How to Talk to Kids About the Capitol Building Attack

 

  • Turn off the constant news cycle or at least be aware of when it’s on and where you are getting your information.
  • If your children have seen it, talk about it- children filter their understanding through you.
  • If they are getting their news from other places, make sure you know where. Use The News Bias Chart to see where your favorite news sources fall.
  • If your children ask questions, answer them with the facts. If you don’t know the answer- don’t suppose, look it up. You can always get back to them.
  • Allow them to answer questions too- this is where critical thinking and values get developed. For example; what would you have done? What would you do in a [similar situation that applies to their life]?
  • Let them know they are safe. Knowing that people had the power to break into our government’s “house” can be very unsettling to adults- let alone children. Point out on a map where it happened, let them know that the adults are handling it and this is not something that typically happens. This is very rare.
  • Admit it if you are sad or angry or upset- but talk it out with a friend or spouse rather than with your children if you really need to do a deep dive and get some comfort or let off some steam. I’m having lunch with a friend today for that very reason.
  • Get some sleep. Get some rest. Take care of you!

Sports Team Wins 91-0: Is it Bullying?

When a high school football team won a game 91-0, a parent from the losing team filed a complaint against the coach, claiming it was bullying. Was it? I sat down with the amazing folks at Good Morning America to discuss.

What is bullying? Most of us know that bullying is a conflict that consists of at least two or three participants:

  • The Bully: the person initiating the aggression
  • The Bullied (the Victim): the person on the receiving end of the aggression
  • The Bystander (the Onlooker): the person (usually people) standing by and watching the aggression

Bullying used to be thought of as the physical acts of the biggest school yard boy who pummeled the weak kid on the playground, stuffed him into a locker, forced others to do his school work or stole their lunch money.

Now, bullying is defined as: Harassment, intimidation, or bullying is defined as any gesture, act (written, verbal, or physical), or electronic communication (i.e. through phone, computer, pager), that is perceived to be motivated by any actual or perceived characteristic (i.e. race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, distinguishing characteristic), that disrupts or interferes with school (on or off school property) or compromises the rights of other students.

But would we know bullying when we see it? How do we know the difference between bullying and what is considered normal social conflict? Let’s put it plainly.

Here’s how I explain bullying on Good Morning America:

A: AGGRESSIVE: Is it aggressive? Bullying feels like an attack.

B: BALANCE of power: Is the balance of power unequal? Bullying involves uneven power such that age, popularity. size, ability, clout and special needs can play a role.

C: CONSISTENT: Is this happening often or only once? Bullying involves a pattern of consistent incidents.

D: DELIBERATE: Is there an intention to harm, hurt or provoke? Bullying is intentional not accidental.

While social conflict and intense (uneven) sports competition can feel brutal, this, in my opinion is not bullying. The other team was attacking the ball, the plays and the win– but not the other team. There was an imbalance of skill and power, to be sure– but this was one game and nobody was deliberately trying to hurt or harm the other team’s feelings or moral. Nobody says this is easy– but we can’t call it bullying. Doing so plays down what bullying really is– and the kids who truly need the help.

Your thoughts?

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

Parents: Dr. Robyn’s Quick Kid Tip on Developing Character in Children and Teens

What are the top 3 skills or character traits you want your kids to adopt? The key is to talk about them AND show our kids how it’s done. You want them to be more accountable when they make mistakes? We need to show them how it’s done. You want them to persevere? They need to hear what we say to ourselves that keeps us going when the going gets tough and see our grit in action. Every characteristic from kindness to courage must be discussed and demonstrated over and over again so that they don’t simply stay lessons you wish to impart but part of your child’s thought process and knee-jerk reactions. Your voice becomes their script, your actions, their playbook. Keep at it. It is worth it in the end. xo

Progress from Imperfection: Making Room for Mistakes, Doubt and Risk Personally and Professionally

i-am-a-work-in-progress_bigstock-450x452Women (and many men too) are notorious for aiming for perfect. Whether it’s in parenthood, the workplace, our looks or the overall appearance that we have it all together, imperfections are painted over with a broad brush.

The result?

Low risk. Low reward.

Our lack of honesty with ourselves and others is hurting much more than it’s helping.

For any of us to move forward in any realm of life, there must be room to make mistakes. To take the risks. To swim in doubt. To be authentic and imperfect and unsure on our path to success. Living a photoshopped life grounded in reality show flawlessness and Facebook photo perfection does not lead to forward movement.

So here’s some food for thought.

  • When do you feel most connected with people? To truly connect, we must be real. Think about those friends, work buddies, clients or relatives in your life to whom you feel the closest. They know the real you, don’t they? The messy you. And it’s this raw honesty that allows the relationships to deepen. When we reveal our concerns, doubts and mistakes along with the strengths and accomplishments, you allow others to love you for who you are rather than who you project yourself to be. And the relationship authenticity can then go both ways.
  • When can you progress as a parent, professional, athlete or performer? It’s when you take risks and go beyond your comfort zone, isn’t it? When trying a new technique or going down a path you have not yet visited, it’s hard to be perfect. We must embrace ourselves as the learners we are so we can take risks without the baggage. Each time we learn—each time we make a mistake—we become stronger, more knowledgeable and ironically, more successful.
  • When can you figure out your next steps in life? It’s often when we provide room for doubt. If we continue to plug in the next move, the next job and the next conversation without providing space and time to figure out what we do and don’t want, we can be squelching our true, thought-out next steps. We must be able to ask ourselves, whether professionally or personally; “Am I happy with the direction I am going? Do I want to change my trajectory? Do I want to try something new? What do I truly want?” Doubt can be uncomfortable—but it’s a necessary vehicle for progress.

Life is not perfect. We must stop striving for perfection and instead, try for our best. Try for learning. Try for better, stronger, more nuanced and more open than yesterday. Life is messy, weird and wonderful. We make progress from imperfection. Letting go of perfect can feel like it’s shining high beams on our weaknesses but in actuality, it demonstrates our courage and strength.

Go for it!

Dr. Robyn Signature

 

 

 

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 like a speed bump in the road slows down cars, most people believe that something gets in the way of tornadoes making them slow down until they are no longer tornadoes anymore.  That’s what happened to this tornado! So no, it’s all done.  The tornado is not coming here.”

(2) Listen to their fears:  Parents often want to “fix the fear” or diminish the importance of it as soon as possible.  Take a moment to listen instead.  It is valid that your children may be scared.  Ask questions like “What is scaring you?” and  “What might make you feel better?”  Reflect their concerns by saying: “Yes; it’s scary to hear that the tornado hurt some people” or “I get the feeling that you are worried about tornadoes coming to our town.”  Steer clear of saying; “Don’t be scared” or “Stop worrying so much” as it invalidates their emotions—which are quite real.

(3) Turn off the news: Make sure the information your children are learning is from you rather than from the TV.  The news can be very graphic and not at all age-appropriate.  While you may want to keep posted on what’s going on, do it privately rather than in front of your children.

(4) Let them know about the positive stories: This morning I heard about a teacher who kept her students safe in the school while the tornado came through town. Tell your children about that. There have been reports that, through his family foundation, Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant pledged $1 million to the American Red Cross disaster relief efforts in Oklahoma. Tell your children about that.  This morning it was reported that the OK Highway Patrol confirms that 101 people were found alive in Moore overnight. Tell your children about that.  In this tragedy, there was good news—and children need to know about these stories. There are a lot of helpers and we are so grateful.

(5) Encourage them to do something to help: My daughter is only four and my son is just shy of three—but that doesn’t mean they can’t do anything to help.  They can write letters, draw pictures and may even be able to help donate items needed.  But perhaps their voices of love may be the kindest thing to provide.  We had our daughter call her birth mother, her birth father and her birth grandmother and leave a message on their phones (getting through is still tricky).  She was able to say; “Hi, I love you and I’m so glad you’re safe.”  The act of “doing” can be very reassuring for a young person.  Actually, it can be very reassuring for all of us!

During all of this—stay calm.  Our children absorb the emotion we release.  That doesn’t mean we need to be stoic or happy—it just means that we should leave the heavy burden of our feelings to our peers and our adult loved ones.  You can say; “I’m sad for all the people in Oklahoma who are having a tough time right now because of the tornado.  I wish it didn’t happen.”

Because really; don’t we all feel that way?

 

 

 

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

manners_introphoto1-684x1024Dr. 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…

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!

 

 

 

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?