Posts

Oklahoma hurricane

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 Read more

Walking Your Talk: Showing Your Values Even When Your Kids Aren’t Looking

“Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold — but so does a hard-boiled egg.” ~Author Unknown

As parents and teachers we often zone out when we get a moment alone.  It’s normal– I do it too.  I am far from perfect, lose my temper sometimes, say the wrong thing, and sometimes hover outside of myself with folded arms and ask myself, “is that REALLY the best you can do?”  That ever happen to you?  I’m working on it– just like everyone else.

The other day I was sitting in a café working during lunch time.  A few tables away, a black woman in her 40s, sat with 7 elderly men and woman which she was clearly taking on a much anticipated outing.  She was taking care of them.  She wiped their mouths, wheeled them in their wheelchairs, asked them questions about their lives and facilitated conversation between the group.

It struck me.  We often talk about those in care-taking positions (that may not appeal to a wide audience) as being underpaid and under-appreciated.  That always bothered me.  Teachers, nurses, aides—they work very hard and do such an important job.  I know we’ve all said this before– but it’s still true as true can be.

I watched her now and again show such patience, concern and, perhaps most importantly, curiosity to these people in her care.  And I was moved to do something.  Does that sound ridiculous?  That’s OK with me.

Someone once urged me, “imagine your child by your side, holding your hand Read more

February 29th: Teaching Children about Leap Year

Teaching Children about Leap Year 2012

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Are the children asking you about leap year? I know, as a parent, I get pelted with questions about just about everything! If you want to be ready– here are some answers to frequently asked questions about leap year:

Leap Year Defined: What is a leap year?

A leap year is a year in which February is longer than it typically is in a non-leap year year. In a leap year, February has 29 days in it instead of 28 days.

Why do we need a leap year?

In order to align the Earth’s rotation around the sun with our seasons, leap year was started. Even though we acknowledge that a year has 365 days in it– that statistic isn’t completely accurate. Actually, it takes approximately 365.2422 days for the earth to travel around the sun in one year. So, in order to get “lined up,” we give one extra day to the calendar every 4 years to account for the additional time the earth takes to travel around the sun.

When is Leap Year?

This year, 2012, is a Leap Year. Leap year occurs every 4 years (believe it or not, with some exceptions every few hundred years). It’s celebrated on February 29th– a day that only occurs in a Leap Year.

Trivia question: How long is 365.2444 days? Read more

The ABCs of Parenting & Stress Management

Much more than 10 parenting tips to reduce your stress and get you from a to z!

What?  Nobody gave you a manual giving you the abc’s of parenting and stress management when you gave birth to your bundle of joy?  Why stop at 10 parenting tips—let’s give you the full alphabet! Here’s something for you to print out, pin up, and read everyday!

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

B-   Breathe: We know it is involuntary and yet sometimes it just takes so much effort! When things get hairy, scary, and you feel like you can barely hold, on, take a step back, breathe, and be calm.

C-   Count your blessings: I’m not saying that you should think about all the bad things that are happening to everyone else and somehow feel grateful and lucky that they aren’t happening to you. That’s not productive. But there is some value in taking a moment to look at the things that are going right today…like your child gave you a sweet kiss on the cheek, your toddler ate all his peas and your spouse actually didn’t leave the dirty dishes in the sink.

D-   Decompress: This may take some practice.  It may even take some assistance.  Giving yourself time to take a break, read a book, go out, have a Read more

Unschooling: Is radical homeschooling right for your child?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kkc0gGz8VP8]

Unschooling is a radical form of homeschooling that throws the books out the window on traditional learning. School [School newly corrected: Learning] takes place out of traditional school doors and on the child’s own terms. Today, I sat down with Matt Lauer on The Today Show, to discuss it.

How can this work?

(1) Know your child. Some children thrive in a less rigid, less structured, more free form education process. Some children are self propelled, self motivated, and ready to learn in many different kinds of ways. Other children thrive with structure and adult guidance.

(2) Know yourself: It may not sound like it, but this is an investment on the parents part. Self directed not mean by themselves. Unschooling doesn’t mean only exposed to what’s in front of you. Parents must be willing to get out, get their hands dirty, and take the road less traveled.  (There are lots of sites and blogs where parents and young people are sharing their experiences so you can see what this entails).

Why would people do this?

(1) Some parents may be dissatisfied with the local school system, their personal education growing up or even what traditional schools provide today.

(2) Some parents may have an exceptional child who has specific gifts that they believe would be better suited outside of the traditional classroom structure. Read more

Dr. Robyn introduces the Powerful Word for October: Diligence!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM2_zlQLla0]

All month long, our outstanding Powerful Words Member Schools will be talking with their students about the powerful word, diligence! How do you teach your children to carry out their tasks with great care and consistent effort until that task is completed? At a time when so many multi-task and desire to get as much done as quickly as possible, does diligence suffer?  What do YOU think?

Diligence Quotes:

“What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.” — Samuel Johnson

“Diligence is not found in the short, sporadic sprints but in the careful, consistent marathon.” — Dr. Robyn Silverman

“Care and diligence bring luck.” — Thomas Fuller

“Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with diligence.” — Buddha

“The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” — Confucius

“If your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.” — Samuel Johnson

Playing Favorites: Do you show favoritism towards one of your children?

There has been a lot of talk lately about parents and favoritism among their children lately. It is a reality that happens in many families that brings feelings of guilt, shame and frustration. Did it happen to you while growing up? Is it happening in your current family unit?

Typically, sibling favoritism is not a calculated, desired outcome for any parent. Parents want to feel connected with all of their children. However, due to personality differences, temperament differences, and interest differences, certain parents will mesh better with certain children. It may not be fair and it may feel wrong, but nevertheless, it happens.

What can you do about it?

  1. Recognize each child’s gifts: Each child has something special to offer. They may be different from their sibling and they may be different from you but that doesn’t mean their gifts are not as valuable. What is each child good at? What is something beautiful and amazing about each child? Show your appreciation for what makes each child a valuable person and member of your family.
  2. Don’t compare: This is the downfall of so many families. One child is compared to another and someone always comes out short. It builds Read more

Kiss My Assets: Lighting the S.P.A.R.K. in the Young People We Love

We know it when we see it. Strength. Power. Self-assuredness. Guts. The wonder of assets in motion. Brought to life in a child not only in the way s/he acts, but in the way s/he thinks and feels about him/herself and the world in which s/he lives. Studies of more than 2.2 million children and teens from the Search Institute, an organization that promotes healthy children, youth and communities, consistently show that the more assets young people have, the more successful they are, and the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors.

But it’s more than just a list of competencies. Our children must have what researchers at Search Institute call “spark” – an interest, talent, skill, asset or dream (academic, relational, athletic, artistic or intellectual) that excites them and enables them to discover their true passions, along with encouragement from trusted adults to nurture it. In my experience with young people, I have also seen spark further fueled when they have the “know how,” committed behaviors or “actions” behind those aspirations and defined reasons for pursuing their passion. Therefore, I’ve expanded the Search Institute term into the broader acronym, S.P.A.R.K.:

  • Support: Important mentors, most typically trusted adults, in different positions and places where girls work and socialize, who can guide, affirm, celebrate, and encourage a child or teen to keep going.
  • Passion: The animated need, self-identified, and the interest to pursue this goal at this time.
  • Action: The actual work that the child or teen commits to doing and actually does consistently without need of prodding or provoking.
  • Reason: The “why” that intrinsically motivates the child or teen to move forward and puts them in a state of flow.
  • Knowledge: The skills and capacity to actually tackle the goal.

How are you helping to provide S.P.A.R.K. in your children?  What do your Read more

A Twitter Party is Born: Sexualization of Girls Discussion on September 8th, 9pm EST, 8pm CT #SaveGirlHood

Two weeks ago I was on The Today Show talking about the “loungerie” that 4 year old models were wearing in a French advertisement.  The children were made up to look much older and we posed in very inappropriate and sometimes alarming poses.  It felt like de ja vu. I had just been on The Today Show and GMA the week before talking about 10 year old Thylane Loubry Blondeau who was posing in French Vogue, an adult fashion magazine, in a spread that caused a collective gasp in several countries.

These are only some of the most recent incidents of known, blatant sexualization we’ve seen and heard about lately.  But this year has been a doozy of examples. Here are just a few others:

  • Monster High Dolls with their fishnets, exaggerated skinny bodies, and skirts the size of belts on the toy shelves in popular children’s stores (in fact, I was in “Justice” with my 9 year old niece and 2 ½ year old daughter on Sunday and there they were, perched at perfect height for young back-to-school shoppers).
  • Skechers Shape Ups for young girls, which prompted one Mom to write me this message: …It is DISGUSTING that sketchers is making and marketing their line of SHAPE UPS for young GIRLS! Now the toys and/or music that may have some implicit layer of influencing girls self/body-image are one thing BUT sneakers designed to tone and shape their legs and BUTTS marketed to 8 year olds?!?!? Inexcusable!!
  • Push-up bikini bras for 8 year olds by Abercrombie and Fitch: When I was on The Today Show for this story, they actually had a the very padded, push-up bikini top right there in front of us.  This was not lightly padded. This was designed to position a young girl’s chest where others can see and evaluate them.

And it was only a little over a year ago when the video of 7 year olds gyrating on stage to “All the Single Ladies” emerged to a media firestorm.

So when I got into a discussion on twitter with Amy Harman (@BeABetterWoman), Melissa Wardy (@PigtailPals) and Audrey Brashich (@AudreyBrashich), the day of the “loungerie” segment on The Today Show, we all were beyond disgusted. We discussed the need for change. For answers. For a collective shout.  It’s not surprising, that this tweet came along:

BeABetterWomen (Amy Harmon)

@DrRobyn If parents are concerned and asking questions, maybe a Twitter party about #sexualization of young girls is called for.

We all said yes. Yes, I think we all think it is time too.  So…let’s do it! Join us!

#SAVEGIRLHOOD

This Thursday Sept 8th at 9pm EST/8pm CST for a chat on Twitter. Follow hash tag  #savegirlhood for the conversation. Add it to the Read more

Ask Dr. Robyn: How Can I Help Raise an Optimistic Child?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGWtxe91UJc]

The Powerful Word of the Month is optimism! How can parents raise an optimistic child? In the above video, Dr. Robyn answers one question from a parent who often hears her child using an “I can’t attitude.”

Dear Dr. Robyn, my child typically has an “I can’t” attitude and I would like to help her be more positive.  Do you have any tips or activities that can help her? –Liz P. Durham, North Carolina

Tips on raising an optimistic child featured in Ask Dr. Robyn video (see vlog for details):

(1)  Teach your child to reword statements like “I can’t” or “I stink at this.”

(2)  Teach them that thoughts have power.

(3)  Teach them that optimism is a choice.

(4)  Talk about overcoming challenges and adversity:

(5)  Help them to set or reset goals.