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Mixed Dentition - Episode 2

Mixed Dentition Episode 2 Cover

Dr. Michelle Stafford sits down with Megan Barella, a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator. Their conversation touched on emotions, empowerment, and how these relate to the dental experience. They also discuss Megan's new program called Calm The Storm.

Listen, read, watch! You can listen right here, or with a podcast app of your choice. You can also read the complete transcript below, or scroll to the bottom of this post for the video.

Calm the Storm Program:

World of Smiles families, enjoy $100 off The Calm the Storm program. 

To redeem, email Megan at

Dr. Stafford: Hi, welcome to Mixed Dentition. I'm Dr. Michelle Stafford here at World of Smiles Pediatric Dentistry. Today I'm joined by Megan Barella. Thank you for joining me. How about we start with you giving us a little bit of background about yourself.

Megan Barella: Well first of all, thank you so much Dr. Stafford for having me here. My son is part of the practice and we started talking about different issues in parenting and around sugar, and here we are. So it's great to be here. I'm a certified positive discipline parent educator, and I offer online group and one-on-one coaching sessions. I also offer a lot of community-based programs, as well as professional development for early childhood educators. So it's a joy to be here today and really I don't consider myself an expert, but I do feel ... Well, not a parenting expert. I consider myself as an expert in bringing out parent's individual expertise so you can bring out the best in your children and we can raise a generation of children who thrive.

Dr. Stafford: I love that. Well thank you for being here.

Megan Barella: Thanks so much.

Dr. Stafford: We are going to talk about emotional development and how to deal with certain emotional situations. I would love to pick your brain a little bit because going to the dentist can be a very emotional experience for families. Not only is it emotional for kids, but it's actually parent's bring their own emotional ties to their dental experiences. And I can sometimes tell when parents are very nervous. Sometimes it's obvious. I'll have people actually sweating just talking to me and I'm like, "I'm a nice person I promise," but it's very emotional for them, and their children are reading that negative emotion and can make it snowball.

Megan Barella: Right, right.

Dr. Stafford: Yeah, let's talk about it.

Megan Barella: Yeah, well wonderful. One of the things that so exciting about being a parent today is we have access all the brain science that we never knew before. One of the things that we know about the human brain in children's and parent caregiver brains is this concept of Dr. Dan Siegel, that's a pioneer in the field of interpersonal neurobiology, called the sponge brain. So literally here's the adult fully formed brain in the parent, and then here's our children's brain. So they're literally sponging their brains off of our brains. So, what that means is going into an experience, any time that we know we're going to have higher stress levels, to just honor that and have that awareness going in, and prioritizing our own self-care so we can, as much as possible, hold that calm and centered container for our children, which can be the hardest thing ever when we have our own negative experiences.

Dr. Stafford: Yeah, that's great advice.

Megan Barella: Yeah.

Dr. Stafford: With that, a lot of times if I can recognize it in parents, we allow parents to come into the treatment room, but sometimes I'll say, "You know, if this is making you anxious, your child is going to feel that anxiety, and it may make the appointment more difficult for them. So could you send a different guardian, or a grandparent, or let them go by themselves?" Because I don't want the appointment to be more anxious for the child because of that anxiety the parent brings into the room.

Megan Barella: Right.

Dr. Stafford: That can be so hard.

Megan Barella: Yeah, and as parents we think that we have to do everything for our kids. Today, we really have that pressure, and sometimes, again, the best thing we can do is take care of ourselves and honor our own limitations. We all have them, we all have our imperfections, but we all have time when we need more help. So sending that other adult in, or just trusting that our children are going to be okay in taking that space. One of the things that I love to recommend parents do is something called empowering encouragement. It's a tool from positive discipline.

Megan Barella: Parents literally call this tool magic, and it starts off a few sentence starters. It starts off with, "I have faith. I trust. I believe." By just repeating an affirmation. So, "I have faith my child is going to have a positive experience at the dentist. I have faith or I believe my child is in good hands and I trust my child is going to be okay." Just repeating that, really breathing it in. Deep breathing gets the oxygen to the higher centers of the brain, those logical thinking and problem solving centers. Why the tool is magic is because of that sponge brain. If we send the message to our children, "You can do it," their brain reads, "I can do it?" And nine times out of 10, they can.

Dr. Stafford: Yup, I couldn't agree more in my own experience. I've been practicing pediatric dentistry for over 10 years, and I see it. The parents that have that positive encouragement and belief in their child, and even small children, they're three, four years old and the parent's like, "I believe that you can do this. You are brave." And I watch them, and they get their brave face on, and they go and do it. Even having my own children now, I really try to empower them in certain circumstances and sometimes I am taking a breath and being like, "Okay, this is a new thing for me as a parent, and I'm believing in my child. That's a little bit scary." So I get it. I get that it can be challenging.

Megan Barella: Yeah, totally. Sometimes, like you said, we're giving that empowering encouragement to ourselves. "I trust that we can do this." Also recognizing that where our children are today with their dental experiences is way different than where we were. The environment that you provide, it's more like a fun activity for children, and a lot of the technologies have changed a lot as well to make the dental experience a lot different than when we were children.

Dr. Stafford: Yes, definitely and that's what we're going for. We have TV's on the ceiling, and even the hand pieces we use aren't quite as loud and everything's a little bit quicker and just a little easier to make it more positive. That's always our goal to keep it positive for kids.

Megan Barella: Right, right, and for grown up too.

Dr. Stafford: Yeah, grown ups can see it can be easy.

Megan Barella: Right, and this is ... As parents today, one of the things that's challenging is that it is the most stressful time in human history to be a parent. Forget the plague, it's right now. While it is also exciting that we have all this brain science coming out, what's important to remember is that the blueprint that we were given from our own parents, there's some substantial things we want to change, specially on healthy emotional development. So, coming in today as parents, we are teaching ourselves the tools as we're teaching our children, and changing that blueprint. And a lot of that comes along changing the blueprint with our relationship with the dentist, which you're really here to help facilitate. Yeah, I appreciate you so much for that.

Dr. Stafford: Thanks, yeah. That's so interesting to me, and as you say that, I can relate to how I was raised and how I'm trying to raise my children, and how I see parents really trying. Sometimes parents are trying too hard and if they just take it a step back and like you said, just take a breath, and say, "I believe that you can do this by yourself." You can be a few feet away and watch, but just a little bit of empowerment gives them a lot of self esteem too and you're just building them up and seeing them fluff up. I've been trying that more with my own kids that are younger. I even let my four ... I could see him, he wasn't even 10 feet away, but he went to the counter and ordered himself a pretzel and paid with money.

Megan Barella: Those are big steps.

Dr. Stafford: It was, and he came back feeling like he was just the big man on campus. He was so proud of himself. You know that it took a lot for me to let go and know that ... And just let him be heard. At first, they kept looking at me, and I was like, "No, I'm just going to ..."

Megan Barella: Yup, you can do this.

Dr. Stafford: You can do this.

Megan Barella: Yeah, it's so profound. I feel that the empowerment piece so much is giving that space to trust.

Dr. Stafford: That space to trust, that's so true. Yeah, that's a good way to put it too.

Megan Barella: Yeah, and on that note, there's another kind of space. I did want to share a few tips whether it is for coming into the dentist and preparing our own emotions and our children for their healthy emotional relationship with their dental experience, or in any other time high emotions come up in life. One is this concept of giving space. So whether it's giving space to trust, or it's giving space to take a deep breath, or when our emotions flare up as parents, very often we need physical space. Sometimes depending on the age and development stages of our children, that means stepping into another room if possible, like the tool you shared at the dentis. Or I'm a big proponent of, especially this time of year with the sunny weather finally hitting Portland that open the window. Get some fresh air. Open the door.

Dr. Stafford: That's great.

Megan Barella: Most parents need to take that physical space, create a little bit of barrier, otherwise what happens is we get swirled into our children's emotions.

Dr. Stafford: Yeah, that makes sense.

Megan Barella: And going back and forth, and back and forth with negative emotions.

Dr. Stafford: Yup.

Megan Barella: Yeah.

Dr. Stafford: Yeah.

Megan Barella: So other tools that I love to share with families is, if you are struggling as a parent, first and foremost to know that it's not your fault, and you're not alone. That we are all struggling, and it is the most stressful time in human history to be a parent. So that compassion for yourself, whatever you're working on, and knowing to talk to your community and reach out for support. Within that, it is opening the door to these new tools that are coming out that are these brain based tools that focus on positive relationship and solutions. If you are yelling, to remember that yelling is a form of stress release.

Megan Barella: So what we're doing is we're emotionally triggered, we move the high emotions through, through yelling, and then usually people feel a sense of release. They may feel a little bit of guilt afterwards, but that emotional release has happened. So what we can do with our emotions, especially if we run, like myself, on the fiery, the passionate side, and if your children do as well, you're teaching yourself other physical things to do to release the high emotions. Literally, it sounds ridiculous, but jumping up and down. Parents have had great success with just turning on music. Having things that they can do with their physical body to just move the emotions through.

Dr. Stafford: I love that. Now you have a new program that you offer for parents. I believe it's called "Calm the Storm."

Megan Barella: Yes.

Dr. Stafford: Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Megan Barella: Yes, Calm the Storm is dedicated to transforming emotional breakdown into breakthroughs. This is one of the number one parents are facing today is what to do when kids are having a temper tantrum, when they're angry, when they're aggressive, when there's high emotions. And how to not either get swirled into the negative emotions, or to go into shut down mode. So this program is really exciting because we come together as a small community and we're really supporting one another and learning these brain-based approach and some brain science about the emotions, and then developing individualized plans to help your families thrive and truly transform those emotional breakdowns to breakthroughs.

Dr. Stafford: That's great.

Megan Barella: Yeah, it's super fun. Yeah, it's truly some of the most empowering work that we can do together as families.

Dr. Stafford: I really love your focus on how the brain functions and how you're integrating that emotion with the brain development and just understanding it in a deeper level.

Megan Barella: Yeah.

Dr. Stafford: It's really wonderful.

Megan Barella: It's very liberating too because we want to engage with this highest potential of the human brain, and really that's the capacity we have right now. Honestly, the number one way we do that is through working with our challenges. So yeah.

Dr. Stafford: That's great.

Megan Barella: Yeah.

Dr. Stafford: A lot of wonderful information.

Megan Barella: Yeah, thank you so much.

Dr. Stafford: Thank you.

Megan Barella: Also for all the listeners, I would like to offer. Calm the Storm is going to begin the end of April. For all the World of Smiles listeners, I'd love to offer 20% off the program and enrollment.

Dr. Stafford: Oh, thank you.

Megan Barella: Yeah.

Dr. Stafford: I appreciate that.

Megan Barella: Yeah, yeah it's super fun and the program is self-paced video from home. So it's 15 minutes, or less, power videos because I know how busy everyone is. Then we hop on the phone for group coaching Q and A calls, and then do also individual sessions with the parent, both parents. Yeah.

Dr. Stafford: That sounds very helpful.

Megan Barella: Yeah, well I just love ... I feel like empowerment was the theme, and really empowerment around the dental experience and around family's relationship with their emotions.

Dr. Stafford: Yes.

Megan Barella: Yeah.

Dr. Stafford: Well thank you. Well thanks for being on the show Megan.

Megan Barella: Thank you so much.

Dr. Stafford: I appreciate you.

Megan Barella: Thanks for having me here Dr. Stafford.


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