Resource for Parenting

Susan Borison and Stephanie Silverman, best friends and co-founders of Your Teen Media, are bringing their magazine to life. From interviews with the experts and authors to discussions of trending topics and personal stories, Your Teen with Sue and Steph is an essential guide to raising teens today.

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When Anxiety Drains Your Teen's Tank, Here’s What You Can Do

Let's face it: parenting a child who experiences anxiety can be a major challenge for all parties. Dr. Tori Cordiano, Research Director of Laurel School's Center for Research on Girls, gives Sue and Steph her best advice for maximizing the potential and emotional intelligence of kids experiencing anxiety.

Check out some of the research cited by Dr. Cordiano here.

Steph: This episode of Your Teen with Sue and Steph is brought to you by the Professional Book Nerds podcast. Check them out at professionalbooknerds.com or evergreenpodcasts.com. You’ll be glad you did.

Sue: Welcome to Your Teen with Sue and Steph. I’m Sue Borison.

Steph: I’m Stephanie Silverman.

Sue: And today our guest later in the show is going to be Dr. Tori Cordiano. She’s fantastic. You’re gonna want to stay around to hear what she has to say. So Steph and I, we’re just going to start with something inane which is the problem we keep finding ourselves sharing that we have stuff in our teeth. Which I remember old people having stuff in their teeth.

Steph: Wait did I just hear people click off the podcast. [Laughter] I just remember like when you’d hang up you just you’d hear that big click.

Sue: All right. Well I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff later so we could skip this if you think it’s not worthy. But what is it about teeth and old people? Like what the heck?

Steph: I know. My teeth have turned into my mother’s and it’s funny because you and I only had the conversation recently but mine has been going on for some time. But now that I’m remembering I did get you a bunch of different dental floss.

Sue: You did?

Steph: I got you a bunch of dental flosses for your birthday.

Sue: Oh well yeah because you probably find it disgusting when you were talking to me and there’s things in my teeth.

Steph: I thought you were saving it for later.

Sue: Which for later? The food?

Steph: The food, right.

Sue: Oh it’s a storage system. Oh interesting. I’m going to check into the the old people and find out if that’s a storage system or if it’s something to do— I’m actually gonna ask a dentist. Like what the heck? What is that? OK. So our conversation with Tori later on is going to be about anxiety and so we’re gonna give you a little glimpse into our own personal anxieties.

Steph: Oh boy.

Sue: And I have one kid who is extremely anxious and I always wonder where she came from. Like there’s supposed to be a connection, right? Like people say that it is connected to your genetic pool. And this kid is hyper, hyper anxious and all of a sudden I’m like about to go on a trip and I’m saying to my husband, without him, without family. And I’m saying to him, “Why did I say yes to this? This is the dumbest thing I’m leaving for a week. This is awful. What was I thinking about? I’m not going to sleep tonight.” And I’m like this long litany of my anxiety vomiting out of my mouth. And I had that moment that in that moment where you go, “She’s me.” I think I actually have more— She would disagree. My daughter would disagree. But I think I’ve been more empathic since that moment because I hear myself living with my own anxiety and I used to be impatient with her. And I’m sure she would say I still am but I know I’m better.

Steph: Yeah well you and I, we’ve talked about this is all the things that we have to do before we travel. We both have that. So…

Sue: Is that based on anxiety?

Steph: Oh my. So yeah. We both walk. I mean right now. In fact I drove over to the studio to record our podcast and Sue when we get back in the car just turn your head and look in the back of my car and you will know that those things will not be returned until within 24 hours of my next trip.

Sue: Mm hmm.

Steph: Right. So yeah like all the returns I drive around with. Right? They’re not getting returned until everything has to be cleared out of my life. Now it used to also be my junk drawer would get arranged, my recycling had to be kind of perfectly stacked up. I don’t know what that was about. Then I started this new thing recently that I told one of my friends, I don’t think I told you this. Oh my God this is really weird. I wipe down like the inside of my car. What is that about?

Sue: So I’d like to say that’s insane but what’s any of it about? What is all the things we we do before we travel?

Steph: I do have a theory on it. I think it is, and this is because when I had a rag wet with a little bit I’d like Dawn soap and started of wiping down the inside of the car, while I was doing it I thought, “Why this? Why this and why now?” I think it is the things they do have a space in my head they bother me. They’re on a list. They’re on a list that I won’t make. So the returns, I wish the garbage was a little bit neater and oh I wish my car wasn’t so dusty so it catches my eye. The travel for whatever reason triggers that list into action. Because it’s total— It does bother me because I’ll look at the dashboard and I’m like, “Oh it’s so dusty.”

Sue: So the only thing I can equate it to in my life is when I lose something. When I lose something there’s this like out of control tailspin of like my whole life is out of control.

Steph: Yeah.

Sue: And so I find myself doing a lot of the same things that I do when I’m traveling which is like going through the piles of shit that have been there for months and months that all of a sudden have to be organized.

Steph: Yes.

Sue: And so I do that before I travel also. I think it’s something about like when my anxiety level is high around something. If I could put something else in order then I will… And in fact it works. It works to walk into a room, I mean what’s her name Marie Kondo? I want that. I don’t want to do it.

Steph: Same.

Sue: But I do see that like I’m less stressed when there’s like all the piles everywhere around me. So maybe that’s the pre travel anxiety like the travel so out of our control. I mean really I get on the plane, I always tell this to my kids when they’re flying, I say could you tell the pilot that he needs to take care of my baby but I can’t go to the pilot myself and say like I have I have children they need me. Please do a good job.

Steph: So it’s often I’m sitting here thinking about this now in the context of the kids. I’m not sure my kids know I do these things.

Sue: Oh now that’s… You know we’re actually gonna have our kids on the podcast one time.

Steph: Yeah.

Sue: We have to ask that question.

Steph: Because I don’t think they were— Right. They’re not seeing me do the returns. They’re not seeing me organize the junk drawer. Now they will make comments, here like on a Friday night we’re having friends over for dinner and I’ll start straightening up the house because it’s a total whirlwind and you know everything’s a mess. And they always call it five star hotel. Like, “Oh right. The house has to look like a five star hotel.” I’m like, “No it just doesn’t have to look like a pig pen.” So like that they see but they wouldn’t know any of the anxiety stuff. It’s interesting. I have to ask the kids.

Sue: Oh I am sure my kids know mine because I think I can’t cope with anything else like I’m traveling tomorrow I could just say that and everyone’s like OK stay away from mom.

Steph: Yeah yeah yeah step away from mom.

Sue: I know it’s not a good time to bring up the problem with the car you had today.

Steph: Exactly. Exactly. Well it’s interesting. I wonder how much of this— We’re going to talk to Tory about this and I often think, is there a correlation between how anxious you are as a teen and your anxiety as an adult? Because I was an extremely anxious teen. Extremely. I am all less so now I have my triggers like everybody but I run so different than I did as a kid. Like for me school was a big trigger so I’m not in school now. I imagine if I went back into the classroom tomorrow I would look a lot like I did then.

Sue: I’m sitting here thinking whether I am similar to you. And of course I’m certain immediately that I’m not. But then you said schoolwork and I was like, “Oh God.”

Steph: Right, because I still have the can’t find my locker dream like dropped the class but the teacher said I didn’t drop it.

Sue: I haven’t had those dreams in a while. I do remember after my first round of law school exams taking the test over and over again in my head in my sleep. Like taking it and writing new answers and waking up and going, “I failed.” And it was a literal nightmare and a figurative nightmare.

Steph: So the moral of the story is our kids with anxiety get it from somewhere. Look inside yourself. Start there.

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Sue: So we all know what anxiety looks like, we’re all living with stress and anxiety in our lives and we see it in our kids. But it’s all over the news right now. It seems to be a different stress and anxiety than we live with. And different than what we experienced as kids. It’s concerning to all of us and we don’t really know why. But today we have a guest who knows all about this subject. And she’s here in the studio with us today. First guest to be in the studio with us. Our guest today is Dr. Tori Cordiano, a licensed clinical psychologist with extensive experience working with children, adolescents, young adults, and families. Dr. Cordiano is also the research director of Laurel School’s center for research on girls and a consulting psychologist for Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Tori Cordiano: Thanks for having me.

Sue: We’re so excited and you are always so good to us and you answer questions for us that we get from people who write into the Web site and your answers, they just always touch me. They hit on precisely the worry that the parent is dealing with and something beautiful to move them forward. So thank you.

Tori Cordiano: Thank you so much.

Steph: So today what we want to talk about is teens and stress. And our stress and anxiety, do they co-exist? Like are they the same thing or what are they?

Tori Cordiano: So they’re not the same thing but they certainly share a big portion of that Venn Diagram overlap. If we think about stress, stress is anything that can push us out of our comfort zone, it can create discomfort or distress for us. It can be good or not so good and is unavoidable. So we encounter stress whether we’re children, teenagers, adults, every single day of our lives. Anxiety is something different and also exists on a continuum and we expect to see a certain amount of it. But it can also tip into very unhealthy levels and create significant distress and have an impact on mental health.

Sue: And since you’ve been practicing, do you notice a shift?

Tori Cordiano: I do. If I think about a decade or so that I’ve been doing private practice work and in what I’ve seen in trends over that time. The amount that we talk about stress and anxiety has increased, the amount that we see it in kids and teenagers and the young age with which we see it has certainly increased.

Sue: And is it correlative? Like do you think we talk about it more and so there is more or do you think there is more and therefore we talk about more?

Tori Cordiano: So I think there’s a few factors that go into this and one of them is very good. One is that we’ve gotten much better over the years at recognizing the different forms that anxiety takes. And so we’ve gotten better at diagnosing it and responding to it and treating it. So more kids and teenagers are getting help for it and getting acknowledgement for what’s going on. So that’s part of why we see more of it and why it’s more prevalent. The other part is if we think about certain developmental processes that have been in place for a long time but that have changed over the past 15 to 20 years. Things like applying to college. Things like the load of extracurriculars that kids take on and what they expect of themselves and what their parents expect of them. Those things have shifted which can create more stress and in turn more anxiety for teenagers.

Sue: You said something that I always think about, when reporting gets better, does that mean we have more of something or we’re just better at reporting it? And I think that all the time about even colleges reporting on how many more kids access mental health care but we’ve also done a really good job of eliminating the stigma of reaching out for help. So you know how do you know? Is it in your gut? Is there real solid research that anxiety is higher than it’s ever been? Or is it just that we’re better at evaluating?

Tori Cordiano: So there is evidence of both. We’ve gotten better at evaluating it which like I said is a good thing. And so teenagers are getting more access to services that they deserve and need. But the research does tell us that anxiety has become more prominent in children and teenagers and those rates of diagnosis are higher. Even if we account for things like that we’ve become better at catching it and realizing what’s going on.

Steph: So let’s bring parents into the conversation in terms of observing our kids and figuring out if there is signs of too much stress. Can you talk to our audience, our parents, about you know what does that look like? Tell us what that looks like when that kid leaves the house, comes into the house.

Tori Cordiano: So if we think about stress and anxiety, one way that I think about it with parents and with teenagers is that we’ve got sort of an internal gas tank that we have to keep at a certain level to go through our day. And there’s certain things that go into our tank that fill us up that allow us to move through our day. Things like getting enough sleep, getting the right foods, getting enough physical activity, having time with friends, having downtime and doing things that matter to you and that are important. And then there’s everything that drains our tank and these could be things that teenagers really enjoy, things like their sports and school and friends. But each of those has the potential to drain the tank a little bit and then you add onto that more significant stressors, so a fight with a friend or a breakup or a bad grade on a test or a class you’re really struggling with. And those can really bring down the level of gas in the tank. And so when you have kids that get out of balance and there’s not enough gas in the tank for them to motor through their day, you will see things like they might not be as willing or motivated to do things that they were doing before. They might be more resistant to to putting in the work for something for fear that it’s not going to go well. They might seem tired, they might look really irritable and crabby and none of those things would be things that we would automatically identify as anxiety but they are signs of anxiety.

Steph: And what can we do…? So we see it. We see some of these signs. Now what?

Tori Cordiano: So the first thing we need to do is have a really clear eyed discussion with teenagers about what kinds of shifts would make this more tolerable. So for a long time we thought about OK how do we remove stress from our teenagers lives? Maybe that should be the goal, that we want to decrease their stress. And if we think about this for more than a couple of minutes we realized that it’s A: not realistic and B: not so helpful. So stress is not something that’s going to go away after adolescence we have to learn how to navigate it. And even if we wanted to, we couldn’t take it away because there’s just so much of it. And some of it is really good, necessary stress. So then we think of the other side of that equation which is how do we give you more time to do the things that are going to equip you to manage the stress. So things like sleep, things like having downtime and time with your friends, things like having enough time to really study for a test in a class that’s really difficult but that you want to be taking and want to do well in. Snd parents can really play a role here in helping teenagers prioritize what their schedules look like, what their extracurriculars look like. Because teenagers are… You know some of them really want to do all of these things, they want to take the high level classes, they want to be involved in three sports. They want to volunteer. They want to do all of these things but their executive functioning skills have not quite caught up to the point where they can recognize with X amount of hours in the day and about nine of those ideally should be reserved for sleep. There’s just not enough space to make room for all of those things.

Sue: Do you think schools are complicit in this? Should there be limits to how many AP courses a kid could take? What kind of a schedule they can have? How much lunch time they’re given?

Tori Cordiano: Yeah I think schools can really fall into the trap of wanting to provide the most opportunities for their students, so it can come from a really good place. But what happens is these really high achieving students who want to do everything can try to take advantage of all of those opportunities which is not the way that it is designed but the way that it sort of plays out. And so we want to think about how schools can do this collaboratively with students. So you know one thing they can do is take a look at, on a chart what does each A.P. class require in terms of workload, in terms of things that are going to be required of the student. How many hours of homework, how many hours of studying, what does this sport require? How do we make sure that if you’re doing that class that you have enough time to truly devote to it. And when it’s on the page and students can see it objectively there’s a better chance that they can prioritize the things that are important to them and make choices that reflect what they really value versus just feeling as if they need to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way.

Sue: So I have a kid who is highly anxious I think I told Tori this story already and I just didn’t have a lot of patience for it which I could be judged for that. But as it turns out I wouldn’t let her give in to some of those experiences of not wanting to light a match because she was nervous or take something out of the oven because she would burn herself. And I was really kind of tough about it. What are the things you recommend that parents do when they’re seeing their kids worried about something to the extent that it paralyzes them?

Tori Cordiano: So I think the first thing I would recommend is acknowledging that parenting a kid who runs high on anxiety is really hard and exhausting and draining.

Sue: Thank you.

Tori Cordiano: Absolutely. And when we can acknowledge that and support parents in doing that it makes it easier for parents to go in day after day and do that work. And we’re parenting for the long game here because it would be much easier to say, “Here give me the match. I will light that candle for you, let’s just move on to singing happy birthday.” And that would have saved you some time and some effort in the short run. But we’re parenting the long game here and ideally you want her to be able to light the match to do those things that at some point she should be able to do on her own in her own life. And doing that takes work, it takes thinking it through in advance, it takes holding the boundary and supporting her feelings in the moment, it takes talking with her about it after and making a plan for how you’re going to tackle it next time. And all of those things are harder in the moment than just doing it for her.

Steph: And can you model some of that for our parents that are listening so what does that sound like? Give us some of the language.

Sue: Especially since I might have been missing the compassion part.

Steph: Right, I may or may not be using this later today.

Tori Cordiano: So the holding the boundary part means that you are considering what you’re asking of your your teenager. If it is a reasonable ask and something that you really fully believe that she can do that you’re going to expect her to do that thing. So you’re going to expect her to you know go to this new meeting of this club that she wants to join that you know she would really enjoy. She’s talked about wanting to do it but maybe she’s really anxious about going to the first step of it. And acknowledging her feelings mean saying it looks like you’re having a hard time with this or I can tell you’re nervous about this. If she wants to talk about it, great. If she doesn’t really want to talk about it that’s OK too. But it also means saying just because you’re having a nervous feeling about this doesn’t mean that it’s not something that you can do. And teenagers are as guilty as adults are at confounding those two things. We want to pay attention to the signals that our body is giving us because they can keep us safe and prevent us from dangerous situations. They can also kind of be a little too sensitive, a little too responsive so they can keep us from doing things that we should be doing or want to be doing because they give us a message that this is not safe, this is not doable, you cannot handle this. The risk of course is when you jump in and either do it for your teenager or allow her to skip it or opt out of it. You are sending her the message that, “You know what kiddo we also have that belief that you can’t do this.” It reinforces that belief for her. And it does not build up her self-esteem and her confidence that she can do it the next time.

Steph: That is so well said and it’s interesting you know you use the word confound. I was thinking that we tell our children to trust their gut and if you have a bad feeling about something you know you’re walking down a street it’s late at night and you know that person… Like that not feeling safe feeling. So how do you teach them the difference between those two things? Because on one hand we’re telling them to run toward it. And on the other hand we’re telling them to run away.

Tori Cordiano: So in my work with slightly younger kids, although I think this could be applied with teenagers as well, we talk about being a thought detective. So we need to kind of explore the thoughts that come up when we feel anxious about a situation. We don’t want to override our body and our brain’s good sense that this is a risky situation, I should pay attention to this and avoid it, we want to keep that in place. But when that message is too active or too sensitive we have to look at the thoughts that come up and that are keeping us from doing the thing. So for example if it’s going to a meeting of a club or trying out for a sport, if the thoughts are “There’s no way I’ll make the team.” Or, “There’s no way I’m going to enjoy this.” Or, “I’ll be the only one there who doesn’t know anybody.” We can dig into those thoughts a little bit. We can look for past experiences where we’ve had those same thoughts and come out on top, and come out enjoying it and that can give us a sense that, “Oh you should go ahead and try this thing even if you have that nervous feeling.”

Sue: So that takes us to something you speak about which is sharing our stories of failure. We actually talk about that a good amount in the magazine and online. The idea that it’s almost like the precursor to the it gets better movement. Right. Like when you share your stories what it tells our kids is that it’s not this… What we do so often is are you happy are you like oh my god was that amazing. As if there’s this one dimensional reaction to life. And so how do we get over that way of looking at things and give our kids the opportunity to kind of honestly prepare for some of the things that they’re going to experience in life?

Tori Cordiano: There’s two ways we go about this. The first is that we really authentically model it for our kids because there’s a temptation for parents to sort of shield our kids from the things that are hard for us to do. And while we don’t want our kids to be our therapist we do want them to see us living real life and see us doing things that are challenging and stretch us and grow us in different ways. And kids tune into this. They they recognize when we’re just telling them to do something and not modeling what we’re asking them to do and they recognize when they see us working on these things. So for example if you’re preparing for some big you know public speaking opportunity that you’re doing or some big presentation at work to say at the dinner table you know I’ve been really worried about this thing that’s coming up. I’ve talked to some colleagues, I’ve practiced it. But you know it’s on my mind and I lost some sleep over it last night and I know I’ll be relieved when I do it and I’m done with it. So that’s the first way that we do it. The second is that it can help if your teenager is open to it, to sharing what your experiences were around anxiety or stress at that particular age. Now they may not be open to it. The last thing they may want to hear is, “You know when I was 17 this is…” But sometimes they are. Sometimes if it can come up naturally kids can be endlessly fascinated by the ways that their parents struggle truly when they were their age and what the outcome was like. If they felt good about trying something, if they felt bad about opting out of something.

Sue: But we might have turned into an adult that doesn’t want to take so many risks, right? A lot of people like living in their comfort zone and see no reason, not in a good or bad way, but just that’s the decision they’ve made as they’ve gotten older. So how does that part of the modeling come into the story when you’ve got a teenager who’s watching you say well I just said no to that because why do I have to put myself in that position.

Tori Cordiano: So you may actually do the hard work of OK. If I’m expecting my teenager to do this, how am I also going to hold myself to this same standard? And it may be pushing yourself out of your own comfort zone which can lend some good empathy to how it feels for your son or daughter in that situation. So maybe it’s some you know new sport that your friends are…. There’s some like rec soccer league or you know that your friends are doing and they want you to jump in and join with them and you haven’t played since you were 10 and you think it could be fun, but you’re way too nervous. That may be a situation where your gear yourself up to try it anyway because it would be A: enjoyable and fun for you and B: a good opportunity for your daughter or son to see you trying something new and doing the same thing that you’re expecting them to do.

Sue: Oh my God. We’d love to hear from our listeners if they can share with us something that they took away from this like I am going to go out there and I’m going to write the book I’ve always had in me and never been brave enough to do. Hopefully you’re listening to this and walking away saying I’ve got to try that now.

Steph: As Tori’s talking I am thinking about the time we were at one of those crazy resorts and my boys were maybe 14 and 12 at the time or 14 and 11 and they convinced me to go on this water thing and I get to the top and I’m looking at the line and it’s all teenage boys and me. Talk about the fight or flight, right? But I did it and they knew it was so out of my comfort zone and I was scared and so close to running and they still talk about it and I love that I love that and it is hard as a grown up.

Sue: And we have the right to say no.

Tori Cordiano: Exactly. No one’s going to hold your feet to the flame on that. And you know every situation like that teaches us something. So when we do it we may learn, “Ok I did it I’m glad I did that wasn’t for me and I’m not going on that again.” But there’s a sense that I conquered my fear I did that. If you didn’t do it it teaches you, “Oh I wasn’t brave enough to try that and I’m going to avoid future things like that.” And adolescents learn something from every experience whether they avoid it or they push themselves to do it.

Sue: What happens when there’s this mismatch between parent’s expectations of their kids and what the kid is OK with? Like the kid may not need to do all of the things that are creating stress in their life. In fact one of my kids was much wiser than me and when I suggested that they do something they said, “I can’t do everything.” And I was like I just got schooled by my kid. But what happens when there isn’t that awareness that the parents are searching for something way up high and the kid is much happier somewhere else.

Tori Cordiano: Yeah well there actually happens to be some really cool research that was conducted at Laurel School at the Center for Research on Girls that helped us understand this a little bit. And so part of what we know from the research is that when parents and teenagers expectations are aligned in terms of what they should be achieving, what they should be doing in their activities and their classes, that that tends to keep things humming along in a really nice way. When you have a mismatch where parents have much higher expectations of their teenagers than teenagers hold for themselves, it starts to create stress and anxiety perhaps on both sides of the equation. But it’s particularly for the teenagers and just unhappiness in the relationship. And that may be. You may have, especially if it’s you know if you’ve had an experience with an oldest child and those expectations were pretty much in line or she had very high expectations of herself, and then you get to the next child and it’s different. And it’s okay for it to be different but it takes some recalibration. Now this doesn’t mean that you’re letting your teenager off the hook for doing anything hard or holding herself to a high standard. It just means you’re having some honest sometimes difficult conversations about what’s realistic, what’s going to be fulfilling for her, what is stretching her in appropriate ways but also allowing her downtime and time that she wants to spend on things besides school or sports or whatever it may be.

Steph: You talk about purpose. How important is that?

Tori Cordiano: So this is something else that comes out of our work at the Center for Research on Girls at Laurel School and it’s a part of how we discuss resilience. So resilience in the way that we think about it has these five components and purposes one of those. And when we think about purpose we’re defining it as something that is of meaning to you but is also of meaning to the bigger world beyond yourself. And so it can be something like volunteer work. It can be something like your role in some organization or something that matters to you. Some sort of social justice or advocacy work. And teenagers are really ripe for this in a way that younger children cannot yet be and that older adults are sort of closed off from. Teenagers see what’s wrong with the world, they see the flaws, they see the places where they can do good and they have a lot of motivation and energy to do that. The upshot of purpose is when teenagers are involved in some sort of purposeful activity it gives them an outlet that helps them to feel really good about themselves that’s completely removed from how they’re doing in APUSH, that is different from the conflict that they’re having with their friend. It allows them to fill up their tank in ways that are really different from what happens at school every day.

Sue: I love the analogy of the tank. I mean I just think it’s so visual and you can just see it depleting when you see your kid after school. Going back to your point about purpose, does it matter what the kid does? Like let’s say the parent has the thing that they’re super passionate about. Every day of the week they are doing something for this nonprofit and they want their kid to join them. And that’s not the kids thing, right? And maybe the kid’s thing is animals or something entirely different. What happens with that butting of heads and how should that play out?

Tori Cordiano: So I think you have to be thankful that your teenager has stumbled upon anything that she feels a big drive to do independently on her own and it would actually be pretty rare if it’s something that aligns exactly with what parents are interested in. There’s some research that tells us for girls especially it helps to see their parents and their mothers especially involved in purposeful volunteer work. But that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be interested in the same things. So it could be totally different what your son or daughter is interested in and it could be something that you know lands in that camp of, “Oh I’m interested in this or I have connections with this or this particular thing happens to look really good on a college application.” Or it could be something totally off the wall that they are just really passionate about and can see themselves pouring a lot of energy into and that in turn makes them feel really good.

Sue: So it doesn’t matter.

Tori Cordiano: It does not matter.

Steph: That is so beautiful and I love the, I’ll call it the greyness, of it because it can’t be evaluated and you can’t look at it and say, “Oh great job on that.” Or “You filled out that application the right way.” Or you know checking the box. It’s so them and it allows them to put their handprint all over it. I love that. Just to bathe something different right. So let’s take this the opposite way. How do you talk about healthy competition? What can that look like? How easy is it to build? And is there such a thing I guess?

Tori Cordiano: Yeah. So some kids are naturally pretty competitive, just like adults, just like younger kids. You know you see kids who just have that really competitive drive and they may need to be taught about how do you turn that on on the field, in the pool, on the court, wherever. And then how do you be a good teammate, be a good friend, be a good sport when the game is not in session. And that’s its own kind of learning. But what can often happen for girls in particular is the desire to be nice, to be liked, to be supportive, gets in the way of their competitive instinct. And so we need to acknowledge that you have that in you. You have that drive, you can be competitive and it’s a skill to be able to turn that on and compete and then to also at the same time be a good teammate, be a good friend, be a good sport. For girls it really can run the gambit too. I mean there are certainly girls who are very competitive and have no problem turning that on and there are girls who are much less competitive and their fear of hurting someone or not being well-liked or being unkind can get in the way. But you know it would be a stereotype to say that this is something that all girls struggle with. And certainly there are some girls who are extremely competitive and actually need some help thinking about, “OK how do we turn that down when it’s time to be off the field and be a good teammate and be a good sport?”

Sue: We’ve covered so much today and we’re so grateful to have you here. Your delivery… I mean I will walk away with the image of the tank because I actually wish I’d known it before because it’s so easy to see and I think I would have been more empathetic if they walked in just looking like you know I can’t have them walk in and yell at them to pick up their stuff because they look like they have not an ounce of energy left.

Tori Cordiano: Yeah.

Sue: So sorry guys that I didn’t notice.

Steph: That’s right. Well and I love something else you said early in the podcast was about parenting for the long game. I wrote it down as we were sitting here and I thought, “That is such a great visual because where are you trying to go?” And if as parents we can think about that longer game I think it gives us a little more latitude in the short game. And for me that’s a great visual because then I can think about well, “Where are we headomg with this?” I’m not heading just toward the end of the day or the end of the conversation, although often it feels like I might be, but—

Tori Cordiano: You’ve just got to get out of this moment. Yeah.

Steph: Exactly.

Tori Cordiano: And it can help you kind of hold your ground or power through or you know hold the boundary and what you know is right in the moment. The other side of that is because it’s such hard work parenting a child who runs high on anxiety it’s really important to have places and people that you can lean on for support. So if it’s a partner, if it’s a friend, if it’s an online community, if it’s whatever. You need to have places where you can bounce ideas off with other parents and talk about how you really screwed it up and talk about times where you felt like that OK that was a win.

Sue: Thank you so much Dr. Tori Cordiano. We are so grateful that you took the time to come be here with us in person and it’s really fun to do it with all of us in the same studio.

Tori Cordiano: Yeah.

Sue: Thank you so much.

Tori Cordiano: Thank you so much for having me, it was a lot of fun.

Steph: Thanks for joining us for the Your Teen podcast. If you have any topics that you want us to talk about let us know on our Facebook page or email editor@yourteenmag.com. Your Teen with Sue and Steph is a production of Evergreen podcasts. Special thanks to executive producer Michael DeAloia plus producer Hannah Leach and audio engineer Eric Koltnow.

Sue: You can find more from us at yourteenmag.com, at evergreenpodcasts.com or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Steph: And don’t forget if you like today’s podcast. Please leave us an iTunes review. Help other parents find our podcast. We’ll see you next time.

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