Kicking Off 2021 with Empathy-Based Goals

Dr. Robyn Silverman does a solocast on setting goals for 2021 with empathy, hope and a little surrender in mind. How can you set goals using empathy? How can we use this time to talk to kids about household contributions and life skills development? How can we use this time to talk about tough topics and how do you bring it up anyway? Dr. Robyn sits down with you, one on one, for an intimate discussion at the start of 2021.

I know this is a little out of the norm- but given that it’s a new year and with everything going on with the pandemic, and virtual or socially distant schooling as well as not being able to see loved ones and the immense pressure we have as parents to take it all in and parent through the frustration, anxiety, confusion, sadness, loneliness and all the other mixed feelings, I just wanted to spend some time with you. I thought it might be nice for us to just be one on one to discuss how to talk to kids about this new year, where we are heading, altered goals and starting off 2021 with some empathy for others and some kindness and patience with ourselves.

Announcement:

Before we launch into everything, I wanted to tell you all first- so…drumroll please….I am writing a book on how to talk to kids about tough topics! It is going to be published by Sourcebooks, an absolutely wonderful publishing house that shares my excitement about this topic. It will cover some of the touchiest subjects and you will have it to reference at a moment’s notice—well, in 2022 when it hits the shelves. And I wanted to thank you- because it is you, my loyal listeners, who have urged me forward with your amazing reviews, your loyal listenership, and your questions and kind words about the discussions, my guests, and our tips and scripts. I am writing this for you. So thank you and yay!

Bio:

Dr. Robyn Silverman is a well-known professional speaker, child & teen development specialist and leadership coach who appears regularly as an expert on many national TV such as The Today Show, Nightline and Good Morning America. She is a parenting columnist for US News and World Report and Medium and is often quoted in print articles for her hands-on parenting and child development expertise. Known for her positive and accessible solutions to challenging problems, she speaks worldwide to diverse audiences; from company leaders, schools and corporate groups to educators, camp professionals, government offices, children and parents. An award-winning writer and success coach, she has contributed as a child development expert to over for 20 books, including one about body image and girls called Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How to Help Them Thrive Despite It, “Bully: An Action Plan for Teachers, Parents & Communities” and a series for middle-school girls called “Strong, Beautiful Girls” as well as one for boys called “The Guy’s Guide.” She is also the founder and creator of Powerful Words Character Education, a curriculum that helps educational facilities teach kids how to be good humans who care, contribute and thrive. Dr. Robyn is currently writing a book based on her popular parenting podcast, How to Talk to Kids about Anything, an iTunes top 10 podcast in the area of education and kids, where she and invited guest experts discuss tough topics that parents and educators must broach with young people today. Dr. Robyn is known for her knowledgeable yet warm approach that allows her to be both accessible and full of useful takeaways for audience members of all ages.

You can find out more about Dr. Robyn at DrRobynSilverman.com, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DrRobynSilverman, on twitter at @DrRobyn, on instagram @DrRobynSilverman or on her podcast, How to Talk to Kids about Anything (On her website, iTunes, Stitcher or anywhere else that podcasts are streamed)

Important Messages:

  • Parents are feeling a lot of stress, frustration and anxiety about many of the issues the pandemic brings up
  • All these feelings are normal and ok- It’s okay to feel confined, frustrated, annoyed, angry, anxious, depressed and just plain tired of all of it.
  • It doesn’t help that we see so many smiling faces on FB and compare. First of all, we are all on a different road. Second of all, we really have no idea what’s truly happening before or after a smiling photo was taken of another family. It is rare that everyone has it all together. Nobody has all the answers.
  • There tends to be a desire, when we get to the beginning of a year, to look at it as a fresh start. Let’s embrace hope with a dose of perspective, flexibility, self-kindness and a little bit of surrender.
  • What are some reasonable goals that we can discuss with our kids so that 2021 turns out to be a better year than last year?
  • We often talk about goals in terms of being SMART- that’s Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timebound- I like to switch that up a bit, especially when working with kids and talk about a goal needing to be SMARTER – I talk about this in detail in a US News and World Report article I wrote https://health.usnews.com/wellness/for-parents/articles/2017-01-25/how-to-make-smarter-goals-when-working-with-kids
  • Short-term:  When we set short-term goals with our children, they’re easier to achieve. Meaningful:  The goal must be meaningful to the person who is going after it. Agree on the terms: Because we don’t typically go after a goal all by ourselves- we rely on others while working on it- and children rely on many people in order for their goals to be put into action, every aspect must be assigned. Reason-based:  Why is this goal meaningful to you or your child? Timebound: What is the deadline to achieve the goal? Is this realistic? Explicit: Because children are such concrete thinkers, it’s important that they be able to visualize their goals. Room for mistakes: Make space for lots of them. Working towards goals can be messy and imperfect.
  • I’ll be talking more about helping kids set goals the right way on an upcoming webinar- so if that is of interest, I’ll be sending out more information about that on social media and by email, if you are on my list, shortly!
  • This year is a reparative year. We are all exhausted so the gusto behind goal setting and goal getting isn’t really there for many of us. We’re tired. So here is what I propose- starting the year off with empathy.
  • Start the year off with empathy: Some of you may know that I wrote a character curriculum called Powerful Words. Each month it provides a powerful word of the month and scripts and projects to discuss each powerful word. This year, we started with empathy because we could all use a little bit more empathy right now.
  • Empathy, as I explain it to kids, is our ability “take a walk in someone else’s shoes.” Imagining how other people feel.
  • Once children understand what empathy is, we can then talk about it, in light of what’s going on now. For example, if Grandma is lonely (and what we can do about it) or if people are in need (and what we can do about it). Also, how WE feel when we give. This can all become a springboard for other empathy-based goals in your home.
  • Household goals? You may or may not have the bandwidth for this right now- and that’s ok. But if you are like me at all, I was feeling such a sense of loss of control in the house as routines and norms went by the wayside. Meals happening all the time, blankets unfolded, messes everywhere. What can be done that might help everyone?
  • I had recently been talking to one of my best friends and she had also made a shift- and sent me her kids’ chore or contribution charts that she had made after listening to a few of the podcast episodes that dealt with allowance- the one with Neale Godfrey, one with Beth Kobliner and one with Rachel Cruze—and the ones that dealt with learning skills like the one I did with Julie Lythcott Haims and several others. We wound up changing the jobs and how people contributed to the household after dinner- and now it feels better to everyone.
  • I talked to my kids in terms of character and contribution- and we discussed fairness, kindness, responsibility and empathy. Remember- teaching kids to be responsible doesn’t just help them to show up for others- it helps them show up for themselves.
  • This one shift influences the family. Conversations, pride in accomplishment, responsibility.
  • You can bring in empathy into this discussion- “how would it feel for one person to do all the work while others played or watched TV?” “How would it make each person feel when everyone pitched in and got the job done faster and better?”
  • It also gives great opportunity for honest gratitude and praise.
  • It doesn’t need to be the kitchen- it can be whatever works in your family or would make a difference in your family.
  • Goals around tough talks- every child is on their own time line- every parent will be comfortable at different times having various conversations.
  • If you find yourself talking and talking, take a breath and allow for some quiet or for your children to talk or take the lead-
  • In our family- we witnessed a car accident being cleared- it became an organic springboard for discussion about distracted driving, texting while driving, drinking while driving, falling asleep at the wheel because someone might have been tired, and a variety of other hypotheses.
  • Benefits- Discuss what they would do, could do, we were able to underscore that safety was much more important to us than the choice to drink- that we would always want our children to call if they were in trouble rather than risk injury or even death. We could brainstorm. Talk about listening to your gut.
  • You can bring in the empathy part by asking “how would you feel if…” Some people like to use statistics, some stories from their past- set a goal for this year to have some of the key talks we discuss on this podcast. They get easier the more you have them!

Notable Quotables:

  • “It’s okay that you aren’t loving every single moment with your kids and family after 10 months of being sequestered with them. It’s okay to feel lonely as you haven’t been able to see your friends and family. It’s okay to feel confined, frustrated, annoyed, angry, anxious, depressed and just plain tired of all of it.”
  • “It’s amazing what that little voice in our brain can tell us- made up stories that make us feel awful. The truth is, many are struggling. It is rare that everyone has it all together. Nobody has all the answers.”
  • “With the dawn of 2021, let’s embrace hope with a dose of perspective, flexibility, self-kindness and a little bit of surrender. Surrendering to more time away from loved ones until it’s safe. Surrendering to more virtual or hybrid schooling for many. Surrendering to the lack of normal though it can truly suck. But yes, hope too.”
  • “Did you know that we can be detectives and figure out how others are feeling by looking at their faces, their bodies and the clues around them? We can imagine how others are feeling by imagining ourselves standing in their shoes, in that same situation, and thinking- how would I feel if I were that person, standing there, hearing and seeing what is going on? Would I be scared, happy, sad, angry, surprised, disgusted or something else? We say this is taking a walk in someone else’s shoes. When we can imagine how someone else feels, we call it empathy.”
  • “Did you hear the change in her voice when she heard it was YOU on the other line?”
  • “Remember- teaching kids to be responsible doesn’t just help them to show up for others- it helps them show up for themselves. Our own dreams are realized when we commit and follow through- so each time we teach responsibility, we are helping our kids on several levels.” 
  • “You can bring in empathy into this discussion- “how would it feel for one person to do all the work while others played or watched TV?” “How would it make each person feel when everyone pitched in and got the job done faster and better?”
  • “The gift of gratitude is often one of the least expensive and one of the most valuable gifts you can give to someone- especially children who are not always thanked for their contributions.”
  • “In a society that focuses on faults a great amount of time, it’s important to take the time to see and notice strengths and character.  Nothing builds children up like knowing that someone they value sees their value.”
  • “If you find yourself talking and talking, take a breath and allow for some quiet or for your children to talk or take the lead. (I like to remind myself- as I’m a talker, as you might imagine) “when engaging in conversation, remember, this is a discussion, not a soliloquy.”
  • These organic springboards feel good because you don’t feel like you have to come up with something out of the blue like; “today we are going to discuss drinking and driving” or “texting and driving”. Instead, the conversation unwraps itself on its own.”
  • “Whatever strategy you use, I urge you to have the tough conversations with your kids. They get easier the more you have them!”

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