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Mom & Dad; Are we safe? Talking to your children about scary things presented in the news

martin_bostonmarathonAs we now all know, yesterday’s tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon resulted in at least 176 people injured.  Nine of them are children—at least 8 of whom are being treated in hospitals.  One child, 8-year-old Martin Richard, was killed during the Boston Marathon explosion while enjoying ice cream with his family. His 6 year old sister lost her leg and their mother underwent brain surgery due to her critical injuries.

There are many other stories of families affected and many of us have been touched either directly or indirectly by this senseless act.  One of my good friends just reported that her son’s friend may lose his hearing because pellets were sprayed from the bomb and got lodged in his head. He was there to cheer his dad on who was running the marathon. The juxtaposition of happy joyous cheering, eating ice cream and enjoying a special outing with the family with the horror of a senseless bombing is hard to fathom.  It’s even harder to explain.

As we talked about during the Newtown Connecticut shootings and other stories of senseless child murder, these are unimaginable acts that are likely to bring about questions.  Some are easy to answer.  Others feel nearly impossible.  Still, we can’t put our heads in the sand, as we want our children to hear the truth in an age-appropriate way from someone who knows them best—and that likely means you. Remember, if you aren’t talking about it and they want to hear an answer, they will go to another source.  It is our job to be the source.

So how do you talk to your children about ugly, scary things that are talked about in the media?  What can we do?

(1) Media exposure should be limited:  Information is best coming from a trusted source who is sensitive to the way your child can best receive it—at a time when is best for your child. You can limit details based on age and maturity—and seeing gruesome photos and frightening video is inappropriate for most children. Information on the news is aimed at adults—not at children.

(2) Let them know that responsible adults are working to keep us safe and healthy: When situations seem unsure, children need to know that the grown-ups are helping those in need.  Authorities are working to keep people safe. Medical staff, like doctors and nurses, are helping those who have been hurt.  And be sure to let them know that this incident is rare and in no way means that it will happen again in the same or a different location.

(3) Stay calm and keep your emotions on an even keel: It is normal and natural to feel frustrated, sad and angry when senseless acts occur.  As a parent, teacher or child mentor, being “there” for young people sometimes means keeping our emotions in check so that we don’t overwhelm or alarm our children.  While you certainly don’t need to be stoic or aloof—and you can talk about feeling sad when things like this happen—the full gravity of your feelings should be reserved for other trusted adults in your life.

(4) Expect questions to come over time: Children aren’t always ready to talk when you are.  That means that it’s normal for children to have questions about sensitive topics over time.  It may go on for weeks—a question here and a question there—never lasting more than a minute or two.  Other times you may have a few longer conversations. Children process tough topics in different ways.  It’s OK if you don’t know the answer—sometimes it’s more important to simply listen.  Other times, you may need to tell them you can find out the answer for them at a later time.  You are a source of comfort and information—but you don’t need to be Wikipedia.

(5) Remain open to talking about fears and concerns:  Don’t be surprised if fears and concerns seem illogical, disconnected and come at unusual times.  You might be driving your child to an after-school program on a beautiful sunny day when your child pops a question about something horrific that happened days or even weeks before.  Your child may develop a temporary fear of the dark, loud noises, people in uniform or otherwise while trying to regain their footing.  Ask them; “is there something I can do to help you feel safer or more secure?” or “Would you like advice or would you prefer that I just listen?” Be patient and open to talking, reassuring and even just “there” during these tough times.

(6) Know that unusual behavior or feelings may arise: Sometimes frightening and unexpected news can make children act in different ways.  Some may become clingy or hyper while others may become withdrawn and quiet. Some may sleep more while others may sleep less. Still others may eat more while others may report that they aren’t hungry. Ask them if it would be helpful for them to talk out their feelings. Assure your child that their feelings are OK and give them space to feel anyway that they do—validating their emotions as normal and natural.

(7) Don’t stop living: Sometimes you may want to just construct a bubble for your family to live in just to keep potential dangers out.  I get that.  I’m a parent too.  But living in fear is no way to live.  Instead, enjoy everyday.  Love deeper.  Hug longer.  Tell your children how grateful you are for their safety, their health and their presence in your life.  Teach your children to do the same.

And don’t forget to tell your children about the good in the world.  There aregood people. Very good people.  As Mr. Rogers’ said; “look for the helpers.” People who look out for others.  People who put themselves out in order to take others in.

Instead of blocking out the world, let us teach our children to become the kind of people that make this world a better place.  Children thrive when they feel that they can contribute to their family, their community, their country and beyond.  Encourage them to do that.  By doing so, you will teach them that there is a lot more good in this world than there is evil.  And, yes, they are a big part of that good.

In other words, they don’t just need to look for the helpers, they can become them.

 

 

 

Ask Dr. Robyn: Teaching Children to Keep a Positive Attitude In New Situations

Dear Dr. Robyn,

My daughter will be going to a new school next school year. She didn’t have a positive experience this year since her friends got into a fight, asked her to choose sides, and she refused to do so.  They wound up both turning on her.  She now wonders if it’s her and thinks that the new school will just be more of the same. What should I do?  — Rachel:  Tallahassee, FL

blonde_smile2-259x300In the above video, I talk in depth about 6 tips to helping children keep a positive attitude including:

(1) Realizing the prior situation was specific

(2) Watching the language you use

(3) Governing your thoughts, feelings and actions

(4) Presenting the evidence to the contrary

(5) Visualizing positive results

(6) Helping her to connect with others

Let me know YOUR thoughts– how have you helped your children to adopt a positive attitude in new situations?  Leave your thoughts here or come join us on Facebook!

 

 

 

Boy Toys, Girl Toys and What Kids Learn When We Allow Them To Choose

vet_hospitalsmAs a parent, I often wonder about how the toys and role models in my children’s lives translate to behavior.  I tend to be the kind of mother who encourages a wide range of toys, games and books.  I am less about banning (unless it is truly counter to our family’s core character-based values) and more about providing a continuum of options so that my children gain experience, choice and understanding.

That means that we have everything from princess dress up and dolls to blocks, science kits, dump trucks and dinosaurs.  And both of my children play with whatever they choose to that day.  Yes, my son has put on a tutu while bouncing and laughing in our basement bounce house and my daughter has crashed Batman and Wonder Woman action figures into a tower of blocks, saving the “little people” trapped inside from disaster.  I’ve played race cars with my son while crawling around on the kitchen floor and my husband has played dolls with my daughter while cuddling in the den. To me, it’s all good.

But I sometimes see that a range is not provided or accepted in households around America and elsewhere.  Boys play with “boy things” and girls play with “girl things” exclusively.  What do our children miss out on when toys, books and games are selected for them rather than allowing them to gravitate naturally to what interests and intrigues them?  What do they gain when they are the masters of the toys, games and books they see?

While it may not be obvious, my feeling is, quite a bit.  When our children are masters of their own toy rooms, they learn what they love.  They gain a more complex understanding about history, empathy, technology, language, engineering, art and science.  They learn that their personal passions are valid and imagination or play of many kinds are fun.

I asked my 2 ½ year old son what he liked about wearing a tutu in the bounce house a few weeks back and he told me; “It’s funnyyyy! And I yike how it goes up and down when I jump!” Yes, yes, that makes sense.  He likes the science of it—a piece of clothing that catches air when you jump is cool! Isn’t that…awesome?!  And here some might be stressing out about what wearing a tutu in a bounce house can do to a boy’s “future masculinity” but truthfully, he couldn’t care less.  He’s having a blast! Can’t we just let children play?

Skip to the cars as I asked the same question; “What do you like about racing cars in the kitchen?” My son answered; “they go weally, weally fast and woooooh they cwash!” Yup. Physics. Mechanics. Cause and effect.  Good for every gender!

spidermansm-200x300My daughter has been known to “acquire” my son’s Batman figure as well as his Spiderman book.  She asked for a Superhero book of her own for her most recent birthday that features Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman all together.  She’s even going as Wonder Woman to a Superhero/Princess birthday party this weekend.  When I asked Tallie what she likes about Wonder Woman, she told me; “She’s cool! She fights cwime!” Justice. Power. Self reliance.  Good for every gender!

And the lessons generalize to other areas of life. I saw something pretty remarkable the other day at the playground.  As Tallie was climbing up a steep slide, she struggled to reach the top.  Her brother, already at the top put out his hand and exclaimed; “Tawwie! I’wl save you!”  I saw her stop for a moment and look at her brother. Then she just kept climbing as she called back; “I don’t need saving! I can do it myself!”  These words are rooted in countless conversations we’ve had while playing both princesses and Superheroes.  Don’t wait to be saved; save yourself.

superheroessmThis morning, Wonder Woman single-handedly stopped an oncoming train from crashing into the building of blocks that we all built together– and Batman rescued the people off the train. Unfortunately, there was a casualty.  The Wonder Woman action figure was decapitated.  Who makes a Superhero with such a flimsy neck? She’s an Amazon Princess Warrior for cripes sake– not a runway model! Ah, well, off to the store to invest in a Wonder Woman toy that can hold her ground…and keep up with my kids!

 

 

 

Picture Day, Hot Pink Socks and Raising an Assertive Daughter: When Values Can’t Be Conditional

pinksocks-243x300“I want to wear the pink socks.”

“Honey, you have a blue and white dress on.  Please just wear the white socks.”

“But I want to wear the pink socks!”

“Tallie, I’m exhausted.  Please stop arguing with me.”

“I want to wear the pink socks!”

“Fine! Wear the pink socks!”

My 4 year old daughter puts on the hot pink socks. I angrily stomp upstairs and ask myself why she doesn’t want to listen to me and just put on the socks. They’re just socks! So I go back downstairs to plead my case.

“Ugh, Tallie.  It’s Picture Day.  You can wear the pink socks any other day.  Can you please just wear the white socks?”

Tallie puts on the white socks.  I win.  Or do I?

I want my daughter to be assertive.  I want her to stand up for what she believes in, follow her own lead and make choices that are meaningful to her no matter what anyone else thinks.  I really do. We talk about being assertive.  I ask her to be assertive in restaurants when ordering.  With friends on play-dates.  With her brother when choosing a movie to watch.  Being assertive is important.  But can she be assertive on any other day but picture day?

As it turns out, values can’t be conditional.  They can’t depend on schedule, holiday, company or place. As parents we may know that intellectually but in practice, the notion can seem like quite a nuisance.   Well, in the short run anyway.

So I thought about it.  And after Tallie left for school I confessed my blunder out loud.  Raising healthy, strong daughters is an everyday thing, not a sometime thing.  It’s not about convenience, it’s about commitment.

So I plopped the hair on top of my head in a clip, put on a warm up suit, brushed my teeth and walked out the door with hot pink socks in hand.  I drove to the school and went inside.  Then I asked if I could see my daughter for a moment.

When Tallie came out, she looked a little confused.  Why was I there?  I knelt down infront of her and took her hands.  Speaking softly and looking her in the eyes, this is what I said;

“Tallie; this morning Mommy made a mistake.  You really wanted to wear the pink socks and I told you I wanted you to wear the white socks.  I got very upset and yelled.  That was not OK. Mommy was wrong.  You know that I want you to be able to speak up and tell me and everyone else what you want.  That was what you were trying to do this morning and I wasn’t letting you.  That was wrong. So if you want to wear the pink socks, here they are.  Do you want to wear the pink socks?”

Tallie shakes her head yes.  I smile.

“Can I put on the pink socks now?”

“Yes you can.”

I help her put her pink socks on. Tallie smiles.

“It’s OK, Tallie?”

Tallie nods.

“So My Love, when someone comes to you and tells you that they are sorry and that they made a mistake, that’s when you can say, when and if you are ready; ‘It’s Ok, everyone makes mistakes.’”

“It’s OK, Mama. Evweeone makes micktakes sometimes.”

Tallie kisses and hugs me.

“Thank you, Tallie.”

“I’ll miss you Mama.  See you yater.”

As Tallie turned around and walked back to her classroom in her blue dress and her pink socks I couldn’t help but smile.  I don’t know if she’ll remember this exchange but I know I will.

You see, they were just socks.  Hot pink socks. But that’s my daughter.  We don’t always get the big moments in life to announce our values and transfer them to our children.  We get the tiny moments.  The moments that come and go so fast you can miss them if you aren’t aware of them. It’s these little moments that build one on top of each other until they create a value that sticks with your child wherever they go in life, whether you are with them or not.

Today it’s socks.  Tomorrow it’ll be something else.  Friends.  Drugs.  Sex.  What she wants to do with her life.

My husband and I are creating an assertive girl.  Assertiveness can not be contingent on convenience.  It just doesn’t work that way. And believe me, sometimes raising an assertive girl can be a pain in the butt—but I think it’s worth it.  Don’t you?

 

 

 

The Infertility Club: Shifting My Goal from Pregnancy to Adoption

In honor of my daughter’s 4th birthday, I’m republishing my adoption series.

robyn_tallie-292x300As you can probably imagine, I felt like the shoemaker’s daughter. I didn’t just work with children and families, I provided parenting tips and tactics to moms and dads around the world…all the while housing a secret that taunted and tortured me every day. I couldn’t get pregnant. Well, that’s not exactly true. I was pretty good at getting pregnant. I just couldn’t seem to stay that way.

After repeatedly bashing myself and feeling every emotion from maudlin inadequacy to stark raving anger, I decided to donate my body to science. Yes, I became a card carrying member of the ever-popular but rarely discussed “infertility club” which allows millions of women to play the role of “the willing pin cushion” in the quest to become a parent. Not that I wasn’t grateful for the possibility—it’s just challenging to keep up your enthusiasm when your hormones are fluctuating between those of a moody adolescent to those of an over-heated menopausal woman. And this was normal. Or so they said.

When you join the “infertility club” you start out thinking that there are certain thingsyou’ll have to do and certain things you’ll never do in order to get pregnant. Well, at least I did. I found myself making concessions and deals–“I’ll take the pills but I won’t do the injections” – “I’ll do the injections but I won’t do IVF.” But years get long and time gets short and well, desperation sets in. “I’ll never do injections” turns into “just make it quick” as you hand your husband a 2-inch needle, turn around and close your eyes. You’ll do anything. You don’t know if it’ll work but you’re willing to try. You have to have a baby. NOW.

Each time you think “could this be it?” And sometimes it works. And it’s a miracle. It’s exactly as it was intended to be. But other times, as in our case, it wasn’t that simple. The drugs did their job but my body played hooky. Each of my four pregnancies ended in miscarriage.

As a woman, this was unacceptable. I had the will. I had the heart. I had the parts! After years of trying not to get pregnant, this was supposed to be MY time. I was ready…and waiting.

Of course they told me that it wasn’t my fault— but you can’t help blaming yourself. I went over every place I had been, every food I ate, and everything I did over the previous weeks. Was it the sushi I ate before I knew? The 5 pound bag of potatoes I lifted at the market? The plane ride I took to my cousin’s wedding? Your head tells you “no” but your heart demands an explanation.

And with the blame game came the ridiculous claims and promises—”Next time, I’ll keep my feet up in the air. I’ll stay on my back. I’ll barely move until it’s time to push.”

I felt so alone. Pregnant women were everywhere. And babies. In the park. In the library. At the market. What angered me the most was seeing parents yell at their children—or worse yet, ignore them. I wanted to throttle them and say, “Don’t you see what you have here! You should be grateful every single day!” But I kept my mouth shut and merely grumbled under my breath. I promised myself that when I did have a child, I would cherish every moment. I would make myself remember that there are women out there willing to trade places–even on the most challenging days—just to have a turn to be called “mommy.”

I often found myself in tears but nevertheless, I carried on. I tried new things. I learned more about my body than I ever wanted to know. Temperature. Timing. Patterns.

Roadblocks came up frequently. In our case, after the doctors put me out and retrieved a total of 38 eggs during two different IVF procedures, they explained to me that something was wrong with my eggs. My husband and I tried to keep things light. We had countless jokes. Eggs Behaving Badly! Eggs Gone Wild! How would you like your eggs? Scrambled!

So we turned to the women whose eggs were pristine and in demand. Egg donors. Never heard of it? It’s very hush hush. Most people don’t talk about it. I actually felt a little naughty while interviewing them since the whole thing felt so “underground.”

Truthfully, it was kind of like online dating. What do you look like? What are your hobbies? Could I implant some of your DNA in my body so I can have a baby?

I thought, could this be our solution? Could this be the ticket to Babyville? But we kept getting tripped up. This one had already donated up to her limit. That one couldn’t get off work. This other one didn’t respond to the drugs. But we had to try again. We had to get in sync. We had to take more drugs. We needed another week, another month, another round.

Every couple has their breaking point- -when they say, “enough is enough” and they put down their needles. They throw away their pills and they take a much needed, life-altering, deep breath.

Our breath of fresh air came on April 12, 2008. It was the day our final donor told us she wasn’t going to be able to make it. It was the day we decided to stop researching new ways to get pregnant and start looking for ways to have a family. It was the day we decided to adopt.

I didn’t know exactly how it was all going to play out but I did know one thing that day. We were going to have a family. Finally, I knew for sure. And it was one of the best days of my life.

Dr. Robyn Silverman is a child and teen development specialist, professional speakerand parenting expert often seen in national press such as on The Today Show, Anderson Live, Good Morning America and various print media.  She won a Silver Award for this Adoption Series from Parenting Publications of America. Dr. Robyn is proud to have built her family through the amazing process of Open Adoption. The first of this adoption series is posted here.

Should I lie? 10 Gut-Checking Questions Parents Must Teach Their Children

lying2-276x300The first time your child lies to you can be a shock to any parent.  And while lying is part of growing up, we don’t want to encourage the behavior.  Our children need to learn right from wrong, reality from fantasy and truth from untruth.

The Powerful Word of the Month this month is Self Control– and part of self control is taking a moment to think to oneself; Is this safe? Is this fair? Will it work?  When it comes to lying, taking the time to think through both good and bad solutions can make the difference between right and wrong.

As parents, we always want our children to choose the safest, most fair and best decisions. When we are with them, we can ensure that it usually happens that way. When we aren’t, we leave it in their hands. This is why so many parents can’t sleep at nights even though we’re all so tired, right?

We must arm our children with some Powerful Questions that can help them to choose right over wrong.

(1) Is it safe? Or, perhaps for some we can teach, “If I lie, is someone likely to get hurt?” Some children will lie to protect someone– whether it’s a sibling or themselves. Sometimes when they are “sworn to secrecy” it’s not a big deal– someone is planning a special birthday party or a big surprise and they need to pretend they know nothing about it.  But other times lying about something can be unsafe. Think of the child who was told “not to tell” that a friend was planning to run away, an older sibling was throwing up after each meal or a younger sibling was climbing over a fence near a lake.  That’s when this question becomes crucial.

(2) Is it fair? This question certainly requires perspective-taking.  Clearly they are going to be more inclined to say something if it’s not fair to them.  But what about others?  Think of the child who knows that a friend is cheating off another student’s paper in class and both children involved get in trouble.  What’s fair?  Think of the child who knows that her sports team is doing something underhanded in order to get into the finals.  Is this fair?  The perspective-taking question that pairs well with this one is; if the tables were turned, would it seem fair to you?

(3) What is my gut telling me to do? When we teach our children to listen to their gut, we are providing them with a very important skill. Our bodies often tell us what our minds our try to disguise. If your child chooses right or wrong, ask them, what made you make that choice? What was your gut telling you to do? What will you do next time?

(4) Will I be able to look my parents/friend/teacher in the eye after I do it? We often know when our children are lying because they can not look us in the eye. Helping your children to understand that answering “no” to this question is a sign that they may be on the verge of making a poor choice.

(5) Could I look at myself in the mirror after I do it? This is really the crux of it, isn’t it? In fact, this is the way my own mother explained the meaning of integrity to me. If our children feel that they could not look at their own selves in the mirror after making this choice (and be proud of what they did), they should take it as a warning. Their conscience is telling them that the impending choice could bring them a feeling of regret or shame.

(6) Would I do this behavior whether someone was watching me or not? I often explain to children that the definition of good character is choosing to do the right thing whether all eyes are on you or all eyes are looking away. If your child can not answer “yes” to both scenarios, then she should probably not be doing it.

(7) Does the end justify the means? This can be a tough concept for children. After all, if they want an A on their book report and get an A on their book report that should be a good thing, right? Yes, accept when that A is achieved through dishonest means such as cheating. Sometimes, children have trouble remembering that parents actually care more about effort and character than about their children being the very best regardless of the cost or means. We must be patient and clear up this confusion so that children will choose “right” over “best” when faced with a question of integrity.

(8) Am I doing this because it is right or because it is popular? We have all heard of peer pressure. This phenomenon can happen on a variety of levels. Think of the child who argues that his friend, who clearly lost the race, crossed the finish line first. In this case, the child succumbs to the rules of friendship over the rules of fairness and integrity. We also see it when the child pretends not to like someone because his friends don’t think the person is cool. Either way, he is letting the popular thing get in the way of doing the right thing. We must teach our children not to allow popularity to cloud their judgment because in the end, the truth usually comes out.

(9) Am I being who I am or am I being who others want me to be? This question coincides with number 6. We want our children to be themselves. When they alter their thoughts, actions, appearance, or choices because others want it that way, they are doing a major disservice to themselves and others. On the one hand, they are not allowing others to get to know the real individual behind the farce. On the other hand, they are building their friendships on a lie. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, wrote, “If you live your life trying to please others, half the people will like you and half won’t. And if you live your life according to your own truth, half the people will like you and half won’t.” The underlying question it brings up is; “which half do you want as friends?”

(10) If I get caught lying, will I get in trouble? So, the lie unravels.  Everyone knows the truth.  Are their any negative consequences?  Obviously for the child who kept the “surprise party” a secret or even told her mother; “I’m going with Dad to lunch” when she really was going to set up for that party, there is no getting into trouble.  But what about the child who lies about a grade she got on a today’s quiz? Tells you she already studied for tomorrow’s test when she didn’t?  Says “I don’t know” when you ask where her big brother is when she knows he’s doing something you’ve told him not to do?  Your child likely knows that consequences would be imminent.

As we know, mistakes will happen. If we use those mistakes to help our children make better choices next time, we will be strengthening their integrity.

In the end, we are cultivating future leaders. And I imagine, as Powerful Parents, you would agree, that we want our future leaders to base their decisions on well-instilled values and principles rather than what is fast, popular, and self-serving.  These questions are part of critical thinking skills that they can apply today and for the rest of their lives.

 

 

 

Walking Your Talk: Showing Your Values Even When Your Kids Aren’t Looking

egg_hands-300x199

“Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold — but so does a hard-boiled egg.” ~Author Unknown

As parents and teachers we often zone out when we get a moment alone.  It’s normal– I do it too.  I am far from perfect, lose my temper sometimes, say the wrong thing, and sometimes hover outside of myself with folded arms and ask myself, “is that REALLY the best you can do?”  That ever happen to you?  I’m working on it– just like everyone else.

The other day I was sitting in a café working during lunch time.  A few tables away, a black woman in her 40s, sat with 7 elderly men and woman which she was clearly taking on a much anticipated outing.  She was taking care of them.  She wiped their mouths, wheeled them in their wheelchairs, asked them questions about their lives and facilitated conversation between the group.

It struck me.  We often talk about those in care-taking positions (that may not appeal to a wide audience) as being underpaid and under-appreciated.  That always bothered me.  Teachers, nurses, aides—they work very hard and do such an important job.  I know we’ve all said this before– but it’s still true as true can be.

I watched her now and again show such patience, concern and, perhaps most importantly, curiosity to these people in her care.  And I was moved to do something.  Does that sound ridiculous?  That’s OK with me.

Someone once urged me, “imagine your child by your side, holding your hand andlooking up at you even when s/he is not with you.  What lessons would you want to teach through your actions?”  That visualization really stuck with me and I call upon it often.  It’s a good one, don’t you think?

I stood up and went to the cashier at the café and asked her if I could buy a gift card.  The caretaker’s name was on a “reserved” marker on the table—“Michelene”– so I simply copied it down and signed it “From an admirer.  You are doing great work and we appreciate it!”

When she was getting everyone ready to meet their van outside, I walked over to her and said; “This is for you.  Thank you.”  I don’t think she had a clue what it was or why I was giving it to her—I had sealed it so she wasn’t put in any awkward position as she received it.  Then I sat down and resumed working.

While a $20 gift card is not much—certainly not life-changing—I figured that if my daughter or son were standing their with me, they would have learned something about my values.  When we appreciate someone, we show it.  When someone deserves some praise, we give it.  When people give of themselves, we acknowledge that we’ve noticed.   As parents and teachers, we need to live our values whether the children in our lives are watching us or not. In my opinion, and I would imagine you’d agree, that’s living an authentic life.

No fanfare needed, no thank you was necessary– she was being the everyday hero, not me.  We make these gestures not because we feel sorry for someone or want someone to tell us how “good” we are, but rather, because that person deserves it and the gesture is part of who we are and who we hope our children become.

Have you ever done something like that on a whim? I imagine you have.  It’s not about money– it can be giving time, energy, attention, praise, love, donations or thanks in any form. We’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

Heavy choices: Would you put your 7 year old on a diet?

dara-lynnweiss-300x168This morning I was on the set up for a segmenton Dara-Lynn Weiss- the mother who was made famous for publicly putting her daughter, age 7, on a diet. Her daughter’s doctor had told Dara-Lynn that her daughter was obese and was immediately put on a strict diet of limited foods and counting calories.

What would you do in the same situation? It’s a difficult choice. Clearly the doctor was concerned about the child’s health and we are all too familiar with the psychological repercussions of children, dieting and weight stereotyping.

Every parent wants their children to grow up healthy and happy. So it’s not surprising that when a parent hears their children’s weight is compromising their health, that they jump into action . But parents need to tread lightly here. Whatever you say to your children about weight and diet will provide the template for how those children will regard weight and diet for the rest of their lives. Will they see food as a delicious way to gain energy and health or will they view food as the enemy?

There are so many messages that tell children that they are not good enough the way that they are— we don’t want to convey a value judgment when it comes to food and weight, but rather, teach our children that when we eat in healthy ways, we gain the energy we need to live our best life. I believe we can change a child’s relationship with food without putting a child on a “diet” – do you?

Take a look at the segment. What do YOU think? If you were this mother, would you choose the same path or would you do something different?

 

 

 

Parents; How to Talk to Children about the Connecticut School Shooting

press_schoolshooting-300x182We have all heard the horrific news by now. At 9:40 this morning, a masked gunman named Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook elementary school and fired a gun around 100 times. He killed 26 people, 6 adults and 20 children under the age of 8 before killing himself.

Since then it’s been hard to concentrate on anything else but this story.  As a parent of young children, it’s the unimaginable. You send your children off to school hoping that they will be happy but knowing that they will be safe.  Typical worries of a friend not being so friendly or a teacher giving a bad grade may cross our minds.  But not this.

There is no making sense of this tragedy but we do need to be ready for questions.  What do we do for and say to our children about this senseless shooting?

(1) Limit media exposure:  Conversation and information about this tragedy should come from you, not the TV.  You know your children best and can limit details as necessary.  Information on the news is for you and is not age-appropriate for a child.

(2) Underscore safety:  Ensure your children that the authorities and people in charge at their schools are doing everything possible to keep everyone safe.  Help them to understand that a school shooting in one location does not mean that there will be another one in a different location.  These incidents are thankfully very rare and your children and their friends are not at risk because this has happened. In this case, as the gunman is also dead, there is a finality to this devastating rampage.

(3) Remain calm and levelheaded: While it is natural to be upset and infuriated about the shooting, it’s important that we don’t overwhelm children with our emotions.  They need to know that we are strong and reliable if they have questions—and that we are there for them if they need to talk.  If YOU need to talk about it, call a friend or speak to a loved one.

(4) Expect some unusual behavior or feelings: Sometimes news of this sort can make the children act in different ways.  Some will become withdrawn and quiet while others may become hyper or clingy.  Ask them how they are feeling and if they would like to talk. Assure your child that they are OK and give them space to feel anyway that they do—validating their feelings as normal and natural.  Help them to expend nervous energy in productive ways without pushing them.

(5) Discuss fears: Whether you sit with them and have a conversation or use art, role playing or dolls, allow children to express their fears.  What will help them feel safer and more secure?  Fears are nothing to be embarrassed about– today or any day. Sometimes just listening and being their can assuage their fears.

(6) Do not dismiss or avoid: It’s a tough topic.  But if your children are asking about it, talk to them in an age-appropriate way.  You don’t need to go into details and if you don’t know an answer, just say you don’t know! Assure them each time that they are OK and the people in charge are working hard to keep everyone safe.  Remember, if you aren’t talking about it and they want to hear an answer, they will go to another source.  YOU need to be the source.

(7) Hug them tight:  Nothing says safety and security like being tucked into your parents’ arms.  Tell them that you love them and that you and everyone who loves and cares for them are doing everything you can to ensure their safety.

The hug, of course, is also for you.  At times, having children can feel like a really big, tough and even frustrating job.  Everyone has their moments.  But today, take time to hold your children and tell them how grateful you are to have them.  That your life is enriched by them.  That they fill your heart with the most delicious happiness and you thank goodness everyday that they are yours.

Do it.  Again and again. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

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.