Oklahoma hurricane

Parents; How to Talk to Your Children about The Oklahoma Tornado

“Hi Robyn; We’re fine. It missed us by 2 street blocks.  We’re fine, our houses are fine. So sorry we weren’t able to call or text during the storm.  We love you guys.”

In the recent past, I’ve written articles about how to talk to children about horrifying events such as the SandyHook, Connecticut shooting and The Boston Marathon bombing.  In both articles, while incredibly concerned, I was not touched personally by the tragedies.  I had lived in Boston for many years (I received my PhD from Tufts University near Boston) and made many friends there—but nobody I knew had attended the marathon and all were perfectly safe during the tragedy.

Yesterday, a massive tornado hit Moore, OK.  I couldn’t believe it when I saw the name in the news.  Moore?  I have a deep personal tie to Moore.  Both my children were born there.  Both of their adoptions took place in Moore.  And most significantly, the birth family of both my children still live in Moore.  Their birth mother, their birth father and their birth grandmother.

Many of you who are constant, devoted readers of my parenting site know that we have an open adoption plan with my children’s birth family.  This is not just on paper.  We are extremely close with the birth family—so much so that none of us regard each other as “birth family” and “adoptive family” (I only use those names here to avoid confusion)—we just call each other family.

I am so happy to report that our family members in Moore are all safe.  The message on the top of this article was left by our children’s birth grandmother.  We have been in contact over the last 2 days and while our whole family had quite a scare, they got out of the storm unscathed.  The tornado passed 2 miles away from my kids’ birth father’s house and a ¼ mile from his girlfriend’s place of work.  He was holed up in a bank vault for safety while my kids’ birth mother took refuge in a Walmart with a hundred other people.  The kids’ birth grandmother literally drove herself away from the oncoming storm.  The whole thing is beyond scary.

The experience has given me a more nuanced perspective of how to talk to children about frightening events such as this tornado in Oklahoma.  Since my children (especially my 4 year old) know about the storm and how it affected our family, it is from this perspective that I write my tips today.

(1) Ensure your children know that this tornado is not a threat to their safety: “Is the tornado coming here” my daughter wondered?  Sometimes just saying; “no, it’s all done” is enough.  Other times, for the very curious child, this may be a good  for a little weather lesson.  You can say; “Just Read more


Mind Your Manners! 5 Ways to Tame Rude & Crude Behavior in Your Children

Dr. Robyn Silverman answers one parent’s question about how to instill manners in her children– especially when they haven’t been overtly enforced in the past.

When children are very young, making people laugh or getting a look of shock is easy encouragement for someone looking for a little extra attention.  While it may not be so funny anymore, your children may still be looking for a positive reaction. They may also form some negative habits– resulting in poor manners. Creating new, positive habits around manners may take some time but will certainly be worth it as he shows others consideration, respect, and kindness.

We also can’t deny that boys, especially, get attention for lack of manners.  Peers might laugh or think such boys are courageous or “cool.”  Media underscores rudeness and lack of manners– so it makes it harder to raise boys without these negative influences.


In her video above, Dr. Robyn suggests and explains the following tips to help instill manners in children (watch the video for more information!):

(1) Nix the negative labels

(2) Dine away from home sometimes to provide opportunities to rise to the occasion.

(3) Explain, expect but don’t lecture

(4) Compliment, praise and be grateful when you see manners

(5) Don’t laugh at poor manners

And remember to be consistent!

Explore the answers to your parenting questions here and on our Facebook site or even on twitter! Join us!  We’re always talking about something interesting…



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

In 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!

The Infertility Club: Shifting My Goal from Pregnancy to Adoption

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

As 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 things Read more

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

We 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.


Dr. Robyn Silverman on The Today Show: Talking to Children about bin Laden’s Death


After the death of Osama bin Laden, there have been many questions from parents about how to talk to children about this event.  I was thrilled to be on The Today Show with Matt Lauer and Gail Saltz this morning talking about this very topic. In Monday’s post, I gave several examples of what parents can say to their children– here are some more questions I’ve received recently.

We want our children to have the “right” information when it comes to bin Laden’s death.  But there is the issue of “over-sharing” — what’s too much and what’s not too much information for young children?

Telling children that big men with guns snuck into a man’s house and shot him in the eye in the middle of the night is the stuff nightmares are made of. That’s an overshare. Let them know that:

“This man, Bin Laden, hurt and killed thousands of people. People were afraid of what he would do next. So the adults in charge of keeping our country safe felt that we weren’t safe with him alive. He is dead now and he can’t hurt anyone anymore.”

We must be observant of our children’s behavior: What are we looking for?

All children express concern or fear differently. Know your child. The 3  big areas to look at are sleeping, eating, and general conduct. Are they sleeping more or less than they typically do? Are they eating more or less than they typically do? Are they acting out or withdrawing more than they typically do? And, even if your child isn’t showing outward signs of concern, s/he may still need your help. Ask them;

“Do you have questions you want to ask? Are you worried about anything?”

When children learn that there are people in this world who have hate in their hearts and do terrible things to other people, it can throw their sense of safety off kilter. How can we help them feel secure?

Make sure that your children know that it’s the job of certain courageous men and women to keep us all safe and they are working very hard to make sure we are (and doing a great job at it!).  Keep routines the same for your child but be available to talk. Limit media exposure so that you are the one who is providing the information your child needs- or, if you want your older children to watch some coverage of this event, be sure to be there to talk them through it, provide additional information, or, turn it off if you feel it’s not the best thing for your child to see.

Since bin Laden didn’t represent an entire nation or religion, there is a need for open-mindedness and tolerance.  How should parents work that into conversation?

Even kids don’t like to be the target of stereotyping.  Values always must prevail. Tell them simply:

“Would it be fair for me to punish, blame, or judge you for the bad choices another child made just because you had the same color hair, a similar way of dressing, or were from the same place? In the same way, there and good people and bad people in this world and they come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors.  Just because this man did what he did doesn’t mean in any way that other people who look similar to him, dress similar to him, or are from where he was from, have hate in their hearts, agree with his choices, or behave in a similar way.”

Read more of Dr. Robyn’s suggestions on talking to children about Osama bin Laden’s death

Shaping Youth round up

Ask Dr. Robyn: How can My Child Show More Sportsmanship?

Teaching your children Sportsmanship in a Win-is-in World

Dear Dr. Robyn,

We always try to teach our kids that “winning isn’t everything.” Like most people in our area, our family loves sports and we watch them on T.V. Lately I have noticed that my son is yelling rude comments when watching some of his favorite athletes. I don’t like it, but who can argue?  My son said to me, “everybody yells at each other in sports!” I don’t want him to feel that this is proper behavior. What am I supposed to do? –Lorna, Vancouver, BC


In this video, Dr. Robyn discusses: Modeling Positive Sportsmanship, Discussing sportsmanship with your child, Reflecting upon Sportsmanship with your child, Shouting words of encouragement during competitions (rather than coaching from the sidelines) and Checking your ego at the door when it comes to your children’s participation in sports.

How do you teach your children to keep their sportsmanship in the forefront and keep their ego in check whether they win or lose?

Squashing the Parenting Demon: “You’re NOT Good Enough”

Parenting Demon“It’s mocking me,” Cheryl, one of my coaching clients confided in me during one of our weekly coaching calls. “What is ‘it’ saying,” I asked? She paused.

You’re the worst parent EVER.”

She laughed out of frustration. “What can you do to take control?” Silence. “Gosh,” she said with a deep breath.  “I’ve let self doubt overtake me for so long that I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

I know. Sometimes you wonder who is in charge—you or that voice inside your head telling you you’re not good enough? You want to talk to your daughter about the overuse of the cell phone.  You want to talk to your son about staying out too late at night. You want to stay calm, create a respectful family environment, and discuss a menagerie of topics with your children. You want to– but then, it comes out wrong or not at all. Read more

Ask Dr. Robyn: How Can I Teach My Child Manners?

Dear Dr. Robyn,

Both my daughter, Rosie, and my son, Joe, are good kids. They love to have a good time but sometimes what they say or do (especially at the dinner table or when I’m talking on the phone) is rude or inappropriate.  What can I do to teach my children good manners? (Lucy, Little Silver, NJ)

In this video, Dr. Robyn Silverman answers Lucy and provides 5 tips to help children learn manners– that any parent can use!


Top 10 Dos and Don’ts of Talking to Teens about Sex

Teens, love, and sex

The Top 10 Dos and Don’ts of Talking to Teens about Sex

Yesterday, I was on NBC’s LXtv, discussing teens and sex.  While this is often a touchy subject for parents to broach as it can be mixed with embarrassment, controversy, and confusion, it’s vital that parents are talking to their children about sex rather than allowing their kids to be schooled by their friends or the media.

What do parents need to know about talking to their kids about sex?

(1) Talk about it earlier than you might want: Research tells us that early sex may be related to increased delinquency later on. The link? Risky behavior. Just as you talk to your young teens about drugs and alcohol, talk to them about sex. Discussions about the body, the differences between boys and girls, and being proud and respectful of oneself, can start way before any discussion of sex is even broached.  Making it “normal” to talk about things related to the body, will make it easier for everyone to talk about sex when it feels like the right time. Read more