The Opportunity Gap
In part one of our conversation on mental health, learn about the unique ways a parent’s journey can influence a child’s mental wellness. Get tips on how to support kids’ mental health.
decisions make words say, parents play huge role supporting child’s mental health. Kids may always looking parents perfect pillars strength. looking healthy ways cope life treats unfairly. So, it’s essential parents caregivers make mental wellness priority. This episode Opportunity Gap explores importance good mental health kids learn think differently parents. Listen Kier Gaines, licensed therapist digital creator, explains: The unique challenges parenting impacts kids’ mental health Social media’s influence kids’ self-esteem social interactions Ways parents promote good mental health child Related resourcesHow social media affect mental health? It’s complicated.UCLA Health MARC Guided MeditationsMental Health America: Self-help tools Kier Gaines’ Instagram YouTube channelsWunder UnderstoodEpisode transcriptJulian: Understood Podcast Network, "The Opportunity Gap." Kids color ADHD common learning differences often face double stigma. there's lot families address opportunity gap communities. podcast explains key issues offers tips help advocate child.My name Julian Saavedra. I'm father two assistant principal Philadelphia, I've spent nearly 20 years working public schools. I'll host.Welcome back, listeners. today's episode, we'll kick Part 1 conversation importance mental health lens Black fathers. We'll talk unique challenges parents color often face challenges impact kids. We'll dive world social media talk influences kids' mental health. we'll highlight resources promote good mental health kids parents.To help get this, want introduce today's guest, Kier Gaines. Kier Gaines licensed therapist public figure uses platforms amplify importance mental health. He's inspired millions people proactive journey reframe way think life especially parenting. He's speaker events — wait one — White House. White House. White House. Yes! honored Sterling K. Brown Oprah Winfrey OWN's "Honoring Kings, Celebrating Black Fatherhood."Welcome show, Kier. nice here, brother. nice you.Kier: Appreciate you, man. Thank on.Julian: illustrious guest here. don't know we've done deserve this, really appreciate here. biography shows, you've done lot powerful things far. And, know, like kind jump talk shop little bit hear people hear experience been. first foremost, Kier, what's bringing joy life right now? What's giving life right now?Kier: I'm huge football fan. football, whenever player struggles first year, second year, start grasp concepts game, always say thing. say, "The game starting slow me." It's like clichéd thing players say, it's supposed signify job used like drinking water fire hose maybe drinking water one high-pressure hoses cleans deck. It'd still knock tongue backwards, isn't bad before. I'm finding joy fact I'm getting used exhausting parts adulthood parenthood. I'm finding real happiness.Julian: OK. right. love analogy, too, now: game slows you.Kier: game slows me.Julian: let's talk little bit. us parents. us parents, right? parenting, know, journey. I'm 100 percent honest, it's journey comes without manual, blueprint it. us, learn go.Now, myself, grew single-parent household. father passed away 7. Mom, shout Michelle Saavedra, number one. raised us own. remember everything could take care us, also prepare us there. lot times things got little difficult. know stress something many single parents carry, especially comes mental health parent without blueprint, also own.When interviewed Oprah Winfrey, also shared you, like I, grew single-parent household. families own, talk little bit it's important parents take care mental health?Kier: Parenthood consuming position. watching mom every day herself, looking adult lens, realize mom depressed. know mental health field depression uninvolved parenting go hand hand. it's parenting consuming job it's consuming ask, pieces identity get lost trying keep up, trying need make day day. adversely affect kids.But since people change entire identities parenthood, don't enter comes mental health space recommend someone see therapist encourage someone see therapist, de-centers you. I'm going say, Julian, could better father come see therapist. That's central piece. you're better you, default you're better father. say, Julian, want come therapy good you. people tree eat fallen fruit. least that's big idea.Julian: think that. speak much many aspects life, right? Like, mentally healthy, aspects life start fall place. us parents, especially because, like said, much life consumed identity. appreciate that. Appreciate that. You're saying de-centers identity parent focuses everything encompasses person.Kier: That's right. Take care you, person. actually, think is — don't know totally puts mindset centering yourself. think increases likelihood you'll receptive mind state. Listen — included. daughter doctor's appointment day. I. Guess whose doctor's appointment got canceled. Mine.It's easy preach that. actuality, stresses guilt-inducing responsibility parenthood make self-sacrifice self-abnegate sometimes. something got constantly remind sure.Julian: saw mom siblings hard worked, made sure needed. got chance become father myself, said, I'm going best really thing right. It's goal try aspire to.But wonder I've placing pressure myself, like pressure subconsciously starts bring feelings of, actually right? actually good father? didn't father around, don't really clear model supposed be. talk little bit pressure sometimes parents place ourselves?Kier: Oh, man, it's pressure. pressure comes larger society. pressure comes sociological best practices, right? get pressure comparing upbringings. get pressure contrasting moving away upbringings. grew poor don't wear badge honor. It's something feel like negatively impacted me, lot make sure daughters aren't situation. Probably sometimes overdeliver way actually need meet needs.So take different angles pressure coming from, you're getting beat up, bro. getting jumped, know, expectations. things counter that, understand reality, reframe idea comparison. know say comparison thief joy, sometimes is. comparison also really amazing tool help evaluate amongst peers.I like talk friends. Hey man, kids this? hear people respond, feel little human. kid isn't one doesn't flush toilet. OK. thought me, dog. continue talk people. realize struggle parent journeys, too. humans, we're social creatures society sometimes comprised made-up rules we've followed along hundreds thousands years sometimes, don't always know we're good job. sometimes need see someone else struggle permission humanity, know?Julian: think it's interesting Black men Black fathers, there's unique lane parenting ethos, right?Kier: Absolutely.Julian: hear that, know, boys, go back forth like thing. compare, supposed like this? going hard them? ease little bit?Kier: Oh, I'm glad mentioned that.Julian: Right. even — that's pressure, right? That's something even that's something induces anxiety, too. again, society already strong current vision Black man be, I'm always kind balancing like, fit balance is. something experience too?Kier: Oh, absolutely. Every single day life. I'm definition, cisgender, six foot one, dark-skinned Black man. It's easy say right thing misinterpret understanding something alienate groups people one time, fully understanding understanding nuance context way people talk way people identify, way people express lived experiences. I'm always really careful that.Julian: want transition social media, big portion life recently. incredible following social media, right? 400,000 followers Instagram, 50,000 YouTube. Couple years ago, went viral posting transparent video fatherhood. Listeners, link show notes, please check video. watched six times. received great response people. got ask, what's feel like go viral? surprised response got?Kier: completely surprised, beautiful. Came right George Floyd murdered. think world place, collective consciousness, hear Black men another way, hear fatherhood another way. think tone different lot content talks men.We don't talk men warmth, it's always hustle culture. Go get it. got this. mean, everyone sounds like drill sergeant. even though get that's stereotypically think men connect messages, see ain't. see work.You work schools. work young boys. Even got tough exteriors, get behind wall start talking calmly them, get see different person. boys, difference men they'll grow couple years' time experiences. They're person part similar needs. think that's video hit like that. don't know — man, ain't never expect this. kidding me? didn't think anybody would care all.Julian: guess I'm personally interested, like, spark told needed start this? Like, go from — said educator you're licensed therapist. made decide say, need get content together, need get thoughts there?Kier: felt good. felt good. started fatherhood content, process that, process video exploding, passed licensure exam become therapist. took while. I've always created content. I've making content since 2000, 2001, big fat VHS camera VHS-C tapes.Julian: We're going way back. MySpace? talking Black Planet?Kier: Oh, talking Black Planet, bro. talking MySpace top 8, yeah. talking straight Black Planet those. yeah, just, don't know. don't think singular thing inspired me. always liked put thoughts tape, created — got master's program started treating people started learning counseling world. there's much information. got degrees stuff, academics. Academics talk head day "with marginal propensity neurofibromatic." love words jargon.Julian: $20 words. $20 words. gotta break five sometimes.Kier: Got break five sometimes. Make change me, bro. don't care about — don't care smart are. want get better. able find way synthesize that. are, three years almost half million people later.Julian: know videos continue do, they're dope, right? Like, they're content needs there. me, it's content part better side, positive influence social media have. father, again, educator, appreciate that. like see positive messages, thought-provoking work. there's also lot challenges come social media.Now, role assistant principal urban high school, lot day consumed conflicts stem social media: chats, group chats, beef comes instantaneous sharing things, video, that — bullying, altercations, insecurities students social media says. I'm interested hear take. somebody content producer positive work there, take impact social media mental health?Kier: Oh, well, social media, know — think said, research already back heaviest negative mental health outcomes linked heavy social media users. Suicide ideation, anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia. go into — social media linked increase conditions outcomes.But man, also many positive aspects. We're social creatures. Social media one powerful tools world. figure millions people think within couple hours. access much data, access many tools resources help better life. It's one things think social media exacerbates conditions already struggle with. think exists lot things grapple with.If I'm self-conscious poor, mind likely drift content look lifestyle wish had, start unfairly compare myself. here — know social media reoccurring things talk about. You're watching people's highlights. People don't talk downside social media.But don't know people understand incredibly curated content is, especially children. see that, see guy Bugatti who's 19 years old. Dude, know, one billion, there's billions people. three guys kid's timeline? it's overrepresentation exists larger world.Julian: Well, think say, though, we're tool. think listeners, understanding aspect it, frame phone, social media, instantaneous communication, technology tool, right. Like it's end all. like anything tool used purpose, tool harnessed positive harnessed positive purpose. appreciate part.And, know, again, parent educator, wonder, know, years, again, somebody content creator, somebody also mental health specialist, concerns situation parent? concerns you're going implement social media household?Kier: It's tough safeguard children there's access, access internet remotely. best thing safeguard children open honest transparent conversations. daughter's 5 right now, extent usage social media, plays Roblox. sometimes we'll Roblox somebody requests friend. got parental settings safeguards kids much can.But I'll use opportunity. Oh, person? know person? don't talk strangers? happen talk strangers? we're big fear mongering house. Fear stops things, reason intrinsic understanding. know you're supposed it. try explain it — like happen thing — allow ask questions feel comfortable coming us asking questions.The second part baby's 5, oldest 5, youngest 16 months old. remember oldest 4 months old, judgmental parent. "I'll never let kid whole bunch screen time." "I'll never let kid eat snacks hour dinner." "I would never let" become "I allow far often.".So don't want to — I'm John Wayne, two guns blazing, talking I'm gonna comes internet. daughter understands living. us, heightened level visibility it's really important us talk fundamental ground rules social media. her, one establish right now, watches YouTube. say, kids video, can't watch it. sometimes there's adolescents pre-teens concert enjoys, she's really smart kid, she's still 5 years old. don't want overexposed. she's social media, we're background. she's engaged, we're engaging too. Even it's passively listening content listens it, level involvement.Julian: love idea open communication modeling you're using social media sees example. use benefit us. again, positive way.Kier: Oh yeah, sure.Julian: Parents, really want protect kids. That's something going back that — yeah, know, vision parenting supposed be: keep safe. don't want see violent videos read cruel comments. want confident way look. reality can't always control monitor everything see hear. helpful tips ways parents kids engage positive social media, like specific tips could provide?Kier: Yeah, think goes back open communication piece. open communication piece having — whenever kids come counseling, teenagers, don't work often. work them, one difficult things parents understand there's particular level privacy young person enjoys they're counseling. within comes unique power struggle. know, parent ultimate authoritative piece. need know every single thing.And learn therapy sometimes way parent responds things make uncomfortable things don't want hear dictates directly open child them. I'm saying easy. daughter's 5. tells things make fly handle sometimes. don't always good job that, always practicing getting better.I use little opportunities. told something alarming. I'm like, OK, baby, tell more. I'm fighting back. it's important feels like could open honest me. can't stop bad things happening, solid foundation almost conversation things actually occur.Julian: think it's also making sure you're intentional accounts and/or child following, making sure monitor accounts have. making sure there's age-appropriate boundaries pre-teen versus teenager might post.Kier: agree. add something else that? think that's really good point. Adding boundaries trying stay consistent them. Children, even teenagers, preteens, adolescents, individuals took brain understood nothing learned language made use it. good figuring patterns. you're inconsistent, they'll see pattern.Sometimes got rule way school. Sometimes daughter can't app, sometimes I'll break rules. therapy, call norm room. Norm room walk there's group people let every — let everybody know expectation boundaries say single word. norm rule. Everybody knows expect.And norm child similar ways. Whereas pre-conversation, hey, I'm going let play iPad today extra hour Daddy ABC. way, even though it's deviation daily plan typically do, context why, know, it's complete disruption pattern rules establish. consistency key kids, it's hard keep up.Julian: That's funny say that. That's — kids get little bit extra Netflix time Dad recording podcast. get excited it's Dad's turn podcast oh, get little extra Netflix today. again, pre-conversation, giving rationale pulling curtain past thinking there's open communication parent child.I want ask ton questions think lot conversation helpful. appreciate coming sharing expertise, sharing journey, sharing know, person. want personally thank joining today.Listeners, go, want share resources promote good mental health. We'll also linked show notes. Kiers' Instagram @KierGaines, YouTube channel.Kier: Spell them.Julian: UCLA Health, Free Guided Meditation, Mental Health America, course Understood's Wunder app. sure check out. They're incredible. Kier, thank again. appreciate you, brother. really appreciate you're doing.Kier: appreciate you. appreciate work schools. one — saw one Black male time pre-K till sheesh, maybe 10th grade. presence school actually caring kids walk doors? reverberates throughout lives, whether know not, man. even camera platform, thank everything do. critically impactful, man.Julian: Thank you. appreciate that. it's good work. It's work needs done. So, listeners, thank much listening. I'll back soon.Kier: Yeah, thank you.Julian: You've listening "The Opportunity Gap" Understood Podcast Network. show you, want make sure you're getting need. topic you'd like us cover? want hear you. Email us OpportunityGap@understood.org.If want learn topics covered today, check show notes episode. include resources well links anything mentioned episode.Understood.org resource dedicated helping people learn think differently discover potential thrive. Learn understood.org/mission. "The Opportunity Gap" produced Tara Drinks, edited Cin Pim. Briana Berry production director. theme music written Justin D. Wright, also mixes show. Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key editorial director, Scott Cocchiere creative director, Seth Melnick executive producer. Thanks listening see next time.