Hey, what's up? This is John with the Dr. John Boloney show, I hope you're doing well. Hope your neighbors and you are getting along. I hope you're being kind to the people all around you. Hope you're at work. I hope your family is doing well. I hope everything is going OK. Today, we've got a special episode. I'm going to interview a Nashville legend, Miss Cissy Goff. She is the director of Child and Adolescent Counseling at Daystar Counseling here in Nashville, Tennessee.
She's been counseling kids for 30 years. And one of the things I love to do when I sit down to talk to mental health professionals is I like to pretend that I'm asking them questions for you guys. I like to pretend I'm asking them these big global, theoretical, practical questions for others. What reality? I'm just asking questions because I'm just a fumbling dad trying to figure this out myself. And I got two little kids. I'm married. I got two dogs running around.
I've got neighbors. I'm trying to figure this out, too. And so on the special edition, I'm talking to Cissy Goff about raising daughters, raising sons, how to be married amidst all this chaos. What do you say to your kid when they come to you and ask you what racism is, what covid-19 means? Why can't we hang out? What about politics? How do we navigate these messy, messy issues with little ones? We're so glad you're with us.
OK, so we were just talking off off line. Tell me about your practice here in Nashville.
So we see kids from about four up through 18 and we have individual counseling, we have group counseling. And then we have in the summer, we have two different kind of summer programs, ones like day camp. And then we have an overnight retreat program, two for the kids that are involved.
And how many how many families are you running through there? Nineteen hundred currently a year. Well, just right now in our practice, we're seeing nineteen hundred families wholly.
So you'll you'll rotate out. Yeah. Yeah. Thousands. Yeah. Yes. And I've been doing it almost 30 years so I don't even know how many thousands. If you're not even 30 years old. There's no way.
No way. Thank you. Yes.
OK, so one of my favorite things about sitting down with mental health professionals is I like to ask veiled questions about your expertise, about my own kids and family so I can sound like I'm speaking to the masses when really I'm trying to just steal insights from you that I can take back to my own house. And that's makes me happy. You got the same expertise that. No, you got thirty. No, I don't have. I wish. I wish.
So your most recent book, Brave iTunes Girl's Guide to Beating Worry and Anxiety.
Tell me about the origin of this so well, pre covid I our publisher, actually, based on another book called Are My Kids on Track, came to me and said, Will you write a book on anxiety for little girls? And you would totally get this. I was like, not unless I can write one for parents too. Yes. As a doesn't matter. Right.
So I wrote pre covid one for elementary age girls because that's the average age of onset these days and one for parents. And then the pandemic started and all of a sudden I wasn't as worried about the little girls, but I was worried about teenagers. And so at that point I thought, I need to write one for them too. And so I cranked out the spray book in like ten weeks. Good for you, because, you know, we were home and kind of bored at that point.
In the most common question I'm asked above and beyond any other question is what has happened in the last twenty five years that has made everyone so anxious and depressed. And I've got my own theories and whatever about it. If you had to walk back, you start. I mean, you've been in a practice five years and all of a sudden you watch stuff to start to turn underneath us.
Right. Where would you point a mom and her dad who's just sitting there with their face in their hands? Where would you point them to some of the origins of this madness?
Well, I mean, you know, genetically, if a parent you have anxiety, your kids are seven times more likely. And then I think technology is a huge piece of it, just what it does to our brains in terms of almost mimicking a state of anxiety. Social media is a huge part of it. I also really believe and I read I read that I love China graciously.
Yes, yes. Yeah. I read twenty three books on anxiety to get ready. So I did a lot of research. And the two most common parenting strategies are escaping avoidance. So the child feels concerned or worried and the parent pulls them out. Yes. And I think that's making the problem worse. And part of it, I think you're a lot younger than I am. But part of it, I think, is we grew up and our parents weren't in counseling.
No, of course, we weren't even talking about any of these things. And likely I mean, I wouldn't my age group wasn't in counseling years. Might have been more. Maybe you. No.
And so I think we're seeing a lot of parents are overcompensating for what they feel like they didn't get. And so now they're trying so hard to understand and empathize that they're stopping there. And the in the books, they have it broken down into understanding, help and hope, OK? And it's like they're doing a great job with the understanding, but not moving them into help and the coping skills to work. Through it, and so they end up blazing this trail ahead of them so that their kids will be OK.
Totally, yes. Which then robbed him of the ability to learn some of these skills, right? Exactly.
Yeah. And in the books that came up with this definition that anxieties and overestimation of the problem and an underestimation of themselves.
So it's that gap between what I can do and what I think I need to be doing totally.
And when we rescue them, we're saying, yep, you're too small.
Then then they run up against the next thing and they immediately start looking around for who's going to pluck them out. Right, right. OK, so I have a five year old girl and she your oldest.
She's my youngest. She's young. I've got to tell you, she's my so I got a 10 year old boy and a five year old girl.
That's fun. It's super fun.
And I my wife and I, my wife was she graduated before me.
We were so, so arrogant after our son, after a couple of years, we just thought everyone else sucks at parenting.
We're geniuses. Clearly, we need to quit our jobs and go teach people how to do this.
And then my daughter came along and we realized we have no idea what we are doing. Right. We just rolled the dice. Well, on the first round. What should I be doing now?
What can I be doing? This is me, not professional. Is me coming to you humbly? What can I be doing right now to make sure or to at least put some breadcrumbs along the way so that my daughter can have as good a body image, as good a reflection image as possible?
I've heard everything from it's the it's the dad's responsibility to make sure your daughter grows up healthy. I've heard that it's that all she will do is watch my wife the way my wife processes her own image. And I've heard everything in between tell me something or something if you think I can do right now to instill that in her.
Well, I don't know that I would say I wouldn't probably lean in either place. I wouldn't waste my name. Yeah.
So I mean, I think I think to think about food is fuel OK? Obviously to talk about strength instead of ever talking about weight. I mean, I have so many I've had so many moms over the years who are critical of their daughter's body.
And I have never I mean, I jokingly say I've never had a girl who says my mom told me I need to lose some weight. And she says, let me get on that. You know, that's how it backfires every time.
And so I think as a dad, I mean, I think I definitely think it's great to tell her she's beautiful inside and out, that you're talking about all of where beauty comes from in her and that it's really resonating inside of her more than anything in that place outward.
But I think to you as a dad have this I think as women were so intense and I think as men, you have this ability to have a lightheartedness and help them move toward risk taking in a way that is challenging, but in a playful tone. OK, and so I think when she learns that she's capable and strong and she can step into things with you that are out of her comfort zone, I think that capability and competence are, I think, linked to self-image and even body image.
I think it all comes together.
Yes, yes, yes. So I think speaking to the strengths of who she is and helping grow her confidence and an ability in a way that's very unique to who you are as a man, how do you grow a kid's confidence besides letting them try and fail?
It seems to be the link, right? Yeah, because I can't tell them right, but. But you do that, too, right? I mean, I think it's both. I mean, they're going to roll their eyes and she's going to say, you have to say that because you're my dad. But I would say say it anyway, OK? You know, one am I have a friend who is really confident, probably in the most confident women I know.
And we were at a dinner party one time. And she said that when she was growing up, every time she walked down the stairs of her home, like every time, no matter how she was dressed, her dad whistle the theme song to Miss America.
Oh, well, not awesome. Which I mean, she was never in a pageant in her whole life, but I love that he was saying when you walk in the room, I'm going to stop and pay attention to you. Yep. And I think just that level of engagement even plays into her confidence in a really significant way. And that's not taking her on some elaborate date.
No, it's just the little things. Yes. Total.
I notice that my kids from however different they are, they both if I were to distill them down into one sentence, one one question, it would be, please see me.
And that seems to be the most pervasive, overarching thing about their behavior, whether my son is trying to get straight A's, my daughter tennis to on fire or vice versa.
Right. It is pleasing me. Right. And if I every time I can jump the front of the line and make sure they know before they even have to perform. Yeah.
See you. Just because you're you right. It just seems that the air in the room gets louder. OK, so one of the things you wrote about in your book, which I love and you remember I made my nerd heart feel good, you talk about this idea of co rumination, right?
So we talk a lot about on this show, this idea of rumination, this idea. It's just it's just spin and then spin. And we think that we are thinking about important things. And so we give ourselves a pass. Right. So we'll sit there and have imaginary conversations that were never going to have.
Yes, right. We flex that in a toughness that we absolutely are not right. But we're thinking about hard things, about when the world's going to end and how much bullets we're going to have. All the stuff right. Yes. NonProductive thinking. Yeah.
But then you get into co rumination in this balance between we have a dance right, where I just spend all my time telling you how bad things are and you give me an audience. Right.
How do I balance that in my kids. Right. Because I want them to be heard and I want them to be listened to. And I think one of the worst things men do is we run in and try to give facts, based solutions to everything instead of just being with right and reasoning.
How do I both here and avoid that combination cycle? It's just such a mess.
You know, I think where I think it can be I love to think about marriage counseling one on one, you know, the first time you ever get a marriage counseling. And one of the first things you learn to do is reflective listening. What I hear you saying is and it sounds so silly stuff solving you listen.
Right. And I mean, I remember being in graduate school and they taught that and me thinking that's not going to do a thing. And then all of a sudden it's magical. Yeah. When you do it.
And so I think no matter what age your kids are to build a say back, I really hear that you're frustrated or I get that you're worried about that or understand I mean, seeing them and saying back to them. And then I'm a huge fan. I always just talk about empathy and questions. Sometimes that's the only thing I'll say to a parent in a whole session. So being empathetic and then moving towards what do you want to do about it?
What do you feel like God's called you to do in this? Who do you want to be in this?
Because I think when we're fixing it for when we're problem solving for him, we're going back to that definition of anxiety. Not only can you not do it, you can't even figure it out. And so I've got to do it for you. But when we come back with questions, empathy and then questions were saying, I think you're capable like you got this.
So there's that. I live by two. Creed's one. You don't need to say anything to your kids because they're watching you. If you want to live a certain way, you have to live it because they're watching you. Yes. And the second is let them know that they're seen. But that takes out my core defense mechanism, which is my advice. Right. Right. So I want everyone listening to this, too. Here's one way smarter than me on most occasions, the lesson your kids need is advice.
Your advice. Yes. How do you teach a parent to shut up, to just stop talking you like I did that.
I pointed it to parents being the listeners that talking about that was good. Yeah. You know, I mean, what I will do, my counseling office is say I'm out with a couple recently and they are repeating the same thing over and over and over, especially with adolescents by you know, by the time you hit that point, they've heard everything.
You have to say it, all of it. And so I said to this couple, has she heard you say that before?
And they said, yes.
And then I said, then stop saying what she needs now is for you to feel like she likes you, Peerce.
Just shut up. My sister and I have a joke. My dad was a homicide. It was a SWAT hostage negotiator. So he got people off a building right now.
And we have this fireplace in our old childhood home where my dad would sit in one recliner and my mom and I've told the story publicly, so they won't be embarrassed and they would talk to us. And we know how many bricks were in the fireplace because we'd heard it. Yes, we knew. You just click and you glaze over. Right.
And it was that idea of being talked at versus talked with or heard. Yes. OK, all right.
So this is maybe a messier question since we know the kids watch you, right?
Hey, give me the universal husband here.
Some tips on how I can love my wife. How can I love my partner enough in ways that my daughter. And even my son will pick that up, right, because I want her not to have a frontal lobe understanding of what love is, but I want her to see it. What are some things that couples get wrong when it comes to loving each other in a way that's demonstrative?
Well, I think with girls in particular, girls are so intuitive from a really early age and they start to pick up on the differences in your parenting and they start to manipulate it so good.
And so act like one of the best things we can do for girls is to present a unified front, OK? Over the years I have had way too many stories of things like I remember a girl sitting in my office and saying to me, well, my mom's really strict and my dad and I think which however, is scary already.
Yeah, they're like investing in counseling already or marriage counseling maybe for her later. And so I think enjoying your wife, presenting a unified front. I mean, of course, you're going to have disagreements, but arguments need to have the be had behind closed doors.
And I would recommend two sets of closed doors because girls listen up. I mean, I hear so many girls talk about sitting at the top of the stairs and listening to their parents argue downstairs, you know, so I think those are probably two of the best things.
So I've gotten advice in the past to argue in front of your kids, not and not wildly, so that they can see an arc of a relationship where this is what a disagreement between two people who love each other. And then the next morning they're having breakfast together. Everybody smile and laugh. And that must be what that looks like, right? Yes. What's the balance between that? I guess that's the balance between that disagreement versus a we need to get behind closed doors off for a minute.
It gets really angry. And I think specifically if it's about them, because what will happen is if it's about them, one of you is often going to be siding with your child and feeling like the other parent is being too strict.
And so when that happens, that's where I think girls can step into all that Freud stuff they start owning. Yeah, yeah. I'm going to triangulate myself in here between my parents. And so I think those are the arguments that feel more concerning to me as primarily counselor to girls, that they're going to start to work that later on.
Is it true that I hope it's true because I see it almost every single show, whatever it is that you alluded to, this kids feel the tension, the relational tension.
Yes. And they tend to backfill that tension with it must be my fault and they start trying to solve it in these ways.
Is that right? Yes, absolutely. OK, yeah.
And they start solving it. It's been my experience that kids, whether they get into stuff that we've all said is not a good idea, whether it's they're going to run off and make straight A's, they're going to tuck their shirts in and they're going to try to perfect their body image. That really on the arc is the same behavior.
It just we reward some of it, unfortunately, and then it can still pathologies itself, can still get off the rails there. And then we go to war against other behaviors.
But really, they're just trying to I guess it goes back to being seen. But they're just trying to perform, right?
Yes, absolutely. And I mean, that's, you know, with anxiety right now, girls are leading the statistics and boys are taking them for treatment more, whereas girls are more anxious. And I think it's because of exactly what you said. I think boys often are more explosive. And so we're seeing their behavior and it's concerning.
And girls who are anxious, they're imploding from the inside exploding and they're perfectionistic and they're doing great in school and parent teacher conferences, the teachers say, I wish every child was like her, but we're missing that. It's fueled by the same thing, this panic inside of we've got to live up to the expectations.
So how do you then you're going to get me all fired up here and it's just another day.
So what do I say?
As a parent, I know my daughter is not doing well and the teacher is saying I you know, you can feel your your seven year old or 12 year old, your 14 year old start to withdraw.
Yeah, they're still they're still checking the boxes. Are they going to school? They're still getting the grades good enough. You know, you're losing your kid and you can't put your finger on it. And you've got a teacher, you've got a pastor at some church. You've got adults and their soccer coach saying, I would do anything for a team full of those. Right. And then I got a boy who's a knucklehead and rambunctious and so kind and so compassionate.
And you can watch them grinding through that distraction to get their grades.
And I've got a teacher saying, I don't want the kid in my class anymore. What how do you how do you equip what would you equip parents with to to go into those conversations?
Well, I think I would say trust your gut as a parent because you're going to have a million people.
You see that she's making me look so smart.
Oh, my gosh. Do this is this is this whole episode.
Everybody's just for me it's one hundred percent for me. I have a low self-esteem and should make me feel better. Yes. OK, yeah.
I mean. You know your child better than anybody and and I think just like with our health, you've got to advocate for yourself and for your child. And so even if it takes you saying things and putting yourself out there and going back over and over, trust your gut and follow it.
So as someone who works with families a lot, how many times you have your own kids now?
OK, you don't OK counseled thousands of them over the years, but I have a two year old nephew. OK, so how would you answer this question for me then?
The longer I go, the more I wish I could walk back.
That makes sense. How do you teach a parent to forgive themselves? How about that?
The more I can I go, oh gosh.
I wish I could have that conversation back. Are on frickin black. I wish I could. How do you not let that pile up as a parent and you can begin to discharge that that pain and then move on. You can't keep hearing that around with you.
Well, I mean, I think it all gets used at some point and. If this generation of kids is feeling more pressure than ever before to be a perfect parent, the fact that you weren't is only going to help them alleviate that when they get to their own parenting. And I think, you know, again, you're younger than I am, but I think so many of us never had parents who said, I'm sorry, will you forgive me?
And and they kids today feel so much pressure to be perfect. And so as their hero, for you to say to them, I blew it, I'm sorry, will you forgive me? Even if it's five years later? I've been thinking about a conversation we had once, and I wish I'd done that differently. Like what a powerful message for them that validated values.
Then I think saying I'm sorry to your kids is the most important thing you can do is a fair.
Yes, absolutely. It's fair. Yes. I think anybody apologizes to anybody these days is pretty awesome. Yes.
And failing in front of them. Yeah. You say that I blew that one. Yes. And come with me as I go make it right. Yes.
So good. OK, so.
My counseling session is almost over here, how much time we have, James? Another hour or two. OK, good. We're going to keep going. Good. OK, here's my last question. At what point? Let me just back up. This year was a mess. We all experienced it. Yes, our kids experienced it. And every single parent I know from a parent of four year olds to parents of twenty four year olds had to navigate.
How much do I tell my kid? When do I tell them? What do I tell them? How much do I shield them from, hide them from, etc.? What what insights do you give to parents when they are navigating?
How much of these issues covid George Floyd racism stuff and politics? How much of that how do you teach a parent to navigate that?
Well, the first thing I would say is you always want to be the source as their parents in all things. They need to feel like they know where you are on things and that they can come to you with anything. And so when we avoid topics, I think we take ourselves out of being the source a lot of times. And so I would say start young, especially if you feel like they've heard about it somewhere else and give them really short just less than a paragraph of information.
You know, hey, here we have this pandemic that started in our world. Tell me what you've heard. I mean, I would immediately go back to them and let them tell you, because often they haven't heard much or they've heard something wacky at school that's so often hear it.
And I think so many times we end up having those conversations out of our own panic. And so we give them more information than they even need. But it's about us and it's not about them.
Yes, I've got a lot of this help. Odali So I would say a little bit then tell me what you've heard and then ask me questions. And then that way again, they're kind of leading because they I mean, in all things, even if we were talking about parents getting divorced, kids ask the questions that they're ready for the information. And if they don't ask, they can't handle it a lot of times. OK, so those would be my main things.
I would say in terms and it's been my experience that you if you are going to engage in a kid, you got to tell the truth. Yes, absolutely. I've just seen too many folks. Round about the truth or lie to their kids or skip over stuff, and then suddenly five to 10 secrets always come out. Secrets always come out. They always come out. Yeah, I'd rather hard things come out and my kids know my dad's an idiot, but he tells a truth versus right.
My dad lied to me. I'd much rather this over that. Yes. Huh.
So what's the what's what's the one thing? As a parent, I got to know me and my wife was sitting there looking at our two kids running around the yard. Tell us what we need to know right now. Well, to see God help me, I.
I think we would probably, as a staff at day, start collectively say that we have had more parents in our offices in tears in the last six months than we've ever had. Hundred percent have experienced it too. Yeah.
And so I would say, number one, you're doing great listening. You're doing great with your kids, whatever's going on with them, that just the fact that you're here and showing up and trying right now in twenty twenty one means you're doing great. We gave Josephine Cigarette's for the first time.
She got super calm last night and I'll tell my wife that's not great. You're doing great now.
Yeah, I think that's one thing I would say. And then, you know, the other thing, as I was reading, writing the first two books on anxiety, it was pre pandemic. And one of the things I was worried about is how I felt like kids were less resilient than they had been in generations.
And I think we were part of it. Like all those living my best life t shirts and hashtag best they ever, all that stuff, which, by the way, I haven't heard in a year. Nope.
But I think we were making it worse because they felt like something's wrong with me because I'm going through something hard. And I firmly believe the kids growing up right now are going to be more resilient than kids that we've seen in generation by a hundred miles.
Yes, I think there's so much hope.
Yeah, I've even seen some preliminary studies that kids are have adapted, especially young kids, to usually there's a focus on males when you're talking and they're already being able to shift and recognize eye crinkles and so quick.
And so some of these things I was so freaked out about may end up not coming right. Not coming to pass. And it ends up being my drama that I'm passing on my kids as opposed to me trying to protect them in any noble way or whatever.
So. All right. So Sissy Goff, child counselor extraordinaire, thank you for your time.
You're so awesome, you people that come through here that everyone is saying, oh, they're a great person that you should interview and my kids go there. Right.
This isn't like a high level referral or this is like, no, this is where my colleagues put their put their money in with their most trusted resource.
So these two books. Extraordinary. Where can people go get these anywhere?
Books are sold and we have a web we have a Web site that's raising boys and girls. Dotcom excellent. Raising boys and girls, dot com sissy golf. If you have a child, I was going to say if you have a child suffering with anxiety, I'm going to find that if you have a child, you should pick up these two books. Thank you so much for your time. You're saying to be here and I hope you guys keep doing the great, great work that you all are in our community.
Thank you so much.
Hey, thank you so much for joining me and my new friend, Sissy Goff. If you're interested in her books, if you've got kids that are struggling with anxiety, if you've got daughters who are struggling with anxiety, check out the show notes and we will list the resources there. I hope everybody in your life is doing well. We're not gonna have any lyrics today. We're just going to end it here. Thank you for joining us with the Dr.
John Deloney show.