Supporting a bullied middle schooler

Supporting a bullied middle schooler

The door bangs shut. Your teen is home from middle school with their head hanging down and in disbelief. When you ask how the day went, they bury their head in their hands, cry, and share that their best friend is spreading rumors about them all over school and not letting them sit with any friends at lunch.

Your heart sinks. Maybe you recall the many ways in which middle school can be a relationship battleground. You might find yourself feeling protective and ready to call the friend’s parents to give them a piece of your mind, but resist that urge if you can. One of the best ways to support your teen is simply being there for them right now. How do you do that, and what else can you do? Below are three helpful tips.

Validate first

Before you think about problem-solving, it’s important to start with validation. Validation acknowledges how your teen is feeling without agreeing or disagreeing with the emotional experience. When you validate, it shows your teen that you hear them, helps them manage the intensity of their distress, and makes their ears more likely to open up and hear what you have to say next.

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage in parts of the world, it is slowly retreating in the U.S. There are now three FDA-authorized vaccines, including one for children as young as 12. The vaccines are proving to be nearly as effective in the real world as they were in clinical trials. The CDC has relaxed some prevention measures, particularly for people who are fully vaccinated, and especially outdoors. Meanwhile, scientists continue to explore treatments and to keep an eye on viral variants.

In this example, you might say, “You must be feeling so betrayed.” Even though you might long to try to make the pain go away, it’s important to send a message that emotions are helpful and not hurtful to us. Avoid phrases such as, “Forget her!” Despite kind intentions, words like these inadvertently send the message that your teen should not be having strong feelings about this experience.

When you validate, aim to describe the emotion or lead with a tentative approach, such as “You’re really [insert emotion here]” or “You seem [insert emotion here].” Avoid starting with phrases like “I know” or “I understand.” Developmentally, teens go through a stage in which they think no one else knows what it’s like for them. They are also tasked with separating themselves from their parents, so they may bristle when you try to relate to them during emotional experiences.

Teach antibullying tools

After validating your teen’s emotional experience, let them know that you’re proud of them for sharing this with you. By doing so, you help reinforce that it’s important for teens to let adults know when these events happen and to have an outlet for feelings.

The key to a happy teen? Listen and support — and resist solving problems for them.

In a new book, two experts advise parents on how to talk to their teenagers in ways that foster closeness and help them cope with adversity on their own.

You’ve probably heard that to raise a successful person, you need to allow your child, especially adolescents, to have autonomy. That if you micromanage everything, they won’t learn how to do it themselves and thus won’t thrive later in life.

You’ve probably heard that to raise a successful person, you need to allow your child, especially adolescents, to have autonomy. That if you micromanage everything, they won’t learn how to do it themselves and thus won’t thrive later in life.

But how do you actually do that? William Stixrud, a clinical neuropsychologist, and Ned Johnson, founder of test-preparation company PrepMatters, have a new book out that aims to answer all of that. “What Do You Say? How to Talk With Kids to Build Motivation, Stress Tolerance and a Happy Home,” builds on their last bestseller, “The Self-Driven Child.” They break down how each parent can be a non-anxious parent-consultant, rather than a parent-boss, and ways to help kids be truly happy as they grow and head into the world.

Stixrud says that one of the wisest things he has heard about adolescents is that “Every day, when they come home from school, you can see who they’re deciding to be.” Here, they give advice on helping your child to become who they really are. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

How has the pandemic affected kids’ motivation and stress tolerance, and how should parents pivot to deal with their teens?

WS: The kids who are introverted, hated getting up for the bus — for a lot of kids it’s been a pretty good thing for them and for their families. Nationally, you see a significant increase in depression and anxiety, but these were increasing dramatically before the pandemic.

NJ: We know that kids from wealthy families are at an even greater risk than those stretched thin, in part because of an intense pressure to excel. And these kids don’t feel as close to their parents. It’s really helpful if parents take the long view and recognize that the emotional resilience we so want for our kids [can be achieved by] adversity with support. We’ve had so much adversity; let’s do everything we can to support our kids — not to get the highest GPA, but to be able to cope.

You write about the importance of making our home the place where our kids can feel that connection with us. How?

WS: Parents need to validate [kids’] feelings, treat them respectfully, and not try to solve their problems for them. The practice of listening more than talking: “I’m trying to understand you, and here’s what I’m hearing.” Home should be a safe base where after a stressful day, they know you don’t criticize them, that you understand them. We don’t want our kids to say: “I got a C, but don’t tell my parents!” We want them to feel safe enough to bring their problems to us.

The Life-Changing Magic Of Having “Good Parents”

The Life-Changing Magic Of Having “Good Parents”

One day, when I was a teenager, my mom and I were driving down the highway listening to a playlist I’d made on my iPod, moving easily from one conversation topic to another, as we always did — and still do. This wasn’t a particularly special day; it was just another day for us — we were always going on drives or taking road trips together. On this day, though, she suddenly looked at me, and said that she wished she’d had moments like this as a daughter. She said she could never have imagined going on drives with her mother, enjoying music together and talking like friends. She didn’t mean it in a “you should be grateful for your life” kind of way, because she’s never been that person. She was just wistful. It was the first time I consciously reflected on the idea that maybe the way my parents treated me, and the way we related to each other, was not the way they had known their own parents — and they weren’t alone.

Honestly? I’m not sure who I would be if my parents had been different and if our relationship to one another hadn’t been what it was. Maybe I would still essentially be me. But would the trajectory of my life, the road to finding peace and contentment with who I am and where I am, have been a lot bumpier?

It’s hard to make sweeping statements or what-ifs about my life. Obviously, there are plenty of great, happy adults who had bad parents. There are also awful, unhappy adults who had good parents. It’s not something you can tell just by talking to someone, and that relative invisibility is partly why I want to talk about it, because, just like generational wealth, having good parents is a kind of hidden privilege. It’s not a privilege in the sense that people who have good parents should feel like they’ve gotten something over and above what they deserve, as could be said about, say, inheriting a massive trust fund. But while every child should have caretakers who love and support them unconditionally, it’s still a privilege in that it’s a big leg-up in life. And, unlike with a large inheritance, having good parents is the kind of benefit that you might carry around unwittingly, or giving much thought to how hard things might be if shittier people had raised you, something over which you’ve never had any control. While we choose friends, partners, other significant people in our lives as adults, our parents, of course, are a life-changing roll of the dice.

Of course, even though my parents are good, they are also imperfect people, just as I’m their imperfect daughter. Growing up, I went through peaks and valleys in my relationships with both of them, and there was plenty of fighting. When the three of us — I’m an only child — are under the same roof, we still fight, round robin-style so no one feels left out. They don’t have flawless personalities or always make the right decisions. But, having a serene, easy relationship isn’t the only criteria I’m using for good parenting. So, what makes a good parent a good parent, then?

According to psychotherapist Dr. Dana Dorfman, it’s not about saying and doing the objectively right thing every single time. In fact it’s not something that can be fully intellectualized at all — instead, she describes what good parenting might feel like to a child. “Almost through the cells of their body, they’re taking in the experience of being loved, being appreciated, of being nurtured, of being supported, of being soothed,” she says. It creates an aura of safety, the emotional equivalent of being wrapped in a snug blanket. And, it lasts.

In fact, it’s the unconditional aspect of this kind of love that’s the reason why I’ve never worried that my parents’ support for me could be dimmed by something I did or didn’t do, for example. Even through our worst, angriest fights, the ones where I — being a typical teenager — vowed that I would never speak to them again, it never occurred to me that they might withdraw a fraction of their affection if I kept up my rebellion. Conditional love, on the other hand, dangles affection and respect like a carrot on a stick in exchange for the “correct” behaviour. It’s a love so contingent on externalities that it provides no security at all.

The pain and impact of conditional love can be significant, explains Dorfman. You might internalize that “your true authentic self is not lovable, not acceptable,” she says. “A lot of times people just hide parts of themselves — but those parts of themselves need expression. [Hiding it] can only be sustained for so long. It increases the chances greatly that they will experience anxiety, depression, [and] physical symptoms.”

One of the major behavioural science “breakthroughs” of the mid-20th century was psychologist Harry Harlow’s work in showing that baby rhesus monkeys crave comfort and affection from their caretakers, not just food. It might seem obvious today, but the prevailing school of thought when Harlow began his research was that affection wasn’t necessary in child-rearing, and that, in fact, too much could produce weak, overdependent children. The thinking was that babies attached to their mothers solely because mothers gave them food, and not because parents provided essential comfort. Harlow’s experiments, showing that the baby monkeys preferred the company of fake mothers covered in soft cloth who didn’t offer food over fake mothers made of wire who did offer food, were instrumental in the shifting view of parental affection — a social change for human babies achieved through cruelty to young monkeys, who were deprived of affection and socialization and in many cases became depressed.

Closeness with dads may play special role in how kids weather adolescence

Closeness with dads may play special role in how kids weather adolescence

Adolescence can be an emotionally turbulent time, but new research at Penn State found that close, supportive relationships with parents — especially dads — at key points during adolescence can help stave off certain adjustment problems.

The researchers examined how emotionally close and supportive relationships with parents — referred to in the research as “parental intimacy” — in families with mothers and fathers affected their children’s self-esteem, weight concerns, and depressive symptoms at different points across adolescence.

They found that closeness with fathers had broad, positive effects across adolescence for both daughters and sons. But while close relationships with mothers also had benefits, they were more limited by their children’s age, and weren’t protective against all the adjustment issues measured in the study for both girls and boys.

Anna Hochgraf, doctoral candidate in human development and family studies, said the findings suggest that while close relationships with moms are certainly important, fathers may play an important, distinct role in fostering healthy adjustment in adolescents.

“Adolescents tend to feel emotionally closer to their mothers than to their fathers and mothers tend to have supportive conversations with their children more frequently than fathers do,” Hochgraf said. “This may make emotional closeness with fathers more salient and, in turn, protective against these common adjustment problems experienced during adolescence.”

According to the researchers, adolescence is a period of development that includes many biological, cognitive, emotional and social changes that can lead to certain adjustment issues, with weight concerns, low self-esteem, and symptoms of depression being some of the most common, especially for girls.

But, previous research has also shown that close relationships with parents have the potential to help protect against the development of some of these problems. Hochgraf said she and the other researchers wanted to explore the topic further, breaking the results down by participants’ age, gender, and relationship with each parent.

“We wanted to investigate when during the course of adolescence intimacy with mothers and fathers becomes a protective factor for body image concerns, depressive symptoms, and low self-esteem, and whether intimacy is more strongly associated with positive adjustment at some ages than at others,” Hochgraf said. “We also wanted to see if patterns differed for girls and boys.”

The researchers recruited 388 adolescents from 202 two-parent families with both fathers and mothers for the study. Data was gathered at three checkpoints when the participants were between the ages of 12 and 20, and included information on participants’ weight concerns, symptoms of depression, and self-esteem, as well as measurements of intimacy between parents and their kids.


Intimacy was measured by the participants answering questions such as how much they go to their mother or father for advice or support and how much they share inner feelings or secrets with them, to which the adolescents responded with a score ranging from one to five.

Sandy Hook Promise Sounds the Alarm for Adults: The Kids Are Not Alright

Sandy Hook Promise Sounds the Alarm for Adults: The Kids Are Not Alright

Staying in a bedroom for 20 hours a day. Being constantly plugged in online. These are just a few of the stressors that youth have faced over the last year due to the pandemic, leading to heightened anxiety and depression, among other new or worsening mental health struggles. This emotional situation can give rise to various forms of youth violence — not just shootings, but also suicide and self-harm.

News. Social media. Online classes. Teenagers are plugged into bad news and challenging learning environments. Social media, which can be a positive place to connect, may spark feelings of isolation and low self-esteem. Learn how to help them unplug by knowing the signs at

The kids are not alright. Learn the warning signs to prevent a tragedy. Tweet this To help adults better understand the “powder keg” of turmoil threatening the lives and well-being of kids right now, Sandy Hook Promise released a new PSA campaign today, ” The Kids Are Not Alright. ” Created with BBDO New York, this series of three short videos reflects the anxiety, isolation, pressure, boredom, and incessant information overload that teenagers are experiencing. It is a national call to action for parents and other caring adults: learn the signs of a child in emotional distress and get help before it’s too late.

“We may think kids are resilient, but the truth is — the kids are not alright,” said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. “More youth are struggling with mental health issues and heightened depression and anxiety as a result of the pandemic. And it’s our responsibility to listen to them, support and protect them.”

Recent studies show more than 70% of teenagers are struggling with mental health concerns, and one in four has considered suicide. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among teenagers — and these tragedies can be preventable.

Even as we begin to reopen, we’re a long way from going back to normal. When schools reopen in the fall, social distancing will still be required. Students will have to deal with the stress of a new school year combined with adapting to the new school environment. Many will be returning to school after suffering the death of a loved one during the COVID crisis. Their stress will continue to mount and those who already suffered trauma will be at even greater risk of suicide and self-harm.

Research groups are predicting that there will be more “deaths of despair” related to drugs, alcohol, and suicide, as we continue […]

Continue reading the rest at

Sleep Problems in Teens with ADHD: Causes and Solutions

Sleep Problems in Teens with ADHD: Causes and Solutions

Sleep problems commonly plague individuals with ADHD — particularly during the teen years, when sleep hygiene and patterns go haywire in even the most neurotypical brains and households. Studies estimate that up to 70 percent of children and adolescents with ADHD have problems with sleep that stem from reasons ranging from racing thoughts to coexisting conditions and even environmental factors that can impact sleep patterns.

No matter the underlying causes, persistent sleep problems can impact functioning and impair quality of life over time. Thoughtful interventions and practices, however, can significantly improve sleep quality — especially when implemented during the childhood and adolescent years. Sleeping Problems in Teens with ADHD: Causes and Outcomes

Common sleep problems in teens with ADHD include: Insomnia , or difficulty falling asleep even when going to bed later. This often comes with early awakenings and an inability to fall back asleep.

Sleep onset association , or when falling asleep is linked to an object or an event (like turning on the TV for “background noise” to sleep).

Bedtime resistance , or refusing to go to bed or adhere to bedtime limits.

Anxiety , which may be sleep related (feeling worried about darkness or other things in the sleep environment), or related to worries and stressors experienced throughout the day.

Delayed sleep phase , which refers to falling asleep late and waking up late in a strong deviation from what would be expected of a typical circadian or developmental pattern. This is a common issue, as teens have to rise early for school on weekdays but delay their sleep drastically on weekends.

Some factors predict sleep problems in teens with ADHD: Biology – similar neurological pathways appear to be involved in the regulation of attention, arousal, and sleep.

Comorbidities – internalizing (anxiety, mood disorders) and externalizing (aggression, oppositionality) comorbidities are strong predictors of sleep problems.

Medication – all stimulants can produce sleep problems, with sleep onset latency (how long it takes to fall asleep) as the main disturbance. But these disturbances generally resolve and subside after some time on medication 1 . Furthermore, unmedicated children with ADHD will still have elevated sleep problems compared to children without ADHD. Sleep should be monitored for teens initiating or changing ADHD medication doses.

Environmental factors like parental mental health, family and social dynamics, and difficulties with schoolwork or homework can contribute to sleep problems.

For some children and teens, these sleep problems will resolve on their own or through some intervention. But for a sizable subset, they will persist. Teens with ADHD, for example, are more likely than their neurotypical peers to get insufficient sleep on school nights, and more likely to report doing “ all-nighters .” 2 They also […]

Continue reading the rest at