Making Friends: Teaching Kids (and Ourselves) About Real Friendship

Navigating new friendships can feel complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.  Whether you are 3, 13, 33 or 63, certain rules of friendship are constant.  Here are some things I teach my children and also, remind myself of to this day:

(1) Allow great friendships to happen organically: We may feel lonely. And we may want a group of supportive, wonderful friends that seem to be featured all over TV today. That doesn’t mean it happens instantaneously. Friendships happen over time.  Create opportunity to allow friendships to grow and thrive without forcing them to happen.  When we force friendships, everyone feels awkward and the opportunity for real friendship to form is diminished.

(2) Just because you’re friends with certain people, doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with someone else: There is a tendency for cliques to form in both childhood and adulthood.  Be careful you are not shutting out the opportunity to meet other great people outside of your proscribed group.  When we shut out such opportunities, we also diminish our own chance to grow and become better, more well-rounded people.

3) Gossip is an ugly habit: If you are finding that you and your friends drama-201x300have a habit of talking negatively about others, give it a rest.  Gossip creates drama.  And frankly, it’s just an ugly thing to do. There are too many other wonderful and interesting things to talk about besides other people. If your typical friends won’t stop gossiping, it may be time to go out with some other friends.

(4) Branch Out: Try meeting new people.  Join a new class, go outside your town, attend a meet-up or go someplace you haven’t been before.  Spend less time on Facebook and give people more Facetime in order to get to know others better. Ask someone new to join you for a playdate, cup of coffee, or a walk around the park.  When we branch out, we give new friendships a chance to grow.

(5) Nurture the friendships that feel mutually easy, refreshing & positive: Sometimes we overlook the friends we have in exchange for focusing on the ones we wish we had.  Think of those people who have always been consistent, strong friends. Make sure you carve out time to be with them and show them that their friendship is important to you.

(6) Get back to people: If people call, message or ask you to get together, give them the courtesy of an answer.   Even if you would prefer not to go out with them, have the character to be respectful of their time and their feelings.  Ignoring people is rude whether you are a child or an adult.  It feels horrible. The Golden Rule Applies—do unto others as you would have done to you.

(7) If you don’t feel good when you are around them, move on:  Friendship should feel good most of the time.  If you find that you don’t feel like yourself or feel unsure of yourself when you are with certain friends, either talk about it openly with them so you can address the problem or move on. True friends don’t want you to be anything other than what you are because they like the real you.

While some friendships might take work, most of the time, they should feel pretty easy, meaningful, fulfilling and fun. Friendship should make you feel like the best version of yourself. If you have at least one friendship that does that for you, count yourself very lucky.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Ask Dr. Robyn: Teaching Children Accountability and Responsibility

Dr. Robyn Silverman answers one parent’s question about how to teach her children to be responsible and accountable for their own messes and mistakes.

Question answered: Dear Dr. Robyn. My sister’s kids are always leaving a mess for her to clean up.  My kids are young and I just don’t want them to do the same thing.  How can I teach them to be responsible for their own messes and mistakes? Pam, New York, NY

The Day I Become a Mother at Whole Foods Market

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It was exactly 4 years ago this week that I received a call that changed my life.  I was in Whole Foods. Hingham, Massachusetts.  Frozen Foods section.

“Hello, Robyn? It’s your social worker, Carla.  Are you sitting down?”

I looked around at the walls of freezers and the cold linoleum floor.  “Ummm, not exactly.” I bit my lip. My stomach started doing flip flops. I knew this was it. “Let me head outside so I can really hear you.” I left my cart next to the frozen peas and spinach and high tailed it out of there. “OK. I’m outside.”

There was a pause of anticipation.  It felt like there should be some kind of drum roll.

“Congratulations, Mommy! You’ve been matched!”

“Oh my God.” I put my hand over my heart. My breath was stuck inside my lungs waiting to hear who had chosen us to parent her child.  But in actuality, I knew.

You see, I had been holding on to a single email with this potential birth mother’s name and information on it for a week since it came in to my inbox.  There was something about it that called to me—a deep knowing that she was growing our baby inside of her. In fact, it was the only “baby” email I printed out and took with me to Las Vegas where I spoke at a conference just a few days before. The email was still in the my purse as I stood there outside of Whole Foods market clutching my phone to my ear, closing my eyes and hoping that I wasn’t dreaming.

For four years I had waited for this moment.  We were pregnant.  Well, not me, exactly.  But we were having a baby. And I had learned the hard way that this was the most important thing.  We were making a family.

After getting all the information on next steps, I hung up the phone and exhaled the countless breaths that had been stuck inside my body for too long. Turning my face up to the sun I thanked God audibly.  My eyes were wet with grateful tears—an incredible change from the gut-wrenching cries I had thrown up after each miscarriage, misstep, and misleading test.

“What am I going to do now?” I wondered. Can I really go food shopping after this news? Gathering up frozen food items and fresh produce just didn’t seem worthy of this news. And I wasn’t going to tell Jason over the phone that he was going to be a Daddy.  No way.  This moment was too important!

But as you might imagine, I was bursting. So I went back inside Whole Foods and found my cart, headed over to the deli counter and did what any woman would have done in my situation.  I told the deli guy! Who called over the other people behind the counter, who called over some other people…and there were shouts of congratulations and some teary smiles. It was fabulous. It felt really, really good.

As I put my grocery bags in my car I smirked at the thought that I had gone into the store a wife and had come out a mother.  Not too many people can say that, huh? One of the best moments of my life started in the frozen foods section, moved outside their front door and made it’s first announcement at the Deli Counter of Whole Foods market in Hingham, Massachusetts. A shopping trip I will never forget.

What’s your story? Tell us here or on Facebook!

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From Princess to Trucker: How Our Children Can Color Inside & Outside the Gender Lines

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Tallie; on Saturday as a princess and on Sunday as a trucker!

My daughter loves to twirl around in a tutu.  She loves to play “trucks” and “doctor.” She pretends to be a fairy princess and a dinosaur. She climbs.  She runs. She kicks. She investigates bugs and touches worms. She plays with dolls, gets elbow deep in water play at the sink and digs in the sand at the playground. Oh, and she gets dirty.  Boy, can she do that well. She loves it all.

My husband and I have chosen to let her find her own way when it comes to her passions and her preferences.   We expose her to all different kinds of experiences and watch what she enjoys.  We don’t pigeon hole or steer clear of anything because it’s too “girly” or too “boyish.” I don’t really care what the labels are.  She is who she is and I love it.

Last Saturday she dressed up as a princess for her good friend’s “royal” dance party.  Pearls, a tiara, a fancy pink dress with a tutu attached.  She was in her glory.

On Sunday we took her to “Touch-A-Truck” where she could get in real tractors, cranes, buses, ambulances and back hoes and work the levers, pull the horn, push the buttons, and open and close the doors.  Again, she was in her glory. She is free to float up and down the preset gender continuum and it’s a beautiful thing.

If we are to help our daughters and our sons truly become all that they can be, they can’t be boxed in, pushed down and told to remain strong-footed on one side or the other of some prefabricated line. As parents and teachers, it is up to us to open our children up to the whole world rather than closing them off to a part that might make them truly feel at home.

For us, we feel that if our daughter is to become the person she was meant to be on this planet, we can’t limit her. Keeping safety and character in tact, we simply don’t keep her from experiencing, exploring and experimenting.  I want her to keep all 5 senses open and sharp so she can discover…herself.

No boxes, no ceilings, no lines. Just her. In her glory.

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From Princess to Trucker: How Our Children Can Color Inside & Outside the Gender Lines is a post from: Dr. Robyn Silverman – Child Development Specialist, Body Image Expert, Success Coach & the Creator of the Powerful Words Character Development System

“I hate you!” Six Tips to Help Parents Deal with Their Child’s Angry Words

tantrumgirl-300x199“I hate you!”

No…your child’s body has not been taken over by aliens.  You do not need to clean out your ears. That’s right.  You heard it correctly.

Any person who has ever said that “words will never hurt you” never had their child say “I hate you” to his face. You know.  It has probably happened to you.

Being a parent is tough sometimes, isn’t it?  You know in your head that your child does not really hate you.  But when he utters those words…it’s hard not to feel a surge of sadness, frustration, hurt or anger.

We often don’t know what to do when our kids come out with these verbal lashings.  It’s unexpected.  Shocking. Isn’t this the little cherub that hugs you 20 times a day and can’t go to bed unless you’re there to kiss him goodnight?

When children are young, they don’t have the subtle language to beat around the bush.  When they are angry, they say it.  It’s normal.  It just doesn’t feel like it when it happens to you.

So…what should you do?

(1)  Look for the issue behind the words:  Your child doesn’t always have the language to explain his frustration.  When your child says “I hate you,” he might be having difficultly completing a task, attaining something he wants, or expressing a complex emotion like fear.  As parents, we must become a detective and figure out what our children are really trying to relay.

(2)  Help your child recognize anger:  This is the first real step in anger management.  If your child can recognize when he is feeling angry, he will have an easier time expressing and coping with the feeling rather than lashing out.  Ask your child, “what does your body feel like when you are angry?”  Help him to name it while it is happening, “I can tell by your face and your body that you are angry. You are having trouble turning your toy on.  That’s very frustrating!”  This will help to validate what your child is feeling and while also helping him to put a name to the emotion and the cause of the anger.

(3)  Give your child the right words: When your child is calm, talk about what happened.  Remind him of when he was feeling angry earlier in the day and what he said.  Let him know that when he says “I hate you,” it hurts your feelings.  Then ask him, “What can you say instead?” If he is unsure, give him the right words.  “When you feel this way, instead of saying ‘I hate you,’ say, ‘I feel angry and I need help, please.”  Help him to practice expressing his feelings so that when he is angry again (and he will be!), he can call on these skills.

(4)  Provide calming techniques: We all get angry.  Helping your child deal with anger in a constructive manner will be a gift that he can use for the rest of his life.  Introduce and practice some techniques when your child is open to listening (not when in the heat of battle!).  Counting to 10, singing a song, running in place, and talking to oneself, are some simple ways to calm down when angry.  One of my favorite techniques I use with young children is to “smell the roses and blow away the clouds.” This is a powerful way to teach children to take a few deep breaths.

(5)  Provide problem solving techniques: Let your child know that there are lots of ways to solve problems.  If something isn’t working, try something else!  You might say, “Could you help me put the wheel back on my truck?” or “maybe I should play with something else.”  Help your child think about solutions that are safe, fair, and likely to be successful.

(6)  Watch your own language: Regrettably, in this case, “monkey see, monkey do.”  If you use harsh language in anger or you say “I hate” towards objects around your own house (i.e. I hate doing laundry; I hate carrots; I hate when the phone rings during your nap time), your child will pick up on it and use it himself.  Unfortunately, such language might be directed at you!

Perhaps the most important thing for you to keep in mind while all this is happening is that your child doesn’t really hate you.  So take a deep breath. Sometimes parents, too, need to remember to smell the flowers and blow away the clouds.  After all, it is likely that clear skies are on the horizon.

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Note: Some of this article was originally posted in Bay State Parent Magazine, 2008.

 

 

“I hate you!” Six Tips to Help Parents Deal with Their Child’s Angry Words is a post from: Dr. Robyn Silverman – Child Development Specialist, Body Image Expert, Success Coach & the Creator of the Powerful Words Character Development System

 

Parents forget child at Chuck E Cheese: 10 parenting tips for safety and preparation

chuckecheese-300x168I can’t believe I’m saying this…Parents are forgetting their kids at the children’s play place, Chuck E. Cheese’s.  While this may sounds like the makings of a Saturday Night Live skit to you, it’s actually the truth. Yesterday, Good Morning America called me to do a piece (which was squashed at the final hour) about a 5 year old girl who was left at Chuck E. Cheese’s last week.

It happened on Thursday night when the child was left at Chuck E. Cheese’s immediately following her own birthday party.  One of 10 children in a family, she was left behind by her mother—it wasn’t discovered that she was missing until the following day when her mother realized the girl wasn’t in her bed (she as getting her up for school).  Sounds completely implausible, right?

Perhaps.  But when 3 adults were attending the event with 19 children—things can get pretty hectic.  Was there a miscommunication of who was taking the child home?  Did everyone assume someone else was taking care of her?  We don’t know. The girl is now in protective custody until they determine what really happened here.

harmony-300x225But, believe it or not, this has happened before to other parents.  In fact, it just happened last Monday to another family! Three-year-old Harmony was left behind by her parents at a Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant in Bel Air, Maryland. They only realized that they had forgotten her when they saw a report about her on the evening news. Apparently there have been other cases of this in other areas as well.

Were the children misbehaving? Were the parents trying to employ the safe haven rule at Chuck E. Cheese’s? No. Parents haven’t left their kids there because they were at their wits end, they were leaving them there…by mistake.

I know.  It’s ridiculous. How can people forget their child…let alone in a place that they attended for their children? But if you had 10 children…if it was a big crowd…if you made assumptions about who was picking up or dropping off your child…if you were exhausted or fed up or had a headache…could it happen to you or someone you know?

Whether you think so or not, this does beg some tips about parenting in a large, chaotic play place.

(1) Ensure that you have enough adults: When you have 19 children at a range of ages (some very young) and only three adults, you are out sorely outnumbered. There needs to be enough adults to ensure the safety of the children—especially when they may all be heading in different directions.

(2) Have an exit strategy: When you are dealing with multiple children, make sure every child and every adults knows where to meet, who they are going with, and how to check in with the adults.

(3) Make sure everyone knows the rules: Before entering a large play place, talk to your children about the safety rules. Even though this place is devoted to having fun, safety must come first.  Young children must be attended to at all times—they must be able to see you and you must be able to see them.

(4) Do a headcount: When you first walk in, periodically throughout the play time, and upon leaving and getting into the car, do a head count.  Not sure if everyone is there?  Roll call!

(5) Pair up buddies: Another safety precaution is assigning buddies.  When each child has another person they must keep track of and who must keep track of them, it adds another layer of security.  When you call out “buddies!” everyone finds their buddy or, alternatively, can tell you that they don’t know where their buddy is at the time.  You can pair up friends—but

(6) Appoint adults: When hosting a big group, each adult should be appointed to certain children such that the same people who came in the car on the way there should be the ones who return in that same car on the way home (unless explicit conversations and logistics beg otherwise).  When children pour into cars without thought, assumptions about the whereabouts of certain children can be made.

(7) Teach basic safety: Just like we discussed in the attempted Walmart kidnapping recently, each child should know how to protect him or herself. Who should s/he go to if s/he is lost?  What if s/he is approached by a stranger?  What if someone tries to take them away from the play area or outside through coercion or force?

(8) Teach life-saving personal information: Every child should learn basic facts about him or herself at a very early age.  For example, my daughter just turned 3 and already knows her full name and her street address.  If she needs it, she has it.  You can easily start to teach this to a young child by saying your address each time you approach your home—break it down a little at a time.  It can become a game of 20 questions—what number house do we live at? What street do we live on? What color is our home? What town do we live in?  Then teach him or her when to share the information and who s/he can share it with—and who s/he shouldn’t!

(9) If you can’t handle it, don’t do it: Think it sounds overwhelming to take a group of children to a large play area without more help?  Listen to your gut and don’t do it.  Even taking care of 2 young children in a large play area can be challenging if they go in two different directions—so know your limit and be sure you have enough back up.

(10) Recheck: At the end of the day, before leaving any venue with your family and friends, check and recheck that you have everyone!  Make no assumptions.

When Good Morning American did their preliminary interview with me, they asked if only bad parents would leave their child somewhere such as Chuck E Cheese’s. I can’t make assumptions about the character of any of the parents who have done this—but I can say that parenting begs incredible organization, preparation and attention.  In this case, these areas failed.

As parents, we will all make some mistakes. I’ve had very smart friends who thought the other parent was home and left their children to run an errand for a short time. I’ve had friends who thought the other parent was picking up their child from school and didn’t. Strange things can happen.

The Chuck E. Cheese’s situation pushes this to the limit considering that the parents didn’t know the child was missing until the next morning.  To that I say, check beds, kiss heads and make sure you KNOW where every one of your young, school-age, or pre-college age children are when you turn out the light at night.

What do YOU think? Has anything like this ever happened to you?

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Ask Dr. Robyn: How Can I Help My Child Show More Courage?

silverman_headshotCourage is the Powerful Word of the Month! How do we encourage our children to try new things? Meet new people? Stand up for what they believe in?  Dr. Robyn Silverman, child and teen development specialist, answers one reader’s question about developing courage in her child. Several tips are provided– which ones resonate with you?

 

 

What will you try with your children this month? How have you helped your children to show more courage?  Please share here or on our Facebook page— We’d love to hear from you!

Ask Dr. Robyn: How Can I Help My Child Show More Courage? is a post from: Dr. Robyn Silverman – Child Development Specialist, Body Image Expert, Success Coach & the Creator of the Powerful Words Character Development System

Dr. Robyn introduces the Powerful Word of the Month: Courage!

Happy March! The powerful word of the month is courage! Let’s help our children (and ourselves) face fears and challenges with determination.

Courage Quotes:

“A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” –John Maxwell

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” –Mary Anne Radmacher

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” –Winston Churchill

“Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence.”–Thomas S. Szasz

“The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”–Charles Dubois

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.”–Soren Kierkegaard

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

“The rewards doesn’t necessarily go to the biggest, the brightest or the best.  It goes to the one who has the courage to keep trying until success is inevitably achieved.” — Dr. Robyn Silverman

“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” — John Maxwell

Wishing you a powerful month of trying new things, meeting new people, and courageously standing up for what you know is right and fair.

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Dr. Robyn introduces the Powerful Word of the Month: Courage! is a post from: Dr. Robyn Silverman – Child Development Specialist, Body Image Expert, Success Coach & the Creator of the Powerful Words Character Development System