Eps 387: Supporting Atypical Teens with Dr. Norrine Russell

Episode 389

I’m really excited to introduce Dr. Norrine Russell to you all.  

Dr. Russell has truly walked the walk with her own complex children which has changed her parenting & professional paths.  Dr. Russell shares what she loves about her work, what hurdles complex kids face in traditional schooling, and what parents can do to help support their atypical kids as learners.  She talks on why teens need to figure out what they’re good at and how important it is to tell your teens how much you love them and the strengths you see (empowering encouragement, anyone?).  I ask Dr. Russell how families can scaffold to support their complex kids, and we discuss how important it is to listen and observe your own teen, as well as how much individualizing you can do in your home to support your adolescent.  We talk about how to reframe it when your kids look like “they don’t care” and whether or not “trying their best” is a reasonable and helpful expectation.  Dr. Russell also shares her thoughts on motivation, laziness, ADHD, rewards, & consequences.  We finish up talking about how to get teens to buy-in to coaching and what Dr. Russell wishes parents knew about complex teens.  

Guest Description 

Dr. Russell is the founder of Russell Coaching for Students, which uses an innovative method of coaching for complex students, including those who are 2E; have ADHD, Autism, or Anxiety; and those with learning differences. This innovative method, Connected Coaching, has proven successful for hundreds of students since 2009. 

She is the author of the recently published guide for parents, “Asking the Right Questions Before, During, and After Your Child’s ADHD Diagnosis.”

With twenty years of experience creating positive youth development and parenting education programs, Dr. Russell has extensive knowledge of child development, learning styles, special needs, and positive parenting philosophies. She blends this knowledge to provide students and parents with comprehensive support and the tools they need to grow and thrive.

Dr. Russell has a Ph.D. from Bowling Green State University with a focus on psychology and education. She has served on numerous boards locally and nationally.

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Takeaways from the show

  • School angst & school struggles for complex kids 
  • Lack of flexibility, training, & resources in schools 
  • Helping teens figure out what they are good at 
  • The importance of “I love you” & encouraging atypical kids 
  • Listening to & observing your teen 
  • Individualizing things at home 
  • Watch & wait before jumping in to help 
  • Are “doing their best” and “trying their hardest” helpful & reasonable expectations?   
  • When teens “don’t care” & what teens do care about 
  • Appearing lazy, ADHD, & motivation
  • Getting adolescents to buy-in to coaching

What does joyful courage mean to you

I was so hoping we were going to run out of time before you asked me that, because I don’t have a good answer!  I don’t have a good answer, but I think it comes down to – I don’t know!  It’s like, having the faith to do the hard things and having faith that it’s okay now, and it’s going to be okay in the future.

I worked for so long to try to be brave – let’s just endure this, let’s be brave.  Brave doesn’t mean not being afraid; it means doing things anyway.   But you know, joyful courage is kind of the “Let’s be brave and trust and enjoy this moment.”  Is it great for me, as a mom, to have a 13-year old and 14-year old, both of whom are very complex and sometimes hard to connect with?  I can’t say that it’s a dream come true, but courage is being in that moment, where it is okay, that day.  No, it doesn’t have to be great all the time, and it’s not going to be great all the time.  But joyful courage is acknowledging that this is the moment of today where it is great. 



“Asking the Right Questions Before, During, and After Your Child’s ADHD Diagnosis” Guide 

Dr. Russell’s Coaching Website (summer registration is open!) 

“Smart but Scattered Teens” Book 

Dr. Ross Greene 

Russell Coaching on Facebook 

Russell Coaching on Instagram

Russell Coaching on LinkedIn 

Russell Coaching on Pinterest 

Russell Coaching on YouTube

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I know that you love listening every week AND I want to encourage you to dig deeper into the learning with me, INVEST in your parenting journey. Casey O'Roarty, the Joyful Courage podcast host, offers classes and private coaching. See our current offerings.


kids, parents, school, adhd, coaching, talk, teenager, russell, work, executive functioning skills, teacher, math, hard, learning, care, years, creating, good, real, experience
Dr. Norrine Russell, Casey O'Roarty

Casey O'Roarty 00:04
Hey, welcome to the joyful courage podcast a place for inspiration and transformation as we try and keep it together, while parenting our tweens and teens. This is real work people. And when we can focus on our own growth, and nurturing the connection with our kids, we can move through the turbulence in a way that allows for relationships to remain intact. My name is Casey already, I am your fearless host. I'm a positive discipline trainer, space holder coach and the adolescent lead at Sprout double. I am also the mama to a 20 year old daughter and 17 year old son walking right beside you on this path of raising our kids with positive discipline and conscious parenting. This show is meant to be a resource to you and I work really hard to keep it real, transparent and authentic so that you feel seen and supported. Today is an interview and I have no doubt that what you hear will be useful to you. Please don't forget sharing truly is caring. If you love today's show, please pass the link around snap a screenshot posted on your socials or texted to your friends. Together we can make an even bigger impact on families all around the globe. I'm so glad that you're here. Enjoy the show. Hi, listeners. Welcome back to the podcast. I'm so glad that you're here. I'm really excited as usual to introduce my guest to you all. Today I get to talk with Dr. Noreen Russell. Dr. Russell is the founder of wrestle coaching for students which uses an innovative method of coaching for complex kids, including those who are to II have ADHD, autism or anxiety, and those with learning differences. This innovative method connected coaching has proven successful for hundreds of students since 2009. Dr. Russell is the author of the recently published guide for parents asking the right questions before during and after your child's ADHD diagnosis. With 20 years of experience creating positive youth development and parenting education programmes. Dr. Russell has extensive knowledge of child development, learning styles, special needs, and positive parenting philosophies. She blends this knowledge to provide students and parents with comprehensive support and the tools they need to grow and thrive. Dr. Russell has a PhD from Bowling Green State University with a focus on psychology and education. She has served on numerous boards locally and nationally. And I am thrilled to be welcoming her to the show. Hi.

Dr. Norrine Russell 02:49
Hi, I'm delighted to be here. Thank you so much.

Casey O'Roarty 02:52
Yes, well you start off we want to get to know you. So what is your story of doing what you do and working with the kids that you work with? How did you get here?

Dr. Norrine Russell 03:03
Right? So my story is I never planned to be here. And I think that's an important message for parents who are tuning in and listening and thinking, Oh, is my kid ever going to be an adult? Are they going to earn a paycheck? Are they going to support themselves. So I never planned to be here. My first career was in academia, and I taught psychology. And then my second career was in nonprofit work where I created programmes and worked with schools and communities to help both teen girls and teen boys develop socially, emotionally, in every way. And then when I had my son, he was really complex. And I ended up let's call it gracefully retiring from nonprofit work. In other words, in a panic, because I didn't know how I was going to manage all these things, and ended up getting a lot of requests from the community to work individually with kids. And I didn't know what that was going to look like. I mean, this was 14 years ago, coaching was still kind of the Wild West and I thought I don't want to be doing that. And fast forward 14 years or so coaching is now the largest student coaching practice in the country. And we have students in the United States, Canada, the UK, and as of recently Dubai,

Casey O'Roarty 04:22
Dubai, I was just there last fall. That's amazing.

Dr. Norrine Russell 04:25
I have no let's go. Yeah, it's

Casey O'Roarty 04:28
pretty amazing. Well, and I love I mean, I think your story holds a lot of weight with me like you have walked in the shoes, it sounds like of the families that you serve. And while not required to help others. I think there is a certain level of compassion and understanding that comes when you can look at your clients and you can say I get it. Yeah, it's really hard.

Dr. Norrine Russell 04:55
Well, and let's talk about that for a minute. Right because our personal experience alone doesn't qualify us to be helping professionals. But I do think it adds a layer of really genuine compassion and empathy. So, you know, I'm an open book, my story of parenting is reflected on our webpage at Russell coaching. I have two complex kids, both of whom have ADHD, autism and anxiety. And this is not the parenting path, I thought I was going to be walking. I don't know what parenting path I thought it was going to be walking. But it was not this one. And it has been lonely, excruciating ly lonely. It has been exhausting. And it has also taught me more about love and joy than any other experience in my life. So yeah, I think what we know and what we bring from formal education is vitally important. And when we happen to have those life experiences that add that genuine felt compassion and empathy, it's important, you know, there's a value to that. Parents like knowing that you get it. And I think for parents at my practice, they've been so many places where people don't get it, right. They don't get it. They understand it from an academic point of view, or they're, they've been told they understand it, but they don't really get it. And so yeah, when parents come to rustle coaching for them to feel like, Oh, this is home.

Casey O'Roarty 06:31
Yeah. Well, then there's navigating the challenges, right, there's what we know is useful as far as tools and strategies. And then as we were talking before I hit record. And then there's the being with the experience, the kid that you have in front of you, and that I think is sometimes more difficult. Letting Go. I know, in my experience has been more of a mental health experience with my oldest than a learning. I'd like a neurotypical neuro AI, what is the right word that I'm looking for?

Dr. Norrine Russell 07:05
There's so difficult, right? So let's use the term, you know, a typical or neurologically atypical, but, you know, everyone's got their favourite word.

Casey O'Roarty 07:15
Right? Right. Okay. So anyway, my experience of letting go of this narrative, letting go of the vision, right, and even having to grieve a little bit around what I wasn't going to get to experience as a mom, because of, you know, one of my kids mental health challenges, she's doing great. Now, you know, that was a real thing. And that self doubt and that loneliness, like you mentioned, it's really real. It's really real. And I wanted to bring that up, because I'm thinking about the people that are that get to listen to us today. And I really want you listener to hear both Dr. Russell and I saying, like, we get this, you know, we get this from an emotional place, as well as that fear and worry of what is the future for this child? So, yes, and I think you have to

Dr. Norrine Russell 08:06
what we want to say to people is, you're going to find your groove, you're going to figure it out, you're going to ultimately learn how to trust that parent voice inside you. I remember when my son was two, and the very first time I got I don't know what they're called. And he went to the very best preschool in the world shout out to Lake Magdalene United Methodist, Early Childhood Centre. They were fantastic. But I remember getting I don't know what's what's it called a referral slip. But it was like a conference slip or you know, a behaviour slip or something like that when he was to because he was just all over the classroom. And no one said, today, Ethan climbed on the chair, climbed on the counter, climbed up the six foot bookcase and tried to jump off. And I remember sitting in my car, you know, with a two year old and a six month old going, but I never got in trouble at school. I never got in trouble at school. And what a ridiculous way to frame that, right. My two year old wasn't getting in trouble at school. They were keeping me informed about his day, and they were concerned about him. And they wanted me to know that they cared and they wanted him to be safe. But OKC I think we struggle so much with this as parents, right, is what are our expectations? And what meaning do we attach to certain things? You know, I don't know why I thought I was going to have kids who, you know, we're something I never was, but somehow I did you know, and no, I never got in trouble. But, you know, I was certainly a kid who pushed boundaries in some ways and took risks. And so I think our biggest challenge as parents is to let go have all of that and trust our inner voice and you know if there's anything that we can do as helping professionals to help people do that sooner than I did, because it took me a while time.

Casey O'Roarty 10:00
Yeah. Yes. Love that. So these special families that you work with, what do you love about getting to work with families who have kids that are wired atypical? Yeah,

Dr. Norrine Russell 10:13
you know what I love. I love the fact that these parents have been searching and searching and trying so hard and doing their best to meet their kids needs. And many times before they come to our coaching practice, they've gotten all kinds of conflicting information, they've searched the Internet for parenting advice, they've tried to figure out how they can take a magic wand to the school environment. And being that person or that place, the practice where they finally feel understood and not alone is so incredibly rewarding. As you know, our practice really specialises in complex kids. So kids who have more than one diagnosis, so they might have ADHD, and autism, they might have ADHD, and dyslexia, they might have anxiety and a learning difference. And while it's very common for kids with any of those things, to have another diagnosis, it's just not what we think of it's not really what schools are trained in. And it's certainly not what our neighbour or best friend tends to experience. And so, for me, the most rewarding piece is helping parents feel understood, helping them gain confidence in their parenting skills. And what parents frequently say to me after they finish an intake is, I feel like there's some hope. And I mean, who couldn't love a job that helps people feel hopeful about their kids?

Casey O'Roarty 11:46
I love it. Yeah, yeah. So my listeners are parents of teenagers and adolescents. And I have a lot of clients and people in my community who fit under this umbrella of families that you serve. And what I hear most about with these kids is the struggle with school task initiation, finishing projects, oh, my gosh, Casey, I went in the portal, why do I go in the portal? There's so many missing assignments, it doesn't seem like they care. You know, there's all this angst around school. So what are some of the biggest hurdles that these kids have? And you can identify different diagnoses or lump them together? But what are some of the biggest hurdles that these kids have with traditional schooling?

Dr. Norrine Russell 12:42
The first one absolutely, is the lack of flexibility. And, you know, you can be talking about a great school, a highly range school and a school and expensive school, a public school, private school, charter school, doesn't matter. Fact is that school is designed for groups of kids for the masses. And so when you have these complex teenagers that we work with, they don't fit in the box. And sometimes they bring with them years of negative messages already by the time they get to high school. And so the very fact that there is not flexibility within the school system, primarily because it's just a large bureaucratic system, I think is the biggest problem I really do. Because it creates this rub, right? Like, you know, as a parent that your child is capable of learning, you know, that they started off at school wanting to learn, and yet most schools, many schools are not a good fit for them. And the schools can't really be more flexible. You know, and especially right now, there's a lack of resources, there is burnout, but even before COVID, let's be honest, Let's call a spade a spade, there was not flexibility in schools. And that I think, is a huge problem. The second hurdle is that I don't think that many people in schools have enough training about things like ADHD, autism and learning differences. And that's not the fault or the responsibility of individual teachers or administrators, that has to do with teacher training, and how much can be accomplished in a four year degree or even with a master's in education. But given the large percentage of kids who qualify for Final Fours or IEPs, or are neurologically atypical, we have got to in the next 10 years, figure out a way to add in to blend more into getting an educator certificate so that the classroom is a more welcoming place and that teachers have more strategies and tools. We can't simply put all this stuff into a fibre for our IEP, we have to fundamentally change how we train teachers and admin as traitors, and so, you know, that's a conversation I really want to be having more broadly across the nation is how can we impact teacher training and administrative training? And then, you know, I would say the third biggest hurdle is the lack of resources, right. And so you can have a great five or four or IEP, but if it's testing season, or, you know, two or three people are out on leave, and there are permanent subs, or whatever the situation is, schools are struggling with not having enough resources. And so, you know, maybe your kid is supposed to get 60 minutes a week with the school counsellor, or maybe they're supposed to get, you know, some individual testing. But if the resources aren't there, sometimes that doesn't happen. And so, you know, I think we have to, in some way, as parents, and as educators joined together to figure out how do we advocate for systemic level change? Yeah, I want my kid to be successful. I want my kid to have the IP that suits them. I want my kid to have a school where they're successful. But we have to look at the bigger picture when it comes to education, because oh, man, yeah. Revolution? Oh, yeah.

Casey O'Roarty 16:19
I mean, when I think about like, yeah, the lack of information around complex kids, the lack of information around mental health, the lack of information around trauma informed practices, you know, I was a teacher many, many years ago, I have my master's degree in education, none of that came up, none of none of it. And so, yes, you know, shout out to teachers that are showing up every day and doing the best they can I know, we both are, you know, celebrating and appreciating them. And, yeah, when there's one site for however, many kids or one counsellor for however many kids, it's not enough, I also really appreciated what you said about that negative messaging. By the time our kids get to high school, they know they don't fit, they know, they learn differently. They know that the adults are, you know, metaphorically or literally rolling their eyes and exasperated with, you know, by the needs that they have, and you can't have a sense of belonging, and feel like you fit in a space, when that is what exists. What are some things that parents can be doing to help? I mean, there's no perfect answer to this right. But what are some things that you can offer to parents that can support their kids and creating are starting to create a new narrative about themselves as learners and as members of the school community?

Dr. Norrine Russell 17:55
Yeah. Casey, that's such a great question. And it's such an important one, right? What I hear all the time from students, or from parents that are paraphrasing their students is, well, that teacher just hates me, that teacher doesn't like me, right. And already in ninth 10th grade, there's this self protectiveness of Well, I'm not going to try, I'm not going to let that person and I'm going to immediately be on the defensive, because I've gotten all of this negative feedback. So what do we do as parents, right? First and foremost, we have to say, every day, many times a day, you are who you are supposed to be, you are vitally important to this world with your talents and your gifts, right? And we have to say it over and over and over again. Because that's not yet what our teenagers believe. And we're not going to get them to believe it by us saying they have to come to own that their own selves in those teenage years. But we have to be part of that inner voice. I remember with my son, who struggles tremendously with math, even though he's so highly intelligent. And he was beating himself up about math. I mean, this was like sixth grade math, right? Like, who gives a, you know, crap about sixth grade math, right? I mean, sixth grade math teacher, sure. But, and I looked at him and I said, Ethan, my love. The thing is, the impact you're going to make in the world is not going to be from your math skills. The impact you're going to make in the world is going to be about your heart and your mind and the way you care about people. And the way you think about things and the way you connect. And so do we have to get through math? Yeah, we have to get through math, but you don't have to worry about being a math expert or being good at math or anything. It is okay to say we're going to survive math. In fact, he just finished eighth grade math and I said, okay, buddy, two more years. We have two more years of math, and you know, maybe a course or two in college, but you are so close, right? And so well Life is parents tell your kids, you are who you're supposed to be. And you are a gift to this world, right? I think it's so important to say, you know, we all as human beings have our strengths. And what's most important to me during these middle school, high school college years is that you figure out what it is you're good at, right? It doesn't matter what you're not good at, oh, my goodness, we're all not good at certain things, right? Doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. That's why the whole business industry 20 years ago had a revolution about strength based training. And so we want to be messaging that to our teenagers, especially figure out what you're good at. Not even necessarily what do you love? Right? But what are you good at. And then, you know, we have to also just continuously say, to every kid, but especially to our atypical, complex kids, I love you, I love you, you are amazing, and you are doing a great job. I felt really overwhelmed when my kids, you know, got to the stage where they were teenagers. And you know, my son, as many, you know, complex kids and kids with autism do had a really rough time starting puberty. And I say to him every night after, sometimes I've screamed all day, let's be honest, let's be real Casey, I'll say you are doing a great job being 14, and it is really hard. And I wouldn't go back to being 14 and you are managing it really well. So no matter what the day brought, you are doing a great job. And I love you.

Casey O'Roarty 21:35
I appreciate that. It reminds me of a tool that we have in positive discipline called empowering encouragement. That's the technical term. And basically, it is naming strengths and providing evidence, right? I mean, cuz I think all kids have a pretty good bullshit radar. And, you know, most of us Gen X parents, you know, a lot of us suffer from the need for external validation. Because we were the generation of like, you're so special, you're so great, right? And so empowering encouragement, like you said, we get to be a part of their inner voice development. And what I love is naming a strength and saying, I see like, you don't like math, and you are going to endure, you're going to get to the end of this year, it's going to take a lot of perseverance and resilience. And I've seen you, you know, last year, you made it through seventh grade math, you had to use persistence, and resilience and perseverance, and it's already inside of you. So I love the idea of, you know, especially in contrast to the negative messaging, being able to really declare and speak the strength that you see in your complex kiddos and all your kiddos can be such a powerful opportunity for them to realise like, oh, yeah, I did do that. I can do this.

Dr. Norrine Russell 23:08
Yeah, yeah. And let's talk to about the damage we do when we deny their reality. Right. So you've already mentioned, the damage we do when our narrative is negative, you just aren't trying hard enough in math. If you didn't better notes in math, you wouldn't fail the test. If you tried harder, right, all those things. But you know, just as damaging is when we deny their reality that math really is hard. And I really am doing my best. And I really do hate math, we can start from a place of empathy in that conversation, right? Math is really hard for you, man, hard for you. It really is. I see you struggling. I see you, I see that. And I see you putting in the time and the energy and doing the best you can do. And I'm here to be, you know, your partner in this to be your parent to be your partner to be your cheerleader. But when we simply say to kids, oh, math isn't hard. Or you could get that done in 30 minutes. Or you know what, it's not that complicated. Or, you know, your teacher wouldn't be assigning it to you if she thought it was too difficult, right? Like, can we just for a moment, stop denying that these are genuine, real feelings that our teenagers have? And the minute we deny their reality, that's when we break our connection with them. And that is the single worst thing we can do.

Casey O'Roarty 24:31
Yeah, well, and I love holding them as doing the best they can with the tools they have in the moment. I'm thinking about a particular client who has a sophomore who's struggling in math, and, you know, her experience, because there's also the peace. You know, I don't have ADHD. I don't know what it feels like to be inside of that brain. And from the outside looking in. The solution seems simple. Just sit down and do it. Right?

Dr. Norrine Russell 25:04
Just sit down and do it. Right, just sit down

Casey O'Roarty 25:07
and do it. And, you know, talking to you and having talked to lots of other people and knowing like, it's not that simple. It's not that simple. So how do we scaffold? You know, over? Actually, before I go there, you talked about, you know, the hurdles of that schools, there's a lack of flexibility. So bringing that into the home, right? If it's, I mean, systemic change for schools, yes, please, which I think means, hey, guess what, I wish we had the opportunity, right, we had the two years to like, really change things up, fail. So, you know, in a perfect world, it's like, Hey, everybody, you're gonna homeschool your kids for two years, while everybody else gets it together and re figures this whole thing? I mean, it's just, it feels impossible. And nothing's impossible. So bringing that into the home, and the places where that lack of flexibility is mirrored in the home, where can parents find? How can parents scaffold for their kids? Because I really, you know, there's so many issues, but I really want to talk about school, because I think that's just such an obvious place where there's conflict for parents, especially as their kids become teenagers. And it's like, are they ever going to move out? Will they ever, you know, have the skills they need to go to college or go to trade school or get a job and, you know, ultimately move out? We all want them to move out? Because it's the right thing for our kids? Where are the places that you see families scaffolding things in a way that's really useful for complex kids?

Dr. Norrine Russell 26:44
Right, so this is a big, huge, complicated question. And I think what we want your listeners to walk away from is, the most important thing they can do is listen to and observe their teenager, right? Because the beauty of the home environment is we can be as individualised as we need to be school can't do that, even when you have an IEP school can't do that. But if we know that our kid is great at starting tasks, but terrible at finishing tasks, we can give them the freedom and the autonomy, not give them but you know, stay out of their business and let them get started on things knowing that maybe they're going to need some help wrapping things up. Or we have the kid who's the opposite, you know, the kid who can't get started, but if they get started, they can finish right? I think there's a great book. And it's a classic, at this point, smart but scattered for teens. If you take a look at that book, and you take a look at how they map out 11 Different executive functioning skills. And what I love about the book is it gives you this just informal assessment of what are your kids strengths and weaknesses? And what are your own strengths and weaknesses? When it comes to executive functioning? Then you can figure out where can I you know, stay out of my kids business and let them go for it? versus where am I going to need to wait and watch and see, you know, when does the paralysis of anxiety set in? Not feelings of anxiety, right? But like true paralysis from anxiety. And so I think, in the home environment, what's so important is, don't jump in watch and wait, right? Don't assume that your kid is going to need help with this or start to have an anxiety attack when they have an AP project or they have a research paper, or whatever it is right? Manage your own stuff, which I mean, is that not like the old period? Right? Yeah, manage your own stuff, right? Take that somewhere else, take it on a walk, scoop up your cat and talk to the cat about it, do not give that over to your teenager, and then see exactly where their skill set is. And so then I think the conversation becomes something like, I know you're really great at starting these projects. And, you know, I want to let you know that I'm gonna go for a walk, or I'm gonna go you know, out to dinner. And if you get stuck getting started, just text me and I'll be happy to step out and, you know, brainstorm some ideas with you. We have to create more of a partnership and less of a dictatorship around school with our complex kids, we have to understand that they're going to need maybe more scaffolding in certain areas. But we have to do that in a way that's based in partnership. Not you have to get this done because I'm so stressed out about it. You have to get this done because the teacher sent me an email. You have to get this done because I've now gotten 694 text messages from the school, right? Not helpful, not helpful. And we as parents can turn off some of that stuff right you Ask to get those notifications. You don't have to open them up schools covering their butt, right to tell you what's going on. But for those of us who were sort of like, good kids, or you know, for moms good girls, we take that on as, Oh, somebody's telling me, I need to do something like you need to fix the missing assignments, you need to bring the grade up. You know what, that's not what the message is. The message is simply we want to let you know where your kid is at. Because we don't want you to come back and tell us I didn't know. Right, but not call to action on the part of parents. So there's so much self regulation on our part that we need to do enrol model for our kids. And don't jump in watch and wait.

Casey O'Roarty 30:43
Yes. Oh, Dr. Russell, I'm loving this. I have so many follow up questions. But one thing that keeps tapping me on the shoulder, because I'm experiencing it as a mom of a, like, neurotypical kid is, it's not that hard to get A's. Like, you know, and the tension of I just want to know, you're putting in all the effort, you can put it in, right, what a loaded statement. And holding that what that looks like, is really good grades. Right?

Dr. Norrine Russell 31:17
Well, let's unpack that statement athlete. I just want to know that they're doing their best. Yeah. Okay. Let's turn that around. Would we want to hear that as parents? Would you want to hear that from your kid? Mom, I just want to know that you're doing your best when you're having an off day. Mom, I just want to know that you're trying your hardest. Is this really your best effort? Mom? Is this? All you can do? unstated cuz it doesn't seem like it? It seems like you're doing kind of a bad job, right?

Casey O'Roarty 31:48
Oh my gosh, I'm just having this visual of my kid. He would love to be able to say when I'm in a moment, are you doing your best mom? Right? Yes, really your best might actually be really helpful for him to say that to me. Right. Thank you.

Dr. Norrine Russell 32:04
Yeah. And the thing is, right. It's just like Ross Greene, who's stuff I'm loving. Yeah, your kid is doing the best they can right now. Let's just broaden that to everyone. Everyone's doing the best they can do right now. So stop saying that, as if the subtext isn't, you're really not doing your best. Right? Like, you're really not trying your hardest, just stop saying it. Just stop saying it. And I think for a lot of parents, they base what their kid is capable of like, well, you're capable of being in AP classes, and you're capable of dual enrollment based solely on intellect. Right? There are so many other things that go into life success besides intellect, right? It's executive functioning skills. It's self regulation. It's managing stress and anxiety. It's social and emotional skills. So could we stop please, sending the message to our kids? Are you doing your best? In other words, you're smart enough to do all of this. And so I just need to know you're trying and I'll know you're trying when you just start getting all A's. Well, and

Casey O'Roarty 33:09
what about cuz I hear this too? I mean, it's, of course, always from a good place. Right? So if you're listening to me right now and thinking, oh, shoot, is she talking about me? Maybe I am. Maybe I'm talking about myself.

Dr. Norrine Russell 33:22
You're doing your best right now to a yes. And you're tuning in and you're listening. And you're thinking, which is all? Yes. Any of us?

Casey O'Roarty 33:28
Yeah. But that tendency to go to that place of? Well, they just don't care. Listeners, you couldn't see what just happened to Dr. Russell that our head went back. So we're landing. Can we play with that? Because it breaks my heart? I don't buy it. I don't believe it. I don't think there are kids that just don't care. What's the reframe that you offer for parents who are feeling like they just don't care?

Dr. Norrine Russell 33:57
Well, first of all, let's get real. No human being cares about everything all the time, right? Like, are there not days you wake up and you think, man, you know, this is a day when I'm not going to pull myself 100% together. This is a day when the dishes aren't going to get done. This is a day where I'm picking up a cheap, fast food dinner because I just don't have an inmate. So let's get real with ourselves first about this whole they don't care. And then let's go a little deeper. What is it that they don't care about? Because more often than not, what they care about is what you think about them. By the time we get to be teenagers, right? By the time we're parenting teenagers, what they don't want is to seem to be trying and to be failing in front of you. Because what you think about them still matters so much. And developmentally. They're in a place where they're creating their own self narrative, right? And so if they're seeing you as the parent thinking that they don't care, and they're a failure, that hurts so much, right? And so, you know, I think as parents, we have to stop and say, that doesn't feel good. It's not helpful. It's not true. And so let's figure out what's getting in the way of them seeming to care. What is it that they do care about. And let's also acknowledge that you might have a kid who doesn't care about Spanish, or doesn't care about math, and for our kids with ADHD, and they don't seem to care. Let's take a look at the neurological underpinnings of that right that those neural connections are often not there between the motivation centre of the brain and the frontal lobe. So stop blaming your kid as though they have some kind of morality problem, and they don't care, as opposed to their brain isn't really sending them a signal that this is super important. I don't know about you. But if my brain wasn't telling me today at 12 o'clock, okay, you have a podcast at 530, you have a podcast at 530, you better be ready, you better be on the ball, better have your thoughts together. I don't know that I'd be ready. But my brain was sending that message loud and clear. So it's complicated for parents, but stop and think about, you know, what does your kid care about and what's getting in the way of them caring about the things that you think are important. And, you know, let's be real school is important. Getting a degree is important. Getting a job, having good life skills, those things are all important. But when our kids look like they don't care, it's because they're shut down, and they're hurt. And they feel bad about themselves. And that's the bigger problem.

Casey O'Roarty 36:50
Yes, I love hearing you say, what's getting in the way I'm thinking of raw screen? What are the lagging skills we did a whole night around this last night with my membership moms, and looking at a challenge from the lens of what's getting in the way. The topic was natural consequences. And sometimes parents feel like, ah, natural consequences don't work, because my kid doesn't care. Right. And so I really wanted to support them in just reframing that whole. First of all, natural consequences are one of many tools that exist, when you do nothing. Basically, everyone that's sort of natural consequences, just to make sure everybody's clear on what an actual natural consequences, you don't have to do anything for it. But that being said, instead of just continuously leaning on that, and instead, moving into what are the lagging skills for my kiddo? And what are the tools that are going to help them get there? So what you just mentioned around the motivation centre? Will you talk a little bit more about that? I don't know anything about that. disconnection. We talked about that in the ADHD brain. Sure.

Dr. Norrine Russell 38:01
So what do we commonly hear being said about kids with ADHD, they're lazy, they're unmotivated. The minute I hear a parent describe a kid as lazy, I'm like, Okay, if we haven't had an evaluation, we need to have an evaluation because that word comes up and 99% of the time, it's linked to ADHD. So what we need to understand all of us, parents, educators, clinicians, all the helping professions is that motivation in the brain, for the kid with ADHD is not well connected. It's not a superhighway to the frontal lobe where we do prioritisation and decision making. And so if we have this really weak connection between the motivation centre of the brain, and where we do our thinking, then we're going to look like we don't care because the brain isn't sending a message that this is important. The ADHD brain sends the message that things are really important when we're almost out of time, right? That's when the ADHD brain wakes up, we're really almost out of time, or there's going to be some horrible, horrible consequence, or there's going to be some great huge, tantalising new reward that comes the ADHD brain is not great at motivation for every day, usual, typical tasks.

Casey O'Roarty 39:27
So I'm going to pause you really quick, because as I heard you say, you know, up against time, up against a consequence, up against a reward. I can feel this inner like, ah, and so I'm wondering is that the experience of these kids? It's like, oh, now motivations kicked in, but there's this extra experience of stress.

Dr. Norrine Russell 39:52
Well, you know, what's interesting is in my experience, and I think in the literature, there are a lot of T teens who become young adults and adults who kind of get hooked on that adrenaline rush of the last minute, like, they don't really panic until it's the last, okay, then at the last minute the brain kicks in. And it's like all systems go. And, you know, for me, that would create so much anxiety, you know, I was the kid who needed to get my stuff done early, because otherwise I would fret about it. That's not the way that ADHD brain works. And so their brains turn on at the last minute, or if something horrible is gonna happen.

Casey O'Roarty 40:30
So is that the kid who has tonnes of missing assignments, and now it's the last week of school, and they charge through it and pull off the passing grade? Is that okay? So I'm seeing you nodding.

Dr. Norrine Russell 40:43
It drives the parents crazy. Right? Exactly. You missing assignments. Now, why couldn't they have done them three weeks ago?

Casey O'Roarty 40:50
Right. And the reason is because their brain wasn't telling them to

Dr. Norrine Russell 40:54
write may have been their brain thing. It was urgent enough or important

Casey O'Roarty 40:57
enough? Yes, this is so good. They know that

Dr. Norrine Russell 41:01
it was too sure they knew it was due, did they feel a sense of urgency from, you know, the neurological origins of motivation? No, they really didn't. They knew that it was due, they knew they should probably get it done. It's not a question of knowing it's a question of doing,

Casey O'Roarty 41:16
right. I mean, look at all of us who are like, I should have gone to the gym, I should have been going to the gym for the last five months. Now. It's summer. I mean, I get it. Right, right.

Dr. Norrine Russell 41:24
And so, you know, I think it's so important here to say to parents, of course, your heart is in the right place, you're trying to ensure that your kid is prepared, that your teenager is ready for a job, community college trade school to go off to a four year university. That is absolutely the right instinct, what we need to stop and think about is, how do we get that done. And we're only going to get it done when we have a loving connection and a partnership with our teenager. And that's hard. I'm not saying that's easy. Do not mistake me to your listeners. That is not easy. All of us who do this work for a living still struggle with this. But that's the only thing that works. And sometimes we have to acknowledge that it's not going to happen on our time, or it's not going to happen. Because we taught them right, I so often hear from parents, but I've told him if he would just write, you know, I say to parents, you've got it figured out, you've got great executive functioning skills, you have a child who is a little developmentally delayed in learning these things, and isn't absorbing them intuitively. So while you might have great executive functioning skills, you might need a professional to help your child learn some of these skills. And that's okay.

Casey O'Roarty 42:48
Yeah, I'm thinking too, about that willingness piece from the kiddos, too. And I'm thinking about when you mentioned that, you know, kids that are diagnosed with ADHD, that two thirds of them have another diagnosis. Yeah, I've worked with a lot of people and have people in the community whose kids are ADHD, and, you know, coupled with anxiety, and that it can be really crippling, and I'm thinking about when you have a kiddo, and I'm wondering, like, in your practice, maybe you've seen these kids, or maybe you screen for this, but, you know, having a kid that you see, could use more help than you are able to offer. And they aren't on board with working with someone? What are the tips that you have for parents in that place? Because I talk relationship all day long on this podcast, and in my work like it is the epicentre of any kind of influence. Absolutely. And there are families where relationship is really in some shambles, you know, and I talked about, that means it's time for some cleanup and time for some, you know, vulnerable accountability and taking responsibility for our part in creating our part in the dynamic because it takes, you know, more than one person to be in relationship. How do you support parents who know that their

Dr. Norrine Russell 44:18
kids need your help, and they can't get them to the call or they can't get them to the appointment? Right? No, that's a hard question. Yeah. Or maybe not too quick. say is, if I have a call with a parent, and they're considering coaching, you know, we know that coaching has to have some willingness. You know, you can't check someone into a coaching facility, right? There's no like 72 hour coaching hold or anything, you know, so the teenager has to be open to that experience. These are the words that I say to parents to use. Ask your teenager if they would be willing to try this for four For weeks, while the parent steps out of the mix, and I think that creates a certain amount of willingness from the teenager, because usually they want their parent out of the mix, right? They don't want to be getting a million text messages from their parents like, oh, my gosh, I just saw that you failed another biology quiz, what's going on? Like, go talk to your teacher after school? Right? So would you be willing to meet with a coach for a month, and I'm gonna back out of things. That's usually a pretty good sell. And then the other thing I say to parents is, don't over talk it right. Like, oh, we heard this coaching person today, you know, seems like she kind of gets the school thing. She seems a little wacky. But, you know, I'd like for you to meet with her. Because I think that we're just having too much stress between us about school, don't go in there guns blazing, like, coaching is going to solve your life, you know, we have to be a little cooler than that, right? Because they know there's no easy solution to position of, you know, okay, it's the end of spring semester. And I have D's and F's, right? Like, Let's call a spade a spade, but open up kind of a safe place for them to say, yes, I'd be willing to try. But don't come down heavy on, this is the solution. And you're going to be great. Because, again, generally, our teens who've gotten to this place, they don't feel so great about themselves. They don't necessarily feel safe to take these risks. Yeah, we have to gently invite, right? And then step back.

Casey O'Roarty 46:34
Yeah, I recently offered to a parent, the idea of noticing like, here's what I'm seeing, it seems really hard. And it doesn't have to be this hard. And there are people that can help. Let me know when you're ready to talk about that. And then the turn and burn

Dr. Norrine Russell 46:54
rate words. Can I take the right,

Casey O'Roarty 46:56
those are great words. Yeah, yeah. That's very validating, noticing. Yeah, because that willingness piece is really real. And it is a mean such a lesson in endurance and stamina as parents to wait for the willingness to arrive. Right. And by waiting, it's not doing nothing, but it's like I told these particular parents, like, just keep noticing. Just keep noticing, keeping that like, life doesn't have to be this hard. There are resources that I would love to explore with you. And you're ready. Yeah. Right. So those of you that are listening that are like, yes, but you know, just know, I think that our kids want to feel good. They want to have a good life, they want to be able to imagine a future of their design. And the day to day is hard. Right? Right. The day to day is hard. Oh my gosh, I actually barely even look at my outline. I've so enjoyed this, I have a million other things to ask you. So I have to do a part two, that'd be great. But as we wrap it up, what do you wish parents knew about complex teens? Anything that we've left out? It's mostly

Dr. Norrine Russell 48:12
what I want to say. Like, it's okay. It's okay now, and it's going to be okay, you're doing a great job. They're doing a great job. And it's really okay. It might not look anything like the neighbour or the other kid in their class or the kid on you know, whatever team or, you know, whatever it is, but it's okay. It's so funny. I pretty regularly go on Instagram with someone I love. Her name is Karen Dubrow. ski, and she's like, that's kind of your tagline, isn't it? It's okay. And I'm like, because I have to tell myself that all the time as someone who's anxious, I have to say to myself, it's okay all the time, because I worry all the time. And so, you know, what I would want to say to parents who have complex kids with, you know, 123 neurodevelopmental diagnoses is, it really is okay. And it's okay for you to be wherever you're at. And it's okay for you to have, whatever feelings you have. And the more you can notice that in your words KSC of how you're feeling and how you're managing it, the more connected you're going to be able to stay to your teenager because you're not going to be projecting all of that. And most of the time, our kids really are going to be okay, they're gonna find their way. It's not going to be what you imagine, but they're going to find their way with their strengths and having that trust and faith and hope is a huge part of what's going to get them there. That's what I believe. Well, and I

Casey O'Roarty 49:45
really love that it's okay is a present moment statement. While I also love it's going to be okay. The permission is just drop into right here right now. It's okay, I'm okay there. Okay. If it's okay, it's I just really love that. Yeah, it's okay

Dr. Norrine Russell 50:04
to have these in high school. It's okay to not use 10% of your class. It's okay to not be in three clubs. It's okay to not have a four year course of increasingly, you know, deep leadership roles in the Key Club. It's okay. You know what? It's okay. They're gonna do a great job in life. It's okay.

Casey O'Roarty 50:28
Yeah. Okay. Well, on that note, my final question, which I always ask my guests is, what does joyful courage? I think we have to access joyful courage to be with your tagline, right? It's okay. What does it mean to you?

Dr. Norrine Russell 50:45
I was so hoping we were going to run out of time before you asked me that. Because a good answer, right? I don't have a good answer. But I think it comes down to I don't, I don't know. Okay. But it's like having the faith to do the hard things. And having faith that it's okay now, and it's going to be okay, in the future, you know, so like, joyful. Courage is not like, I worked for so long to try to be brave, right? Like, oh, let's just endure this. Let's be brave, brave doesn't mean not being afraid. It just means doing things anyway. But you know, joyful courage is kind of the, let's be brave. And trust, you know, and enjoy this moment. Is it great for me as a mom to have a 13 and a 14 year old, both of whom are really complex and sometimes hard to connect with? I can't say that it's a dream come true. But courage is like, being in that moment where it is okay. That day, you know, it's like, no, it doesn't have to be great all the time. And it's not going to be great all the time. But joyful courage is acknowledging this is the moment of today

Casey O'Roarty 52:00
where it is great. It's so funny, you didn't want to answer that question. Because I loved that answer. And I will say, Dr. Russell, this whole conversation and, you know, we're on Zoom listeners, and I'm looking at her and talking to her and you just really to me and body, like your life work, your personal work. What you're showing up for parents and families with is joyful courage. And so it's just been such a dream to get to talk to you. I'm really grateful for everything you've brought to this conversation. Please tell people where they can find you, and follow your work and get your guide.

Dr. Norrine Russell 52:37
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for a moment to do that. I really appreciate it. Of course. So let's so coaching, we work with elementary school, through college aged students providing academic coaching, ADHD, coaching, life coaching. So if your life as a parent has turned into being the school secretary for missed homework assignments and bad grades, that's when you call us. That's what we're good for, is let us help your student develop the skills that they need, so that you can be their parent, only you can be their parent only you can be their mom or dad, we can come along and teach executive functioning skills, study skills, learning strategies, coping skills, you go love them and be their mom or dad. So we are at Russell coaching.com. We are currently registering for our summer programmes. During the summer, we work on building these basic skills. And we also help kids who are repeating classes or making up classes or who are on academic probation. We are also on all the social media. So you know Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, all those things. If you, you know, go to our webpage, Russell coaching.com, which I've learned, I have to say Russell has two S's and two L's Russell coaching.com. You can click through to all of those sites and get on our mailing list and see what we're all about. But mostly what I want to say is don't hesitate, you know, to reach out for help or to learn about what coaching my practice or another person's practice can do for your teenager because in my experience, it's often the missing link for kids who have neurodevelopmental disorders.

Casey O'Roarty 54:14
Lovely, thank you so much, and listeners, all of those links will be in the show notes. Thank you for spending time with me today. Really appreciate you.

Dr. Norrine Russell 54:23
Oh, it has been so great. And I would love and be honoured to come back at any point what a great conversation thank you

Casey O'Roarty 54:38
thank you so much for listening in today. Thank you to my spreadable partners as well as Chris Mann and the team at pod shaper for all the support with getting the show out there and making it sound good. Check out our offers for parents with kids of all ages and sign up for our newsletter to stay connected at beasts browseable.com tune back in later this week for our Thursday show and I'll be back with another interview next Monday peace

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