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10 Things You Must Know When Traveling with Children

Children and traveling

Traveling with Kids? Be Prepared!

Dr. Robyn Silverman

NOTE: Would you please vote for Dr. Robyn’s Blog for best Parenting Blog?  It only takes a moment! Thank you!!!

Getting ready to go to Grandma’s for the holidays?  Heading out for a long car ride? Plane ride? Don’t stress. Just be prepared.

It’s amazing that our parents were able to take us on trips without a zillion electronic gadgets.  No Ipods, DVD players, hand held games, or cell phones. Well, it’s a new world.  We need to make sure that everyone is occupied if it’s going to be a pleasant trip.

Whether you’re taking a GrandVacation with the grandparents or simply going on a long car ride to visit Aunt Patti in Mobile, be prepared with:

(1) Location games to play: I-spy, Padiddle (pointing out a car with one headlight), counting games, the alphabet game (saying destinations by going through the alphabet, A my name is Alice…), looking for specific letters on license plates, locating one car from every states.  The number of games is endless.  Brainstorm these games in advance so you’re not trying to remember them while on the road.

(2) Communication games to play: The car is one of the best places to talk to your children and teens.  The side by side nature of travel makes talking less uncomfortable.  You can simply tell stories and ask questions but you can also play games that inspire communication like  Finish the sentence (If I had a million dollars I would…) and Everyone answers (Name one thing that made you laugh today, name one thing you’re worried about).

(3) Sleepy, bored campers must be comfortable: Have someone who gets sick in the car? Tired on planes? Make sure they have a comfy blanket, pillow, and their favorite stuffed toy, if they need it.  Go over exactly what needs to be packed and make sure the children check everything off before they leave. This is a great time for children to learn how to pack their own suitcase (even if you look everything over) for the trip. We want them to have what they need! Fussy, crabby, sleep-deprived teens or children are not fun to be around!  Even if it’s something extra for them to carry (get portable sizes), be sure they have what they need to sleep it off. Other things to pack in your carry on bag here.

(4) Songs to Sing: Many children love to sing in the car. You might think that you can go with the old standbys like 99 bottles but after you get about 4 measures in you’ll see that it wasn’t the best choice.  Be prepared with short songs that your children like to sing like “wheels on the bus,” “It’s a hard knock life,” “The Circle Game,” or “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”  You can even print out the words so that one of the adults can lead the singing and actually know the words that are supposed to be sung.

(5) Mechanical back-up: If you’re going to be in the car, trailer, or plane for over8-10 hours, you may want to have a portable DVD player available as a reward for children who’ve been sitting still all day.  Get a movie that all your children can enjoy.  You can give them earphones so that they can listen while you get some moments of peace and quiet.  You can also bring along Ipods, hand held games, and leap frog systems.  Make sure that you don’t bring loud games.  They’ll drive you crazy.

(6) Snacks! Troops get hungry: Make sure you have healthy snacks like carrot sticks, celery sticks, orange segments, and raisins ready to go.  You can also bring along other snacks like crackers, cookies, and fruit roll-ups.  Also ensure that you have juice boxes and water. No trip is fun when people are hungry or thirsty.

(7) Wipes! People get messy: Children who eat in the car or on the plane get messy.  Bring along wipes. tissues, and a sense of humor.

(8) Maps to know where you’re heading: Make sure your children know where you’re going and what you’ll be doing so that they get excited and mentally prepared. You also need maps to ensure that you know where you’re going, the locations of favorite kid friendly restaurants, sites you might want to see, and places where you can meet friends who you haven’t seen in a long time.  Stops give the children and teens time to stretch their legs and break up the day if you’re driving int he car.  If you’re flying, maps are fun ways to learn about the places where you’re going as well as the places you’re flying over!

(9) Labels so things don’t get lost: Make sure that you label your suitcases well.  Everyone has a black suitcase, so if you have the option, get another color.  Label special toys and blankets so that if they get lost there is a chance they’ll come back to you.

(10) Stranger danger and ground rules: We don’t want our children and teens to be frightened when we go away but we do want them to be smart.  Go over what you expect and talk to them about staying safe while in an airport, rest stop, or other place away from home.  Call a family meeting and talk about the different rules we need to follow, buddy systems you need to have, and things to expect.  Getting it all out in the open before you leave with ease the way for everyone.

In the end, it’s just important to have a good time– so leave the stress at home and enjoy! It’s time to make memories!

Happy Holidays everyone!

NOTE: Would you please vote for Dr. Robyn’s Blog for best Parenting Blog?  It only takes a moment! Thank you!!!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

[digg=http://digg.com/travel_places/10_Things_you_Must_Know_When_Traveling_with_kids_and_Teens]

Lessons from Aruba: Life Looks Better from a Hammock

Dr. Robyn with iguana in aruba

…From Sandles to Snow Boots in One Day

Dr. Robyn Silverman

It’s always nice to go on vacation and get away from it all…especially when “getting away” means getting away from the snow and bitter cold of the Northeast (at least for me, anyway).

On Friday, I returned from Aruba.  We were in a very turbulent airplane while making it back to Boston in the heavy snow.  I had my feet firmly planted on the Aruba sand in the morning and shoved in snow boots by nightfall.  Oh well.  The vacation (something I take rarely), helped me to remember a few things.  Perhaps vacations do the same for you:

What I learned in Aruba:

(1) It’s important to get in touch with nature: It’s embarrassing.  How much time do we spend on a computer?  Phone? Ipod?  Believe me, I’m guilty of it as well.  In Aruba, I was watching Iguanas crawl on my husband’s shoe.  This would probably be disturbing at any other time in any other place.  But here, in Aruba, it was fabulolus! I was captivated by pelicans in trees.  They reminded me that I was in a special place. And, as you can imagine, I was shocked to stand right next to the flamingos on the beach.  Ahhh.  This is the way it’s supposed to be.  We are sharing this earth with other creatures! Who knew? I don’t know about you, but I sometimes need to be reminded. My phone didn’t work in Aruba– and that was a very good thing!

Dr. Robyn with her husband, Jason in Aruba on flamingo beachThere's an Iguana in my shoe!aruba_pelican

(2) Nothing soothes like a great sunset: Sometimes I’m so busy looking at what’s right infront of me that I forget to look at the amazing sites Mother Nature provides.  Wow.  Sunsets make me breathe deeper and remember why nature inspires artists to paint. You’ll see what I mean below:

Gorgeous Sunset in Aruba with sailboat December 2008Dr. Robyn takes picture of Aruba Sunset with big boat

(3) Beauty can be captured from all perspectives. I love doing yoga.  However, doing yoga on the beach was an amazing treat.  Being the kind of person I a (type A), people might say I have some trouble slowing down.  Yes, I admit it’s true.  I realized in Aruba, while doing yoga on the beach, that when we surround ourselves with beauty, it’s almost impossible NOT to slow down.  Looking up from my morning stretch, I was captivated…and I’ve never breathed so deep. This is what I saw:

View from yoga in Aruba

Now if I could just paint THAT on my gym ceiling…

(4) Explore different ways to exercise: Yoga on the beach is one way.  Dancing is another.  While having breakfast on our first full day, we saw about 50 people taking a Latin dance class.  It was amazing!  People of all shapes, sizes, and ages, were grooving to the music.  One little boy was keeping up with the rest of them…which got me thinking about the trouble we’ve had getting our children to move their bodies and get up from the TV or computer.  Perhaps if we were more innovative about our exercise plans for them– not going to the gym– but doing the fun stuff like martial arts, gymnastics, dancing– we would be getting a lot further.

boy doing Latin dance class in Aruba

(5) Try new things: When was the last time you tried a new food?  It had been a while for me too.  But who could resist trying some of the local seafood in Aruba?  Caught in the morning and served that night, it doesn’t get fresher than this.  We tried local Grouper, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi and some other indigenous fish. Yum.  This is the farthest thing from fast food and TV dinners. It’s even better when you eat it right on the beach.

Dr. Robyn and Jason in Aruba at simply fish restaurant on the beachSeafood Risotto in Aruba

(6) Relax and Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: My brother used to have a quote on his wall (I believe from the movie The  Natural) that said “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.  It’s all small stuff.  If you can’t fight and you can’t flee, flow.” It was written in crayon– but that’s another story. While in Aruba, I checked my email only once everyday.  Since I had no phone access, this was my one way to connect if necessary.  It’s funny, one email I got was from a reader who was very upset that I had a “comma splice” in one of my recent posts.  She actually told me she was “dismayed.” I realized how uptight we can all get about the little things when we’re caught in everyday life.  I made a conscious decision not to fret over it.  Instead, we decided to make a toast to all the things that made us feel grateful. Perhaps this lesson has inspired me to remember to relax in 2009– even if I’m not in Aruba!  Or, at the very least, I need to remember to go on vacation more than once every 5 or so years!

aruba at Pinchos restaurant

(7) Life looks better from a Hammock: Expanding on point number 6– yes, life does look better from a hammock.  Should I put one up in my yard today? Probably not.  After all, it’s like, 5 degrees out today.  The wind chill feels like a layer of skin in being peeled off your face.  However, perhaps I need to keep this picture of me in a hammock– and the views from the hammock– nearby.  There’s something about being suspended gently off the ground while looking up at nature that makes you feel weightless physically and emotionally.  And of course, you have to have a book.  In this picture, I’m reading one of the most ridiculous books I’ve ever read– but hey, I was on vacation!

Dr. Robyn on a hammock in ArubaView from the hammock in Aruba

So, this holiday, as people are running themselves ragged, complaining about the economy, fretting about company, and pulling their hair out because of comma splices or the like, I’m going to will myself to incorporate my view from the hammock into my life.  Is it possible?  I’ll let you know.

Wish me luck. Happy Holidays everyone.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

PS Just a funny picture.  These Iguanas thought they’d have a little happy hour in a beach goer’s Pina Colada.

aruba happy hour for iguanas

Letters about My Helicopter Parents: Part 2

helicopter parentDr. Robyn Silverman

We’re continuing our discussion about helicopter parents, overprotective parents who won’t let go and hover over the heads of their children, heading off potential challenge/risk or taking over their responsibilities even as they enter their teens and adult years. This is part 2– part 1 is here.

The questions for today are, how can we help parents to take a step back and allow children in their 20s to grow up and be self-reliant?  Should we? Are adult children in their 20s too young to “go it alone” in today’s world? Do you think parents are having a problem “backing off” these days and allowing children to make mistakes and take risks?  As a parent, how have you approached the “letting go” process? Are you helpful or a helicopter?

________________________________________________________________________

Letter from 20-something, T.O

Hello I know the feeling and everything you say about these helicopter parents. I have two. But why is my mom…an Extremely Over Protective Parent, does she have the right to control my life? I thought we are all consider adults at 18 years old? I am now in my late 20’s.! I don’t know what to do anymore!!! She treats me and my older sister (who is in her early 30’s) like we’re 10 years old…!!
PLEASE HELP Its DRIVING ME UP THE WALL!!!! (T.O.)

Dr. Robyn responds:

Hello T.O.

I can tell that you’re very frustrated with your parents right now. They clearly care about you. Have you talked to them, in a very adult manner, about your concerns, wants, and needs As an adult? Do you live very close by? Do you have healthy boundaries with you parents?

As an adult, it’s very important that you talk to your parents and tell them how you feel and what you’d think would be healthier in your parent-adult child relationship. Be specific. Sometimes, when people don’t move away from home (for college or otherwise), there is a lack of shift in the relationship from between childhood and adulthood.

It’s past time. It may be a difficult conversation, but after all, you’re an adult, and you can handle it!

Certainly, be kind to your parents. The more adult, grateful, and kind you can be, the more they will see you as the independent adult you long to be.

Best regards,
Dr. Robyn

______________________________________________________________

Please provide with your comments and feedback for T.O and whomever else might be wondering what to do in similar circumstances.  Do you have helicopter parents?  Have you been able to overcome their over-protectiveness?  How?

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Letters to their Helicopter Parents from their Kids: 1st of Series

child writing to his helicopter parents

Dear Dr. Robyn: Letters about My Helicopter Parents

Dr. Robyn Silverman

This week, we’re concentrating on Helicopter Parents because of the number of questions and letters I’ve received on the topic lately from our readers. The letters in this series are all taken from the comments section of one of my most popular articles; “Overprotective Parents: Helpful of Harmful?”

Again, Helicopter Parents are mothers and fathers who hover closely over their children and swoop down to do things for their children (whether their sons and daughters want the help or not) to make things easier for their children, take away pain, or alleviate stress (even when it’s part of normal development and the experience of growing up).

It’s clear that we only want the best for our daughters and sons—at any age. Of course we do! However, it’s vital that as parents we don’t alienate our children or frustrate them into a frenzy because we want to love and protect them. There is a letting go process that we must allow so that children can stand on their own two feet and grow up to be responsible adults.

In the letters this week, you will see that these young adults and teen don’t know what to do but they are certainly fed up with being treated like children. Are you feeling the same way? Or are you the parent of a teen or young adult who you are scared to let go? Either way, please read below and comment. We need to talk about this if we’re going to get anywhere.

Featured Letter #1

Dear Dr. Robyn,

Reading this article (and others like it) has led me to believe that I am actually a child of so-called “helicopter parents”.

Honestly, debilitating is a good word for it. Annoying too. I mean, I’ve actually BEGGED my parents to let me do my own laundry, but was denied because “you cant cuz everyone’s laundry is done at once” blah blah blah. I could just do the whole load was my answer and to that I get “e-eh–nawww, thats not a good Idea!” ….

As you’ll see from my site, I’m an artist, and I actually think the reason I AM is because I gained a sense of freedom from it. How I found this site was cuz I NOW feel like my parents have took THAT away from me cuz for some reason they have a giant wall devoted to my artwork now….so it feels like its something they ENCOURAGED me to do….GAHH! I wan out of this house!!!

so yeah, I agree, debilitating is a good word for it

Dr. Robyn’s answer to Rob:

Hello Rob-

First, I’ve checked out your site and can see you are a very talented person! Congrats on your great work and finding your passion.

It can be frustrating when parents want to do so much. I can hear from what you’re saying, that they clearly love you and care for you– but you are feeling smothered.

Sometimes, we just throw up our hands and say “forget it” and cave in. However, other times, we need to take more action. Remember- The only person’s behavior you are in control of is your own.

You may want to call a meeting with you and your parents and express your feelings there. NICELY. Talk about how appreciative you are of their interest and their love, but you would like to do some things that make you feel more like a responsible man rather than a child….and here are a few things you would like to do– and then discuss them. They may not fully understand why you feel you want to do the laundry– or why you want to do other things similar to that. If you clearly and nicely tell them how you’re feeling and what you would like to do, they may just open their minds.

Because we aren’t in control of other people’s behaviors, you could make some changes on your own– for example, if your parents won’t let you do your laundry in your house, take it to a laundry facility and do it there. However, I would take the “talking approach” first– sitting down with your parents and having a responsible, clear conversation– before doing this type of thing because it could come off as passive aggressive otherwise.

Hmmm. As far as the art goes– I don’t know that you’ll win that debate. The reason why? They’re proud of you. They may do it in an over-the-top way but many parents don’t acknowledge their children talents at all so at least in that sense, if you step back for a minute, you’ll see that you’re lucky. I hear you that it’s annoying– but I probably wouldn’t fight for less “pride” when it comes to your art work, and instead, focus on the other things that are bothering you when you speak to your parents. It seems that the “art wall” is really just adding fuel to the fire– but not what’s causing the fire itself. Make sense?

Let us know when you do it. Remember, these are people who love you– so be gentle but firm. Tell them what you would like to do to help you grow up into the responsible man you want to be– be clear about what you want– and appreciative and grateful for how they’ve helped you.

Good luck-
Dr. Robyn

Any other advice for Rob? Please comment below with your own questions, stories, or 2 cents.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

–clipart from Jupiter images

Beyond Mom and Dad: Who are you?

Dr. Robyn in Bye Bye BirdieWho are you behind your everyday label?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

As parents, we wear so many different hats. First and foremost, you may be Mom or Dad, but beyond that perhaps you are an “athlete,” “actress,” “entrepreneur,” “friend,” “scrap-booker,” or “sports enthusiast.”

SO what about those other hats? Are they stuffed into the back of your closet collecting dust? Crammed in the attic since you had children or you got married? How’s that working for your mental heath?

It’s important for your quality of life that you feed what makes you vibrant and vital. It’s also important that your children see that becoming an adult doesn’t mean squashing your interests and the hobbies and passions that make you…you!

In the spirit of walking the talk, I’m currently in a Musical Review taking place at a community theater near my town in Massachusetts. People ask me often enough, “how do you have the time for such things?” The answer is: I don’t. But that doesn’t matter. As you can imagine, I find it important enough as a mentor to children  to parents, and a well-balanced person and family member, to do it anyway. It makes me feel alive—it makes me laugh—or cry (in a good way)–it stretches me and gets me out from behind my desk. It’s so “outside the box” for me that it makes me less of a square! In many senses, in fact, it makes me better at everything else I do.

I get to be serious and sing my heart out:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=revABrHgxpI]

And I even get to be silly in some numbers like this one. I mean, when in regular life do we really get to be this silly? Perhaps in this case, life can imitate art and I’ll take a piece of each number and take it with me into the everyday?

OK- so I’ve put myself out there to you– so how about you? Who are you beneath your parent or teacher label? Are you smothering your interests in order to be a “better parent?” Do you think feeding your own interests is important or selfish when you become a parent? If you’ve been holding off– why– and when will you feed that part of yourself again? Please share below. We’d love to know!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Grow up! 5 Ways We're Treating Our Children Like Adults

Growing up too soon?

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silvermen

I’m sensing a very frustrating trend here. Children just can’t seem to be children much anymore. We tell them that we don’t want them to grow up too soon and yet, we’re treating them like little adults! I mean, are we serious? Why not just give them a briefcase and send them off to work too?

Let me take you on a short, but disturbing trip…

Inside, like adults: Remember when our parents would tell us to go outside and play?  As you probably remember, a recent study found that children were being banned from the playground and made to stay inside during the school day due to wearing the wrong shoes, too much messy mulch near the playground, no coat, or talkative or texting teachers who can’t be bothered to supervise. Children need outside play for physical, social, and cognitive development as well as to get in touch with nature (which is vital to help them have a sensitivity and connection to mother earth). So much for imagination…sometimes children just need to get away from plastic, electronics and rubber, don’t you think?

“Today’s 5-year-olds were acting at the level of 3-year-olds 60 years ago, and today’s 7-year-olds were barely approaching the level of a 5-year-old 60 years ago,” says Elena Bodrova at Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning

Gym-goers, like adults: On that same topic, the Washington Post just covered a story yesterday that shows that children are now hitting the gym instead of playing outside. Come on. Hitting the gym? What happened to monkey bars, swimming, martial arts and hopscotch? Can you imagine how bored they’ll be by the time they have to make “going to the gym” a habit as an adults? Yawn Yawn. Think it’s not happening all that much? According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, last year, 1.3 million children between the ages of 6 to 11 were members of a health club. Sad.  Just sad.

“It may sound like a grown up routine, but many parents are enrolling their children in fitness centers or buying child-sized equipment for a workout more grueling than ballet or Little League but cheaper than hiring a personal trainer.”

Medicated, like adults: Many of us have been very upset by the news featured in my article “Tots Popping Pills”  that the American Academy of Pediatrics started recommended the adult drug “statins” to “at-risk” children as young as 8 years old in order to lower high cholesterol levels. Besides the fact that this option provides another push-button solution in a fast-paced, sedentary world, there are no long term studies done on the effects of these drugs on children. These children could be on these drugs for the rest of their life…should they be?

“Children’s bodies are very different in how they metabolize or handle drugs…Their livers are different, their kidneys are different. In many cases it’s about the same if they’re taking Tylenol or asthma medication. But for other drugs like statins that might have some impact on their endocrine system, we just really don’t know. I, for one, feel unsafe simply saying children are little adults in this case.” Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine

Waxed, plucked, and primped, like adults: Many Mommies bond with their daughters over a little sparkly pink nail polish. We’re now dealing with a whole new ball of wax…literally. Among some of the most disturbing “grow-up” tactics, is the waxing, plucking, and primping of little girls. The New York Post told us just a month ago that “the newest trend in pre-tween preening is a wax job, with girls as young as 6 years old removing whatever hair they have – or don’t have – from their legs and armpits.’ Squirming in your chairs? Yes, me too.

“In 10 years,” predicts Stawczyk, “waxing children will be like taking them to the dentist or putting braces on their teeth.”

Fed, like adults: Who do these restaurant chains think they’re kidding? They call them “kids meals” but are serving enough for a full grown man. We talked recently about how Fast Food Flops for Tots and the recent study which shows 90% of children’s “kid’s meals” at 13 major fast-food and restaurant chains are too high in calories for kids. We know that fast food can be a lifesaver– especially for families who have a lot of kids– but what are we feeding them? Men’s Health put out a surprisingly good article this month (my husband gets the magazine and showed it to me), written by it’s editor and author of Eat This Not That, about what kids are really being served at their favorite restaurant chains. Just as an example, according to the article, while an active 8 year old boy should eat about 1,600 calories per day, a single kid’s meal of “Chili’s Pepper Pals Country Fried Chicken Crispers with Ranch Dressing and Homestyle Fries” will pack over 70% of his daily calories into one, seemingly innocent kid’s meal (1,110 calories, 82 grams of fat- 15 grams saturated, 56 grams of carbs, and HolyMoly 1,980 mg of sodium). Yum yum.

“An Oscar Mayar Lunchable can have more sugar than four peanut butter cups.

SO…is it really better to be “like mother, like daughter” and “like father, like son?”

Please weigh in. I’m going to go bang my head against the wall.

Note: This article featured on radio show, Bigg Success 10/10/08 here

[digg=http://digg.com/health/Grow_up_5_Ways_We_re_Treating_Kids_like_Adults]

The Weight of School Culture

I’m not sure how many of you know, but I’ve been studying girls, body image, confidence and success for quite a long time.  In fact, a good chunk of my work at Tufts University was on how girls feel they “fit in” to a culture that tends to sensationalize thinness and to reject people the more they deviate from the thin ideal. This cultural issue has a high cost. It isn’t only a problem because it creates a hotbed for eating disordered behavior and poor self worth, but also because it can cultivate social problems such as bullying, social rejection, and academic challenges.

A new study shows that a supportive, respectful peer culture, which makes children feel as though they “fit in” is just as important to a student’s success as high academic expectations.  Specifically, those students who were categorized as clinically “obese” were less likely to go to college than those students who were considered of medically “normal” weight. This finding was much more severe for girls than for boys.

Who did it? Robert Crosnoe, University of Texas, with colleague, Chandra Muller

You can have the best curriculum in the world, and if there’s something messed up in the culture, then you set out to fail…anytime you put 1,000 kids together, you’re creating a culture. (Crosnoe)

Where was it published? July issue of Sociology of Education

Where did the data come from? Crosnoe used data collected on nearly 11,000 teens from 128 schools from around the U.S. as part of the ongoing National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the largest and most comprehensive survey of health-related behavior among teens between 7th and 12th grade, which started in 1994.

What did he find?

Teens who were categorized as “obese” tended to have to cope with more social isolation.

They were less likely to go to college or take advanced math and science classes even though their peers were doing so. (Crosnoe)

Gender Issues

Girls who were considered obese were less likely to attend college than thin girls.

“The more it makes you stand out from the crowd, the worse it is,” says Crosnoe.

  • How do I measure up? Girls are more likely to compare themselves to their female classmates and peers around them than are boys. Because body appearance is more central to girls’ self-concept than to boys’, it’s likely that this gender difference implies that weight has a more powerful effect on the lives of girls and their academic careers.
  • Fitting in and Standing Out: In school cultures in which students were less likely to be considered clinically obese and overweight, 61% of “obese” girls didn’t continue school.  However, in a school in which at least 1/3 of students were indeed considered medically obese, only 17% of “obese” girls did not go on.

“Your school and your culture affects how you view academics and your future.  Social ups and downs are a big distraction…many of the kids said it’s hard to sit and do your homework when you’re worried about what will happen in school the next day.” (Crosnoe)

Beating the Odds: Resilient Kids

  • How did some socially isolated students do well despite their social problems?  Key characteristics: very supportive parents, at least one good friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend, and finding a niche in an extracurricular activity.

Again, it’s underscored: Enrolling your child in a positive extracurricular activity where character, confidence, connection, individual competence, caring and compassion are stressed, such as in an academy that is using Powerful Words Character Development, is more important than ever.  Children who may not be socially thriving in school can still be extremely successful if they receive the support, education, and chance to succeed in an extracurricular activity like martial arts, gymnastics, swimming, dance, cheer, or other powerful after-school opportunity.  Parents who need a recommendation, please contact our team.

How did you fit into your school culture?  How has your child found his or her place within the school culture?  How do you see a powerful extracurricular helping this situation? Please share your “secrets” so we can spread the ideas to all those who can use them!

Please comment below.

Have a Powerful Day!

The Complaint Department Called: They Want Their Grumpy Pants Back

Ear Pollution is Toxic!
Ear Pollution is Toxic!

Please stop complaining: You’re Polluting My Ears!

Dr. Robyn Silverman

I just got back from Martha’s Vineyard– one of my favorite places in the world. It’s so relaxing– we saw friends, read, and enjoyed the stunning weather characteristic of Massachusetts this time of year. It’s amazing how happy people seem over there. So many smiles! Such generosity of spirit! We ate at some great restaurants, got ice-cream from an amazing place in Oaks Bluff (who can keep their smile from showing up when eating ice-cream!) and drove by where my husband and I got engaged almost 9 years ago.We spent time with friends, had a picnic of great food including chicken cacciatore (with a secret ingredient the host gave me!) and took pictures of some beautiful cliffs at the end of the island.

It was a beautiful day!  Look at these amazing cliffs!

It was a beautiful day! Look at these amazing cliffs!

We even saw the most amazing summer fireworks I’ve ever seen with a few thousand other people. Wow! We sat out on the grass in the “camp-grounds” looking up at the night sky while we “oohed and ahhed” at the spectacular show.


And then, we got on the ferry– a beautiful 45 minute trip back to the mainland of Massachusetts– and BAM! Whining. Complaining. Hundreds of people changed into their Grumpy Pants. I’m not a fan of grumpy pants (not that I’m complaining).

On the Ferry! Can't complain!  Or...can you?

On the Ferry! Can't complain...or can you???

After spending the month thinking about generosity, I was struck by the sheer amount of complaints I heard on the trip home. Were these people in the same place I was? They complained about having to wait, complained about being rushed, complained about having to take a bus, complained about having to take a ferry, complained about being cold, hot, smooshed, or hungry. It was toxic– and I just wanted to get away from it. My goodness! Have you been around people like this? It can’t be good for mental health to be so negative.

My Mom taught me when I was young that nobody wants to hang around the “complaint department.” Moms have a way of saying things just so, right? But it’s true. I remember reading something– or maybe I saw it on the news– about this church that started a no complain rule with “no complaining” bracelets and everything! The aim was to stop “ear pollution.” Yes, I like that too.

Not only do we need to teach our children (and adults) that complaining all the time repels people from wanting to be around you, but that having a generous spirit in which you smile, say thank-you, and notice the good things in life attracts people to you– and inevitably, bring more good things.

A recent study found that teen girls who vented to each other about their problems, from boy problems to social slights, were more likely to develop anxiety and depression— and the same is likely true for adult women. (–Amanda Rose, author of complaint study)

What does constant complaining do?

  1. It annoys other people and can make them do unsavory things
  2. It makes people more negative
  3. It opens the flood gates to more complaining
  4. It repels happy people
  5. It allows negativity to become the focus of what you think about
  6. It makes even good things look bad
  7. It makes people less happy, healthy, and successful (see happiness research, Marty Seligman)
  8. It makes people less grateful
  9. It makes people tune you out
  10. It drowns out all the positive things you say

Think of the 3 closest people to you– think of yourself– do you show a generous spirit? Do you give of yourself with intention? Do you or those who are close to you smile a lot? Complain a lot?

There’s this fabulous woman, Debbie, who is a wonderful friend of mine and also an amazing coach. She’s like a warm blanket. People flock to her. Everyone just wants to hug her. Know anyone like that? She lives on Martha’s Vineyard and I just got to spend some time with her. You won’t catch her griping or “kvetching” as my grandmother (“Ma”) would say. But it’s more than that– she gives with intention– so much so– that it’s become natural, everyday, and well, unintentional. She smiles and embraces you– and you feel it, even over the phone.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Colleen O’Donnell, the author of “Generous Kids” and doing a half hour interview with her. She, too, talks about the importance of giving with intention– easy ways for the family to show generosity– that don’t take much time, talent, or money– but make a big difference. Here’s a quick clip

Being generous makes us feel good– and makes others feel good. So as we leave this month in which we have focused on generosity, I hope we can keep the generous spirit alive. Do we want giving to become a habit– or do we want complaining to become a habit? Both are possible.

I know lots of children are going back to school over in this part of the world and summer’s coming to a close. We might be putting our shorts and tanks away–but can we leave the grumpy pants in the closet? They’re really out of style.

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Two Minutes to gripe: Every notice that there’s just too much complaining around you? Tell us about it.

Two minutes to praise: Have any people in your life that are like warm blankets? Sing their praises!

COMMENT BELOW!

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Have a Powerful Day!

Are School Bullying Programs Just Temporary Band-Aids?

Bullied: The Fallout of No Child Left Behind?

Dr. Robyn J.A. SIlverman

Dr. Robyn–One of my daughters (I have 9 yo twin girls) is being bullied terribly. I have spoken to the teacher, principle, adjustment counselor. I have even had Tim and Kim speak with her this week because she brings it home to hurt her sister and disrespect me. How do I get the school to adopt a No Bully policy? Next year will be their last year in elementary school but these children will be moving on to middle school with my girls. It started with just a few children and now the whole class is mean to her. She says she has “no friends” and she doesn’t anymore. She has gone from a confident child to a child that thinks she is ugly, fat and deserves to be treated badly.

–Gail

I’m not a very politically-minded person. I don’t spend hours debating the current campaign or arguing about something George W. Bush, Barack Obama, or John McCain did or said. I do care about children though—and as you know, I’ve got a lot of opinions when it comes to kids and their education. Particularly, my focus is typically on ways to help children reach their potential and become generous, open-minded, respectful, confident, leaders—rather than on who’s getting the most electoral votes.

After reading a brief post in the Washington Post this morning on the importance of teaching the whole child in school, my feelings, as usual, became more acute. We talk about the need for character education and yet in many schools, kids aren’t receiving it.

It’s been difficult to see the emotional fallout regarding the intense focus on academics during the era of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). High expectations in reading and math have left children in an emotional and social funk. I’ve already started receiving requests for bullying and leadership seminars from schools who anticipate a continuation of the bullying trend that’s happened over the last 7 or 8 years. Children don’t know what to do and teachers don’t know what to do– and nothing much is being done in most places.

What’s going on now is similar to what happened decades ago– lack of knowledge, lack of no-how, lack of money, lack of listening, and lack of implementation in schools. These reasons, I believe, were the same reasons that I wound up getting horribly bullied in elementary school years ago. Are we still in the same place?

No promotion of positive values—no prevention of alienation, no expectation of character in action– even if today’s bully is tomorrow’s criminal. Perhaps it isn’t hard to believe that this is part of what fuels (and pushed me in the past) to become a child development expert in my adult life. I figured, “I guess I’ll have to figure out the answer myself.” The teachers at that time (and I don’t think it’s gotten better in most cases since), had absolutely NO CLUE what to do about bullying. There was no real protocol and a real feeling of dart throwing in the dark when it came to solving the obvious issue.

Time to let the cat out of the bag…

It was fifth grade when it first happened to me. Admittedly, I was a sensitive girl—very friendly, quite intuitive, and often, too eager to please. This social profile, along with the fact that I had become too close with a girl who was already considered “the best friend” of another bossy, albeit insecure, 5th grader, named Jenny, put me in a precarious situation. I was ready to begin some of the worst days of my life. As an adult, I can still say that with confidence. I was about to become a consistent victim of bullying during this unfortunate year. Boy, do I have some stories that would make your head spin.

While in Martha’s Vineyard this past weekend, I had a great conversation with some of my friends about the tragic sabbatical that children have taken from social and emotional education. On the one hand, the lack of character education in schools is absurd (and why we’re so grateful to Powerful Words Member Schools for supplying it in the after-school arenas).

On the other hand, the children have been robbed of natural social lessons due to the diminishing budget for gym (time when children need to work together outside of the academic world), art (a time when children can express themselves artistically and put their feelings about nonacademic things to paper), drama (an activity that allows children to act out, try out, and get out their feelings in a healthy way), music…and the list goes on and on. And let’s not get started on the fact that children have full access of the computer/internet and no education about the decorum, respect, and responsibility it takes to use it. We can say “it’s got to stop” but without the opportunities for children to learn positive interactions and the diminished focus on providing such opportunities in schools, we’ve got a major problem.

So now what?

I’m troubled and reassured by the schools that are asking to bring me in to talk to the children about bullying —in person, cyber, or otherwise. They may actually be noticing it may be a problem—or they’re simply trying to “shut up” a parent who’s complaining that their child is being bullied (something that is definitely happening in some of these schools). It’s clear that money is tight– since most of it is designated for more math or reading prep– not social education. This has to be a one-shot deal. But what can I possibly do or say in an hour that’s going to change the social climate of the school?

There have been plenty of parents who’ve reached out and written to tell me about their child who has been bullied, teased, terrorized, ostracized, and gossiped about.

I’ve already gone into school to role play strategies that are meant to help children cope when a bully “attacks.” But I’m not really sure that it’s where I should put my focus. Do you? I mean, why give the education to the “victims” when it’s really the leaders and bullies that need the social education —I guess I’d rather “promote” positive interaction rather than “prevent” (which implies the risk is still very much there), negative interaction.

So I’m at a stalemate. I admit it. Since the schools aren’t really asking for it– I’d like to ask you for your opinion. If you had someone go into your children’s school to talk about bullying—or someone who was actually going to make a difference—what would you want them to do or say? My inclination is to talk to the “leaders” in the school (the teachers would have to pick these out) and put them through leadership training.

What do you think? What would you want for your children? I’d like to help but I’m not really interested in putting a temperamental band-aid on a sore subject nor am I interested in being the walking check-mark next to the school administration’s program requirement list for the year.

As educators, our after-school program instructors that constantly keep their eyes on respect, discipline, confidence, responsibility, generosity, and more– we thank you– you are needed more than you can ever know. I wonder how many children you have saved from being the victim as well as the bully– through the consistent use of character education and Powerful Words. Now we need to know how to transfer some of our expertise and programming into the school systems that need it so badly.

Your comments and ideas are respected and very much wanted. Please comment below.

(Over)Protective Parents: Helpful or Harmful?

Are Some Parents Too Overprotective? What do you think?

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

My mom and I were speaking on the phone yesterday about a recent New York Times article on overprotective “helicopter parents,” their children and overnight camps. Did you see it?

Parents are “bombarding the camp with calls: one wanted help arranging private guitar lessons for her daughter, another did not like the sound of her child’s voice during a recent conversation, and a third needed to know — preferably today — which of her daughter’s four varieties of vitamins had run out. All before lunch.

We were laughing about how times certainly have changed since we were all younger– when parents told us to get up, rub some dirt on it, and give it another go. My Mom and I were trying to remember if I ever called when I was away at camp– maybe once– but we’re not completely certain of that figure. Of course, we didn’t have cell phones, email, web cams, or texting when we were kids– but would we have used them if we did?

People have been throwing around the term “helicopter parents” for quite some time now to describe parents who are overprotective of their children to a fault. Some people hate the term and others believe it’s spot on. Mothers and fathers often cite that “times have changed” and more hand-holding is necessary, even though, by many accounts, children in the United States are safer than ever. So is our attempt to protect negatively affecting our children’s ability to be self-determined and independent? What do you think?

Who: Sociologists find that helicopter parents tend to be mothers and fathers of “Millennials,” children of baby boomers, born between the early 1980s and 2000.

They saw their youngsters as “special,” and they sheltered them. Parents outfitted their cars with Baby on Board stickers. They insisted their children wear bicycle helmets, knee pads and elbow guards. They scheduled children’s every hour with organized extracurricular activities. They led the PTA and developed best-friend-like relationships with their children…Today, they keep in constant touch with their offspring via e-mail and cell phones. And when their children go off to college, parents stay just as involved.

Where do we see it: It’s been reported that overprotective parents are noticed on sports fields, schools, colleges, after-school programs, and now, even overnight camps. As I mentioned above, an article in the New York Times reported that overprotective parents have seeped into the camp culture, a place where children’s distance from home was often equated with “growing up” and “standing on their own 2 feet.”

In fact, the camps are now employing full-time parent liaisons to counsel parents from 7am to 10pm via email and phone. This position has become absolutely necessary because camps feel that they need to cater to the increasing number of parents who:

make unsolicited bunk placement requests, flagrantly flout a camp’s ban on cellphones and junk food, and consider summer an ideal time to give their offspring a secret vacation from Ritalin.

While camps want to accommodate parents, they worry that their over-involvement is negating the point of camp—a place to learn how to solve problems and make decisions without parental involvement. ]

What’s going on? Many reasons have been cited as motivators of overprotective parents. Parents are overprotective for all different reasons. In some cases, parents perceive that when they do something for their child, it comes out better. In other cases, parents feel a need for control in a world that seems more unpredictable and scary that it was when they were younger. Some parents have a fear of failure and hate to see their children struggle while others have a fear that their children will succeed and no longer need them as much as they did at one time. Still others feel entitled to check in with or about their children at any given time or they feel empowered by living vicariously through their sons and daughters who are doing things that the parents might not have been able to do when they were younger.

Here’s the rub from several sides:

(1) A study shows…Parental involvement can be very helpful. Data from 24 colleges and universities gathered for the National Survey of Student Engagement show that students whose parents were very often in contact with them and frequently intervened on their behalf “reported higher levels of engagement and more frequent use of deep learning activities,” such as after-class discussions with professors, intensive writing exercises and independent research, than students with less-involved parents. “Compared with their counterparts, children of helicopter parents were more satisfied with every aspect of their college experience, gained more in such areas as writing and critical thinking, and were more likely to talk with faculty and peers about substantive topics,” said survey director George D. Kuh, an Indiana University professor.

(2) A mixed reaction… Lenore Skenazy, a columnist for the New York Sun as well as a mother of a 9 year old son, recently talked about allowing her son to ride the subway on his own. People voiced both dismay and encouragement and called her everything from neglectful to a breath of fresh air. She used the incident to create her own blog about kids and independence, called Free Range Kids. The idea behind the concept is to live responsibly (seat belts, helmets, airbags, etc.), but not to restrict your child’s actions out of fear.

(3) The negative side of over-protectiveness, including:

(a) Undermining children’s confidence in their own abilities to take care of themselves and get things done;

(b) Instilling fear of failure such that they are denied the chance to learn how to persevere while standing on their own 2 feet;

(c) Stunting growth and development—in fact, studies have shown that these children lack some of the knowledge to negotiate what they need, solve their own problems, stay safe, and interact in close quarters with others;

(d) Inability to launch because they’re unsure of their passion, their own direction, and what to do next, if it means doing it on their own;

(e) Taking more staff, teacher, and administrator resources that would be directed towards their children but instead, must be used to tend to parental needs and wants; and, ironically,

(f) Raising parental anxiety levelsresearch has shown that parents who consistently judge their own self worth by their children’s success report feeling more sad and having a more negative self image than parents who did not engage in this behavior.

So, what do you think? Are parents going too far to protect their children and teens or are they justified in doing so? Do you think the affects are more positive or negative? Why? This is a heated topic with many different opinions. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Please comment below!

Related:

Letters to their helicopter parents from their children: first of series