makes sense. So let’s go back to this building step-by-step hierarchy. So that you can see the first step is talking about her anxiety when it’s not there. “I don’t want to talk about it.” Right, that just being able to talk about something that happened in the past: “Oh, let’s talk about the airport when I went away, or when we went to the pirate show and that you would love to see the pirate show. But anxiety was tough. That was a tough day wasn’t it, sweetie?, Would you like to be able to, at 11 years old or 12 years, do something like that where you might feel uncomfortable? And you can do it anyway. Right?” 

The definition of courage is: feel the fear and do it anyway. And it’s a dialectic statement, to feel the fear and do it anyway. It means you might be very uncomfortable. And you’re gonna do it anyway. So, for example, I use this to teach states of mind to people who take my Dialectic Behavior Therapy skills groups. And the video which, by all means, I suggest you watch it, is called The Nervous Guy Sings On The X Factor. Whether you like it or not, doesn’t matter. The idea is, it’s an excellent example, where this 34-year-old young man wanted to sing on The X Factor. And he had ripped up his application five times, everyone told them that they’d make he’d make a fool of himself. And he gets on stage. And he is, “Hello. Hello. I’m here to do this today. I’m here to do —” and he is shaking like a leaf. And I asked the people in my group, is he in emotion mind, wise mind, or logic mind? What would you guess? I know you don’t know it completely. What would you guess? He’s standing there on stage shaking like a leaf?

Michelle: Emotion mind?

Leslie: Ah, he’s not. He’s in wise mind. Why do I define that as wise mind? Because the definition of wise mind is doing what works for your long-term goals. He didn’t walk off stage. And if he walked off stage, or if he ripped up his application, again, that’s emotion mind. Because his long-term goal is to sing and to present himself. So the fact that he’s onstage shaking, yeah, there’s a lot of emotion mind in wise mind. But remember, wise mind is a synthesis–an overlap–of both your emotion mind and your logic mind. Wise mind is when you are doing things that work for your long-term value. 

So this is what people who are anxious don’t understand. That’s why I love this video. And I would show it to her because people think that the only way I can go into the show, the only way I can go to the sleepaway, the only way I can let mommy go is if I feel okay. Like, “I am okay, now you can go, now I can go.” But most of the time, we have to know, we want to learn that in order to do the things we want to do in life, I might be nervous, I might be uncomfortable, I might be shaky, I might even throw up. So I have said to teenagers who are really anxious about doing things, okay, let’s see if we can talk to your anxiety. And if I said to anxiety, “Hey, anxiety, I’m going to go visit a friend tomorrow. And you’re going to show up and you might give me a stomachache. And now I’m going to tell you that I’m going to visit my friend.” And then the stomachache gets worse. And it makes me want to throw up. I’d say, “You know what, anxiety, bring it on you, I might throw up, I might have a stomach ache, guess what, I’ve got this, and I’m going to visit my friend.” 

Michelle: Okay, but here’s the difference that — I have a big question for you. In both these cases, people have a goal that they want to achieve or something they want to do. In her non-anxious mind, she does not want to go. There’s a difference between when she wants something, and she really wants something and gets nervous; and then can work towards it versus, “I have no interest in this, I do not want to go.”

Leslie: Good thinking.

Michelle: Because we’re forcing her like that, I mean, it’s like a forced thing.

Emiliano: But we know that the actual activity or the camp is something that she will have a blast at.

Michelle: …she will enjoy. 

Emiliano: Because it’s animal farms, which she absolutely loves, her classmates which she absolutely loves. We know that objectively, those are all activities that she will really enjoy. I think she made her mind based on not trying to go to die. And that anxiety place…

Michelle: Yeah. And that’s what I talked to her, she was freaking out the other night. Part of it was, let’s keep an open mind. It’s a month away. Let’s try and keep an open mind about the possibility of going. That’s the question—so she doesn’t have a goal, there’s a difference if she wants to, and she has a goal and she’s feeling anxious, I think you can get her there. What I’m concerned about is she doesn’t want to go, period; we think it’d be good for her. And we also think she’ll enjoy it. But she’s absolutely not wanting to go whether she’s anxious, or whether she’s not.

Leslie: I think when she talks about it at all, it’s all emotion mind, and because all she can experience is the pain of the idea of, I’m going to go and I’m going to sleep, I can’t sleep without my mom or dad. She doesn’t know — I know, she’s done it twice — that’s fantastic. But she doesn’t know that she can do this. It’s too much of an unknown. She doesn’t have confidence, she doesn’t have skill. All she sees in front of her is very scary, very painful, very uncomfortable feelings. And so it completely washes out anything else that’s going on up there. 

So I would gently disagree with you that there aren’t goals, she does have a goal. But the anxiety is not allowing her to think about it. It’s not allowing her to be dialectic, she is only thinking about the pain of going and being alone and not knowing how to go to sleep. She is not allowing herself to think of the things that she enjoys. 

Michelle: So how do we get there? 

Leslie: Well, here’s the thing. I believe you told me in a previous session that you have plans to go away this summer. And that she’s anxious about that as well. That’s a little bit more of a non-negotiable. Is that right?

Emiliano: It is.

Michelle: Correct. Yes, it’s non-negotiable. And she’s I think she’s accepted it at this point. I mean, she’s not, she’s not fighting it.

Emiliano: She knows it’s not negotiable. And she’s also been there. So…

Michelle: She’s been there. She sees her family, her grandmother, she knows the good stuff that’s there.

Emiliano: She knows that I will be there. But that I do tend to push her a little bit more. So she’s not expressing anxiety with me. I think she just expresses it with you, at least about the trip. I didn’t know until you told me that she was anxious about the trip. I think she channels her anxiety.

Michelle: She talks to me a lot more, period. I mean, she shares her emotions, in general, a lot more.

[Music: Acoustic Motivation by Coma-Media]

Leslie: Let’s go back to the idea: What do we do? Do we send her off? Do we not?

Michelle: Well, how do we get there so that it’s not a disaster in that moment? I don’t want to put her in a situation where she’s having a panic attack and we’re walking away— I couldn’t do that. Sorry. We’ve talked before about that, but if she’s in a crisis, I can’t walk away you know, that’s just not possible. 

Leslie: Right. So yes, if we take an approach that we’re going to do exposures with her, this is a child that does have, I would say very severe anxiety, right? This is pretty intense anxiety, she sees that her other friends are going to go and that they’re not going to struggle. We don’t want her to feel shame around this. And we want to say that there is a way to help her with it. It sounds like the approach that’s going to work for you is a hierarchy of exposures. Talking about it, acknowledging that she can handle being uncomfortable, so that she needs a lot of practice, talking about things she doesn’t want to talk about, and telling her, she can be comfortable in an uncomfortable situation, we’re going to have a conversation. So some children, for example, have tremendous anxiety over going to a doctor. So it’s a little easier to see that because we’re going to talk about, I’m going to mention doctors in the house, I’m going to mention the word doctors where some kids who are super anxious don’t want to hear the word because they panic just hearing the word. But if they hear the word over and over and over again, that’s called habituation, and they get tired of hearing the word. It’s like, okay, now I don’t panic, hearing the word. 

So exposure means doing something over and over and over again until someone feels capable and they realize that they’re safe. Yes, they weren’t comfortable. But they work through the feeling that comes and goes. So we want to make a list of ways that she can practice. I would say, “Okay, your anxiety is taking control and is in charge. We’re going to tell your anxiety, okay, we get it this time, you’re not going off to the camp—you’re not going to go to the camp, but we are going to start practicing exposures. It is a way to build your muscle so that you can do what you want to do. And you can say, We believe very strongly that you would like to go with your friends, have the bonfire, be part of the activities, see the farm animals, be part of what your friends are doing. We believe that that’s what you would like to do. And we get that it’s really scary. So we’re going to teach you — not in the next month because it might take a little longer than that — we’re going to teach you how to do something that’s uncomfortable.” And that’s anything from asking a waiter for a glass of water, to going in a, I don’t know, a karate lesson that she didn’t think she wanted to do. 

So we are going to start to build up her ability to do things that she doesn’t think she is capable of doing. So that she can see that she’s safe and capable. And that’s where your firmness and your belief that she can handle the discomfort. She needs to borrow your wise mind that she’s okay. What does this sound like to you so far? Sound doable? 

Emiliano: It sounds, yeah.

Michelle: I think baby steps, the kind of baby steps work. Just going to this swim lesson that’s coming up. I think that’s a big first step for her, for her to realize that she can go and do it. And you had her shop and the grocery store by herself the other day…

Emiliano: …tried to expose her, precisely. Because she asked me. I picked her up from school and she asked me to go to the grocery store for milk. And I was wearing my slippers. And I was like, “Okay, I’m going to give you $5. I’m going to be here, you go in, you can get the milk. And then you don’t have to talk to people. Just put the milk, give them the bill, they give the change, you come back and I’m going to be here.” So this played out…

Leslie: Did this work?

Emiliano: …She didn’t. She came out of the car. And then she just she froze and then looked at me. And I was like, “Are you nervous about it?” And she was, “Yeah.” “Well, what I’m going to do now is I’m going to shadow you; but it’s like I’m not going to be there. I’m just going to be behind you.” So I walked all the time behind her. Even at a point I forgot, and I started going ahead, but it’s like, “No, you’re my shadow you’re supposed to go behind.” So she corrected me. She sent me behind. And then when we were paying the person at the cashier, the teller, was looking at me and I was like, I’m not here, you know? [Laughter] And I did a sign and then she paid and she just really wanted to carry the milk all the way to the car, like a sign of…

Leslie: Yeah, she was proud. She did it. That’s so exciting. And I love to hear — So we’re going to talk about building mastery. Her doing that gave her a sense that she was capable of doing it and carrying that milk out was her prize. “I did it.” And Emiliano that was really clever. You gave her an exposure, it was a little too tough, she didn’t quite have the skill for it, and you came up with a tweak. So that anxiety didn’t win, where you got in the car and went home and anxiety wins, you instead helped to get up and over the hump of anxiety by saying, “Okay, I’ll shadow I won’t talk to you, I’ll stay behind you.” She was proud to truly try that. And then you will keep doing that. 

So do the exposure to shopping over and over again. Don’t stop with that. Now say, here’s three things you need, I’m going to stand at the front of the store. And you’re going to go up and down the aisle, or I’m going to stand at the end of the aisle. Keep doing it. If you need to shadow her four times, then she’s going to say I don’t need you anymore, Dad. You need to do the exposure enough times until there is a situation until she’s used to it. Then you up the ante, then you do the baby step and you give her the next step. But don’t jump, keep staying with the grocery store. But this time, until eventually, you stay in the car, she goes in and she can do the milk and tell her we’re going to work until we get there. 

There’s an expression — leave no stone unturned — in exposure work. You want to help the person do the thing that’s hardest for them. So that’s the example. I want to go back to camp. What are you going to do? I had an idea because she’s not ready to go away yet without you. She just doesn’t have the skill. She’s not capable. I do believe that she’s very intelligent about what she’s capable of and what she’s not. And the story you just told where she looked at you said, “No, Daddy, you’re my shadow,” was her saying I don’t want your help. I want to do it on my own when I have the tools. So I have a lot of confidence that, with tools, she’s going to really outgrow this. My idea, basically, I want her to go to the camp the last day, if there’s a school bus or something, and have her come home with the kids, and basically say, “Hi, I’m home. I did it.”

Michelle: It’s three hours away in New Hampshire.

Leslie: It’s okay. So here’s my thinking. Because you had mentioned to me when we were talking before this session, you were mentioning that maybe you could stay up nearby. My thought is: you go up and you stay in a hotel with her. And she goes every day to the camp. So now she’s familiar with it, Day One. She goes back on Day Two, and you talk about, “What is it like to sleep over? What are they doing? Let’s check the facts. Is everyone safe? Are they having fun?” So you can ignore the sleepover part and just start with, “Go have fun, go have fun.” And you can do that for three days. Don’t have her sleepover at all. But on the last day have her go home, like you leave in the morning. And she comes home with the students. 

Her success, the independence is I went home on my own; not too scary for her, she’s capable of doing it, she knows she’s going home. That would be the first step. Another idea would maybe be getting her there seeing how much fun it is. And then going home the last night and saying, “Okay, I can leave tonight. And you can stay over.” I think she might be more likely to do that if Emiliano was out there. But it’s totally fine if you go with her and she doesn’t do it. So all I would say is we want her to remember that there are things she wants in life. And if the best you can do is get a hotel and she sees that life is fun and life is worth living and life is worth putting up with your discomfort — that’s an important lesson. Because remember, you said she doesn’t want to do this. Well, if she goes every day to the camp, and she sees how much fun it is, you do want to do this. You had fun. And your anxiety convinced you that you’re not okay. 

Michelle: Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that option. Because when we talked about it, I also said I don’t think she’s ready. I don’t know how this is going to work without her having a total crisis. And so we have to figure out what to do, but one of the options was maybe we go up and I said the same thing, like we stay nearby and we try the first night and if she knows she can do it the first night then she knows she can do it the nights after that potentially. But I think your idea might even be better that she maybe sleeps with us the first night and maybe ask her, “Do you think you want to stay overnight with your friends?” Because I think the second night her friends will be, like, “Come on Willow stay with us.” And that might help her along because the person — the one house that she spent the night over in — is her friend who is going to be on the field trip with her. She’s very talkative. She’s very, very chatty. And she doesn’t give Willow a chance to get anxious. Her mind is completely distracted whenever she’s with her friend, and she will be there on the trip. So I feel like there could be a chance.

Leslie: So I don’t even know if I’d keep saying, “So do you want to stay? Do you want to stay?” I would almost make it the forbidden fruit. I would almost make, “Okay, back to the hotel. Let’s go, we’re going back to the hotel.” Like it’s a matter of fact, we’re not going to talk about it, we’re going back to the hotel, it’s boring.” I wouldn’t go out of my way to make it boring. But I would just let her friends — if you can say to the mom — can you ask her friend to invite her to encourage her — not come from you guy — but maybe come from her friends. Let the counselor say, “We love seeing you here for the day. This is really great to see you here. I’m glad you’re here with us.” And you know, let’s not focus on the sleepaway. Because if she can do it she will say I want to try. But one thing that I would like you to do, and this is much more on an energetic level for the two of you. I keep hearing you talk about the fear of her panicking, like a crisis. I want you to believe your daughter can handle things.

Michelle: I want to believe it too. I just am also aware — This is the whole question about pushing versus not. I know her well. And I feel like in this situation, the idea — I think you picking up on the same thing — the idea of just handing her over to some other parent to drive her on the trip. I know right now, she can’t handle that. That’s not gonna go well. But I believe that one day she can.

Leslie: Beautiful. I want that belief to come out. I want it to be a strong faith, I want you to believe it. And even do a little meditation on your own while you’re out there saying to yourself — not to her — that you’re doing the work of having this faith that she can handle things. And that it may look like the nervous guy who sings,“I’m really nervous. I’m really nervous.” And let her see — I would love you to show her that video and say, “This is why wise mind, sweetie, because he was in emotion mind when he ripped up his application. He’s in emotion mine if he runs off the stage. But he’s in wise mind if he’s shaking, and he does it.” 

Because she will get that. It might be very, very helpful for her to see that when we’re doing hard things, we’re not going to feel great. It’s going to be uncomfortable. And we want to do it anyway. Because as you see in the video, the guy belts out and he sings beautiful. And if she slept over, she might stay up late, she might be scared, you know, sleeping is scary. It’s not easy. I would not push her. What I would do is the last morning, if she didn’t sleep over at all, I would love to say okay, go have fun, because that’ll be challenging for you to leave her and say, “Go have fun. I’ll see you at home at five o’clock tonight when you guys get home on the bus.” And that I would insist on because she already has the experience of knowing the camp. And has she driven in other people’s cars, or buses or whatever it is?

Michelle: She’s driven in other people’s cars, she gets carsick. So we have to make sure she’s in the right seat, because if she’s in the way back of a seven seat or something, she’ll be sick. But if she’s up behind the driver or something like that, then she’s okay.

Leslie: Yeah. So do that and have faith that she can handle that. That would be my suggestion. Nothing I’m saying is right or wrong. Those are just ideas. I want to build mastery, I want her to come home and say “I did it.” Just like she carried the milk out. And she did it. So you’re going to be thinking about doing exposures. And really building them up. Because when the big moment comes for her to go to sleepover, she needs to have a lot of practice under her belt of being uncomfortable and doing it anyway. And seeing–remember that that curve is I get really anxious, and then it goes away.

Michelle: Now she has to believe — build that belief in herself.

Leslie: And that comes from experience. It doesn’t come from me telling her, “It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.” It’s her doing it over and over and over again and seeing, wow, I wasn’t comfortable. I didn’t like it and I’m fine. And it’s gone and it’s past. So mom going away, mom having activities, so that she sees that you go away and you come back — that’s another one of her anxieties. So there’s a few areas of what she could do– hierarchies or exposures,but we’ll leave it for that now. Any final questions?

Michelle: No, I think it just sounds like you’ve given us a clear plan or suggestion for this particular trip. And it sounds like in the meantime, and thereafter, the goal for us is to keep finding those places where she feels nervous or anxious. And where we know she’s safe, and it’s not a — like the baby step piece — encourage her and support her and, and celebrate her when she does that thing, even even if it’s small…

Leslie: …and it’s not small. And what I want to say is, you’re here you’re getting help. Your daughter is very lucky to know that you guys are working really hard on trying to understand how to help her. Because she is very lucky to have you guys helping her deal with something that’s really tough, and very scary. 

Emiliano: Thank you so much, Leslie.

[Music: The Wilds Beyond by L-Ray Music]

Leslie: I would really like to extend a special thanks to Michelle and Emiliano for being part of this podcast series. Thanks so much to the two of them. And I know this episode was a bit of a cliffhanger. So I called Michelle for an update. And I am so excited to share that she did it: Willow was able to go to her sleepaway field trip. And Michelle had a backup plan. She made a reservation for a hotel for four nights in case Willow wasn’t able to stay. But Willow stayed all four nights, and Michelle came home after two. Willow even got to come home in the car of another parent, which is another great accomplishment. So these exposures and using the skills to do the hard things is so exciting for this family. Willow and her parents will get to use these tools over and over again as she grows. Willow was not a problem to be fixed but a person to be understood. And that’s the same for your child. 

[Music: Acoustic Guitars Ambient Uplifting by Lesfm]

Leslie: Thanks so much for listening to this season one episode. If it’s new to you, I hope you go back and revisit Michelle and Emilliano’s other sessions, you can find them wherever you get your podcasts. And please subscribe so you don’t miss our upcoming between-season special episodes and our season two launch early next year. As always, you can find links to everything, including my revamped newsletter, in the show notes or at ismychildamonster.com

The Is My Child A Monster? team is Alletta Cooper, Dale Rubury, Gabriela Glueck, and me. Special thanks to Eric Rubury. Our theme music is by L-Ray Music. I’m Leslie Cohen-Rubury. Thanks so much for listening. And keep in mind that in order to live the life you want to live, feel the fear and do it anyway.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai edited by Eric Rubury


Transcribed by
https://otter.ai edited by Eric Rubury

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