Our Youth Are Struggling. How Can We Support Them? – Caroline Kusnetz
on The Healers Café with Manon Bolliger
In this episode of The Healers Café, Manon Bolliger (facilitator and retired naturopath with 30+ years of practice) speaks with Caroline Kusnetz about the pressure’s teens face both physically and emotionally and how her program GRYT is helping to build youth’s confidence.
Highlights from today’s episode include:
You know, a lot of kids through the pandemic, they’re lonelier than ever, and we’re dealing with the effects of social media that you know, we’re in this experiment, both kids and parents and we don’t know what the long-term effects are.
But we know the short-term effects are not good. The depression and anxiety rate is…I mean, as a parent of kids in this age group, seeing my own kids and their friends and hearing stories of my friends and their children. It is everywhere. It is everywhere and it’s scary.
– – – – –
I think a lot of youth are feeling like they’re not heard. So, we’re trying to marry a very complicated time with a lot of very challenging subjects and have a conversation where we can respect multiple points of view from both kids and parents.
ABOUT CAROLINE KUSNETZ:
Caroline Kusnetz is the co-founder and CEO of GRYT, a multi-faceted movement to equip and empower a struggling generation of youth; ages 8-16; to build the healthy mind-body habits that are foundational to achieving a sense of self-efficacy, resilience, and a place of leadership amid a sustainability-focused future. A former award-winning tech executive-turned-board certified functional medicine health coach and Iron Woman competitor, Kusnetz brings a powerful synergy of business-building acumen and comprehensive wellness expertise to an all-female team. Together, they are establishing a foundational framework that prepares both teens and their parents to effectively navigate the unique challenges of puberty and become resilient, passion-led adults.
Raised in New Jersey alongside one older brother, Kusnetz’s family of four regularly engaged in friendly competition as a means of imparting essential life skills. From deboning a fish to fixing a dishwasher, every “real world” lesson served to support a sense of self-reliance and resourcefulness that has served her to this day – and now motivates her to share the same formative experiences with American youth. After graduating magna cum laude from Massachusetts’ Babson College with a Bachelor’s in Marketing and Communications, she completed the University of Pittsburgh’s Semester at Sea, receiving academic honors while completing courses and traveling to ten countries. She then earned her Master’s in Business Administration from New York University’s Stern School of Business.
Entering the technology field, Kusnetz spent two decades advancing through the ranks of corporate leadership at Dell, IBM, and several start-ups. Just after becoming a new mother, she sustained extensive injuries – including a broken neck and traumatic brain injury – in a rollover automobile accident with her then-eight-week-old daughter. The road to recovery took more than two years, during which time Kusnetz seized the opportunity of a second chance to pursue her passion for helping others to improve their quality of life with tools and resources backed by advanced brain health optimization science. She completed her Health Coaching Certification Program, board exam, WildFit Nutrition Counseling Credential, and a six-month internship with APO4.INFO to become a certified ReCODE Practitioner. She then founded WE BE Wellness with GRYT Co-Founder Carly Kaufman, creating a thriving mind-body functional wellness brand that has empowered hundreds of clients toward positive changes that support physical-mental balance.
Today, Kusnetz brings the same brain-body functional wellness approach to GRYT, focusing her expertise on a generation of teens struggling to find a place of belonging and contribution in today’s world. She resides in New York City with her husband and two children, where she regularly works with youth as school board president and executive vice president. She has also served as a mentor for the New York State Mentoring Program, Girl Scout Troop Leader, and as a counselor, speaker, and recruiter for the New Jersey Public School Community Cares Program.
Core purpose/passion: Making our future better: Today, Kusnetz brings the same brain-body functional wellness approach to GRYT, focusing her expertise on a generation of teens struggling to find a place of belonging and contribution in today’s world. She resides in New York City with her husband and two children, where she regularly works with youth as school board president and executive vice president. She has also served as a mentor for the New York State Mentoring Program, Girl Scout Troop Leader, and as a counselor, speaker, and recruiter for the New Jersey Public School Community Cares Program.
About Manon Bolliger
As a recently De-Registered board-certified naturopathic physician & in practice since 1992, I’ve seen an average of 150 patients per week and have helped people ranging from rural farmers in Nova Scotia to stressed out CEOs in Toronto to tri-athletes here in Vancouver.
My resolve to educate, empower and engage people to take charge of their own health is evident in my best-selling books: ‘What Patients Don’t Say if Doctors Don’t Ask: The Mindful Patient-Doctor Relationship’ and ‘A Healer in Every Household: Simple Solutions for Stress’. I also teach BowenFirst™ Therapy through Bowen College and hold transformational workshops to achieve these goals.
So, when I share with you that LISTENING to Your body is a game changer in the healing process, I am speaking from expertise and direct experience”.
Mission: A Healer in Every Household!
For more great information to go to her weekly blog: http://bowencollege.com/blog.
For tips on health & healing go to: https://www.drmanonbolliger.com/tips
About The Healers Café:
Manon’s show is the #1 show for medical practitioners and holistic healers to have heart to heart conversations about their day to day lives.
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Welcome to the Healers Café. Conversations on health and healing with Manon Bolliger. A retired and deregistered naturopathic physician with 30 plus years of experience. Here, you will discover engaging and informative conversations between experienced healers, covering all aspects of healing, the personal journey, the journey of the practitioner, and the amazing possibilities for our own body, and spirit.
Manon Bolliger 00:40
So welcome to the Healers Café.
Today I have with me Caroline Kusnetz. And we are going to be discussing a little bit about her focus of her passion and interest, which is dealing with children or youth that are between the ages of 8 to 16. And what she does is empower them to be more self-efficacious, resilient, and leaders from what I understand in their community, Caroline will be launching GRYT in New York City and Seattle with a colleague, Carly Kaufman. So, I think at this point, what welcome and I’d love to hear a little bit more about your journey. Why did that become your passion? And yeah, how can you help these youth that really, especially post pandemic, is in real need of help?
Caroline Kusnetz 01:51
Well, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate the time to discuss GRYT that we’re launching as well as this important topic of youth and how we can support them for a more resilient future. I spent most of my career in technology, so completely unrelated. But my passion was always health and wellness. I loved competing and marathons and triathlons ultimately did an Ironman. And when I was…my daughter, I ultimately became pregnant with a daughter. And when she was eight weeks old, I was in a rollover car accident with her. And it was a very devastating event. We were…I was airlifted out; she was separated from me. And it wasn’t the way that you want to start in a new motherhood. And but it was a real turning point for my life, I underwent a three-year kind of recovery because I had a traumatic brain injury. I had a broke my spine in eight different places, I had many other broken bones. And so, it threw me off of my technology, executive career path into this whole new world that I was really discovering. And it heightened my passion for my own wellness. You know, first of all, health is not a given. And I saw the impact of how quickly it can be taken away in …
the accident. I also witnessed my grandmother slowly deteriorate from diabetes and lose her ability to do the things that she loved and become blind, lose body parts. And I also saw an aunt, who is still suffering at the very end stages of Alzheimer’s. So, I saw this firsthand, chronic debilitation of diseases. And then I saw my own very quick and an instant how quickly health can be taken away. And I decided to completely change careers. I knew I couldn’t go back to the very intense, stressed-out environment I was in in the corporate world, traveling every single week and under very intense deadlines. And I wanted to follow my passion because I knew as I had really over the many years loved and been so interested in the body and the mind and the connection of the two. So, I went back and became a functional medicine health coach. I had learned a lot of amazing tools through the process of my own recovery and ultimately wanted to teach…now I had two children, some fundamental foundational health habits that they could use, that would have compounding effects over their life. So that’s a huge lead up from, you know, of my life and how I ended up following my passion to focus on health and wellness, and then becoming a mother, how that really became front and center to focus on kids and empowering them at an early age.
Manon Bolliger 05:34
But because you mentioned in your write up a bit, you know, com, it’s almost like common sense tools, you know, like fixing a dishwasher, which maybe doesn’t sound like common sense, but can be done and these very practical aspects of, you know, ending up feeling resilient. Because yes, one can do this, you know, it’s like, it’s not rocket science. It may, you may feel overwhelmed a little bit, but if you, you know, you’re brought up in a family where, let’s just look at it, let’s see, you know it changes things. So, with the age you chose to help. I mean, that’s a, it’s a pivotal time, where these skills and resilience is so necessary, right? Is that, is that how you kind of merged your own historic upbringing, and, you know, because you could have chosen two-year-olds, you know.
Caroline Kusnetz 06:40
That’s very, very true.
Manon Bolliger 06:42
Or a two-year-old that are, you know, living with a traumatized mother.
Caroline Kusnetz 06:47
Right, right. Well, you know, what happened when, when my daughter was eight, I went to the store to buy her, you know, it was sort of the age, you know, starting puberty, first of all, kids are going through puberty at younger and younger ages, you know, for a variety of environmental, and other factors. And I went to the store to buy her something to wash your face with and I realized, you know, what kids are not born even knowing those basic things. But as you enter the age of puberty, and adolescence, basic hygiene is super important. And, you know, kids…when my daughter was in fourth grade, they were even starting to get acne at, at really young ages. But when I watched her wash her face in, you know, in the sink, it was just this crazy, kind of bird bath moment. And I said, it really dawned on me in that moment, like, we need to teach very basic skills. They aren’t born knowing them and my partner in Seattle has two sons, I have a son and a daughter, and also the differences of sons and daughters and teaching those skills. You know, there’s great variety there as well. But you have to teach them over and over again. But our idea was really born from having a sense of agency, over your own health, your own wellness, that there are things that you can do for yourself, that send a signal to your brain that says, I matter. I can do this, you’re building that resiliency, which as you mentioned, you know, when you’re going through puberty, you know, there are some kids very few whose confidence goes up. Most kids confidence goes down. And what could we do to fortify kids at this really pivotal time, with practical skills that have a compounding effect. And I always tell the story about my father because he would drive home the importance of compounding…the magic of compound interest and the importance of investing early. And it’s so applicable, certainly to finances, but even more so for health. And if you start early with these little things, you’re right, they’re not big dramatic things. But if you start early with the right education, the right community support, and then the right tools that make it fun and engaging to make a kid actually want to do some of these things. It’s life changing. I know its life changing. In my own coaching clients, I spend so much time trying to undo all these bad habits and lay down new habits so why don’t we start and teach children the right way and that they can do it themselves.
Manon Bolliger 09:54
So, like, when you say all these bad habits so their habits because people repeat them, right? That’s the nature of habits. What makes them like, bad? Like, what is it that you have found in the age group that the main things that you’ve, you know, you’re confronting and how easily changing into a good habit. And you could give me an example of that. How that is for those children?
Caroline Kusnetz 10:27
Well, it’s actually the bad habits I was referring to were with my adult clients.
Manon Bolliger 10:34
Caroline Kusnetz 10:34
The point of what we’re doing with GRIT is to avoid that process of having to undo and lay down new. I mean, still there, there are many kids who get into the habit and part of it, you know, a lot of these things are not their, their fault, let’s say sleep patterns. You know, there, there’s tremendous pressure and stress on kids to perform academically, on a sports perspective, you’re not going to get into college, your whole life is going to be terrible if you don’t get into so and so college. So, they’re staying up super late. As we know, kids, circadian rhythm shifts, and they really should, in an ideal world not get up so early, but the way schools are structured, doesn’t really lend themselves. I mean, there are very few that actually accommodate that biological fact. But so, they get into these habits that don’t serve them short term or long term, and they have to relearn, you know, scheduling, time management, doing things differently. And sometimes it’s even a matter of parents pushing back on schoolwork and school loads, as well. But there are also very basic things I see with my own daughter, in terms of taking care of your body, you know, using products, and things that are kind of counter to what they need going through puberty. So, they’re using products that are not formulated for their skin microbiome as an adolescent. That’s why it was very important for us to work with a dermatologist and a chemist who is very familiar and specialized in this age group. But it makes her skin worse, it gets very inflamed that she’s stripping the oils off. So, it’s okay, undoing those things and relearning those type of habits.
Manon Bolliger 12:47
And what does GRIT stand for then?
Caroline Kusnetz 12:51
So, GRIT was very, it was a very intentional choice for the name of our brand. You know, in Angela Duckworth, the hearse seminal work around what are the defining characteristics of successful and fulfilled people. And the number one characteristic was this sense of grit or resilience. And having that characteristic and cultivating it in youth at this pivotal age, really, it can have a dramatic effect on their life if we’re able to help support them. You know, a lot of kids through the pandemic, they’re lonelier than ever, and we’re dealing with the effects of social media that you know, we’re in this experiment, both kids and parents and we don’t know what the long-term effects are.
Manon Bolliger 13:48
Manon Bolliger here and I want to thank you for taking actionable steps towards engaging your healing journey, and helping others discover their path by watching, sharing, subscribing, and reviewing these podcasts. Every review and share help spread the word these different perspectives and choices and options for healing. And to thank you, I’d like to invite you to sign up to my free seven sequence email tips on health and healing for everyday life. You can go to www.drmanonbolliger.com/tips, thanks so much.
Caroline Kusnetz 14:30
But we know the short-term effects are not good. The depression and anxiety rate is…I mean, as a parent of kids in this age group, seeing my own kids and their friends and hearing stories of my friends and their children. It is everywhere. It is everywhere and it’s scary. It’s really scary. So, anything that we can do to support them providing community feeling like you’re not alone, both online as well as offline. So, we’re partnering with some organizations and in conversations with some schools of how we can provide services at that level at the in real life level as well as online, which you can’t you can’t ignore the online.
Manon Bolliger 15:33
But it must be a very charged time period, you know, because I mean, from the bit of experience I have, you know, in my own community, sometimes you have parents that they did the best they could, or they did what they were told, but the youth discovers, you know, that, in fact, things are, let’s say, in phase three experimentation, and they’re going, why didn’t you protect me? Or, you know, so there’s this kind of, I mean, how to deal with that level of potential guilt from the parent. But what the fear of the unknown, that the youth now has feeling that they’re, you know, living, you know, poisoned, basically, and, you know, as an experiment, that, you know, no scientific discovery. I’m listening to many, many different committees talking on this. And, you know, no one can say, oh, it’s out of your system now. You know, but, you know, and then there’s the parents that knew, or had that gut feeling this wasn’t right didn’t do it. But their kids went ahead because of peer pressure, or because they wanted to be part of some, you know, school activity. And this many of the schools pushed it. So they must be, yeah, in that context, creating resilience, without division with full understanding, you know, that we have to come ultimately from forgiveness and love, not to the perpetrators. I think, personally, I don’t think forgiveness is good enough there. But certainly, you know, for the well-meaning people who didn’t know better, you know, and then to also create a generation of youth that will ask questions, and, you know, so is that things that you that you address and cover in these discussions?
Caroline Kusnetz 17:53
Well, what’s important for us is that we are a community of both the parents and the kids. And both are struggling. Being a parent now is harder, you know, I talk to my own parents, it’s the challenges are so much different than they experienced. And yes, most people are doing the best they can. We have integrated the youth voice in really everything that we do. So, we have a very active youth advisory group. We had our first intern program last summer, and we’re continuing this summer, where we want their voice heard. And we want their input on, you know, products, on the voice, what topics are interesting to them, what they’re struggling with. Because it really is for them. And then the parents, we have an expert advisory group, with both mental health professionals as well as physicians who have an open mind because there’s no one right answer or voice. I think a lot of youth are feeling like they’re not heard. So, we’re trying to marry a very complicated time with a lot of very challenging subjects and have a conversation where we can respect multiple points of view from both kids and parents. And that’s not a parental voice to the kids. It was very important to us that it wasn’t like do this don’t do this. More of a, an informed bigger sibling or big brother or something, a different voice and more…you know, a less authoritative authoritarian type of thing. And that’s what we foster in our community and have continued to…are continuing to build out. But a lot of it is having the discussion without judgment.
Manon Bolliger 20:11
Right. Yeah. And then you have all the sexuality stuff, or that’s also, you know, at least here, it’s quite big it must I imagine in New York as well. A whole dimension that one may not have thought about, right?
Caroline Kusnetz 20:29
We want to normalize the discussion of sex without, you know, stigmatizing or taking a position on anything, you know, and different parents have different views on it, but we want the information to be fact based research based, that kids have access to real information with because there’s plenty of adults who never really got that education, right, and have suffered, you know, have suffered from it as adults, because they feel shame, they feel stigma, and it pervades for their whole life.
Manon Bolliger 21:26
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s a definitely a fine, a fine line. I would imagine. Yeah, I was listening to some of the, you know, the people journalism, because I think you get a lot more truth of what’s actually happening there than our, you know, paid for media or whatever. Ours in Canada sponsored censorships, I think it’s 98% of it is, you know, goes through red tape, basically, so it’s quite amazing. But, you know, a lot of the problems that you see on the news, or, you know, the agendas, when you give it in the hands of people educated to speak on the subject to, you know, not have their ego in the way of a real discussion, and really listen to both sides of the issue or there’s not even two sides, there’s many sides there, you know, many aspects of it. It’s so heartwarming to see that, you know, humanity comes to some conclusion that most people can live with. And we don’t really have the divisions and the divides that are created it we aren’t in such a black and white society, even though you know, we’re I think we’re very much programmed to believe that we have to choose sides, you know, what we need is discussion.
Caroline Kusnetz 23:07
Right. I couldn’t agree with you more. You know, I think there’s so much shutting down of voices. And I don’t know what happened to our ability to have a discussion, agree with each other, disagree with each other, but respect different perspectives. I want to hear different perspectives. I don’t want to just hear one voice. And you don’t have to end up agreeing you could still walk away and be friends and then have different views on it. So, we want that openness and that respect. And that’s what most youth want.
Manon Bolliger 23:46
Caroline Kusnetz 23:48
So, I hope that we’re going to see a change just generally. I’m hopeful that will get back to some sane, midpoint. Where it’s not always about the extremes.
Manon Bolliger 24:03
No, no. And I think it you’re, you’re, you’re creating the groundwork for taking a stand for that to be possible. You know, whereas if it’s not available, it’s not even a thing. Then you’re stuck with, you know, what’s created, unless somebody creates something different, you know, so I think that’s amazing that you’re doing this and what a great project and we’re launching Mother’s Day.
Caroline Kusnetz 24:32
Yeah we’re launching Mother’s Day, and we’re super excited.
Manon Bolliger 24:36
Great. So, I mean, our time is almost up. Do you want to share a few more things about what you’re seeing with this or where this could go or part of the dream that made this possible?
Caroline Kusnetz 24:52
Well, my partner, Carly, and we actually have a third partner who’s a new mother and she’s based in…Catherine Beaton, we see it in three in with three pieces. So, an amazing supportive community education that you can count on for both parents and kids, and then products that are really the tools to help kids be able to take care of their own body, and mind and spirit and build that resilience, which is more important than ever. There’s this wonderful quote by the WHO that said, something to the effect of investment in adolescence has a triple dividend. One for kids in their currently, one for their future selves, and one for the next generation. I think the impact of investing in kids at that age group is so significant and we’re passionate to support them and be a voice of positivity and celebrate because a lot of kids in that age group also it’s a very negative, you know, it’s like a terrible age group. They’re very difficult. But they’re actually amazing human beings. They teach you a lot. They teach you a lot and so you know, we are going to continue keeping on and make our vision a reality. So, we’re excited.
Manon Bolliger 26:26
Great. Well thank you very much for coming on the show to share your vision and yeah, and how it can help teens. I really appreciate this.
Caroline Kusnetz 26:40
Can I just give our website?
Manon Bolliger 26:42
Oh absolutely. We’ll be putting everything at the bottom too but feel, absolutely.
Caroline Kusnetz 26:46
You can find us on social at @gotgrit.com And we look forward to your listeners joining our community. We are growing rapidly and we’re super excited. So, thank you so much for your support and for your time today.
Thank you for joining us at the Healers Café with Manon Bolliger. Continue your healing journey by visiting TheHealersCafe.com and her website and discover how to listen to your body and reboot optimal health or DrManonBolliger.com/tips.
* De-Registered, revoked & retired naturopathic physician, after 30 years of practice in healthcare. Now resourceful & resolved to share with you all the tools to take care of your health & vitality!