Ep#129 A No Nonsense Integrative Approach To Teenage Mental Health – With Holistic Psychotherapist Keri Cooper, LCSW

Over the course of her 20 year career, Keri Cooper observed how children and teens continued to suffer day in and day out despite following conventional mental health protocols. As a result, she began to question if it was possible that mental health is more than just in the brain and became passionate about the need for a more integrative approach based on the belief that one needs to prioritize their physical and emotional wellbeing to build a foundation for mental health.

Last year, Keri published her book, “Mental Health Uncensored: 10 Foundations Every Parent Needs to Know, where she shares the proven, real-life strategies that she has used in her own practice. She addresses the importance of teaching young people the positive impact that healthy lifestyle changes can have on their mental health. And she highlights to parents the critical importance of learning to let children become independent, letting go of guilt, overdoing and over worrying. Keri emphasizes modeling basic mental health habits such as being able to say “no” and setting up good boundaries in relationships.

Visit Her Website: ​​https://kericooperholistictherapy.com/about/

Buy the Book: “Mental Health Uncensored: 10 Foundations Every Parent Needs to Know”

Podcast Transcript

0 (1s):
Welcome to the Soul Science Nutrition Podcast, where you’ll discover that when it comes to your health, you are so much more powerful than you’ve been led to believe. And now your host. She’s a holistic nutrition and lifestyle coach, chef, author, and yogi Christine Okezie.

Christine Okezie (23s):
Hello and welcome to the Soul Science Nutrition Podcast. I’m Christine Okezie. Thanks so much for listening. Today’s guest is Keri Cooper, who offers holistic psychotherapy for children and adolescents. Over the course of her 20 year career, Keri observed how children and teens continued to suffer day in and day out, despite following conventional mental health protocols. As a result, she began to question if it was possible that mental health is more than just in the brain. And she became passionate about the need for a more integrative approach. Keri saw a clear correlation between lifestyle changes and mental health, and consequently built a practice on the belief that one needs to be healthy physically to be healthy mentally.

Christine Okezie (1m 9s):
Last year Keri published her book, “Mental Health Uncensored 10 Foundations. Every Parent Needs To Know” where she shares her proven real life strategies that she’s used in her own practice. She addresses the importance of teaching young people the role that caring for our physical body plays when it comes to their mental and emotional wellbeing. And she highlights the critical importance of learning to let children become independent. She also highlights the critical importance of teaching and modeling basic mental habits, such as being able to say no and setting up good boundaries in relationships. Carrie’s expertise and no nonsense approach speaks to her passion to give young people real life tools to navigate their health and happiness.

Christine Okezie (1m 56s):
I can’t wait for you to listen in on this important conversation when it comes to our young people’s mental health. And if you do enjoy it, feel free to forward it to someone you think might also benefit. And please subscribe to the podcast so that you don’t miss an episode. Thanks so much for listening, everybody, and enjoy the episode. Hi Keri , it’s so good to see you again. Welcome to the podcast.

Keri Cooper (2m 19s):
Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

Christine Okezie (2m 22s):
So let’s start at the beginning. I would love for you to share why are you so passionate about the need for a more holistic approach to psychotherapy?

Keri Cooper (2m 32s):
I think I’m really passionate about it because I’ve been in the field for almost 20 years at this point. And for, you know, the whole half of my career, if not more, I was very traditionally trained and I was in traditional environments and it was, you know, symptom and here’s some medication and some behavioral tools and let’s move forward. And kids just were getting stuck and they weren’t being a hundred percent happy and healthy. And I knew there had to be, be more to this. Mm. So really I discovered it, you know, through my own daughter. She was kind of like a nightmare when she was little. Her behavior was off the charts and she had like this little runny nose and this nighttime cough and every doctor was like, Oh, you know, her nose structure is wrong.

Keri Cooper (3m 16s):
We have to do surgery. Or Oh, she’s allergic to something, we’re gonna give her meds, but we don’t know what. And finally when my friends was like, Take her off dairy, and I was like, You’re insane. I’m not doing that. But you know, when it gets bad enough you’ll do anything. And I did. And I realized she had a dairy intolerance. And at that moment I went, How is food affecting these kids? Not just with intolerances, but just overall how is food impacting us? And at that point, like I thought we were eating somewhat healthy, but I actually went back to school to get my health coaching certificate so I could learn more about this. And what I learned just floored me that, you know, the majority of our chemicals are actually made in our guts.

Keri Cooper (3m 57s):
So if we’re not eating well, how in the world are we supposed to have good mental health?

Christine Okezie (4m 1s):

Keri Cooper (4m 2s):
You know, it’s this uphill battle. Yes. And then I realized we have so much more control over our mental health and people need to know this. So that’s why I really developed such a holistic angle on this. Cause I want people to take charge of their mental health. I want them to know they can feel better.

Christine Okezie (4m 18s):
Absolutely. It’s such a more empowering, self-regulating approach when we have the information. Right. Cause then we can actually make changes that feel aligned and that, you know, take our power back and our health. Yes. So important. Can you maybe share, I love that example, personal example with your daughter. Can you share some other kind of physical foundational things that you look at and maybe a story or two on how this does make a huge difference when it comes to symptoms of anxiety, depression, focus?

Keri Cooper (4m 50s):
Yes. Yes. So I have, you know, a lot of kids in my office and when they first shove my office, overwhelming majority of them are not eating well at all. They’re eating, you know, the normal standard American diet and it’s kind of just junk. And they, so many of them have like stomach issues. Mm. I’m like, wait a second, how do this many kids, is it the anxiety bringing on the stomach issue or is it something you’re eating, creating stomach issue? And then anxiety. Right? So once they actually start cleaning up their diets, it’s kind of amazing to see how their anxiety level goes down and they start realizing it. And that’s when they start buying in. Cause when they start feeling better, they’re like, Oh wait, this is working.

Keri Cooper (5m 31s):
So it’s more, you know, they’re able to eat better. Cause they know the the benefit, they know the results. And I’ll have kids now in college, you know, I’ll be on the phone with them and they’re like, Oh my gosh, I ate so bad this whole last two weeks and now I feel it and I’m anxious and I’m stressed and I can’t handle anything. But Right, right. You’re seeing the connection.

Christine Okezie (5m 51s):
Yeah. Yeah. Those are important, you know, lived experiences because we all know that we should eat better. We need to eat more vegetables, less processed food, drink more water. And, and these are all, you know, this is good information. But I think the, the success that you have and are having with your, with your patients is that there is an actual lived experience of this. There is if when I eat this, I feel that I experienced that. Right. Right.

Keri Cooper (6m 18s):
And I think that’s what really makes it sink in because you could preach it a million times.

Christine Okezie (6m 22s):

Keri Cooper (6m 23s):
Until they feel it. And you know, I know that for myself as well, when I’m eating well, I’m so much more productive and able to handle daily stress. When I’m not eating well, I notice I notice a change.

Christine Okezie (6m 36s):
Yeah, a hundred percent. What are the other key things in your book that you highlight and obviously integrate into your practice when it comes to caring for these physical foundations of health?

Keri Cooper (6m 46s):
So my book is broken down into physical and then more mental ones. And in terms of physical, I think one thing that we forget all the time is we need to be hydrated.

Christine Okezie (6m 54s):
That’s a big one. It’s

Keri Cooper (6m 56s):

Christine Okezie (6m 57s):
I know,

Keri Cooper (6m 58s):
Especially when I have kids in my office telling me, you know, they haven’t gone to the bathroom in days.

Christine Okezie (7m 3s):

Keri Cooper (7m 4s):
And I’m like, Yeah, imagine what’s sitting in your gut. You can’t feel good. There’s no way. Right. And you know, they’re so dehydrated, they can’t focus, they can’t think clearly. And studies have been done on what happens when you’re dehydrated. Like this is real. So when we have kids in school who are having trouble, paying attention and focusing, why don’t we first see if they are hydrated? It’s such a simple first step.

Christine Okezie (7m 30s):
Yeah. These first steps, you know, they sound so simple, you know, but you know, fundamentals, right? I mean like baseline Right.

Keri Cooper (7m 39s):
Sort of are fundamentals that need to be happening. I have one kid in my office and I said to her, cause she was complaining about dry skin and cracked lips and yeah. I said to her, How much water did you drink? And she goes like a week. I said, No, no, no. Like a day.

Christine Okezie (7m 53s):
Oh my goodness.

Keri Cooper (7m 54s):
Oh, I don’t think I do. And I was like, Wait, you don’t drink any water? And she’s like, No. And then I realized that’s not abnormal for these kids.

Christine Okezie (8m 3s):
Yeah. And adults too.

Keri Cooper (8m 4s):
And adults. Yeah. I mean, adults are going from coffee to an energy drink to, you know, a glass of wine at night and potentially never having any type of actual liquid in their body to flush out toxins and to hydrate themselves.

Christine Okezie (8m 17s):
Beautiful. Yeah. So

Keri Cooper (8m 19s):
Yeah, it sounds so simple, but it’s not what people are used to doing.

Christine Okezie (8m 23s):
Right. I always say, you know, I gotta get your biology on your side. You know, then, then you know, then you can do life a little bit more, you know, more productively, more efficiently and with more ease. Right,

Keri Cooper (8m 32s):
Right. When your body is really functioning well, it’s so much easier to do everything else.

Christine Okezie (8m 37s):
Exactly. And life is hard enough when your body isn’t functioning well. Right.

Keri Cooper (8m 41s):
Right. Yes. It’s a huge uphill battle.

Christine Okezie (8m 43s):
Right. Thank you. Which, you know, leads us to the mental and emotional components. I would love, you know, Kara, if you could share like what are, why do you think, you know, our young people are struggling so much these days. We hear, hear it all the time. Mental health crisis is off the charts. What do you think is going on?

Keri Cooper (9m 0s):
There’s certain themes that come up in my office a lot, and that’s kind of what I wrote about. One of the themes that I’m really noticing with our young people is that they don’t say no, They have no boundaries. They feel like they have to say yes to everything and yes to everyone.

Christine Okezie (9m 18s):

Keri Cooper (9m 19s):
So they have no time for themselves. Right. And they also don’t have boundaries regarding other people’s emotions. They take on everything without being able to put appropriate boundaries. And you know, this is, this really comes into play when you talk about these kids who are on the phone with a friend at two o’clock in the morning and the friend’s depressed, you know, possibly suicidal. And now this kid is feeling that and feels like they need to fix it. They just don’t know how to say like, Okay, this is above and beyond me, Like I’m here for as a friend for you, but I can’t fix this and I can’t be responsible to fix this. And I think that’s another issue. We’ve put such responsibility on these kids to take care of other people’s mental health when they have to take care of their own mental health first.

Christine Okezie (10m 7s):
You know, one of the things that came up in throughout your book is you mentioned these key themes saying no, knowing that we’re not responsible for other people’s feelings. I mean these deep insights, quite honestly since this book is primarily written for parents of the, of the patients that you’re seeing, they might be bumping up against these concepts for the first time in their adult lives.

Keri Cooper (10m 32s):
Yes. So I have so many moms in my office who just want to do everything and they wanna make their children so happy. And they do everything for these kids, you know, in terms of like making their breakfast and making their like perfect little bento box lunches. And you know, these kids are in high school and then by the way go off to college and have no idea how to boil water. And you know, they put away their kids laundry and keep their rooms clean and then they volunteer for every organization and they’re so burnt out and they’re not fulfilling themselves up with anything that they wanna do for them. So they’re just giving and giving and giving and giving. Mm.

Keri Cooper (11m 12s):
And and not filling themselves up.

Christine Okezie (11m 14s):
Okay. And

Keri Cooper (11m 15s):
So they’re burnt out. And they’re

Christine Okezie (11m 17s):
Stressed and this gets modeled. Right. So unconsciously this is the messaging that’s been going on in the house for a long time.

Keri Cooper (11m 23s):
100% is that take care of everybody else and then you are last.

Christine Okezie (11m 28s):
Right. Exactly. I think that’s one of the key insights. You know, I work with women in my coaching practice and I often say you’re modeling, you know, so they have young daughters or sons, you know, but it’s like, what kind of woman are you teach? What kind of wife, mother, friend are you modeling for them? Because they’re all like sponges and they’re just taking it all in. Right. So all those beliefs around what does it take to, to be quote unquote a good mother. Right.

Keri Cooper (11m 56s):
Right. And I think moms have such guilt when they do something for themselves. Like if they take that yoga class or you know, they, they do something for them, but really that’s what they need to do. That’s what they need to show their children. Yeah. I’m doing something that makes me feel good, that makes me a better person. And then they’re able to be a better mom. They’re able to give more.

Christine Okezie (12m 17s):
That’s huge. And you know, did you go through that learning and growth stage?

Keri Cooper (12m 21s):
Absolutely. Yes. We all do. Right? Everyone does. And you know, when I first became a stay-at-home mom, I took some time off for my career and I became a stay-at-home mom. And yeah, I was doing everything for everybody else except for me. And I was stressed out and I wasn’t enjoying it. And it took me, you know, really having to step back going, What do I wanna do and what do I not want to do? And now when somebody asked me to volunteer for something that I do not wanna do, I simply say no thank you.

Christine Okezie (12m 51s):
Right. It’s a powerful life skill. And it’s interesting because I see it on the back end. I see adults who are coming up in adults way into their, you know, midlife stage who are kind of raising their hand and recognize they’ve gone through, you know, I call it checking the boxes. Right. You’ve checked all the boxes, but somehow they just come going, Really? Is this it? And you are seeing this in your young adult population. You’re seeing this in college.

Keri Cooper (13m 20s):

Christine Okezie (13m 20s):
Is this all there is? I worked, got good grades, got into a decent college and now what?

Keri Cooper (13m 26s):
Yes. This whole notion of like happiness isn’t about the now, it’s about later. Exactly. Work really hard. Do every single club do every single sport? Cause you gotta get into a good college and they get into the good college and it’s like, But I’m not happy

Christine Okezie (13m 40s):
Now What?

Keri Cooper (13m 41s):
Now what? Now I worked my whole life to get here. Now what?

Christine Okezie (13m 45s):

Keri Cooper (13m 45s):
Yeah. Like we have to get back to living more in the moment and learning to enjoy life. Unless, what is the point?

Christine Okezie (13m 52s):
This is a huge paradigm that’s happening. You know? And I think the sooner you’re on the cutting edge with young people who have the potential to redirect and reprogram this sort of societal paradigm, you know, around goal achievement equals happiness.

Keri Cooper (14m 8s):
Right. Yeah. I I have to tell, you know, the kids I work with all the time, especially you know, the juniors in high school, it doesn’t matter what college you get into. Exactly. It just doesn’t. Right. Okay. It matters what you do in that college.

Christine Okezie (14m 23s):

Keri Cooper (14m 24s):
But unfortunately society, although we’re sitting here talking about a mental health crisis in the schools, the schools are still preaching. You need to get into a good college.

Christine Okezie (14m 34s):
What are some tips you help with parents who, you know, that’s where it’s coming from. You know, their anxiety is about their college is translating into their, I love when parents say we’re applying to college. We’ve got so many applications to do.

Keri Cooper (14m 48s):
Yes. Yes. They’re so involved. Involved.

Christine Okezie (14m 54s):
You spend a lot of time about that in your book. Some good examples.

Keri Cooper (14m 58s):
Yeah. So, you know, and I also think the parents are seeing college as like almost their badge of parenting. Like, Yes, I did it, I achieved good parenting cause they went to a good college. And you know, if your child is falling apart in college and can’t function without you, trust me, you did not achieve good parenting badge. Right. It, it just doesn’t matter where they go. Like that’s the stuff in life that doesn’t matter.

Christine Okezie (15m 21s):
What does matter. It it,

Keri Cooper (15m 22s):
It matters to be happy and connected as a family. It matters to be able to sit down with your kids and have a conversation. Mm. And I think that has really been lost lately. And especially even Covid people were all in their own rooms.

Christine Okezie (15m 39s):
I know they

Keri Cooper (15m 40s):
Weren’t connecting as a family. They weren’t sitting down to family dinners. You now had all this time, nobody knew what to do with themselves with all this time because nobody has a hobby.

Christine Okezie (15m 48s):
Right. Because

Keri Cooper (15m 50s):
Everything is planned and organized.

Christine Okezie (15m 51s):
Right. Right.

Keri Cooper (15m 53s):
So I actually really encouraged a lot of kids I work with and my own children. It was like, what are your hobbies? What do you enjoy? What do you like? Like that’s what you should be doing right now. And when encouraged and when the parents back outta the picture, the kids found some amazing things. I had some kids who were studying at foreign language just because they wanted to.

Christine Okezie (16m 12s):

Keri Cooper (16m 13s):
They, I had other kids who started, you know, art projects just because it was fun. And that’s what you want them to do. Like, you want them to be able to have these activities that they feel good about.

Christine Okezie (16m 25s):
You talk about letting go in order to build confidence. Now, again, in a really artful, practical way, you ask parents, you know, what would it be like to loosen their grip a bit more, you know, in this regard. But it requires great trust. It great requires, you know, allowing, maybe it’s not only trusting the your your child, but trusting yourself to let go enough that you’ll be okay if you do that. Right. This is a very complicated ask.

Keri Cooper (16m 56s):
It’s very complicated. And it’s very hard because it’s not based on an actual reality. We think that by holding on tighter, we can protect them.

Christine Okezie (17m 5s):

Keri Cooper (17m 6s):
And that’s just not the case. It’s not really based on a reality concept, you know, And it’s hard, it’s, it’s hard to be able to kind of send your kid out into the world and the world is a little bit of a scary place at times. Sure. And to just kind of trust that they’re gonna make it back.

Christine Okezie (17m 25s):

Keri Cooper (17m 27s):
But no matter how much we put these kids in a bubble, we’re not actually protecting them.

Christine Okezie (17m 33s):
This is huge. And I, and I can’t agree with more because I, I had that realization and for me, that’s my, my come from through a lot of this, you know, I’ve got, you know, a young teenager is that I’m really not in charge. You know, I’m like the sort of like the bumpers on like, you know, kitty bowling. I’m sort of like that, you know, like Right. But really, you know, you know, at the end of the day I realize that they’re on their own path. Right. You know, their, you know, their challenges are growth opportunities the same way that I view my own personally, my own adversities as my learning opportunity. So there’s that, you know.

Keri Cooper (18m 12s):
But I like the thought about being the bumper because you are there to guide. Yes. You can’t force the ball to go in a certain direction, but you’re able to guide it so it doesn’t always, you know, fly out the building.

Christine Okezie (18m 22s):
Exactly. Exactly.

Keri Cooper (18m 24s):
And that’s I think what parents need to realize their job is. It’s it’s to guide.

Christine Okezie (18m 29s):
Yeah. Yeah.

Keri Cooper (18m 30s):
It’s to help them process. It’s to, you know, ask important questions to help them start thinking, but you can’t force it

Christine Okezie (18m 38s):
And to let them fail. This is another, you know, concept in the book.

Keri Cooper (18m 42s):
Yeah. They have to fail because at some point in life they’re going to, and you’re not gonna be able to protect them from it. And it’s very scary for them to fail as a first time as a 22, 23 year old.

Christine Okezie (18m 54s):
I always say that, you know, is, and we’re going through a lot, you know, with our teenagers, but I, you know, I recognize that, you know, with my own, I I would much prefer they have the opportunity to, to to get the resources, the insights, the learnings and the coping mechanisms before they launch to live independently. Because I’m sure you’re seeing a lot of first year bounce backs, a lot of first year struggles that because they weren’t getting the support and guidance they needed in high school.

Keri Cooper (19m 26s):
Yes. I think parents were always surprised when I tell them that my phone rings off the hook come December because it’s the first semester after college and those freshman have not done well and they have not been able to live independently and now they’re coming back home.

Christine Okezie (19m 40s):

Keri Cooper (19m 41s):
And I know, you know, all the schools around us are great, wonderful schools and they boast where all their kids are gonna college. I would love to see the follow up on how many of those kids graduated from those colleges four years later because I see the transfer rates, I see them coming back home for a semester. And listen, there’s nothing wrong with that. If if it’s not working, come home. Regroup.

Christine Okezie (20m 2s):
That’s right. Plan B.

Keri Cooper (20m 3s):
That’s right.

Christine Okezie (20m 4s):
That’s exactly it. Yeah.

Keri Cooper (20m 5s):
But for a child who has never failed to then fail outta college, now you’re dealing with massive mental health issues because there’s no confidence, there’s such a depression. It’s, I can’t believe this didn’t work. I worked my whole life for this. So yeah. They need to fail early on.

Christine Okezie (20m 24s):
Wow. Powerful messages there. What do you say to parents who do struggle with guilt or some self blame, you know, around their kids’ mental health or unhappiness?

Keri Cooper (20m 37s):
Yeah, it’s, most of the parents I meet are doing the absolute best they can.

Christine Okezie (20m 43s):
A hundred percent. Yeah.

Keri Cooper (20m 44s):
And that’s all you can do. And no matter how well we’re doing as a parent, our child may still have anxiety, they still may have depression. That’s, that’s not a reflection of us as a parent. Beautiful. You know, everyone is a very different human being and we’re all impacted differently by things through life. And we all need different time to develop coping skills. So parents can’t blame themselves if their child is not, you know, having their best life right now. All you could do is be there to support and to help guide and to realize that, you know, it normally gets better.

Christine Okezie (21m 21s):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean meeting, you know, I’m sure this is fundamental in your approach is is mine, is we have to meet our child, meet the folks in our life where they are. Yes. Right. And sometimes that’s really rocky and really, you know, not so fun. But at the end of the day, that’s where we are. Right,

Keri Cooper (21m 40s):
Right. And that’s where they’re at. And that’s okay. I think the most common issue I have with parents regarding that is they get so upset that their child isn’t more motivated.

Christine Okezie (21m 49s):
Oh, this is a big one. Yeah. This is a big one.

Keri Cooper (21m 52s):
They’re, they’re studying enough, they’re gonna

Christine Okezie (21m 54s):
Be homeless sitting on the couch

Keri Cooper (21m 55s):
Pointing video games

Christine Okezie (21m 56s):

Keri Cooper (21m 57s):
Yes. And you know, they’re so, like, the parents feel like failures. Like why aren’t they motivated? Why aren’t they working harder? Listen, motivation is a very internal concept and it kind of turns on when it turns on and you can’t externally really force this. And until the child is really like, Oh, okay, I wanna do something, it’s not necessarily gonna turn on. And that’s okay.

Christine Okezie (22m 22s):

Keri Cooper (22m 22s):
You know, I wasn’t motivated at all in school until I got to college and I started learning about something that I was actually enjoying. But you’re never gonna get me motivated to take a math class.

Christine Okezie (22m 32s):
Right, Right.

Keri Cooper (22m 34s):
It’s just not worth my time or effort.

Christine Okezie (22m 37s):
That’s, that’s another, again, another example of the self-identification. Right. If, if, if our child’s lows and challenges are not a reflection of us as a parent, their successes and achievements are also not a reflection of us. Right. This is big.

Keri Cooper (22m 55s):
Right. And you know, you see families that have multiple children and all these children go on very different paths. The parents are the same.

Christine Okezie (23m 2s):
I know I say that all the time. Same dna, really different kid

Keri Cooper (23m 6s):
All raised in the same house and all these kids turn out completely differently.

Christine Okezie (23m 10s):
Yeah. Yeah. Which again is just validation. And I think it’s helpful, you know, for, cuz we, because parenting can be really rocky and really challenging, but coming back to the principles you lay out in your book, you know, around just being more aware of how we can and need to parent is really here.

Keri Cooper (23m 30s):
Right. And I think it’s really about just being able to connect with your children to be able to have a conversation. To be able to be there as their support system.

Christine Okezie (23m 42s):

Keri Cooper (23m 43s):
And that’s, if you’re doing that, you’re winning.

Christine Okezie (23m 46s):
What are some, you know, strategies that you facilitate within between parent and child to keep those lines of communication healthy and open?

Keri Cooper (23m 56s):
My favorite thing, and there’s actually a ton of research on it, is family dinners.

Christine Okezie (24m 1s):

Keri Cooper (24m 1s):
And I don’t care if it’s family, breakfast, lunch, whatever you could do. But it’s about coming together, sitting down without devices and having to look at each other and have some sort of conversation.

Christine Okezie (24m 14s):
Yeah. This is big. It’s a, it’s, there’s something happening and you can probably give me a hundred examples of it. There’s something happening in our young people today because the technology has moved so fast and we’ve all become kind of intertwined in it, in, in ways that we couldn’t even foresee. Yes. That their ability to socialize, their ability to have a conversation even amongst their peers Oh. I think is really stunted compared to what you and I had. I mean, you know,

Keri Cooper (24m 46s):
It’s completely a different world.

Christine Okezie (24m 48s):

Keri Cooper (24m 49s):
I mean completely a different world. And yes, I have a lot of kids in my office who don’t look at me when they speak because they ha they don’t have the basic conversation skills.

Christine Okezie (24m 58s):

Keri Cooper (24m 59s):
And you know, that’s something that the parents when they’re young need to be able to recognize and to work on. Like that’s, that’s a life skill.

Christine Okezie (25m 6s):

Keri Cooper (25m 8s):
But yes. And then, you know, so many times the conversation between the parents and the kids are just through texting instead of being like, No, come down here and speak to me. You’re not texting me from your bedroom. And that’s what’s happening. It’s

Christine Okezie (25m 22s):

Keri Cooper (25m 22s):
Like you laugh but that’s the reality. It is ready not okay.

Christine Okezie (25m 27s):

Keri Cooper (25m 28s):
And you know, I also tell parents like, get your kid outta the house. Like tell them, come to the grocery store with me. Come run an errands. Sing in the car when you’re not facing each other is also a great time to talk. Cuz it kind of lets the kids open up a little bit more without having to look at you. You know, and that makes a little bit more comfortable.

Christine Okezie (25m 45s):
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I totally agree with that. That was some pretty interesting conversations would happen, you know, with me looking at the road and them at the time in the backseat, you know? Yes.

Keri Cooper (25m 55s):
Yeah. Those are sometimes the best roles price.

Christine Okezie (25m 57s):
Yes, yes, yes. So we talk about then, you know, you work a lot with, you know, these kids and they’re navigating their, their high school experience and their performance and academics. What are some changes that you would love to see, you know, in happening in the school education system at this point that could go to the heart of some of these, these concepts that you’re, you’re talking about in your book?

Keri Cooper (26m 24s):
I mean, I think one of the things is that kids need to be able to fail as we talked about. So if they fail a test, they should just sometimes fail a test. I know that there’s one district that if you get below an 80, you are immediately made to take a retake.

Christine Okezie (26m 41s):

Keri Cooper (26m 41s):
What are we teaching these kids? I mean, that’s not okay. If a kid is studying hard and they get a 75 then good for them.

Christine Okezie (26m 49s):

Keri Cooper (26m 50s):
They worked hard.

Christine Okezie (26m 51s):

Keri Cooper (26m 52s):
Yeah. That is not okay. You know, it’s not okay that kids are constantly able to redo work. Yep. Because again, you’re not letting them fail and deal with the consequences. And then, you know, maybe next time they’ll get it together, better work is handed in late constantly. Like they’re just not held responsible.

Christine Okezie (27m 12s):

Keri Cooper (27m 13s):
Because I think the schools want them to get good grades. Yeah. Because they want them to get into good colleges cuz it looks good for the schools. Yeah. But we’re not helping these kids.

Christine Okezie (27m 24s):
Okay. Okay. Yeah. Those are huge. When it comes to meditation and stress management tools and all of that, you know, what are some things that you found teenagers to be open to?

Keri Cooper (27m 37s):
They actually like meditation because there’s apps for that

Christine Okezie (27m 41s):

Keri Cooper (27m 42s):

Christine Okezie (27m 42s):
On their phone.

Keri Cooper (27m 45s):
So that’s the one time when I’m like, your phone’s actually useful. You can put on a meditation app. And actually one of the other useful technology tools that they enjoy is if they have one of those watches where it shows you your heartbeat, they have learned that when they slow down their breathing, their heart rate will also slow down. Good one. Do they see that direct connection? Yeah. And that’s a really great way for them to first monitor what’s going on. Cuz many times the heart rate’s gonna go up before they even realize they’re about to have a panic attack.

Christine Okezie (28m 16s):

Keri Cooper (28m 17s):
So we’ll use those types of technology tools because they are helpful.

Christine Okezie (28m 21s):

Keri Cooper (28m 22s):
Yeah. But also it’s, you know, in terms of stress management, what time are you shutting down for the night and what does that look like? It, it can’t be that you’re on TikTok until you fall asleep at night. So I really encourage my kids and like grab a book, like a real book. I don’t care what it’s on. I don’t care what it is. Read for a few minutes before bed, like shut down for the night. And of course the hardest thing for them is to actually turn their phones off at night. And that’s something that I really encourage parents, especially when they’re younger, you need to start setting boundaries and rules around the phone. They should not be in their bedrooms.

Christine Okezie (29m 1s):
A lot of these systems only work though if the whole household is doing it.

Keri Cooper (29m 7s):
Yes. I know my phone is on do not disturb every single night. I, I don’t answer it. I don’t go for it. It’s off. It’s goodbye. And you know, our rule is that there’s no electronics and bedrooms. They have to be in, you know, the kitchen area. Charging

Christine Okezie (29m 21s):
Your book speaks a lot to, you know, setting up an environment that might be very different from the one that is now. And we’re not even talking about treating the symptoms so much as we’re at, we’re we’re treating the symptom, but we have to back it up. You know, we have to kind of take a, a whole bunch of steps back. And I think the parents, the message in the book is that, you know, there’s some things, things that we can do around our own self-care and our own self-awareness that have this, what I call the trickle down effect. Yes. You know, in the household. So Carrie, like what are some, you mentioned a couple already. What are some non-negotiables in your self care kit knowing what you know about wanting to show up more consciously as a parent?

Keri Cooper (29m 59s):
I think some of my non-negotiables is that, you know, every morning I make time for myself to work out. That is my biggest stress reliever. And no, I am not scheduling any meeting during that time period. That is my schedule. And I stick with it, you know, And I also make a real conscious effort for my calendar that, you know, I will only go out so many times per month with friends. And the rest of the time I’m saying no cause I wanna be at home. Yeah. And I wanna take care of myself.

Christine Okezie (30m 28s):
Okay. All right. So just recognizing that balance, you know? Yes.

Keri Cooper (30m 32s):
Yeah. It’s all about boundaries.

Christine Okezie (30m 34s):
All about

Keri Cooper (30m 34s):
Boundaries and carving out time for yourself and what you wanna do. I really enjoy seeing at home on a Friday night with my kids and watching a movie and I’m not gonna get that forever with them cuz they’re getting older.

Christine Okezie (30m 46s):
Yeah, this is true. This is true. Amazing. And going back to this really important point about, you mentioned it and you said it so well, this notion of happiness somewhere in the future or something, right? Yeah. What’s a, what, what needs to shift around that and like, you know, what do you find yourself kind of saying and and guiding folks in your practice to kind of rewire that limiting belief? That happiness is somewhere out there

Keri Cooper (31m 13s):
Right. When really it’s, it’s now, it’s in the moment now. So I always try to get them to journal a little bit. Like what something like what happened today that was good for you? What did you enjoy? What Put a smile on your face. Like let’s start looking at the here and now.

Christine Okezie (31m 32s):
It’s so it’s, it sounds so simple, but it’s really kind of a radical, you know, act because I was on the, had another guest on the podcast and she gave a great example. I’d love to know your thoughts on this. She said, you know, we kinda all don’t really talk about what, what do I, what is it that makes me happy? Nobody really knows. We sort of just get these marching orders, like you said, you know, we go to school, we get good grades, we get into a good college, we go make a bunch of money, we get white picket fence, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Yeah. But it’s so unconscious, you know, it’s just habitual really. It’s almost just like pure programming.

Christine Okezie (32m 11s):
But we don’t take the time as adults, but you’re inviting kids to sit down and actually have these conversations. What is it that makes me happy? This is so critical.

Keri Cooper (32m 24s):
And when we talk about, I talk a lot about exercise, my practice because you need to move your body. It, it makes you feel better. You know, what type of exercise do you like? Don’t do one that you don’t

Christine Okezie (32m 34s):
Like. Right.

Keri Cooper (32m 35s):
Just because someone’s telling you what’s good for you. Right. Find what you do. Like, like, and you know, I’ve had parents push back on that. Well they’re not doing enough cardio. No, no, no. I don’t care what they’re doing. Right. As long as they’re moving their body and if they just really like Pilates, then they’re gonna do Pilates.

Christine Okezie (32m 53s):
Right. And if it feels good and makes them like, you know, Yes. Puts a smile on their face, lights them up, do more. Right.

Keri Cooper (32m 58s):
Why are we doing exercise that is torture for us?

Christine Okezie (33m 1s):

Keri Cooper (33m 2s):
Which is another thing the school needs to look at too. You know, we have gym class all the time. It’s state mandated. Yet we have things that are just torturous for these kids in gym class such as run days. I mean these kids are never gonna run again the rest of their life after being tortured by this. Can we find, you know, different ways of doing gym class at this point?

Christine Okezie (33m 20s):
Beautiful. Feeling good matters. It’s something that I say a lot in my work. What are your thoughts on that?

Keri Cooper (33m 31s):
That’s all we have. Yeah. Like at the end of the day it’s about what did we enjoy? Who do we connect with?

Christine Okezie (33m 41s):

Keri Cooper (33m 41s):
That’s what matters.

Christine Okezie (33m 43s):
Yeah. Ancient wisdom as we know. Right. But so important in our modern day challenges.

Keri Cooper (33m 50s):
Yes. We’ve just gone too far into thinking about the future constantly and trying to achieve things that honestly don’t matter.

Christine Okezie (33m 58s):
Beautiful. Thank you so much. And I would love if you would share like what is like the number one thing that you want parents to take away from your amazing book?

Keri Cooper (34m 10s):
I want parents to realize that when you are working with your child for, you know, their 18 years of being here, it is so important to just give them the foundations of what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. Which means, you know, taking care of them, putting up boundaries, eating well and enjoying the food that they eat, by the way. And exercising and just feeling good about themselves. Yeah. But it’s setting up those foundations.

Christine Okezie (34m 41s):
Beautiful. Thank you so much. Carrie. Is maybe there a question that I didn’t know enough to ask or something that you wanna share?

Keri Cooper (34m 49s):
I just really hope that the parents who are listening to this realize that mental health is really way more in their control than they realize.

Christine Okezie (34m 59s):
Love that message. Thank you so much. And tell us where they can, Are you taking you clients? Do you work online in person?

Keri Cooper (35m 7s):
Sure. I will tell you everything. I sometimes am taking new clients. It depends on what my schedule looks like, but my website is Carrie Cooper Holistic Therapy and my book, Mental Health Uncensored, 10 Foundations Every Parent Needs to Know is on Amazon.

Christine Okezie (35m 20s):
Beautiful. Thank you Carrie. This has been a joy. I’m so excited for you in all the, the great inspiration you’re providing to parents and children everywhere. Thank you.

Keri Cooper (35m 29s):
Thank you.

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