Episode 074: How To Have The Hard Conversations on Mental Health with Kalyn Sherwood, L.C.S.W.

Get The Rest of This Conversation! Kalyn and I Kept Going For Another Hour After the Episode Ends! Click Here!

Kalyn is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a Master’s degree in Social Work form the University of Washington in Seattle WA in 2003. She has a background of working with youth and their families as an Intervention Specialist, serving as a Clinician and an Assistant Dean at a boarding school for high risk youth, and as a Professor of Social Work at Longwood University. She currently works as a School Social Worker in three schools in the Chesterfield Co. Public School system and as an Adjunct Professor at Longwood University.

Kalyn has incredible expertise in this area! I’m so grateful she came on the show to talk about this important subject to teach us how to talk about hard topics.

As parents, it can be scary when our kids bring up these tough subjects! How do we address their concerns?

When we have an open attitude about difficult subjects then our kids feel safe to bring up important topics. I brought up my concern with bringing up body image with my young daughter. I sometimes fear that if I talk about body image itself then she will start to feel concerned about it. Kalyn advised me that if I am just open to talking about my body in a healthy way then when my daughter is ready or has concerns about her body image then she knows she can bring it up with me.

I can see how this would translate to other concerns, such as sexual health, relationships, faith, mental health, or other important subjects. If we are willing to talk about them openly then our kids will let us know when they are ready to take the discussion deeper as they encounter challenges.

Image result for pendulum

Kalyn brought up the analogy of an emotional pendulum. Let’s say this pendulum swings equally in both directions. On one side is emotions we interpret as uncomfortable, and on the other side are emotions we label as pleasurable.

When we encounter the uncomfortable, we tend to put up blocks to keep ourselves from having those feelings again. What we don’t realize is that by stopping the pendulum on one side, we are keeping it from swinging all the way up on the other side, too! We may not feel those hurtful feelings anymore, but we are also keeping ourselves from feeling the joyful once, too!

As parents, it’s important that we address our own blocks that are keeping us from embracing those uncomfortable feelings. We may be triggered by our kids’ big emotions! Young children allow their pendulum to swing both ways to their extremes! Because we have our own blocks from our past we sometimes react by not allowing our kids space to manage those feelings. Parents can do their own inner work of breaking down their blocks to allow us all to live for the future!

Pain is an inevitable part of life. But, life is full of both highs and lows! When we label our uncomfortable feelings as bad, we often attribute shame to feeling bad.

As parents, we create a space for our kids to feel safe by our actions and making ourselves open to communication. We create this environment by letting go of our own baggage, and allowing our children to express their own feelings without making it about us.

Parents also need to be consistent to model behaviors that will help our kids see that we are coping with our stress and emotional baggage. We can’t just say that we need to exercise as a way to release stress, or model good behaviors, it needs to become part of our routines.

Reference: Yale Study – “New way to combat childhood anxiety: treat the parents

When parents learn skills to cope and manage their own stress and baggage then they can mentor kids through their own struggles. In fact, kids who have mentors from both parents and other trustworthy adults they are more likely to be resilient!

Want more??

Believe it or not, Kalyn and I talked for two hours! The official episode is an hour long, but you can still access the full two hours of Kalyn’s wisdom! Just go here: https://www.ourmodernheritage.com/episode074

Time Stamps

[3:58] How to get started with difficult conversations
[7:45] Parents’ fears about bringing up topics
[10:04] The analogy of the emotional pendulum
[12:48] How we keep ourselves from feeling pleasure
[15:50] How parents can address their own baggage
[17:30] Let go of labels that uncomfortable as bad
[21:24] How do parents make space for kids to feel
[23:45] Being mindful of the whole experience
[27:00] Model coping behaviors because no one wants to be lectured to
[28:35] Yale study about treating adolescents with anxiety
[31:13] The importance of mentors
[35:35] How to avoid shame culture – being process-oriented
[39:33] Managing difficult relationships – being process-oriented continued
[40:40] Coping with hitches in the “plan” by embracing the process and let go of the outcome
[42:30] How to embrace the process and learn from failure
[43:50] Change is an inevitable part of life – we are never “finished”
[49:03] We feel like labels solve the problem, but labels oversimplify the issues!
[52:45] It’s OK not to know all the answers, it’s important to be reflective in the middle of a conversation and listen to our children
[56:00] Kalyn’s recommended resources


Brené Brown’s TED Resources
Brené Brown’s Site

Read and listen to things that don’t coincide with your beliefs! Read stories: here are some sources I suggest: Well-Educated Heart, A Thomas Jefferson Education, LibriVox.org

These are affiliate links to Amazon. Read the disclosure here.

About the author, Jodi

I live in Richmond, Virginia with my husband, Michael, and our four young kids. We homeschool, and work remotely, so I guess we may take this on the road some day! I have a bachelor's degree from George Mason University in Health Promotion Studies, but I attended five different universities before finally finishing while I was expecting my third baby! I'm a returned missionary from the Hawaii Honolulu Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm sort of a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, but I do enjoy reading personal development and parenting books, finding new ways to enjoy exercising, and learning more about being an entrepreneur.

Leave a Comment