Were you uninvited to a birthday party, laughed at by a group of mean girls, or maybe even bullied? If you had some tough times in elementary, middle, or high school, it’s easy to inadvertently be projecting your own experiences onto your child as they develop their own social group.

Last week’s Securely Attached episode was all about peer rejection in toddlerhood—how to make space for a dialogue, develop a growth mindset, and help your child build their compassion, empathy, and social awareness.

While the fundamentals are the same, peer rejection in elementary or pre-teen child years can be much more nuanced. So Dr. Emily Upshur of Upshur Bren Psychology Group is back to help parents of older kiddos learn how best to support them, when to step in, how much emotional scaffolding to provide, and some key indicators that it may be time to seek professional help.

Dr. Emily (00:00):

We don’t want them to have this identity of, I’m a this, I’m a loser, or I’m not included. Well, I wasn’t included in this situation, in this slice.

Dr. Sarah (00:14):

As children grow, so do the complexities of their problems in elementary and middle school, it’s common to see clicks form as children start to explore where it is that they fit in. Last week on the podcast, Dr. Emily Upshur, the co-founder of our joint practice, Upshur Bren Psychology Group, joined me to answer a listener’s question about how to handle peer rejection–what to do, and how to emotionally support her young child. As Emily and I got into the conversation, we realized that while many of the foundational aspects remain, making a child feel validated and understood, helping them look at the situation from all sides, the way that we navigate these experiences with older children is slightly more nuanced. So we decided to keep the conversation going and record part two, to help parents of older children understand some strategies and tools for navigating these kinds of situations. So whether your child is the one being excluded or you’re observing some not so inclusive behaviors in your own child, this episode will help you develop an understanding of peer rejection in the elementary and preteen years and learn some red flags to alert you that it might be time to seek additional support.


Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast, I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology, and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights. So you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.


Hi Emily. It’s so nice to have you back on the podcast.

Dr. Emily (02:07):

Hey guys, So good to be here.

Dr. Sarah (02:09):

So we decided that we had done an episode previously where we talked about rejection in kids and how to respond to that as parents. And the conversation really revolved around sort of examples related to younger kids, you know, toddlers, very young, elementary age, age kids. And we really realize that while a lot of that stuff is relevant to older kids, and it’s worth going back and listening to that episode, if you want a refresher on that, on some of that foundational stuff, that bigger kids have rejection in their lives too. And it sometimes plays out in different ways, and how we respond to it might be similar to the way we respond to younger kids, but it might be norm more nuanced and slightly different too. So we wanted to talk a little bit and do a follow up episode on when older kids are feeling rejection from peers or older or are rejecting peers. You know, we’re gonna talk about both sides of that coin. How do we as parents support kids that are experiencing this? How do we sort of model and teach alternative behaviors, things like that.

Dr. Emily (03:16):

Yeah, and I think this is such a great topic because it might, it does, Some of the tenants are really similar, but it, it does present differently. So it could be more like not fitting in, right? So it’s not necessarily is, doesn’t feel as overt, maybe as projection, but it’s, you know, it can be a little bit more subtle. So in terms of like, you know, not fitting in with groups or not finding a peer social group that’s the right, just the right fit for your child, right? So I think that that’s where this comes up a little bit in the older kids is more in that more nuanced way of, you know, do I fit in? Do I not fit in which group do I fit in? So there’s a bit of identity in there as well. Identity, yeah.

Dr. Sarah (03:59):

Yeah. And I think there’s also different ways kids at this age have a little more autonomy socially, and so they are creating groups and they are having crushes and they are making their own plans. And so exclusion can happen in a different, some of them are online and they’re, We could talk a little bit about that too. You know, I think when little kids reject one another, it’s more like, you can’t play with my toy, or, or I don’t want you here go away. It’s this like really kind of raw, unfiltered, you know, rejection. And that’s painful. It’s painful to witness as a parent. It’s painful to receive as one of the receiving end. It doesn’t feel good to do it when kids do that. They’re not in a comfortable place. So we can have empathy for all parts to that, but when bigger kids are dealing with rejection, it’s, Yeah. I like your, I think your points really accurate that it’s this sort of, it can feel insidious, it can feel subtle, it can feel indirect, there could be more passive aggression.

Dr. Emily (05:03):

Right. And I think to exactly, to your point, I think a really important piece from our, from a parenting side, right, from our side is we’re much more involved in the younger child. And so you’re able to sort of bridge some of those repairs as a parent of a younger child, potentially even you give a situation, you know, you can present another situation where a repair might be able to happen or a redo, you know, can occur. And as, and as an a parent of, as you’re, as you get older, you know, parents can, can be a little ousted from those processes. And so it’s a little bit like how do we follow that, you know, that dance, that fine line between, you know, letting our child be independent and sort of figuring some of these things out, but also being supportive and are there times when we should step in, right? And try to figure out sort of all of that with your child who has a little bit more independence and finding, You’re right. Exactly. Finding their own play dates, gravitating to their own circles. And then how as parents, do we support them when they have a little, when we’re less involved a little bit in some ways, Right?

Dr. Sarah (06:09):

Absolutely. So let’s think about a scenario, right? You have a kid who is maybe coming to you or maybe you’re observing this, who’s feeling like, I’m not getting invited to birthday parties, I’m not getting invited on play dates. Kids aren’t asking me to sit with them at school. And I’m feeling left out. Some kids will come to their parents about this, some parents hear a lot about this side. And, and, and that’s wonderful when kids feel like they can talk to us about that. Yeah. I also think a lot of times kids are ashamed of this experience and they don’t feel comfortable talking to, they’re embarrassed that they feel badly and they don’t really wanna share this sort of part of themselves with their parents that they might feel ashamed of. And so parents are maybe watching from the outside observing this occur. You know, I’m curious, maybe we could talk about both scenarios for the parents whose kids are coming to them crying or distressed about this, how can they support them? And then maybe also talk a little bit about the parents who are watching it happen but aren’t getting invited to the conversation and how they can sort of support nonetheless.

Dr. Emily (07:24):

Yeah, I mean, I, I always think of this as like two for both of the scenarios, really. Two, two paths, right? There’s outward things you can do to help your child. So one of the things I love to say is to parents, just for child resilience as a general concept, particularly as a protective factor against some of these things are get your child involved in multiple things in multiple settings, right? You know, you might, you know, be, you know, really in love with your community and you love doing all of your activities and your, you know, sports and your plays and your stuff all within your one community. But sometimes it’s nice to do a class outside of your community, build opportunities for your children to have friends in other settings that aren’t just home kind of, right? That can also look like sleepaway camp or day camp that not everybody from your community is going to, you know, like you can branch off a little.


And I always really encourage that for all children as a protective factor against, you know, like if you don’t fit in prophylactically, but also that can be a re you can do that as a reaction. Oh, you know what, I think we’re doing a lot, you know, right here in our town or right here in our community and like, maybe we should try doing an activity outside and like, let’s see if we can make some friends outside of our community, one or two friends outside of your everyday school life is a really great protective factor. Cuz if something falls out with that group of friends, you always have your camp friends or your, you know…

Dr. Sarah (08:54):

Totally. You’re diversifying their friend portfolio.

Dr. Emily (08:59):

Exactly. So I think that’s like what parents can do from the outside, right? And then how do we address the internal emotional life of the child is the other piece, right? So I say, you know, for the parent who’s getting all of the information and the child is sort of initiating those conversations. I always say, you know, really your first job is to listen, not to fix, right? I think as parents we have to slow down and get, you know, really take a deep breath and say like, Okay, this might be kind of tough and they feel tough and, and I, it’s my instinct to protect my child or to make it go away. And, and that’s actually not our job in that moment, right? Our job is to, as we, you know, Sarah and I always say like, let’s look under the hood, right?


Let’s figure out what’s going on and see if we can label how they’re feeling in those moments. So listening is step one, right? We always wanna listen, we wanna listen with empathy. But the other piece I say is like maybe a little bit controversial, which is also listen with what the role your child could be playing is, right? And we, I think we said this in our previous episodes a little like, you know, a relationship is a dynamic and everybody has their role. And so if we really wanna change how that child’s being received, like we have to look a little bit about how they’re interacting too, right? It it’s not just about the other kids, the other side, the kids that, that are rejecting. So I think it’s important to look at both sides, right? We can support our child with looking at both sides and I think that’s actually the most effective to, that’s not to say I, we, I think we, we’ve said this before, I think that’s not to say we shouldn’t arm our children with the ability to assert boundaries and assert when behaviors are not acceptable to them.


That is really an important value too, right? We really do wanna give them that skill. That’s not okay with me. I don’t like the way you spoke to me. You know, that’s not cool. You know, even just that’s not cool. That’s, you know, that’s not how I like to be talked to or that’s not a nice friend, right? And even giving them some examples helps them practice saying those things in those situations. But on the other hand, we sort of wanna look under the hood and say like, what’s going on here? Like, why is this dynamic happening?

Dr. Sarah (11:18):

Yeah. And I think it’s important to, in along those lines, to kind of help our child to not get in this victim mentality. We don’t want them entrenched in this idea that like everyone is mean to me. And I cuz that, that if you internalize yourself as a victim and don’t have this flexibility around roles, right? Sometimes people don’t include me. Sometimes I don’t feel like playing with other people as well and that we were always us and then we receive things and behave in certain ways and that that’s what changes. So to just help our child to feel flexible around these ideas instead of sort of rigidly fixed in this self view that like, I am the victim.

Dr. Emily (12:08):

Yeah. And I think what you’re talking about is like growth mindset, right? I am not one fixed thing. I am not an unpopular kid, right? Like, oh, well maybe I don’t fit in in this setting, but I, you know, I fit in at soccer over here. You know, I think that sort of growth mentality or that not fixed mentality is really, really important. And sort of what we’re talking about here is, is creating opportunities for that both externally and internally, right? Right. Giving those, those opportunities for that growth.

Dr. Sarah (12:37):

And I think, you know, just for like thinking about like what, what can a parent actually say in these moments? What does supporting a growth mindset look like? And I think it’s kind of like this, this balancing act of you validating their experience, their feelings, and also communicating confidence that they can figure this out a bit. That this is something that they can work through. So, you know, we don’t wanna diminish and dismiss and say, Oh no, no, this isn’t that big a deal. You know, they were just trying to be ni they were just, maybe they didn’t get it. Or we don’t just wanna take the other side, right? And try to minimize our child’s experience. We wanna validate, ugh, that does not feel good when that happens. I’m sorry that happened. You know, that’s really hard. We don’t have to say a ton.


Let’s say one of those things. I don’t say all three of them, but then you also wanna throw in that piece of like, I wonder how you’ll figure this out. Or, you know, I wonder what was going on for those kids. I, So you’re like kind of exploring the alternative side without saying like, that’s the only place to be. Conversely, you don’t wanna just live in the validation only and just being like, you poor thing. That’s so terrible. This always happens to you. Those kids are just jerks. Everybody is, you know, screw them, which obviously some part of us as a parent wants to say like, sure people are being mean to our kid. We want, we do get upset and we would, it would feel good to say like, Ugh, those kids are just brats.

Dr. Emily (14:23):

Yeah. Well, but I think, I think what you’re talking about is like the, it’s not my kid, right? And or it wasn’t my kid, it’s not my kid. It must have been the other kid. You’re feeling inside of feeling defensive as a parent. Like, my kid doesn’t talk like that, my kid doesn’t act like that. Or shame like, oh my God, they better not have act like that because that would be devastating to me or that would be really upsetting to me. And I think, you know, in my, you know, just anecdotally with my own kids, even if they’re in the wrong, I still think it’s important, you know? Or I’m sorry. So rather, even if the other person is in, seems to be overtly in the wrong, I think it’s really important to build up your child too, to say like, yeah, you know, bad things happen and, and that’s really tough and like I, that it doesn’t feel good, but I know you can handle this.


Right? I know this could be an experience, it could be uncomfortable and, and you know, like you don’t want it to repeat again, but I know, I know you’ve got this right. And I think that that’s part of it. And also, again, I always say like, you know, so like what happened? We talk about the ABCs all the time. What happened before antecedent, the behavior and the consequence. And I always think that, well what happened right before, Cause I, cuz I, cuz I don’t think there’s ever any one way street in these social interactions, right? So it is important to sort of get the, get behind the nuance and not just jump on anyone’s bandwagon really. You know? And the other piece I just wanna add, which I’m famous for saying in my kids hate, is I always say like, nobody loves you a hundred percent.


Right? Like, nobody likes you a hundred percent, you know, nobody, you know. And so, or maybe just us as parents, but, you know, for the, for social relationships, like a hundred percent of the time, you know, someone doesn’t like you a hundred percent of the time. So it’s okay if there’s like that 5% that they’re annoyed with you, that’s okay, that doesn’t mean they don’t like you. It’s just that’s 5%. And I always, sometimes I’ll conjure up a pie and say it’s just this slice, you know, so that they don’t become overly focused. Again, to your point, Sarah, like we don’t want them to have this identity of, I’m, I’m a this, I’m a loser or I’m not included. Well I wasn’t included in this situation, in this slice.

Dr. Sarah (16:36):

Right? Right. And I think that’s a helpful thing to help kids to make it really concrete for kids is to localize it to that particular moment. Yeah. You know, or that particular situation or that particular setting or that particular group of children so that there’s a way in which the child is also able to, to zoom out and look at other interactions that they have, other relationships that they have, other situations that socially that they have been in where things have gone well and they’ve felt included and they’ve had connection. 

Dr. Emily (17:09):

Definitely. And I think the other thing is to open up conversation. I think we’re sort of dancing around that a little bit here, but I think that’s our, like if we were to give a parent one message, it would say like, on either side, if your kid was mean or your kid was, you know, received something mean, try not to shut down the conversation. Right. Approach it with curiosity. So whether, you know, that’s saying like, you know, cause if you shut down, get really defensive, you know, and your child did do something a little bit, maybe it was just, again, not a hundred percent, but maybe they were 10% mean that doesn’t give them the chance to own that piece. Right. And to be able to say like, Oh, maybe I, I was a little, I mean, I wasn’t overtly mean mommy, but maybe I was like a little bit, you know, unsavory in that moment.


And, and it’s much better from a developmental standpoint and from an emotional sophistication standpoint for them to be able to sort of own even that 10%. And it doesn’t have to be catastrophic, but it, if we brush over that or we shut down that conversation, well you weren’t being rude, were you, you weren’t being, you know, disrespectful or you weren’t being unkind. Right. You know, and we shut that down. We don’t really give the opportunity for them to really own their full experience and look nobody’s perfect and these are kids and they’re learning. And so I really like to keep it like open and unsafe and safe to sort of have these exploratory conversations and, and give them opportunities to own the whole experience.

Dr. Sarah (18:37):

Yeah. I think that’s really good. Good advice. I’m thinking too, for the parents who maybe don’t get to have the conversations, you know, like have the, they’re sitting here and being like, Well, my child doesn’t talk to me, so how do I have an open conversation? They shut it down. Like, no, I don’t wanna talk about it. You know, how can we, I often talk about like, you gotta sprinkle it on. You have to just find these little things where, like these moments where you can like sprinkle something on them. It’s not an exchange, it’s not a back and forth. They’re not sprinkling anything back. But when you, it’s like you plant these little seeds and every time you make a little comment, you’re putting like a drop of water on that seed. And if you do it a lot repeatedly over time, eventually that seed’s gonna bloom into something of value.


So it’s like, maybe you’re just making a comment, like, you know, your child’s down, you can see they’re not feeling themselves and you, and they, you know, you ask how things are going at school and they say like, fine, or leave me alone. I wanna talk about it. Instead of drilling in on like, why don’t you ever talk to me about things? I’m, he, you know, to simply just be like, Huh, when things are hard, it can be hard to talk about it. I get that I’m here when you’re ready. That’s a sprinkle, right? That’s a, you’re planting a seed of like accepting where they’re at in that moment and then keeping that door open. And then there are other opportunities where you can say, you know, as things randomly emerge in life, you can tuck in little like anecdotes. Like, ugh, you know, when I don’t get along with people, sometimes I do this.


Or, you know, talking about your own stories, talking about conflicts at work when you’re at the dinner table saying like, I had a tricky meeting today and I was feeling kind of like I was left out and I didn’t get a chance to talk or say the thing I wanted to say and it didn’t feel good. Sometimes we can just validate that we share that same experience to our kid. They feel a little less alone in it. Sometimes we can offer a way that we challenge that pro know, met that challenge with a solution or with a effort to make ourselves feel okay. But yeah. I’m curious, you know, what you think about, what do parents do when like, their kids won’t actually.

Dr. Emily (21:02):

Yeah. I mean, I, I echo a lot of the things you say. I call it throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks a little bit. I’m like, throw a little spaghetti. You, I never really, I, I caution parents to never really expect an aha moment back. But we ca we in our field right? We call this reflective functioning, which means, you know, imagining what the other person is thinking or feeling. So if we can give our best bet, like I, I truly believe parents are experts in their children. They’re the best that we, that they got at least right? Often and they know their child better than anyone else usually. So if we can give our best bet about what’s going on with that child, throw it out there softly a little bit, like a little, a couple pieces of strings of pasta, right?


Like, Oh, I wonder if you had a hard day at school today. Oh, when I have a hard day, you know, sometimes I like to x right? Or you know, sometimes it’s more overt. I think parents get worried cuz they see their child not be included, right? They see that they’re not being invited to the parties or invited to the a play date or their child doesn’t have their own independent social activities outside of they come straight home from school or something like that. You know, I think that I love the idea of sharing anecdotes of your own experiences or of your childhood experience, your own experience as a child, like reflecting back. And I also think it’s just, it’s throwing out there what you imagine might be going on. Oh, transit, you know, starting a new school is really hard or starting middle school.


Oh, middle school is really tough, you know, some, it’s so hard to figure out where to sit in the cafeteria, you know, or you know, sometimes people are just tough in middle, you know, like kids are can say mean things and you know, you can just throw a little of that out there. They might say yes, you know, but often they won’t, this, this child that we’re talking about in this scenario might not, but it doesn’t mean they don’t feel seen. And it doesn’t mean you have to hit the nail right on the head, but trying and putting some of those things out there can make them feel seen, you know, and understood in a way. Even if we don’t get that, even if the parent doesn’t get the satisfaction of hearing that, that that works, it is impactful.

Dr. Sarah (23:09):

And I think that’s a helpful mindset shift, right? My goal as the parent in this kind of a moment with this kind of a child that’s a little more closed in my goal isn’t to get them to necessarily, I mean, obviously we do want them to open up and talk to us, but my goal in any particular moment is not to get them to open up and talk to me. My goal in any particular moment is to just let them know I see them and I get it. I can understand what they might be thinking or feeling in that moment. And that’s it. So it’s a one way, it’s a one way goal. Yes. And if we shift our mindset to expecting that this is what we’re looking for, I’m just delivering information to them, or I’m del I’m communicating something to them versus trying to get them to communicate something to me that I think that takes a lot of pressure off of us to feel like, when is our job done. Right? Our job is done when we’ve sprinkled the thing or, you know, thrown the spaghetti at them or any other metaphor for like, it’s a one way, it’s a one way offering in that, in that moment.

Dr. Emily (24:17):

Yeah. And I think that, that, what you were just saying just occurred to me that the other thing that I like to present to parents is, you know, maybe it’s not us that they wanna talk to in those moments, right? And that’s can be tough as a parent, but that’s also really impactful to say like, maybe you wanna talk to your aunt about this, or a cousin or, you know, a family friend, right? Like maybe there’s someone else

Dr. Sarah (24:41):

Or a therapist.

Dr. Emily (24:42):


Dr. Sarah (24:43):

And I think little kids are big kids can get a little uncomfortable with the idea of a therapist. So like there’s, you know, I think the idea of presenting to a child the idea of like encouraging them to speak to a therapist, Like how could we, I mean we talk about this a lot when we talk to parents who reach out to us that are like, I think my child needs to talk to somebody. How do I tell them that? Like, we’re gonna go try therapy. Like, how do I have that conversation with my kids?

Dr. Emily (25:12):

Yeah. I love that because I think, you know, in our practice we talk about this all the time, which is, you know, we are, one of our goals is to normalize therapy, right? Like, you can talk to someone once, you could talk to someone 10 times, you know, you could talk to someone for years or it, you know, it can be very ala carte, right? Like, it’s very personalized and for your experience and, and a lot of our children get supports for so many things, you know, like this, right? They have a tutor if they’re struggling in math, they have someone who, you know, throws a base practices pitching with them if they’re a baseball player, right? And so I always say to parents, like, this is just another one of those things, you know, we’re kind of, we fill a role that’s kind of like a coach or tutor, you know, we are experts in, in these feelings.


We’re feelings people, right? We’re feelings coaches. And so I sort of, I give that those analogies to parents, even parents who are reticent to make it too big of a deal, quote unquote. Right? Right. And I think that, and I think that presenting it in those ways and sort of normalizing, like everybody needs to tune up every now and again for something that they are struggling with. So yeah, I think, I think putting it out there and, and I think it’s very important. I actually think it’s fair, fairly important to be very explicit that you could just try it one time. Like it’s okay. Like you, this isn’t a we’re signing you up for the year, you know, type of thing. I think it’s really important to give it a, give some of these things a try or prioritize them. And sometimes parents frankly, need to be a little bit more firm. Like if my child’s failing math, it’s not an option for him to not have a tutor, Right? So if my child’s really struggling and we can see it, we can see tears or we can see it stress or emotional dysregulation frequently

Dr. Sarah (27:01):

Or isolation. That’s another big one is like we see kids who wanna just be in their room alone all the time.

Dr. Emily (27:06):

Exactly. And I think, you know, we wouldn’t say to that child like, it’s your choice whether to, you know, get help with that or not. Right? So I think it’s, it’s, I think we can have both sort of angles in that we can be a little bit more flexible and say like, Hey, would you like to talk to somebody? Like there’s this thing, you know, called therapy and people go and it’s just like you know, coaching for your this or, you know, like that you, they can give analogies. And I think there are other times where we might have to say like, we’re gonna try this for a little bit and, and be a little bit more firm if we’re really, truly concerned. And particularly with a little bit older children where they really aren’t sharing with us. And, and it could be a matter of more safety or a matter of, you know, sort of their emotional health.

Dr. Sarah (27:48):

Yeah. And I’m curious, maybe we could talk a little bit about signs that a child might really be ready to try therapy, whether they’re, whether they know it or not, whether it would be something that you and I would say, Yep, that’s a kid who’d really benefit from therapy and it’s probably important that it’s something on everyone’s radar.

Dr. Emily (28:08):

Yeah, I think like we’re talking about, we talk when for, when people come to us, we think about two different things. We think about people who have internalizing disorders, right? So people who withdraw take things emotionally and are really, you know, we can, they’re the kid who’s in their room isolating a little bit more potentially, right? And then they’re externalizing disorders, right? There are kids that are getting into fights at school or maybe they’re bullying other kids or, you know, that type of thing that’s happening. And I think we really wanna address both of those things. So like, let’s say your kid has gotten into a couple of fights, like physical fights or yelling fights, verbal fights, and it just seems like, hmm, this is happening a little bit more than I’d like, right? Like this is, this is like, seems like it’s expressing or they’re, or they’re more argumentative in a, you know, with teachers or authority figures or even at home, right?


I think that’s all, that’s often a sign that maybe something’s going on and even whether they’re talking too about it or not, it might be a time to ask for a little bit more help from a professional. 

Other external things would be like, you know, your grades change, there’s a drop in your grades or your school performance. Maybe you used to have a friend group and now you don’t seem to have one, right? Like you have a loss of fitting in or a loss of a friend group, Right? Like a change in what’s baseline. Maybe it’s that you used to be like an a sort of big giggly externalizing happy kid, and now you seem a little bit more withdrawn and, you know, not, not so cheerful. You know, I, those are just some off the top of my head examples of externalizing ones.

Dr. Sarah (29:48):

Yeah. And one more externalizing thing that would, you know, peak my interest as a therapist is, are they expressing a lot of worries? Are they coming to you for a lot of reassurance? Are they asking you to sort of, you know, make them feel better reduce anxiety, help them avoid things, soliciting your help in managing worries or anxiety or fears? That would also be a good sign that talking to a therapist could be helpful.

Dr. Emily (30:17):

Sure. And I think from a developmental standpoint, that’s a great point, right? Because maybe they didn’t used to ask for that much help, right? Maybe they didn’t used to need you to walk them into a birthday party or, you know, maybe they used to want you to scr, you know, from an event or something and, and now they’re seeking a little bit more of that. I think that’s not necessarily, it might, we might not catch that right away, right? We, we might not catch that as a sign because you know, as parents we kind of miss those times sometimes, you know, like being more needed. So I think that there’s a little bit of keeping your radar up for Yeah. For things that maybe skills they used to have that they, they aren’t hanging onto as much anymore.

Dr. Sarah (31:00):

Mhmm. Or one other thing that makes you think is like, not wanting to do things used to do? Like, like, I don’t wanna play this sport anymore. I don’t wanna do this activity anymore. I don’t wanna do any activity anymore like pulling out of, of things.

Dr. Emily (31:15):

Yeah. In loss of interest. Yeah. Which is a great, which is yeah, definitely. Definitely. And, and it gets harder as they get older. So I think that that’s definitely a sign of some of that. And then for the internalizing things, I think isolating is really important to look out for shutting down not talking to anyone. Like it’s okay if your kid doesn’t necessarily wanna talk to you, but are they talking to your partner or their siblings? You know, are they talking to family members? It’s important for them to have some sort of outlet. Sometimes we’ll even see things like loss of appetite and weight loss or disruptions in sleep. Those are really important to keep in mind so that we can just sort of see how things play out. And again, that might be, it might be, you know, none of these things are like a couple of days of this it, this is more of like a, you know, this has been going on for a few weeks, this has been going on for a month. Oh wait, maybe a couple months have passed and you sort of noticed that it’s a slow decline in some things or slow change.

Dr. Sarah (32:21):

And so I think we’re talking a lot about ways that we as parents wanna have on our radar signs and, and you know, little bells that can, that can help us to know, okay, this doesn’t feel like it’s feeling good for my kid. I’m noticing distress, or I’m noticing a decline in functioning in some meaningful way. I wanna reach out for help. There’s also kind of a flip side to this, which I think as parents, we’re all guilty of sometimes, which is where we’re like getting really anxious about a problem that may not in fact be our child’s problem, but may be more of our own anxiety or our own worry. Maybe our own personalizing of what’s happening to them, projecting some of our own worries and fears onto the situation. So what do you, what, Let’s talk a little bit about that, that, that piece.

Dr. Emily (33:09):

I think that’s a really important point because whether that’s that we are sort of taking a little bit of a thing and making a big thing out of it, right? Or it’s just not even a thing and we’re sort of making it into a thing. I think both require the same strategy, right? Both require us to take our first line is to check in with ourselves, to slow down, check with ourselves. Like, am I really, am I my extra upset about this for some reason that maybe personal to me, like, was I rejected in some ways as a child or did I feel that my siblings left me out? And so I’m, you know, putting that on the situation here. Those types of things just sort of like slowing down I think is a really important thing. The other part of that, which is we sort of are circling back, we mentioned in the beginning is really, really listening to your child, right?


So if you like, or listening that, that be either listening to what they’re saying to you or looking for the signs of what’s happening in your child, because that’s helps you sort of modulate your own feelings, right? And take it, take it a little bit of a step back. And I always say take a little bit of a parachute view and say, Okay, so how much of this is me? My worries, of course are natural protectiveness of our children, which is by the way, biological. So I never want parents to feel ashamed for having that initial reaction at first. It’s so important. It’s, it’s our, we have children and we are biologically wired to wanna protect them. So that’s absolutely okay. But I think sometimes we have to put that in check, right? We have to sort of like say like, Oof, is this as much, is this as warranted as it feels right now? And I think that that’s, that’s an important piece of it. And also I think, you know, I do think sometimes it’s really helpful to use your community, you know, circulate your, your concern like I overreacting to this and use your peers, use your teachers, use your friends. And then, and then I think that helps you put it into perspective a little bit and taking it out of just sort of this very myopic isolated events with within your family or within your child.

Dr. Sarah (35:16):

Yeah. And like speaking kind of like your point earlier, like when we were talking about kids going to therapy for like a session sometimes just to have them feel like they have an opportunity to have a check in. You know, in our practice we offer like one off parenting consultations if, you know, for parents who are like, I am seeing this, is this a thing I need to be concerned about? A lot of clinicians will do one off parenting consults just to get a help. You get a read. So like, you know, maybe you’re floating it by your parents or maybe you’re floating it by your peers, or maybe you’re floating a better kids’ teachers or maybe you don’t have a community to check in with, or you’re getting feedback from them that still doesn’t align with your sense of things. And you, it’s okay to check in with a professional just once, you know, just to have that sort of objective lens on the situation. And it doesn’t need to be necessarily a long term treatment for your child or a even long term parenting sport. It could just be a single consultation. I do those all the time where people are like, This is going on. Do I need to worry about this?

Dr. Emily (36:27):

Absolutely. I love, and I, and I think, I think it’s so helpful, and I think the thing that I think you really hit the nail on the head is that you can’t get from some of your, your, you know, other communities is the, that objectivity, right? Like this is somebody totally outside of that has no, they have no skin in the game. Is, is how I like to think of it, right? And so, you know, it’s really, you’re right. Like it’s really, we do this often and in fact I think it’s really helpful, right? You know, and then like, let’s say this fades away and you know, your kid sort of remember children change constantly, right? So this goes away and you feel like, all right, well I, I had this nice check in with somebody and it was okay. Or let’s say like, maybe it pops up now and again in the future you can always check in and do a touch base with the professional to say like, is this still normative? Is this still within, you know, what, what we, what we think is okay and that I don’t have to like, you know, worry too much or intervene too much around. And then that just helps you sort of have a get the game plan really, you know?

Dr. Sarah (37:31):

Right. And I think that just knowing you have a professional on your Rolodex, you know, that you can like, or I guess that’s a really integrated term, even for my own age, this idea of Rolodex, but like on speed dial, whatever saved in your contacts that like every once in a while you can just be like, I have this person and I just wanna do a check in. Like I love doing that work with parents because I don’t, I mean, I see, I work with a lot of parents who don’t need weekly sessions with me. Absolutely. You know, I see them every couple months when something is challenging and we work through it, troubleshoot, and then they’re off on their merry way and things. They, they have the skills to really handle the majority of parenting most of the time. And it’s a support. It’s, it’s just a thing that exists when you need it.

Dr. Emily (38:21):

Absolutely. And I also think it, it’s, it’s really nice to even just talk through what you might say to your children, some of the things we’re talking about, right? Like it’s just nice to have a little bit of a practice on how you might talk to a child who’s withdrawn, right? You know, that’s a really, it just gives us a little bit more of a skill even for fantastic parents, right? It just gives you another angle and another practice really, you know.

Dr. Sarah (38:47):

Yeah. And helps you feel less alone in it. Yeah. Cause this can be, watching your kid struggle can be incredibly isolating for a parent, especially in those situations where your child isn’t including you in the conversation. You could feel very helpless and very isolated from them and very lonely in sort of, that’s I think an especially good time to reach out for a little support. I also think sometimes when your child is coming at you with lots of pain, it can feel really overwhelming and flooding and you can be at a loss for what to say when they come to you and feel. So that’s, I think, very different sort of experiences, but also very good reasons to get support.

Dr. Emily (39:35):

Yeah. No, I think that’s, I think that’s excellent. I think that’s really good.

Dr. Sarah (39:39):

Yeah. So thank you so much for coming in. We’ll, we’ll we’ve got more questions on the coming in, so we’ll be doing a few more of these soon. So stay tuned for some more Emily Upshur. I love it when you come on.

Dr. Emily (39:51):

Sounds great. Thanks for having me.

Dr. Sarah (39:58):If you are concerned about your own child, there are places you can turn to for support. Whether you’re interested in a one off parent coaching session or you want to start weekly therapeutic services for yourself or your child, you can always reach out to us at Upshur Bren Psychology Group for a complimentary 15 minute assessment call. One thing to note is that we offer therapy to New York State residents only, but we do offer parent coaching nationally and we can help you determine what level of support is most appropriate for your unique needs. To learn more about the services we offer and to set up your consult call, go to upshurbren.com. That’s upshurbren.com. And if you have a question you want Dr. Emily or me to answer on the podcast, let me know. You can email me at sarah@drsarahbren.com or go to @drsarahbren on Instagram and send me a DM. Thanks for listening, and don’t be a stranger.

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74. You can’t sit with us: How to handle peer rejection in early adolescence with Dr. Emily Upshur