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Latest Interview: Dax Shepard Opens Up about Child Sexual Abuse

gma_camera-450x338Two 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?

daxshepard-450x246Whenever 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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Dr. Robyn on GMA: Are Participation Trophies a Celebration of Mediocrity?

harrison_gma_trophies

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

gma_participationtrophies-300x225James Harrison, football star on the Pittsburgh Steelers, is one tough linebacker.  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 child experiences a loss in competition, it can help to strengthen that child’s character because that child can see that there is always next time– always another chance– always more hard work s/he can put in to learning and growing.

(2) Use a loss as a lesson: Allow your children to lose! Remember, no loss has to beat you down– not in competition and not in life! What can you learn from the loss? How can you get better? What can you do differently next time? This conversation might not happen right away– but once the frustration of the loss dies down a bit, a conversation can be a wonderful way to turn a loss into a win. (See me talk about this more on another segment regarding losing and grit that aired on GMA here)

(3) Share your grit to glory stories: Grit, going after a goal with passion without letting obstacles get in the way, is a vital part of character development.  Show your children how grit helped you get through! When did you lose? How did you react? Parents and teachers can share their stories and what they learned from winning and losing. You might be surprised by how inspirational you can be!

Children are all different– and you know them best! The answer to this question regarding participation trophies is NOT about age or development but rather about what your personal child needs to thrive and take a step towards independence. For some, participating in itself is a win. For others, the bar needs to be set higher.

In the end, all people need to learn how to cope when they don’t win and once they do, that’s a win they can take with them for the rest of their lives.

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


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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

Is Elephant Parenting or Tiger Parenting Right for You?

Should you be more like an Elephant or more like a Tiger when it comes to parenting?  I was on Good Morning America this morning to talk about parenting styles and what’s best for Moms, Dads and their children.

Is Elephant Parenting a good approach for parents to take versus the more strict disciplinarian “Tiger Mom”?

The elephant mom style is one grounded in the belief that children, above all, need to be nurtured and protected, especially while very young versus the ultra strict “do it now, get it done, get it right” approach of the tiger mom. Which approach is best to use? The truth is that every child is different and children need different approaches as they grow. There are moments that call for both approaches but most of our best parenting is more nuanced and falls somewhere in between.

Remember; there is no perfect way to parent and there is no “one” type of child. When I’m presenting to parents I tell them, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being present. Your child will need different approaches from you at different times.

Do you think people can get too focused on adhering to a particular style of parenting?

I feel that when people become so focused on one particular parenting approach—especially when it falls so far into the extreme, we can miss some opportunities to provide our children with exactly what they need and what we frankly believe is the right thing to give. A parenting philosophy can guide you but my belief is that most children need a soft place to land when things go wrong and most children need a nudge in the right direction when they’re not giving their all or with something new. We need to really tune in and listen to our children and tune in and listen to our gut—and where those converge is the sweet spot of parenting.

And you say parents shouldn’t worry too much about “screwing up” their kids, right?

Everyone is going to screw up. Again, it’s about being present, not perfect. But the best thing? If we mess up, parenting provides opportunities for do-overs. So don’t despair! If you don’t like how you handled a particular parenting situation, do something different the next time.

What approach do YOU think is best?  I’d love to hear from you here, on Facebook or on Twitter!

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Am I Like-able? Teens, Self Esteem and the Number of Likes They Get on Social Media

How much do YOU “unlike” like?

I was recently on Good Morning America talking to Robin Roberts about how social media has become a constant part of the teen world. Teens are learning that the number of likes they receive is equivalent to how likable, popular and worthy that they are. While it shouldn’t be about quantity, but rather quality, given that many of these likes come from people these kids barely even know, when it comes to social media, it’s a numbers game—the more likes you receive, the better these teens feel.


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Welcome to the 100 club— the exclusive club invented for those teens who’ve received 100 or more likes on a social media photo or post. Getting the most likes is the new extreme sport. The need for likes and getting an “in” to the 100 club makes a competitive sport out of social media- where the trophy is the privilege of saying you are in an exclusive club—which is not attainable for all.

Teens are at a time in life when they want to fit in and feel the approval of peers, getting likes is an immediate, albeit flawed way, of finding out “am I worthy, am I popular and am I likeable?” Getting likes fits our immediate push-button culture and the need for immediate feedback and gratification even if it’s from people that our kids don’t know well. Not getting the likes, the positive feedback, can feel like a slap in the face and a blow to the self esteem—not good enough. You see the number of likes, but so does everyone else. It’s easy for them to wonder; am I like-able enough?

Now what?

When presenting to teens and parents on this topic, here are two of the takeaways I provide:

First, break the like habit. Ask your teen, what are you hoping for when you post that photo? If the sole reason to post is to garner likes, you may have a slippery slope as it’s a self esteem trap. Make sure your teen is getting out and about, face to face with 3D people- through sports, drama club, martial arts, dance, cheer so they can get away from the likes, set meaningful goals and feel significant achievement.

Second, send a clear message to your teens that it’s who you are– not your number of likes that make you worthy. Social media can be a self esteem trap.  Teens may believe it all comes down to numbers when it’s really about quality of connections with your true supporters, how you feel about yourself and the gifts you contribute to the world.

A final word:

Don’t forget– the example we set is also vital to our children.  Many adults will go through their days, heads down and eyes buried into their phones, looking at how their posts fair on their social media pages.  It’s easy to get caught into the same trap at their children.  We must keep it all in perspective while acknowledging that everyone likes to get a pat on the back or a high five– even if it’s virtual.

Just for fun:

taylorswiftandme-1After my segment on Good Morning America, I ran into Taylor Swift in the elevator!  What a fun, happy treat.  I posted the selfie of us and you know what?  I received the most likes I ever got.  Ironic given the segment topic!

Here’s to you!

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Talking to Kids When Bad Things Happen: MH17 Plane Downed

When flight MH17 was downed between Amsterdam and Malaysia, Good Morning America asked me to come in and discuss it.  In particular, how do you talk to children and teens when bad things, like this plane crash, happen?

1. We live in social media world. There are going to be all kinds of graphic and upsetting images on Twitter and Facebook. What should you do about teens who may be exposed to disturbing visuals?

While it’s easy to turn off with younger kids, with teens, you can’t just turn off the TV and hope they don’t see anything.  There are images and access to news stories everywhere. So tell your teen, “you may be curious and you may seek out or receive images or information that make you feel concern or bring up questions in your mind.  I would like you to come to me about any questions you have and then we can go to the credible news stations and get the most accurate story.”  You may not be able to control the media but you may be able to control how your teens absorb the information. Helping teens to become more media literate will help them to better deal with our world today.

2. What about younger kids? What should you say to a child who may have heard something upsetting?

With younger children, think through 3 things.

  • First, your words. They should underscore safety and let them know the adults in charge are doing everything they can to find out what happened and take care of everyone. Make sure your words are concise, easy-to-understand, age-appropriate and of course, answer the question.
  • Second, pay attention to your voice.  Ensure that it’s calm (as your children will reflect your reaction).  While you can talk about your feelings and say that you feel sad about what happened, be careful not to match the intensity of the emotion you might feel.  You are talking to a child– not a friend.
  • Third, be there.  Children don’t often talk about important topics in one conversation.  So make sure that when one discussion closes, you leave the door open to future conversations.

(3) How do you know if your child may be having a problem dealing with what happened?

You know your child.  When behavior seems abnormal, you may have a problem.  Are they eating more or less, sleeping more or less, acting out, withdrawing or seem highly anxious.  All of these abnormalities may show you that your child is having trouble dealing with something.

It’s normal to feel anxious when something tragic like this happens.  However, if you feel that your child’s behavior needs additional attention, seek out help from your child’s pediatrician.

4. What do you say to reassure kids who are afraid to fly after this?

  • Make sure your child knows that a plane crash or a plane downed is extremely rare.  Air travel is one of the safest ways to travel!
  • Validate your child’s feelings.  Let him know it’s normal to feel anxious about flying after something like this occurs.  Then reiterate that you are there for him and you will get through this together.
  • If possible, speak to a pilot, look at planes and do research on how planes work.  Sometimes knowledge can be the best answer.

 

Verizon Viral Ad for Girls: What are We Telling Our Daughters about Math and Science?

It was a great Good Morning America segment this morning!  We focused on a new viral Verizon campaign and ad that questions whether it’s time to move from telling our girls that she’s simply “pretty” to telling them that they are “pretty brilliant” too. What are we telling our girls about their abilities in math and science?  Can we attract more girls into STEM?  We explored this topic.

Why are we seeing greater numbers of ads reaching out to young girls and women giving them the message they can be more?

First, let’s not forget that these companies want to sell products and in these ads they are appealing to big markets, women and girls. But aside from that, I think these companies are seeing that by moving away from looks and celebrating the strong minds of girls, they can inspire a larger pool of future game-changers.  These are the people who can invent something important and become the next generation of leaders in their companies. We are looking for leaders, not hood ornaments.

The ad quotes a statistic- 66% of 4th grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18% of all college engineering majors are female. So where does the disconnect happen? Is it the fault, as the ad suggests, of parents?

Parents get such a bad rap—but it’s not just parents, it’s society as a whole.  If a girl is interested in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math, many of the toys that support those interests are in the “boy” section, the protagonists of the majority of books & movies in this genre are boys—and while there are companies and wonderful grass roots efforts to change that, there is still a message we are working against that says STEM is not for girls and if you go in that direction you’re different, nerdy or boyish.

How does this play out with my own daughter?

My daughter is full of life and curiosity—and, as I tell her and my audiences when I present on this topic, you can’t fuel curiosity if you’re worried about getting your hands dirty. My daughter wanted to be a veterinarian now she wants to be a pediatrician.  She’s interested in science. So when she’s outside digging in the dirt, mud under her fingernails, a worm in her hand and not a care in the world, I say “go get ‘em girl.” That’s curiosity and learning at work.

What can parents do to help daughters reach their potential?

(1) Develop your child’s gifts.  Interests do not come with gender label on them.

(2) Compliment her on more than just her looks because she is so much more creative and nuanced than that.

(3) Develop her character.  Show her and tell her that powerful words like persistence, focus, goal-setting and commitment are vehicles to realizing her dreams if she simply chooses to employ them.

(4) Expose her to people and companies (large and grass roots) that believe that girls can be and do anything!

What are your thoughts about this topic?

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Mom Leaves Child in Car for Five Minutes and is Charged with Misdemeanor


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Kim Brooks left her child in the car for 5 minutes to run into a store and get her child a pair of ear phones.  Her four year old son stayed in the locked car, the windows cracked on a mild day because he didn’t want to go in with her.  It seemed harmless enough but someone was watching– and taping– the incident.  The video footage was turned into the police and Kim’s world was turned upside down for a while.  She was charged with a misdemeanor.

We see this happen all the time — parents leaving children in cars. Thank God it wasn’t a bad outcome for the child. What’s your take on this?

First of all, I feel for this woman. As parents, we juggle so much and we all have lapses in judgment but they are not all caught on tape. So we can debate whether we are too overprotective and how we were all left in the car when we were little and came out just fine but the truth is, we are under surveillance by everyone with a camera on their phone- welcome big brother, 1984. Since we have laws in many states that say it’s not ok to leave a child under 6 in a car alone, that means no matter what your personal view, even if you know in your heart it will be just fine, we have to follow it. It may just be caught on tape.

We also have to realize that while it may seem silly to have to take your child into a store for a 2 minute errand even if the car is only 10 yards away, we need a definitive line.  As Dan Abrams says in the piece, and I agree, how can we be arbitrary?  We can’t say it’s OK to go into a store for 5 minutes but not twelve or to be 10 yards away from the car but not 17.

I think this strikes a cord because so many of us have been in this situation– some may have even left their children in a car when they’ve run in to get their dry cleaning.  This could have happened to a lot of people– this woman is not unusual.

What do you suggest the mother should have done?

I’m a busy mom of a 4 and a 5 year old and believe me, it’s not always fun to bring them into stores. So there is no judgment from me. But here’s the thing: (1) we have to be able to tell our children, “I know you don’t like this, but it’s not a choice. You have to come with me.” And (2) as I’ve done before with a sick child, I left the doctor’s office and went to my local Pink’s pharmacy and had a sick, sleeping child in my back seat- I called them up from right in front of their door and said; can I give you my credit card over the phone and is it possible for you to meet me by my car, my child is sick.

As much as we live in these crazy times, we also live in times when people will help us out. I encourage parents to seek out their help.

*Remember; this is not a bad parent, this was just a lapse in judgment.  And really?  We’ve all had those.  Let’s wish her the best.

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Louis C.K.’s “Fat Girl” Scene Strikes a Cord with Women Everywhere

Last week, I was on Good Morning America to talk about Louis C.K.’s now famous “Fat Girl” scene in which actress Sarah Baker, gives a unique and honest perspective about being “a fat-girl in her 30s living in New York City.” And while some still complained that the scene was far from perfect, others found it “absolutely magnificent.”  Vanessa, the character played by Baker, simply put her opinions out there, without sadness or apology, and said what was on her mind.

Why did it strike such a nerve?

In short; when we are used to seeing fantasy, photoshop and fabrication of the truth, a little raw honesty goes a long, long way.  The character of Vanessa is vivacious, smart, interesting and beautiful and she tells Louis without any self pity, be honest with me, be honest with yourself and realize by saying “you’re not fat,” you discount me, you refuse to see me and you join the legions of others who stereotype because of my weight.  Being “fat” doesn’t take away a person’s gifts and strengths.  Being plus-size and amazing are not mutually exclusive.  Can’t she just be who she is and still be loved and celebrated?

What does this segment tell men?

This 7 minute segment tells men to (1) break the bond between the term fat and the ugly stereotypes that are unfairly associated with it, (2) hang up your hang ups and be with the person who you like and who brings out the best in you and (3) realize that the problem of stereotyping women is not just a woman problem, it’s everyone’s problem—don’t be another of society’s lemmings, be part of the solution.

What’s one thing we can take from this scene?

People aren’t seeing themselves reflected in the media and this is warping our concept of what is normal. I think society needs to see and hear from someone who so obviously breaks the stereotype, that everyone is worthy of being loved, everyone of us brings something important to the table and “fat” and “thin” are simply descriptors of body types not of worth or character.

Brief aside: I really enjoyed doing this segment on Good Morning America.  And an extra perk?  I met the enormously talented Jim Parsons that day who was also there.  Bonus!  Or should I say, Bazinga!

Now back to Louis C.K.  What did you think of the segment?

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Lorde of the Tweets: Lorde tells fans it’s ok to have flaws

On Good Morning America this morning, we talked about Grammy-winner, Lorde and her most recent viral tweet that showed two photos.  One photo showed Lorde with flawless skin, photoshopped to perfection.  The other photo showed Lorde completely natural, skin imperfections and all.

 

Why is this significant? Lorde is a superstar with millions of fans.  And in a society that often makes you feel like you’re not good enough as you are and that celebrities just walk around like the picture of perfection, Lorde’s voice is refreshing. She all at once tells us that we all have flaws, she’s not perfect and that we are all OK just as we are.

Is her message for girls or can it apply to boys as well? We know the pressure that girls are under to look a certain way. Lorde is a great role model for girls because she embraces her flaws. But I think this is something everyone needs to hear in a society that often makes you feel that you need to be photoshopped before you walk out in public.

What can moms do for girls who might be self conscious? I was presenting on the power of media messaging just last night and here are some Read more