Laura Morton has been involved in the entertainment industry for more than 25 years as a bestselling author, producer, speaker and entrepreneur. She is the founder of Lasega Films and the soon to be launched Anxious Nation Network (ANN) Morton has written over 60 books and a staggering 21 New York Times bestsellers, with a wide range of celebrities and business leaders, including, Justin Bieber, the Jonas Brothers, and more.

426: How Do We Prevent Anxiety in Kids?

Laura Morton

Kid’s anxiety has reached epidemic proportions, with absenteeism due to mental health on the rise. Our kids are more anxious than ever. What do we do about it? How do we prevent it? I talk to Laura Norton, the mom behind the documentary film, "Anxious Nation." This conversation offers families a beacon of hope, understanding, and actionable measures to take in your home.

How Do We Prevent Anxiety In Kids? With Laura Morton [426]

Read the Transcript 🡮

*This is an auto-generated transcript*

[00:00:00] Laura Morton: I don't believe that I was an anxious kid, and I really didn't even understand what anxiety was or how it, you know, manifests in a family until I had a child with anxiety.

[00:00:18] Hunter: You're listening to The Mindful Parenting Podcast, episode number 426. Today, we're talking about how do we prevent anxiety in kids with Laura Morton. Welcome to The Mindful Parenting

Podcast. Here, it's about becoming a less irritable, more joyful parent. At Mindful Parenting, we know that you cannot give what you do not have, and when you give calm and peace within, then you can give it to your children. I'm your host, Hunter Clark Fields. I help smart, thoughtful parents stay calm so they can have strong, connected relationships with their children.

I've been practicing mindfulness for over 25 years. I'm the creator of the Mindful Parenting course. And I'm the author of the best selling book, Raising Good Humans, a mindful guide to breaking the cycle of reactive parenting and raising kind, confident kids, and now raising good humans every day, 50 simple ways to press pause, stay present, and connect with your kids.

Hey, welcome back. So glad you're here. Listen, if you haven't done so yet, hit the subscribe button so you don't miss any of these episodes. And if you get some value from the Mindful Parenting podcast, please go Do me a favor, go over to Apple Podcasts, leave us a rating and review, it just helps the podcast grow more and takes like 30 seconds, and I really, really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.

In just a moment, I'm going to be sitting down with Laura Morton, who has been involved with the entertainment industry for more than 25 years as a best selling author. Producer, speaker, and entrepreneur. She is the founder of La Sega Films and the soon to be launched Anxious Nation Network. Morton has written over 60 books and a staggering 21 New York Times bestsellers with a wide range of celebrities and business leaders, including Justin Bieber and the Jonas Brothers and more.

We're going to talk about her film, Anxious Nation, and practical strategies that We parents should consider when we're tackling anxiety in our house and with our kids, and we're going to talk about how this kid's anxiety has really reached epidemic proportions. You'll hear my theories on why this happens.

But the point of this episode is what we can do about it. You know, our kids are more anxious than ever, so what can we do about it? How can we prevent it? If you have like a very little kid, how can you prevent that? And I really hope that this conversation offers families a beacon of hope, help you understand it more, and just actionable measures to take in your home.

So join me at the table as I talk to Laura Morton.

Laura, thank you so much for coming on the Mindful Parenting

[00:03:12] Laura Morton: podcast. Thank you so much for having me. I'm really grateful to be

[00:03:16] Hunter: here. Well, I'm excited to talk about your documentary, Anxious Nation, and I think it might be helpful to, and we're going to talk about, I'm interested in talking about your story with your daughter that led to it, but sort of, I think it's very interesting leading up to that to understand You know, those generational patterns, and can you tell us a little bit about you and how you were raised and brought up, and maybe how that might have been different from how you raised

[00:03:43] Laura Morton: your daughter?

Yeah, so I was not brought up, I don't believe that I was an anxious kid, uh, and I really didn't even understand what anxiety was or how it, you know, manifests in a family until I had a child with anxiety. And it took seven years to figure out that she had anxiety. And that's not unusual. In fact, it takes most families on average, two to eight years to see.

So they don't really even know what they're dealing with. Right. So it's not that unusual, but I was brought up in, uh, Detroit. My mom passed away when I was 10 and my life just. You know, kind of moved, you know, forward at a pace that I don't think was, um, typical for a kid my age, you know, losing a parent at, you know, that young is, is hard, but I think it's so much harder to lose a parent as an adult because I think we can process and understand the loss so much better.

And one of the reasons why I chose to become a single mom in my forties was to have that mother daughter relationship. And, you know, to kind of close that gap, and it's been the greatest thing I've ever done. I mean, I'm so

[00:04:51] Hunter: sorry for your loss. I mean, at 10 years old, that must have been, so you, were you raised then mostly by you and your dad?

Were you

[00:04:56] Laura Morton: guys close? Uh, you know, raised by my dad, not especially close. My dad is not somebody who's like a warm, fuzzy guy. Uh, and he got remarried very quickly to somebody that, uh, was a bridesmaid at my mom and dad's wedding. So it was somebody that we knew. Um, and, you know, there was, uh, my life and my brother's life was just very different than my stepmother's kids.

And so there was just, you know, there was a lot of, um, uh, I don't want to say dissension, but I guess it was dissension in the house. And I graduated high school early. I was out at 16. So I, you know, moved on with my life and never looked back. You were not the

[00:05:40] Hunter: Brady Bunch. The

[00:05:42] Laura Morton: blended Brady Bunch family.

We were not the Brady Bunch. No, and that's okay. You know, I think so much of what happened during those years is one of the reasons why I have reached the level of success that I've reached today. I think if, um, so many times I think about this, like if my mom hadn't died. You know, what would, what would the difference have been?

And I think pretty, for me, I think it's pretty obvious I would never have left Michigan, you know. Um, I would, you know, I'm sure my life, you know, I wouldn't have become a film producer or a New York Times bestselling author, uh, which is my day job. You can see behind me, I have a few recognizable faces. Um, and you know, I think, I think so many times our, um, adversities, Become our petrol, it becomes our fuel, right?

Sure, yeah. And so for me, I think that that's exactly what happened. I think I didn't want to stay in that environment. And it, so I was plotting my way out from a very early age and, and really, I'm grateful for it. I'm grateful that my obstacles became my opportunities. I

[00:06:50] Hunter: can, I can totally relate to that about your obstacles being your opportunities and, and, and working with that.

And so, so you said you had your daughter later in life. Tell us about, like, what you anticipated parenting was gonna be like

[00:07:06] Laura Morton: when you Well, first of all, as I, as I mentioned, I, I had her completely on my own. So I used a, a donor, so there is no father in the picture. Um, I had gotten to an age where I wanted to be a mother and was not in a relationship.

Yep. And it was really important to me to have that. So I went through seven rounds of IVF. Wow. Yeah, a lot. And it was the seventh round that I had really given up. I just thought, well, you know, I guess it's not in the cards. And as soon as I let go of expectation, as soon as I let go of putting pressure on that process, is when I got pregnant.

And in fact, my daughter's name is Sevian. And the reason why I named her Sevian was because it started with me wanting to name her Seven. And because she was like a number seven. And when I looked at the name, when I looked at the letters in the word Seven, S E V E N, I realized I had a grandmother named Eve.

My grandmother named Anne, and my mom, who died, was Suzanne. So I slightly changed the spelling to S E V E A N N. That's where she got her name. She was younger. She could never get the, you know, personalized license plate to put on the back of her bike. But she absolutely loves her name now.

[00:08:27] Hunter: I can relate. I remember looking at all those, like, tourist traps like, H, Heather, no, no Hunter for me.

[00:08:34] Laura Morton: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And you've got it. That's

[00:08:36] Hunter: great. Okay, so let's dive into what happened with you guys where you, your daughter started to deal with anxiety. You didn't really recognize it for years and start to treat it for years later. Why don't you, do you, do you now sort of recognize kind of where, when it

[00:08:52] Laura Morton: started for her?

Yeah. I mean, look, I knew something was up, right? Uh, I knew that she was struggling, but nobody, her pediatrician and all the specialists that I took her to, they were all really only considering physical health. So pretty much everything from the neck down, right? Uh, and so we tested her for everything and they're, they're just, you know, look, if you test long enough, you'll come up with something that becomes the reason, right?

But it wasn't really what was happening. And so it took seven years for somebody to actually say, you know, you know, she has anxiety. Right. And even, even though I had her in therapy before that, the therapists never identified it with that sort of label, if you will, that I had an anxious kid. And I found that really amazing.

Um, I think today we've gotten much better, but I wanted to leave. I wanted somebody to say, here's what's going on. I mean, I tested her for ADD and ADHD. And, uh,

[00:09:54] Hunter: you know, What were the symptoms that she was having? So great

[00:09:57] Laura Morton: question. Um, she, you know, a lot of separation anxiety because I am a single mom and I had to travel a lot for work.

A lot of separation anxiety. And that was rearing its head in many different ways. So she was having a lot of, um, accidents, like she was potty trained, but she was still having a lot of accidents. Um, and she was chronically constipated, and that was, you know, something that, that everybody was tying to something physical, right?

And uh, when in fact it was the one thing that she felt she had control over. And it happens with a lot of kids, and a lot of parents go through this, so I'm sure your listeners will be like, oh my kid, my kid went through that. But so few doctors really will look at it as something that's emotional.

They'll look at it as, maybe it's her diet, maybe she needs more, I mean, really, truly, if I had another doctor tell me she needed more fiber in her diet, I was gonna go, like, berserk, because I knew that wasn't the problem, right? That's why she's

[00:10:55] Hunter: on an all celery diet.

[00:10:57] Laura Morton: We were giving her, I mean, you know, Metamucil and Excelax and all of these things, and she was still able to withhold.

And so, you know, that's when you just go, wait a minute, there's gotta be something else going on. And believe it or not. It was my dermatologist who, who said to me, you know, this sounds behavioral. And I thought, well, that's interesting because no other doctor in the chain that we've seen. And at the time we were living in New York.

And so I took her to Boston Children's Hospital. I took her to New York City. I took her, you know, all these, all of these top experts. And, um, you know, it just, everybody was kind of throwing their hands up in the air. It was like, we really don't know. You know, she, gosh, I mean, she's stubborn, I guess. And it really wasn't, I mean, she may be stubborn a little bit, but it wasn't the problem.

The problem was that she wasn't feeling, um, I think in her mind, safe. When I say safe, I mean, when I would leave, she was always with, uh, a nanny or a caretaker, somebody who was, you know, she was never in danger that I'm aware of, but she perceived it that way. And this was one of my biggest wake up ahas for making Anxious Nation, was that I had to see what anxiety looks and feels like for my daughter through her eyes.

Not through mine, right? Because, you know, I, I will process a situation in a much different way than, than a toddler does. And so I didn't understand for a very long time, I just did not understand what she was feeling and, and the legitimacy of what she was feeling. And that's so important for parents to know.

And because I think so often as parents, we, we come from a very loving and very caring and nurturing place. And sometimes that is actually adding to the problem. You know, parents do it all the time with like catastrophic thinking. We talk a lot about that in Anxious Nation. Uh, so when we tell our kids be careful walking to school, a stranger might, you know, snatch you or wear a helmet when you're riding your bike because you can fall and crack your head open.

Like all of that is what we think of as good parenting when in fact it's catastrophic. thinking, and especially when you're telling that to an anxious child, right? Because how they process that information, we mean it like, hey, just be careful, right? But an anxious child takes that and ratchets that up to a level that it becomes unbearable.

And so they become nervous about everything. They become anxious about everything. And, you know, and then my daughter, so you asked me what other symptoms my daughter, um, she could not sleep in her own room, couldn't sleep in her bed. It was always afraid of, you know, somebody being, you know, you know, a spooky thing happening.

Um, she didn't like going places without knowing who was going to be there. How long would we be there? Were there kids going to be there? Or is it just adults? Is it just kids? Is it, you know, she needed every last detail. What are they serving? I don't like hamburgers, you know? And it's, you know, it sounds, it sounds like, you know, a lot of kids, um, when you start putting it all together and you realize that that's how her anxiety was manifesting, right?

So that uncertainty, right? Anxiety loves certainty. And so that uncertainty, not knowing that was what was making her anxious. So... You know, in Anxious Nation, Lynn Lyons, who's a wonderful expert, uh, she talks a lot about anxiety being like a cult leader in the house.

[00:14:36] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

I love the metaphor of the cult leader. It was so interesting. My husband and I were watching it and, uh, anyway, explain the cult leader metaphor because it's, it's amazing. You know,

[00:14:54] Laura Morton: I loved it too, and it's one of the reasons why, one, it's one of the reasons why I love Lynn because she puts things in such a simple and clear way, right, and so you, you automatically get it.

Like, as, if you are in a cult, as long as you're doing what that cult leader wants you to do, whatever, whatever that calls for, right? Everything is hunky dory, you're charmed, but the second you start turning against the cult leader, the second you start saying, no, I think I actually want to do this, that's when life gets really, really hard.

Like I said, you know, anxiety doesn't have a lot of tricks in its toolbox, right? It really doesn't. And what anxiety wants you to do is, is what anxiety wants you to do. And so when you have an anxious kid, they just want it, they just want routine, they want certainty, they want, you know, and what happens though is an anxious kid starts dictating everything that, that is going, not the anxious kid, but the cult leader, the anxiety starts dictating everything.

What time you go to bed, what you have for dinner, where you go to dinner, can we go on a trip to Disneyland? You know, all of that becomes, um, at the beck and call of that cult leader. Because, uh, I'm sure any parent listening who has a truly anxious kid knows and understands when those kids go into the tailspin, we sometimes just take the path of least resistance, right?

So I'm making lamb chops for dinner and my kid wants pizza and, you know, that meltdown becomes unbearable so we end up having pizza. Something as simple as that, right? It shows up in different ways for different families and, and therefore, you know, it's not a one size fits all problem and it's not a one size fits all solution.

But it's recognizing those behaviors, right? What are those patterns? And the hardest part of that is that anxiety is a shapeshifter. So what made my daughter anxious one day suddenly no longer made her anxious, but now there was something new. So I knew the landmines and I could try to navigate and avoid.

And then something new would, would come up and, and I, I didn't recognize it, right? So it felt like getting hit by a two by four, like, where did this come from? Because yesterday this wasn't a problem. And so I think a lot of families go through that.

[00:17:06] Hunter: Yeah. And in the Anxious Nation documentary, like, you know, we see families, I mean, I was really struck by the mom who's making the bed like so perfectly symmetrical for the daughter and tucking it in just so.

And I'm thinking. That,

[00:17:20] Laura Morton: by the way, that is the cult leader. Yeah. Like personified. Right? Uh huh. And because it was, it's easier for her to make the bed the way her daughter wants it made and her daughter has anxiety but her daughter also has OCD and, um, but that is the cult leader personified. But what her action is in making the bed, Lynn refers to as doing the disorder.

So the more we do the disorder, the stronger it gets.

[00:17:48] Hunter: Yeah, yeah, this is so interesting for me personally at this time in my life I have to share with you because my daughter, my oldest daughter, has a chronic pain disorder and definitely anxiety is like, we're all wrapped up in there. And the, one of the things about the chronic pain is that she has to, we're not supposed to make accommodations for her.

We're not supposed to, you know, if she makes her world smaller and smaller, it gets smaller and smaller. And in the last couple of years she has. And making more accommodations for herself and resting and it's gotten worse and worse. So I can see all these parallels here where if you do what the disordered nervous system that's creating the pain wants, it's gonna make her life smaller and smaller and there's definitely that anxiety.

Wrapped up in that. So I'm just curious, for you, as you learned about this, and how much were you personally accommodating the anxiety? What was your personal path, uh, through all these, like, demands and stuff that your daughter had? Obviously you had to travel for your work, so you weren't accommodating that, but tell me a little bit about that.


[00:18:57] Laura Morton: know, I was accommodating a lot more than I realized. I, I didn't recognize that in many cases, I was just taking the path of least resistance. And so, and by doing that, I was doing the disorder, and I was serving the cult leader. Right? So to just keep that metaphor in place. It, it was just so much easier for me because I also had a little bit of mom guilt traveling.

And so when I was home, I didn't want to be, look, I'm good cop, bad cop 24 seven. And so I didn't want to always be the bad cop. And so, you know, I think making the film helped my daughter and I significantly in understanding each other. It gave us a common language. And I think that's what so many families really lack.

is how do we talk about this? Like I know something's up, right? And so often we want to, we want to, the other piece of that is, is when you have two parents and one is serving cult leader. And one is the tough love parent, and that happens a lot in many, many homes, right? Like, like, no, no, no, we're gonna accommodate, and then the tough love parent is like, you're way too easy, I, we need, what they need is discipline, what they need is boundaries, what they need is, you know, and neither of that, right?

And so who really suffers when you have two parents that come at it from that point of view is that child. And so, um, It's really critical to understand that, uh, the, it's systemic, like it needs to be treated systemically. So when you only treat the child, but your behavior is staying the same, that child can't win, right?

The child. You can put all the tools you want in the toolbox, but as long as you are still acting in a way that triggers certain behaviors, that child's gonna fall back on those routine behaviors. Okay? So that was really important for, for me to learn with my own daughter. And, you know, to, to learn a language, to learn how to communicate with her, to, to listen to what she was saying and recognize and acknowledge the legitimacy of it, right?

The authenticity of it. You

[00:20:56] Hunter: know, it's interesting. I want to look at like, what, how do we address it? And like, you're saying neither of those work. Well, let's look at what does work. But before we get to that, and I am really interested in thinking about, like, for the parent who's a, who's a listener who has like a young child and is like, Oh, I want to avoid this altogether.

Right. What's causing this? And I've been thinking about this a lot recently because this, you know, teens anxiety has been in the news for a number of years. We've talked about it with different people here on the podcast. And I, I guess, like, as I'm kind of wrapping my own head around it, what I've been thinking, and, and, and watching your documentary, I was thinking, well, what I've kind of come to believe in my own personal life is that it seems like it's come along with the rise of, like, the helicopter parenting and with the rise of, like, some real fear based stuff where we're We're not letting nine year olds go to the park by themselves and everything in the world isn't safe.

And, and this big rise in safetyism that is really hampering kids where we're taking out every merry go round from the, the playground. And we're, we're, you know, we're not letting kids climb the trees and things like that. So to me, I think this seems to correlate really perfectly with that. And so you're, you're a parent.

I know you're not an expert on anxiety, but you really don't. Dive. How does one say that? Dive? Dove? You dove into a deep lake. I mean, you've talked about this. Yes, yes. Neck deep. So, what are you seeing as, like, in, maybe in your own life as some of the causes from where you're seeing some of that catastrophic thinking?

But like, what are, how are we parents either feeding this or not feeding this or what, what are some of the things that we're doing leading up to this?

[00:22:40] Laura Morton: So, I, I think there's a couple of questions to unpack in what you just said. Mm hmm. And, so first and foremost, I, I think that what, what you're seeing and your observation is, is true, right?

I think the world feels like a, a, a very dangerous place, but the truth is the world has always been a pretty dangerous place, right? Mm hmm. And, you know, we just have, I think what we have now is more access to how dangerous. So there was a time where, you know, we had three channels on TV and maybe, you know, our parents listened to the evening news or maybe they didn't, right?

Um, but that's just not the world we're living in anymore. So I think all of that information comes at us at like rapid speed. And so I think it's really important to understand the correlation Um, to information, but I think to me and what I learned in making the, in making Anxious Nation, one of the things that I learned is that we are a terribly lonely and disconnected society.

That's new. That's different. Right? And that's part of what you're seeing, right? Instead of being on the playground playing with our friends. You know, or their friends. Um, we don't let that happen anymore. Our whole notion of what it is to be socially connected has changed. The fastest growing religion in the United States right now is no religion.

And for, for, you know, thousands of years, that was the place that people connected, right? Their place of worship. And so I, I think that there's so many things that have contributed to this loneliness and this isolation and this disconnection and Vivek Murthy, you know, it has been talking about this because it isn't just our devices and it isn't just social media.

It isn't just what we're doing as parents, you know, but he's now talking a lot about how do we combat loneliness in this country? You've got teenagers. Who identify as being 70 percent lonelier than people 65 years and older. That's a really shocking statistic to me. Our teens think that being on their phone, Snapchatting their friends, that's connection.

They think that they have friends and they've never met them, right? They're just people they know from, they follow them on Snap or whatever their, their platform is. And I've had to have that conversation with my daughter, like, what makes a friend? Right, a friend is somebody you see, a friend is somebody you spend time with, a friend isn't somebody that you, you know, just know, or even worse, don't know.

And so I think that the whole, um, identification of belonging for these kids has also been so greatly impacted. And I think especially for our kids now coming out of COVID, I don't think we've seen the worst of it. I think that that will be a long term, wow, this has had some very serious impact. Some kids, like my daughter, actually found being home during COVID calming, right?

She didn't have to deal, my daughter was in middle school during COVID, and so she didn't have to deal with the nonsense that most middle school girls go through, right? She didn't have... any bullying happening, she didn't feel left out, she was not not being invited to parties, like it was great for her.

For me as a parent, I just thought, oh my goodness, how are we getting through this? Because she hasn't learned how to connect. You know, coming, she was coming from elementary school and then right into high school, right? She missed pretty much 7th and 8th grade, middle school. That's a big leap. And so I think what we're seeing with, especially with kids who started high school right after, you know, we, we all went back to school and, you know, all the, um, uh, the stay at home orders were lifted and, um, I think kids that went off to college really struggled.

I think kids that, that started high school had to start middle school, like those transitional experiences, I think they really, really struggled. And educators will tell you that they saw it in the classroom. Absenteeism is the highest it's ever been in our schools. And it's because our kids cannot bring themselves to be there.

They don't feel comfortable. They don't feel safe. They're dealing with, um, active shooter drills. You know, the talk is constantly around, you know, things that that their generation is worried about. Global warming, war, the election, the world that they're inheriting. And in fact, they're having a really normal reaction to all of this.

Yeah. There's that fine line, you know, as a parent with honoring that reaction. Right? But also helping them build resilience and the coping skills that it takes to, for them to walk through this world with confidence.

[00:27:07] Hunter: Yeah, I mean, I see all that for sure in my, you know, in the kids that are having a lot of trouble connecting.

There's a lot of loneliness, but for your, you know, for your daughter, you know, it started before that, right? Like, and we, we want to say, and we just thinking about this idea of, of the parent who's like really wanting to prevent this, and we can't prevent a pandemic, but we can. Check our own anxiety, right?

We, you, you had my friend, colleague, Dr. Shefali on, on Anxious Nation talking about our own anxiety. And one of the things I talk about here a lot on the podcast is like, we have to live what we want our kids to learn. The flip side of that is. If we're with our kids fully anxious, like that is something they're really inheriting.

So, so kind of, I think what I'm, I guess what I'm seeing here, and I want to see if this is also what you're seeing too, is that we have to be practicing and looking at our own anxiety and using tools to check our own anxiety and taking care of ourselves and our own hearts.

And I'm wondering if that's also what you were saying in all the research you did for Anxious

[00:28:25] Laura Morton: Nation. Hunter, you're so spot on on that because I think that what I learned very early on is, is part of the problem is that we have a generation of really anxious parents who never dealt with their own anxiety.

Thank you. but they don't want their kids to feel the way that they're feeling, right? So in the process what they're trying to do is protect them from feeling that way, and and that's doing a disservice to the kids. And so we spend a lot of time in the film, holding the mirror up for, for parents. It's the hardest part of the film, I think, you know, for people to watch because it pokes the bear, right?

It, it really holds the mirror up and says, if you don't like the reflection, don't break the mirror. We really have to pay attention to our own actions. I've had so many people watch the film who never recognized that they were anxious kids until they watched the film because we didn't have We didn't really have that name for it, right, when, you know, when certainly my generation or, or, you know, a little bit younger than me, we weren't anxious, but we were nervous.

We were shy. We, you know, so all of these things that, that, you know, anxiety is not new, right? We just have better identification of it today. So I think it's really important that parents, look, we have to have the hard conversations. We must have this conversation within our family structure for our kids sake.

So if we're willing to talk about child sex trafficking, and we're willing to talk about fentanyl, and we're willing to talk about all the things we know that could potentially impact our kids, right? We have to be willing. And courageous enough to address anxiety in our own home, right? What is that looking like?

That's why I said it has to be treated systemically, because so often when, you know, we just push our kid off to therapy and, and we never even, a lot of parents don't even talk to the therapist, don't even find out really what their kid is talking about. Um, they think there's some kind of, you know, uh, boundary there.

And there is, but you have to understand What your child's going through, and then you also have to better your own behavior, right? But I think the most important thing that you said about this is you also have to take care of yourself. It's, you know, it's cliche to say if mommy ain't happy and nobody happy, right?

But it's true. Moms are the first responders of the home, and we cannot deplete ourselves. I mean, that is exactly why I ended up making the film, was I felt completely defeated. As if I were failing as a parent and I'm a problem solver by nature and I just couldn't seem to solve this problem. And when I realized it wasn't just us, I thought, okay, well, this is a great way for me to also bring this to other families because I knew if our family was struggling, I could not imagine how other families were getting through this.

I just couldn't, I, I really thought a lot about it. Like, what does it look like in lower socioeconomic? What does it look like in the brown and black communities? What does, does anxiety show up differently in the Midwest than it does in the South? you know, the east or the west. Like, I really wanted to understand all of that, which is why I called the film Anxious Nation, and it's why we have kids from all over the country.

Because it is not, it is not a, look, if you have a rash, you may have gotten to this part in the film, but if you have a rash, you're, you're putting cortisone on the rash, right? Or if your child has a rash, you're gonna put cortisone on the rash. If the rash doesn't clear up in two days, you're taking that kid to the pediatrician's office.

And if, you know, they give them a, some kind of other ointment or antibiotic and it doesn't clear up, you're going to the, to the dermatologist. You treat a rash with more seriousness than you would your child's mental health, or your own mental health for that matter. And I think we really can't differentiate between what happens above the neck and below the neck because it's all health.

[00:32:09] Hunter: Yeah, I mean, I agree with that, but I understand the analogy, but I also think we all have all those feelings. You know what I mean? And that's all, it's, it's normal for even healthy, grounded, emotionally stable people who don't feel, to feel anxiety sometimes. So it is different from like a rash of that, you know, it is normal for it to happen sometimes.

So it's not, so I can see how it could be, you know, pushed down the line for, for years and especially if it's not something you're talking about, but we can see. We can see that it's a problem when we're looking at, when we're looking at things like what happened to your daughter, the constipation, the obsessiveness, like the.

Trying to control everything, right? All of those things. Like those are, those are all the things we're, we're kind of looking for, for parents to say, you know, is this something my kid is struggling

[00:32:57] Laura Morton: with? Stay

[00:33:02] Hunter: tuned for more Mindful Mama podcast right after this break.

I imagine it also could help to just simply ask them, like, you know, are you struggling with anxiety? People know what have the experts said to you about that? Yeah,

[00:33:20] Laura Morton: I think parents who do. Have that conversation with their children. I think there's such a benefit to both the parent and the child to give them an environment where they feel safe to talk about their feelings.

Right. And to understand what they're feeling so often, uh, you know, a young child can't really articulate what anxiety feels like. Uh, so you do have to start recognizing certain behaviors, right? What, you know, I think it's really important. Like, for example, I got to put my glasses on because I can't see without them.

But a child who avoids a lot. Avoidance, um, makes anxiety worse. So it's really important that if your child is avoiding going to, I don't know, like, uh, a school dance. Going to school at all, if your child's avoiding, um, you know, wanting to be social, if, you know, all of that are signs that your child is struggling.

Um, and then, you know, there are safety behaviors that we, we need to be aware of, right? Those safety behaviors, what do we do when our child is avoiding? What do we do that then enforces that, right? That says, no, don't worry, you don't have to take the test at school today. I'll call school, I'll talk to your teacher, right?

And then we make it, we make it safe for them to avoid. So I think that there's a lot of things that we really just have to take a step back and, and say like, okay, as a parent, I need to retrain my brain a little bit, right? How, how am I viewing this? But I also have to be a great observer. So what we try to do as parents is we try to solve the problem.

Let me, let me take care of that for you. But so many parents do it because it is that path of least resistance, right? And they're doing it not because they're trying to hurt their child. They're doing it because they love their child. And because they don't want their kid, it's what I said earlier, they don't want their child feeling the way that they do so often.

And so, you know, we try to just protect them. And I, you know, and I think, um, there's a great scene in the film, um, where. There is a mom sitting on the sofa, I don't know if you got this part in the movie yet, but there's a mom sitting on the sofa talking to her daughter about auditions.

[00:35:29] Hunter: Oh my god, that was hard to watch for me.

That was, that was very hard to watch for me. So first I want to say I had to pause and talk to my husband and I was like yelling at the, my screen.

[00:35:44] Laura Morton: What was your, what did you say to your husband? What was your reaction to it? Well, so

[00:35:48] Hunter: I guess I was so, I was frustrated, I was frustrated with the way the mom was talking with the daughter because she cut her daughter off, she didn't listen, and in some ways she was being very honest and open, but in other ways it was, I don't know, I was, I was very frustrated with.

She still seems sort of blameful of her daughter, like, like her daughter wasn't stepping forward, whereas she had gone through the same experience herself, and so she knew what it was like, and it's like, well, have a little compassion for this moment, like, a young child, and your daughter in this moment, who is feeling blamed right here as she's sitting next to you on the couch.

That was my reaction to that.

[00:36:32] Laura Morton: Listen, I have sat through, so we did a year of film festivals. before we, we launched on Amazon. So, you know, you can stream the film on Amazon if, if you're interested in watching Anxious Nation. But, uh, I sat in movie theaters. And I could literally, visibly see people's visceral reaction to that scene.

And what we knew is that it was striking a chord with people for a variety of reasons, right? Um, first I want to say that I give Jackie, that's the mom, so much credit for allowing that scene to be in the film. I, I went to her and said, listen, I just don't know how I feel. I don't want to make you the most hated mom in America.

And... I think it's really important that, that we see this scene, but I, I, you know, look, no one's any wiser if it doesn't live in the film. And she said, look, I, I know who I am. I'm not perfect. And I make mistakes. And if that scene helps another parent recognize their own behavior, whether it's a mom talking to their daughter about auditioning or a dad on the sidelines of a sports field or parents really drilling into their kids the importance of their education and, you know, getting straight A's or whatever it is.

It happens a lot and, and it's a really good opportunity, like you took with your husband to stop, talk about it. Do we do this? Is that us? And if it is, wow, we need to make some changes, okay? And if it isn't, thankfully, then, you know, let's keep doing the stuff that we're doing. But I do believe that so many families will see themselves in that scene.

Because it, she was coming, again, she was coming from a really good hearted place, and she was trying, what she was really trying to say to her daughter, um, is, so for your listeners that don't know about this scene, essentially she was talking to her daughter about, her daughter is an, is a, a singer and an actress, and she was talking to her daughter about going on auditions.

And she just said to her daughter, I don't understand why you don't get every role. It just seems so easy to me. And when I was your age, I was going on auditions, and if I could go back in time, I would be nailing every job, right? It's just, it's just shocking to hear, and, and hear it in real

[00:38:48] Hunter: time. And the daughter's like 11 years old, and had been speaking, and was just like, Oh, you know, taking this in, like, what, like, why aren't you getting all of these?

[00:38:59] Laura Morton: The look on her face is, tells the entire story, right? Yeah. So, you know, I think what's so amazing is that it does elicit important dialogue, as do so many scenes in the film. But that one, I think, is really important because, as I was saying earlier, we hold the mirror up for, for parents in this film and, you know, so often, um, this conversation is not taking place in our home.

And it's so critically important. And then to have the language, like doing the disorder, serving the cult leader, you know, harnessing anxious energy for good, all of these things that you'll get from watching the film that really helps give everyone a common language. And to your point, I think you have to talk to your kids.

So people think that like asking your kid if they've ever had suicidal thoughts is dangerous, and it's not. All of the research shows that talking to them about it actually is beneficial. Because you're taking the shame away, right? And, you know, this is a really, I'm going to share this with you, I don't know if you, if you've heard this from Vivek Murthy, but he said, imagine a high school with a thousand students.

Now imagine 450 of them saying they're persistently sad and hopeless. 200 are saying they've considered suicide, and 100 have actually tried to end their life in the last year. That's 10 percent of our kids. This is, these are important conversations. So this is the state of mental health among our youth.

We, you, you can't put your head in the sand and pretend it's not happening. It is happening. And I don't know a lot of families, if any, really, that aren't dealing with this on some level. So as parents, we have to be responsible and we have to take the initiative. To have those difficult conversations, and they may not go the way that you want them to go, but at least you're opening the door.

[00:40:49] Hunter: Yeah, I think that's a, that's a challenge that we should, we should be accepting. So, we don't want to feed the cult leader. We don't necessarily want to have tough love and push our kids away from us. How do we build the skills we need to build to deal with anxiety?

[00:41:09] Laura Morton: So, first and foremost, you know, family therapy is very important if you're in a position to, to seek counseling, uh, finding a good therapist that you trust, and finding a therapist that, that can work with your family, it's not easy today, um, there, there are too few therapists B For the demand.

Um, but so, you know, uh, I think at the very least creating a family circle. So once a week, sitting down with your family and, and saying, Hey, let's talk about our week. What are, what are your highs? What are your lows? Like we, we play a game at my dinner table every night, high low. And my daughter tells me one thing that was her high and one thing that was her low for the day.

And then I always ask her an additional question. What's something you tried and failed at today? Because I want to take that off of her too, right? And because we don't grow if we don't fail. And even as parents, it's, it's so important to know that this, this pursuit of perfection is just wasted time, right?

There's no such thing as a perfect parent. We have the ability to get better, to become more aware, as Shefali would say, to become more conscious, right? And, and to lead from that place of being a conscious parent. And, which means we're, we're aware of not only how we feel, but what we're bringing to the equation, how our children feel, what they're bringing to the equation, and we create an environment where it is, um, built on, on trust, right?

If your kid feels safe, they'll, they'll talk to you. Um, they have to feel like they're not going to get in trouble. They have to feel like, uh, they can tell you anything. And so many kids just don't feel that way with their parents, right? And so, I think that that, that's not a give me, I think that's earned, I think it's earned by the parents, and I think that the, the kids also earn that, that when they do step forward and they do share with you, hey I tried vaping, you know, or I drank with my friends the other night.

You know, these are all things that as parents, we, we have to learn how, how we react, right? We're not in control of anything but our own reaction. So I think that that's super helpful. I think getting out in nature with your kids is, is really great. I think that, you know, I, my daughter and I walk our dogs together.

We happen, we're lucky enough, we live at the beach. Anytime that we can get down to the beach and take a nice walk, be near the water. Uh, she's off her phone, uh, she's present. We like to ski together. I really like skiing with her because she really can't be on her phone, right? I get her for hours with, you know, her attention is not divided.

You'll see in the film my daughter is very honest about her relationship to social media, um, which has not been great for her and, and I think she has recognized that. Um, so I think, uh, but I don't use the phone as a weapon.

[00:43:59] Hunter: Mm. Like as a power tool, I'm gonna take it away if you do this or don't do this and that kind of

[00:44:05] Laura Morton: thing.

Because it really is the way that these kids feel connected. Right? So if I take that away, I'm taking away any sense of being connected. So we find other ways to, to manage that. And so I think it's really important, um, these kids, if any parent who's tried to take their kid's phone away has, has dealt with the wrath of that.


[00:44:27] Hunter: there's no house phone. Nobody, nobody calls and talks on the phone with each other. They text each other. So yeah, it is taking away, you know, it's interesting because we've had lots of people on the podcast talking about phones and, you know, people who are pro, you know, not giving kids phones until they're ever, and some people are not.

And, and I just, for me, you know, it was like, Oh, well. And this is, this is how they communicate with each other, and if they want to have any avenue of communication with their friends, like, this is the, this is how they do it these days. So yeah. The only thing I

[00:45:02] Laura Morton: do with, and so if you, I imagine a follow up is, so what do you do?

When she's doing homework, the phone is on my desk, right? And so that she can stay focused on her homework, and you know, most of the stuff that they do is on their laptops anyway, right? So she, she has access to whatever it is that she's good at. But at least the phone is on my desk. The phone gets plugged in in my room at night.

So at a certain time, that phone, that's, that's in my room. Because I want her to get a good night's sleep. If our kids are up all night texting their friends or Snapchatting or scrolling on Instagram or the things that they do, they're not getting enough sleep. And rest is so important for our kids. It's important for all of us.

But it's really important for our kids. And I always tell my daughter this, You wouldn't think of going to bed at night without plugging in your phone or recharging that battery so that tomorrow that phone has a full battery and you don't have to worry about that battery dying. You have to think of yourself exactly like your phone.


[00:45:57] Hunter: I like the metaphor. The metaphor. So you're saying we should be talking about, we should be naming anxiety, we should be normalizing. Maybe we talk about our own tools to deal with that. We should get out in nature. We should be mindful of our kids phone and social media use. Yeah. For, for instance, you know, if a listener was asked, what do I do for my 13 year old?

She did get a phone this year, but we got her a. Uh, Bark Phone, where she, you know, we have incredible parental controls that doesn't have a lot of social media at all. So these, do you have anything to add to this list? I mean, I think this is helpful. Yeah. If I was

[00:46:39] Laura Morton: going to give your audience like some action steps, these would be it, right?

Yeah. Become awake. Become aware. Understand what's happening. Right? We're all, we all have busy lives and we're all moving really fast. And, you know, we, we have to become awake and aware of what, what's, what are our children really feeling? What are they going through? And, and what are we feeling? You know, how are we coping with it or not coping with it?

And then I think you have to take an inventory of responsibility, right? How did I get here? And what can I learn? And, you know, because if we keep, you know, um, repeating the same mistakes, we'll keep getting the same results, right? So I think taking that inventory of responsibility is really important, especially for, um, I think you have to partner with the right people.

So if you can. Find somebody that you, that can work with you and your family. I think that that's critical. I think that is a difference maker, but listen, not everyone can afford therapy. Not everybody can get into a therapist. Not everybody has insurance. And even if you do, insurance is another issue. You know, who can you talk to?

Is there a, uh, you know, a pastor or rabbi, you know, somebody that, that you can turn to? Is there somebody that you You know, is a trusted friend that you can turn to, right? Um, but partner with the right people. And most importantly, you know, in a marriage, you, you have to be together on this because when you're separated on this topic.

That the trickle down is really on the job. Um, and then you have to find a remedy, right? So, whatever's happening and occurring in your home, there is, there is a solution. There is something that works. My daughter likes to journal. My daughter really enjoys reading. So, um, she, she does like, you know, going for our walks.

Um, and all of that gives her an opportunity to just stop, reset, and breathe. And none of that costs money, right? Exercise is such a great tool. And, and all of us have the capacity and, uh, the, the, um, access to do something active, um, and then finally, and I think this is another action step, if you are struggling or you're not struggling, reach out and help somebody who is, be that person that reaches out and says, how can I help?

Because we all feel alone in this journey. We all feel like it's just happening to us. And when one person reaches out and says, Hey, it looks like you're going through a hard time. How can I help? It's so meaningful, not just to the person you reach out to, but it also fills your bucket.

[00:49:11] Hunter: I think that's beautiful.

And I'm thinking to what my takeaways are from talking to you about this, Laura. And And I think that I love all those action steps. Those are really beautiful. I love, I love that you're saying to parents, you know, we need to take responsibility for ourselves. Like take responsibility for what you're modeling for your kids.

You know, the way you're, you're thinking and talking to your kids. What I'm also taking away is the idea of, of don't take on your kids, all your kids problems as your own. Like this is something we talk about in mindful parenting is like. Who's problem is it? And if it's not your problem and you have to hold a boundary, like don't feed the cult leader, be firm but kind, right?

Like, but hold that boundary and, and, and don't accommodate. What I'm hearing also is that if we accommodate the, the cult leader of anxiety, our kids worlds get smaller and smaller and smaller, that comfort zone gets smaller and smaller. So it's like a, a mix of, of that. of looking at our behaviors, being firm but kind, holding those boundaries, but also offering, like, looking at actual tools, actual steps we can take that are healthy,

[00:50:20] Laura Morton: are strong.

All of those action steps are something that you could sit down with a notebook and, and just start kind of mapping out, right? Every single one of those action steps. And, and, you know, how do you take inventory? Right? How do you do that? You've got to take a step back and look at it, I think, from an unbiased point of view, but I really like what you're saying because I do think that, you know, the behavior that we exhibit, our children mirror, right?

So if we're anxious, our children, you know, it's that whole nurtured nature debate, right? And the trick here is if you have a child that is anxious. How do you nurture through that nature? If they were born anxious, if they inherited their anxiety, how do you nurture through that nature? There's a difference between nurturing through the nature and accommodating, right?

And that accommodation which feels, you know, like, oh, this, this will solve the problem is actually doing more harm than good. Because it's not teaching our kids resilience. I mean, the world is not a certain place, right? So this is why we're seeing when kids go off to college, we're seeing them fall apart because they're not equipped.

They just don't have the tools to go and live on their own. And I'm not talking about doing their laundry or, you know, all of our kids are probably pretty good at door dashing and Ubering, right? But it's, um, you know, how, how do they cope with the stresses of everyday life? And once they're off to college and they have to make those decisions, you know, a lot of them are really struggling.

And, you know, the average wait time, this was before COVID, the average wait time for an intake appointment on a college campus was three to 12 weeks. And that number is exponentially higher now, post COVID. And again, universities are not equipped to meet the demand of students. So what's happening is students are dropping out.

They can't be there, and we're, we're seeing that even in the absenteeism in, you know, the lower schools, right? So this is, this is something that we really have to tackle. And that absenteeism is just that lack of resilience, that lack of ability to, to work through those challenges.

[00:52:23] Hunter: Laura, thank you so much for coming on to talk to us about this.

This is, I think, a really, really valuable conversation. I think it's a conversation that we need to have. I really appreciate your documentary, Anxiety and Anxiety. I think it's really well done, and I love the little cartoons that you put in there, by the way. They're hilarious at times.

[00:52:45] Laura Morton: Thank you. A lot of those cartoons are like, like 80, 90, 100 years old, right?

Yeah. And when you look at them, and they're so relevant. Visually to what we're talking about. Oh my God, the

[00:52:55] Hunter: birds crying in the nest. What was the, the nest spill up with their tears. Oh my God.

[00:53:02] Laura Morton: Yeah. It's so true. You know, but that to my point, like this is not a new problem. Mm-Hmm. . And it, it is something that we've kicked the can on for decades.

And you know, as we have the opportunity, I have great belief that this generation coming up, because they're so open to talking about it, has the ability to affect great change, right? But change starts at home. We cannot wait for the federal government, our state government, our local government. They're not going to put the resources behind this crisis that we need.

So how do we affect change? It starts with us. It starts with concerned families who really want to do better. And who want to create a better world and a better environment so that our kids coming up in the world, maybe they don't have to raise a generation of anxious kids. Anxious Nation is available on Amazon.

Um, you can go to anxiousnation. com. We have a lot of really cool things happening every month. So, uh, we'd love if you would visit us at anxious, anxiousnation. com. And, uh, if you do watch the film, drop us a line and let us know what you think.

[00:54:06] Hunter: Awesome. Thank you again so much, Laura. I really

[00:54:09] Laura Morton: appreciated this.

This was great. Thank you. You're a wonderful interviewer.

[00:54:21] Hunter: Hey, I hope you liked this episode. I highly recommend watching the Anxious Nation documentary. It is a really good conversation starter in the family. Watch it with your parenting partner if you have one. I don't know, I haven't yet seen if my daughters will watch it with me. Maybe, maybe not, maybe so, we'll see, but I, I highly recommend it.

And hey, if you like this episode, if you make sure, of course, you're subscribed. I love those. Apple Podcast Reviews. They make such a big difference. They're really easy to do, actually. You can just click where you're listening to the podcast and there's like a little blue button that says to leave a review.

And it's very easy. And so actually I want to give a shout out to. Dr. T. N. D. who left a review, five star review, from Dr. Tay, um, they wrote, I am so grateful to have come across this gem of a podcast because of Hunter's perspective and presence on how to give the tools to become a parent who thrives. As a licensed child psychologist, I love the insights shared.

P. S. Episode 403 about play was incredible. Yay! I'm so glad you liked it. And thank you so much for reading a review, or leaving your review. I appreciate it enormously. Dr. Tay. So I hope this episode helps you, helps you talk about anxiety, know about it, uh, be able to handle it, deal with it, um, and all that.

And if you know some, I know some people in my life, actually I'm going to be sharing this episode with, and maybe you know some people that you want to share it with too. So I appreciate all those personal shares, like that's the way we've grown to where we are in this. Mindful Parenting Podcast Community, and um, I appreciate you.

I appreciate you for being here, for listening, for watering your good seeds of parenting more mindfully in your life. And I say rock on, rock on for you for doing those things and watering those good seeds. And thank you for listening. I, I hope you have a great week. I hope this helps. I hope that you have some, some good night's sleeps.

I hope you get to snuggle a fuzzy animal or a small child. I hope you get to laugh and rest and play and all of those things. And, um, I will be back in your ears next week. Thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you so much for being part of this. Thank you for listening. Namaste.

[00:56:59] Laura Morton: I'd say

[00:56:59] Hunter: definitely do it. It's really helpful. It will change your relationship

[00:57:03] Laura Morton: with

[00:57:03] Hunter: your kids for the better. It will help you

[00:57:05] Laura Morton: communicate better. And just, I'd say communicate better as a person, as a wife, as a spouse. It's been really a positive influence in our lives. So, definitely do it. I'd say definitely do it.

It's so worth it. The money really is inconsequential when you get so much benefit from being a better parent to your children and feeling like you're connecting more with them and not feeling like you're yelling all the time or you're like, why isn't things working? I would say definitely do it. It's so, so worth it.

It'll change you. No matter what age someone's child is, it's a great opportunity for personal growth and it's a great investment when someone's down. I'm very thankful I have this. You can continue in your old habits that aren't working, or you can learn some new tools and gain some perspective to shift everything in your parenting.


[00:58:03] Hunter: you frustrated by parenting? Do you listen to the experts and try all the tips and strategies, but you're just not seeing the results that you want? Or are you lost as to where to start? Does it all seem so overwhelming with too much to learn? Are you yearning for community people who get it, who also don't want to threaten and punish to create cooperation?

Hi, I'm Hunter Clark Fields, and if you answered yes to any of these questions, I want you to seriously consider the Mindful Parenting membership. You will be joining hundreds of members who have discovered the path of mindful parenting and now have confidence and clarity in their parenting. This isn't just another parenting class.

This is an opportunity to really discover your unique, lasting relationship, not only with your children, but with yourself. It will translate into lasting, connected relationships, not only with your children, but your partner too. Let me change your life. Go to MindfulParentingCourse. com to add your name to the waitlist so you will be the first to be notified when I open the membership for enrollment.

I look forward to seeing you on the inside. MindfulParentingCourse.

[00:59:19] Laura Morton: com

Support the Podcast

  • Leave a review on Apple Podcasts: your kind feedback tells Apple Podcasts that this is a show worth sharing.
  • Share an episode on social media: be sure to tag me so I can share it (@mindfulmamamentor).
  • Join the Membership: Support the show while learning mindful parenting and enjoying live monthly group coaching and ongoing community discussion and support.