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How to Forego Impossible Parenting Standards & Tap into Our Own Wisdom with Meghan Leahy

Meghan Leahy – Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the stress and perfectionism of our overparenting culture–and at the same time, yearned for solutions to ease the struggles of everyday family life? Perhaps you have been caught at the grocery store with a tantruming 2-year-old, made organic salmon for your 4-year-old only to have it thrown across the room or attempted to reason with your 5-year-old about why you should stay at the party so you could have some “adult-time” after they were more than an hour past done, done? We hear about the endless “shoulds” of modern parenting– and yet real life just needs real solutions. Today, we are going to discuss how we can parent outside of the lines with guest, Meghan Leahy.
Meghan Leahy is the On Parenting columnist for The Washington Post, and a certified parenting coach. She is the author of PARENTING OUTSIDE THE LINES and is the mother of three daughters. She practices Zen Buddhism, holds a bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education and a master’s degree in school counseling. She has appeared on NPR, ABC and in numerous other publications. Leahy lives with her family outside Washington DC.

How to Take Care Of Your Mental Health While Parenting with Kate Rope

Kate Rope – We often get a great deal of advice about how to raise our children but don’t always hear the best ways we can take care of ourselves and stay sane WHILE raising our children. Who can you turn to when things aren’t going smoothly? How can you talk about it when you are struggling? How do you cope with anger or exhaustion or frustration and avoid becoming the one who does EVERYTHING even when you have nothing left? Today we are going to speak to my friend and colleague, Kate Rope for the answers to these questions.

KATE ROPE is an award-winning freelance journalist and author of Strong as a Mother: How to Be Happy, Healthy and (Most Importantly) Sane From Pregnancy to Parenthood: The Only Guide to Taking Care of YOU! She writes about mental health and parenting for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time and many other publications. She is currently co-creating an audio documentary about medical research during the Vietnam War with Alan Alda. It will be released by Audible in Fall 2020. You can find her work at katerope.com

The Sex Talks: 10 Tips to Help Parents Talk to Kids about Sex

I know. This is not easy. The very idea of having to talk to your child about sex is making you squeamish, squirmish and squirrelly. But we can do this. And I have to tell you– it’s not as bad as you think.

Here are some key tips for parents who know that it is time to talk to kids about sex:

(1)   Talk early and often: It’s never “THE talk” or “one talk” but a series of big and little ones that you have over time starting when they are very little. The first talks are about their body parts, caring for their body parts and loving each body part! And yes, you’ll build on these foundational talks- don’t avoid it and don’t make it weird! There’s nothing to be embarrassed about!

(2)   Use the actual words: Just like we call an “arm” and “arm” and not a “Little llama,” refer to a penis as a penis and a vagina as a vagina. There is nothing wrong with these words and we don’t want to send the message that there is! Plus, it will make it much easier to discuss the mechanics of sex later- you don’t want to be talking about intercourse like “the peepee goes into the women’s lady bits” because that will cause confusion and it frankly doesn’t sound right at all. (We talk about this in more depth in the interview with Dina Alexander and with Bonnie J. Rough)

(3)   Be the trusted source: Seriously, who do you want talking to your child about sex- you, or that kid, Barnabee, in the back of the bus who overheard something in some movie? Kids are hearing about sex in elementary school. By age 11, most kids have been exposed to porn. Make sure you talk early and often so you get to educate your kid with your values and the right information or you might have to unravel the wrong information! And DON’T tell your child s/he’s too young to know- they’ll just find out from somebody else (or the internet- you definitely don’t want that).

(4)   Be ready! This conversation doesn’t happen when you schedule it (what conversation does?). So you might be putting your daughter to bed and a question about nipples becomes a full-fledged segway into intercourse. A report on something your child heard on the school bus about how babies really came to be might come up over “pass the potatoes.” And family movies, seeing a pregnant woman, witnessing breast-feeding, a school video on puberty- are all springboards for discussion around “how babies are made.” If they’re asking; be ready to tell. Ask them what they already know (to dispel myths or build upon knowledge). Be ready to put on your big boy and big boy pants, take a deep breath and say things like; “the man’s penis goes into the vagina,” “erection,” “lubrication,” “ejaculation,” “testicles,” “clitoris,” if the child is asking about exactly how baby-making works.

(5)   Don’t shame body exploration: Totally normal, folks! The body is amazing! Our kids need to know their bodies. Get your daughter a mirror so she can look at her amazing vagina! According to sex therapist, Dae Sheridan, interviewed on How to Talk to Kids about Anything, most girls don’t even know they have 3 holes down there. Let your boys and girls touch themselves- and simply give guidance that body exploration is private and not something you do in public. As your children get older, you don’t want them to have any shame around masturbation, contrary to how you might have grown up, it is not a shameful thing to do—and is a totally normal part of sexuality.

(6)   Be age-appropriate and follow the child’s lead: A young child may only want to know about the sperm and the egg while an older child may want to know more about how to egg and the sperm get together. Oversharing when a child isn’t ready doesn’t feel good for anyone so don’t answer more than what they are asking. Undersharing doesn’t feel good either so make sure you are answering the question and not changing the subject to “what’s for dinner?” Leave the door open to answer any others whenever s/he is ready. They’ll let you know. (And you WANT your child to ask YOU questions—about this and about ANYTHING).

(7)   Discuss consent: This, again, can start early. We each get to say whether we want to be touched and how we want to be touched. We get to say if we want to be hugged or kissed and if we’d rather have some alone time. And we need to listen to the wishes and boundaries of others as well. (See my interview with Richard Weissbourd and Peggy Orenstein).

(8)   Tell them that sex is more than just mechanics and for procreation: Because it is. Sex is a way to connect. It’s an adult way to show love, passion, playfulness, generosity, warmth and affection. You can explain to your children that; “When you find the right person who truly loves and respects you for who you are and who you truly care about and love for who they are, sex can be beautiful and amazing.” (The opposite is true too- the wrong person who could care less about you- sex is no bueno.)

(9)   Nervous? Practice! Say it to yourself in front of a mirror, say it to your spouse, the wall or a willing friend or bookclubber! When you practice talking about sex, it’s much easier to actually talk about it when you need to have the conversations.

(10) There are larger conversations to have: Your children may ask about other ways babies come into our lives- and you can get into discussions about IVF, adoption, surrogacy and more. And, especially if your child identifies with being in the LGBTQ community- you don’t get a pass if you are straight and your child is gay, by the way- you must talk about sex with same-sex partners. If you don’t know the answers, ask someone who does. If you don’t have this conversation with your child who identifies with being in the LGBTQ community, they will get their information elsewhere (likely not a trusted source) and they will likely feel alone and confused.

Need resources? Listen to these podcast episodes we’ve done on the topic of talking to kids about sex:

How to Talk to Kids about Sex with Dina Alexander

How to talk to Kids about Sex, Love & Equality with Bonnie J. Rough

How to Talk to Kids about Healthy, Caring, Romantic Relationships with Richard Weissbourd

How to Talk to Boys about Sex with Peggy Orenstein

How to Talk to Kids about Porn with Gail Dines

How to Talk to Kids about Sexual Assault with Dae Sheridan

To come: How to Talk to Boys about Puberty, Sex, Body Image & Growing Up with Cara Natterson

 

Thinking of you, my friend! You can do it!

Warm regards,

Dr. Robyn

How Mindfulness Can Positively Impact the Way We Parent Our Children with Dr. Laura Markham

Life gets crazy and parenting can be stressful. Many parents anticipate the stress and experience stress throughout the day—whether it’s morning time and getting the kids off to school, or after-school time when homework must be completed—shuttling multiple children to practices and activities, getting a healthy dinner on the table while dealing with sibling arguments—or dealing with bedtime shenanigans. And let’s not forget friendship issues, electronics battles, getting your kids to clean up after themselves—or life issues like divorce, illness, bullying, work stress and whatever else is your personal bugaboo. Yes- life can be stressful, parenting can stressful—and we focus so much on how we can help our kids, talk to our kids, be there for our kids—but what about us? What about the parents? How do we cope with our stress and what might help us to take a collective breath, allow some of the frustration to fall away and become more mindful so that we can better help ourselves as well as those we love?

Dr. Laura Markham trained as a Clinical Psychologist, earning her PhD from Columbia University. She is the mother of two, now ages 21 and 25. Dr. Laura is the author of the book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life. We interviewed her on both of these books as well as on her wonderful workbook called the Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Workbook—a great resource for parents. You can find her online at http://www.ahaparenting.com

Top 10 Family Rules with Dr. Robyn Silverman

Family rules. Something every family needs but likely has not formally discussed or written down. Think about it– does your family have known, documented family rules?

Rules make the household “work.” They keep things safe and fair for everyone. With rules, kids know what is to be expected and can rise to the occasion. Of course, without known rules, it’s very hard to enforce them, use them for guidance or for each family member to know when they’ve crossed the line.

As I’m getting ready to release my very first Family Action Blueprint (forthcoming) package that centers on family rule development and discussion, I certainly have tons of ideas!

Below is an example of 10 rules to get you thinking of what you’d like to post on your fridge and discuss in your family meeting. However, I encourage you to ask your children to contribute to the family rules as I’ve continued to learn that when working with young people; if you say it, it can be ignored or challenged, if they say it, it becomes the gospel truth.

You can ask directly; Read more

Body Image and Girls: 8 Ways to Help Our Daughters Thrive in a Thin-is-in World

It was 1996, my Freshman year of college, when I came face-to-face with a truth that still follows me today- one unifying concern that almost all girls and women seem to share is that they want to change something about their bodies. I still remember when it happened, as it came as a surprise to me. One of my friends asked me if my thighs touched. This gifted young woman, with big brown eyes, a sharp brain and warm heart worried that how close her thighs were to the other cancelled out her talents, intelligence and overall value.

It stuck with me. I spoke to countless other women and teens along the way who felt similarly. Despite the strengths they had to offer, they felt that “looks” were more important than their other attributes.

In graduate school, I studies body image. In fact, I wrote a qualifying paper and my 167-page dissertation on the topic. As it turns out, even research tells us that despite all that women and girls have to offer this world, 96% of girls and women want to change something about their bodies.

I completed my book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It, based on my dissertation work, in 2009 with my newborn baby girl, Tallie, strapped to my chest. The book was published in 2010. It’s 2018– and the issue is just as prevalent today as it was then. But of course, my own mothering love and worry for my now 9-year-old daughter and her beautiful friends, sheds a much more personal light to this prevalent problem.

So, how can we help our girls thrive? Read more

Controversial Videos Create Negative Reputation for 9-Year-Old Child Lil Tay

I was interviewed for Nightline this week regarding a story about a young girl, LilTay, her controversial videos, the adults who are profiting off of her negative reputation and her very popular Instagram account.

What’s happening?

I think this is a story of a young child who is being used and fed a script to garner attention and gain money. She is the puppet and the adults in her life are pulling the strings. While others might say she is making her own choices, she is 9 years old—and while she is fully equipped to make some choices in her life- pursuing music over gymnastics or art—who she wants to be friends with- what she wants to wear, when the stakes are so high, the persona is so public and the footprint so big—we need some strong adult influence here—if it’s positive, then great things can happen but if it’s negative or not in the best interests of the child, it certainly can do more harm than good.

Is this detrimental?

I believe that a negative reputation can have a profound effect on a young, developing girl. Children are shaped by their connections and by their experiences. Her experiences are being shaped by the adults in her life and by what they are having her do and say. What happens down the line when she is 13, 15, 20 or 30—and she wants to go a different path? Her managers have created such a large footprint that it will be difficult for her to shake this contrived reputation if she would like to do so.

Her reputation proceeds her knowing who she is– the key adults in her life are helping to  create a reputation that Taylor will need to fit herself into for the rest of her life.

Is a 9-year-old equipped to make these decisions?

Children don’t yet have a fully developed pre-frontal cortex that allows us to make decisions based on different factors. In other words, children’s brains are not fully developed—that’s why we have parents, teachers and coaches to help guide the way.

Who is accountable?

An online reputation that embraces such a negative persona, even if it’s orchestrated (why I think it’s orchestrated), can have a negative effect on how others see you. At his point, people are asking her where her parents are—as they are accountable now– but eventually, they will be holding her accountable.

What is our responsibility as parents?

It’s our responsibility as parents to help guide our children to become the best versions of themselves—to become kind, contributing citizens who use their gifts to inspire and help others. My concern is that this negative persona actually takes away from her gifts—it says “look at me” instead of hear my music or my message. It is really up to us as parents, leaders and educators, to help our young people though connection, conversation and example, to highlight their gifts, develop their character and contribute something positive to this world.

Why are likes and comments so important to the kids who use social media?

We know that many young people look to social media to gain attention—likes and comments become validation for their existence and that can become addictive. It feels good to be seen and heard—even if it’s not for the right things.

What kind of effect can all those negative comments have on this young girl?

A young child does not have the capacity to simply turn a blind eye to nasty, lewd or threatening comments. They can reek havoc on her developing self esteem, self worth and sense of self. The internet is not a bubble. She, with the help of the adults in her life, is creating controversy and backlash. Her brand will continue to garner negative attention which will be hard to shake as she grows.

What do YOU think of this situation? Full Nightline video here. Do you find these videos problematic or entertaining? Knowing that most people will only see the videos in which she curses, uses offensive racist terminology, flashes money around and talks smack about everyone in her path– are the adults in her life setting her up for positive stardom or a negative reputation that is problematic and harmful?

How to Be a Happier Parent When Happier Moms and Dads Mean Happier Kids

HAPPIER PARENTS= HAPPIER KIDS!

Do you want to be a happier parent? Most might say yes. Would it surprise you to know that for many years, research has shown that non-parents are happier than parents on an everyday basis? It’s true.

In today’s world where many parents are often shuttling kids from one destination to another, coping with high anxiety around school, sports, college, their children’s friends, their children’s interests, screen time, keeping their children safe and perhaps also trying to keep up with the Jones too- there seems to be a “happiness gap” between childless adults and those who have children. This is NOT what we had imagined when we pictured family life, is it?

So the question is- is it possible to change our families and our family lives so that they are full of the joy that we always hoped for?

Turns out- yes we can be happier parents! We need to turn our attention to the habits and concessions we’ve made and make some important changes. And don’t worry about feeling guilty. Parents who are happier have kids who are happier!

What makes you happy?

  • Laughing with a friend over coffee?
  • Performing on stage?
  • Dancing?
  • Biking?
  • Exercising?
  • Yoga?
  • Playing an instrument?
  • Reading a good book?
  • Going out to dinner with your main squeeze?

NOW– Want to know exactly what to do? I interviewed New York Times contributing editor and columnist (remember Motherlode?), KJ Dell’Antonia about her forthcoming book, How to Be a Happier Parent, and we discussed some things we have to stop doing and some things we need to start doing to ensure our happiness. She says some controversial things like “don’t put your children first unless they are bleeding” which may make you dig your heals in and question how what she is saying applies to you- but it’s kind of like the whole airplane directive (put your own mask on first before assisting others).

Take a listen. It’s right on my #talktokids podcast over here.

Here’s to you and wishing you a lifetime of happiness (starting…now!)

Xoxo,

Confidence Building in Parenting: How to Let Go So Your Children Can Soar

Hello Sweet friend,

I hope you are doing well on this last day of January! It’s amazing how time flies by—we are already 1/12 of the way through the year!

So the other day, I took my family roller-skating at the same roller rink I used to go to as a kid. Other than being full of nostalgia as the same disco ball hung from the middle of the ceiling and remnants of the light up board that used to direct us to “all skate” or “couples only,” I was also a little bit anxious. This was my son’s first time roller skating and he can sometimes have an ugly tape inside his head telling him he can’t do something even before he starts. Do you have anyone in your life that gets that?

He asked me to go out on the floor with him so he could hold my hand. As a parent, this can get a bit dicey. You want your child to feel comfortable but not reliant. We don’t want to feed the “I can’t” monster or the “only if you help me” monster. We went out onto the floor together, and we held hands. I held his and he held mine. As he got his bearings, we went very slow so I was sure he was moving his own feet and I wasn’t pulling him along. After a few times around, I let him hold my hand but I wasn’t actively holding his. Then we progressed to him only holding my finger, using his own balance and momentum to take the lead and pull me along a little. So when the moment came when my daughter said; “You’re doing great Noah, now all you have to do is let go!” He did. And off he went. Shaky at times but completely on his own.

It can be hard to let go. But even before that, it can be hard to slowly transition from taking the lead to allowing your child to do so. And yet, this is one of the key ways that they gain confidence. Self-reliance and taking healthy risks allow a child to learn to trust him or herself. To get up when they fall. And they will. And though it’s hard, we will grin and bear it as they gain the grit to bear it themselves.

I love exploring how to gain confidence and when I keynote on this topic, talk about the many barriers that get in our way and how we can push through. We want every child to lead their life knowing; “I am capable, I can do it and I will do it.” Don’t you agree?

For more on this topic, I have three recommendations.

1. My newest podcast episode on How to Talk to Kids about Anything is with Sue Atkins where we talk about how to raise confident, happy, resilient children. Sue has such a warm and welcoming way about herself- and lots of hands-on tips.
2. One of my most popular podcasts is on “The Gift of Failure” with Jessica Lahey. She talks at length about how we step back and allow our child to take the lead even though s/he may falter. After all, this is how they learn to succeed.
3. For those raising girls or working with girls, a recent podcast with Katie Hurley, author of the just-released No More Mean Girls (wonderful reviews and tools- recommended!), details how we can raise strong, confident, compassionate girls that defy the mean culture we hear about so often.

Can we raise children who are confident and resilient? I think we can. But as Sue Atkins says on yesterday’s podcast; “Confidence is an inside job.” Our children need to develop confidence from what they do rather than what we do for them.

Looking forward to hearing what you think! Come up on Facebook or I’m now on Instagram–> Let’s chat!

Wishing you a great week, sweet friend.

Warmest regards,
Dr. Robyn

Parents: How Do We Talk to Kids about Fairness?

Do you hear “that’s not fair!” a lot in your home or school? Many children believe that “fair” means “the same.” But often, “the same” is not fair at all. If you can imagine a bunch of different people, all with different needs, wants and interests- we’d never think that we should give them all exactly the same thing! Dividing up the pizza, time, help, snacks or privileges in equal-sized packages, quite simply, does not often make sense. Of course, other times, people should receive “the same” and that is, indeed, the most fair situation.

Fairness is the “Powerful Word of the Month” for Powerful Words this month and is also the topic for my US News & World Report article and infographics for October.

Ask your children what they think of fairness and come up with scenarios the illustrate when fairness means “the same” and when it means “different.” Here are some of the questions you can explore:

(1) When does fairness mean “the same?”

(2) When does fair mean that everyone should get a “different” amount?

(3) What do yo9u do or say when you see unfair things happen to other people?

(4) What are some of the rules at home that ensures fairness?

(5) What happens to fairness when someone doesn’t follow the rules?

Also, explore some of these talking points I discuss in my US News & World Report article this month:

Talking point No. 1: Discuss people’s varying needs, since fairness is often based on what each person needs to be successful and healthy.

Talking point No. 2: Explain that fairness is sometimes based on desire and interest. Everyone likes different activities, foods, games, colors and books.

Talking point No. 3: Have a conversation about merit, hard work and perseverance. We want to send the message that people who put in the most time and effort often get the largest share.

Talking point No. 4: Talk about fairness and appropriateness. Let your child know that depending on a person’s age, experience and ability, what’s fair may change.

Talking point No. 5: Life, unfortunately, isn’t always fair.

In a quiet moment, talk about what you think is really unfair in life, whether it’s people who are suffering – like a friend who has lost her parent to cancer – or kids who are homeless, or it’s societal inequalities that make life difficult for certain groups of people. This will provide some perspective for your children, while you ask them to take a walk in another person’s shoes. They may even want to find ways to be able to help those in need!

I discuss these fairness talking points in Ask Dr. Robyn this month:

Come up on Facebook or Twitter and let’s discuss it!

Warm regards,