132: Helping Kids Thrive in Middle School, with Phyllis Fagell, LCPC

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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Middle school is hard. There’s lots of development during that time, and lots of insecurity. All kids are struggling, but kids with ADHD have an additional level of difficulty when it comes to the social and emotional challenges of being a tween.

In this episode, certified professional school counselor, Phyllis Fagell, shares her strategies on helping kids navigate the innate challenges of middle school so they can thrive there, and beyond. 


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Middle School Matters, by Phyllis Fagell

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My Guest

Phyllis Fagell, LCPC

Phyllis is the school counselor at Sheridan School in Washington, DC, a therapist who works with kids and families in private practice, and an author and journalist. She’s the author of “Middle School Matters” and a frequent contributor to The Washington Post. She also writes for Psychology Today, Working Mother, U.S. News & World Report and Your Teen, and her ideas have been shared in outlets including The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Yorker and NPR. Phyllis lives in Bethesda, MD with her husband and three children.



Phyllis Fagell 0:03

The difficulty comes from that innate insecurity that so many middle schoolers feel it's hard to accept a friend you think is quirky if you're not really accepting of your own quirks and idiosyncrasies.

Penny Williams 0:19

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 a Holic and mindset Mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your a typical kid. Let's get started.

Penny Williams 0:48

Welcome back to the parenting ADHD Podcast. I am so excited to be talking to Phyllis Fingal about the middle school years and the challenges that our kids have, during that sort of transitional time in their lives and their minds and their bodies, and how kids who have extra challenges can really navigate that and focus on good mental health for kids who are struggling. Phyllis is the author of Middle School Matters. And I'm really excited to have this conversation for all of you. Thanks for being here. Will you start just by introducing yourself?

Phyllis Fagell 1:24

Sure. First, thanks for having me. I'm a school counselor in Washington, DC. I'm also a therapist who works with kids and families in private practice. And I do a lot of writing. As you mentioned, I wrote Middle School Matters. And I write columns for the on parenting section of the Washington Post. Yeah, such an important topic and important work. I'm always in awe of school counselors, it has to be such a challenge, but also rewarding, I'm sure, oh, I, I absolutely love my job. Even the hard parts I love. I do feel like every day I get to play in a lot of ways. And also just intervene when it gets a little bit harder and be a support, particularly for kids who might not have someone in their corner. Yeah, and so much more needed now that we're coming toward the end or somewhat of an end to the pandemic, probably not an end. But improvement, a new beginning, maybe Yeah, and it's really had a huge impact on kids and their mental health and being isolated has been so hard. I'm sure it's going to be really hard for them to get back into school back into in person and the the social nuances and challenges and the sensory overwhelm. And, you know, we've been alone or you know, at least at home with only a few people a lot of us for a long time. And I imagine that's going to be really hard to adding another layer of complexity for these kids.

Penny Williams 2:55

I agree. Yeah. Let's start by talking about the challenges that middle school kids face. I was saying that it's a really tough time for kids. There's a lot of transitioning. For them, really, they're they're really changing. What sort of challenges do you see kind of on a broad spectrum, and then we can talk about what ADHD and maybe learning differences like that bring into the fold, too.

Phyllis Fagell 3:21

So Middle School is hard for every middle schooler, because they're doing so much developmental work. This is when they're figuring out who they are, it's when they suddenly become really aware of how they stack up to their friends. At the same time, they often are transitioning to a different building, maybe having more teachers, the workload might increase, which and I know we're going to be talking about learning challenges. But that only exacerbates that situation if the demands on their executive functioning have suddenly increased, the social dynamics become much more complicated. There's a lot of shifting in middle school. And that's painful. It's hard work that has to happen. But it's really excruciating for parents to watch and hard for the kids themselves to experience. And on top of all of those things I've just mentioned, you've got the physical changes that kids are experiencing, and they're experiencing them at wildly different rates. So you can have one kid who's practically, you know, really childlike still and likes to play with dolls, and their best friend suddenly has gone through puberty and is making less of their crushes. And so that puts another strain on that friendship. So I think when you add all of that together, it is I think one of the most important stages of development because so much is happening. They're changing faster than they have at any age other than birth age two, and they still care what their parents think and what their teachers think they do want to please adults in their lives and they're still really figuring out what their values are. So we can really coach them and help them become better people, higher functioning people, happier people. But it's not an easy time.

Penny Williams 5:00

It struck me when you said that kids are in very different places in that age group. And that's really true. And I think that is part of what makes it so challenging is that even if you're neurotypical, the kids around you are different. And you may feel different, you know, they're going through just at that age, that same struggle of feeling like you don't quite fit maybe, because they're changing at different rates and times to.

Phyllis Fagell 5:26

Yes, and I think that's absolutely right. I don't think there is any such thing as totally secure, middle schooler, certain things can make it harder. But even if you take the most seemingly well adjusted social, high performing academic kid, they too are pretty mercilessly self critical and having a hard time.

Penny Williams 5:48

Yeah. And that there's so much more social for kids, like kids with ADHD or even with autism. Now, the social game has gotten so much more complex. And when you struggle with that, it really creates a barrier to fitting in, you know, My son, for instance, really struggled with nonverbal communication. And so boys at that age tend to tease each other. And it's a sign of friendship and camaraderie. But he didn't know that right. And so what they were saying sounded, the words were really mean. So he felt like he was being picked on when their tone of voice and the fact that they were smiling and laughing, showed that him that they were just teasing, and it was all in fun. But he didn't see that part. He wasn't interpreting that part. And so he really likes as soon as he hits sixth grade, oh, boy, everybody is so mean and awful in as you know, in we had to really work on those social skills, building those skills of nonverbal communication. And and that's, that's just one little piece of it for middle school, right? It's,

Phyllis Fagell 6:58

it is, and the, even the students who are pretty socially adept can have a hard time reading those social cues. And part of it is the challenge of the person who's trying to do the interpretation. But the other piece of it is that often, middle schoolers are not very good at humor, or delineate between humor and sarcasm, or knowing who that target is, and whether it's somebody who can handle the kind of teasing that they're doing. And people often think about girls as being mean, in middle school, which is something that I often try to refute, because I don't think it's a helpful narrative for the kids. And I also don't think it's true, yes, their empathy is developing. Yes, they're experimenting with mean behavior. But I don't think that they're inherently meaner than any other age group. They just are really clumsy in their social interactions. And so I have to do a lot of work with kids who are neurotypical to stop and think about, you know, who has a social capital here? If you tease this particular person? What is everyone around you thinking? are you hurting that person's reputation? How do you think that they are internalizing that behavior? Is it different if you do it versus somebody else. So there's all of that subtlety that you're talking about. And boys in particular, they travel in really big packs, they're very sensitive to where they are in that hierarchy. They just want to be part of that gang, and they will do whatever it takes to stay part of that gang. And often that means trying to impress whoever the ringleader is. impressing them often means trying to make them laugh, trying to make them laugh, brings us back to that whole use of humor and sarcasm, that is hard to execute in a way that isn't unkind, even if you don't intend to be unkind.

Penny Williams 8:37

Yeah, it's so, so complex and challenging. And I, you know, sometimes we think as adults about, Oh, I wish I was in high school again, or somewhere. And I don't think anybody ever says I wish I was in middle school. Like ever. Now, it's just so hard to navigate. And you also, I think, are developing that sense that you really want to belong, you're sort of seeing those cues and clues more that so than in elementary school. And that just amplifies if you don't feel like you belong, and I think almost all of them feel like they don't belong at that age, like you were saying,

Phyllis Fagell 9:17

and they don't even feel comfortable in their own skin. So it's not even the external judgement that they're fixated on. I had a girl in here the other day, who told me that she just didn't know who she was she you know, it was almost like a textbook developmental stage of trying to figure out her identity. And she said to me, You know, I tried like wearing black and like dyeing my hair, and that didn't really work. And so then I'm like, Well, if that didn't work, and I don't like what I was wearing, before I did that, like Who am I? And she was so concerned that there was something wrong with her that she didn't know who she was, and I had to really help her understand that. That was the hard work she's doing right now. All of that experimentation all of that trying on of different looks and different friends. groups is how she will ultimately discover what makes her tick and who she is.

Penny Williams 10:05

Yeah, I love that you told that story. That's really powerful. Because we do really, and As parents, we push back on some of that, like, I remember when my daughter was in middle school, and she wanted to try the all black and, and I said, everyone's gonna judge you just based on what you're wearing. And it's funny now she's 22. And just the other day, she said, Mom, thank you for, you know, really talking me through that and, and helping me see that it wasn't the best thing for me to do. That it wasn't true to who I am, you know, and she was doing exactly the same thing. She was just trying to figure out where she felt where she belonged, who was her tribe, and trying to navigate that, and it's so hard for kids. And then, as parents, we I don't think we see it as much we lived at once. But we have a lot of distance from that time now. And memories don't hold different. And it is totally different.

Phyllis Fagell 10:59

Yeah. And then you throw the masks in, I have had to have a lot of conversations with kids who are really hurt that someone ignored them, only to come and find out that that person literally didn't hear them, the masks can muffled sound can make it harder to tell that someone's trying to talk to you. So that just added an entirely new layer of complexity to all of those interactions, and I will be glad to see them go, yeah,

Penny Williams 11:23

it's hard, I actually have hearing impairment. So the mass have been insanely hard for me, it'll, it's really tough. And I kind of avoid things because of it, you know, until I am able to, you know, go in here, a cashier, or sometimes I just did my husband and stuff like that. And kids do the same things, they take the same sort of path around things that are hard or uncomfortable. And I think we start to really see that happen in middle school, some avoidance of things that they could be an academic task, it could be a team, it could be friends and social circles, you know, we still have to challenge our kids to, to try to work through what's uncomfortable and difficult and hard, instead of just sort of getting up and trying giving up and trying to sidestep it

Phyllis Fagell 12:19

100% and, you know, we know that you need to have those small exposures and those small successes in order to build that courage muscle to be willing to put yourself out there. Or even to see that it didn't go that well. And you survived, you know, maybe you are a little embarrassed, but it's okay. And everyone gets embarrassed sometimes. So it is going to be uncomfortable at times they are going to fail. And that is how they're going to learn. And that is how they're going to become braver over time. So I agree with you completely I, during the pandemic and coming back to school, and we're back in school full time I'm in the K through eight, some parents were really reluctant to send their kids back, because the kids didn't really feel socially comfortable with returning. And I was encouraging them to do whatever they needed to do to build the child's comfort and get them here even for a partial day. Because if you avoid something completely, it just reinforces to yourself this idea that it's not something that you can handle.

Penny Williams 13:16

Yeah, and and neuroscience has shown that, you know, our brains are constantly rewiring and pruning. And so if we continue to have the same negative experience with something, it's just perpetuating, even physiologically, it's perpetuating that to keep coming up for them the same, you know, the more we can get them to just stick their toe in just a little bit, and have the little successes that you were talking about, it actually makes a big difference in their brains to to help to keep that momentum of that more positive experiences going. super powerful for kids with anxiety, especially, to really keep pushing just a little bit not pushing until they break. You know, I

Phyllis Fagell 14:03

like calibrating the risk just right.

Penny Williams 14:07

Yes. And I have anxiety and social anxiety. And when I was a teenager, the social anxiety was so hard and my parents didn't really see it. And I avoided so much and it only made it harder and harder right for me to get over some of those hurdles. And so I really understand that piece of it and kids with anxiety and that sort of instinct to avoid.

Phyllis Fagell 14:34

Well, I will I will say that for the kids who are anxious about social situations in particular, and I'm seeing a lot more of that right now among all students, particularly because their interactions with peers have been so far and few between and it's been intermittent. And it's really hard to know where you stand with your peers. If you haven't seen them in a really long time. It's even harder to interpret those social cues and what I've been doing what the kids who have had a lot of fears about interacting is offering them as many concrete tips as possible. And that is what I have found has been the most helpful for the kids with the social anxiety, talking them through what is it specifically that is causing you the most concern. And it might be, you know, when I stand outside at recess, and I'm looking at the other kids, and they're having a conversation, I don't have a clue how to become part of it. And I feel really awkward just standing there watching them. And so then the solution might be to listen for a few minutes until you can figure out what they're talking about. And then wait until you can even formulate a question related to what they're talking about and lead with a question related to what they're talking about. And I'll explain that, you know, everyone loves talking about themselves, everyone is happy to answer a question. Or it might be that we assign them some, you know, really kind kind of wing woman or wing man, kid, wing girl way boy, to help them, which, you know, other kids are really happy to help if they're that type of kid, you know, everyone likes to be seen as a leader. And often what will then happen is, the wing girl or the wing boy will help break the ice and help them get in there. And after a few weeks, they don't need that kind of support anymore.

Penny Williams 16:14

Yeah. And that's something that parents can kind of intervene. And as school counselors like yourself to involved with, we did that in fourth, fifth grade, something like that, we were really struggling with some social stuff going on in the classroom with kids that he was spending the day with, and the school counselor got involved, and they did some lunch buddy things and stuff like that. And it really helped it really helped to, and to have someone else appear that you know, that you can go to, if if you're all alone, and you're not engaged with anyone, if you see that person, then you feel more comfortable trying to engage, you can go and talk to them and, and feel okay about that. It's, it can be really powerful.

Phyllis Fagell 17:00

And I also always encourage parents to ask the school what they're seeing. So, you know, I had a parent call me and say, What are you seeing at recess, and it hadn't really been flagged as a concern by the child herself. But when I went outside, I realized that the reason it hadn't been flagged is because she was flying. So under the radar, she was so anxious about joining the group, that she was literally kind of hiding behind the building with a book and just avoiding interacting with anybody. And so the challenge was really trying to figure out how to integrate her and get her into that group in ways that she was comfortable. And when you spoke to her, she would very readily tell you, it was all social anxiety. But it was not something that she was able to really handle on her own without support.

Penny Williams 17:51

Yeah, and in a way that is comfortable for her. And that's such a key piece of it. Because we don't again, we don't want to push too far. And make it almost traumatic. You know, we don't want to set them up for failure. Exactly, exactly. And I see so many parents who say my kids, such an introvert, even before the pandemic, they don't go and hang out with friends, they don't, you know, and, and I have those kids too. And I am an introvert to and I used to really be worried about my daughter not going out with friends and stuff outside of school. And it was just that her comfort level was so low with that, that she really could only manage doing it a little bit. Not as much as maybe her peers were doing. And then, you know, sort of building from there. And I had to say, Okay, well, you know, we're weighing her comfort versus discomfort. And we have to keep that in mind too. Yes, we need social interaction, we need connection with others. But some people kind of need more of that face to face than other people do. And I think it's really important to honor. You know, which can you have, how social are they? And also,

Phyllis Fagell 19:03

are they unhappy? Because there are some kids who might be hiding behind the building with the book, because they are introverted, and they need to recharge, and they don't want to actually interact with anyone during recess, it's enough for them to have to have those 2000 interactions with teachers and kids throughout the school day. And so that is always my first question with a student. How do you feel? You know, are you here by Are you alone by choice? Did you want to take a break? Or do you wish you were part of the group?

Penny Williams 19:30

Yeah. Do you wish you were part of the group? That's a really good question. For kids with some of that social struggle, for sure. What about the environment, especially for kids with ADHD, some of whom were probably also on the autism spectrum. Middle School is a lot more chaotic and loud. If you're in the traditional Middle School where you're changing classes. How do you help kids navigate some of that

Phyllis Fagell 19:59

You know, I think that for some kids, particularly the kinds of kids you were just describing, and even more, so if they had been bullied when they were in the school setting, I think Virtual Learning was a gift, it was an opportunity for them to learn without all of those distractions, many of which were unpleasant for them. And so like you said, you do have to work with the child you have at hand, you're not going to make a kid who's got a lot of sensory issues suddenly be comfortable and happy with that chaotic middle school environment. And you can work with the school on things like that, too. So if you have a kid who really hates the noises in the hall, maybe they get dismissed a few minutes early, or a few minutes late, so that they don't have to be a sardine in the hall, you know, smashing against the wall. Or maybe they're in a kotak class that doesn't have as many students and it's a little less chaotic, and there's a little more support, but really working with whatever the supports are, that are available within your environment, not every school is going to be right for every kid either. And so taking stock realistically of whether they're in the right place, you know, I know in our in our local public school system, there are some schools that have special support programs within the school that it may be have, if it's a kid with extreme anxiety, maybe there's a social worker dedicated to that program, there are special autism programs for kids who are on the spectrum. So just taking stock of what the options are working with this school system. I know it can be exhausting to try to negotiate and advocate for your child. But I think it's so important to do that and to try to get as many supports as you possibly can for them.

Penny Williams 21:35

Yeah, there are many accommodations that you can do to address some of those issues. My son certainly had those struggles, he just felt really unsafe in the hallways, at class changes. It was too tight, people bump into you, you know, lockers are hanging open. And so he did actually switch classes at an off time. And not forever. It was about six, or I'd say maybe one school year. And then he was okay with that. He figured out how to navigate it. And he was good with sort of pushing himself through that discomfort and dealing with it.

Phyllis Fagell 22:10

And with middle schoolers who are old enough to really problem solve with you. Mm hmm. To talk to them about what is it that what are your triggers, and what are some strategies that we can incorporate, and I'm an independent school. So we have a little more flexibility, but you can go outside, you know, you can go take a break, you can grab a weighted blanket, if that's what you need to do, you can use a fidget, you can take some time to listen to music on your headphones, anything that would help to calm their bodies, calm their minds and allow them to re engage, I think it's important as teachers or as educators to recognize that if we're too rigid, we you know, perfect is the enemy of the good, you had to lose a few minutes of instruction in order to allow a child to recalibrate and then join the conversation or join, join the class.

Penny Williams 23:00

Right, because if they go through the hall, and they felt really unsafe, probably for the next hour, their frontal lobe is still not working very well, because their emotional system was on high alert. And so they're not really learning that whole time in class anyway. So if they get a five minute break, to take a walk and get a drink of water, or whatever it is, then they might have, you know, a good 50 minutes of instruction, where they're actually learning instead of just being zoned out the whole time. You know, it can be it can still really impact them long after they are done with that sort of environment or situation. It still can be burdensome,

Phyllis Fagell 23:40

yes. And even knowing that the teacher understands their needs and needs, approaching them with empathy can do a lot to calm them and help them feel like okay, I know I can do what I need to do. They may even be able to attend longer without that kind of a break.

Penny Williams 23:55

Yeah, yeah. The other accommodation or sort of strategy we used in middle school was to find a teacher advocate, which happened, my son had an IEP, so he had a special education teacher assigned to him, and we would use that person. And so the day before or a couple days before school started, when they had the open house, we would go and we would have a talk with that teacher. You know, you are Luke's person, if he gets overwhelmed, if he gets upset if he feels like he can't continue what he's doing. He knows he can come to you. Right and that teacher? Oh, absolutely. And so he had a plan, if he got overwhelmed or if something happened, and he had an ally.

Phyllis Fagell 24:42

And I think for for kids, a lot of the anxiety comes from that sense of helplessness from that powerlessness, you know, they're, they're just firing from their amygdala, although I will just as a side story, a student The other day I heard her trying to explain to another student how to turn on your prefrontal cortex Head down. And she was trying to explain it the way I had explained it to her. And she said, here's what you have to do, you have to turn on your prefrontal cortex because that turned off your uvula. And it's your uvula that causes all of the problems. She Of course, meant amygdala, but I thought it was charming and enjoy that she used UV light instead. But yeah, it's I think it's, the more you do to help kids formulate a plan in advance, and to have specific strategies that work for them. So for kids with a test anxiety, I'll teach them object awareness where I have them carry can be anything a binder, clip a pen in their pocket into the test room. And I have them come up with three words to describe that object before they even start reading the instructions on the test. Because when you have to retrieve language that turns on your prefrontal cortex and can get them out of their amygdala from the fight flight or freeze part of their brain. Yes, what 20 seconds, but it works for many of them, not just because it is that their neurological piece and turning off the fight flight or freeze part of their brain, it works, I think, because they feel more in control of the situation, there is something they can do to help themselves, they're not at the mercy of their anxiety.

Penny Williams 26:10

Yeah. And that's really the key that you feel like you have some control. So if you have a plan, if something goes wrong, you still feel like you have a little bit of a sense of control there where if you don't have a plan and something goes wrong, you've lost all control, right? And that's much more anxiety provoking. I wanted to talk for a minute before we have to wrap up about kids who have these additional differences and challenges and how they can navigate Middle School. How do they you know, is already such a hard age and time and experience to navigate. When we have kids with learning challenges, behavioral disorders, what can we do to really help them find their tribe or find where they fit or even accept that they're different.

Phyllis Fagell 27:05

So that's a real challenge in middle school, because even if a kid has social challenges, or differences that make them stick out, and they know that they're different in some way, that's pretty obvious. That doesn't mean they don't want to be quote unquote, popular, or that they don't want to be accepted by the, you know, the kids they consider cool. And that can be a really hard experience. You know, as adults, we know, we just want them to have a couple of good friends, somebody they can trust that they can count on, that they're not alone, that is so protective. But it's really hard to get some kids to a place where they can say, you know what, I'm going to take my friends where they come, as opposed to trying to insert myself where I don't belong. And so as parents, I think one of the things that we can be doing is really talking about our own lives, and the times that we made good friend choices, bad friend choices, and why we consider something a bad choice. You know, maybe it was somebody who didn't make us feel like we could be ourselves or we always felt awkward instead of confident, or we were trying too hard. Or they didn't laugh at our jokes, whatever it happens to be, but just helping them identify what it is that constitutes a good friend. And helping them really take people where they are in a lot of the difficulty comes from that innate insecurity that so many middle schoolers feel it's hard to accept a friend do you think is quirky if you're not really accepting of your own quirks and idiosyncrasies. So the second piece of it is to really work with kids to embrace and appreciate what makes them different, as opposed to fighting it or being angry about it or feeling like it's unfair. A lot of kids feel it's unfair that they struggle in ways that other kids don't struggle. So I will remind them that everybody is struggling. And I can say that legitimately. As a school counselor, everyone is struggling, nothing is easy, all the time for anybody. But sometimes it's not as visible, it could be something that's going on in someone's family life, it could be an invisible eating disorder. It's really hard, though, for a kid who has more visible struggles to really relate or understand that. And then I asked them to really consider what is a positive about whatever it is, that is their perceived challenge or their actual challenge, like, let's come up with two positives for every thing that you're identifying as a negative. And I do this with neurotypical kids too, you know, if they say I'm, I'm really quiet. And I have a hard time speaking up in class, and I wish I could speak up in class. And I'll say, we'll come up with two good things about being so quiet and having a hard time speaking up in class and it can take them some time. But it might be that when they do speak, everybody pays attention. Everybody really listened because they know that this person only speaks when they really feel compelled to say something. Yeah, if it's a child who has ADHD, it could be that they really add a lot of dynamism to the class discussions that they introduce an element that no one else has thought of, which is 100%. True. And I love to also share stories, real success stories of outside the box thinkers who maybe had dyslexia or had ADHD when they were growing up, and how it's not despite that challenge, but because of that challenge are that different that they are able to accomplish what they did in life?

Penny Williams 30:24

Yeah, talking about some celebrities are well known, people who have achieved greatness,

Phyllis Fagell 30:31

and it could even be you the parent, because you know, to a child, they may not realize that you too struggled at times, it looks like your life was a straight line from, you know, seventh grade to success. So I think it's very helpful to talk to kids about where you are tripped up, or where you hit bumps in the road, I love to have I love it when parents have a weekly conversation with their kids. And teachers can do this in the classroom, too, where the prompt is, what was the most embarrassing thing, or perceived failure that you experienced this week? And what did you learn from it? or How did you grow from it, or what was an unexpected blessing as a result of it, but really reframing those gaps, those embarrassing moments in a way that helps kids understand that that is exactly what you need to have happen. It's expected, it's just part of that journey of growing up.

Penny Williams 31:25

Yeah, and showing them that we're all human. You know, a lot of times As parents, we really want to not show any sort of mistakes, or flaws or even emotion to our kids. And I think it's a huge mistake. Because the more real we are with them, the more accepting they are about those real qualities of themselves, you need to show that something was hard for us, but we push through or we learn something from it, or, you know, we just made a mistake, and then talk about what we could do differently next time. You know, having those things happen in front of our kids and talking about them with our kids is so very valuable, because otherwise they're looking at us and saying, Well, I'm never going to be like that I'm never going to be perfect. They need to see that nobody is nobody is perfect.

Phyllis Fagell 32:18

Yes. And it's okay to say that was super embarrassing, I can't believe I forgot to show up for that very important work meeting. But then you want to let them see how you recover. So here's what I did. I went on up for a walk to clear my head. And tomorrow, I'm going to go into work. And I'm going to figure out if there is an opportunity for me to meet one on one with that person I was supposed to meet at that meeting. But just let them see how you how you recover, that you can keep moving and putting one foot in front of the other.

Penny Williams 32:44

Yeah, it's so so important, especially for kids who really get really stuck, you know, who who struggle with very sort of rigid thinking, and get very stuck in things or kids who are very emotionally sensitive, and they get really overwhelmed easily with emotion, you know, it's really important for them to see that it will get better. And there's a process to that, and what that might look like for them and to have that role model of how to work through challenging and difficult things.

Phyllis Fagell 33:14

And also just really helping them understand that those same challenges that are making life more difficult for them, then appear, maybe an academic challenge or an executive functioning challenge, are likely to set them up to just take for granted that they have to work hard, no matter what they do. And even for kids for whom everything is easy. Eventually they're going to hit a time in their life where something is hard. And they will not necessarily have mastered that skill of persevering the way that a kid who is just used to everything being difficult, will be able to deal with that.

Penny Williams 33:51

Yeah, building resilience. That's really what we're talking about building resilience. While I know there's so much more we could talk about about the middle school years and kittens and struggles in that area. But we have run out of time for today. I do want to let everyone know, you can find a link to Phyllis this book, and website and ways to connect further with her work in the show notes for this episode, which are found at parenting, ADHD and autism comm slash 132 for Episode 132. And I definitely encourage you to take a look at the website and get the book. It's all amazingly helpful as this conversation has been. I can't believe how much we've packed into a short time. Just so much to learn from you because you're there and you're experiencing it. And as parents we were not there and I really, really appreciate you sharing some of your time and your wisdom with everyone listening.

Phyllis Fagell 34:54

Thank you so much for inviting me. I enjoyed our conversation.

Penny Williams 34:58

Yes. And with that, we will end episode I'll see everyone next time. 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.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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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