Pandemic fuels launch of parenting podcast now incorporated into courses

An outreach project that began because of the COVID-19 pandemic is another example of something positive resulting during a year full of unprecedented negatives.

Madison Reed takes a selfie in front of her laptop, showing a Zoom meeting with her professor and classmates

Madison Reed takes a photo with her class during a Zoom meeting (top left) Beth Trammell, associate professor of psychology; (middle left to right) Andrá Smith and Alyssa Altieri; and Alisha Morson. The students work with Trammell on her podcast, “Kids These Days…Tools for supporting children’s mental health.”

Kids These Days…Tools for supporting children’s mental health” is a podcast launched last year by Beth Trammell, Ph.D., HSPP, an associate professor of psychology at Indiana University East. The podcast is designed to help parents cope with the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Parents and teachers are so emotionally fatigued, they can’t really think about doing anything extra. Podcasts are an easy way to get information out,” Trammell said.

Trammell found her students also interested in the podcast, so she began including them in the process. She has now incorporated the podcast into her courses and expects it to continue long after COVID-19 fades away.

“I had both graduate and undergraduate-level students help by selecting an appropriate topic and then researching the literature to create handouts and talking points for the podcast,” Trammell said.

Working on the podcast helped increase understanding of how clinical outreach can reach a wider audience. The format was also a great solution during a time when shutdowns prevented in-person parenting classes and activities.

Julia McCullough, who is majoring in psychology with a minor in neuroscience, said she reached out to Trammell about her interest in working with kids. “She asked me if I would be interested in doing some research and then creating a podcast to present my research to parents,” McCullough said.

Clearly she was, so she researched anxiety and anxiety disorders in teenagers. “I began the project by gathering as much information from as many various sources as I could.” She developed printed material, talking points for the podcast and finally recorded the presentation with Trammell.

“The process I went through with Dr. Trammell gave me a really good idea of how to apply what I have been learning in my studies to real practice,” McCullough said. “It is something I wouldn’t have experienced if Dr. Trammell had not given me an opportunity to work with her on the project. I gained experience channeling my work and research to families and children, which gave me a better idea of what my future career may be like if I choose to continue focusing on working with children and adolescents.”

Madison Reed is a student in the collaborative IU East and IU Kokomo Master of arts in Mental Health Counseling program. She has worked on three podcast episodes so far.

“Through these episodes, I have gotten to explore the topics of anxiety in young children, the importance of movement, and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on children in early childhood,” Reed said.

The podcast work has illustrated to Reed another way to expand the mental health field beyond an office and cemented her plans to continue in the field and eventually have her own therapy practice. “I hope to continue to normalize mental health conversations and reduce the stigma around mental health issues. Everyone deserves the right to get some extra support if they need it.”

Andrá Smith, psychology major, said working on the podcast taught him much about the research process and marketing.

“I was involved in marketing the information with newsletters and professional social media posts,” Smith said. “I learned the power of marketing and using design to one’s advantage to draw attention.”

Trammell said the audience continues to grow, ranging from 40 to 140 downloads per episode.

The podcast can be found on Apple or Spotify, as well as makewordsmatter.buzzsprout.com.

Trammell started her parenting outreach in 2012 under the name Purposeful Parenting.

“I believe that we, as parents, need to focus on our words and actions to deepen our relationship with our kids, as well as decrease our frustration with them when they do things that are age-appropriate — but slightly annoying to us,” Trammell said. “As I engaged parents in community-based workshops, I realized the skills I was teaching would apply to teachers and other community members as well. So I expanded the work to include teachers and caregivers.”

The name relates to her belief in the power of words “to impact those around us in good and great ways.”

The pandemic that sparked the podcast also created a great option for struggling parents who may not be able to admit they need help.

“Coming to parenting workshops can be really hard because it can be hard to admit to needing help,” she said. “By offering that same high-quality information via podcasting, parents can access the information anytime, from the comfort of their own space, without anyone else knowing or judging them.”