Many kids with ADHD or learning differences experience bullying, often as early as elementary school. As I mentioned in my previous post, kids with ADHD or learning differences may be at increased risk for bullying because of low self-esteem, loneliness, underdeveloped social skills, or difficulty reading social cues. Some of these risk factors also make it harder for kids with ADHD or learning differences to recognize bullying when it’s happening, or to effectively ask for help when they need it. Awareness about bullying has increased dramatically over the past decade, and many schools now provide anti-bullying curriculums designed to foster school climates that are not tolerant of bullying. These programs are wonderful, but for many kids – and perhaps especially for kids with ADHD or learning differences – they are simply not enough. Kids of all ages, and particularly those in elementary school, also need anti-bullying support from their parents in the form of open and direct conversations.
Many parents are surprised to learn that kids are often bullied for weeks or months before an adult becomes aware of the problem. Kids who are bullied often don’t turn to adults for help quickly either because they feel helpless, don’t know how to ask for help, don’t understand that they are being bullied, feel ashamed, or believe that adults either can’t help or will just make the situation worse. When you talk openly with your child about bullying you are sending a clear and important message that you are someone they can turn to if they are being bullied.
Initiating conversations about bullying with your child can feel intimidating and overwhelming. It’s hard to know what to say or how to say it in a way that will resonate with your child. Fortunately, there are some fantastic books about bullying that can serve as great conversation starters. Some of these books simply tell stories that your child can relate to and others provide practical strategies and tips for kids and their parents. All of these books will be most effective if you read them with your child and talk about the tough situations the characters are facing.
Here are my top 5 books that are great conversation starters for kids and parents:
Thank You, Mr. Falker
by Patricia Polacco
Thank you, Mr. Falker will resonate with any child who has struggled academically and has been made fun of by their peers as a result. This book is based on the author’s own experience with dyslexia as a child, and tells the story of how she learned to read with the help of an inspiring teacher who not only helped her overcome her learning differences, but also helped foster her artistic gifts.
The Juice Box Bully
by Bob Sornson & Maria Dismondy
Great for starting conversations about why bullies act the way they do, as well conversations about how to deal with bullies, The Juice Box Bully tells the story of a new kid at school who struggles to fit in because he is bullying his classmates. It turns out that he was the victim of bullying at his old school and thought that if he was mean to kids at his new school first, he wouldn’t get picked on himself.
Stand Up for Yourself and Your Friends: Dealing with Bullies and Bossiness and Finding a Better Way (An American Girl Book)
by Patti Kelley Criswell
This book is really a guide that teaches girls how to spot bullying, how to respond, and how to ask a trusted adult for help. There are quizzes and exercises that parents and girls can do together, and plenty of great conversation starters inside.
My Secret Bully
by Trudy Ludwig
This book focuses on relational aggression among a group of girls who have been friends since kindergarten. The main character, Monica, ultimately handles the bullying successfully with the help of her mother. This book not only helps girls identify the signs of relational aggression and bullying but shows how powerful it can be when a parent steps in to help. This book also includes additional tips and discussion guides for parents.
by Jerry Spinelli
This book is most appropriate for tweens in 5th or 6th grade. With humor and a very engaging writing style, the author tells the story of a boy who doesn’t fit in and deals with a lot of bullying starting in 1st grade. The main character struggles as he makes his way through elementary school and into middle school, but with the support of his family he learns to embrace his individuality and ultimately thrives.
Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.
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