I was on Nightline the other night, talking about Elizabeth Thomas and her possible state of mind after being found with her 50-year-old teacher, Tad Cummins.
When a young girl is feeling alone or misunderstood, an older, trusted teacher can be a welcome person in her life. Usually a teacher-student relationship can be a wonderful source of help but clearly this relationship crossed the line and became inappropriate and exploitive. Being a teacher is a unique position of power and intimacy in a child’s life- you are trusted and you have proximity.
Elizabeth is likely in crisis right now. She needs love and understanding from her family and those who love her. This was a cry for help and now, she needs to get the help she needs to become healthy and secure in her life. What was she trying to tell her family? What was going on right before she left? These issues must be addressed as they were the catalyst to the incident.
How is she feeling? Nobody but Elizabeth knows for sure. But I would venture to guess that Elizabeth is likely feeling confused right now. This is someone she has trusted for a long time and likely believed was working in her best interest- this is not likely someone she saw as a criminal or inappropriate. So being taken away from him actually may feel like a loss for her- a loss of someone she trusted so much that she left her life with him. I imagine she is feeling many things right now so it’s time for some understanding and patience as she gets the help she needs.
*Now that child abuse charges have surfaced regarding Elizabeth Thomas’ mother, this adds and important layer to why Elizabeth left, why she got attached to her teacher in the first place, and why she seemed unhappy or reluctant to come back to her life in Tennessee. This girl needs patience, time and help– and it seems that her family will also need support in order for everyone to get back on track.
I hope you are thinking about the highlights of your weekend– the sweet moments and the times that gave you peace or smiles, however far between. I know that life can get hard sometimes. Not all of it- but some of it. The kids don’t always behave. Those great events you planned for? Often they don’t go exactly as you thought they would.
But what went well? What made you laugh, relax or feel loved?
The challenge comes when everyone’s weekend photos come out, doesn’t it? So many happy faces and declarations of “best weekend ever!” It’s natural to compare.
But seriously. Those people all had their moments too. Good and bad. Frustrating and fulfilling.
The Fictitious Facebook Family (FFF) is not real. Don’t let it become your monster.
What are the top 3 skills or character traits you want your kids to adopt? The key is to talk about them AND show our kids how it’s done. You want them to be more accountable when they make mistakes? We need to show them how it’s done. You want them to persevere? They need to hear what we say to ourselves that keeps us going when the going gets tough and see our grit in action. Every characteristic from kindness to courage must be discussed and demonstrated over and over again so that they don’t simply stay lessons you wish to impart but part of your child’s thought process and knee-jerk reactions. Your voice becomes their script, your actions, their playbook. Keep at it. It is worth it in the end. xo
After a woman has a baby, her body continues to change. What has been dubbed “the 4th trimester,” the 3 months after the birth of a child, can be a time when women can feel at odds with their bodies. Still, this is a time when woman should be celebrating their bodies– look at what they just did! No need to wait- you are beautiful now.
Good Morning America came to the house to talk with me about it– as an intro to their a makeover segment with a beautiful woman who had recently given birth to a daughter.
We need people in the limelight to speak up about weight obsession, body image and eating disorders. Thankfully, more and more people have been stepping up. I was on Good Morning America this morning- talking about just that.
Most recently, Emma Thompson, award-winning actress, calls the weight pressures in Hollywood “evil.” She told the Swedish TV show, Skavlan, that:
“It is evil what is going on and happening out there, and it is getting worse…The anorexia… there are so many kids, girls, and boys now, and actresses who are very very thin that are into their 30’s and simply don’t eat. They don’t eat.”
Thompson also revealed that when she worked on the movie “Brideshead Revisited,” she heard one issue of dieting pressure that made her stand up for another fellow actress. She simply couldn’t keep quiet about it. I’m glad she didn’t.
“There was a wonderful actress I was working with and the producer said to her, ‘Will you lose some weight? She was absolutely exquisite. I said to them, ‘If you speak to her about this again, on any level, I will leave this picture, you are never to do that.'”
Any time a high profile person speaks up and says “we are more than our looks” and “this pressure to lose weight and be thin” is not okay, s/he does something very important for women and girls (and boys!) everywhere. She tells them, they are enough as they are.
It’s vital that we have conversations about these pressures and about the way media influences how people think about weight and size. I encourage parents to use what they see in the press as springboards for discussion- what do your children think about these pressures? What do they think about what Emma Thompson said? These conversations are not just important for girls and women but for boys and men too– it’ll take everyone to change these norms and unrealistic expectations.
Trying to cope with a toddler tantrum on an hour’s worth of sleep?
Battling with your teen about staying out to late?
Nobody said that parenting was going to be easy, but come on!
Don’t you wish that someone gave you the manual for parenting and stress management when your little bundle of joy was born?
Arm yourself from A to Z with 26 tips that will get you through the most trying days:
A- Accept the things you can not change: Single parenting? Step parenting? ADHD parenting? Just dealing with time crunches, making lunches, bunches and bunches of bills? It’s important to recognize that there are some things you can not control, surrender, move on.
B- Breathe: When things get hairy, scary, and you feel like you can barely hold on, take a step back, breathe, and be calm.
C- Count your blessings. Even though you have the weight of the world on you right now and feel far from compassionate for others who have things much worse than you do, there is some value in taking a moment to look at the things that are going right today, such as your child’s tantrum-free morning or how your spouse took out the trash…
D- Decompress. Believe it or not, there are many who do not know how to take a break. Some parents don’t even realize that it’s okay to take a break. Take time out to read a book, go out or simply hang out with family or friends. A happy parent is much more productive than a crabby one.
E- Eat nutritiously. We take care of everyone but ourselves…working, chauffeuring, monitoring homework, cooking and so on. Remember to eat breakfast and be sure to eat more than just a power bar for lunch! Nourish your body so you can nourish your mind so you won’t go crazy on top of everything else.
F- Focus on the big picture. Does it really matter that your child insists on wearing his Spiderman pajamas to the supermarket again? You’ve heard it before. Don’t sweat the small stuff (and yes, this is small). When choosing between Spidy and sanity, choose sanity.
G- Go to the gym. Do yoga. Step outside and take a long walk. Take a martial arts or dance class. Just get your body moving. Exercise will not only keep you fit and healthy to do the best parenting job you can (not to mention keep up with the kids) it will also help to clear your mind.
H- Hang up the phone. Sometimes we spend more time on the phone than with the kids, and then we wonder why they act up while we’re on the phone. Reserve some “family only” time so that the kids won’t feel so deprived of your attention and when you do need to converse on the phone, you’ll be able to without interruption.
I- Identify the kind of family you are aiming to be. Have you ever sat down with your family and actually discussed the kind of family you aim to be? Respectful? Kind? Supportive? Discuss those Powerful Words! Get your family together, discuss and create the vision as a team so everyone is on board and knows what they are trying to achieve.
J- Joke around. Don’t take everything so seriously! What makes your hair turn gray today will likely make your face turn beet red with laughter one day down the road.
K- Kiss, hug and show affection. Affection is such a simple thing that can make your family feel more secure as opposed to feeling like they need a therapist! Set the precedent for your family and show that you appreciate one another.
L- Listen to your family. Your children have great stories to tell. Your significant other has dreams about the future. When we listen, we expand our minds and catch all the subtleties that otherwise pass us by. Listening enables us to know what to say and when to say it.
M- Make time for family fun. Shuttling between extracurricular activities all the time? Remember that it’s important to take time out for family fun. Take a vacation, have a family game night, go for a bike ride together. It’s important to do something together and that everyone will enjoy.
N- Negotiate time for the couple. We all love spending time with the kids, but it is just as important for the couple to spend private time together. Rekindle your love every week, whether it’s going out to dinner alone or spending time cuddling while the kids are at Grandma’s house.
O- Open your mind to “the opposition.” You and your partner are a united force, however you may not always agree. Take time to listen to the points of the other person and come to a compromise.
P- Play with your friends. Go to a movie, play golf, go to lunch! Having some adult company, conversation and laughs will make the days more pleasant and manageable.
Q- Quiet your mind. Fretting over the past is as constructive as nailing a cube of Jello to the wall. When it’s time to relax, turn off your mind and let the day go.
R- Recruit some outside support. Need help reaching your personal and family goals? Enlist the help of a coach who will help you deal with present challenges and create action plans to make the most of your future.
S- Simplify your family’s schedule. There really is no need to commit your child to 40 different activities per week. One or two activities during the school year is okay. Really.
T- Teach the lessons you want them to know. Schools do not teach character development, parents do. When you teach your child about respect and teamwork, you get respect and teamwork.
U- Utilize your resources. Did the grandparents volunteer to baby-sit? Did your neighbor offer to tutor your kids in that math you don’t understand? Take them up on their offers. Reaching out for help enables us to collect ourselves and do the things we do well.
V- Value your time. Learn to say “no.” It’s important to be involved and volunteer your time to help with fundraisers and so on, but don’t overextend yourself. It takes time away from your family and robs you of your sanity.
W- Wipe the tears. Yours and theirs. Holding grudges or letting anger and misery simply fester under the surface builds resentment and uneasiness. This is a legacy you do not want to leave.
Y- Yearn to grow and learn. Just because you are a parent does not mean that you no longer can work on expanding your own mind and achieving your own goals. You may need to modify your ambition, but you can still express yourself, volunteer, take courses or even teach!
Z- Zzzzzzzz. Try to make up for that lost sleep. Parenting always seems easier when you are rested.
Have a Powerful (and stress-free) Week!
The summer before college, I was in my first year of assistant teaching at a Preschool/DayCare in Livingston NJ. I always loved playing with and working with children- I had been a babysitter for 6 years at that point. I felt pretty good about being the “big sister” to young kids- especially since I was the youngest at home. Teaching allowed me to impart knowledge and work with and talk with kids for several hours a day. But during this summer? I learned something from one child that changed my perspective on talking with children.
I will never forget 4-year-old, “Sasha Washa,” a daughter of a suit-wearing, well quaffed, beautifully-spoken woman who dropped Sasha off each morning before heading off to the company where she worked all day. Sasha had dark brown hair and inquisitive brown eyes that was always taking in what she sees. And I guess hears too. She clearly adopted the language that her mother used at work. Parents and other key adults, often provide the scripts that go into our brains and out our mouths as youngsters.
When Sasha’s friend wouldn’t let her play “house” with the group that was already given roles, she walked up to me and said something I will always remember;
“Excuse me, Miss Robyn? Can we take a meeting?”
A meeting. A meeting is when people share ideas, talk, listen, resolve, compromise and plan.
At that time, I think that my personal understanding of children, especially young ones, was that adults do the teaching. Children do the listening.
In this one sentence (and the countless “meetings” after with children I’ve worked with and my own nieces, nephews and children), I began to regard my interactions with children, even pre-school aged ones, as two-way conversations. It’s important to move from talking “at” children to talking “to” and “with” them.
We want to know:
- What are thinking?
- What are they feeling?
- What do they know?
- What do they want to know?
- What do they want YOU to know?
- What had they seen?
- What had they heard?
- What do they believe?
Conversations are shared. If we are talking “at” a child, they aren’t a participant, they are a target. And with targets, some information is absorbed, other bits bounce off. One voice is heard– although your voice may start to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher “whaaa, whaaa, whaa, whaaa, whaa.” When someone is engaged in conversation, two voices, multiple opinions, many thoughts, and a host of feelings and beliefs meet and intertwine. We must create a partnership with our children– and in doing so we will all grow, learn and become better.
Of course, gone are days of seen but not heard. And yet, is this reflected in the way that we all talk with children? There are times when we all may find ourselves in a teaching role– but in every conversation, we also must be the student. Take meetings, don’t give soliloquies. You’ll find willing partners who will love to contribute and learn along side of you.