“No More Mean Girls” Author Speaks at RPCS

“No More Mean Girls” Author Speaks at RPCS

At Roland Park Country School, we understand the importance of living healthy, balanced lives and keep wellness in the forefront of everything we do. As educators, we are always seeking new approaches and advice from leading experts in the field to support our students’ emotional wellness and help them thrive.

Therefore, we were thrilled to welcome child and adolescent psychotherapist, parenting educator, public speaker and writer Katie Hurley, LCSW, as the featured speaker for the annual Doug and Carol Croft Linde, 1982 Health Colloquium this October. She spent an entire day with our community, including leading a professional development session with Lower School and Middle School faculty, having lunch with the counseling team, running workshops for students in grades 4-8, and speaking to the parent community in the evening.

Hurley is the founder of “Girls Can!” empowerment groups for girls between ages 5-11 and the author of the award-winning No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls, The Depression Workbook for Teens: Tools to Improve Your Mood, Build Self-Esteem, and Stay Motivated, and The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World. Hurley covers mental health, child and adolescent development, and parenting for The Washington Post, PBS Parents, Psychology Today, Everyday Health, PsyCom, and US News and World Report, among other places. She practices psychotherapy in the South Bay area of Los Angeles and earned her BA in psychology and women’s studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. With her optimistic outlook and signature proactive approach to helping kids and teens thrive, Hurley shared her wisdom, insights and research with our community to help us learn how to build empathy, resilience and compassion among our students.

Katie Hurley with students

Student Workshops
During her visit with the fourth and fifth graders, Hurley talked about how to reframe negative feelings into more positive thoughts. For example, instead of saying “I’m not good at math,” change it to “I’m having a hard time with math, but I’m working on it.” She also spoke about the importance of collaboration and helping others. In her presentation to Middle Schoolers, Hurley asked the students thought-provoking questions, such as “How can RPCS make your school experience better?” and “What do you want your parents to know about being a Middle Schooler?” and really took the time to listen to the students’ responses, demonstrating the importance of mutual empathy. Hurley also brainstormed suggestions with the girls about how to regulate their emotions when they are not feeling their best, including sleeping, reading, listening to music and talking it out. Finally, she discussed the importance of being an upstander when witnessing bullying. “Every day you get a fresh start,” Hurley told the girls.

Katie Hurley with MS students

Practical Advice for Parents
In her evening lecture to the community, Hurley shared the students’ feedback about what they wished their parents understood about them. She also spoke to parents about how to identify and combat relational aggression, which is defined as a pattern of behavior to damage friendships, relationships or reputation of another girl, that causes a power imbalance. Hurley explained why existing efforts to eradicate bullying are often ineffective and shared strategies of how building trust, cultivating empathy and compassion, encouraging collaborative leadership skills and programs, pursuing activism, and discouraging perfectionism can all lead to healthier and happier relationships among children.

Katie Hurley

Hurley also explained how children do not want the pressure of feeling like they need to be “the best” and how this mentality makes it hard for girls to form authentic connections with each other. “We need to find places where kids feel like home,” Hurley told the audience. Some of her other practical tips for parents to support their daughters’ emotional wellness include:

  • Spend time with your children – quality matters more than quantity.
  • Listen fully to your children and empathize with them, support them and believe them. Ask they if they want support or solutions.
  • Do not solve or dismiss your children’s problems.
  • Help encourage assertiveness skills, including setting healthy boundaries, resolving conflict and seeking help by modeling this through your own behavior.
  • Practice cognitive reframing by flipping negative thoughts (instead of saying “I’m terrible at math,” change it to “I’m working on math.”).
  • Combat perfectionism by talking about your own mistakes, watch what you model and try not to put too much pressure on grades or being “the best.”
  • Develop and model positive technology habits for the entire family; be curious about your child’s tech habits.
  • Have honest and ongoing conversations about technology and its correlation to physical and mental health with your children.
  • Encourage our children to report bullying to the school.
Katie Hurley talking to staff

About the Doug and Carol Croft Linde, 1982 Health Colloquium 
The Doug and Carol Croft Linde, 1982 Health Colloquium allows RPCS to engage nationally recognized wellness speakers and researchers annually to work in partnership with our students, employees and parents – as well as the local community. These academic seminars with industry professionals enable RPCS young women to explore their interests in mental and physical health while also equipping them and their families with the tools and insight needed to flourish across any stage of life. The Colloquium was originally funded by past parents Barbara and James (Jim) Robinson and supported through the Annual Fund.