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Dear friend: Be sweet to yourself

Dear sweet friend,

We can often be so hard on ourselves. Perhaps our inner voice tells us we aren’t good enough, smart enough, good-looking enough, thin enough, driven enough, and countless other “enoughs” we feel we don’t or can’t reach.

On this day, the 11th anniversary of my dear father’s death, I want you to know that while we can all improve in many ways, you are, indeed, enough. Just as you are.

My father had many faults, as we all do, but today I am remembering his generosity, his patience, his brilliance, his kindness and his love for family. I am thinking about his smile, his gentle eyes, his quiet way and his loving hugs.

Do you know what I am not thinking about? Where he fell short.

So today, be sweet to yourself. See the good in people and allow them to see the good in you. But above all, allow yourself to see the good in you. There is so much. I assure you, there is.

Warmest regards,

Dr. Robyn on Nightline: What is Elizabeth Thomas’ state of mind at age 15?

I was on Nightline the other night, talking about Elizabeth Thomas and her possible state of mind after being found with her 50-year-old teacher, Tad Cummins.

When a young girl is feeling alone or misunderstood, an older, trusted teacher can be a welcome person in her life. Usually a teacher-student relationship can be a wonderful source of help but clearly this relationship crossed the line and became inappropriate and exploitive. Being a teacher is a unique position of power and intimacy in a child’s life- you are trusted and you have proximity.

Elizabeth is likely in crisis right now. She needs love and understanding from her family and those who love her. This was a cry for help and now, she needs to get the help she needs to become healthy and secure in her life. What was she trying to tell her family? What was going on right before she left? These issues must be addressed as they were the catalyst to the incident.

Nightline: 04/20/17: Missing Student Elizabeth Thomas Found, Teacher Arrested in California Watch Full Episode | 04/20/2017

How is she feeling? Nobody but Elizabeth knows for sure. But I would venture to guess that Elizabeth is likely feeling confused right now. This is someone she has trusted for a long time and likely believed was working in her best interest- this is not likely someone she saw as a criminal or inappropriate. So being taken away from him actually may feel like a loss for her- a loss of someone she trusted so much that she left her life with him. I imagine she is feeling many things right now so it’s time for some understanding and patience as she gets the help she needs.

*Now that child abuse charges have surfaced regarding Elizabeth Thomas’ mother, this adds and important layer to why Elizabeth left, why she got attached to her teacher in the first place, and why she seemed unhappy or reluctant to come back to her life in Tennessee. This girl needs patience, time and help– and it seems that her family will also need support in order for everyone to get back on track.

 

 

 

Dr. Robyn’s Monday Morning Quick Tip!

Monday morning!

I hope you are thinking about the highlights of your weekend– the sweet moments and the times that gave you peace or smiles, however far between. I know that life can get hard sometimes. Not all of it- but some of it. The kids don’t always behave. Those great events you planned for? Often they don’t go exactly as you thought they would.

But what went well? What made you laugh, relax or feel loved?

The challenge comes when everyone’s weekend photos come out, doesn’t it? So many happy faces and declarations of “best weekend ever!” It’s natural to compare.

But seriously. Those people all had their moments too. Good and bad. Frustrating and fulfilling.

The Fictitious Facebook Family (FFF) is not real. Don’t let it become your monster.

xo

The 4th Trimester: Dr. Robyn Silverman on Good Morning America

After a woman has a baby, her body continues to change. What has been dubbed “the 4th trimester,” the 3 months after the birth of a child, can be a time when women can feel at odds with their bodies. Still, this is a time when woman should be celebrating their bodies– look at what they just did! No need to wait- you are beautiful now.

Good Morning America came to the house to talk with me about it– as an intro to their a makeover segment with a beautiful woman who had recently given birth to a daughter.


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The ABCs of De-Stressing: From Parenting to Work

Trying to cope with a toddler tantrum on an hour’s worth of sleep?

Battling with your teen about staying out to late?

Nobody said that parenting was going to be easy, but come on!

Don’t you wish that someone gave you the manual for parenting and stress management when your little bundle of joy was born?

Arm yourself from A to Z with 26 tips that will get you through the most trying days:

A- Accept the things you can not change: Single parenting? Step parenting? ADHD parenting? Just dealing with time crunches, making lunches, bunches and bunches of bills? It’s important to recognize that there are some things you can not control, surrender, move on.

B- Breathe: When things get hairy, scary, and you feel like you can barely hold on, take a step back, breathe, and be calm.

C- Count your blessings. Even though you have the weight of the world on you right now and feel far from compassionate for others who have things much worse than you do, there is some value in taking a moment to look at the things that are going right today, such as your child’s tantrum-free morning or how your spouse took out the trash…

D- Decompress. Believe it or not, there are many who do not know how to take a break. Some parents don’t even realize that it’s okay to take a break. Take time out to read a book, go out or simply hang out with family or friends. A happy parent is much more productive than a crabby one.

E- Eat nutritiously. We take care of everyone but ourselves…working, chauffeuring, monitoring homework, cooking and so on. Remember to eat breakfast and be sure to eat more than just a power bar for lunch! Nourish your body so you can nourish your mind so you won’t go crazy on top of everything else.

F- Focus on the big picture. Does it really matter that your child insists on wearing his Spiderman pajamas to the supermarket again? You’ve heard it before. Don’t sweat the small stuff (and yes, this is small). When choosing between Spidy and sanity, choose sanity.

G- Go to the gym. Do yoga. Step outside and take a long walk. Take a martial arts or dance class. Just get your body moving. Exercise will not only keep you fit and healthy to do the best parenting job you can (not to mention keep up with the kids) it will also help to clear your mind.

H- Hang up the phone. Sometimes we spend more time on the phone than with the kids, and then we wonder why they act up while we’re on the phone. Reserve some “family only” time so that the kids won’t feel so deprived of your attention and when you do need to converse on the phone, you’ll be able to without interruption.

I- Identify the kind of family you are aiming to be. Have you ever sat down with your family and actually discussed the kind of family you aim to be? Respectful? Kind? Supportive? Discuss those Powerful Words! Get your family together, discuss and create the vision as a team so everyone is on board and knows what they are trying to achieve.

J- Joke around. Don’t take everything so seriously! What makes your hair turn gray today will likely make your face turn beet red with laughter one day down the road.

K- Kiss, hug and show affection. Affection is such a simple thing that can make your family feel more secure as opposed to feeling like they need a therapist! Set the precedent for your family and show that you appreciate one another.

L- Listen to your family. Your children have great stories to tell. Your significant other has dreams about the future. When we listen, we expand our minds and catch all the subtleties that otherwise pass us by. Listening enables us to know what to say and when to say it.

M- Make time for family fun. Shuttling between extracurricular activities all the time? Remember that it’s important to take time out for family fun. Take a vacation, have a family game night, go for a bike ride together. It’s important to do something together and that everyone will enjoy.

N- Negotiate time for the couple. We all love spending time with the kids, but it is just as important for the couple to spend private time together. Rekindle your love every week, whether it’s going out to dinner alone or spending time cuddling while the kids are at Grandma’s house.

O- Open your mind to “the opposition.” You and your partner are a united force, however you may not always agree. Take time to listen to the points of the other person and come to a compromise.

P- Play with your friends. Go to a movie, play golf, go to lunch! Having some adult company, conversation and laughs will make the days more pleasant and manageable.

Q- Quiet your mind. Fretting over the past is as constructive as nailing a cube of Jello to the wall. When it’s time to relax, turn off your mind and let the day go.

R- Recruit some outside support. Need help reaching your personal and family goals? Enlist the help of a coach who will help you deal with present challenges and create action plans to make the most of your future.

S- Simplify your family’s schedule. There really is no need to commit your child to 40 different activities per week. One or two activities during the school year is okay. Really.

T- Teach the lessons you want them to know. Schools do not teach character development, parents do. When you teach your child about respect and teamwork, you get respect and teamwork.

U- Utilize your resources. Did the grandparents volunteer to baby-sit? Did your neighbor offer to tutor your kids in that math you don’t understand? Take them up on their offers. Reaching out for help enables us to collect ourselves and do the things we do well.

V- Value your time. Learn to say “no.” It’s important to be involved and volunteer your time to help with fundraisers and so on, but don’t overextend yourself. It takes time away from your family and robs you of your sanity.

W- Wipe the tears. Yours and theirs. Holding grudges or letting anger and misery simply fester under the surface builds resentment and uneasiness. This is a legacy you do not want to leave.

Y- Yearn to grow and learn. Just because you are a parent does not mean that you no longer can work on expanding your own mind and achieving your own goals. You may need to modify your ambition, but you can still express yourself, volunteer, take courses or even teach!

Z- Zzzzzzzz. Try to make up for that lost sleep. Parenting always seems easier when you are rested.

Have a Powerful (and stress-free) Week!

How One Child Changed My Perspective about Conversations with Kids

The summer before college, I was in my first year of assistant teaching at a Preschool/DayCare in Livingston NJ. I always loved playing with and working with children- I had been a babysitter for 6 years at that point. I felt pretty good about being the “big sister” to young kids- especially since I was the youngest at home. Teaching allowed me to impart knowledge and work with and talk with kids for several hours a day. But during this summer? I learned something from one child that changed my perspective on talking with children.

I will never forget 4-year-old, “Sasha Washa,” a daughter of a suit-wearing, well quaffed, beautifully-spoken woman who dropped Sasha off each morning before heading off to the company where she worked all day. Sasha had dark brown hair and inquisitive brown eyes that was always taking in what she sees. And I guess hears too. She clearly adopted the language that her mother used at work. Parents and other key adults, often provide the scripts that go into our brains and out our mouths as youngsters.

When Sasha’s friend wouldn’t let her play “house” with the group that was already given roles, she walked up to me and said something I will always remember;

“Excuse me, Miss Robyn? Can we take a meeting?”

A meeting. A meeting is when people share ideas, talk, listen, resolve, compromise and plan.

At that time, I think that my personal understanding of children, especially young ones, was that adults do the teaching. Children do the listening.

In this one sentence (and the countless “meetings” after with children I’ve worked with and my own nieces, nephews and children), I began to regard my interactions with children, even pre-school aged ones, as two-way conversations. It’s important to move from talking “at” children to talking “to” and “with” them.

We want to know:

  • What are thinking?
  • What are they feeling?
  • What do they know?
  • What do they want to know?
  • What do they want YOU to know?
  • What had they seen?
  • What had they heard?
  • What do they believe?

Conversations are shared. If we are talking “at” a child, they aren’t a participant, they are a target. And with targets, some information is absorbed, other bits bounce off. One voice is heard– although your voice may start to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher “whaaa, whaaa, whaa, whaaa, whaa.” When someone is engaged in conversation, two voices, multiple opinions, many thoughts, and a host of feelings and beliefs meet and intertwine. We must create a partnership with our children– and in doing so we will all grow, learn and become better.

Of course, gone are days of seen but not heard. And yet, is this reflected in the way that we all talk with children? There are times when we all may find ourselves in a teaching role– but in every conversation, we also must be the student. Take meetings, don’t give soliloquies. You’ll find willing partners who will love to contribute and learn along side of you.

A Note to All Parents: I See You

Dear Parent,

blog_stressI want you to know that I see you. Parenting is hard and there are days, perhaps weeks or at least moments of any given week that many parents know they are supposed to be coming up with 50 ways to bolster their children’s self esteem and redirect their impulsive choices but what they are actually thinking about is 100 ways their child is acting like a pain in the butt. These are not bad people. They are real people with real feelings. They may be you. They may be me. There is no judgement here. I get it. And you know what? You’ve got this. You do. And on the days you mess up, as we all do? There is always another moment to try again. Parenting is the ultimate do-over. Thinking of you and reminding you, you are 10x the parent you think you are. xoxo #parenting

Much love,

sign

Dr. Robyn

When Children Ask: How Can Trump Be President When He’s Been So Mean?

How Can Trump Be President When He’s Been So Mean? And Other Questions Children Are Asking After the Trump Victory

If you were to ask my children what phrase I repeat most, aside from “I love you,” they would likely reply; “Be kind and thoughtful.” Being a mother and a Child Development Specialist, building character is woven into the fabric of both my professional and personal life.

This morning, my 7-year-old daughter asked me, “But how can Trump win when he’s been so mean? Will he be mean like that as president?”

Perhaps you are having similar questions asked of you at home. After all, we spend much of our children’s childhoods talking to them about being kind, putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, thinking before we speak angry, cruel or ugly words. We also tell them that you catch more flies with honey, good people finish first and lift others up rather than tear them down.

It’s a confusing time. So how do we answer our children’s questions?

(1) Am I safe?

Children often worry about their safety first—especially when they see so many adults upset about the outcome of an event or election. Reassure them; “We are safe. Many adults work around the clock to keep us safe. I am working to keep you safe and so are your teachers. But even people you can’t see are working to keep you safe. We will be okay, even though there are many people upset and frustrated right now.”

(2) So he gets to make all the choices?

Children often view a president as the sole authority figure who gets to make all the choices. So tell them; “In America, one person does not get to make all the decisions. There are many people, with lots of education and experience, who work together with the president to make the best choices for our nation.”

(3) But what about all the things he said?

Donald Trump offended many people. Yes, even presidential candidates make mistakes. It’s okay to be disappointed in what he said. Just as he wants change for the country, he will need to work on changing the way he speaks and thinks about our diverse America. He will need to focus on making all Americans, no matter what the color of their skin, who they love or how they prey, feel represented and important over his presidency. As you know, America is about unity and justice for all. Mr. Trump has a lot of work to do and he says that he will work hard to be everyone’s president. Let us root for him to be the person he needs to be as president.”

(4) Doesn’t this tell everyone that people can be mean and still get to be president?

Discuss your values. Say; “It is not right to make other people feel inferior or insignificant. What Mr. Trump said about many people was not right. We do not feel he should talk in a mean way about others who are different from him. In our family, we believe in treating others with kindness and empathy. Our friends and family also believe in treating people with kindness and empathy. As president, we will hope that Mr. Trump will lead with character as he leads this country. In the mean time, you continue to be the good-hearted person you are, fight for what you believe is right (as we will too) and we will support you every step of the way.”

(5) Why did people vote for someone who said such mean things?

Most people did not like the way Trump spoke about women, minorities, immigrants, those who were disabled and other communities. Still, many people voted for Trump. Explain to your children; “While many people did not like the way Mr. Trump spoke to and about others who were different from him, many people were angry and wanted change. They didn’t like the way the country was being run. They felt they were overworked and underpaid. They believe that Donald Trump, since he has built a lot of buildings and had a lot of success in business, can make America work better.

(6) Is Donald Trump a bad person?

We can tell our children; “We must look for that good, align ourselves with that good and see that good in people, even when they have made bad choices. There are many good people who work in our government—many, many good people. They will stand up and say what is right. We know of Donald Trump from TV and from this election but we don’t know everything about him. We need to look for the good in him and pray that he shows that good to the world as he will represent our country. We can not focus on being fault-finders, but rather, strength-finders as we get to know Donald Trump.”

(7) Is America going to be okay?

No American wants to see America fail. “We will be okay. America is still the land of the free and the home of the brave. We have a rich history and amazing opportunities here in America. We are profoundly fortunate people even as we fight for what is right for all. We have much to give and contribute to this world. We will keep hope, keep believing, keep working and keep fighting for what is right, good, fair and necessary. Americans don’t give up!”

For many Americans who voted differently, there will be a grieving time. That’s okay. It’s normal to be frustrated, disappointed, angry or sad. Your children may reflect these sentiments back to you. Support them and be kind to yourself too.

For many Americans, this will be a time of reflection. Many people wanted to celebrate the first woman president and the sound of the glass ceiling breaking. They wanted to share it with their children. They wanted to share it with their mothers, their grandmothers, their Aunts and their sisters. There was hope. And while there is sadness, there still must be hope.

Finally, remember; a “Big Talk” with our children is really a series of many discussions that happen over time. Keep the door open, stay available for questions and feel free to say; “I don’t know.” And if you don’t like the way the conversation goes the first time, know there is always time for revision—to try again—and to even change your point of view. Sometimes, change can be good. In America, right now, we are counting on that.

Listen Up: How to Really Listen So Children Feel Heard

Isn’t it the best when someone really listens to you?

If you think about your very favorite people to be around–your best friends, your treasured colleagues–there is likely one thing that they do better than most; they listen to you. Everyone likes to feel “listened to”—you, your partner and yes, the kids in your life too.

Gosh, it can be challenging to be a parent or a teacher and find all this time. We often have so much on our plates that spending the time listening when the laundry is piling up, we are on deadline and the kids need to get out the door, that listening gets filed under “things to do later.” It’s normal. For all of us.

listeningdog-450x447Of course, when we finally realize that something is “going on” with the kids in our life, it’s often been going on for some time. We wonder how we could have missed it. Let’s not beat ourselves us here. Being a parent (or teacher) today can be overwhelming and you are likely doing a pretty bang up job. We can always learn and get better- but that doesn’t mean we stink at it—it just means that we are forever learners and improvers. That’s where we are right here, right now.

So let’s chat about the skill—and the strategy—of listening.

As it turns out, listening can be a gateway into what’s really happening in your child’s life and how they feel about it. When we are really listening, we don’t just listen on one level—we listen on 3. It may sound tiring but once you sharpen this skill, you’ll be really psyched about it. Listening on all 3 levels is like being an amazing investigator and detective.

So here are the listening levels:

Level 1: We get in tune with our own thoughts, opinions, and judgments: We might be asking ourselves, “What would I have done in this situation?” “What does this remind me of?” or “How does what this person is saying pertain to me?” “How can I get back on track?” You know when you’re with someone and they seem to be sort of half listening? Or listening to respond with their own tidbit of information? Yeah; that’s not fully listening.

Level 2: We recognize the tone, pace, energy and agenda of the other person. With this level, we don’t just listen to the words but also the expression, the emotion, the tone, the speed, and the body language (if you are privy to it) that goes along with the words. You even listen to the hesitations and what’s not said. So imagine you ask a child “how are you?” and the child answers “fine.” When we are listening on level two, we might note that their answer is full of contentment, sadness, frustration or fear. In that case, “fine” might mean “good” or to the “in-tune” listener, it might mean anything from “I feel lonely” to “I’m hurt but don’t want to tell anyone.”

Level 3: We use our intuition, the information feeding into the environment around us, and the multiple factors that are impacting the conversation at any given time. This is 360 degree global listening. It takes practice. With level 3 listening, your gut fills in the story and you start to gain a more full understanding of the person in front of you. You take in consideration everything around you. Is the other person fulfilled? Annoyed? Blocked? In level 3 listening, used in tandem with level 2 listening, is about nuances and what’s beyond words. It often tells more than the words can ever do on their own. When we really listen, we can pick up on this stuff.

You don’t necessarily have to be gifted in listening to do this well– you just have to take the time to become invested. It’s about putting away the phone, moving our attention away from our own day and tasks, tuning in and connecting. You can be face-to-face, side by side or even driving in a car with your child in the backseat. Sometimes a child can feel more open when someone is not looking directly at them.

Of course, sometimes, we just don’t have the time. Not in that moment, anyway. But if you happen to tune in and hear something that makes you think “I need to listen to this closer,” tell the child; “I really want to be able to fully listen to what you are saying. Right now, I need to finish doing X. Can we talk at Y time so I’m not distracted and can give you the attention you deserve?” You are not superhuman- it’s okay to ask for time.

And please remember, if there are times when you simply aren’t the listener the other person needs—you can be the bridge to someone else who is right for the job. Sometimes getting that child to the right person is the best action you can take—as being truly heard is a gift.

About That Fictitious Facebook Family You’re Comparing Yourself to…

family_normalrockwellWhenever one of my kids has a problem (like every month!), challenge (every week?) or just drives me bonkers (umm, everyday?), it can feel like nobody else could possibly be going through the same thing. Why? Because what I refer to as the Fictitious Facebook Family (FFF) is perfect. They are always smiling. They are perpetually having fun. Everyone is basking in the happiness of love and seem forever grateful for each and every moment they get to spend together.

Well, life isn’t perfect. And not just for you! It’s not like that for me and it’s not like that for those families we compare ourselves to either. Why? Because, as one of my friends said to me once, “we are not in a Norman Rockwell painting!” We are real and human and flawed. Oh- there are periods of bliss, silliness, pleasure, true connection and triumph—yes! But those days or hours are interspersed with frustration, irritation, misunderstanding or sibling rivalry. Screams of joy are intermingled with shrieks of annoyance. They are. And not just once in a blue moon. Often enough that we can all feel like experts on the topic.

It’s funny; but when I speak to friends, colleagues, even professionals about this—they all admit that everyone is dealing with the same thing but nobody seems to talk about it. We laugh about the FFF and how what looks so perfect from far away can look like such a mess up close. It’s not surprising, is it? Life is messy.

The thing is– most people don’t take pictures of the mess. They don’t reveal their feelings about the fight they had with their child that morning or how, if they are being truly raw and honest, that there are moments when they don’t like their kids very much at all.  Or how guilty they feel about that. Or sad. Or just plain pissed off.

Well, I’m here to tell you that “perfect” is a bust. The FFF is a farce. And it’s okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person and it doesn’t mean your kids, your spouse or your family are terrible, awful or not good enough. It just means you’re all not perfect.

We are all just learning here.

And loving each other through it.

Loving ourselves through it.

My humble suggestion? Be honest about it. You might just get the support you need. We are all doing the very best we can and on some days, when it gets too messy, we can lean on others who’ve been there, who’ve done that and who’ve gotten to the other side.

And you know what? They’ll love you despite of the mess. Because of the mess. They love your mess!

And that is something to be truly grateful for.

Xoxox,

Dr. Robyn Signature