PAP 016:

Empowering Your Kids Against Bullying

with Danielle Matthew

Danielle Matthew has devoted her work to helping kids through the emotional, and often damaging, experience of being bullied. In this episode of the Parenting ADHD Podcast, Danielle and I talk about one-on-one support, guidance and education to empower children and teens to heal from bullying, address conflict, and move forward. Listen and learn what you can do to help your child if/when they are the victim of bullying.

“Kids cannot play to win all the time. There are times when you play to win, times when you play not to loose, times when you just play for fun, and times when you choose not to play.”

— Dr. Sarah Cheyette, Pediatric Neurologist

Resources in this Episode

NOTE: Some of the resources below may be affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission (at no cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.

My Guest

DANIELLE MATTHEW
Danielle Matthew is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has over 20 years experience working with children and adolescents. She founded The Empowerment Space in the Los Angeles area to support bully victims and their families, aid schools and health and wellness professionals, and educate others about the bullying epidemic. Danielle speaks to parents, whose children are victims of bullying, educators, who seek to prevent bullying in schools, and other clinicians, who want to dialogue about how to support families through a bullying situation. She’s also author of The Empowered Child: How to Help Your Child Cope, Communicate, and Conquer Bullying.   Twitter: https://twitter.com/dmatthewempower Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheEmpowermentSpace/ LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danielle-targan-matthew-b8b587a/

Thanks for joining me!

If you enjoyed this episode, please use the social media buttons to share it. Have something to say, or a question to ask? Leave a comment below. I promise to answer every single one. **Also, please leave an honest review for The Parenting ADHD Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and appreciated! That’s what helps me reach and help more families like yours.

Things for listening to the parenting ADHD podcast with Penny Williams if you like what you just heard. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher. Visit the Web site. Parenting ADHD and autism dot com. For so much more successfully raising kids with ADHD. Be sure to check out the podcast section as well for previous shows. Join us next time for more parenting strategies and insights that actually work for kids with ADHD.

Welcome to this episode of the parenting ADHD podcast. Today my guest is Danielle Matthew who is a licensed marriage and family therapist with over 20 year?s experience working with children and adolescents. We're going to talk a good bit about bullying today how you might be able to identify that your child is being bullied and what you can do about it and how you can help your child and that too. Danielle founded the empowerment space in the Los Angeles area to support bullying victims and their families. Schools and health and wellness professionals and educate others about the bullying epidemic. Danielle speaks to parents whose children are victims of bullying educators who seek to prevent bullying in schools and other clinicians who want to dialogue about how to support families through a bullying situation. This is such a timely and important topic tonight and I thank you for being on the podcast today.

Thank you Penny for having me. I appreciate being here.

Absolutely. If you want to start out and just tell us a little bit about who you are why you started this foundation and really work in that space of bullying and helping children through that.

Yes so I started this. I was bullied as a kid and many years ago I promised myself I was going to once I was a licensed therapist use my passion and desire to help other families who were bullied. And I for a while got sidetracked and then ended up in a position where I was talking to people across the country and they were telling me that they don't have programs out there when kids are at a real crisis point before going into a mental hospital that they can actually get help for the kids who are being bullied. And I started seeing that a lot. And I was like I've got to do something about that. So I hired an independent consulting firm here in Los Angeles who actually did a needs assessment in our area and our community of Los Angeles to see how many programs are really out there that aren't prevention based school programs.

But in our actual community that really address bullying with kids in a crisis point whether it's a program and evidence based practice type thing to really address self-esteem and helping the kids who are victims of bullying. And then as a result of that they came back to me and they said I have good news for you and I have bad news for you. I said OK guys tell me what the good news is. And they said you don't have competition but also that might be the bad news because why don't you have competition what's going on in our community that we don't have more programs to help kids when they're at a crisis point. And again I'm not talking about the schools I'm just talking about in our communities particular.

So they said you can go ahead and create a program if you like and come back to us if you'd like to have it become a nonprofit and let us know what you'd like to do. So I spent the next year writing what's now the empowerment space. I also consulted with another therapist on it and a developmental psychologist because I wanted to make it as close to measuring whether it works or not. You've seen different surveys and ways to say are we seeing progress because it's 10 weeks and it's with kids who are on an individual basis come in who've been current victims of bullying and they're at a real crisis point that aren't at Luckily suicidal yet but very depressed and they work for 10 weeks on coping skills and self-esteem skills and we work with the parents and I go in and do meetings with the school and we really encourage kids to increase their self-esteem and heal from bullying and be able to address the bullies directly themselves using skills and role plays that we teach in our program. And then we have a follow up. One two and three months later to see is this effective. Are kids holding on to the skills they're learning. And their self-esteem is continuing to improve over time with support from parents as well.

That sounds fantastic it's definitely a very needed service. You

know if we focus on preventing bullying and we focus on that at that event and then I don't think very many parents really know what to do to support their kids after that other than you know show compassion and empathy and love.

Yes that's a very good point you make pennies from the empowerment space. I have one we call the three E's which is empathy empowerment and engagement. And I wrote a book on it to help kids heal bullying and how parents can talk to kids about bullying called The Empowered child which is how to help children cope communicate and conquer bullying.

And so I actually gave a roadmap to help parents really talk to their kids and their adolescents about bullying and what that really looks like including sample dialogues and lists of things to ask the school to help them collaborate together.

That's fantastic.

Let's start with I think the key would be for parents to know exactly what sort of behaviors they might be seeing that would clear them and that their child has been or is continuing to be a victim of bullying.

Sure. So when I ask parents to look at is a pattern of behavior one time or event does not necessarily mean bullying it doesn't mean it's ok any behavior ever I don't condone. But in terms of really seeing if this is bullying I want them to see over and over again. Is there any physical injuries that their kids are coming home with whether their backpacks are torn or they've got any scratches on their face and they're seen over time or their chins showing signs of depression where they were really these outgoing kids who had all their friends over all the time and that that was the hang out house and now your child's in their room. They're by themselves. They're depressed. They don't like school anymore they used to really be good students and excited and involved in activities and now they don't want to do anything at all and they're isolating again in their room.

They're great. Sleeping is another big one I see and my program is that when kids are very depressed and feel like they can't do anything about their bullying their grades also can tend to decline on a pattern basis as well over time. And these are some of the important signs and also you don't see your child with their friends anymore their best friend that you were they're good friends and now they're not coming over they're not here anymore and your child is spending more time in their room. Again if there's a pattern of these behaviors you might want to talk about whether bullying is involved.

So definitely a change of behavior overall would be a good signal that something else is going on.

Yes absolutely. And a pattern of it when you're seeing a change and you can really ask open ended questions as well. Hey I've noticed so and so isn't over anymore. You guys still hanging out again more is a question that allows the child or the teenager to come back to you and say well and see what they have to say. Right. And that's another way I would kind of find out what might be going on.

And you and I were talking just before we started the interview that kids with ADHD and learning disabilities and differences are often are more often the target of bullying than neurotypical kids.

So you know I think parents have a pretty good amount of experience with that. But what I find a lot of parents saying is that they go to the school and they tell them that it's a problem and not much of anything happens or they end up blaming the student the child for having behavior differences or calling attention to themselves or you know ADHD behaviors can certainly be used in that environment as excuses for why kids would pick on them. And of course that's a very inappropriate approach for educators to take. But

you know this is the reality of what a lot of parents with kids with ADHD are going through. So what advice would you give them and how to really work with the school and make sure that changes happen. I think in that environment as well is really important.

Yes I absolutely agree and you you're right Penny kids with disabilities and autism have a 60 percent chance of being reported as being bullied versus kids who do not have any disability and that's more like 25 percent without disability. So 60 percent is a really huge number. So I would suggest for parents to do when they're trying to work with the school and how they approach the school is I would really go in and talk very collaboratively about the concerns. And I would try to see depending on the age of your child what they think they want to do in terms of if they're being bullied because of their disability or how they look or act. I would really want to help them with what they feel comfortable. I would practice some role plays at home with them. I would collaborate with the permission of your child with the school and see how they can talk to the teachers sometimes there's more than one teacher and you go through different classrooms every day.

You want to see what teachers are one in particular can really help support your child during the day and can observe and you can get in there and help. But one of the things that I talk a lot about in my book is about empathy empowerment and engagement and how I would first address it is with your child directly before going to the school. And I would ask them I'm wondering how you're feeling with empathy. I'm wondering if you're feeling upset right now that you're being teased because you are having you know you have ADHD or you're you know something's going on in the classroom and they're teasing you. And how would you like to handle things.

And I think with empathy really want to get their feelings first because before you even approach the school it's very important the why not higher child feeling about the whole situation. That's really first and then once you do you can do what's called empowerment which is empowering your kid to come up with a plan of action. And that may include going to the school together to talk to the principal or having one of their favorite teachers who they feel they align with a lot who we all remember in school like a teacher that we felt more comfortable with. Socially we had like six periods a day of school. Is there one teacher that shows more compassion or are they quick better with. And what does that look like. And let's come up with a plan. It's part of the plan of action that we will go into gather to talk to the principal talk to the teacher.

Do we want to practice role plays together and let them come up with a plan of action and they may say the older they are I can handle it myself. And that's when it's really important that as the parent you give them the latitude to come up with an idea of how to handle things a plan but you're there with them checking in and letting them know you're not going to just let them handle it themselves because it's gotten to a point that's really upsetting. And so then the final part would be the engagement which is the follow up to the plan and I encourage consistency in this whether it's every night at a more Suddenlink time in the evening but really talking about is this working do we need to go back and talk to the school when we are talking to the school.

I think it's more powerful if your child is there as well because I think they can speak for themselves and what they're experiencing best to the principal and the teachers not just the parents. And I would really encourage maybe some practice and role play before going in and speaking to the teachers or the principal about how they want the meeting to go and what that's going to look like. And it's very powerful for kids to be part of that because then they feel their voice is now being heard right.

That's validating their feelings. And I think it also puts a face to the conversation you know it brings in that really human element that makes that very real for the educators and administration that you're having this conversation with. You know I think a lot of times we find that we can be very dismissed as parents in reporting things to school or asking for specific accommodations and supports at school for special needs. So I think you know it's always better to put a face with the problem and make it very real for those people and I wanted to say to you we're talking about involving your child and that's something that we talk a lot about with ADHD is really a collaborative problem solving approach as the best parenting approach for kids with ADHD and even high functioning autism. And so you know what you're teaching in this approach to handle bullying.

It fits right in line with that and that you know we're asking our children what is bothering you what is happening and how can I help you know. And listening to their concerns and their input and working together and by doing that we're only enriching their problem solving skills as well.

Yes I agree. And we want to because as we all know in life even with disabilities and high functioning autism life is hard and we have to learn how to handle our own conflicts and problems. If we don't now and we don't teach our children this. Then when are they going to learn it. And I kind of use the idea of you know it's like getting a job right or we don't always like the people we work with or we feel comfortable with them. But we have to still work to make money. Right. So we have social skills and skills to just adjust and problem solving skills so we can feel powerful and we know that our voice is important. And if we teach that younger to kids I'm hoping that they will keep that with them into their young adult ears or in their older adult years.

And it's teaching self-advocacy skills. So you know it's empowering them to take charge for themselves and to work out a solution rather you know a lot of kids with anxiety their inclination is to flee or avoid. My son in particular is a master avoider. And just by perceived you know what might happen say at school you know he's had a lot of school avoidance over the years and it's anxiety about what could happen or if something uncomfortable might happen again and not necessarily bullying because of his depth of anxiety. But you know the same thing can be said for bullying you know if a child starts avoiding school a lot there's a reason why there's a reason why you're suddenly avoiding things that they may not have before. Right. You know so that's really important to be able to identify what's happening.

And to get them to talk to you. You know instead of saying I'm sorry but the rule is you go to school you say you know I see that going to school has really become very hard for you. Can you tell me what's going on.

That's right. That's a really good point that you make because you want to ask them how they feel. A lot of times what I see is parents want to help so much that they tell them how they need to feel and what they need to do. They're just they care and they're worried. They're coming from a really good place. But what happens is that tends to shut the conversation down because they're being told how to feel and what to say and do. And that's not necessarily what they want. So we have to use that empathy empowerment and engagement steps to really get at what's going on and how to handle the problem whether it's specific to bullying or not. We want to ask them and we want to commend them at a time when we can really talk to them because as parents everyone gets busy everyone has stressful days and triggers and other children to attend to at times.

And we want to make sure we have these kind of dialogues and want to know what's going on to help our children particular even if it's around bullying or another issue we want to make sure that parents feel like they're in a good place that makes sense to really talk about things that they're calm that they're able to focus and really listen and kind of give their undivided attention.

Absolutely. You know it's not necessarily the right time to talk to your child when they run in the door from school crying and screaming and saying they're never going back. You know you have to kind of get through those emotions first and then you can have a really good conversation. Something we talk about a lot is that stress and anxiety kind of cause cognitive fog and they cause us to really our skills in problem solving and focusing are diminished and those times so we're going to be less successful with those conversations if we're trying to have them in the heat of the moment.

I agree and that's for the right child as well as the parent and I really want parents to take care of themselves especially around the topic of bullying. I want to just put that out there because it's a really hard topic to discuss. It's upsetting parents really just want to take care of the problem and they don't want their kids suffering. And I completely understand. Unfortunately it won't change overnight and we have to really use an empathy empowerment and engagement type of approach and really support our kids. And I guarantee you they're going to feel if nothing else more supported in that approach and really help them. But also parents need to take time to help themselves and take time to really do self-care also especially when the bullying is going on because they're seeing their child in pain. And there's nothing worse I think for a parent to not be able to take the pain away from them quietly.

Yeah absolutely and that's something that we talk more about too in the ADHD autism community is as parent self-care because it is really stressful. It's much more stressful to have a child with disabilities and then you know you add on the stress of something like watching your child struggle and maybe being bullied. And you know it can be developed meaning for parents too because all we really want to do is accept that you know that's parenting 101. We just want to fix everything and we can't always do that but we can certainly help our kids through things. And I think you know the biggest win for me in your approach and what you're talking about is the empowerment piece because that's what's really going on. Craft success later on. Even outside of a situation where they're being bullied you know that just learning that skill throughout their childhood is going to be a major factor in their success later as well. I believe that and I and I have a saying that I learned when I was in eighth grade from an English teacher and that is that knowledge is power. And the more knowledge we have the more power we have to make change happen. And so I really want to empower families to teach that children as well. Kids have more control than they know and feel they do they have to just look at situations differently and have support around how to handle situations. But I really believe kids want to handle situations themselves and they don't want parents rescuing them. And that does not work and studies have shown that kids are going to be more victimized once they've told their parents and the parents go in and try to handle the problem with the other parent and the bully may end up getting bullied or worse the victims.

And that's what they're so afraid of you know that's why I think that's why they don't talk to us a lot of the time that they are being bullied because they are afraid that we're just going to march into the school and start yelling at people and it's only going to get worse. And so you know that's where this really tailored approach that's so sensitive to that is really powerful. Can you give parents some tips about working with the school once they've recognized that their child is being bullied their child has opened up about it and says Yes I want your help to go to school and talk about this.

What are some things that parents really need to be mindful of.

So what they need to be mindful of like in my program I do three meetings with the school and so the first meeting is a collaborative one of course where we say hello how are you. And we talk but we need to know what our agenda is going into the first meeting so once we call the principals we set the meeting we want to know what we want to talk about. So as the parent they want to be prepared for how they want to come off and talk about issues such as the bullying how what they want to achieve from the meeting when they go to that first meeting with the school once that is established they want to ask for their policy on bullying.

I really want parents or can be maybe email that ahead of time so the parents know what the school's policy is. Usually every school now has a policy on bullying if they're not there should definitely be one on harassment because that will give the parent going into the meeting if they can get it before the first school meeting. They can get that information to know how the school would handle the bullying. What does that look like in the contract what kinds of ways do they hold kids accountable.

Some schools have certain prevention programs that they work with and they work in the school with that and some really work well with the bullies and the victims and so be nice to know they subscribe to certain program that they're using in their school. Is there a prevention program that they're using that seems to be effective and usually parents will get notices if they're going to be using a program in their school for that coming year. But I would really want to know about the policy and if the parents have any questions. Make sure they have those questions ready to ask at that meeting and then use their particular situation let's say for an example their child is being verbally teased at school and they are being called names all the time and they go to that particular classroom and these kids are constantly calling them names and even if the teacher is stopping it continues does that make sense and it's not going away.

Right. They could no longer wants to go to the classroom because they're being verbally bullied horribly. And so then they have to really talk about in this particular situation how are we going to handle it. You know how can we handle this particular class without my child looking why they hold on to the kids and then that my child's going to be victimized worse. What can we do in this situation. Can we bring the teacher in to talk to them to see how we might be able to help him or her better with educating them on how to help our child. And my particular kid and what works for my kid with the bullying in that classroom and you want to do that and be very clear once you've read the policy and how the school handles bullying and you want to use your particular situation I would encourage that particular teacher.

There's one room that's happening and sometimes bullying is happening in classrooms. Sometimes it's happening on the schoolyard sometimes it's happening on the bus sometimes it's happening in their physical education classes or unfortunately can be online. Right. You and I for bullying as well. So it's really important that we use our particular type of bullying. And like the example I just gave verbal bullying and how we're going to handle it and how we can work collaboratively with the school and then follow up will be the next part after they leave that meeting. They want to have a follow up right away like we talk with them the next week to see how our ideas work.

You know what we're going to have my child try with the teacher will do how the teacher may intervene differently. Can we talk within the next week. Usually with school they're very busy depending on how many it's private or public or charter school. But usually within a week they can get back in touch whether it's the dean of the school or the vice principal for the principal within a week they can make contact again easily.

Yeah definitely and something that you said that I wanted to touch on was how to approach it so that the bully doesn't know that they're being called out. And I know in the past when my son was in elementary school we had some issues and I spoke to the guidance counselor about it and she decided to do a Classroom series on bullying in his class so that no one was called out.

But I think that the issue was being addressed that they were being given the knowledge to change their behavior. And so I thought that was a pretty good idea as a starting point.

And they were really young and at the time and I think it did help you know the guidance counselor would come in once a week in each classroom to do some sort of lesson social or community. And so she was touching on some in that but not in an intensive like this was so they added this intensive to the classroom and the student who was bullying never knew that he had done anything to anyone. You

know they just thought they were getting this last time that was well done well done because what we're finding is the best way to approach bullies and bystanders cause bystanders can be either negative or positive they can go along with the bully and she's in a negative way or they can be positive and stand up to the bully. They're one of the most interesting groups that we study when we talk about bullying a way to really encourage that group is positively through positive role modeling positive steps. And that's where we're seeing the most results in programs is that we really want to positively encourage the bullies to be good role models instead of negative role models. And one way we kind of divert that right away is not making the bullies or the bystanders who might be going with along with the bully but in a negative way that they're in trouble.

Because I usually seems to be the first thing they worry about is that they're going to be in trouble. And so you want to take that away right away and I love what your son's teacher did and just bring more awareness to the whole classroom because no one was in trouble right. Everybody able to collectively learn together in a positive way to empower them to be better about it and made more aware and the bully wasn't made to feel they're in trouble. And that's what happens that ends up setting the bully to be worse to the victim if they're made to feel they're in trouble instead of turning them into a positive role model.

Mm hmm. And what do you say. You know I've noticed that at least sometimes when my son has been picked on that the student who is doing that often has struggles or learning challenges or behavioral challenges of their own. And so you know I've had the conversation with him before about everybody having their challenges and sometimes that's the reason that bullies are picking on someone else because they're trying to deflect away from themselves and negative attention on themselves. Do you think that that's a pretty common problem. And do you feel like that's an appropriate conversation time with our kids when they're bullied.

Yeah. I mean I think definitely the meeting will get away to be empathetic towards the bullying themselves and what might be going on for the bully. They could have differences that make them uncomfortable about themselves. There might be role model around them in their home about how to behave when they're learning it from its very much. And there's also possibilities that you really don't like other kids who are just friends of someone who has a disability of some sort that looks or you know approaches them differently or is different in presentation in the class. They don't like differences. They want to get around kids who are different. You and I as adults probably like people in our lives who are very different. We don't want people there just like us as our friends or people that we choose to be around. But kids aren't like that. They don't always embrace differences. And so that's a way that they decide to pick on certain kids if something is different about them like a disability of some sort.

And so after you have the conversations with the school parents feel like it's being addressed. Then what do they do at home for and with their kids to help them work through the hurt and the emotions that come from being the victim of bullying.

That's a great question Penny. So what kids can do with their parents at home to continue to work on bullying and the issues going on is really through that empathy empowerment engagement. So if we take the example again of their child being verbally bullied at school in a particular class let's just say we really talk about asking them how they're feeling continuing to check in with them and hoping that they're going to be more open to tell you how they're feeling because you're asking it as I'm wondering if you're feeling this and let them tell you and then asking how is our plan working. Of empowerment which is the second step. Are you feeling that by doing this kind of ignoring changing your seat in the class that you're not around those kids anymore who are constantly teasing you in this class.

Is that helping you. And it's if not do you want to practice using role plays right now. What you can do differently in the class. There's something else we can come up with a plan of action that would be better for you since they may still be teasing you and then you're hoping that your kid will be willing to work with you again with a specific problem in mind. And I'm just using the verbal going in a classroom as one example of that. And then you want to follow up with the plan of the engagement. Did it work. Did our change in the plan work. Are you now moving to a different seat. Are those kids no longer sitting near you. You're not being teased anymore. How are you feeling. Do we need to even do things differently. That's.

And I would really be following up in practice because nothing's going to change overnight or things may get better for a while and then they start again. That's the fortunate piece of bullying is it can stop for a while but then it can start again.

And so we really want to continue to have check ins at a good time in the evening where you're right Candy not just coming home from school and they're hysterical and something terrible does happen to them or you're coming home and you're tired from your day or something happen but you want to find a good time in the evening where you're both in a more relaxed place to continue to practice and talk about this because it could be a continuous issue. And then they just have to know that you are going to figure it out they're going to solve this and it's going to get better with the skills.

Yeah absolutely. And so what would your advice be for situations where the school or the environment where they're being bullied is really kind of calling out the victim.

And what I mean by that is like say that a child is being bullied on the playground and the teachers you know don't interact with the kids on the playground they're sitting over on a bench on the side of the playground say monitoring. And so you know my first inclination and this is something that I've done with my son when he was little was you know you should go sit by the teacher.

You'll be protected there because what else would we do in that situation you know and so I think that schools do that as well. They want you know to move the victim out of the situation or out of that class or. And then it tends to draw more attention to the man who's being bullied and it feels like a punishment to them when they really didn't do anything wrong.

Yeah I think that's what happens a lot in school sometimes is I think there's a lack of either of education or understanding dynamics. And so with other kids and what happens is if the victim somehow causes attention to them they either get ends up being the ones in trouble because they've had enough and they finally say something or do something different they get attention cause to them and get in trouble or standing up or the way that they choose to. And sometimes the schools really do push the victim to do more to change like they're the problem versus the kids that are actually causing the problem. So it's a really tricky situation because you want to be careful as educators that we don't really need our victims you know write in and feel worse so you really have to approach them very carefully and openly to want to support them and come up with a plan that they feel comfortable with where they're not made to feel bad because they're being bullied.

And so you may look at why having a program in school that really works on addressing bullying as a whole should really address the problem and perhaps really helping to ask the victim how they can be supported by the school. You know sometimes I think we ask kids what they think would be helpful. And a lot of times kids are really smart and know it could work.

You know what can work for them.

Yeah I talk a lot about asking your kids when they're struggling How can I help you because we don't ask our kids enough and we think when they're younger that they're not really going to have any valid insights or be able to communicate things and that really isn't true. You know when I started implementing that myself I was really surprised at how often you know my son's answers were rational and thoughtful and could be very helpful. So you know and it read it again is showing empathy. It's validating their feelings. You know just asking how I can help you shows you that I know you need help that I know you're struggling. So that's so impactful and I think I talk about this a lot. Parents do not ask their kids for their input. And if we just kind of dismiss it and you know I think that we're taught to parent in that way you know that's kind of the norm that we grew up with when we were kids and so forth. But we can always be the change in that in that pattern for sure. And I want to say to you I don't want educators and administration anybody else who might be listening to think that we're just bashing the schools or teachers.

You know I my son was bullied the first week of school last year on the school bus. He stood up to the bully because the boy was picking on the younger kids on the bus and they ended up getting into it because you know of course he then deflected his mean attention on my son for trying to stand up for these other kids. And so when they got off the bus though the boy said that he was going to fight my son who would never do that. But he did just swing at the boy kind of gesture of get away from me. And you're wrong and you know. And then of course he got beat up and he didn't defend himself.

But the school was very good about understanding that how he got in that situation was that he was trying to defend others and that he was coming from a place of good intention. You know he did get in some trouble because he did swing first and he should. You know but the other child got in much more trouble. And because it happened at the bus stop I don't think a lot of parents realize that when your kids get off the bus it's still the school's responsibility until they walk away from that place and the bus has cameras on it. And so they were able to validate what happened but you know I felt really grateful that they were compassionate and understanding in that situation and they were very vocal with him to praise him for standing up for others. And so you know we run into all different scenarios in the education system but there are good folks and good intentions out there too.

And I think a lot of it just as really not knowing how to help not knowing how to address the situation all the time it's not that they don't care that our kids are bullied.

I agree with that. I really believe that educators do care. And many of them do and I just think they don't always know and it's ok I think for people not to always know but I think to ask and come up with a plan of action and really help the kids and follow through show some watch because what I really believe with kids is that they don't care about you know as much how many times maybe they're getting yelled at. Not that they don't care but it's how mom and dad are to school correct. That experience for them and how they to them how they go back and make it better. That's what they're really paying attention to is how we solve the problem and how we change what happens. So if our educators are even able to do that kind of empathy and I've seen it many times when I've been in school meetings and when I give that feedback and I use the voice of my client if my client has already tried themselves they aren't really open they don't want kids to be bullied.

They don't want kids to be hurt. It's never their intention. And I do know that right.

Yeah. I just want to add to that because I know not just in this topic specifically but I do recognize that teachers often feel kind of attacked in many situations and they certainly have a lot of responsibility and very little help. And so I just wanted to be sure to say that out loud that we know that their intentions are good and sometimes are often probably the right thing is done to be really helpful in that situation that we went through was very traumatic and took weeks for my son to really feel secure at school. Again of course he has not ridden the bus since and fortunately that child did move out of our neighborhood a couple of months ago. But you know it took him a long time and I think our kids with ADHD and high functioning autism are often much more sensitive and they are hanging on to things a lot longer.

And so you know I love your approach that you continue on long term with checking in and seeing how things are going and making sure that the plan worked and you know one thing we use to conquer anxiety is to sit down and write a plan. OK what's your worry. If that happens here's what you can do.

And we get the other folks involved on the other side and I say you know my son is going to come to you if he's feeling worried and overwhelmed in the middle of class he's going to come to your classroom and they validate for him. Yes. You know this is a safe place he can come here if he needs to and I think you know setting up the same sort of plans with our kids ahead of time and then with everyone involved is really important because it shows them that there's lots of people who care about what's happening and supporting.

That's right and it's really important that kids see that and know that that's absolutely there for them. And a lot of times I think educators want to work collaboratively with parents and it is it can be a really good thing. And what I find in a lot of teachers is they'll say to me from my program what are some of your buzzwords that you use because maybe I can use some of those with my kids in the classroom and maybe if there's some words that parents use at home when they talk about a plan of action or something about positive coping skills or positive self-talk and they're saying positive things to themselves maybe that's something that teachers can actually incorporate when they're also dealing with your child. And why she you asked me that before and I'm so impressed by them when they want to know that and they want to use some of those same words that we talk about in my program. It's great. Awesome.

Yeah. It really is. The more support that you get the better.

And I think you know the more educators that you're educating with your program the more keyed in they are to really noticing these situations before they get out of hand too. You know they can see that behavior in their students and recognize and kind of wave the flag and try to work on it before it gets really out of hand sometimes as well. Absolutely.

I really agree about that as well. You know one of the other things that I see that happens when we talk about school avoidance sometimes is that with kids you have been bullied and I think kids who are just don't feel comfortable in their schools is that they tend to want to be homeschooled. It also becomes that you have home school and do we homeschool our kids especially when it comes to bullying and what I tell a lot of families and teachers and educators when I speak at conferences and presentations that I do is that there's no right or wrong answers to that. But it's how well your child will adapt in being in their school environment and how well you can work blabbered Evely with the educators. And you know I have some parents will call me saying my kid won't go back to the school again and I can't physically move them and push them to school every day what do I do.

And it's really important that we as parents then we have to identify another school. You know we really work with our kids to get ready to go back into that school environment again. Whether they have a program like empowerment space or a therapist who's well-versed on bullying. We really practice the skills ready to go back to that next environment because I really do encourage that even if kids are avoiding school for a while we want to get them back into an educated environment because it's like I said with a job you know we don't always get to pick and choose who we want to work with and a job that we have to be there and learn how to cope.

And so if it becomes of our kids not when I talk about with home schooling you know that's my personal perspective on homeschooling is that they're not necessarily learning the skills to cope with everyone else and they can't just be at home all their life and you know a lot of home school families are really good about a lot of social activities and classes and things like that. And that's a way to show a home schooling work for that and address that issue. But I do think that it's really important that our kids learn how to address something and work through it instead of always trying to avoid and school avoidance suspend a huge issue for us in the past few years. And one thing that I realized early on was there was something happening at school on those days there was something going on that he either wasn't able to communicate he put his finger on it.

He didn't want to share it. But the more we could figure out what was happening that was upsetting him than the more willing he was to go to school because we would make a plan and then we would go to school with our plan. And then you know somebody was listening to him and so when he was addressing his need and you know school's a very stressful place for a lot of kids especially kids who are bullied. There's a great book by Jerome Schultz called Nowhere to Hide. It was one of the only books that I found on school of avoidance and kind of that really big stress factor that our kids go through with school and some of the parents here listening to this podcast episode might be interested in reading that book because if your child has been bullied then they are under a lot more stress when they're going to school.

And I think it's really important for us as parents to really understand what that does to them physically emotionally mentally cognitively. So I would encourage the parents to read that book and really get a good handle on what it's like. You know I certainly was bullied as a kid and I'm sure a lot of other parents were but some weren't. And

being bullied today is probably a lot different in many respects than it was when I was a kid and my fellow parents were young so it's really important to dig in and to recognize and understand exactly what our kids experiences are in these situations as much as we can.

I think that's a great point because I really think if we don't understand their experiences and the bullying goes on and on even as young adults I will see people in my practice and they're still struggling and stuck back to where the bullying was happening. And emotionally cannot move on in their lives with their intimate relationships or their professional relationships or their professions. They really feel those same feelings that they did as kids and that's why I'm so glad my book has come out. As of tomorrow on Amazon because it really does give parents an approach so they don't have to feel powerless so their kids don't grow up having to just say they were bullied as a kid and it was no clear resolution to it. I'm feeling better about themselves and that's what I don't want to see happen to families and why I wrote the book is because I want them to feel they have skills a roadmap to use.

And again every family is different but it's sort of an overall idea of what you can do when you get more specific to your child. I do provide the sample dialogues in there to help with that. But again every child is different but it's just to give her a roadmap. So there is at least a start to the conversation and how to open it. So our kids can feel safe and that we can heal them from bullying.

And the parents are empowered as well. Yes.

You know when they have a roadmap when they have a guide of how to help their child then the parents are empowered to and that's I think that's what it's all about. For

those of us here work with parents and train parents in different regards and therapists and so forth I think that's one of the big goals is to empower the parent to make change because then they feel effective and are able to be confident in their parenting. So I think it's really effective in that manner to empower not just the child but the parents and self-care is so important. I know we spoke about as Penny a little earlier but self-care for parents. I really read a lot about that in my book the importance of dad and how to take self-care because kids want to see that also they want to see that parents are also taking care of themselves as one of the reasons they don't want to come to parents about bullying is they don't want to worry them. They don't look for them. They don't want them to feel responsible and they don't want them to feel they have to take care of it because they worry about their parents. So the parents are also doing good self-care and the kids are seeing this. That's really important and impactful as well.

Yes. It's modeling what we want our kids to do for themselves when they're adults that's trying to sort of learn by watching us for sure. Is there anything else we're running out of time. Was there anything else that you wanted to be sure that we talked about or to add to the conversation. I will definitely have all of your contact information and a link to your book in the show notes as well.

Thank you so much. I just again want to just encourage parents to know that there is hope out there and their kids don't have to continue to be bullied. And I really do feel the empowered child is a great resource and can help parents really help their children heal from bullying and come from a hold was placed to a more hopeful place.

Absolutely. Thank you so much for being on the podcast today. I know that your message is going to help a lot of families and your book is certainly going to be a great guide for them to really be more effective for their kids when they're in that situation than I think most of us know how to be so really fantastic resource and I'm so glad that you were here.

+ Click to view entire transcript
- Click to collapse

Listen to More Parenting ADHD Episodes

NEXT EPISODE:

PAP 017: Throwing Out the Traditional Parenting Rulebook for Parenting Success

Listen Now
FEATURED EPISODES: