113: How to Press the Reset Button When Your Child Gives Up on School, with Rebecca Branstetter

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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Stress is contagious, but so is calm. The world is full of stress right now, including events that are piling more stress onto kids with ADHD who already stress more than they should have to about school.

When parents are stressed about school as well, it’s contagious to the entire family. But, parents have the power to reduce the stress and bring the calm.

In this episode of the podcast, Rebecca Branstetter offers a 10-step plan to help your child press the reset button when they’ve just had enough and give up on school. Hint: only one of the 10 action items has anything to do with school. 


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My Guest


Rebecca Branstetter, Ph.D., is the founder of The Thriving School Psychologist Collective, an online community dedicated to improving mental health and learning supports in public schools. a school psychologist, speaker, and author of several books including The Thriving School Psychologist, releasing this November. Branstetter is on a mission to help children be the best they can be in school and in life by supporting educators and families with the skills they need to communicate, connect, and cope.



Rebecca Branstetter (00:03): So stress is contagious, but so is calmness, right? So if you're getting upset, you're getting frustrated with your child, take a step back and find calm before responding. Because if you come in angry and trying to solve the problem with your kid, it's gasoline on a fire, calmness is the water. It can cool down any emotionally charged situation. So it's worth cultivating, it comes back to that mindfulness strategy, your inner parent will pause before responding and stressful moments.

Penny Williams (00:32): Welcome to the Parenting ADHD Podcast, where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD, straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, ADHD-aholic and Mindset Mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started.

Penny Williams (01:01): Welcome back to the Parenting ADHD podcast. I'm really excited in this episode to be talking to Rebecca Branstetter. And we're going to talk about how to set the reset button when your kid is tired of school, when they really want to check out and kind of give up, especially as we enter or have just started the second semester of the school year here in the U.S. Thanks for being here, Rebecca, will you start by introducing yourself to everyone?

Rebecca Branstetter (01:28): Yes, thanks for having me. So I'm Rebecca Branstetter and I'm a school psychologist. I'm also a mom of two elementary school aged daughters, myself. And it's interesting when this whole pandemic started, I really thought I would be prepared. And I would be prepared for whatever came my way. And then little did I know months and months and months into the pandemic, that there would still be challenges. So I'd literally done all the things, right. I created a cute space. I did visual aides. I primed my kids for what's going to happen. And we had a calming menu on the fridge and so should anyone have an outburst? We can go to our calming toolkit. Right. And I did everything right. And I literally, co-created a parenting course on distance learning and parenting.

Rebecca Branstetter (02:20): And I did another parenting course on how to cope with parenting yourself. And 50% of my children's children hated distance learning. Anyway my little one was so not having it. She's six. Despite all of my efforts. So I know that distance learning is hard for everyone. It's even hard for school psychologists to have PhDs on birthdays tough, but it's even tougher for like little ones. They're used to our hands on play guidance, instructions, visual cues, and then for kids with additional needs, it's really challenging. So parents, I think right now who are experiencing challenges or you're about to reboot might need some strategies to get out of what I call like a negativity spiral. Right. You can just get so, so stuck and I've been there. So I have some tried and tested strategies to get, how did that negativity spiral

Penny Williams (03:14): Amazing. I think we all need it. It's so hard now because it has gone on for so long. I think we all expected maybe a month or two or three, and then we'd get on with life and we haven't, and it's still gonna be months before we, I think go back to some semblance of normalcy and it's so easy. Like you said, to get stuck there it's Oh my gosh, this is not ending. This is so hard. And I don't want to be in this challenging spot anymore. And for our kids, I think it's doubly hard because like you said, they're so used to in-person hands-on much more social day to day than they're getting now.

Rebecca Branstetter (04:01): Yeah. My kids are like little social butterflies trapped in like social distancing that like I caught my little one the other day climbing over the fence to like interact with our neighbors. And she had put a mask on, but she was just like, I just need other, like, she's got her sister, which is fabulous, but there's a little kid about her age. And like there she's relentlessly social. And so it's so, so challenging to be on zoom because little ones also don't know. I mean, they know that it's not TV, but they don't really get that it's an interaction and they can't like get up and leave. Right. Or they can't just shut off their video or they can't say, I hate this without muting first. Right. So there's a whole new set of skills that we have to teach our kids and how to cope with something that's for a lot of kids developmentally challenging or inappropriate, but it's all we caught. So I think it's about leaning into what is and changing what we can.

Penny Williams (04:54): Yeah. And I think leaning in has a lot to do with our expectations, especially for kids with differences.

Rebecca Branstetter (05:03): Yep. I'm always saying like, relax your standards to a level appropriate for a global pandemic. Yeah. Like it's not relaxing your standards saying, Oh, they're never going to learn this concept or whatever, but it's relaxing it's so that what's appropriate for the situation. And what is the most, I can work with my child in this moment to learn that isn't going to tip them over the edge with the frustration tolerance or power struggle. I'd rather have my kid do one math problem and not have a full blow out meltdown than to muscle through an entire worksheet together.

Penny Williams (05:36): Yeah. Or the power struggle, how well we know the power struggle and how useless it is. We all get so easily pulled into that sucked in and it's never, ever effective, but it's, it's so common right now. Our kids are supposed to do school. Yeah. And it actually folds into

Rebecca Branstetter (05:58): Nice segue into our first strategy. So as parents and as adults with frontal lobes that are fully developed, we often jump in with problem solving, right. We sit down and go, well, let's just start this first one. Or well, let's ask your teacher or what do you like? We jumped straight to cognitive functions, but when our kids are stressed, they're not available. They're in fight or flight. Their thinking and reasoning skills are not neurologically available. I mean, just think of the last time you were stressed, were you at your peak cognitive performance to like solve problems and dig in, deep focus, probably not. There's zero chance of success of problem solving until your child is regulated. And a lot of kids have families with additional needs really understand this. So my first strategy is when in doubt choose empathy, it is the neurologically fastest way to get your child to work with you, which is counterintuitive, right?

Rebecca Branstetter (06:55): It's hold off on problem solving process before problem solved. My favorite phrase that I've been using that down-regulates my kids and actually adults work with is it makes sense. You're feeling this way or I get why this is so tricky right now. I get why this is hard for you. It brings your kid back to that baseline level of calm for problem solving with you. Yeah, love that. So the second strategy is to, and this is something we all know, but kind of sometimes forget. And it's to build fun movement breaks throughout the day. And I emphasize fun because I know like my kids are in distance learning and if your kids are at home and they come on break and some kids just want to have a break, or some kids want to like actually even go onto some like computer game during break, which is like no eyeballs off screen.

Rebecca Branstetter (07:51): Right. So my new favorite and a lot of folks might know this one, but is go noodle for little ones. Go noodle is a YouTube channel. And it has really fun things. Like you can do little, two minute dance with Sonic, the hedgehog or Elsa or whoever. You can jump over a pickle with a moose, like these crazy little things that are super fun. And what's kind of a fun side effect is that my kids come in and I go to GoNoodle. And I take a break from my inbox and I'm like, wow, I needed that. I need to do adult adult recess tag. These things are mental reboots for kids. And then kids with ADHD or extra wiggly friends or kids who get overloaded need sensory breaks. I mean, you can just have them do some jumping jacks, push up fun stuff, right. Like chase me around the backyard, chase the puppy, whatever you need to do. But go noodle is one of my favorites for that quick break. And it's something that it's, yes, it's still a screen, but if you can do it with your kid, it's a nice break or you're not familiar with GoNoodle. Do you have any other movement breaks?

Penny Williams (09:00): I am not. I don't have young kids. My kids are adults. My kids are adults. My son just turned 18. Yeah. So I don't.

Rebecca Branstetter (09:11): What kind of break could you do with older kids? Let's puzzle.

Penny Williams (09:14): That's what I'm thinking. Like what can you do easily... Ride a bike, skateboard, go walk around the block, jump on the trampoline. That sort of movement stuff. I think a lot of that kind of thing is still of interest to teens. My own son has a virtual reality system or VR, which gives a lots of movement. He sweats buckets when he plays VR and it's a very big interest to him. Like that's all he wants to do. So sometimes we use that as a break and then we come back and work on schoolwork again. So a little harder to disengage from stuff like that. So I think you have to know your child and know if they're going to be able to use that for a short time, that kind of thing, and then come back to work. Or if that's just going to create more problems, but anything that kids are into that has some movement to it can work for that. I think too, sometimes it's hunger and having a snack, maybe a crunchy snack because they're a sensory seeker.

Rebecca Branstetter (10:17): Yeah. So get creative parents with things you can do for movement and snack and movement. I think not everyone has access to certain technologies, but like Wii Fit is just what triggered for me. Like my kids love the dance. I don't know what's called now dance revolutions or whatever, go dance, whatever. I mean, you could even just get on YouTube and dance along with your favorite whatever. But yeah, maybe put your head together and do a little what kind of movement breaks and older kids can understand the research that just even 20 minutes of your heart pumping gives you 90 minutes of extra focus. So it makes it a little bit more easy because teenagers are all about things being easier and more fun. So you're going to be it's going to be a lot easier to finish your next class.

Rebecca Branstetter (11:02): If you have taken a break, I think animals are also great too. If you have a pet Oh fluffy needs a walk or whatever, fight on the walk and it's not top-down parents being like, you need to exercise. Cause I don't know about you, but if someone's like, you need to exercise, it doesn't make me feel exercise drop and give me 50 wait, why it kind of has to be their own idea. But if it's like, the dog really would love a break right now. Can you go and take the dog? I think so. Everyone they'll get a pandemic puppy too. I think everyone's already done that. I know we have one, we have a Husky, his name's Griffindoor. We're big Harry Potter fans over here. Speaking of interests in the hobbies, our family loves Harry Potter.

Rebecca Branstetter (11:47): We have been sorted into houses. You'll be happy to know my kids sorted me into Slitherin. But it was by default. They already took the other ones and they needed to fill a house. So I'm not going to take it personally. But one of the things that we did when our kids were sort of over it and we were about to start on like round two of distance learning is we collaborated on a school workspace make-over so the research for adult shows that clean workspaces trigger positive emotions and increased focus and productivity. And so this is true for kids too. So making a tidy and contained workspace make it fun instead of like a chore. Like if your kid loves Harry Potter, like my, we set up a little Hogwarts desk, right? We put little snitch lights above it.

Rebecca Branstetter (12:32): If your kid's into Star Wars, make a command central station with them. If they love nature, like my little ones, she called herself nature girl. She loves nature. We got her some caterpillars that are presently in their chrysolite. I don't know if that's the plural, the Chrysalis. But anyway, like they'll plan through a little tour area with a critter to keep them company, right. It doesn't have to be on Pinterest worthy, like fabulousness important parts to enjoy the process with your kiddo and fuse a bit of fun. If you don't have like a private space, like you're in a smaller apartment or something, I've seen people set up these those science boards that are like three folds. Yes. They've used that on their dining room table, but they've decorated it to look like school or like they're going to Disney's descendants or add-on or whatever they're into, like pick whatever. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it's collaborating with your kid and just setting a reset button. Like, I don't know about you, but like I have a nice clean desk and it's all tidy. Like my brain works better. I don't get distracted as much. So yeah. Have a little fun with that.

Penny Williams (13:36): That's so much fun too and I always encourage parents if it's not sitting at the desk, or sitting at the table because a lot of our kids with ADHD like to get pretty creative with their bodies. So my son used to stand on his head to do his reading off the back of the sofa or he would crawl under the table and lay on his belly and do a worksheet. Like that's totally okay if that's the way that they need to do it. I think your point is that we need to have them be part of that process and conversation and planning and to have fun and be just completely out of the box with it.

Rebecca Branstetter (14:13): Yeah. And you're spot on you're not going to clamp down on your expectations that they should sit quietly ankles crossed and stuff. If that's not what they're like. And so it's really, I like to also do what I call like just, I call them experiments. So if my kid has a terrible idea about how they should be learning, like we'll all get on the loft bed with the puppy. And I'm like, interesting, like okay. So sometimes I'm like, let's experiment with that. And so he got the puppy up there and he like jumped all over their stuff. I'm like, what do you guys think? Not like, I don't think so. All right. Instead of me just being like, no, that's not going to happen, which you can do as a parent. That's totally fine. But I, my kids would keep asking and asking, they're like closers, they're going to be amazing salespeople.

Rebecca Branstetter (14:54): One day. They will literally never take no for an answer. But once we did that little five minute experiment, it didn't work. They moved on. So if your kid's like, I want to read upside down and you're like, that's a no, they're gonna balk at that. But if you say let's try that. And if you can still finish your worksheet, when you're done, go for it, kiddo. I mean, as an adult, I'm at a standing desk right now. I love it. It's almost like you got to sit down, I'd be like, come on. I don't want to, I don't work that way. All right. So again, you treat your kids how you wouldn't want someone to clean up your desk space for you. You wouldn't want someone to tell you how to sit. It's an experiment. So it would just be a little flexible with your kid. And especially during this time, give them a little control in a world of chaos.

Penny Williams (15:37): Yeah. And I talk a lot about finding ways to say yes. And that strategy of making an experiment is one of those ways. Yes. Let's see if it works, but if it doesn't, we're going to try a different idea. Right. So when we find ways to say, yes, we're not shutting our kids down where we're respecting their opinion and perspective, and that's so very helpful with behavior and so many other things.

Rebecca Branstetter (16:03): Yeah. Like my kid doesn't want to sit next to each other, which I get, but they were mucking around and taking screenshots and end each other zooms and all that stuff. And I was like, that experiment failed. So let's see, let's reboot. How many days of separation and focus do we need to try this again? And it said five. And so they separated. They focused, their teachers reported back all was well. And then we didn't experiment and they stepped it up and they weren't in each other's rooms. And if they backslide then, well that experiment not failed. That's data. That's what I always say. Isn't fail. That's some data, some data is next to each other. It's super hard to not interact. And I get it again, back to the empathy. It makes sense why you would want to like play with your sister when you're right next to her.

Rebecca Branstetter (16:51): So it's a dance. It's one of those things that you want it to be flexible with. One of the other things that falls under things I know, but don't do which is kind of all of these things on the list. That's always just good to bring it to the forefront of parents' minds. It's easy to focus on. What's not going well, particularly distance learning and research shows though that half your minds are actually more productive, more creative. So it's worth trying to retrain you and your kiddos brains to scan for positive. So one of the ways my family does this is through our a gratitude jar. And we call it the love jar. Cause my girls just like sticker-bombed it with hearts and stuff like that. So things you love about the day and there's a little sticky note pad next to it and fun pens and whatever.

Rebecca Branstetter (17:38): And then we have it right on the breakfast bar, cause we're always eating there and say something dawns on them and they write it. I pair it with my coffee drinking cause I do that always. Yes, whenever I do that, it reminds me to put a note in the jar with it, another thing too. And then we read them all out loud together on ice cream sundae with ice cream Sundays, and it's become a family ritual that it helps us not forget to do it because our brains are evolutionarily prime to scan for negative. And when you scan for negative, your brain likes patterns and tries to scan for more negative. So when you start scanning for positive, it's actually really funky. Like when you start doing this, you're actually can almost feel your brain like looking for good things.

Rebecca Branstetter (18:18): Cause I didn't want to put something in the gratitude jar. And so it's so easy to be, to think about like the time that your kid went off YouTube to watch Disney's descendants, hypothetically speaking, during a zoom. But you didn't, there was also like seven hours where they didn't do that. And with kids with ADHD, as you know, like they need a heavier ratio of positivity to correction or feedback because they have a, his long standing history of getting a lot of correction. So it's sort of three to one for neuro-typical kind of kids without ADHD. And then for kids with ADHD or kids who are having learning or emotional challenges, it's more like five to one. It sounds easy, but it's actually hard to think of five positive things to one correction.

Rebecca Branstetter (19:04): It really is. And the gratitude jar is really helpful for that. And so it doesn't always have to be about school. It can be about other things and I mean, nicely prepared meals. And in this time of struggle, a lot of families are struggling right now and we need to really think about things. We're grateful for things that we take for granted, right? We have internet, we have food, we have shelter, we have heat, we have these things and it actually is a great activity for not only rebooting distance learning, but just training your kids to scan for positive and protective.

Penny Williams (19:37): Yeah. We should all be doing a gratitude practice. And I love that you have an ice cream party and read them out loud. I never thought about that. Like I've always, I talk a lot about self care and we have a mom retreat for moms of kids with neuro behavioral and neurodevelopmental disorders. And so in self care I talk a lot about, have a gratitude jar. This is a hard journey. You need to be reminded that there's lots of good stuff too. And then you can go back and read it when you're having a tough day. Well, why does it have to be a tough day? Like you just made me question, why does it have to be a tough day? We can go back and celebrate those things any time cause they should be celebrated.

Rebecca Branstetter (20:18): And one of the other things that I was reading about the pandemic where it's so hard on teens in particular is because they don't have rituals of rites of passage. They prom is gone or graduation has gone or homecoming has gone. And so if you can build in little family rituals, of course, it's not going to take the place of the big coming of age rituals, but little new rituals can be really protective and are my kids look forward to it? I mean, they, they know when ice sun is coming in, there's a flurry of little post-its that go up in that jar on Sunday at like four o'clock, but it's happening. And we don't forget about it because a lot of things that we, we know we try and decide and new years kind of resolution stuff like are gone by February. This, the gratitude jar has had some staying power for about two years now because I think the ice cream I really do.

Penny Williams (21:10): Yeah. We still have a chalkboard wall. When my kids were much younger and I would write little gratitude notes to them. So I'm so thankful that you are creative or just pointing out something that was really awesome about them from me. Which is at the end of the hallway where their bedrooms are, is they're seeing it all the time was really fun. And I really should do it now too, but you've given me a good reminder.

Rebecca Branstetter (21:41): Yes. And the research on, or when we're thinking about new year's resolutions and stuff, the research says, when you say something out loud, you're two to three times more likely to do it. So let's do it point to reboot my gratitude, practice everybody out there, say it to your spouse or partners say, it's your kids. And you'll be more likely to do it countability. And my kids do not let me forget about that jar. Okay.

Penny Williams (22:07): Yeah. Cause you've made it so fun for them.

Rebecca Branstetter (22:09): I look forward to it. Kids need something to look forward to, even if it's just a little bit ice cream and appreciations, but it's also nice for a couples too, because you can be like, Oh, well they noticed that I folded up seven tons of laundry or whatever.

Penny Williams (22:25): Yeah. That would be great.

Rebecca Branstetter (22:27): We all like to feel appreciated don't we?

Penny Williams (22:29): Most definitely! What's next on the list?

Rebecca Branstetter (22:32): So this was something that a lot of families will already know about again. But it's a worthy, worthy reminder is using mindfulness to offset stress. So research shows that mindfulness practices increased focus, attention, improve, calming, self-control decreased stress, decrease, anxiety and depression. I mean, there was a pill for everyone would take it mindfulness, right? So there are a lot of fun mindfulness activities you can do with your child. It doesn't have to be sitting and meditating like a Lotus flower for an hour to enjoy the benefits, right? Like it can be a sensory walk. We're going to go on a mindful walk and we're going to only use our sense of smell. What do you guys smell? Right. It can be really easy things. It can be mindful eating. There's a lot of fun things and you are one Pinterest search away from like glitter jars that won't quit. And like I'm using mindfulness tools, really fun stuff. And then you also are connecting with your kid where you're not going to be creating that joy jar together. Or it's going to remind you to do mindful activity. So mindfulness commercial, I could go on. We could even do like an entire podcast on commercial and mindfulness. And I'm sure you've had guests before who talk about it, but it's a worthy reminder that mindfulness can offset this stress that our kids are experiencing. You know, there's

Rebecca Branstetter (23:46): Fun apps too. My kids love the calm app. We do at bedtime, the calm stories and things like that. There's really cute yoga for kids on YouTube and things like that. So just get creative about some favorite mindfulness activities. And so for older teens, they might enjoy some apps like shine or more kind of kid friendly. I'm going to fun apps and it's five, 10 minutes reboots and things like that. And again, the key is to help them decide what works for them. So give them some options and explore new your kids have any mindfulness activities that they've grabbed onto basketball and thinking about nothing but basketball is mindfulness, right. It's paying attention to the present moment and not judging it. So if you weigh in on a sport activity, kicking the ball, that's mindfulness.

Penny Williams (24:36): It's interesting. I live in Asheville, North Carolina and I'm surrounded by mountain vistas and it is beautiful here. And I have been here for almost 18 years and still, when I leave the house, I marvel at how beautiful it is. And my daughter said to me the other day, I find it so interesting that you're able to appreciate that all the time. She doesn't see it that way. And I had been listening to an audio book by I'm going to brutalize his name, but Nin that Han, something like that. And he said noticing the trees, noticing the leaves, noticing your surroundings and appreciating them is practicing mindfulness. So all this time I've been doing that and didn't realize, but I love to go kayaking for my own self care. Like that's my happy place and just floating down or paddling down.

Penny Williams (25:31): I'm totally appreciating it the whole time I'm doing it. And it can be as simple as that for our kids. I like the Insight Timer app also. Yes, I think it's great. My daughter, who is in college and has some pretty wicked anxiety uses the muse, which is a headband that gives you feedback. It's reading like your heart rate and some stuff. And it gives you feedback during the practice to say, Hey, you need to recenter your waning and calm. You're getting activated and it will like, I think she has her set to water, so the water sound will get louder if she has started to become more activated and isn't neutral or calm, which is really cool to get that feedback. It's a really neat tool. Also there's a book called "Breathe" and I'll put a link to it in the show notes because there's a few children's books called breathe, but this one is a kid's book. It's got beautiful illustrations. And it's all like imaginative activities for kids that they're doing either Tai Chi or yoga or practicing mindfulness. But they have no idea because they're just doing this imaginative play, which is amazing. It's a, it's a sweet little buck that I think is so cool. I wish it was out when my kids were younger, but there's so many tools for that now. So many.

Rebecca Branstetter (26:55): Oh, okay. I think that's going in one of my kids' stockings if not both. That sounds great. I'll look for those show notes. That's why I love doing these. I always learn things as well. You actually touched on the sixth strategy without even knowing it you're psychic, right? Very intuitive. It's balancing screen time with brain time. So the reality is a lot of our kids are sitting most of the day, right? Their eyeballs are on the screens. And for a lot of families, that's like so hard to see your kids with eyeballs on screens all day. And they're sitting a lot, right. Especially, and especially older kids, they want to relax after school and they might want to relax with a video game or texting their friends, which, ah, is more eyeballs on screens. So the eyeballs on screens itself is not the full problem.

Rebecca Branstetter (27:34): The problem is reduced opportunities for exercising, playing outdoors, right? Because they're sitting so much even though they take breaks, it's just, it's less. And then research shows that spending time in nature is associated with positive mental health. So gosh, after school head outside go explore those beautiful mountains. Anything you can do outdoors. And I know that the weather is turning and it can get chilly to be outdoors, but it's still so, so important. Go build a snowman. We can't do that in California. So we can be a little dirt man. Like that's no fun.

Penny Williams (28:14): And if it's a short time, like I know when it's super cold, it's hard. But I think even if you just took a five minute walk, it's so much better than not doing it at all.

Rebecca Branstetter (28:25): Yeah, absolutely. It just any kind of outdoor time is a counterbalance to the screen time. So one of the other strategies that I want to make sure we get to, and this is something that probably any any folks who have been listening to your podcast or have kids with additional needs know already where the reminder is remembering that your kids' behavior is communication. So if your kid's acting out, they're refusing to do their work. You may totally understandably get frustrated. It makes sense. You feel that way. Right. There's my phrase. And if you, you might even wonder like, Oh, are they giving me such a hard time? Like, why can't you just sit down and whatever, right? But in these moments, it's important to remember. They're not giving you a hard time. They're having a hard time. This is something that my co-creator of make it stick parenting.

Rebecca Branstetter (29:13): And I, Elizabeth Sautter, who you've had on a little while ago are constantly reinforcing. And it's actually just shifts that lens right back to that first strategy of empathy. There are behaviors communicating and unmet needs. So the next time your kid walks at the math worksheet instead of clamping down on compliance, just one of my strategies is notice and explore is a math too easy. Is it too hard? Are they distracted? Cause their birthday party just got canceled. Like get curious about what they're really to tell you with their behavior lean in with empathy. It makes sense that this is tough right now, instead of clamping down, just notice and explore like, Oh, what's up with your math today? What's going on for you? I, and we as adults have a lot of hypotheses about why kids are balking at stuff. And I'm telling you, when you ask them, like, I'm usually wrong.

Rebecca Branstetter (29:59): I'm usually dead wrong. It's not about that, that she doesn't like macaroni and cheese. It's totally about like, she's like, I miss my friends and it's not about like, this is too hard. She's like, it's just too easy. I'm like, Oh, all right then. Right. Like it's hard to focus on things that feel like rote or mundane. So I ask a kids like what's, what is it about this math worksheet? That's hard to get started on. And they may know, and they may not. But my goodness ask them because you never know, they might provide some insight and again, don't do it when they're in brainstem. When they're activated later, maybe over ice cream, when everyone's happy, Hey, I noticed you had a hard time starting your math. What's going on. I'm not mad. I just would like to understand what it is. It's hard so we can work together.

Penny Williams (30:47): Yeah. That collaboration is such a big key, we can be authoritarian or we can be collaborative. And it always works better if we're collaborative. And that's really the relationship that we want to have with our kids. We don't want to be always in power struggles and do, as I say, and it's not a fun place to be in for us as parents either. It might be easier if we just said do this and they always did it, but it's not, it's not a really rewarding sort of relationship to have with your kids.

Rebecca Branstetter (31:19): Okay. So now I think that you stole a copy of my top 10 list and one's free off of it because you just tapped into number eight. So either we're like super in sync with our ideas or like you've hacked in my computer. Okay. So number eight is actually making time for connection. So research shows again and again, that positive relationships are a buffer for stress. I have been saying since March 13th or so, when there are stressful times, connection has protection. Kids who feel seen and supported by their parents are going to be able to bounce back from stress easier. So schedule some one on one time, readjust, focus on connecting and enjoying. Don't talk about school, don't have your phone on pick a fun activity to do together. And it doesn't have to be a long thing. It can be 10 minutes, 20 minutes tops.

Rebecca Branstetter (32:10): Like you can take a family walk, you can play a game. I played some Harry Potter game last night. It was 10 minutes. I was tired. I'm not going to lie. And my kids were like, let's do Harry Potter game. And I just remembered my mantra, connection is protection. I have been on all day doing work stuff and they've been on distance learning stuff. And I really haven't had an opportunity to connect with them. So we did 10 minutes of Harry Potter. And at that time was actually really smooth. And I think it's because we put money in the bank with the connection, right? Like anything your kid enjoys the connection, lays the foundation for coping when things get stressful. And even for agreeableness like, Oh, okay. I mean, when you're connected and you're not battling over stuff, you're going to be more easy breezy. So again, the connection is protection cross stitch that on a pillow and put it in your house somewhere.

Penny Williams (33:02): Love it. I love that. It's so easy to remember too.

Rebecca Branstetter (33:06): Yeah. It's a catchy little phrase. Here you go. Connection is protection.

Penny Williams (33:10): One of the things that I have done with my son to connect as a teen is that he's really into music and he creates some of his own digital music. So I always listened to whatever he's created, even though a lot of it is not my thing. I still am. I'm happy to see what he's doing. Right. And I'm, I'm excited about it with him. And a lot of times it's just a matter of, Hey, I want to play this new song I found for your mom because dad's also a musician. And you know, we're, we're really into music and a lot of different genres and we're a pretty musical family. So it's really fun to say, Hey, let me show you this new song I found you might like it. And, and we all do that with each other in the family. And that's connecting that's being open to another's interest and being excited about it with them.

Rebecca Branstetter (34:00): Exactly. And it doesn't take long. Do you listen to a song? Right? Like right now my husband is listening to Disney's descendants three soundtrack with my girls and like, yeah, he probably wouldn't have picked that independently. But they love it. They're having fun. They're dancing around and it's connection. So connection is protection. So think creatively about what you can do for just 10 minutes today, that will be a connection activity with your kiddos. So I do want to get to all 10. So let's do this. Number nine is modeling calmness. Now it goes along with the co-regulation because you're not going to be able to bring empathy and understanding to a interaction if you're not calm yourself. So I recently did a course called peace of mind parenting in which I share out more detail on these types of strategies of co-regulation.

Rebecca Branstetter (34:51): And I have like the ABCs of distance learning in this online course and a lot of it's around the things I'm talking about right now, but also how to apply it day to day. So one of the favorite quotes that I shared in this Peace of Mind Parenting course is from LR Nost. I don't know if you know, but anyway, here's the quote. "When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it's our job to share our calm, not join their chaos." So stress is contagious, but so is calmness, right? So if you're getting upset, you're getting frustrated with your child, take a step back and find calm before responding. Because if you come in angry and trying to solve the problem with your kid, as gasoline on a fire, calmness is the water. It can cool down any emotionally charged situation. It's worth cultivating.

Rebecca Branstetter (35:38): It comes back to that mindfulness strategy. Your inner parental will pause button before responding in stressful moments. One of the strategies that I share in my piece of my parenting course is the one for me. One for you breath. It actually taps into that. It's you're not giving me a hard time. You're having a hard time thing too. My hand on my heart, my hand on my tummy. I got this one from Kristin Neff, who was a pioneer in self-compassion. You take one deep breath for yourself. This is hard. And you take one for your kid.

Rebecca Branstetter (36:08): This is hard for him or her to write. You can say this in your brain. You don't have to say it out loud, but it comes in with calm then and empathy is a twofer. It really helps me before I, I react. So modeling calmness and it's double down, you're calmer. You're helping your child co-regulate and you're teaching them, Hey, look, mama's need pause buttons too. I'm going to hit that pause button. I'm feeling stressed, narrate out loud. This is a strategy Elizabeth and I talk about in our make a stick parenting course is bring your underground language about how you cope with stuff to above ground. Wow. I feel so stressed right now. I'm going to go take a little deep breath. I'm going to come back and then I'll be calm and we can problem solve this together, but I need a little breaky break.

Penny Williams (36:55): Yeah. Yeah. And that's a lot of what I teach parents too. in coaching and my own courses is that you can add gasoline to the fire by reacting in kind, or you can calm the entire situation some by remaining calm and lending that calm to your child.

Rebecca Branstetter (37:15): Yeah. And it's so much easier said than done, but it takes practice. But once that's the one for you, one for me, breath has been really a game changer for me. It's a small thing, but we know that deep breathing calms our own nervous system down. And so that's just a really quick and easy on the fly in the moment strategy that I invite parents to try it on love that strategy. So number 10, drum roll. This is a biggie. The last one is to connect with your child's teacher. So remember how connection is protection, right? So that goes for connection between student teacher too. Like when students feel connected to their teachers, whether in person or online engagement increases, right. It's hard to build rapport on zoom, but it can be done. The first step is to let your kid's teacher know that your kid is struggling.

Rebecca Branstetter (38:06): A lot of times teachers, they don't know it's one Brady bunch of kid in a square, right. And they don't know that when they shut their video off and started crying and then came back right. Or whatever it is. So a few minutes of extra one-on-one attention from that teacher breakout rooms or personal check-ins from a teacher during zoom, breakouts or afterschool can make a huge impact on student engagement. My daughter's first grade teacher, we had a meeting and I was like, look, just so you know, she is going to the bathroom 10 times, like you're doing the video off. And like what the teacher sees is she's not engaged. And what I saw was tears and frustration. And so when I connect it with a teacher and share my observations, she's like, here's what we're going to do every day after school for one minute, I'm just going to say great job with X, Y, or Z, or what are you doing this weekend?

Rebecca Branstetter (38:59): Just not about school, just connecting, like my daughter inexplicably has this obsession with ducks and she just loves ducks. That's her thing. So she's just like, Oh do you have any duck toys? And like, she showed her duck toy. And guess what? Your engagement skyrocketed because you felt connected, right? So it makes sense to partner with your school, get through this together. Connections, protection as well. Learning is not a place. It's a relationship and school's not canceled. Or school is happening that relationship. If it's, if it's not working with engagement, please go ahead and connect with your teacher. They're there to help. They want to problem solve. They don't want kids to be disengaged and crying and upset and, and things like that. Right. Look, they're overwhelmed too. So you, you want to come in with this, like let's problem solve together, but seriously connect with your kid's teacher and just let them know, like you're willing to help with this collaboration, but kind of clue them in because a lot of teachers, they don't know what's going on behind the scenes. They can't see it unlike in the classroom where they could see when kids shut down.

Penny Williams (40:07): Yeah. And even if all the kids in the class have their camera on, that's still way more than a teacher is going to be able to pay attention to, every single kid in a little tiny thumbnail on the screen, plus what they're teaching. And so they may not even know if your child sat there and cried right on the video. They may not even see that. So communication is so key.

Rebecca Branstetter (40:31): Yeah. And I think it also falls into our gratitude jars that whenever I connect with my child's teacher, I make sure to say, I really appreciate all you're doing. I know this can not be easy. And it can't. And as a school psychologist I work with school psychologists across the country, in my online course the thriving school psychologist collective, and we're looking at ways to support teachers right now and kids and families, because we're all in this together and we're not going to get through it unless we are all together, right. We're apart, but we are together and we're in it together. And that's really where our energy needs to be, which is really collaborative collaborating with our kids, collaborating with the school. And if you have additional concerns, collaborating with your school psychologist, look, we're here to help. We really want to help. If your kid's struggling, reach out to your child's school, psychologists, see if they can put their heads together. For some strategies that my school sites across the country are like pushing in zoom, doing social, emotional learning lessons. I mean, we're really trying to attend to the social, emotional learning needs of kids. And we're doing it remotely. Mr. Rogers Was one of the best social, emotional learning teachers of all time. He did it virtually.

Penny Williams (41:39): That is so true. And I'm such a huge Mr. Rogers fan. Everything we need to know about parenting, we can learn from Mr. Rogers. I love him. Yeah. So real quick, before we wrap up, you have a freebie for everyone where they can go to the show notes, get the link, go to your opt-in and get this freebie from you. You want to tell them what it is?

Rebecca Branstetter (42:01): Yes. So you go to Rebeccabransetter.com, which is my website. And if you scroll to the bottom, there's a free guide. And so again, this falls under everything I've talked about, it's like stuff I sort of know, but don't do, this is a way to tap into how to keep common parent on during stressful moments. And it's not just for the Corona virus it's for all times, but there's simple self-care practices for parents, 25 activities you can do as a parent that are proactive for self care or take less than five minutes. That's my criteria. They're easy in the moment strategies for when you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious or annoyed, or you eat a reboot and then compare it to also as a companion, I have my 10 favorite mantras and mindset shifts that give you comfort in stressful times. Things like connection is protection, relax your standards to a level appropriate for a global pandemic, right?

Rebecca Branstetter (42:52): All of these things that are really protective because self care on its own, just the behavior can sometimes be insufficient. You also need self-compassion. You need to give yourself grace, you need to be able to tell yourself you're doing the best you can under the circumstances. So I have some very comforting things to tell yourself that parents have found to be really helpful. 25 little quick reboots, put it on your fridge and then circle one that you're going to focus on for the day. So that free guide for parents, self care rebooting and stressful moments is available at rebeccabranstetter.com for your audience.

Penny Williams (43:26): Fantastic. And we so appreciate it. For the show notes for everyone listening, go to parentingADHDandautism.com/113. I want to thank you again, Rebecca, for sharing some of your time and wisdom. It was so fun to talk to you and really dive into some amazing strategies to help our kids, which is also helping ourselves right through real, super challenging times. So I'll see everyone next time.

New Speaker (43:57): Thanks for joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share, and don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching and mama retreats at parentingadhdandautism.com.

Thank you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please 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 Beautifully Complex Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and appreciated! That’s what helps me reach and help more families like yours.

I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

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Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

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