Cai Graham is a Parenting & Teen Mentor, Podcaster, International Speaker and Amazon #1 bestselling author of The Teen Toolbox™.
Her mission is to help parents to support their children so that together we can build a mentally healthier and happier generation of young people.
Cai is a Mum of two 'adorable' young adults, Jack 28 and Alice 26 - so she has been deep in the parenting trenches.
She has blended nearly three decades of motherhood with her background as a Master Practitioner in: NLP, Hypnotherapy and Coaching; together with her experience as a ChildLine counsellor and HomeStart volunteer Cai created her TEEN Toolbox™ Series which provides parents and teenagers with the tools to successfully navigate the vital (and sometimes rocky) stages of adolescence.
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🎶 Podcast Intro: Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you, so you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa Ebken let's get going. 🎶
🎶 Episode Intro: Hey friends. If there was a simple technique to build trust and open communications with your teens, would you be interested in knowing it? That is what Cai Graham is speaking with us today about on this episode of the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. She has raised her own kids and worked with many other parents and teens over the years and has developed a simple method to stay connected during these years where kids are seeking their independence, but still need their parents' guidance.
Let me know if you plan to use this with your teens over on the podcast blog site at melissaebken.com/blog. Want to watch the interview? It's on YouTube at Melissa Ebken. Or click the link in the show notes. I think you're going to really enjoy this episode. 🎶
Melissa Ebken 0:01
Hello, Cai, and welcome to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. How are you today?
Cai Graham 0:06
I'm good, Melissa. Thank you. And thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to speak to your audience today.
Melissa Ebken 0:13
Well Cai, I'm really grateful. This might be the most important interview I've done. And the information you're going to share with us today could be life saving, life changing at very least.
Cai Graham 0:25
Yeah, yeah. Well, it's it's an important topic. And it's a topic that many parents really don't want to think about. So I think it's also a necessary topic. So let's hope you and I can do it justice today.
Melissa Ebken 0:41
Yeah. And that's the goal here on the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast is we talk about those difficult and uncomfortable things, so that we can overcome them, and see our way through them. Cai, where are you joining us from?
Cai Graham 0:57
I am from Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, but sort of, geographically, it's the top bit of the island of Ireland. So that's, that's where I am today and at time of recording, it's, it's not the best of sunny days, which we're here, and we're making the most of it. So that's where I am.
Melissa Ebken 1:22
Absolutely. We are here in central Illinois. And I'm grateful for the technology that allows us to connect this way.
Cai Graham 1:30
It is wonderful. Isn't it fabulous? How globally that the world becomes a lot smaller, because we're able to sort of connect through the airwaves.
Melissa Ebken 1:43
So Cai tell us a little bit about your business and what you do,
Cai Graham 1:47
What I do is, um, I am a parenting and team mentor. And I specifically help teenagers, because I remember what it was like, I'm a mom of two kids, they're now 29 and 27. And I remember that when my kids were growing up, I had no experience of babies, toddlers, kids, you know, sort of really sort of as a sort of a young adult. And I was sort of thrown in at the deep end and didn't know where to start. And I think a lot of the experience we got, and a lot of the advice, we got sort of with some terrible twos and sort of you know, was was very forthcoming. But the thing is, is when kids become older, in my opinion, the problems get meatier. And because of that, the advice seems to sort of get, well, slightly more sparse, I think. And I remember feeling alone many a time, sort of, whilst my kids were sort of going through that adolescent phase, and I just felt that there was nowhere to turn. And so when I sort of decided, right, I'm going to help sort of families, I suddenly realized it's got to be teenagers, because I think many parents might feel guilty, many parents might feel confused, isolated, overwhelmed, and actually don't really A. know where to look and B. are sometimes reluctant to do so because they feel that they're letting their child down. And sharing these big problems, especially when we're talking about sort of things like drugs and self harm and suicide, you know, it's, it's they're, they're hard topics to have to get your teeth into. And a lot of parents just feel alone. And so and I had been there as well. And so I want to I wanted to be able to help those families who were struggling with, especially the topic that we're talking about today.
Melissa Ebken 3:55
Thank you for doing what you do. And you know, with as a mom, there's so much guilt that goes into everything. And it's so hard to admit to somebody to ourselves probably most that our kids are struggling if they're struggling. And then when it becomes a more serious type of struggle, it's even harder to reach out. And to talk to someone.
Cai Graham 4:20
You're so right. And I think the thing is, is that by the time our kids have reached the teenage years, we say to ourselves, I should know what I'm doing. I should have this parenting lock under control. I've been doing it for over a decade. So why aren't I feeling confident? Why do I feel as though I'm letting them down? Why do I feel as though I'm not measuring up? And the truthful. There are a number of reasons why. And the first one is well come on the goalposts keep changing to begin with, you know when we're worried about sort of our kids holding a spoon in the right way or whether not they're able to drink out of a cup or whether or not they know, they're sort of three hours when they're going to school. And yes, that was all very, very important. But then suddenly, someone shifts the goalposts, and we're now still concentrating on other things. And we're talking about bullying, and we're talking about so, you know, eating disorders and, and every literally with a teenager in the house, the goalposts are changing, and I don't, I'm not joking here on a daily basis, because our kids are vying for independence. And so they're pushing us away. And so we are sort of trying to we're trying to navigate all this and so if we want to help but we're not allowed to or don't feel as though we were allowed to get too involved. We don't want to suffocate our kids, because we want them to grow up as independent adults. And so there's a lot there. And the other side of the coin is also is we couldn't give ourselves some slack as parents, because no one taught us how to do this at school. Yeah, I'm a sort of maths graduate. So I can tell you, my memory is a bit cloudy. But you know, I understood everything about cosines and logarithms and fractions, and you name it. And we're taught about cloud formations. And we're talking talks about sort of, you know, battles in history, but we're not taught how to communicate, especially with a stroppy teenager. And so I think, as parents, yes, the guilt can be overwhelming. But what we need to remind ourselves that we are doing the very best that we can with the resources and the understanding that we have at the minute. So I think we need to take our foot off the guilt pedal, because it's it's not serving anyone.
Melissa Ebken 6:43
And that's the bottom line. It doesn't help us it doesn't help our kids. So if it's not serving us, it's hindering us, then we need to let it go.
Cai Graham 6:54
Melissa Ebken 6:56
And Cai, your area of expertise lies in communicating with our kids.
Cai Graham 7:02
Yes. How. I think it's the importance here is, I think when we're talking about little ones, we are there to manage them, we're there to make sure that they're sort of you know, dressed in the right clothes, we're making the beds and make sure that they're we're putting food on the table. We make sure that they're safe, safe and happy and sort of getting to school and passing all those milestones, which is fine. But then our kids get a little bit older, and they start having a mind of their own. They start having opinions, they start, again, as I say they are wired biologically for independence. And so they are trying to become the adults that they want to be. And so therefore, they are sometimes less interested in our points of view. Sometimes they are less interested in our guidance. And they often sort of feel suffocated feeling so that we're sort of, you know, still trying to be the boss of them. And, you know, we need to give them a break in their eyes, which actually is fair enough. And so what we have to sort of try and work out is yes, because the goalposts are changing, so are our roles. And our role has gone really from manager when our kids are tiny and little to mental when our kids are becoming sort of teenagers. And so it's it's up to us to try and approach the communication with our kids from a different angle. Because my way or the highway isn't going to work. My house, my rules isn't going to work. Anyone with a teenager in the house will understand that. Teenagers don't like being told what to do any longer, because they feel that they have their own opinions that are valid. And of course they are, of course they are. And so what we need to do is to start learning to communicate in a different way, and appreciating what our kids are feeling thinking and saying.
Melissa Ebken 9:12
So, all of this, these are the fundamentals of raising children. But sometimes the rubber hits the road and we have this slap in the face or we hit this wall when we suddenly realize our teens are struggling and struggling in a huge way. Yeah. Your expertise really narrows down into helping our children, our children, our kids, our teenagers, when they hit that wall. When they when things are really serious when they're harming themselves and when they're contemplating suicide, and when things get really difficult. Yeah, and I know you're gonna answer this question. I know how you're going to answer this question even though I've never asked it to you. But I'm guessing that a lot of what we can do starts in the very early days of when our children are a butthole. And how we communicate that with them.
Cai Graham 10:14
You beat me to it. What I was gonna say is, let's not wait until our kids hit the brick wall, let's not wait until they're really really struggling. So you're so right, what we need to do is understand our kids at a much earlier age, we need to be able to get to know and to get to know how to communicate with them as little as little ones, and get to get to teach them how to communicate with us on a very, very regular basis, because when we're talking so many times, you know, I hear sort of parents going, but I, you know, I've got a five year old and it's just incessant chatter, and, and I just don't have time, I don't have the bandwidth to cope with their favorite pizza topping again. And my view is, yeah, but hang on a minute, their favorite pizza topping at five year old, five years old is huge. And they might change from pineap pineapple and ham to pepperoni. And it's big. And we have to acknowledge that. And what we need to do is to understand that anything, you know, that is going on in the five year old's brain is really, really important to them, even though it's not earth shattering at because what we are doing is we are teaching our children, I am listening to you now to your big things in air quotes. Because then what we're doing is we're teaching our children for when the rubber does hit the road, that I am still here for you. And I still want to hear your big things. And it could be something more, you know, sort of. Well, so you know, a bigger meatier sort of topic about self harm, about suicide, about drugs. But if we're teaching our kids, oh, I don't have time for you in the early years. Why on earth are they going to know not, you know, now, that okay, now they want to talk to me, because so we need to educate ourselves and educate our kids, that actually, the lines of communication are open, always. And sometimes I get it when we're tired. When we are frustrated, we don't want to hear, but we are paving a better path for ourselves. If we actually give our children the undivided attention, and it doesn't count. I don't mean the whole time. But you know, sort of, if they're wanting to sort of if they're wanting to come to you, then the fret if you're busy, it's honey, I'm busy at the minute, but can we can you come back to me? Can we make it in 10 minutes, I just got to finish this thing. So I can help you and focus on what you're talking about. Rather than Yeah, yeah, no, no. And in a minute, you know, we need to give, we need to get down to our kids levels, so that they know that what they have to say is important, because it's going to stand us in good stead further down the line.
Melissa Ebken 13:05
I see two different conversations, developing one, how to start early and open those lines of communications with our kids so that they will remain open as those kids grow and develop and as we grow and develop as parents. And then the other conversation being Oh, I didn't do that so well. And now we're in trouble. What can we do now?
Cai Graham 13:31
Um, let's let's look at the the what can we do now. Because if you're listening to this sort of with younger kids, then just listen, just talk, just listen, and and validate everything that's going on. But I don't want any parents. We said earlier, let's not do the guilt thing. I want every parent to know that it is never too late it is and sometimes, you know, it might be a matter of sort of actually admitting to you know what, I don't like the way this is going. I don't like the way that we're not communicating. I want to have a more open door policy, whatever it is, it's admitting sometimes we need to admit to our kids. Do you know what, this doesn't feel? Right, let's change tack. And it's just, I don't like the way that we're communicating at the minute, let's do it differently. What's going to work for you? And it's just sort of I feel that you know, it's it's a matter of showing your child because they can spot BS at 100 paces. So we sort of try and pretend that we've got it all together. When we don't feel that we have, then that's just not going to work. So sometimes we need to raise our hands and go ah, it's not right here. I just feel as though I've got this wrong. Can we start again? Can we draw a line in the sand? And then that's where the respect you know, I sort of do feel that every one of us, 5 year old, 25 year old, 55 year old, we all want to be loved, understood and respected as as people, however old we are. And so it's up to us to acknowledge that and to acknowledge that, are our children feeling loved? Are our children feeling understood? And are our children feeling respected? And the way we do that is communicating openly. And by listening hugely. I mean, there's a reason why we've got two ears and one mouth, and also validating their feelings. And so, you know, it's, it's, it's sort of, I think what tends to happen is, you know, if a young child falls over in the playground, our immediate reaction is no no there there you'll be absolutely fine and distract them. No, you're fine, you don't worry, it's going to be okay, you're not sore. Come on, off, you go and play again. And what that saying is, you're sore knee doesn't matter. Your hurt feelings don't matter off you go and put on you know, sort of puts up, put on a happy face. And actually, what we should be doing is scooping them up and go, that sucks. That must really hurt. Now come and tell me just let's just sit here. Let's just take a breath, and we'll get you ready. And you can go back when you're feeling ready, because that is validating your child's feelings when they're little. And what we need to do is exactly the same when they are older, when they are hurting. We need to scoop them up. Sometimes teenagers don't like being hugged, I get it I've got my son is one of those people doesn't doesn't like the huggy thing. Could you just leave me alone, please? But it's that I've got you. I'm gonna I'm gonna stand with you until this hurt, subsides ,better still goes away. But it doesn't always go away in in an instant. But it's just helping, opening those lines of communication. And some parents might be sitting there going, this sounds fine and dandy. But I don't even know where to start. My child comes in from school, shuts the bedroom door and I don't see them. What am I going to do with that? How on earth do I cope with that? I've got I've got an exercise that if it's alright Melissa for me to just run through it. But it's, it's it's absolute gold. And it's a great communication exercise. For when for when the sort of relationship or the lines of communication have broken down between parent and child. Or they could be better. They don't necessarily have to be a stalemate, but you know, you feel a need to do something better. It's called three questions. Now what I do stipulate is you have to tell your teen about this. So you say to your teen, listen, this isn't working. Can you just humor me? Can we just try this for a week and see if it works? And they'll go, whatever. Give them the these three questions. The first question is, what is your number? Well, this is an easy one, because you know that you're not asking much information from them. What is your number means on a scale of one to 10? How are you feeling? One being really dark, really possibly suicidal, really, really in a bleak place, and up to 10, which is skipping through the tulips, you don't have to worry about me, I'm doing fine and dandy. Thank you very much. And your child will. So once they know that scale, there'll be okay. Yeah, I'm a, I'm a six or I'm a seven or whatever. And the stipulation for this exercise is you do it once a day no more, because otherwise it starts sort of losing its impact. But enough, so it's a great way for you as a parent to establish a benchmark of what's going on in your child's life. So today, on a scale of one to 10, how are you feeling? What's your number? The second question is, what's your word? And that is give me a describing word of how today is for you. And sort of meh and rubbish doesn't work because that's not really worth describing. And then the great thing about this is it helps our kids start developing their own emotional intelligence. They start tapping into how they're feeling. They start understanding what that you know, and invariably, you're gonna get angry. And you go oh, hang on it. You said angry yesterday. Is that the same angry is today? Oh, no, yesterday, I got an F in maths. Because actually, I handed in my assignment late and so I'm angry about that. Well, okay, but there's a lesson to be learned from handing in your math late. But today oh no, no, today I'm angry because so so said something unkind about me. Oh right. Well, what's the difference between the angys? Oh well you know, one was my fault. And another one I feel well maybe not is not angry. Maybe it's betrayed. Maybe it's judged. Maybe it's let down, and this allows our kids to just start working on actually what's going on for them and you know, so, and it's important for our kids to develop a better emotional intelligence to understand how they're feeling and how they're thinking.
Melissa Ebken 20:08
And as us adults as well.
Cai Graham 20:10
Oh, absolutely. This is so cool. I mean, you know, we need to, as well get in touch with what's going on in our own heads, emotionally as well as mentally. And then the third question, and this is the deal breaker is, do you want to talk? And invariably, 95 times out of 100, you'll get no thanks? No, no, no, no, no, absolutely not. But
Melissa Ebken 20:36
accompanied with the eye roll. Of course.
Cai Graham 20:38
Of course, I mean, that that that goes with the territory, doesn't it? But the point here is what you're saying to your child is, I am here for you, when you're ready, I will talk when you are ready. Because a lot of our kids, as I said earlier, they want independence. They want control over their own lives, because what they can't stand is a needy parent and what's wrong? I can tell something's wrong. Please tell me and I can sort it out for you. They're not interested in that sometimes they don't even know what's going on in their own head. So but the point is, is on this that on that sort of 5% where they go, well, yes, I do want to talk. Breakthrough. Now the trick is not to jump on it and sort of go, oh, I knew there was something wrong. Come sit down and tell me all about it. Because that again, does the needy parent, and they'll make your child run for the hills. So the thing is, oh, okay, this is cool. Do you want to talk now? Are you ready? Maybe we could go for a drive or take the dog for a walk instead, because anyone that's got a teenager knows they don't like the eye to eye Spanish Inquisition. You know, you might want to, I don't know, prepare the evening meal together, but just allow gently your child the opportunity to start talking about what's going on. And to be fair, they might just be saying what's going on in their head for the first time. And so it might come out all wrong. It might just sort of, they might just sort of start talking and then go no, no, that's not right. But it's not I don't know what I'm saying. But please, just let me get it out. And I think the thing is, is for us, as parents to give our child the space, when they are ready, when they feel in control, when they feel that they trust us enough to, do you want to talk? Yes. To sit down, or walk or whatever, to just tell you a bit about what's going on in their world. And you I don't suggest for one minute that you start solving it. Because whatever the problem is, because that's actually not your job at the minute. Your job at the minute is to allow your child the space to start talking with you. And to let you know what's going on in their world, in their head, in their environment. And you just need to be that safe place for them to land. And that is how with the three questions is how we open up the lines of communication in a really structured, but not in a not in a not needy way. Because I think
Melissa Ebken 23:15
And it kind of lets, yeah, kind of lets them guide the progress. The how deep they want to go into this.
Cai Graham 23:24
You're quite right. And as parents, we are desperate to find out especially with a sort of, you know, non communicative teen, we're desperate to find out what's going on, you know, maybe you have spotted some flags, some red flags, and you do think that there's something going on. But the more we put our ego and our neediness into it, the more that they're going to kick back and not really want to open up. So we have to do this quite gently. And the three questions is a great way of saying, let's open the doors, but it's on your terms, and that allows the children are they are our children still even if they are a stroppy teenager, but it allows them the control on how fast or how slow they want to progress.
Melissa Ebken 24:09
That's brilliant. Two things came to mind during this discussion. One, I think we need to say it 10 more times. Are you sure we can't jump in and fix it when they start talking? And I know your answer there. But you know, especially if we know the answer to their problem, and it's easy and quick. Are you sure we can't jump in and fix it?
Cai Graham 24:32
That's the thing is, is we're talking about trying to fix the short term. If we try and fix everything now, then our kids aren't going to learn; they're not going to learn from their mistakes. It's only I mean, I don't know it's a bit like sort of, you know, when when a little one's trying to ride their bike, they're gonna have to braise their knee. They're gonna you know, the same one stabilizer comes off first of all, and it's really wobbly and they sort of fall and then they sort of learn, oh, hang on a minute, if I sort of do this a little bit one, you know, and they learn how it's like a toddler trying to walk, you know, it's, it's, they've got to have the bumps in order to sort of work out the best way of moving forward. If we, rather than problem solve, I call it the critical thinking model. It's it and it's actually in my a chapter in my book, and it's a way of saying to our kids, now listen, things didn't go so well. How would you do it different or more to the point, let's talk about how you came to this a bit like the F in math. I mean, you know, how did you come to get an F? Oh, well, I didn't submit my homework in time. Well, is there a lesson here? What would you have done next time? What would you have done differently? But it was not my fault. I mean, I didn't understand it. No, hang on a minute. A lot of other people got their homework in on time. So how would you do it differently? Well, it was calculus, and I didn't understand it. So I was scared of getting it wrong. Well, maybe perhaps, you know, how would you have felt maybe approaching the teacher sort of a little bit of oh, well, I could have done that. But I never thought and they don't like me. And the thing is, rather than sort of saying, you've got to get it done on time, next time, otherwise, you'll get an F again, it's trying to work out their best course of action next time. And it doesn't matter if it's an F in maths, or if it's not being picked for the soccer team, or whatever it is. It's trying to get your child to think well, maybe it was a bad conversation with a friend. And it's just what would you do differently? And what did you learn from this? And, you know, look at it from someone else's point of view. And that gives them the opportunity rather than to shut down and just go life's unfair, it allows them to go, oh, hang on a minute, right? Yeah, maybe I'm just not the only factor in this equation. And it gives them the opportunity to look at situations slightly differently, and how best that they could maybe ask for help, how best that they could approach something differently. And by giving our child the independence to come to the sort of conclusions or the solution themselves, that's when it lands. And that's when they're more likely not to make the same mistake again.
Melissa Ebken 27:18
So we're helping them build their own toolbox instead of dragging ours out to fix theirs.
Cai Graham 27:25
And the thing is, I do appreciate, I know that if we fix it for them, it'd be a hell of a lot quicker. But in the long run, they're just going to keep doing the same stuff. And so we need to give them the tools, as you say, to equip them to deal with some tricky situations in a slightly different and sort of hopefully, more effective way.
Melissa Ebken 27:48
Thank you for that. The other thought that came to mind earlier was my kid is an internal processor. So he may want to talk to me, but he doesn't yet have the thoughts together in order to do the talking. I know that other parents have children that are external processors, and they need to talk right away. And I know my kid can't do that, or if so it wouldn't be effective. He's got to sit with it and think through it first. Sometimes that can be frustrating, because I want him to talk now. But I'm learning that no, he's got to think it through. And then he can have a conversation that's meaningful for him, in order to move forward through this.
Cai Graham 28:32
Well, quite right. This, I have one of each. So my daughter is just sort of sit down and listen, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And she's sort of and at the end of it, she will ah great mum, thanks. And it was like, No, I never said a thing. But she was working it all out. And she's still got it all sorted. My son, on the other hand, will ruminate and work it out in his head. He pulls up the drawbridge, and he won't speak to anyone until he's got whatever's going on in his head. And then he sort of starts reaching out and sort of starts, you know, maybe, how does this sound? And yeah, you're quite right. It's, it's infuriating, because we feel as though we aren't part of the process anymore. But we have to respect love, understand and respect. We have to respect that our kids, or anyone really, but we could be people in that in our sort of, you know, work team, but people are wired differently, and our way is best for us. But it's not always best for someone else. And so it's it's being respectful of my son, I literally have to I mean, I need duct tape over my mouth sometimes. And it's just my son is dealing with something. And this is why the three questions comes in, is I'm here for you. Are you ready? No. Right. Okay. Okay. You know, I'm going to be asking the same question tomorrow. Yep. Yep. And it's just it's basically saying to our our kids, I am your safety blanket. I'm ready to catch you if you need that, but I am here for you when you need me. And the three questions as a reminder, still here, still here, still here. And they may or they may not come to you. And the thing is, is that they, if they don't come to you for support, that's absolutely fine. Because inside internally, they know, after having this process a few times, they know that you've got their back. And that sometimes is enough to give them the confidence to go, but I've got to do this on my own. And that's fine. But it's just allowing our giving our child the confidence to know that we're there for them if and when they need us.
Melissa Ebken 30:45
And, you know, I think earlier, we talked about getting rid of the guilt and trying to start early with these communication things. And sometimes we can do everything absolutely right. And our kids can still have problems. So even then, having these tools, it's so helpful.
Cai Graham 31:08
I think the thing is, is giving us the confidence to do that I'm doing the best I can for my child, and whether or not they choose to come to me now, though, it might now might not be the right time, and maybe they'll come to me later on. Or maybe they won't, but they still know that I'm there for them. I think the thing is, is as long as we keep trying, as long as we keep the door open for them, that's that's all we can do. I mean, I've got a phrase, which it's a little formula called called E+R=O and E is the event which is going on. And it could be a stroppy teenager, or it could be the fact that you've just burnt a cake in the oven, or whatever it is, it doesn't matter E is the event that's going on. R is your response to that event. And that's the thing that you can change in order to get a better O, which is the outcome. So the thing is, is we can't change anyone else. So we might have a teenager and we're sort of going, why don't you speak to me because I just know that I can help you and, you know, bleat bleat bleat beat. And the thing is, is that if we change our response to one that is slightly more productive, then it gives us all a better outcome. And I think the thing is that we just have to do our best, we don't always have to have the solutions, as we said, but it's just that, you know, it's just the I need to learn from, you know, I am still learning from my children. So the best way to communicate with them the best things to do the best things to say, I'm not the great best things to say either. And so I you know, we still need to be sort of open minded, but to acknowledge that the only thing we can change is ourselves. And everything else, you know, is is is it's up to our kids. It's up to the other people that we are communicating with. So it's just being respectful that what I do, I'm doing my best, and I use that old phrase is that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. You know, it's they will decide in their own time how best they respond. And sometimes, yes, sometimes it might not be right in our eyes. But with any luck, if it is a mistake, if it is a tumble if it is a you know, sort of a bump in the road, they will learn from this. And sometimes that's quite a bit, you know, you stumbled here, but you know, there was a bit of a problem. What did you learn from this? What What would you know, for next time, and that's when they ah right, okay, yeah. And they're not going to, you know, they're not likely to admit, Oh, thanks, mom. That really, really helped. But at least if there's a light bulb, you know, the lights sort of flicks on. Then all right, okay, you know that maybe they will be add that to their toolbox for next time.
Melissa Ebken 34:01
Yeah, or they're developing the skill of critical thinking through their actions, which is never a bad thing. But I'm sure there are times when we have to cross some boundaries. What signs and red flags do we look for? To know that it's time to step in to intervene in a more serious situation?
Cai Graham 34:22
Um, I think the thing is, is that we need to know you know your child better than anyone. So always go for your gut feeling. Always go for you know, I just sort of say what Mama Bear thinks. Because a lot of the time we look for external validation, you know, I mean, I so many times love him to bits, but so many times my husband sort of says No, he'll be fine. And actually, you know, I've got a son who has ADHD and he has had very bleak days. He has admitted that he was you know, and thankfully sort of came to came to me, you know that he was feeling suicidal, you know, and it was just, you know, it was, quite recently well, while he was staying with us in lockdown. And, you know, it's I think the thing is, is that I knew though there was something wrong, and was giving him the space and still did the I'm here for you. I'm here for you. I think the thing is, is that we need to watch the red flags, we need to. I mean, and sometimes it's as simple as what what are their sleeping patterns like? What are their grades like? Are they sort of withdrawing socially? Are they wanting to pick a fight? Are they being too quiet? You know, finding out what what exactly. Is there a change in behavior, is really what you're looking for. And this three questions comes in, you know, sort of very well with this is the this and I'm asking you, what's your number? What's your word? I know that you know that. One thing I did sort of stipulate or didn't stipulate. This needs absolute honesty. I mean, the thing is, if your child's telling you, there's a nine, there's a nine, there's a nine everyday and you know, it's not right, this isn't, this isn't going to work for them or for you. The point is, is that we, we need to be able to offer our child alternatives. If indeed, you are thinking, I know that they're in real trouble. I know, they're really struggling, but they're not wanting, they're not telling me anything, what am I going to do? Well, the thing is, is that it's opening up the lines of communication, but it's also remembering that you might not be the person that your child wants to speak to. So it could be and, you know, sort of in the past, I've sort of managed to get my son to open up to my brother, you know, sort of my brother was the person that Jack sort of turned to. I still to this day, don't know what they discussed. None of my business. My business is, is my son getting the support that he needs from wherever, you know? Sometimes the ego goes oh, but I should be the one to help him. No, no, no, no, I was the one that put the two of them together. And I said, go speak to Uncle Will, because he's, you know, he
Melissa Ebken 37:19
You did help him. Yes. You did help him
Cai Graham 37:24
And I think so the trick is, who can your child speak to? It could be a pastor. It could be a doctor. It could be a hockey coach. It could be your you know, mom's best friend. It could be an uncle. It doesn't matter who it is, as long as this person is trusted. And as long as this person has an open conversation with your child, then that is what they need. I think that the whole point is, is that and it's a hard thing to say. But with self harm, and suicide and eating disorders, you're not going to be able to flick a switch on Monday and sort everything out. It just doesn't work like that. And the whole point with these with this process, is building the trust, building the support, building an environment where your child feels loved, understood, and respected, so that they are equipping themselves with the tools and the emotional ability, I was gonna say, stability, but the emotional ability to start working out their way forward. Because, you know, a lot of the times, you know, we sort of just said that, well, I'm going to take you to the doctor and get you on meds. That's not necessarily the solution. And so it's working out and finding out and supit saying to your child, hang on a minute, what's going on here? How can I support you today? And it's not you need to snap out of it. No, no, no. It's, it's what do you need from me right now? And because our children, especially if they're suicidal, they are not able to think of the long term because that is so bleak. That is so scary. And so what we need to do is right, what is it now? Do you need a bath? Do you need toast? Do you need someone to speak to? Do you what do you need now? Do you need a duvet day and did some take time out from school? What is it that you need that is going to help you for the next half day? And that is when our child needs to feel the love and the support and the nurture that we can offer them on a really short term basis, which is one step forward to making them not feel so bleak right here right now.
Melissa Ebken 39:55
Cai you are a wealth of knowledge, wisdom. information. Where can we find you? If we have teens, if we're listening to this podcast, and we have more questions, or we want more information than we want your book, Where can we find you?
Cai Graham 40:12
You can find me on Instagram, Cai Graham, C-A-I Graham. You can find me on Facebook, or you can find me at Caigraham.com.
Melissa Ebken 40:22
All of those links are going to be in the show notes. So it should be just one click away. But I appreciate you saying that for us. Would you have any last thoughts that you'd like to leave us with today?
Cai Graham 40:36
Yeah, just what? One big one, because a lot of the parents ask me, you know, sort of my son's suicidal, my daughter self harming. It's just a faze. It's just attention seeking. And I would just like to say, no. It's none of those things. Your child is struggling. Your child is feeling so bleak, that they are looking for alternatives to take the pain away. And the self harm issues are, they can have sort of permanent scars. And it's, it's a way of physically taking away the mental hurt, even if it's just for a split second. It's not attention seeking because most self harm is try and cover up what they're actually doing. So it's a matter of reaching out putting our own ego aside, I don't want to talk about this. It's so upsetting. That's actually, this has got nothing to do with you. It's about your child. So no, it's not a phase. And no, it's not attention seeking, this is a cry for help. And for those children who are potentially suicidal, what they are looking for, is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Because this too shall pass. And so I think the trick is there is to say to your child, I'm going to walk this journey with you. And yes, we're going to have ups and downs. But together, I don't know the first thing about it, I'm going to learn I want you to explain to me what's going on. And so that we can walk this journey together at your own pace, but to say that it's a phase that they'll grow out with it grow out of it. That's a bit of a gamble. So I would take any of these situations seriously and open up the lines of communication to show your child that yes, you're taking them seriously. Yes, you're validating your their feelings, and that together, you can support them in whatever the next step is for them.
Melissa Ebken 42:49
And it doesn't have to make sense to us to be legitimate for them.
Cai Graham 42:55
100%. Yeah, yeah.
Melissa Ebken 43:00
Cai, thank you for joining us.
Cai Graham 43:02
Thank you so much indeed. Melissa. It's been a pleasure speaking with you
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