HI! On episode 6 of incrEDIBLE family health podcast, I chat to the amazing Lynn Jenkins about psycholgy options for kids with anxiety.
Read the transcript here, or scroll down to get the link to listen in!
Hey, Thanks for joining me on incrEDIBLE family health with Cheree Sheldon. I’m a naturopath, nutritionist and chef. But my most important role is Mum, I want to focus on getting your family healthy. I’ll do this by sharing tools and strategies I’ve learned to benefit my family’s well being and pass them on to you. You’ll also gain incredible insights from other professionals and parents who can help you live healthier lives.
Hey, welcome to incrEDIBLE family health. I am Cheree Sheldon, I’m speaking to Lynn Jenkins today. Lynn is a clinical psychologist, an author and an educator. And for over 20 years she specialized in child anxiety, early intervention and the parent child connection. Lynn is the designer of Boss Brain, a 10 week digital program that uses biotechnology to help kids navigate big emotions. She’s an established author. Her book series helps kids explore the hard stuff to talk about, like anxiety, perfectionism and grief. Lynn wears the added hat of being a mom of three, business owner hypnotherapist, mindfulness teacher, presenter, and regular expert for body and soul and kidspot. And as a bonus, Lynn is also our psychologist that we take our child to as well. We’ve done boss brain with our nine year old, we’ve used the biotechnology, and it is so cool. It’s really, really amazing. And I’m really excited to be speaking to Lynn about it today.
So we’re here with Lynn Jenkins. And as I said a little bit earlier, Lynn is our psychologist
L: Oh, yes.
C: And has helped my daughter big time. I wanted to pick Lynn’s brain about children and anxiety. But let’s start off. Lynn, how did you get into this? Into being a psychologist and focusing on kids?
L: Well, I always wanted to be work with kids. I don’t know how I came into psychology. I think I want to do advertising originally and communications. But I got into psychology somehow. But then I just always wanted to work with kids. So it took me a while I had to do my little, get a job wherever I could. And then I ended up just I don’t know, paving my way with kids.
C: Yeah. So it’s a big long degree pathway to be a psychologist, particular child….
L: Yes, it is indeed. And you don’t necessarily.. a lot of the stuff I’ve learnt, I’ve learnt myself. I’ve taken my own paths, which I think you have to do these days sometimes, too. I mean, a uni degree can do everything. Yeah, yeah. Now it’s certainly good platform. And then with the kid stuff, it’s just really it’s early intervention. That’s what gets me. Early intervention. It just makes more sense to start at the beginning if we can.
C: yeah, yeah. So as a naturopath, early intervention for me is prior to conception.
L: Yeah. Well, yeah. Well, I guess when you go into psychology, it would be to the mental health stuff that’s so new, though, in mental health, it’s actually so fresh. It just makes more sense to have money put that way. But you know, it’s the squeaky wheels get the dollars. But yeah, that makes a lot more sense. If a lot of money could go towards, you know, in our area, preconception and perinatal,
C: If we just get the knowledge out there of what you do. Leading up to joining the egg and the sperm. Yes. Yeah. can make a difference. Genetically. Yes. To the predispositions.
L: Yeah, yeah.
C:People will make more thoughtful decision.
L: Yes, indeed.
L: If you’re in that position, that’s for sure. Yeah. Which a lot of people are.. they plan and do it.
C: Yeah. So tell us a little bit about why you thought up boss brain?
L: Well, that’s mainly cos of the kids that came through the clinic.
L: So anxiety and emotion regulation. They’re the main ones that come through that I say and, and emotion regulation, which boss brain is a program about, that is just behind everything, underneath everything. So whether it’s, you know, behaviors are coming out, because a little one’s feeling quite anxious, or because they’ve got something else going on. That’s what gets seen. It’s kind of like the tip of the iceberg thing. And that, to me, it breaks my heart, you know, you got all these little kids who are just getting in trouble for all these behaviors. But I know, you know, there’s so much more under the surface, but then the older they get, you know, the more they kind of get into a category and put into a you know, that part breaks my heart. So just so if they can all relate.
C: and risktaking..
L: Yeah, indeed. So if they can at least have that little bit of input early on in their lives and you know, starting the wheels in motion and the parents getting educated as well. So they can do that. And then hopefully, they take that to the school and, and then you know it a little bit more the lights cast a lot. There’s more than just that tip of the iceberg behavior
C: Say I am.. I mean, I am a parent and bringing my daughter to see you.. why I did that was because I felt her behaviors were something that were a little bit more than I could manage as a parent.
C: but also that I felt like there was something underlying there. That wasn’t
C: serving her and I didn’t want it to continue.
L: Yeah, yeah.
C: What would you say is like, I guess the warning signs or the red flags for a parent to go is this the time I get help?
L: Yeah, don’t underestimate parents, you know yourselves, because and you know I’m a parent too. You get these little niggles sometimes, you know, something’s wrong, and people doctors and everything like no, there’s not, but there is. And sometimes it’s about just kind of, you know, persisting a little bit. And more than you would.
Signs well, kids are, they’re pretty honest with their behaviors. And knowing your child, I guess, is the baseline.
L: So knowing their temperament. So something that’s different for them, whether they’re withdrawing when they usually wouldn’t, or whether their outward behavior is more than they usually would, that’s probably a sign that they’re feeling unsettled in some way. And it’s really their nervous system. Right, this is where our comes from, you know, our nervous system in our brain. So something’s niggling them. And usually, it’s because some sort of needs not being met. I’m of the belief that behaviors come from needs not being met. And we come into this world with all the same needs, you know, the need to belong, and have that sense of security where I know where I fit in that sense of, I’ve got a bit of power and influence over my life, you know, choices and things like that. And also that a strong need to connect with others, and a strong need to avoid rejection. So even, they’re just sort of a few main ones. But even if you could think, okay, if they had an upset with a friend at school today, that’s that need to belong or emotionally connect that’s been compromised in some way. So that can explain a bit of a shift in behavior. You know, if that’s ongoing, well, then, you know, that that, you know, it kind of can make sense if you look at what’s going on in their lives in terms of needs,
C: and it’s that whole you’ve got to look at your child and go, okay, is this age appropriate behavior? Appropriate reaction to a situation like getting rejected?
C: Or is it something that I go..”ahhh there’s something that I just keeping going ahh, you know?
C: For us, it was the meltdowns.
C: Over little things that were like panic attacks. Yeah. The catalyst of us. going okay. We need to seek expert advice.
L: Yes. Yeah,
C: Was we went for a bushwalk.
C: And the track that we were going down, had sleeping bats.
L: Oh right. Oh.
C: And all the rest of the family were excited about seeing the bats. and it just sent my daughter into a blind panic where she was running. Falling. Screaming.
L: Yep. Full in flight mode.
C:Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And the way that you then described it to her and her first session with your little head Brian-hand thing.
L: Little brain thing, yeah
C: And it flipped off.
C: She was like, I Yeah, I did. I did flip
L: Yes, it happens, isn’t it? Yeah. And we all do and that, and that’s where, you know, when they can understand the brain and the nervous system, then they’ll get this sense of power, the sense of mastery over what’s going on. That’s why we call it a boss brain. Because really, like in in the program, like the kids, they see that they have got this power to bring their heart rate down. And that’s pretty cool. I think if it’s pointed out to them that don’t necessarily 100% get that to start with. But adults, we still don’t think we’re bosses of our brains. But we are, you know, we just hand it over to the way we think and the way we feel. And we are the ones that have control over that the stuff that goes into our brain, what our brain and nervous system responds to, to a point, a lot of it’s unconscious stuff, too. But you know, we can have ways of bringing that up as well.
C:Yeah, yeah. Do you find that as you’re teaching the children that the parents benefit, as well?
L: That’s what we really, really wanting more of? Yeah. And this this term, we just kicked off this week, actually, for this term. And we’re really pushing please be with your children, you know, and hear the same stuff.
L: Because we do basic education that I teach adults in children. So it’s about basically, like a car’s got mechanics, our brain, our nervous system, and our mind have mechanics as well, like rules. So they learn all that and once you know that, it tends to make a bit more sense about what you do to, you know, come back down to the calm zone.
L: So in a nutshell, it comes down to whether, you know, our brains perceiving us as safe or unsafe.
L: And that guides, you know, where we’re up to managing it.
C: I know, in our experience when we were as parents going, Is this okay, is this not? How do we help? You know, as a naturopath, who, yeah, you know, I love working with kids. I was helping along the lines of nutritional medicine and herbs.
C: And just seeing symptomatic relief.
C: But it wasn’t helping that connection.
C: And I was like, okay, we need that holistic approach.
L: I’m so passionate about that. Yeah,
C: There’s so many resources that we can access. Yeah. But my husband, he was like, This is normal behavior. Like that’s how I acted. My brother acted. That’s how my parents acted.
L: Ah, interesting.
C: and I was like, Okay, I don’t want to sound awful. Judging your whole family. Yeah, because I’m not L: Yeah,
C: however. Do you think there would have been a way you could have managed all those behaviors? So he didn’t, yeah, react that way. And he sat with that for a while is like, yeah, I think we need to explore this.
L: Yeah. Interesting.
C: And so for him sitting with Bailey, as she’s learning, has changed his behaviors. so dramatically.
C: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And I’m all about Yeah, parents being proactive. Instead of reactive.
C: Putting the spotlight back on us and going….Well look I did that as a kid, and I’m ok.
L: yeh, it hasn’t worked here.
C: Well. It wasn’t ok.
L: That’s gold. That’s why I think information is gold, you know, educate.. a lot of its education.
L: And then if you’re motivated, you just reflect on that. And then Ah, okay. Yeah, well, are no wonder this is a situation.
L: Because. They say.. don’t come with a manual doesn’t it? I mean we’re just people. People bring up people. We’re all flawed to some point.
L: You know, it’s just having that little bit of education, that motivation to understand that I suppose. It’s not that hard. Really.
L: Just like understand the mechanics, as I said, But naturopathy, that’s where my passion at the moment is that understanding at a big puzzle for at the moment with kids, because I see a lot of tricky behaviors. And for me, I’ve had a big lesson in what’s going on in the inside is a big part of the puzzle as well. Yeah. Because for some kids I’ve seen they’ve just needed a bit of extra stuff, and it’s taken a little bit of pressure off them. And, one little boy said, life’s just less now, you know, because he’s just had a little supplement.
C: Yeah. That’s brilliant.. I’ve been learning so much about that throughout my naturopathic journey. deep into the research and the mechanics of
C: of stuff. And the Vagus nerve.
L: Wow, that’s big at the moment.
C: Yeah. And even just doing gargling with a kid.
L: I read about that just today. Yeah, indeed.
C: Yeah. I’m gonna do this in an in another episode all about Vagus nerve stimulation. Singing and gargling.
C: I will demonstrate the gargle.
L: Oh, nice. For the listening ears..
C: There is a difference between an effective one and not.
L: Oh, really?I did not know that.
C: So a lot of people when they sing, yeah, then a bit nervous about their voice. But to activate the vagus nerve it needs to be a sing your heart out type of sing to get it out. And I think maybe that’s why I gravitate to be in my happy places, is to the belters.
C: cos it activates it.
L: Oh, my daughter’s activating her Vagus nerve lately! Yes, that’s good thing.
C: Sing your scales, but instead of going, you know, ah, you do that AHHH
L: Yeah. Oh, really?
C: Get right in there. That’s the power.
L: So she’ll be emotionally well?
C: Yeah. So if she’s poopy, you say, go and have a sing.
L: Oh, really?
L: So that gets it out. Or puts it in?
C: Gets it out.
L: Ah, I like it.
C: It will help activate it. And I really noticed that when when I was singing in bands, and if I would get to a gig, and I was in a bad mood, probably by the third song.
C: I was me again.
L: Oh, isn’t that interesting. And that’s the Vagus nerve stuff?
L: Oh, that’s fabulous, isn’t it?
C: I think it’s also emotional connection.
L: Yeah, that’s a big thing.
C: Yeah. Because I used to really connect to the lyrics. And get things out that way. I put myself into the song and feel it. And I do feel that that helps. The more I learned about the vagus nerve pathway..
L: you can make sense?
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C: So say a kid comes to you and they’re like, anxious and sensory heightened. So as a naturopath I go: Zinc. B6. Magnesium.
C: Instantly I go to nutritional pathways.
C: And you’d have different approaches.
C: Can you share those like approaches?
L: With the sensory stuff?
L: To be honest, I always find the sensory stuff difficult. My main are to treat, I mean, like, I understand it fully, you know, because they’re needing less of something or more than something to get that nervous system or that feeling their body to feel satisfied in their calm zone.
L: So we kind of take it on board in terms of you know, how severe it is and how debilitating It is like if it’s a problem for them or not, you know, if it’s if it’s interfering in their life too much like if they’re scared of paper, for example, going to touch paper, well, we we need to sort of address that. But if it’s something that they don’t have to do every day, when they just don’t, they can get by, well, you know what, so it’s on a hierarchy sort of a scale. But we tend to take more of a, again, education of what’s going on in their nervous system so they can understand what’s going on for them is just their nervous system needs less of this or more of this and Then it does take a little bit of an exposure sort of an approach to them.
L: No, but I find this is where the naturopathic stuff comes in. Because if they’re a little bit deficient in something, it’s a lot harder for us to do what we do.
L: You know, like, it’s almost like there’s a limit to what we can do. So that’s why I’m always referring to your workplace. Because to me, if they look like that sort of a little kid, if they could get any boost, they can, that would be great. And then they can do a lot more of the self stuff, because it requires effort. And they don’t necessarily want to do that, because it feels icky.
C: There’s a new probiotic on the block that has heaps of research with gut brain connection.
L: Oh, what’s that
C: Its Biogaia gastrus. And there’s two strains of L ruteuri in there, which are strains that come from human breast milk. Oh, so one of the strains, they’ve got different numbers. And I’m, I don’t have that memory that L ruetueri A7 blah, blah, blah.
L: Yeah. Yeah.
C: It’s all about focusing on balancing gut stuff. And the other one helps that gut brain communication.
C: And when I when I learned about it, one of the things that really highlighted to me is it will help kids that have a feeling of social isolation.
L: Oh that’s huge.
C: Yeah, I’ve introduced it to my daughter.
C: And noticed a big difference in her behaviors.
L: Oh, what’s it called again, I need that.
C: It’s a practitioner only product. So you’ll need to see a naturopath or integrative GP to be prescribed that, because it is a medicine.
C: And yeah, it’s fantastic. It’s blown my mind.
L: Oh, yeah. See, it’s there’s so much there to it. The fact that something like that actually has that outward effect? It just it’s proof in the pudding, isn’t it?
C: Yeah. Our gut talks to our brain. Our brain also talks back.
L: And it’s just unfortunate, it’s just not mainstream yet.
L: Like that’s, that’s the I find that’s hard.
C: It’ll get there. There’s lots more research coming. And unfortunately, we are in a society where that mainstream medical wants to see evidence. But I’ve read research, which is funny, because they’ve researched the research, that the doctors that are working in the front line don’t actually read the evidence, or it doesn’t get implemented into their practice until eight years after a study has been.
L: Oh my god.
C: Yeah. So that’s a long time. Because they don’t have time to read it all. The people that are studying Yeah, that are in that research world. They go. Yes, yes. Great. Yeah. And even like that strain that l router eye strain, not a lot of evidence. Yeah, but the evidence is promising.
C: And it’s the thing that isn’t harmful.
L: Yeah. That’s the thing. Yeah. What’s the harm? Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. For a little kid in a family. That makes a huge difference.
L: And that’s where we see you know, we see this little life.. eight years in a kid’s life is a long time. It’s enough to get into a categorised school and to have the you know, the the ripple effects of you know, having no friends and you know, all that sort of stuff.
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C: Once you know a kid sort of needs a little bit of help. And as a parent, you know that, you start to gather your toolbox. What’s your what’s your key things that a parent can take in the toolbox or have in their arsenal to help?
L: From a psychology perspective? Education. Yeah, about the brain and the nervous system. That’s gold, as far as I’m concerned. Be open to things like naturopathy. Even being open to things like which I’ve had to think outside the square in thinking in terms of absolute gives a benefit greatly from even seeing a person who is skilled in assessing for primitive reflexes.
L: So thinking outside the square is definitely where I’m at at the moment. Yeah, you’ve got your definite, you’ve got your mainstream medical, which is great, obviously, you know, and but there’s a little bit more to it sometimes for some kids. Yeah, that’s great if that just ticks every box. So if parents can have that interest in their child, is the first thing obviously, being okay with thinking outside the square would be another thing. Not Pooh poohing traditional stuff or non traditional stuff. And just going for it would probably be the last one.
C: I think, leaning into the hard bits.
L: Yeah, yeah.
C: That’s what I found in my experience is people would come to me and go, I want to help my child. They’ve been recommended a medication. We don’t want to go down that route. What do I need to do? L: Yeah,
C: and then I list a few things they need to do. Like, let’s change your diet.
C: And the go phu, that’s hard. Yeah. How am I gonna do that? Yeah, but it’s leaning into that and going there’s so much benefit.
L: Yeah. Bit by bit.
C: Yeah. Or I need you to take this supplement. And it does cost you know, whatever a month,
C: And they’re like oohh, Yeah. You know, whereas I could get the medication on PBS for, whatever. But it’s like Long term let’s look at the benefit.
L: That’s a good message with kids. Like I always say you got to play the long game. Yeah, cuz I started off doing a lot of perinatal mental health stuff in there. So where that came from, you know, it’s, you play the long game. Yeah. Because you start, for example, you know, if you adolescence comes like, well, it’s really cool to have that sort of, you know, the stuff before and lessons.
C: I went and saw an American pediatric naturopath speak when she came to Australia. It wouldn’t have been last year for COVID, it would have been the year before. And she said, How do we teach teens to deal with anxiety? We educate them when they’re toddlers.
L: Ah see, that’s the thing. Obviously, we can’t get everyone there. But if we can start doing that, because, you know, it’s just harder, you know, to get a teen even to see someone like me, or you or someone like that, then as it is as a younger one, and you’re building that sort of relationship, that education. So they’re growing up with that being normal.
C:Yeah. So even that preteen age where my daughter is sitting at, nine. There’s a lot of things that are like,”That’s so lame”.
L: Yeah, that’s right.
C: And when she did one of the exercises that you were recommending, where you trace the shape , she’s rolling her eyes.
L: yeh I know.
C: However, she had a massive night terror/ nightmare recently.
C: And I needed to help her calm.
C: And I got that little shape tracer. And we went through all of the little tools in it. I could see her working hard at it. And it was helping and by the end of it, we got one little cue card. Find humor. Or say something funny.
C: And I was like, it’s 11 o’clock at night like, she’s hysterical. How am I gonna find something funny?
C:.. and I can’t even remember what I said. She thought it was so funny. I told her something dumb that I’d done when I was a kid, and like, did you know I did blah, blah, blah. And she’s just like PPPHHH, then just started cracking up.
L: Oh, yeah. That would’ve shifted her. Cos she engaged the front brain.
L: The Smart brain.
L: See, this is where you know, once you understand how the brain operates and you know how to engage maybe, for example, that thing a humor and novelty engages the smart brain that overrides that emotional brain what was causing the problem. And once that overrides that, well, then you’ve you know, it’s a little bit easier.
C: Yeah. And, and so the skills… it’s wasn’t just about teaching her, it was teaching me at the same time. Because I didn’t have that skill to remember that.
L: Yeah, true.
C: Yeah. It was great.
L: Oh, cool.
C: Thank you so much for your time. Before we go I’m gonna do my quickfire question.
L: Yes. What advice would you give to your kid self?
L: AHH. definitely not worry so much. So much wasted time worrying about what people think of you growing up. I mean, it’s normal to a point, it was not for me, but yeah, gee it’s a waste of time.
L: Do you know what I’d love to have taught myself as a kid was Lynn you are enough as you are.
L: that’s it. That’s it. Stop worrying so much.
C: Yeah, that’s a good message. What’s the best parenting tip you’ve ever been given?
L: I remember before here? Yep. All right. Manage your children at two you can manage them at 12 manage them at six you can manage them at 16. That’s the one that sticks in my mind anyway.
L: We’ll see how that goes.
C: Yeah. Thinking back to my two year old, whose three now, and I might have some challenges!
L: Right! I know!
C: and what song’s guaranteed get you in a great mood??
L: Oh gee,I know it’s really daggy but I love Total Eclipse of the Heart.
C: Yes. “Total eclipse of the heart””
L” I don’t know why, just belt it out. Love it.
C: yeh. The belting.
L: See: it’s the belting.
L: It’s the ballad part.
C: Yes. I can not go past a power ballad. To get you in good mood.
L: Love it.
C: It’s the vagus nerve!
L: Ah see. There you go.
C: Thank you. Right. How will people find out more about you Lynn?
L: Well, I’ve just apparently got a new website just for me. So there isn’t that cool? I don’t do it, Eliza at work does it for me. So that’s really nice. But I think my Instagram is “I am Lynn Jenkins”. And then life matters.com.au that’s our practice. Life matters Psychology.
C: Awesome. Yeah, thank you so much for coming and spending time with me today here at incrEDIBLE family health. I had a great time.
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C: Want to know more about Boss Brain? Boss Brain teaches kids aged five to 10, how to be the manager and director of their big emotions. Responding to things like anger and frustration, kids learn an easy set of calm down tools to practice self regulation. The cool thing about this program is that it uses biotechnology so kids can actually see on the screen, what happens to their body when they get worked up. Boss Brain is just as much for parents as it is for kids too. It runs four times a year in line with school terms and enrollments are open. Find out more about Boss Brain at lifematters.com.au/boss brain or on Facebook@ boss brain kids.
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