Dr. Stephanie Fields is a highly qualified psychologist with expertise in family therapy. She recently shifted her focus towards parent coaching, a specialized approach that solves specific parenting problems. 

Dr. Fields emphasizes that a diagnosis or assessment of the child is not the main focus of parent coaching. Instead, her role as a parent coach is to work closely with parents, addressing specific parenting issues they may be facing.

Whether it’s helping a child sleep independently or managing chaotic mealtimes, Dr. Stephanie Fields provides targeted solutions through coaching sessions.

Highlights

00:02:07 Concern for children’s socialization and anxiety, attributed to both COVID and pre-existing mental health issues, particularly in childhood years. Importance of early intervention and return to socializing with friends emphasized.
00:03:50 Playing video games with friends online counts as socialization but face-to-face interactions are also important for deeper social connections.
00:07:33 Families are stressed and need to prioritize exercise, sleep, healthy food, and socializing for mental health. These factors are important for children, especially those with special needs.
00:13:18 Parents must be proactive in ensuring their child’s individualized education plan (IEP) is implemented and tailored to their specific needs, addressing issues such as excessive homework.
00:16:49 Assessments should be explained to parents to ensure understanding and value. Parents should request a phone conversation for clarification.
00:21:09 ADHD becoming more mainstream, normalized. Routine, consequences important. Repetitions, consistency needed. Different brains, different needs.
00:25:01 In times of stress, prioritize mental health: exercise, sleep, eat well, and connect socially.
00:25:58 Eating healthy, avoiding junk food is important for me.

Podcast Transcript

Lisa Lightner [00:00:00]:

Hello and good morning. I’m Lisa Lightner with a day in our shoes and thank you all for tuning in. Right now with me this morning is Dr. Stephanie Fields and she is a local philly gal like myself. Pardon us if we speak with accents. I’ve been told I have an accent, I don’t hear it. But anyway, Dr. Fields is a school psychologist, parent coach, child psychologist, ADHD expert, and so much more. So I’m so excited to have her here today.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:00:36]:

Welcome.

Lisa Lightner [00:00:37]:

And if you want her information, I will put all of it in the show notes for the podcast. I will post it on social media and if you subscribe to my email list, you will get it there as well. So let’s go ahead and get right into it. What is a parent coach?

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:00:55]:

So I’ve done a lot of therapy as a psychologist. I’ve done family therapy with families, but now I’m moving over to parent coaching, which is different than therapy in a number of important ways. Firstly, it doesn’t go by all the legal kind of rules with therapy, it’s kind of separate. You don’t actually need to be actually even qualified. I am highly qualified, but you don’t need to be. And really what it does is it works to just solve a specific problem and it does not entail any diagnosis or assessment. And so as a parent coach, I’m not going to diagnose or assess a child. I’m just going to really work with the parents on addressing a specific parenting issue that they have. So let’s say the child’s not sleeping independently. We would just have, let’s say, four sessions to address that. Or mealtime is chaotic. We would just address that.

Lisa Lightner [00:01:45]:

Great. What are some of the common themes that you’re seeing in 2023? We’re definitely post pandemic. Officially. The President has signed their thing and the World Health Organization, so supposedly the pandemic is over. But what are some common themes that you’re seeing now as we enter the summer of 2023?

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:02:07]:

My biggest concern with children these days is about their socialization. I’m getting concerned about anxiety and socialization are kind of the two big ones. The anxiety is not so surprising given COVID and all that. But really anxiety and mental health issues have been a problem before COVID happened. Really since the early teens there has been increasing amount of concern about children and we’re seeing it more in the adolescents. But I think that it’s really beginning in the childhood years where there’s increasing levels of anxiety and I think that it’s coming out more. We’re seeing it in mental health issues with our teens and college students, but I think that actually it’s starting earlier. And the other thing with COVID I just want to say about COVID specifically, I just think that people aren’t used to socializing as much and I think that kids really need to be back more with friends more.

Lisa Lightner [00:03:02]:

So I’m glad that you brought that up. I have two teens. One is disabled and one is not my nondisabled child. His socialization outside of structured sports programs is very school and structured sports, it’s pretty minimal. And what I see is they’ll all get on FaceTime and group chats and be playing the same video game together, but they’re all at home in their own bedroom, in their own family room or whatever, like chatting on FaceTime, playing the same video game, but not in the same presence. And I’ve been internally concerned about it. Is that something we should be concerned about or is it just like, oh, well, he’s socializing. Socialization just looks different now.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:03:50]:

I think it’s both, actually. Because even when my son, who is a grown up now, when he was younger, some of his best friends didn’t live close by and he would get and play video games with them and they lived in a different county, actually. And I actually modified my screen time rules for him for this because I felt like it actually did count as socialization because they were chatting, they were being with each other, they were enjoying each other’s company and sharing something with each other. So I think it counts kind of like 75%. I do think our children need to have the face to face too, again, because essentially what you want in terms of protecting your children for later on is you want them to have the kind of relationships where if something’s going wrong, if they’re having a hard time, they’re going to get social support. And I’m not sure that happens in the same way over screens. Like, I think they need to be in person too, and play and walk around and have to look at each other and kind of be with each other’s emotions. Even if they’re mad at their parents, that might be one that they talk about a lot. They need to be with each other with those kinds of emotions and those kind of things. So I don’t think that it’s bad to be doing that social stuff while playing online, but I think that the other really needs to happen too, to have them learn the deeper social skills of connection. And I know some boys aren’t deep deep, but it’s still really important for them to have these social connections.

Lisa Lightner [00:05:20]:

Great. So if I’m encouraging that as a parent, and I tell him all the time because we have a pool and we have a basketball court here and we have Xbox, and I say, invite your friends over and we’ll get pizza, or does anybody want to come over and go swimming? And nobody ever does. It just like, do I need to say, hey, you need new friends? Or how do you kind of push that if it’s not happening?

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:05:49]:

I think it really does need to be pushed. I think you need to really ask him in a curious way, what is it that you’re not bringing kids over for? Is there something uncomfortable? Sometimes they’re worried that you’re going to embarrass them. I mean, that’s a very typical teen worry. Maybe they think that your food’s not good. That’s my kids say, I don’t think that the food you serve is too healthy, mom. I don’t think kids are going to like it, which is actually not true. If you put out a thing of crude for kids, cut up vegetables, they will demolish it. But you really need to ask them what’s keeping them from doing it. And then you need to help them do it. You need to say, okay, it’s Friday. We’re going to have fun. We’re going to have some people over for pool and pizza. Who are you going to invite? And really keep in a very gentle, kind way, keep following up with them until it really happens. And you could say, would you be more comfortable just with two guys to start? I think two is kind of better than one. See what he prefers and then start to make it happen. And then once you get a couple slotted in, say, maybe you can just mention to other kids too. They might want to come over too.

Lisa Lightner [00:06:55]:

Okay, so as a parent, just as a person who watches TV, I’m on social media, I have friends, I actually still see newspapers and magazines. I feel like mental health is being talked about more. And we’re seeing of course, we just closed out Mental Health Awareness Month, and we’re seeing a lot more about self care and more, do this, do that. Do you feel like we’re kind of reaching a threshold where people are more aware or do you think sometimes I feel like it’s been so watered down at this point.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:07:33]:

Yeah, I don’t really feel that that’s the case, at least the families that I’m seeing. So I’m seeing families that are having concerns. But I really do think our families I think that our world is kind of too hurried and too stressed and there’s kind of too much we have to do. And I think that we really need to focus on, I’m going to say, four major areas of mental health, which would be exercise. Regular exercise is so important for mental health. Excellent sleep, even good sleep would be great, is really important. Healthy food and then appropriate socializing. And frankly, even for your population of special needs kids, a lot of times we need to make sure these things are in place before a diagnosis can happen. Because sometimes if these are not in place, kids don’t look good. So if a kid’s not getting sleep, they really can look like they’ve got ADHD. And then once you get sleep in order, they’re able to pay better attention. They’re able to manage themselves much better. So they’re really crucial to mental health and just your functioning in life.

Lisa Lightner [00:08:39]:

So how long would you say if you’re doing the four things that you said and problems are still there. How long would you give it? I know not after a week, but six months, twelve months? What if it’s, you know, I’m enforcing a bedtime, we eat healthy, we exercise, or my child does sports and things still aren’t improving.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:09:00]:

I would say right away, I don’t think you need to wait. It takes long enough to get those things into place. And so that when they are in place, if you got everything in place and there are still problems, you don’t need to wait.

Lisa Lightner [00:09:10]:

Okay, that’s good to know, because I think there’s still I’ve encountered it actually twice this week with two different groups of friends. The kind of stigma around taking medication for mental health issues. And it was the well, if she did mindfulness, and yoga and this and that, and it’s like and when the kid’s saying, mom, I’m doing all that and it’s not helping yes.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:09:35]:

Kind of thing, they are suffering then. And the thing that we need to really remember about medicine that a lot of people don’t remember is that you can try it. A lot of medicines you can try, and if you don’t like them, you can come off of them. So it really just adds to your education as to, is this an option for me? What difference does it make? And if the family doesn’t like it for any reason, then the child can be either weaned off of it or for like an ADHD medicine which just out of the system immediately, then just stop taking it, obviously under doctor’s care. But I think that sometimes parents are reluctant to start trying it, but it’s actually just part of the gathering information process about what’s going to help your child.

Lisa Lightner [00:10:21]:

Yeah, I think we’ve kind of gone. They say a pendulum swings. If you remember when you and I were kids, you got antibiotics for everything, right? And then there was that pushback on that, and then it’s like near impossible to even get something prescribed. And they say, oh, go home and it’ll work itself out. I feel like we’re the same way with things like Ritalin and the things that were typically prescribed for children with ADHD and other disorders. It seemed like everyone was like, oh no, all they want to do is give you pills. And now it’s almost impossible to get them.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:10:54]:

I feel like when I started my practice, I really did everything that I could to keep kids off medicine. I did every behavioral thing. And sometimes it would take like a year or two, and the parents would be like and then they would try the medicine and they were like, oh, it’s like night and day I see the child that my child always was inside. And they started to tell me that they were really sorry that they waited so long, that they feel like their child lost a lot of good time. And so that’s why I don’t think that you should wait too long, but you have to get some of the behavioral stuff in order. There needs to be good behavior management and good sleep and that kind of thing needs to be there first.

Lisa Lightner [00:11:33]:

Great. So as a parent coach, if someone is listening to us right now and saying, oh wow, you know what, I’m having some of these same issues, what should they expect if they reach out to you or hire a parent coach?

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:11:46]:

They would expect usually a free consultations call. That’s usually about half an hour long. So there’ll be a good amount of chatting to see what the issues are. And then both the parent and the coach will see, is this a match for coaching? The other thing is to know that maybe it’s actually a therapy case. Maybe they really do need to see a therapist and they really can’t see a coach. They need kind of more intensive work, or the child needs an assessment or some diagnosis, that kind of thing. And so there’ll be a nice conversation about what the issues are. They’ll probably get some tips about how they get started. And then together they would talk about what sort of would be possible. And usually I think just one or two goals would be defined and then they could move forward on just working on those goals.

Lisa Lightner [00:12:29]:

Okay, great. One of the things that interested me when we connected on email is that you are a former school psychologist, so, of course part of IEP teams. I’m sure when you were working in that capacity, if you had an audience of IEP parents like you do now as a child psychologist, what is the one thing that you would say? Like I always say, my audience, my people, they don’t know what they don’t know. Right? The IEP process is so big and cumbersome and it’s become this big beast of a thing. What is one thing that you’d say, oh, I wish parents would really do this, or I wish they knew this about school psychologists or IEPs or the school. I’m sure you did a lot of evaluations, things like that. What do you wish they knew?

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:13:18]:

My therapy clients had IEPs also. So one thing that your population probably does know this, but that parents really need to be on top of the IEP and make sure that it’s being implemented. And so it’s your child. Even though there’s this IEP that’s a legal document, you really need to still be on top of it and make sure what’s happening needs to happen. And the other thing is to really look at the specialty design instruction and make sure it matches your needs. And so let’s say you’re having a child that just is not doing homework. You’re arguing with your child for 3 hours every day. It’s kind of ruining your family life. Then you need to go back to the IEP team and say look, this is not working. They’ve got too much homework. It’s not working for our family. We need to think of something that we can change to make this more workable for our family. Either not having homework at all, having some time to do it in school, something like that. But the team should come up together to think about what can we change to make this work, because it’s not working.

Lisa Lightner [00:14:24]:

I had a speech therapist on a couple of years ago who said kind of the same thing, that teachers don’t create homework with the intention of ruining your family time. That’s not the intent of homework. And there are so many families who are kind of suffering in silence and doing this night after night with hours and tears and fights and resisting and not realizing that you can and should speak up if it’s not working for you.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:14:50]:

Absolutely. You need to speak up whenever something’s going on. Even if your child tells you something, it just doesn’t quite ring true. Then you need to just go in with curiosity to the school and say, this is what my son mentioned. Can you speak more about it? That kind of thing don’t sort of go in accusing because sometimes kids don’t report exactly accurately or their perceptions are different. But to really have an ongoing conversation with the school and really be in touch and kind of know what’s going on and really feel free to ask. And if, let’s say, school is coming with a concern, can you say, can you really explain to me what that looks like? I’m having trouble visualizing it. You should be able to visualize what the concern is and then say, well, what can we do about that? It’s kind of the school’s job. So what kind of accommodations can we make for that?

Lisa Lightner [00:15:39]:

As a school psychologist, you did a lot of evaluations or assessments for IEPs. Some of the most frequently asked questions I get are surrounding assessments and evaluations. And they’ll say on the Whisk or the Wyatt, they score to this or this, on the Bask, on the this, on the that. And I’m always telling, like, it’s actually a defined portion of idea that the school has to provide you with someone who can explain these assessments to know you don’t have to be out on your own. Because I’m not a school psychologist, of course, because of what I do. I’m a lot more familiar with the Wisc and the Wyatt and all those things because I’ve seen so many of them. But as a parent, I remember the first time I was like, what is this? It was just a table of numbers and this and that and mean, I don’t say how often, but I don’t know. Could you speak to that? As far as parents, I don’t know why parents are so leery of reaching out and asking their school for assistance, especially in explaining assessments.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:16:49]:

I feel so badly when I hear that, because that is not how it’s supposed to be, really. Those reports are very technical and they’re not really meant for parents to read them. They’re meant to be explained to parents. And frankly, for me, that was the most enjoyable part of an assessment, was doing a really nice feedback. And again, I was very lucky that my whole team was there, the whole IP team was there when I explained to the parent the entire evaluation in relatively simple terms, but kind of clear and sort of, what do these numbers mean? And just highlight the important ones. Because a lot of numbers you don’t even look at. You’ll say math was fine and then you move on, and then you say, the issues here are in reading or whatever, or The Basque shows this, and the home one is this, and the parent was this. So to me, that’s the only point of assessment is to actually teach the team and teach the parent about this child, that so much work goes into the evaluation and the write up that if people haven’t learned from it, it’s just such a waste. And so I frankly thought it was the most enjoyable part and the most meaningful part of doing evaluation is really doing a nice feedback. And so if parents aren’t getting that, if they have even one question, they should call the school and ask for at least a phone conversation where the psychologist can explain everything.

Lisa Lightner [00:18:10]:

That’s excellent, because I think that schools are going over it in meetings, but I think it’s so much to absorb and then they don’t want to go back and ask. I don’t know. And I understand where the intimidation comes from, but at the same time, I don’t. Because again, you know, it’s an idea that the school has to provide you with someone to understand these assessments.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:18:33]:

Right. And the challenge is that sometimes it happens with the whole team there and then you’re like a parent’s got there, the principal and the teacher and all these people, and they’re not going to maybe feel comfortable asking their questions, which is totally understandable, but they should really just ask for a separate meeting. Yeah, they should really understand the evaluation. It’s very important. It really guides all the thinking. And so they should understand what it means and it’ll help them understand their child to understand what can I predict is going on with my child?

Lisa Lightner [00:19:06]:

Yeah, and I always try to use these different analogies as far as if I go to my doctor’s office and there’s an MRI report or an X ray or any of these things, even blood work, we get the blood work results from different things. I don’t understand what that means. And I shouldn’t. Right. Because I’m not the doctor.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:19:27]:

Right. I’m just going to answer that comment about not attending IEP meetings. Actually, I often did not. The school psychologist usually is overburdened with evaluations. And so the evaluation that they do guides the IEP, but they often aren’t at the IEP meetings. So the meetings that I attended were usually just sort of they were kind of combined. They just happened at the school that I was at. They combined them, and so I was at the meeting, but it was really more of an evaluation feedback meeting to just sort of talk about eligibility for special ed.

Lisa Lightner [00:20:04]:

I probably should have clarified that the school has to provide you with someone to explain the assessments, but that doesn’t necessarily have to happen at the IEP meeting.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:20:14]:

No. And it might be more comfortable for parents for it to happen separately so.

Lisa Lightner [00:20:17]:

They can ask their yeah, so definitely I wouldn’t be afraid to reach out to whoever did the assessments. But of course, once you get into related services and other things, there might be a couple of different people, but don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask them those questions.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:20:35]:

I mean, again, there were so many resources put into doing this evaluation. You as a parent should understand it.

Lisa Lightner [00:20:42]:

Yeah. You also are an expert in ADHD. What are some things? I know a lot of my from experience, I know a lot of my audience. This is something that they’re living within their household, either themselves or their kids. What are some tips or things or oh, I wish these folks knew this, or anything like that that you’d like to address?

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:21:09]:

I’m really happy that it’s really becoming so much more mainstream since I’m starting my parent coaching business. I’m on social media a lot more, and I’m loving the stuff that’s coming up about ADHD. I feel like it’s talked about so much more and normalized so much more. And people are kind of making fun, not making fun, but they’re kind of in a nice way, saying, this is who I am, and this is what I can do and what I can’t do. And isn’t it kind of funny? And it kind of is funny because these people are generally a little bit not quirky, but kind of fun. In my time working with kids with ADHD, I found to be like, a lot of fun. It’s tricky. So for children, I just think that routine is important. Really predictable connection between behavior and consequences. This is for parents more, and so I think it’s really important. These kids, they don’t make the connection that easily between their behavior and the consequences of their behavior. So they need a lot more repetitions. And so consistency is really important so that when a behavior happens, that there’s a consistent consequence. So that connection is forged. It’s much more challenging for these kids, and parents will know if they’ve got one child with ADHD, one child with not you tell the other child sometimes one time, don’t open that door, and they never open it again. That’s just a different kind of brain than the kind that really needs a lot of repetition and consistency.

Lisa Lightner [00:22:32]:

Yeah, I’m a Gen Xer, and it’s funny to me because I’m also now I know I am twice exceptional. We didn’t know that in the have several college friends who we all didn’t know that each other had ADHD when we were in college. And now that we’re middle aged women, we’re like duh. So it’s funny to me when I hear some people say, oh, well, things are so different today. We didn’t have all this ADHD when I was a kid. And I’m like, yeah, you did. We just weren’t diagnosed right.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:23:08]:

And then people also kind of felt ashamed and felt like something was wrong with them that was a little off that they didn’t really understand, and now we understand it so much better.

Lisa Lightner [00:23:17]:

Well, that and it was I mean, for me personally, it was that my skill set deficiencies were treated as character flaws. And that’s something that I brought up with I talked with another podcast guest recently, and she said the same thing. Yeah. When it’s treated like and it was, oh, Lisa’s not working up to her full potential and she doesn’t work hard enough, and she doesn’t apply herself at school and things like that. And it really was treated as that whole can’t versus won’t right argument. So I’m glad that the other thing.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:23:50]:

That’S not talked about as much, which actually is an issue for me, too, is the sleep schedule. That I’m still on a teenager sleep schedule in that I’m really fresh late at night and I’m not fresh in the morning. And so that’s my schedule. And there is an ethic in this country that the people who are really working are working in the morning, that you need to be fresh in the morning, and those are the real people who are really working, and that’s just not the case. And that’s very ingrained in our culture.

Lisa Lightner [00:24:19]:

Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of that online myself. That whole trying to debunk that early bird gets the worm kind of mentality. Oh, only if you go early to bed, early to rise. Like, how many other different cliches are there about this that we have to overcome? Because working 06:00 p.m. To 02:00 A.m., if that’s when you’re productive, and I know many online business owners like myself, and those are their chosen work hours, and that’s when they’re most productive. So what does it matter?

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:24:54]:

Right?

Lisa Lightner [00:24:55]:

Okay. Anything else that you’d like to add today? Anything else you want to talk about?

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:25:01]:

Just that I really feel that when stuff is going wrong in a family or when something’s very stressful, like the whole big COVID thing, I just do think that people need to go back to Mental Health 101. Make sure everyone’s getting exercise, make sure people are getting good sleep, make sure you’re getting healthy food. And try to connect with others socially, that those are really, really important for managing our day to day lives. But also especially when there’s something like a cris like the COVID pandemic or there’s a diagnosis of an illness in the family or something like that. If you need to think about anything, that is what you need to think about making sure that Mental Health 101 is kind of in place, exercise, good sleep, healthy food, and connecting with others.

Lisa Lightner [00:25:43]:

Any tips then on the food piece? I know that’s an area where we struggle in my household, and I know I have many other people watching who have their kids, have the sensory issues, things like that. Any tips on that?

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:25:58]:

That is challenging? I do feel that and that’s not an area where I have a ton of expertise, to tell you the truth. But I do think that just in terms of trying to take the junkie food out, I think that that’s really important too. I mean, you need to accommodate some issues, but really try not to have the junkier food and make sure that they’re eating healthy food and that the junkie food is not an option. And when it’s not an option, there will be a tendency to a little bit eat what’s there.

Lisa Lightner [00:26:27]:

Okay, great. Does anybody out there have any questions? I’ve seen a lot of people come and go on the Facebook page watching us today. If anybody has any other questions.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:26:41]:

I.

Lisa Lightner [00:26:41]:

Don’T see any, and if not, we will go ahead and sign off. I want to thank you for being here today, and you can look for this video on YouTube and this will also be on wherever you listen to podcasts. It’ll be published on there as well. Thank you so much.

Dr. Stephanie Fields [00:27:03]:

Thank you so much for having me.