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One Broken Mom
1.10 What Are Our Daughters Trying To Tell Us?
July 23, 2018 Amee Quiriconi
With suicide in teen girls rising in the United States, understanding and connecting with our daughters is more important than ever these days. Amee brings on to One Broken Mom Mallory Grimste, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in working with teen girls to talk about what our daughters are thinking about these days. This is a Teen Safe episode so that parents and teens can listen together. For more information, visit Mallory's page at

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1:0:14Hello, you are listening to a podcast dedicated to raising awareness about mental health, parenting, and self improvement. I'm the host and the queer coney one broken mom is not a family show. It is intended for adults only and may contain adult language. Sometimes the topics are series, but you can count on the episodes to the entertaining as well as informative and inspirational. Also, one broken mom is not offering any psychiatric medical diagnosis. We're just here giving away what I think is useful knowledge, so if you're ready to hear real talk by real people so that we can all get better together,

Speaker 2:0:47then you're in the right place and welcome today I have with me and mallory grim. Steve Mallory is a licensed clinical social worker who practices in Woodbridge, Connecticut. Like many of the other guests that I bring onto one broken mom. Mallory actually specializes in working with teens and their families, but I ask Malory to be on one broken mom today because she also has a portion of her practice dedicated solely to working with teen girls. Hi Mallory, welcome to the show.

Speaker 3:1:12Hi. Thank you for having me.

Speaker 2:1:14Absolutely. So I'd like for you to start off and tell everyone what's your origin story? How did you come into the practice of treating teenagers?

Speaker 3:1:22Yeah, so I was a teenager and not too long ago, so I'm at basically when I was a teenager, my high school had a problem with suicide contagion and at the time I didn't know what that was. And for those who don't know what that is, it's when one person either attempted or completed suicide and it inspires another person to do the same. And when I in high school I thought that that was just part of being in high school because that was normal for my community, which is horrible to think about now for what I know. Yeah. So it wasn't until I was in college and meeting people from all over the country and the world and outside of my bubble that I realized that that was an odd experience and I always knew that I wanted to work with teenagers and help teens because I had friends within my own friend group that were affected with that. And eventually one thing led to another and I became a therapist that specialized in working with teenagers.

Speaker 2:2:31Cool. Well, and you know, for people that are my age, they'll remember the movie heathers where that actually, you know, was a part of the topics. Maybe it's an ads film, it's own a writer, but it, it, it was around the suicide contagion. This idea that it's somehow spreads, you know, within a school. It was one kid that was set up and kind of went on. I did, you know, we learned about that as well because my own kids dealt with three different friends that to successfully committed suicide. One attempted it and that'll happen in a span of a year. And the school counselors were very concerned about that. This whole concept of like when one child does it for some reason, it just, it, it does seem to infect, for lack of a better word, other kids to go down that path, which is, which is really sad. Now when you, when you work with teams, um, you know, I want parents who've never explored therapy for their kids to understand that it's more than just sitting around and just talking about their problems and you have some special training in several different areas of therapy. Can you help explain what those are and why they work and helping treating teens that are struggling with anxiety and depression and all those other emotions that are going through them.

Speaker 3:3:40Yeah. I'm very happy that you bring up that. It's more than just talking about your feelings. That is a very healing aspect of therapy and it is something that is I main focus and priority within the therapy or counseling process though within that you really need the skills to be able to handle talking about and exploring some of those deeper feeling. So that sort of training that I have, I'm specialized in cognitive behavioral therapy, which is cbt for short and the law, dialectical behavior therapy or dbt for short. Um, and what I like about both of those therapy models, dbt, which is dialectical behavior therapy in particular, is the way that they simply break down the different skill sets into really easy to use modules. So for example, with Dvt, they talk about coping skills, which are, how do you hang in there through the intensity of emotion, which we all do and have sometimes we don't realize that we have it and the way that they break that down, they call them distress tolerance skills, but their coping skills, they just call it something different. Really easy to remember ways that you can incorporate that into your day to day, moment to moment life.

Speaker 2:5:02Cool. And so, you know, one of the things that I'm doing, my mission and my purpose with one broken mom is that for adults that are sitting here struggling with their own anxiety and depression and I'm in or they get triggered by something and it works them up emotionally, you know, certain things or experiences or whatnot, is that because our brains, while we were kids was exposed to bad conditions and probably at the hands of our own parents. And you know, my, my other thing is this is not a parent shaming show at all and so if you, if you don't take care of yourself as an adult and if you are a parent as well, that you're probably developing some of those same mental health issues that you have in your own kids and that you know, our, our mental health has a lot to do with our experiences.

Speaker 2:5:53As you know, science is starting to, to end research is starting to show you talk that and bring this up as well, that a prolonged stress can be a sign that there is a mental health condition, but also prolonged stress can create more future mental health conditions and so it's not okay or normal for kids to be completely stressed out all the time. What are examples of what might be normal anxiety a teenage girl is going through and then what are the signs that their daughter is really dealing with something serious in the parents have to take notice?

Speaker 3:6:22Yeah. To be totally honest, I think as a parent, you know your kid best and so if your spidey sense is going off that something's not right here, it's worth exploring. That's like your biggest predictor to tell you the truth because what could be normal and useful for one teenager could be really problematic for another one. And so some of the things to keep an eye out for is if you're noticing huge, um, behavioral or mood shifts. So that would be somebody who is usually like bright and cheery and social suddenly like needs to constantly be in their rooms studying because the next pop quiz could be at any moment something like that. Now that's different. If it's finals week, you probably want them locked up in their room. So you've got to put it in context, put it in perspective a little bit. Um, some other things would be noticing if their appetite is changing or their sleep schedule is changing. Uh, those are huge, huge self care things that for teenagers they tend to be very singularly focused. And so they forget to balance these other areas. And I think as women, adult women in general, especially in our culture in America, we tend to forget those things tear, so role modeling that's really important. But also keeping an eye out for your team too.

Speaker 2:7:44Yeah. Right now I have an episode on one broken mom that was actually originally started off as a blog post and it was called against medical advice and it was the retelling of our experience with my daughter who again, after having one friend a commit suicide successfully. And then another one attempted for the fourth time in this last girl was one of her best friends from her old school. My daughter was struggling with sleeping and she couldn't, she couldn't go to sleep at night. Um, and we spent 17 days straight that she either miss school or only gone in for like half of it. But towards the end of it, the stress of the lack of sleep wore her down. And so she ended up grabbing a pill bottle in the middle of the night. I'm sleeping. I've no idea that she did it and she strongly had considered taking her own life and didn't, didn't even take the pills, but in the, um, in the experience I described this idea of becoming bilingual, you know, for parents that the key to communication with teens, it's not just hearing the words that come out of their mouth, but that we also have to be able to transition to feeling what they're saying.

Speaker 2:8:50Um, and so through your experience in working with teen girls, what are our daughters and what

Speaker 3:8:56are they trying to tell us that they can't quite say right now or we're just not able to hear at this point? Well, first of all, I just want to say I'm, I'm so sorry that that happened for your family because that is a very, very scary experience. Um, so I'm so sorry for that. Thank you for that. It was scary, but it was, it was learning in lightning and we're, we're all thriving at this point in time. So yeah, and that's why I shared it was because for other parents to understand, you know, that wow, some of us go through this kind of stuff in it is, there is, you know, bad things that happened and we need to be able to talk about these things with each other. Yeah. And I think it also brings to light that this wasn't your child's norm.

Speaker 3:9:36Like she hadn't ever considered that before, but due to the lack of sleep, you know, your thinking gets distorted. And so taking care of that kid, I mean, it's probably a, a, a twofold path there. It's not okay. She just gets enough sleep and now she's totally okay. Like she needs to talk about her feelings. But to answer your question about, you know, what are are feeling, they are feeling all the things we are feeling but probably times 10 or $100 for some of them because you have to remember, uh, if you can remember when you were a teenager, everything is new. You're still trying to figure out who you are in the world and how the world is working. And today's teens. I met me at how fast they learn and grow and work, the things that they're learning in school. I'm like, I have no idea what you're talking about.

Speaker 3:10:33They are, it's phenomenal the things that they are doing, but everything is so fast and quick that there's no time to just kind of like breathe and pause and download the information that you're taking in every day. So being able to notice what are the different signs that your teen is displaying that indicate like sadness, anxiety, fear, whatever it helping them name that is a really, really important skill. Okay. So if, um, you know, suicide and teenage girls is one of the rising areas of concern and stuff like that. And I guess what parents might be sitting here wondering. I was like, what? What's triggering, you know, without giving out specifics of some of your clients, but you know, what seems to be triggering these girls mean what is it the thing that they feel like they're escaping from when they're choosing, you know, possibly that passive suicide.

Speaker 3:11:32Yeah. So typically my experience with working with teenagers who are experiencing suicidal ideation, whether that is thinking or feeling or considering that if that for some of them it's a way of expressing that I need something to change in my life. This doesn't feel good anymore. For other people it really genuinely means I want to die. And so those are very different experiences. So being able to ask your daughter or son or whoever directly the question, and this is a scary question to ask and you have to like how to prepare yourself for the answer and be okay with whatever it is. It's the actually asked them. When you say those words, are you telling me that you wanted to die and there's no chance that you want to live. And if the answer is yes and most of them will tell you yes or no, you need to bring that to the emergency department for an evaluation.

Speaker 3:12:32It's really, really important that they get help right away because it can take. There's research out there that can. It can take three seconds from the time of you having the thought of considering suicide to the time of acting on it, so you don't want to risk that better off safe than sorry if it is no or I don't know, it's worth exploring that a little bit more with them and getting them linked up with a counselor that can help them tease out being able to say directly and clearly what they're trying to express it, how to make changes in their life that are within their own control to make it worth living again. Right,

Speaker 2:13:10right. That's good stuff. Um, you know, one of my things too was one of my purposes here with one broken mom as well as, um, is talking about is accountability and, and in particular trying to awareness, holding parents accountable for their children and their mental health. And that's not just making a phone call, setting up an appointment and becoming a spectator to that, but understanding how their own behavior and actions and parenting is contributing to their child's anxiety and depression. And I've said this before on other episodes, you know, I, I think there's this false idea that where you're born, you know, just take your brain right out of the box and put it in and whatever problems you had, that was just something that you came with not understanding as we know now through again through research that, you know, those things are things that are developed through, you know, the brain development of a child.

Speaker 2:14:01So my next question, you know, like I said, it's not set up to shane parents because none of us are perfect and you know, I got to believe that anybody taking the time to listen to one broken mom is doing it because they really do want to learn how to do right by their kids. So. So this question is, what are some things that you have seen when working with your teenagers and their families that the parents may be doing that quite likely unintentionally and without understanding the mental health implications that contribute to a teen girls and boys, anxiety and depression and their self esteem.

Speaker 3:14:32So can I reframe that question a little bit? You can't. Yeah, because I think for some mental health clinicians, this may feel like a little controversial, but I find in the way that I work with teens because the teenagers are my client and yes, you know, their parents or their school or their friends or whoever else is in their life maybe having an influence and how they're acting and reacting, learning these things. But ultimately Michael and working with teenagers is to help empower them to take responsibility and care for their own responses and not feel responsible for other people's actions or reactions which include parents. Um, and so one of the things they do a lot with, with the work that I do is I very much so incorporate parents into the work and not in a week to week way, but at least quarterly. So once a quarter we invite whoever the parents, our caregivers in the family system that the teenager wants to invite in.

Speaker 3:15:43So, um, it doesn't always, if it is, um, you know, a mom and mom or mom and dad or grandma or whoever, um, it really is a teenager inviting them in when they are feeling ready for that process. And what we do is we review from the teenager's perspective how therapies going, what's working, what's not working, what are things that their family are doing well, not doing well. Those sorts of things to help them learn to communicate these things with their families and vice versa. Being able to hear that in return. My do think it is a, it is a, um, what's the word I'm looking for? Recipients not. It's a two way street. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's very much reciprocal in that one influences the other which turns around influences the former. Again. Um, so a lot of things that I work with teenagers about and I would, you know, remind ourselves as parents of this as well, is that we're all doing the best that we can and we're all doing what we think is right.

Speaker 3:16:50And so the one or two things I should say, the two main things that I really recommend to every parent is to be open to the feedback that their kids are giving them because kids will tell you and sometimes they don't always do it in the kindest way. Especially teenagers. Yes. And remember that they're trying to do the best that they can do. And if you can come from it from that perspective, it really takes a fire out of some of the stuff that if you don't go into it assuming that like your kid is just being a brat and they just want to hurt your feelings and, and maybe they do, but going in with that perspective, you're just gonna come in just as hot and nothing's gonna get done from that conversation. You may be right, but you're not going to be effective. And I guess, you know, I want to go back to um, you know, I'm glad you answered it the way that you did because. And like I said, I'm not, I'm not shaming the parent piece of it. But you know, I've

Speaker 2:17:50seen where you spend a great deal of time working with a kid in and then you see them go back home into a toxic environment and it almost feels like, you know, sometimes it's hard to overcome the circumstances when those caregivers and in particular emotionally immature parents who don't have that skill set of being able to communicate with their kid consistently or effectively. And that just adds to it, you know, because that's been my experience growing up. I actually asked for help when I was like 13. I didn't get it because there was just no awareness around me that I was serious. You know, that hey, I'm having issues here and I need that. So in that, I guess that's where I wanted to say is that sometimes our parents, you know, ourselves, we don't see that when we're coming home and we've got all of our baggage and we're yelling or were, you know, we're shit, we're showcasing and sharing too much of what's going on.

Speaker 2:18:43But that creates that unsettled space for kids, you know? And then it makes them worried, you know, about us or we ended up giving our stress to them and stuff. And we have to be conscious, you know, as parents to, to not expose them to that. So I guess that's where I was, you know, kind of saying it's like we all, we're all adults, we're all people, you know, and we all have our own, like you said, our girls are thinking the same things that we're thinking about. And you know, if somebody was laying down on top of us all of their trash every day, how would that make us feel? We need to remember that. That's the same thing that we do to kids. You know, maybe not even thinking about it.

Speaker 3:19:15Yeah. And I would remind your listeners, author that one of the things that I really caution people not to do is not to assume, um, I had a supervisor many years ago share this phrase with me, and I apologize, is a little coarse language here, but when you assume you make an ass out of you and me, right? It's so true that you're, you're already going in like you have all the facts and you don't know the other person's experiences and you may have all of the information and all the facts, but if you go into it thinking that you know everything, you're not going to be open to like the gem that they might give you more understanding into their world. And so when like for example, like you may assume that because your a teenager is very mature and they handle stress well and Yada Yada, that it's totally okay to vent to them about your ex who happens to be their other parent and they may present like super well.

Speaker 3:20:21But inside there see they and like sending all sorts of hateful vibes towards Theo will never tell you that because they don't want to hurt your feelings. But you might be assuming that they're totally okay with this conversation. So instead of just coming in hot and like giving them all this information, sometimes asking them for permission to have the conversation, which sounds weird, but it's really helpful. So I was just going to give another example of this is when sometimes our teens come home and they start venting to you about something that their friend did or said that was upsetting and you have all this experience as a grown person to be like, oh, we'll just do this and that will fix the problem, but they're not. Why do you do that? Do that. Or they may have already tried that. So instead of not assuming that you know the answer of how to fix this problem, asking them, you know, is it okay if I give you some advice about what I would do in this situation or is it okay if I share this with you are, or have you considered trying a, B or c?

Speaker 3:21:29And you'll be amazed that sometimes they'll be like, no, I haven't are or yes I have. Yeah, that's okay. Uh, but just giving them that power to say yes or no is huge and opens up all sorts of conversations.

Speaker 2:21:44Yeah. Well, and I think also it helps them develop their autonomy. You know, you said that they're searching to figure out who they are. And when you give them choices and give them decision making opportunities, that's how they come to define who they are and you know, and what kind of person that they are. Um, that's great. That's, that's awesome. Um, we talk about parents always, you know, as a single unit, but dynamics are different with parents but you know, between moms and dads or you know, if there are moms and dads. And so assuming that there's even to people that are engaged in our teenage girls lives because we're all just different. So is there, is there a different relationship that you see between a teen girl and her mom that's different between dad and daughter?

Speaker 3:22:29Yes and no. So that's not a very clear for the yes aspect of that. Uh, when there are family and there are more than one decision maker, you can be pretty sure that your kids are going to try to display you to their advantage. It's just survival. It's something that we all do. It's something that even as adults we try to figure out like, okay, what is the benefit of continuing this relationship? Not Continuing it. How, what, what will be reciprocal about this, all of that, and it's something as teenagers, they're learning to navigate too and so it's our job as parents to established there's firm boundaries with them and let them know that this is where my line is and this is where I'm not going to cross and this is where we can be flexible and this is where we can't be flexible and something that is really, really important is that if you can be cohesive and clear and consistent across the parents, whether that means actual biological or adoptive parents or if you are utilizing lots of families are blended nowadays where it might be an aunt or uncle out or grandparent or the neighbor, whoever that is.

Speaker 3:23:50Making sure everybody's on the same consistent page. That's really helpful. That will minimize some of that splitting behavior that our teams do. And so I generally, in my experience, can't say it's this way with moms in particular. This way with dads in particular because I see it all ways and I think it's to do with where that kid is in the relationship with their parents at that time. And on the flip side of that, if for some reason, because again, in our society with blended families, sometimes it's not possible to be consistent for variety of reasons. If there is a history of abuse between you and an ax, I don't recommend sitting down for parenting meetings because you're just going to recreate that cycle within the family and that's not helpful. But being consistent within your own household is better than not being consistent at all.

Speaker 2:24:44Yeah, for sure. So you know, one of the things that you've also addressed is that when a teen is struggling with their anxiety or their depression, that their tendencies actually to isolate and withdraw, especially if they feel like they're different. What are ways that apparent can build a safe environment for our daughters to get them to open up and share with us so that they, they, they get that we're on their team with them and we want to help.

Speaker 3:25:11Yeah. So incorporating them into plans for what they want to do. It's really a good way to do that. I always talk about the car. It's probably the best to have conversations because you're not looking at them like hand, like I'd eye contact and so it's less threatening and if you have music going in the background like that can be helpful because it's not as intense as like sitting down at the table and be like, okay, we're going to have a doc now, but when you're in in the car it's. It's great because you're side by side, you're able to have that parallel conversation and not feel that pressure of having to stare at each other. I'm actually within our therapy sessions by training has always been not to be directly head on with the client to either be side by side or a side by side as you can be for that very reason.

Speaker 2:26:10Now when our listeners are done finishing up with this episode, they can cruise over to your website and get connected with a free email series that you have for parents. Do you want to tell everybody about what you have there?

Speaker 3:26:22Yeah, so one of the things, uh, I found that popped up over and over again with the clients that I was working with is that, as I explained before for my clients, I'm doing a lot of communication work with them about how to have these conversations with the people around them, but the parents were coming to me and saying like, I want some of that too. So what I did, okay, okay. I created this free email series for parents. If they're looking for different ways to connect with her teenagers, I'm using these different communication strategies. So each day you'll get an email in your inbox that goes over a little bit of a, like the nerdiness behind why this works. So you could skip over that if you don't care about that. But some people like me are really into that. So like the why of why this works as an actual tactic or strategy of how to use that.

Speaker 3:27:18And each day it links to the next step in the process. And I, I could probably write like a full year course on this, but I kept it to a few overwhelm or overload, but you can get that for your listeners. You can go to you mallory, grim, backslash one broken mom and there'll be a special spot for you to sign up for your email. You put it in and you'll get that email series. And then at the end of that east theories, you'll be on my regular mailing list where you'll get updates usually once a week with some other helpful information if you have teenagers and you're looking to support them.

Speaker 2:27:57Cool. That is awesome. And I'm always trying to connect parents with as many resources that are out there, especially when I'm interviewing folks like you that are out in Connecticut and I'm based out of the Seattle area and you know, probably coming into your clinic is not going to be possible. So, um, so mallory, thank you so much for doing this and your time today. I super appreciate it. And I'm sure the listeners with daughters, you know, do as well. Again, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Speaker 3:28:23Thank you so much for inviting me on here. I did just want to kind of circle back for a moment because I know we talked throughout the episode about suicide and that conversation coming up and what to do about that and so I do want to just let people know that there are resources out there for people if they are actively thinking about or taking action on those thoughts. So one of those is the, uh, in the United States, there's a national tech flying and it's seven, four, one, seven, four one where you can send a text and you can talk with that train crisis counselor right then and there and you can also utilize nine slash 11 or go to your nearest local emergency department within your community. There may be a more local access line for that too.

Speaker 2:29:10Mallory, thank you so much for doing this and your time today. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Speaker 1:29:16Pleasure being here with you. Thank you for listening to one broken mom. You can find podcast notes on my website, [inaudible] dot com, and they're all provided, all links to all of the resources that we mentioned on the episode. Also, if you have any questions, comments, or ideas for other episodes, feel free to send me an email and if you are interested in sponsoring the show, I'd love to have you be a part of your screen. Finally, if you like what you hear, please share the podcast and leave a review so that others can find it. You're all here to get better together. I am the host immune coney, and as always, I am super grateful to have you as a listener and till next time, have a great day.

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