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Self Esteem & Stress Management

The following are past questions and answers from Dr. Larry Silver on this topic.

How do we make sure our daughter with ADHD does not get bullied in middle school?

My daughter will be 13 in September and is going to middle school. I am very worried because she has ADHD and has a hard time making and keeping friends. She gets bullied a lot of the time. I don't want that to happen as she enters middle and high school. So how do we help her make friends, hang with the right crowd, and not get bullied?

I share your concerns. One option is to speak to the counselor who works at the middle school she will be attending. Ask for guidance and for help when she arrives.

The other option is to speak with the professional who is treating your daughter for her ADHD. Ask for a referral to a mental health professional who works with middle school students who have ADHD and social problems.

What do I do about teachers who belittle my son in front of other students and do not follow his IEP?

I have a 9-year-old son, who was diagnosed with dysgraphia and ADHD in second grade. He has a special education plan, which his teachers usually follow, but because he is in lots of special groups, math help, reading help etc., he has lots of different teachers.

I am really having issues getting them to positively reinforce him. I fight with them all the time and it is just the same thing over and over — he gets a new teacher who is supposed to follow his IEP and instead they make fun of him or belittle him because he does not learn the same as other children. I am so sad and frustrated, I want to just follow him around and stop anyone who hurts him, but I can't do that.

Is there anything I can do to help his beaten self-esteem? Or maybe a different way to approach the teachers? He is just a little boy and he learns a little differently than others. I have had teachers use him as an example, saying things like, "If you don't do your homework, you'll end up like him." They have told him, "If you don't stop making your letters backwards, you will never have a job or a drivers license." Any help or advice you can give me will be greatly appreciated.



If your son has an IEP that clarifies your sons disabilities and the services needed, do not tolerate any teacher acting the way you describe. Keep a log of each occurrence. When you have enough examples, request an IEP meeting to discuss your sons progress. At this meeting, present your log and ask that this issue be addressed.

If your son has a 504 Plan, based possibly on the ADHD, follow the same process. Here, you would request a 504 meeting to discuss his progress.

Do not allow this to continue. But, you must document, document, and document. If your only data is from your son, see if you can get validation from another student, an aide, or someone else.

Our second-grade daughter is struggling with depression and ADHD. What do we do?

I have a 7-year-old girl who is in second grade and struggling. She was diagnosed with Adjustment Depression and ADHD last March. She was treated for depression with an SSRI and counseling. She is currently on an ADHD medication and has stopped the depression meds. The counseling was stopped this fall because her counselor could see no reason to continue.

We have struggled since she started school. She is a very strong-willed little girl who knows a lot more than what she is willing to show us or the teachers. Her work at school fluctuates from day to day. She can do the work with ease one day and then struggle the next with the same work. Her teachers are as perplexed as I am. I have tried many different things for her such as Hooked on Phonics, Sylvan, special tutoring at school, and working with her in different ways at home. The things we try seem to make an impact the first couple of weeks but then she no longer is interested in them and does not want to participate. There seems to be a battle of wills.

How do we go about finding the thing that will allow my daughter to be as bright as we know she is without traumatizing her or bringing back the depression and making things worse? Her teachers feel she should continue counseling. They are disagreeing with the diagnosis of ADHD even though we went through several hours of testing. I fear that if she is held back (which I am thinking may be next) that she will be traumatized from this and will not recover.

Her social skills are lacking. She avoids crowds and does not warm up to people like a typical 7-year-old. She would much rather play with younger kids and avoid group activities. She has no problems making new friends as long as it is just her and the other child. Could her social behavior be contributing to her academic behavior and, if so, how do we go about making changes?

Your questions and concerns are on target. You need to find out more about why your daughter is struggling. It is possible that her depression was the result of her frustrations and difficulties at school. Once some of these were addressed, her depression went away.

If you feel that you are not getting the answers you need from her school professionals, you might have to seek help from others. First, meet with the person who did the hours of testing to conclude that your daughter has ADHD. Discuss your concerns with this professional. Why is she struggling in school? Why is she inconsistent? Were there any test results that might suggest that she has a learning disability or is at risk for such a disability? Discuss the fact that her school staff do not agree with the diagnosis of ADHD and ask for help in responding to the teachers.

If these efforts do not help, seek a private special education consultant who can review all of the records and testing (by school and privately) and advise you on what is best to do.

One added thought: Many professionals within the school and private sector use a guideline for diagnosing someone as having a learning disability. They must be significantly behind expected grade level. If a student is in second grade and a year behind, he or she might be shown to have difficulties, but the degree of deficit is not great enough to use the formal term learning disabilities. Discuss this theme with both school and private professionals. Challenge them by asking, “Are you saying that I have to wait until she fails third grade before you can identify her as having a disability?”

What do parents do when they don't agree about how to handle a struggling child?

I am in desperate need of help or guidance. I have a beautiful 12-year-old who has always really struggled in school. This year has been the worst academically. I don't think her Catholic school has any resources to help kids who struggle. Her SAT/reading test scores have always been low. She tends to have difficulty remembering small tasks. She runs out of time taking tests. Therefore, they are incomplete. The quality of homework is poor and sentences she writes are usually incomplete and/or misspelled. She also has difficultly meeting timeframes.

She has seen a counselor in the past and was tested for ADD/ADHD with negative results. My heart goes out to her because her self-esteem is at an all-time low and I have sat with her many nights watching her cry. She’s usually doing homework until 10:30 at night (we get home at 5:00pm) and I am usually in bed by midnight after I correct it. I write her sticky notes daily to remember to do things. I feel so helpless as a parent because she works twice as hard with poor results.

Her struggles not only occur at school, but even at home. We feel we have to follow her around to ensure she does her daily chores. It just seems that everything with her is last minute or halfway done. She is such a beautiful girl, but gets teased by other girls and does not know how to handle confrontation. On the flip side, she is extremely artistic with oil paints and art. She gets A’s in her Spanish class. She loves soccer and performs hula and she is excellent at both.

This problem has affected my marriage. My husband and I find that we don't spend enough time together because we spend so much time helping her with school homework and our marriage has taken it's toll. I feel as if we are doing her homework for her. I am just so perplexed with my daughter. There are times that she seems so confident with school, then fails every test there are other times where she goes above and beyond what is expected. We have spent hundreds of dollars on a tutor and want to get her in touch with a counselor.

My husband is at a point where he thinks she is just hitting puberty and that she is very lazy. He says when things don't go well she just quits. I disagree with her being lazy and feel as a parent, I need to be able to help her or get help for myself to help her. I always tell her, “I will not quit on you and you shouldn't, either.” She has told me that I didn't think she would ever make it to college. That broke my heart because I think the stress of this has taken it's toll and my actions are very negative. Any advice you can give to a mom who is willing to do whatever it takes to help her child is greatly appreciated.

Mrs. Mitchell

Please, Mr. And Mrs Mitchell, sit down together and read my response to your question. When our children have problems, the easiest first reply is to our frustration is to look for someone to blame — the kid, teachers, the school, your spouse. “She is just lazy…not motivated…too dependent on mom.” I understand this reaction. Your child is frustrated and having difficulty with life and school. You love your child and share this frustration.

You have a beautiful 12-year-old daughter who is probably as miserable as you two are. She does not understand why she has problems any more than you do. She needs help and this help must come from both of you. You cannot afford to waste energy struggling with each other about what to do. You must unite and focus your energy on helping your daughter.

I don’t know if she has ADHD or a learning disability or both, but your descriptions suggest both. Your first steps must focus on clarify if she has one or both of these problems. Only then can you focus your energy on making sure that she gets the necessary help. The issue is not why mother has to spend so much time helping your daughter, making father upset. The issue is why your daughter is having so much difficulty that she needs someone to read with her, think through what she has to write, or help her organize herself and her materials. No, it is not puberty. She has had these problems for a long time.

She must be evaluated for a possible learning disability. She shows possible problems with reading comprehension and definite suggestions of problems with spelling and possibly with other writing skills. She might have problems organizing her thoughts when she writes. She also shows problems with organization and with time planning. This evaluation is done through formal psychological and educational testing. Your daughter is in a private school; however, as tax payers, you are entitled to such studies through your public school. Discuss how to make this request with the Head of her private school. The test results will clarify if she has a learning disability and, if she does, what help and accommodations she will need.

I do not read any suggestion of possible ADHD. I would do the testing first. Should the results suggest ADHD, she would be evaluated for this later. Again, the most important thing both mom and dad share is your love for your daughter. This love must unite you to focus on your daughter’s pain and how to help her. There is no time to waste energy blaming each other.

God bless and good luck.

What do you do when a child just gives up?

I have a question about how to handle my son's attitude. He is a very caring boy with a big self esteem problem. He only puts out half effort in school and in sports, due to deciding ahead of time that he does not fit in or can not do it. I need a positive way of handling this with him, knowing he has consequences of his actions. He has a learning disorder in language arts and ADHD. I'm not sure of what help to give him. I just hate to see him falling in a depression.

You must clarify why your son is so discouraged that he appears to have given up. If he has ADHD and a learning disability and if he has not been fully treated for one or both of these serious disabilities, the behaviors and attitudes you see may be a result of his feelings of frustration and failure. His poor self-image and low self-esteem concern me as well.

First, meet with the professionals who are working on his ADHD and LD and explore if each is fully addressed. If not, implement the needed help. Also, have him evaluated by a mental health professional who understands ADHD and LD. Act quickly before you lose him.

How does a parent handle a child who misbehaves in school but is well behaved and happy at home?

My eight-year-old son has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. He has been taking his medication but still has bouts of behavioral problems. He has also been evaluated with learning disabilities although over the past three years the evaluations have not been consistent.

He has learned to manipulate to get out of situations he does not want to be in. For example, throwing temper tantrums worse each time to get sent home from school. As soon as he walks out of the school, he is a totally different child - well behaved and happy. How can I tell when his behavior is manipulative and when it is due to his anxiety?

It is important to differentiate the cause of the behaviors; however, the interventions are the same. I would suggest that the first step focus on why school is stressful. If he has learning disabilities, these should be clear on formal and current testing. You should not have to suspect. If your school system is minimizing or avoiding recognizing LD or treating the LD, seek outside help. If the cause of the behaviors is the frustrations and failures caused by his LD, an important focus will be to provide the necessary remedial interventions plus classroom accommodations.

Next, I would try to clarify the anxiety and depression. Are these problems only present during school time but not seen on holidays or summer? Are they present all year long? Has he had problems with anxiety or depression for many years or is it only recent? You might need the help of a mental health professional to clarify if the anxiety is secondary to the academic frustrations or are the cause of the academic difficulties.

Your son is yelling for help. He is desperate enough to act out in order to get out of school. Please act quickly to figure out the reasons and the best interventions. (first, does he have LD; is he below grade level in skills; second, are there other reasons than school to explain his behaviors.)

What can an ADHD teenager do who feels like their parents see only the bad things they do?

I am 14 years old and I have ADHD. I have had it all my life but it only started to become a real problem in 8th grade. I started to slack off and my grades dropped. I knew it was because I was not paying enough attention in class, but I can't help it. So my parents just made my suffering worse by making threats. I was not going to go back to my school if my grades didn't improve, or I was going to go to military school and never see my friends again. It just all made me feel worse.

My parents just emphasize all the bad things that I do and just make me feel like I want to die or something. They have no idea that I feel this way. The only person that does know is a trusted teacher. I am not sure how to cope with all the built up sadness and anger towards myself for not being the perfect child that my parents seem to want me to be.

I have a younger brother with mental disabilities and all their attention seems to be on him and less on me. I feel like they don't even notice the little good I do. They only seem to see the bad that I do.


You are struggling and I am glad you are trying to get help. You mention several problems: (1) You are struggling in eighth grade: (2) your parents appear to be responding with punishment and criticism rather than responding by trying to figure out why you are having difficult; (3) your brother sometimes gets most of your parent’s attention; and, no one appears to realize how much you are hurting emotionally. I am glad you are seeking help. You are fortunate to have a trusted teacher.

You need help from people at school to work with you and with your parents. Start with that trusted teacher. Maybe show this teacher my comments. The two of you might know a school counselor or special education teacher who could be asked to help.

First, many students with ADHD also have problems with organization and with what is called executive function. They have problems organizing their materials (notebooks, papers, reports, homework) and they have equal problems organizing the information in their head. They might read well but not remember what they have read. They might know a lot but have difficulty organizing this information in order to write and answer to a question or to write a report or paper. If this sounds like you, further educational studies might clarify your problems and then clarify how to help.

Second, ask this teacher to go with you to the school counselor to discuss how best to bring your parents on board in an effort to help you rather than to make you upset and angry.

How does a person with a learning disability handle emotional trauma caused by LD?

I’ve had trouble reading and writing for as long as I can remember. I always did well in school and even enrolled in gifted classes. I managed to keep up with the work, but at the same time I struggled with my disability. I felt ashamed and stupid. It was a secret I had to hide and I was terrified that someone would find out.

I learned to cope and hide my disability and consequently I never received help throughout grade school. I believe my fear of reading out loud has developed into a phobia, which has triggered panic attacks.

In college as an engineering student, I insisted on being tested for a learning disability, so I could receive help for my writing classes. After testing positive for a learning disability, I discovered that the aid being offered by the school was not helpful. In addition, my high school study habits of doing the minimum amount of work was no longer cutting it. I eventually stopped going to school and started seeing a therapist.

After dropping out of school, I sunk into a deep depression. I may have other problems I have not been able to pinpoint yet. Despite seeing a therapist for a long time, I have not been able to get back on my feet. I currently live with my parents. I have no job and no social life. I have little will to work on my problems and become anxious thinking about taking steps to work on my problems. I have not been able to get myself to do much of anything for about two years now. I’ve had a few therapists and a psychologist diagnose me with emotional trauma.

I wonder if you know of any resources concerning emotional trauma caused by learning disabilities. I would also appreciate any wisdom you can send my way.

Your problems are serious and I am sorry you find yourself where you are now. It is possible that your depression is the result of your years of frustration and failure. If so, this might be the theme of the therapy. Or, it might be that the same disabilities that prevented you from being successful in school continue to impact on your ability to work or handle life skills. Or, the depression might be a disorder often found with individuals who have learning disabilities.

What ever the cause, medication can help to minimize the depression. Talking therapy often does not help as much as seeking an educational or vocational counselor to help you pick up the pieces and get on with your life. Included in this help would be any remedial work for your learning disabilities as well as helping you develop compensatory techniques. The focus will also be on vocational initiatives and knowing what accommodations you might need.