Black Lives Matter Protest on Morristown Green. Photo by Kevin Coughlin.

How I Talked to my Children about the Black Lives Matter Protests and How You Should Too

Dr. Robyn SilvermanThe other day, my children, ages 6 and 7, asked me why people were protesting at the Town Hall building we passed after leaving the animal shelter we visited. People were holding up signs saying; “Black Lives Matter” while police patrolled the area from the perimeter. Even though I knew it might be a tough conversation to have, it felt necessary. It felt on purpose. You know what I mean?

I explained, as many times as necessary, how there are some police officers who made horrible mistakes and who were very wrong and that people are rightfully angry–and there are many police officers who are kind and helpful and who keep us safe but are often mistrusted because of some officers’ actions. We talked about people dying due to the color of their skin (Tallie, my 7-year-old, exclaimed, “again!” And I corrected; “no, baby…still.”) I answered many questions as honestly and humbly as I could. I hate having to have this conversation. But I will have it as many times as is necessary.

A woman overheard me talking about it at a local restaurant to Noah (he was confused why police officers were there at town hall protecting the people who were protesting and wondered if they might get shot and wondered if those police officers would shoot people). This was not a time to clam up even though it took some persistence and deep breaths. She came over to me after the conversation and said; “I heard you talking about the protests. You did such a great job. I’m just the Aunt and the kids asked me about it but I didn’t know what to say. I’m not good at this.”

I will say here what I said to her. “How wonderful that they turned to you when they needed clarification. They trust you. None of us have all the answers. You don’t need to have all the answers. Just answer them as honestly as you can in words they can understand. Be present. Sometimes that’s the best we can do. And just being there and being as honest as we can– it’s enough.”

It’s time to have these tough conversations. It has to start now if we are going to make change happen. And believe me, this conversation is not over. The best conversations are never given only once but over and over in more nuanced ways. Let’s simply begin and get the ball rolling. There’s no time like the present! ‪#‎Peace‬ ‪#‎StPaul‬ ‪#‎BatonRouge‬‪#‎DallasStrong‬

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Self Esteem & Success: How to Develop the C.O.R.E.™ of Your Children and Students

Dr. Robyn SilvermanSelf Esteem & Success: Have your Children and Students Developed their C.O.R.E.™?  

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Self-esteem is a powerful thing. From the outside, some kids may seem to have it all, but at their core, they may feel as if they can’t do anything right. You know what I mean? I know you do- you’ve experienced it yourself and seen it with your own eyes.

On the other hand, some may seem to have been dealt a poor hand in life and yet, as their core, they behave as if they can do, be, or have anything. When mindset, heart, and opinion of self are crucial predictors of success, self-esteem can certainly make the difference.

In order to help our students thrive as powerful character-based leaders, they must see themselves and their contributions as worthwhile. When I speak to audiences around the world about construction of self-esteem, I detail my C.O.R.E. concept: Comparison, Observation, Recognition, and Experience. See how it applies to the children and students in your life!

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What’s at their C.O.R.E.?

Comparison: How do I stack up vs What strengths do I bring to the table? Read more

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Why this Tween Magazine was Under Fire Due to This Swimsuit Article for Girls

discovery-girls-swimsuit-magazine (1)I was recently on the Today Show talking about Discovery Girls and their misstep in publishing an article on swimsuits for specific body types. Some people thought it was a big deal– others did not. What’s your view?

What are the girls experiencing in preteen years that makes this a tough time?

During the preteen years, a girl’s body is changing, her brain is changing and she is moving from the child stage to the teen and young adult stage. It can feel weird and confusing for any girl—so many turn to communities and resources where they feel safe and valued for who they are.

Why is this article a big deal?

This is the time of year when every magazine is focusing on bathing suits and what cuts are best to accentuate their best features and hide features that are less valued in our culture. When preteen magazines jump on the bandwagon, it sends a message to girls that they need to be thinking about how they look—form over function- when it comes to swim suit.

Of course, teen magazines could have a lot of fun with bathing suit styles by flipping the conversation and asking; “What bathing suit style is best for what you LOVE to do” or “What bathing suit patterns reflect your personality?” And going into bold or subtle prints, loud and soft colors and other fun fashion topics like that.

Why was that one sentence in the apology about the magazine attempting to simply “build confidence in girls” a big deal?

Many parents don’t want their girls to get the message that what you wear and how you look affects whether you feel confident. We all make mistakes, absolutely, and I think parents just wanted to hear that a mistake was made, they take full responsibility and it will never happen again.

How do you build a girl’s confidence?

A girl can build confidence by (1) gaining mastery in something she cares about and (2) feeling connected, safe and valued by people she cares about in and outside of her home. When a girl believes in herself, pushes through barriers, succeeds after failing and feels she has key people to rely on in her life, she gains confidence. Confidence is built from the inside out, not the other way around.

Kinds of message this article can inadvertently send:

This kind of an article can send a negative message to a girl who is using the magazine as a safe place to learn how to be a healthy preteen. When we talk about the need to hide areas of our bodies to look good in a swimsuit, we are saying that there are parts of every girl’s body that may need to be covered because it’s not acceptable.

Let’s be blunt. Raising a girl in today’s appearance-oriented world can be a challenge. When articles seem to reflect rather than deflect the media messages plaguing our girls that state “your value comes from how you look or you need to change the way you look to fit what others think is valuable,” parents get very upset. This is especially true when they trust the resource and feel that the focus took an unexpected turn.

What did you think of the article?

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Fourteen Signs that Your Daughter May Have an Eating Disorder

scale_weightHow do you know if your child may have an eating disorder? Here are some signs that may indicate a problem.
  1. Erratic food habits: Eating large amounts of food and then disappearing from the table.
  2. Playing with food.
  3. Restricting food intake.
  4. Major changes in weight in a short amount of time: Considering teen bodies are changing and getting heavier, dramatic weight loss for age and height can be a warning sign.
  5. Hiding her body even after weight loss: May be an indication that your daughter believes her body is very large even when it is not.
  6. Hiding food: Finding large amounts of food stashed in her bedroom, hidden under her bed or in closet, disappearance of food from the refrigerator or pantry.
  7. Refusal to eat when others are present: You’ll hear things like “I’ve already eaten” or “I have a stomachache” simply to avoid eating.
  8. Compulsive exercising: Exercising to take off as many calories that were consumed. Exercising several times daily or exercising until she can’t exercise anymore. Hyper-focus on how many calories burned, weight, inches, etc.
  9. Skipping meals consistently.
  10. Measuring self-worth based on weight: Calling oneself “good” for not eating and “bad” for giving in to eating. Bashing self for eating more than the allotted calories.
  11. Complaining about being overweight and fat when they are clearly underweight.
  12. Missing several periods in a row. Periods can stop when girls lose too much weight.
  13. Overall poor body image: Poor attitude when it comes to weight and appearance.
  14. Spending a lot of time in the bathroom: Could be sign of purging or laxative use.

*If you feel that your child may have an eating disorder, contact your child’s doctor to discuss your concerns and a possible plan of action.

GGDGF Cover (hi res)From: Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It

By: Robyn J.A. Silverman, PhD

Harlequin, 2010

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Latest Interview: Dax Shepard Opens Up about Child Sexual Abuse

GMA_cameraTwo weeks ago, Dax Shepard opened up about being sexually abused as a child. Good Morning America came to my home to interview me for their story on the topic. The story didn’t air but I wanted to give all of you some of the questions they asked me (and my answers) as people have asked me about the segment.

Can sexual abuse lead to problems later on in life?

Childhood abuse has been linked with many psychiatric and behavioral problems as teens and adults including anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug use and unsafe sex. Dax Shepard has admitted to drug use and alcohol abuse and this may be linked, in part to his earlier experiences.

Is it the same for men as it is for women?

While much of the research has focused on women who were sexually abused as girls, when both genders are considered in clinical studies, it’s found that both men and women suffer with similar mental and emotional problems.

Why do some sexual abuse survivors not tell?

Dax Shepard is only coming out with this private information now. Some people might wonder, why all the secrecy? Why don’t people tell when they’ve been sexually abused? Many children and teens feel shame, they fear retaliation (perhaps threatened), they may blame themselves or minimize what happened, they may doubt what really happened and may be afraid people won’t believe them anyway even if they did tell.

How can Dax’s admission help parents talk about sexual abuse with children?

Dax ShepardWhenever a celebrity brings an issue to light with a personal account, it’s a great time for parents to use the admission as a springboard for some tough talks with their children. In age-appropriate terms, talk about good touching and bad touching, what they should do if anyone touches them in an inappropriate way, and that your door is always open to talking about these tough topics.

As always, any tough conversation you have with your child does not need to fit into a certain time, place, space or age. These types of conversations happen many times over years. What you might say to a younger child about their body, their privacy and who is permitted to see them undressed in certain circumstances (i.e. parent, doctor) is different than what you might say to a teenager. While these conversations can be uncomfortable, they are necessary. As I tell parents when I am presenting; “You can say it outright: This is uncomfortable! This is awkward! But do it anyway.”

And don’t worry if you missed an opportunity or when you last talked about it, it didn’t go so well. Parenting provides the ultimate do-over. Each day you get to try again. Thank goodness.

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Tips that Work! How do I get my kids to do their chores?

Chores. So many children dread them. Why would anyone want to work when they would rather play? Cue the frustration, fighting and fury!

It doesn’t have to be this way. And tasks at home must get done! So how can we get our children to do their family “chores?” Here are my “4 Cs” that can get everyone to pitch in and help out!chores

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Parents and Teachers: How to Talk to Children about the Paris Attacks

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How to Talk to Kids about the Paris Attacks and Other Tragic Events

By: Dr. Robyn Silverman

Many of us stayed up late watching everything we could about the tragic Paris Attacks on Friday night. We waited to find out more on Saturday about how many lives were lost, if the perpetrators were all captured and how France and other nations were going to respond.

As a mother of a 5 and 6 year old, I kept the news off while they were in the room and remember running up to the TV to turn it off when a Sunday morning story about the death toll suddenly came on—that’s not the way I want them to find out. Still, I don’t have my head in the sand. it’s important to be prepared to discuss these tragic situations as children hear a great deal in school and from their friends. And with older children in late elementary school, middle school or high school, they likely have head about it already.

How should parents handle it when a large-scale tragedy occurs in the world such as the Paris Attacks?

  • You are the trusted source: If you have a feeling that your children will hear about the tragedy in school, talk to them about it as soon as possible. You can give them the information that is true, appropriate and helpful. Older children might want to learn more about who was involved in the attacks- and there are some websites that provide easy-to-understand information that you can read together or you can read and then discuss the points that you feel are necessary. For example there is this and this for explanations of more complicated facts.
  • Use age-appropriate language and information: Children don’t need to hear the gory details. Give them the information that they need to know in words that they would understand. You can be factual without being gruesome. It is important to set the tone and provide the facts instead of allowing someone else, who may not be correct or appropriate, to do it for you.
  • Allow emotions and fears to surface: Don’t dismiss your children’s fears or emotions. Rather, allow them to have a safe place to express them. If you are upset (as humans, of course we are!), you can talk about being sad or frustrated without going into full detail or matching their intensity. For example, you can say; “I am sad this happened to these people” or “I am frustrated that I can’t help.” In fact, it’s best for adults to talk to other adults about their own feelings rather than delving in deep with children who may not be fully equipped yet to understand.
  • Let them know they are safe: Children are often concerned with their own safety and the safety of their friends and family surrounding them. Make sure they know that events such as these are rare. Talk to them about the adults in this world who are doing what they can to keep the people safe. Discuss the helpers, the heroes and those who are taking action to create peace in this world.
  • Keep an open door: Many children will need more than one conversation to put their questions, fears and concerns to rest. Let your children know that you are available to talk to them if they have questions. You may not know all the answers, but you will do your best to find them out or explore them with your child. For older children, don’t assume that they fully know what’s going on or that you know what they are thinking or feeling. Ask them what they know and how they feel about it. If you feel that there is a better person for your children to talk to about this tragedy, be the bridge or the passageway to the right person so your children feel that their questions have been answered.
  • Honor the loss of life: Whether the tragedy was Sandy Hook, The Boston Marathon bombing or the Paris Attacks, find ways to honor those who were lost. This may be orchestrated through a moment of silence, a family donation or finding ways to help personally.
  • Understand that children all react differently: Some children will want to talk about what’s happening while others might clam up. Some will have lots of questions, while others might seem disinterested. All children react differently. Be aware of hidden signs that a child is upset. For example, sleeping more or having trouble sleeping, withdrawing from friends or wanting to spend more time with family, acting out with poor behavior or wanting to stay home from school. Be open if and when your children become open to talking about the Paris Attacks or tragic events like them.

The best thing we can do for our children is to give them the time, space and arena to discuss their feelings and questions. Just being there can be a comfort when tragedies like the Paris Attacks, the Boston bombing, Sandy Hook occur. And of course, as always, hug them tight and tell them that they are loved. Feeling safe and secure can go a long, long way.

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Dr. Robyn on GMA: Are Participation Trophies a Celebration of Mediocrity?

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Good Morning America came to my house last night to ask me about a hot button topic discussed this morning on the show.

http://abcnews.go.com/beta/Lifestyle/pittsburgh-steelers-james-harrison-back-sons-participation-trophies/story?id=33130650

James Harrison, football star on the Pittsburgh Steelers, is one tough linebacker.GMA_participationtrophies  He also has drawn a hard line when it comes to parenting.  On Instagram this past weekend, he reported that his 2 sons received “participation trophies” and that he was returning them.

“While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy” (photo). “I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best. Cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy.”

Harrison used the hashtag #harrisonfamilyvalues to punctuate his point.

While many agreed with Harrison’s views, some also disagreed. Here’s what I think:

For some children who may have participation challenges due to social skills or shyness issues, a participation trophy can be a tangible way to encourage those children to participate more and celebrate their participation. For most other children, they don’t need participation trophies and can, in fact, learn important social skills and sportsmanship from winning and losing.

As parents and teachers, here are some important tips:

(1) Disconnect the term lose from loser: As parents, we need to help children learn how to be a gracious winner and, just as important, that even when you lose, it doesn’t make you a loser. When a Read more

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The Upside to Lying: Dr. Robyn Silverman Discusses on Good Morning America


ABC US News | World News

How about THIS for a new spin on lying? A new study suggests that kids with a good memory also happen to be good liars!

We all know that lying is pervasive in childhood. So perhaps it’s good for parents to know a marker for good liars is having good working memories—in particular, good verbal memories, which makes sense because they need to remember what they said and who they said it to so they can keep all their lies straight.

The new study in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology shows that when the researchers from the University of Sheffield gathered more than 100 children, ages six and seven, and told them not to peek at the answers on the back of a card detailing a fictitious cartoon character, the best liars were revealed. Then researchers questioned the children, spotted the liars, and evaluated their ability to lie in the face of two questions that would catch them red-handed. The “best” liars told a whammy each time, while poor liars did it only once or not at all.

It takes mental effort to keep all the stories straight—so the researchers conclude that the liars may have better working memories and may even be “smarter.”

We explored a few key questions this morning on Good Morning America.GMA_childrenlying_800_400

So many parents would say they didn’t teach their children to lie, but rather that it seems like an innate behavior. So, where are they learning it and why do they do it?

Research has told us that 1 in 5 interactions are lies! Adults and children do it. Some people lie because it gets them out of trouble while others lie Read more

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THAT moment in the bathroom with your daughter

Dr. Robyn with her baby girlWe all get that feeling that we are messing up our children sometimes. I do too. Often…if I’m being honest.

I look back to when we first took our daughter home from the hospital and remember my husband and I looking at each other and wondering how in the world they let us take her.  We had no idea what we were doing!

And there are days, with both our children, that we still feel the same way. Do you feel that way too sometimes?

But as much as we think we are messing up at times, it’s also very likely, we are doing something VERY right.  Never forget how powerful you are.  Our children are taking in our words.  They are watching our actions.  They are adopting our values. And it does make a difference.

Everyday, there are opportunities to shape our children.  Of course, it’s what we do overtime that makes a lasting impact.  And sometimes, we DO get it right. And sometimes, we even get a chance to realize it.

Last night– I had THAT MOMENT in the bathroom while brushing teeth with my daughter:

T, age 6: “Mommy; am I beautiful?” Read more