Planning a Summer Family Vacation? Read This First!

family vacation

Family Vacation Tips

How to De-stress and Have Family Fun While Traveling with Children and Teens

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Family fun or family bummed? “I’m dreading our drive out to Orlando this year,” said Jane, mother of 14-year-old Katie Ann, 8-year-old Kayla and 5-year-old Kevin, at our monthly parenting coaching group.  “We haven’t even left yet and I can already hear the cacophony of ‘Are we there yet?’ ringing in my head. The last time we did this, Kayla threw her shoes out the window and Kevin told me I was the worst mommy ever because he was so bored. I don’t know why we do this to ourselves!”

Many families will be making the trek somewhere fun for summer vacation this year.  Perhaps it’ll just be you and the kids– perhaps you’ll be bringing the grandparents along as well. While the trip can be exciting, it can also be potentially stressful.  After all, you’re leaving the comforts of home and throwing your typical routine out the window.  That, coupled with the cramped quarters of the long car ride or the hustle and bustle of a chaotic airport can be a source of uneasiness. While you may not be able to forecast every need in advance or ensure everyone’s happy mood at all times, you can take steps to reduce the hassles.  However, you must be prepared:

(1) Pack for what may go awry: Nobody wants their children getting sunburned, bruised or sick while on vacation.  A little forethought and smart packing can go a long way.  What does your child need when he or she feels tired or sick? What does your daughter need if she gets her period? Ensuring that you have aloe for burns, Band-Aids® for cuts and a special pillow for someone who may get carsick is essential for everyone’s sanity and comfort.

(2) Brainstorm travel games before leaving: There are infinite travel games for planes or long car ride, but we can’t always think of them on the spot.  Brainstorm and research them before you leave.  Games like I Spy, Padiddle (spotting a car with one headlight) and Alphabet can eat up time and don’t require props.  Activities like crosswords, MadLibs™ and “Where’s Waldo” take more preparation and a trip to the bookstore before you leave.  Making sure you have what you need to entertain the troops is vital for a relaxing trip.

(3) Plan stops along the way: While you may just want to get to your destination as quickly as possible, planning scheduled stops during a long drive can reduce stress and provide excitement.  It doesn’t have to break the budget— just give everyone a break! Are you passing an old friend’s town? A national monument? A well-reviewed children’s restaurant? These are great places to get out, stretch your legs, and break up the trip. Some parents who don’t want to take too much time for lunch program a phone number for a kid-friendly deli into their phone and call from the road.  When they reach the restaurant, their food is waiting.  Now that’s fast food.

(4) Create a bonding experience: Many kids have trouble opening up to their parents during face-to-face talks.  In the car, sitting side by side, conversation comes more easily.  Communication games can get things started.  Games like “Share One Thing,” in which someone picks a topic and everyone shares a response to it, can lead to  wonderful stories.  For example, “share one thing that made you laugh this week” can kick things off.  You can also use Sentence Stems like “if I won the lottery I would…”.When conversation is a “side bar” rather than a main event, it feels easier and breezier for everyone.

(5) Get innovative but remember the classics: Classic toys and activities like cards and crayons can provide great entertainment on a long trip.  Try Legos® or dolls to dress up. Handheld games work wonders as well. You can also think outside the box.  Wrap small presents before leaving and let your children open one per hour.  Give your children dry erase markers (which wipe off easily) to decorate the windows.  If all else fails, a portable DVD player will go a long way. Just remember to provide earphones so you can get some peace and quiet during the movie!

(6) Bring snacks: Hungry family members make any trip unpleasant.  Be sure to bring orange segments, carrot sticks, granola bars, and raisins.  And yes, you should probably have some “fun snacks” as well such as a few of your children’s favorite cookies or miniature chocolate bars.  Juice boxes and small bottles of water are easy to pack and carry in small bags.  To keep the sugar factor down, bring a sippy cup or thermos and mix water and juice together to dilute the potency. 

(7) Think Clean and Comfortable: We want our children to be clean and comfortable, but things like food, juice, markers and crayons can lead to big messes. Bring an extra change of clothes for those who are bound to get dirty, and don’t forget wipes and tissues. Make sure your children wear comfortable shoes and take an extra pair in case the ones they are wearing are giving them blisters.   Ask everyone to bring an extra light jacket or sweater in case they get chilly in the car or on the plane. 

We all know what they say about “an ounce of prevention.”  When we ensure that our family is organized and prepared, we can focus on the best parts of the trip—having a great time, enjoying each other’s company and making wonderful memories!  Whether you’re going away or staying close to home, we hope your next family vacation is filled with family fun.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

When Divorce Threatens the Family Team

sad girl of divorceBy Dr. Robyn Silverman

Lately I’ve been hearing about a lot of marriages breaking down and leading to divorce. Several of you have written me privately wondering how you can keep divorce from wearing down your children. As a marriage is one of the ultimate “teams” in our lives that relies on incredible teamwork, it deserves to be discussed in these terms to help our children to the best of our ability.  It just so happens that the Powerful Word of the Month this Month is Teamwork and marriage is a great example of a team that often needs maintenance.

How can we teach teamwork when the most obvious team in a child’s life, the marriage of his or her parents, is breaking down?

Nobody’s perfect. No marriage is perfect. No couple is perfect. But when it comes to our children, we must show them that the marriage team can deal with problems, grow and change. Even if the parents feel that they can no longer be together as a couple, as a parental team, they can still be strong (barring issues of abuse, of course). It’s not the marital issues that become the biggest problem but rather how the parents handle the issues that threaten the marriage or the divorce itself.

How are you handling the stress? Are you bashing your “teammate” in front of your children? Are you refusing to take any responsibility for the problems or issues you are having? It’s time to stop. A team relies on the behavior of more than one person. Think of any sports team. If teammates are screaming at one another, playing the blame game, and ducking responsibility, they are not being a good teammate themselves. It’s time to take a different approach.Reach out for help.  Find a way to blow off steam.  Talk to a mentor or a friend.  Get involved with something constructive and find a way to face the issues without pointing a finger.

Are you listening to the other person? Are you talking but refusing to open your ears? The best conversations typically happen with more listening and less talking. As part of the marriage team, it’s important to take a step back, get some perspective, and allow the other person to have their say. If you need help listening to one another, a marriage counselor or success coach may be in order.Your children must see you talking and resolving issues if you expect them to be able to do the same in their lives.

Are you dragging in your children to be pick sides? Be careful. This typically backfires in more ways than one. Not only are you asking the child to take a swing against the other parent, you are sending confusing messages that can break trust and leave your child feeling vulnerable. I know of plenty of parents who’ve taken the approach of “turning their children against another parent” (called parental alienation) and wind up finding that their approach hurts everyone involved.

How do you deal with parental issues such that the team stays intact or gets stronger despite the issues? In the end, the parental team does not only affect 2 people but rather, the whole family including the children who rely on you for strength, love, support, and security.

Would love to hear your take on the topic.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Why I love “Old People”

Tallie's Great Grandparents and Great Aunt talking about all the amazing things this little baby can do.

Why I Love “Old People”

Dr. Robyn Silverman

We just went down to Florida to visit our 3 month old daughter, Tallie’s Great Grandparents (my husband’s grandparents– the ultimate team!). They’re 90 and 91 years old.  They’re married for 70 years.  They’re…amazing.

I always had a very close connection with my grandparents growing up. They lived in the next town over and we saw them often.  I have memories of my “Nanny” taking me to lunch, knitting me sweaters, and just spending time talking.  She said I was the sunshine of her life and I believed her.

When you get to be in your teens, you think the “old people” are so old that they’re out of touch.  As you get older, you find out that they’re more “in touch” with the ways of the world than you are.  They call it like they see it.  They say exactly what’s on their minds.  They don’t care about “standing on ceremony” (as our grandmother says) or worrying that someone won’t include them or will think badly of them.

I think it rubs off.  When I’m around our Florida Grandparents (and Great Aunts, cousins…etc!), I’m not nervous about hurting someone’s feelings.  I speak my mind and they appreciate it.  We have candid conversations and we don’t look for “hidden meanings” or wonder if we meant what we said.  We also have emotional conversations–conversations about gratitude and love and life.  We tell stories and share insights. We say the things most people wait to say until the person has left the earth. We tell each other why we are so appreciative. We laugh. We hug. It’s stripped down and open. It feels like it should be.

They marveled over every little thing Tallie did.  Every sound, every smile.  They remind us that the simple things should be coveted because time goes fast and, while life is amazing, if you don’t pay attention, you can miss out on the best moments.

But I think the most important thing about visiting grandparents is the relationships that can form between a child and these incredible seniors.  Nobody can teach a child about nurturing, longevity, patience, forgiveness, and lifetime love like Grandparents. In our fast paced world many of us can’t stand to be in a room with the same person for more than 20 minutes—yet they’re spending everyday of 70 years with one another (and “not long enough,” as “Ma” says).  Being with them reveals how it can work.

They’ve already gone “through it all” and they are not loving for what they get in return or trying to compete to get noticed.  They give and share and make us laugh out loud with stories we’ve heard a thousand times.  These are the stories I try to hold in my memory because one day they will be gone. For my daughter’s sake, I must remember.  Who am I kidding? For my sake, I must remember.

It’s amazing what can happen when you open your eyes and your heart to the possibility of a deep understanding between you and a grandparent.  They may not even be yours by blood—but they love you like you are…and you can’t help but love them like you’ve known them for a lifetime.

When we were leaving Florida yesterday, “Ma” and “Pa” told us how much we had done for them by coming down to see them and bringing our beautiful baby with us to steal their hearts.  I’m grateful.  Anything Tallie gets from them is a blessing.

Just a note- and of course this is a personal decision, but if you have been holding a grudge or have been disconnected with your child’s grandparents, perhaps it’s time to bury the hatchet or reconnect.  I wouldn’t say to do it if my family hadn’t experienced a reunification of some sort at one time or another.  It’s worth it.  When we let the past continue to govern the future, we miss out on what can be. And what can be…can be wonderful.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dr. Robyn Silverman Introduces The New Powerful Word: Teamwork!

Dr. Robyn Silverman

We want children to learn how to work as a team.  However, so many people feel that you can actually get more done alone rather than with the help of others.  While that can sometimes be true when working with people who are goofing off or being counterproductive, working as a team with productive, willing people can actually help children get more done!Just check out what these powerful kids have been able to do!

Ask your children:

(1) What are their favorite teams? Why?

(2) When do teams work well? When do teams NOT work well?

(3) If they were leading a team that was not working well together, what would they say to their team to help them grow together?

Discuss with your children:

(1) The teams you’ve been on and what you’ve experienced while on them.

(2) The most successful team you’ve ever been on and why.

(3) The least successful team you’ve been on and why.

At your Powerful Words Member School this month, we will be going over all this plus much more.  It’s an important month to learn about teamwork so keep us posted on how your children are doing and what lessons they’re putting to work at home, at school, and out in the community.  Check back with us often as we’ll be talking a lot about teamwork this month here at the Powerful Parenting Blog!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

My Baby Won’t Stop Crying! 10 Ways to Cope with a Crying Baby


My Baby Won’t Stop Crying! 10 Ways to Cope with a Crying Baby

Dr. Robyn Silverman

We’ve all been there.  The baby is crying and you don’t know what to do next. It doesn’t matter how many children you’ve had, how much education you’ve experienced, or how many books you’ve read on the topic.  Crying still happens. It’s happened to me and I’m sure that it’s happened to Dr. Sears and Dr. Spock too. All babies cry no matter how “good” of a parent you are!

It’s OK to admit it. Sometimes you wonder how you keep from throwing yourself out the window and leaving your baby on the neighbor’s doorstep with a note. She just won’t stop crying! Yes, of course you would never actually do such a thing! You love the baby, you just want to stop that loud noise coming from her mouth and you don’t know what to do. She’s so fussy and you feel like a failure–the worst parent in the world. You didn’t sign up for this—you never knew it would be like this. Your patience is shattered and you don’t know what to do.

  1. First, stop. Just stop. Your baby is screaming but you’re all wound up too! Stop for a moment and collect yourself. After all, you are an adult. The baby…is a baby. Crying is how babies communicate and right now, your baby is telling you something.
  2. Ask yourself the basics: Is my baby hungry? Tired? Wet? Cold? Hot? Sick? Gassy? Hurt? Teething? Bored? Overstimulated? Afraid? If you feel like you just fed your baby an hour ago and you can’t imagine that she’s hungry again, try it anyway. There are times when your baby is going through growth spurts and needs more than you might have originally thought. Burp her, check her temperature, change her diaper. Look for anything that might be irritating her. One of my closest friends told me a story about a baby who wouldn’t stop screaming and it turned out that he had a hair wound very tight around his finger. Be a detective instead of looking up and asking “why me?” Think outside of the box and go down your list of possibilities.
  3. Calm thyself: I’m aware this is easier said than done. Believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve spent 5 minutes counting down from 10 at least 50 times. Remind yourself to breathe. In and out. I tell our Powerful Words students, “smell the flowers, and blow away the clouds.” Try it. You can’t calm your baby is you are in a panic.
  4. Calm the baby: Try what you can. Bounce, dance, sway, sing, and hum. Speak in low tones. Use a pacifier, a bottle, or a swaddling technique. Divert her attention. Put her in a warm bath, give her a massage, hold her close. Bounce on an exercise ball with her or use the vibrating chair. Turn the lights down low, turn the TV down low, put nice soft music on the radio. Try something you’ve used before and try things you haven’t used before.
  5. Walk away for a moment: If it gets so bad that you need a moment to collect yourself, put your child in a safe place, like his crib, and walk away for a minute. Calm yourself down. Call a friend. Talk yourself off a ledge. Then get back in there and be the parent you know you can be. Your baby needs you.
  6. Know your limits: Need help? Ask for it. If it gets to be too much and you are at your breaking point, call your Mom, call your neighbor, call your best friend. Call a hotline if nobody else is around (crying baby hotline is 1 866 243 2229). Ask for help. Ask for what you need—a helping hand, a word of encouragement, some ideas. Someone else who has already gone through this before can be a great source of support and information. You want to keep your head about yourself so you are gentle with your baby and you refrain from shaking him in a fit of frustration. If you are at this point, get help immediately.
  7. Go with your gut: If you believe that something is wrong and you can’t fix it, call the doctor. Describe what’s going on and get some sound advice. If you really think about it, you know when your child is fussy or gassy versus sick or hurt. Listen to the cries and go with your instinct.
  8. Support yourself: Tell yourself, “I know I can do this.” Remind yourself that others have dealt with these problems before and survived. Refrain from berating yourself for not knowing enough or doing something that upset your baby. You need yourself to be a friend right now—not an enemy.
  9. Get ongoing support: Join a mom’s group or a dad’s group where you can talk about helpful tips, your doubts and your frustrations. Other parents have gone through what you are going through. I know I value mine! Talk to your doctor about what’s been going on as well as any patterns that have developed. Could your child have reflux? Colic? Another problem? You don’t have to do this alone. Reach out for support.
  10. Remember the phase: Even though it’s really challenging, babies cry. Sometimes they do it a lot! But, as we know, your child will not do this forever. I know that 15 minutes can feel like it though. In a blink of an eye, your child will be going off to school and you won’t believe that he was once that crying baby that made you doubt your parenting abilities and your own sanity. This is just a moment in time and as my Mom always told me, “this too shall pass.”

Any other tips out there, parents? Please share!

I know right now it might be difficult to enjoy every moment. But as many Moms and Dads that have gone before you, you’ll get through it. You can do it. We know you can!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

photo thanks to