Dr. Rheeda Walker is an award-winning professor of psychology, fellow in the American Psychological Association, and the author of The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health. She is also an expert scholar who has published more than 60 scientific papers on African American mental health, suicide risk, and emotional resilience.

489: Reclaim Your Mental Health 

Rheeda Walker, Ph.D.

We can’t deny it—there is a mental health crisis, perhaps most especially in the African American community. How does it affect kids? Parents? Hunter talks to Dr. Rheeda Walker about how to support “psychological fortitude” in kids and in adults.

Reclaim Your Mental Health - Rheeda Walker, Ph.D. [489]

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*This is an auto-generated transcript*

At the point when I wrote that book, I was more than 20 years into researching and trying to understand not just the risk factors associated with mental health crisis, but also the sources of strength and resilience, especially in the Black community.

You're listening to the Mindful Parenting Podcast, episode number 489. Today, we're talking about reclaiming your mental health with Dr. Rheeda Walker.

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 have 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 international bestseller, Raising Good Humans, and now, Raising Good Humans Every Day, 50 Simple Ways to Press Pause, Stay Present and Connect with Your Kids. Welcome back, dear listener.

So glad you are here. Listen, if you get anything out of this podcast, please, the podcast, help us put it out every week by just telling one friend about it and it can make a great difference to the podcast. I hugely appreciate it. And in just a moment, I'm going to be sitting down with Dr. Rita Walker, an award winning professor of psychology.

Fellow in the American Psychological Association and author of The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health. She's also an expert scholar who has published more than 60 scientific papers on African American mental health, suicide risk, and emotional resilience. So we're going to talk about it. We can't deny it.

There is a mental health crisis, perhaps most especially in the African American community. How does it affect kids? How does it affect parents? I'm going to talk to Dr. Walker about how to support psychological fortitude in both kids and adults. This is going to be a really helpful, really useful conversation, so join me at the table as I talk to Dr. Rheeda Walker.

Thank you so much for coming on the Mindful Parenting Podcast. I'm so glad you're here. Thank you. It's great to be here. I'm looking forward to our conversation. we both have 13 year olds. We have established that, and I was interested to hear, you were starting to tell me about your upbringing. We were just chit chatting, but I thought, I, hey, I better record it for the, Dr. Rheeda, how were you raised and what was your childhood like? I was raised in Savannah, Georgia, and I've lived in the South most of my life. But I would say growing up with both of my parents there, who were, working class individuals and I grew up with my younger sister, who's four years younger than me.

in the household. We got collective messaging that was education is key and critical for all things in life. and also I was very active in my church. And so there was no question about the degree to which I would be a participant in regular church activities, but for both me and my younger sister.

So you're like the oldest child, too. You're the oldest child. You have parents hell bent on academics and regular churchgoers, so you, I'm guessing, were like a very much that achiever kid. Oh, I was, but I was also the kid who, on the report card, regularly got comments about talking too much and talking in class and getting in trouble.

Which as I look back on it now, I guess made sense, but it was problematic for my mom, what are you doing? you're supposed to be focused on school. And I'm like, I've already got all that stuff done. So I was chatting with friends. but yeah, very, I would say very traditional, Southern upbringing.

Traditional Southern upbringing. And for some people that's like traditional. Is that is that code word for authoritarian? for your parents and how they raised you? I would say so. and, it fit my personality reasonably well, I think because I was a high achiever. but I also just was a curious person.

and so I think maybe what that looked like at times was that I would just be more curious in my mind and I didn't get to color outside of the lines a whole lot. but that still is very much with me with my personality even now. and I think a lot of ways it showed up even as my mom telling me what my career choices were pretty early on that I would be a lawyer or I would be a doctor.

Those were the two. And I thought, okay, I'll choose from those two things. And I went with law because I like to talk. neither one of my parents went to college. And as a first generation college student, just trying to figure out all these things. so I was, I, tried to go along, but then when things didn't make sense, then I would do something different because that was still part of my personality.

Yeah. You sound, you, I'm getting a sense of you, Rheeda wasn't afraid. She was, you were like, next thing, let me conquer this next thing. So you went into law. How did you get, end up getting into psychology? I, I thought I was going to be an attorney all the way until I'd say my second year of undergrad.

I was at the University of Georgia. And they had a program for undergraduate students where you could shadow a person in the career that you thought that you wanted. and so I got to do that for a couple, maybe a week or so, not more than a week. And I was, I've always been an observant person and I was able to say, Gosh, these people just don't seem like they're doing something that I want to be doing with my life.

I don't remember. I'm sure part of it was that they didn't necessarily seem excited or enthusiastic. It wasn't like the sexy parts of the law that we see on TV. it was, more of the grueling parts. And that just didn't appeal to me. And so I had to start over, in my second year trying to figure out, okay, classes do I enjoy intrinsically that I can get a degree in?

And so that's how I ended up getting an undergraduate degree in psychology. And of course, folks back then would say, you can't do anything with a bachelor's degree in psychology. So I said, okay, I get one of those PhD things. I don't know really what that means, but I'll get one. and so then my mom ended up with her doctor, so to speak, because I pursued the PhD in it's interesting because you had this extrinsic motivation, all the way through, right?

Like the traditional upbringing and like traditional school and things like that. And then you had to say, okay, extrinsic has led me to this place where I'm, I don't want this. I can clearly see I don't want this as, thank goodness you had that, shadow of person program. And then you had to like really look at your own, look at yourself and say, what do I want?

That's. Beautiful. it's interesting. I wonder what would have happened if you had been like, looked at what you want earlier. Who knows? But anyway, it's interesting. Who knows? I think I decided that I wanted the law because my mom said, that's what you were doing. So I thought, okay, I'll figure out how to make this work.

And I imagine that happens for a lot of people. and then sometimes you get so far into a thing that it's hard to back out of it. So the timing worked out for me, in undergrad to be able to make that, shift. All right. So I'm excited to talk to you about your book. You wrote a, I love the title, The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health.

What inspired you to write this? at the point when I wrote that book, I was more than 20 years into researching and trying to understand not just the risk factors associated with mental health crisis, but also the sources of strength and resilience, especially in the Black community. And it was about 2017 or so that these statistics became available that there was, a crisis emerging.

And what that crisis looked like was suicide deaths increasing for African American children age 8 to 11, while at the same time they were actually decreasing for their white peers. And and I've always done that, just check to see in disaggregating, looking at different groups of people to see if we see the same kinds of patterns.

And that, that was surprising. And my thinking was, one, people need to know about this because, if we don't know that these kinds of things are happening, then we can't attend to them. but also my writing coach said, you have to tell people what they need to do. You can't just sound the alarm.

And so that's how the book came about. That was me accessing, statistical research, my understanding of not just vulnerability, but also protection and strength and resilience. and then using my clinical psychology hat, because I am licensed to practice. I don't, I use my clinical skills to train doctoral students, but using that part of my background to be able to help folks decide, okay, what do we need to be doing for our youth and for our young people.

That must have been incredibly scary for you because your son, who's now 13, would have been, what, 7 at that time, right? At the edge of that statistic. I've always been just mindful, of what's going on for him, his experiences in school. there are some folks who are probably familiar with the idea of the preschool to prison pipeline.

And there seems to be a connection between, the way that African American children in particular are treated at a young age and that having dire consequences for them later in life. And incidentally, my child was someone who they'd said he was trying to get out of the gate at the, yard at his preschool, and we're questioning whether or not he could come back to the school.

as a, I think he was three or four maybe at the time, just doing what kids do. And so my husband and I have always just been mindful of the kinds of environments that he's in, how he seems to be reacting to his day to day experiences and making sure that we're on top of as much as possible, right?

Because we can't be on top of everything. but we've always been highly sensitive to the environments where, he is. And we've been in Georgia, Georgia, we've been in Texas, in Houston, since he was two years old. And what happened when, when he's three or four and they were like, he's trying to get out of the gate.

what, how did you respond to that? I feel like I would have been just like rolling my eyes at these people who tell me something like that for a three or four year old, any three or four year old. That's ridiculous. that was his last day there. he never, we never went, back there.

And then as we talked about it, we actually learned that other people were having other parents were having similar. experiences. and so it's, it's heartbreaking. it's truly heartbreaking. At the same time, who has time to be sidelined about these kinds of things? You pivot and you figure out what, makes sense.

And so we found another, actually a Montessori for him that worked out really very well. Yay, Montessori for the win! I'm, a founding board member of the first public charter Montessori school here in the state of Delaware. And, and it's an incredible school open to all kids in the state of Delaware, which is, exciting because a lot of Montessori schools are closed.

are private schools and it's like an incredible school that goes through eighth grade. what did you, what made you choose that? Can I ask since I'm so Montessori biased? I think that, and, my spouse is, also trained as a psychologist and, we understand the importance of young people having the flexibility.

To be who they are, to access the things that make them unique and different, and for that to be nurtured. And so the messaging that comes through Montessori that just unapologetically supports children just made sense. We certainly weren't going to, roll the dice, with another more traditional type of setting.

So the Montessori made sense, and we also knew that particular Montessori was really very culturally diverse. so yeah, it just, made sense.

Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

Yeah. Yeah. Good. Yeah. I know. I was thinking about that as we were talking about how we both had 13 year olds and, eighth grade and the ages, and I was thinking about that multi age setting and how I just, I feel like that's such an important piece for so many kids that people don't even think about.

That is so vital and how it just like for kids to be able to, Be flexible in their friendships and the ages and to have kids who are older who are friends and younger and to be able to then teach younger kids and all of that, that just very simple device of multiple ages together cuts down on so much difficulty that people have in schools, like from bullying to all kinds of things.

It's amazing. Yeah, it has to be set up. culturally and where there's just an expectation that is, we're not going to be a traditional setting that's trying to do something else over here on the side, like from top to bottom, we all have to be invested in this different type of culture, this different way of having, children engage in trusting children.

because I think that in a many parts of our society, we don't trust. are young people. and that's, unfortunate. But as I will also say that as a mom, I can struggle with that sometimes. I'm always having to remind myself, he's really smart. He knows some things. He has surprised me on occasion.

And so I'm reminded to take a step back. especially when there seems to be a bit of a struggle and to be intentional, about the conversations that I'm having with him. I know. I think that we want to be there, right? Like we want to be there where we trust our kids. And then I think for a lot of us, at least for me, old, things from our culture, upbringing, old thoughts come into our head.

Like he's, she's trying to manipulate me. He or she's trying to get under my skin. They're doing this on purpose. All kinds of things like that come into our heads as parents. And we're, in this kind of generation, like where we're shifting things that we want to be in this place of I'm seeing my child's needs and I'm trusting them and things like that.

And yet internally, we're struggling with the scripts from other generations. Is that what we're finding for you? Oh, absolutely. and at the same time, so it's, I think it is a balancing act because on the one hand, you achieve a certain level of success, using some of the older ways, but we also have to recognize that there are some of the, there's the shortcomings, to some of those older ways.

Kind of like you mentioned, I wonder if maybe you were always, or if I'd never had that binary option with regard to my career. I think I still would have ended up here somehow, maybe. but I also, what I didn't mention was that I started university at, in New Orleans at Tulane University because I thought I was going to go to law school there.

But some of those friends or those friendships that I developed are some of the most important that I have to this day. And sometimes we have a more circuitous route, but we still end up where it is that we're supposed to be. And I do trust that. And so I think that gives me a little bit of grace for myself as a mom.

that I walk the balancing act and I try to trust that wherever my son is supposed to end up, that's where he will, that's where he'll be. I feel you in that sort of a way of thinking. I think that is very helpful. Like no matter what I believe about the world and the universe and how it runs, I find that It's a very helpful mindset to be like, Hey, this, I tell myself this, if this didn't work out, maybe I was going to go down that road and there was going to be a flat tire if I had left actually on time, I wanted to do it right, like that kind of thing.

Okay. We're getting way off, but I love this. I love this kind of, this thinking about these things. You talked about this mental health crisis, these incredible statistics, ages 8 to 11 suicide deaths, increasing pets are breaking and shocking. yeah, I don't know. So what are, let's look into this whole mental health crisis in general because for people of color here in the United States and around the world, it's a different experience that you're growing up.

There are a lot of different factors that are affecting mental health. So what are some of the biggest factors, affecting mental health in the Black community? I think one thing that's been interesting that has, also evolved is this idea of racism and what it looks like. And so in my parents generation and going through, civil rights era, there was a lot, there was baked in systemic oppression, overt racism that was obvious and separation of racial groups.

a lot of the racism is actually still baked into systems and so that's why we see a lot of disparities in health, disparities in home ownership and education and all of those things. But then there are the, this other entity that is racial microaggressions. And so those are some of the more subtle kinds of things that happen that will leave a person wondering, wait a minute, was I too sensitive or did they mean that, or what were they trying to say?

And the research has actually shown that racial microaggressions can be psychologically more harmful than more overt kinds of racism. And a lot of folks, I talk about this in the book so that readers can understand, it's not just this is problematic. Like someone making a subtle comment about, your hair or how it looks or whether or not didn't deserve a job or something like that, and the rumination that happens, and for some people, the internalization of those kinds of things is psychologically damaging.

But then also, couple that with more of an erosion of cultural identity. So one of the reasons that enslaved individuals were able to survive Atrocious conditions was this recognition of who they were, like we are people of strength, we are survivors, we figure these things out, we use creativity and ingenuity and all of those things.

But as we've become seemingly more integrated into society. And I say that because when we look at public schools, we know that something is off at best. but there are more and more individuals who seem to have relinquished that positive aspect of what it means to be an African American person.

And so you couple the reality of Microaggressive, microaggression, racism, all of those things still happening. But the psychological protection or the cover, the positivity of what it means to be an African American person has been eroding. And it's, and that's what I've been seeing in my research. And, the, two of those things together, I believe is why we've been starting to see more of the crisis for, young people.

And we've actually seen it in, young adults also, especially during the pandemic. I can't help but immediately think, I have my niece is a person of color, my sister in law is a Senegalese black woman, and my brother is a, a white guy, and she, she's a 13 year old kid, and she's talked about, in a very diverse area but anyway, she's talked about microaggressions, and my mom, has been like, what does that mean, honey?

she's just a little confused, right? and, And, but the whole idea that it could be more harmful than the overt racism, and I could see that, especially for my niece, in the situation that she's in, she does not maybe have that strong identifier, identifying community, because her mom's international and my brother's, What, a white guy, whatever, right? she may not have that strong protection of community, but that's happening not just in this tiny one person example, right? This is like a larger experience that's happening for people in all kinds of situations. But that example is representative, especially for a lot of folks who identify as having a biracial identity.

Because in that example, neither parent relates to having a biracial identity. And so that can become a challenge, just trying to figure out, okay, am I, white? Am I Senegalese? I'm neither. What does it mean to be both? And then, if there isn't a supportive, as an example, peer environment, then that can be challenging.

And then wondering, not just what does that mean, but if someone says something, it, I'm, feeling offended. I'm feeling hurt by it. But if someone else is saying, Oh, it's not that big a deal, then where do you go to for help and for support, if the folks around you aren't quite sure, how to be, responsive.

So it can be challenging. And like I said, it's representative of a lot of experiences for individuals who identify as biracial. Yeah. I think if the people around you, meaning may just want to, you Be the best in everybody and not assume the worst about what they're saying and that kind of thing.

And, but I guess that kind of thing, while, meaning and while maybe good advice in a lot of situations. May not be the most supportive kind of response to have to, Hey, this happened to me today and I don't know what it was and I feel confused. I'm not, it just feels gross, right? Yeah. Yeah. Oh, wow. Okay.

So what, while we're on it, if some young person or older or whatever says, Hey, this thing happened to me today. I don't know. And it made me feel weird. Maybe it was a microaggression and I don't know how to read it. and, what might be a way that somebody who's in a listening or supporting situation role in that situation, how might a supporter respond more skillfully to something like that?

I will always say to folks that, appropriate curiosity. goes a long way because what curiosity looks like is, tell me more about your experience. Tell me what happened. give that person, invite them, to be able to share what their experience is. so many of us, Hunter, just want to share our story.

we just want to be heard and seen. And when the listener takes that disposition, tell me about it. Tell me what happened. rather than preempting, Oh, I'm sure it wasn't that big a deal, or I'm sure they didn't mean that. how can you really know if you don't know what happened?

and then even after hearing the story, say, as you think about it now, what was most upsetting about that for you? Because sometimes, we do get upset and we just have this visceral response, but we don't take time to try to unpack what was it about that situation. And when you have an opportunity to do that, then you can start to problem solve.

what do I do next? Or how do I respond to that person? Or. If it comes up again, this is what I do because I'm specifically intervening on the thing that made that upsetting to me. And then of course there are other things that are helpful to do in the background. especially as I mentioned about the importance of cultural identity, maybe finding a community of other biracial families, so that there is a larger support.

So the kind of buffer, because the stuff is going to happen, like we can't, keep life from happening. And so it's important to build in protection and buffers, so that when it happens, there's a clear designated place to go. And there's this sense already of empowerment, that things don't just happen to us or don't just happen to our young people, but that they are in fact empowered to be able to navigate those situations.

Yeah, and to respond and things like that. Your answer is a big relief to me because in Mindful Parenting, which I teach, we have, that would be what we would, if anybody comes to you with a problem, whatever the problem is let's like be, reflect back, let's understand it, let's, dive into it.

And a lot of us are afraid. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Like you said, what was it about that was most upsetting to you? And a lot of us are afraid to ask some question like that because we don't want to further upset people. But I think for the listener, what I'm hearing anyway from Dr. Rheeda is that this is a way to help people process stuff.

this is a way for to say this thing happened and talking about it is, a way it can be, is a really helpful way to process these things and help clarify someone's thoughts and feelings around them. Transcribed It is interesting because even when I talk to graduate students, when I talk to other people about being able to connect with someone who is in mental health crisis.

One of the big fears, about someone who may be thinking about suicide as an example is, Oh my goodness, I'm going to make them think more about suicide. I'm going to create more crisis in them. And there's actually research around this, which is wonderful. I love research. Because the research has shown that simply isn't the case.

Like you're not going to put thoughts in someone's head that don't already exist. But on the contrary, if someone is thinking about suicide and they are asked about it, then they have the freedom and they feel affirmed and they feel heard and they feel more comfortable talking about their internal dialogue, talking about their crisis because they know that this person or they can see this person as a safe space where they're comfortable talking about, that level of internal turmoil and psychological struggle.

yeah. I, agree. I can see how that would, help enormously. Okay, so we have this situation where there's not so much over racism anymore, knock on wood, and there, but there are these more of these microaggressions where people's, I, for me, what I, it seems like it, it is when people's, we all have this internalized racism, right?

and these ideas that come out in unskillful ways or maybe even intentionally aggressive or even not intentionally aggressive ways. I don't know. But anyway, it sounds but these microaggressions are happening, and then there's, but tell me more a little bit about this other piece, about people becoming, more uncoupled from the protection of that identity.

Like, why is that happening? Do you know? It's part of who we are with this big melting pot experiment, right? That you, show up and you supposedly check your culture at the door. And increasingly we're living in a time where people are expected to be more Americanized, whatever that means.

That's how we're supposed to exist in our society. And more importantly, it's connected to success. that if you don't present or look a certain way, if you don't talk a certain way, then those individuals are demeaned and the individuals who have the capacity to seem more American, and I'm putting that in air quotes, those individuals have more success.

And that's the way that has been for, generations. And so people are reinforced, not just for, fitting in for the sake of fitting in though, that helps, but also as a avenue or strategy or pathway to success. and it's unfortunate because there is, there's also research that suggests that, having diversity as an example in different industry, in different organizations leads to more creative kinds of ideas.

And so we benefit from diversity, but unfortunately, people have been, penalized for it, unfortunately. And ideally, people are able to retain. If it's their reality, some sort of bicultural identity. So I can exist in one of the more mainstream kinds of spaces, but I also have a strong and positive sense of what it means for me to be, as an example, an African American woman.

Unfortunately, we do get a lot of messaging in our society, where people access stereotypes, negative stereotypes. And yes, for some people, that gets internalized. to the point where folks will say, I'm not black or I'm not African American, I'm just American because they don't want to associate with the negativity that comes with being someone, of African descent.

Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcast right after this break.

I can see that from like the experience of some people around me, I've, heard some situations like that. So let's talk about it in this situation, this black, this mental, health crisis. in terms of moms, in terms of parents, how is this affecting parents and how they go into parenting? I think it can show up in, in a number of ways, but part of what made me or prompted me to write the book was, and, to be sure, I don't identify as a child psychologist.

I'm, I happen to be a mom who is a psychologist. And my thinking was that, parents, teachers, school personnel aren't aware of what is happening. And they need to be aware so that they can intervene on behalf of these young people. if they see something that suggests, this child is having a really tough time today.

a child who is usually really very happy go lucky seems withdrawn, like something has happened. in trying to figure out ways to connect with that child, I think the challenge becomes, as we are increasingly a society where anxiety, worry, hopelessness, depression, fear, all of those things have run amok, that it can be hard to pay attention.

honestly to what's happening to attending to what's happening to young people. And so in my mind, with the first book and also the Unapologetic Workbook just came out, a few months ago, my hope is that when we have more tools in our hands as adults, then we're in a better head space to be available to young people because one, we'll be able to notice the struggle and two, we'll be able to still ourselves because Hey, we get out of pocket sometimes, we'll be able to still ourselves in order to communicate effectively with the appropriate tone of voice and, maybe create creatively because, young people don't always answer the first question or the second question or third question.

So we have to be able to be patient, but that takes a certain psychological disposition and awareness for us, first and foremost, as parents, as adults. Yeah. We need that foundation of grounding, less reactivity so that we can use our whole brain and remember, Oh, what was that playful way I could have said this to my child because they hadn't listened and I had to send it three times.

So, what, are some of the things, so what are the, some of the tools for reducing those ongoing stressors that parents need, in order to have that grounding? I appreciate that question because. It doesn't have to be super sophisticated. I think that oftentimes we're looking for these sort of I don't know, crystal ball, miracle, lightning bolt, type interventions when we really have to be able to access really small, Why?

Because we're all overwhelmed, on many days and just don't have the bandwidth to do sophisticated kinds of things. And so sometimes it takes just a certain level of mindfulness. That is, I'm not in a good space right now. for me, sometimes I'll get to the point where I'm like, if one more person asks me to do one more thing, they're going to get it.

and at that point, I know that I need to completely reset. Sometimes it's listening to music. I have my music playlist. organized around, music that inspires me, music that gets me dancing, music that mellows me out. And I don't have to think about it. I just press play. But I have to, we have to have those music playlists.

We have to put those together anytimes when we're doing okay. Like you can't wait to put that together. stepping outside, when the weather is nice. Now in the summer in Southeast Texas, you can't step outside. You don't want to do that because it's a thousand degrees. But for those who have, access to just like clean air and it's quiet and maybe there's birds, what that does is to center us in such a way that we're not thinking about whatever the thing is that was happening, but it shifts our perspective.

and one of my other favorite things is more preemptive that when I'm in the shower, I'm in the shower. I'm not thinking about who got on my nerves that day. I'm not thinking about everything that I haven't done and need to get done. Like I just feel the water. and sometimes I'll use some bath salts and I smell the scent so that I can feel the water.

Prepare myself either to go down for the night or, to get ready for the day. And I think that it's easy for us to go to work when we get in the shower, but it really is a gift that we can give ourselves to just be in the moment, just when we take our shower. Mindfulness of the shower. That's a beautiful time to practice mindfulness.

Just, here I am in the shower. I love that. Okay, so then, We're using those simple tools, we are, what you're describing first and foremost requires a some self awareness, Hey, I'm aware of right now, I'm not in a great place to communicate skillfully, or I need some support and what are those things I can do, right?

So this, kind of self awareness and that what I'm hearing from what you're saying a little bit is a little of this restraint when you're in that inevitable place we all get to where you're just, overwhelmed and, it's not the great, the best time to make sure the recycling goes out.

Exactly. Because there's always something to do, right? There's always something. Okay, so how can then we as parents recognize the mental and emotional health problems in our children? Because, you described this we, we talked about this horrifying statistic of 8 to 11 year olds. So what is it that we are needing to see that maybe we might be missing?

because every child is different. As we know, one of the most straightforward and accessible strategies is just attending to when they seem different. There is some shift in their personality, and that includes, for a child, as I mentioned earlier, who's usually talkative and lively, who shifts into a place of being, withdrawn, maybe more sullen, but also a child who, is more quiet typically, but all of a sudden becomes really very talkative, unexpectedly, and so whatever the shift is for that child, making sure to ask questions and, not to ask questions in a way that is, there wasn't anything that happened at school today, right? or there wasn't anything that happened at lunch today, right? Cause that's an automatic no. but to ask open ended questions or maybe make observations like, you seem, like maybe something is different for you today.

and then maybe walking away, depending on the child because, for children who are more apprehensive about sharing what's going on for them, like they need space and they need to know that we as grownups respect their space. but I think, just attending and noticing and also communicating that, if you ever want to talk about it, or maybe we could tell a story about it.

maybe it's not a story about you, but just, a story about maybe some things that happened today. And that's where the creativity comes in, as I'm sure many of your listeners know, in talking to young people and trying to get through to them in meaningful ways. Has that, have you, as your son has grown up and when he was younger, has, telling me a story about something?

Has that worked? has that worked for you? Tell me about it. I'm sure it's worked on an occasion or two, like nothing works consistently and that's the thing. And that's why we have to be creative because what works on Tuesday in January is a rap in June. and so we have to come up with different kinds of things.

And so sometimes it is, When something's happening for me, this is how I feel, I've used that. One of the things that I use is a 0 to 10 rating. and I talk about this in the Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health that is one of psychological fortitude. But then I adapt it in different ways.

And so my son, as an example, and, I'll, share this story just because it's always one that every time I say it just brings a chuckle to me. I remember near the beginning of the pandemic, I got some bad food and I was feeling awful. he was nine at the time and he came downstairs, he saw me not doing so good, but he asked, mom, are you okay?

And I said, I'm fine. Of course I wasn't fine, but that's what, that's what parents do. And so he said on a scale from zero to 10. How are you doing? and I think for a second I probably forgot like who I was and that I wasn't feeling well because it caught me off guard, but that's something that I have always done with him.

if he's got a tummy ache, if his foot is bothering him, if he gets a headache, I'm like, okay, on a zero to 10, zero being no pain at all and 10 as much as you can imagine. Psychological fortitude has more layers to it than that, but essentially. Trying to understand, with a quantitative measure, what your discomfort looks like.

Incidentally, when I had that bad food, I told him I was about a five or six. And what I love was I could see his wheels turning because he had to figure out, what do I do with this information? and he said, mom, do you want some water? And, that was some of the best water I've ever had.

Because my child. assessed what was happening and then generated an intervention at nine. And that is something that we can do, as parents, for ourselves, that we can do for our children, and that after a while we start to socialize our children to do that with us. And it's really incredibly easy.

so yeah, so he knows that, one way or another, I'm trying to figure out what's going on for him. And he knows that. I, that he could share things with me, even if he can't share them right away, he knows that I'll be back eventually. I'll figure out the question to ask, even if it's days later.

Yeah. Yeah. So it's about being present. It's about being curious. It's about buying, not giving up that sort of pleasant persistence. Yeah. I, the other day with my 13 year old, I was like, okay, what was a rose and a thorn from school today? And she was like, And it was like, oh, suddenly there was more to tell me than school was fine.

It was interesting. it's oh, okay, we got to like work, work these things. I love that he showed you that compassion and, your, You're just being human around him, just allowed that to come through. You mentioned a couple times psychological fortitude. Okay, what is it? Why is it so important?

I introduced it in the first book because I didn't want to, have to fight through the stigma associated with mental health. Because too often people hear mental health and they think, that doesn't have anything to do with me. I'm not having a nervous breakdown, so I'm great. But we know mental health exists on a continuum.

And so Psychological Fortitude is that 0 to 10 rating of one's capacity to take care of their responsibilities, basically. So like at work, at school, at home, with families, to be able to take care of one's own needs. Physical health, and especially, for those of us as we age, like there are things that we have to do to take care of our physical health, to be able to tap into our life purpose, because I truly believe that for a lot of folks, the reason that we were put here on this planet just gets lost at times.

And so we have to be able to connect with that while also dealing with some of the threats. And, the threats look like, racism, it can look like sexism, it can look like the day to day microaggressions that happen that kind of undermine us being able to take care of our responsibilities.

Like we have to be prepared for those things. And so the zero is I've got nothing in the tank and that person probably needs a professional intervention of some sort. But the 10? is I'm cooking with grease. I haven't, met people who have regular tens, but as long as you're, seven and a half, eight and higher, the assumption is that you're doing okay.

But at the point when, we start to hang out below seven for days and weeks, What that suggests is that something needs to happen, and that something usually looks like adding more joy to our life. Something that, you know, like intrinsically joyful, but also maybe removing some of the stress and burden that we carry.

I love that. Adding more joy. I think that's so sometimes it's, I feel like it's so hard for so many moms in particular to add joy because we, many of us, I don't know necessarily about the African American community, but like the idea of the self sacrificing mom is so pervasive.

And just this idea that we're supposed to just give up all fun when we're parents and we're just supposed to be these sort of automatons that take care of our children's needs. And that's the only thing that's important to us is so soul sucking and it just doesn't help us become better parents.

And it's. Frustrating, but a lot of us deal with that kind of thing hanging on our back. Oh, absolutely. And then also to add, in the African American community, because part of the cultural worldview isn't just your, nuclear family. It's the extended family, sometimes it's the people at the church, it is, everyone else and, then you're last.

And so it does take some counter conditioning, so to speak, to say, you know what, I'm going to take care of me today and I'm going to be intentional about my own psychological fortitude and I'm So that I have the wherewithal to be able to pour into and support others, including, the family. I love that because you're saying like, yeah, the community and the expectations can be something that kind of undermines us if we're always putting that first, but it's also part of the what is like that protective identity element, right?

So it's like you're walking this messy middle path, you're, inviting people to walk this messy middle path of hold on to this. This is valuable, protective identity and have boundaries, hold onto yourself. This is incredibly important too. Yes, absolutely. this, has been so lovely to talk to you, Dr.

Reid. I really enjoy it and I really appreciate you taking the time. I know you have a busy full life and, but just before we go, where can people find you and then is there anything we missed? That, you want to add to our conversation that we, we forgot in there. Dr. Rheeda Walker is probably the best place to go to find me because my links are there for all of my social media, YouTube, things of that nature.

And for those who may not. R H E E D A. I was just about to say that. Okay. So it's not your usual Rita. It's spelled R H E E D, as in diamond, A. So Dr. Rheeda Walker, did I say my entire name? Dr. Rheeda Walker, dot com, R H E E D A. And so that's the easiest place to, to find me and what I've been, what I've been up to.

And, I hope. That one take home message is that despite our labels and the hats that we wear as moms, as parents and caregivers, that we are intentional about how we do what it means to be mom and that we define it in the ways that make the most sense to us. So I can't be the kind of mom that my mom was because I'm a different person.

And so we have to be mindful of. of how we want to live our lives and that we can also then be intentional about the decisions that we make to protect not just our children, but also our own psychological fortitude. Yes. I love it. I love this. Psychological fortitude. That's going in the title, Dr. Rheeda. I love that.

Thank you so much for coming on the Mindful Parenting podcast. It's been a real pleasure and a joy to talk to you. Great. It's been fun talking to you.

Hey, I hope this episode was helpful for you. I think that we all need some psychological fortitude in our lives, and we can cultivate that, right? We can just make, take little bit by bit steps towards it, and I think that's the most positive kind of change we can make is that bit by bit, step by step change, and, that's what we do inside Mindful Parenting, support each other, help make those changes, help see those.

Places we need to make those changes and, and I love doing that work to support families. So if you want to learn more about that, go to mindfulparentingcourse. com, join the wait list. yeah, and I hope this episode has helped you. If you are a person in the African American community, I hope that this spoke to you especially, and if you're not, I hope that it spoke to you too.

We all need psychological fortune, so yes, wishing you a week full, filled with strength, but also with ease and with flexibility and fun and silliness and Good night's sleeps. I wish you many good night's sleeps this week. May it be universe. I commend it to the listener. They shall have good night's sleeps.

Okay. It is, now working its way through the universe to you, my friend. thank you so much for listening. I'll be back again to talk to you next week. Namaste.

I'd say definitely do it. It's really helpful. It will change your relationship with your kids for the better. It will help you 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 this working? I would say definitely do it. It's 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 great investment in someone's family. I'm very thankful I 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.

Are 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 us soon. 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 mindfulparenting.org. I look forward to seeing you on the inside. MindfulParentingCourse.com

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