Tune in to Focus Carolina during morning, noon and evening drive times and on the weekends to hear stories from faculty members at UNC and find out what ignites their passion for their work. Focus Carolina is an exclusive program on 97.9 The Hill WCHL, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Melissa Lippold at the UNC School of Social Work studies how parents interact with children who are in early adolescence.

What she learns from her research in the school of social work gives parents needed skills to cope with stressful situations. She also helps to create intervention programs to prevent substance abuse in children.

“We were really interested in the application of mindfulness to the parent-child relationship,” Dr. Lippold says. “Mindful parenting is an extension of mindfulness and its core components are really thinking about how parents can engage with their kids in a way that’s present, center, that sort of in-the-moment way that’s nonjudgmental and in a way that’s compassionate.”

Dr. Lippold’s team has found that effective communication between parents and teens can lead to teens being more likely to share information about what’s going on with their lives.

“When a parent is mindful in interacting with their child, they are less likely to react negatively when a child shares information with them and this makes it more likely that they’ll be able to have a good solid relationship with their child.

“Having effective communication with your child is critical. There are lots of studies that suggest when parents and teens keep talking to each other during this time period, their kids are less likely to engage in substance use, delinquency, risky sexual behavior, less likely to be depressed and anxious. There’s a lots of ways that it helps kids.”

Listen to part one of the interview with Dr. Lippold:

Growing up can be both an exciting and challenging time for children and their parents, according to Dr. Lippold.

“Kids are obviously changing biologically, right? They look different, but cognitively they’re changing. They can all of a sudden think about things in deeper ways, in new ways. They can understand abstract things, concepts like peace or love and new ways. They’re developing their own identity.”

Dr. Lippold says one of the most important ways that the parent-child relationship changes is that kids need to be allowed to have increase autonomy. This increased independence allows kids to express and find themselves.

“I think it’s really important for parents to be aware that this need for autonomy is really healthy,” Dr. Lippold says.

Dr. Lippold says she approaches her work from a prevention perspective because parents are the biggest influencers in their child’s life.

“Prevention is really important, especially when you’re looking at substance use in particular, but we know that if we can intervene in families before problems arise, it can have long-term important implications later.”

Listen to part two of the interview with Dr. Lippold: