How Can I Get My Child to Get More Active?

family_bikeBy Dr. Robyn Silverman

Dear Dr. Robyn,

We have 3 children (ages 11, 7, and 4)– and only 1 of them is really into sports.  I worry that the others are going to become very unhealthy because the activities they choose to do typically don’t require them to do much physical activity.  I worry about their weight, their health…everything. I don’t want to harp on them because I don’t want to make them hate getting active or make them think that I think they’re fat or they’re going to get fat (1 of them is a girl). Please give me some suggestions on how I can help them to get more active!   —Lisa M., Durham, NC

Dear Lisa,

Thank you for your question–

There’s so much talk about body issues these days—on the one hand, we’re dealing with what is being labeled “an obesity epidemic”  and on the other hand, we’re dealing with more and more children with body image issues (both boys and girls ), eating disorders, and challenges with food.  On top of that, more children are becoming lethargic and leading sedentary lifestyles —perhaps a function of new and fun technologies as much as more homework, more parents at work during the after school hours, and less “active time” during school hours due to budget cuts.

Interestingly, as children get older, their activity level drops dramatically.  In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health:

  • Ages 9-11 years old: More than 90% of the children evaluated met the recommended level of 60 minutes of more of MVPA per day.
  • Age 15: Only 31% met the recommended level of MVPA per weekday and only 17% met the recommended activity level on weekends.

Many of you who are reading this blog, like Lisa, are parents who are interested in getting their children active from a very young age.  There are many studies that show us that children who are active have fewer problems with weight and body image. So how can we get our kids to love being active?

(1)    Play with them: Children learn by what they see.  If their parents are sitting on the sidelines, they are more likely to do so too.  Get involved—bike ride with your kids—play hopscotch, jump-rope, and play ball in the back yard.  Join activities with them.  There are plenty of fun things you can do together! Try martial arts where family programs are prominent—or swimming programs that allow you to get in the pool with your kids. Get in touch with a Powerful Words Member School– so many of them have family programs!   By getting involved in an “active way” you relay “this is important—not just for you to do, but for the family.”

(2) Get messy and dirty: If children are always afraid to get their clothes dirty, they are less likely to get active.  Make sure that their play clothes are exactly that—for play.  And don’t be afraid to get dirty with them!  Run around—roll around—splash in puddles and get sweaty!  It’s fun and your kids will enjoy, well, being kids!  And don’t make the mistake that only boys should get messy—girls should too.  We never want our girls to think that they can’t be as active, powerful, and strong as the boys.  These sentiments get transferred to girls easily—so be sure that you are saying something empowering rather than destructive.

family_walk

(3) Make the time: There are so many things to do in the day—school, homework, piano practice, family time—that it’s often difficult to make time to get active.  But getting active isn’t something that should be negotiable or expendable. We need to make the time for it.  Children should be active for at least an hour per day! If they don’t like competitive sports, there are plenty of other activities that will get them moving—martial arts, gymnastics, dancing and swimming are all great ways to get active without necessarily getting competitive.

(4) Let them know that you’re proud: Whether they win, lose, have a tough day, or a great day, let them know you’re proud of the way they get out there and take responsibility for keeping their bodies healthy.  If we are constantly being judged on how well we did when we were active, we may be less apt to get active!  Praise effort over outcome—and determination over trophies and you will be helping your child learn to love activity.

(5) Help them to set goals: It’s fun to achieve. We achieve by setting appropriate goals for ourselves and then going after them!  Be warned though—make sure these are YOUR CHILD’S GOALS—not yours.  And be sure that these goals are not “in comparison to” a sibling, friend, or other peers.  Make your child’s physical goals something that is right for him or her—and that is completely about him or her and nobody else.  This is not “the biggest loser” or “Survivor.” Your child should not get “kicked off the island” if s/he isn’t as strong, fast, or successful as anyone else.

(6) Get them active inside too: While so many technologies are linked to sitting on the couch, there are also technologies that can get kids moving.  The Wii Fit and Dance Revolution are great ways to get active while inside on a rainy day– or just a day that the kids want to play with some neat technology. In fact, these games that are now being used as a source of fitness in gym classes. Studies are beginning to show that they “make a very positive contribution to players’ stress management, weight management, fitness and health.”

family_naturewalk

(7) Be innovative: Don’t love sports but love science? Go on nature walks! Prefers to history over hopscotch? Go walk the museums.  Think outside the box.  Sports aren’t the only way to get physical.  Children can get active by gardening, dancing, jump-roping, building and painting outside.  Go on camping trips or boating excursions. Splash in the rain. And again– all sports aren’t competitive with big crowds.  Your child might be more interested in individual activities and sports where they can work at their own pace and make their own personal goals. Moving the body feels good– it’s just a matter of finding out what your child loves best.

(6) Don’t tie it to weight: It would be easy to do so—after all, weight is a huge issue these days.  But when we tie physical activity to “exercise” and “losing weight” we make it seem like work—or punishment.  That’s no fun!  Children can be physically active at any size—so praise them for getting out there no matter what the scale says. 

In the end, we all want our children to get active to be healthy.  Our bodies need physical activity for the health of our cardio-vascular system, our muscles, our brains, and our souls.  It feels good to get active.  Let’s teach our children young to love getting up off the couch and moving around.  It will serve them well…for the rest of their lives.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

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Dora the Explorer Becomes Dora the Diva?

dora the explorersil_dora_newdora the explorer as a tween

Dora the Explorer Becomes Dora the Diva?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Well, not exactly.  Seems that while many parents and my fellow bloggers got up in arms chanting “Say it isn’t so!” and “No Makeover for Dora! when Mattel released their controversial silhouette on the 6th, calling the new Dora a “tramp,” “streetwalker,” and a Lindsey Lohan Look-a-like.  Was she being stripped down like Miley Cyrus? There was worry that she could compromise body image, threaten her ability to empower our powerful girls, and stomp on their confidence. There was even a petition…that I was ready and willing to sign as soon as I got to see the full Dora (as of March 8th over 2000 signed).

But parents are changing their tune for this toon.

Dora hasn’t been made into the next “Bratz” and she isn’t wearing a micro-mini, but rather, a long shirt over leggings.  How nice ot Mattel to get so much extra play in the media before the reveal– I’m sure, knowing that parents would be shouting denegrating comments about the Dora silhouette and then finding themselves sitting down to a nice lunch of crow at the final reveal.  Not nice. Smart marketing. But not nice at all.

We are programmed to criticize, aren’t we?  But as parents, we are sensitive to media influence on our children as well as change that can affect how our children think and feel about themselves.  And we should. And, well,  nobody likes change.  They changed Strawberry Shortcake from a pudgy, cat-carrying kid to a slimmed-down tween and that was tough.  Perhaps something to do with nostalgia? Leaving well enough alone?  Or, as a body image specialist, we can say that it’s also about taking down that belly fat and strapping on some shape-skimming outfit can have a negative effect on our girls.  Somehow “freshening up” means going on a diet these days and of course, getting a little nip-tuck.

But anyway, back to our explorer in question.  Well, she’s not a Sesame Street Walker as we might have assumed.  But there are some issues.  She’s traded in her exploring boots for ballet slippers and her practical exploring shorts for a fashionable frock and leggings– what does that mean? Well, no more jungle explorations.  Which hurts.  I kind of liked how Dora wasn’t afraid to get dirty while traipsing along with her jungle friends. She lost her stocky toddler-like physique and traded it in for a stream-line look.  Yeah, I know, she definitely doesn’t have the Latin curves. Did you really expect them?

And yup, she’s pink-afied. And appears to be wearing some kind of lip gloss or lipstick.  Not so great. And let’s not forget that on her interactive computer games, girls can change her eye color and hair– which threatens her latina roots once again. Lyn Mikel Brown, author of Packaging Girlhood and  co-founder of Hardy Girls, Healthy Women in Waterville, Maine, and a person who I admire and appreciate, questions, “why change her appearance at all? Why is appearance so important?” Exactly.  And yet in our world, it is.

The good thing is that Mattel states that Dora  “will expand into the world of solving mysteries that have overt and relatable pro-social themes — like volunteerism, water conservation, or planting trees to help the environment.” Yeah, we like that.  That’s what we stress for Powerful Words— and any role model doing that is a good thing.

Well, what do you think? Sell out or upgrade? Sign of despair or sign of the times?

As always, we look forward to your comments.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dr. Robyn Silverman Announces Birth of Daughter, Talia

silverman_familyDr. Robyn's daughter Talia

Hello everyone!

It’s been an exciting couple of days!  Many of you know that my husband and I have been matched to adopt our baby girl’s birth parents for 9 months.  Well, February 19th was the day!  Talia Paige Silverman was born on 2/19 at 10:19am weighing 5 pounds, 6 ounces and measuring 16 inches long.

Dr. Robyn holidng baby Talia

We are so grateful to have been there for her birth!  Our Tallie was supposed to be born on Monday, Febrary 24th after 6pm through induction.  However, she didn’t get the memo and decided that earlier was better.  Our birth mom went in for her check up last Tuesday and was already dialated to 3 centimeters– on Wednesday she was told her fluid was down to a 6 and our daughter would be here very soon.  Thursday was the day!  We flew out as soon as we heard that the induction was going to be moved up.  After delays in Atlanta, due to weather, we arrived in Oklahoma at 2am, went to our hotel, took a 55 minute nap, and were off to the hospital for the 6am induction.  Funny, I think our Talia was thinking “induction insmuction”– she was coming anyway.  Our birth mom was already at 4-5 centimeters!

Dr robyn in scrubs

With me, my husband, our birth mom and our birth father all in the delivery room, we felt surrounded by love and gratitude.  What a blessing.  Our birthmom only needed to push 1 1/2 times before Tallie made her way into the world.  After getting cleaned off, weighed and measured, and my husband cut the cord, she was handed to me for our first encounter.  She was beautiful and so small!  I had the honor of being able to introduce Talia to our birthmom, exactly as we all had planned it together, and it was one of the most beautiful and precious moments of my life.  We all felt like family before the birth and we became family after.

After spending a few days in the hospital with our little girl, we’re now settled into an apartment for a few days as the paperwork goes from state to state for approval.  It’s been an amazing few days.  We got together with our birth family for sushi the other night and I’ll be making a turkey dinner for everyone, including some extended family, tomorrow night.  Perhaps you might be surprised by that– but there has been nothing typical about this adoption.  It’s been a pleasure in everyway.

Dr. Robyn and daughter talia

Our birthmom courageously went to court this morning and did the most loving thing for Talia–legal custody is now ours.  She is the bravest, most thoughtful person we know.  It’s been such an honor to have gone on this journey with her.   Through countless text messages, phone calls, emails, and precious conversations, she has been so thoughtful to include me in every part of the pregnancy. I’ll discuss this more in future posts– but know this, adoption can be easy, and lovely, and wonderful in every way if you choose to make it that way, follow the signs, and open your heart.

Talia being held by Jason Silverman

I’m excited to share our unusual and spectacular experience with all of you. I’m even coaching some people through part of the process. In addition, our social worker, our birth mom, and myself are planning to run a teleconference so people can hear about our outstanding experience and how it can be. So contact us if you’re interested so we can send you some information when we plan it.

Please feel free to ask questions.  There are so many unfortunate myths about adoption itself, open adoption in particular, and US adoption to boot.  And while we acknowledge that not everyone has the same experience as we did– my point is, that it’s possible to have it this way– adoption doesn’t have to be a series of mishaps, broken hearts, and years on end of waiting. We are living the reality– and it’s wonderful. We’re proud of our journey and hope it will inspire others out there who are thinking about adoption…and perhaps even open adoption like ours.

The Proud Mommy,

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Too Shy? One Child’s Journey from Wallflower to Winner

Jessie when she was a shy child

Shy Children Breaking Out of Their Shells

Dr. Robyn Silverman

I’ve received an interesting question from a concerned father after I posted an article about 10 tips for working or parenting shy children. “Have you ever really seen a shy child who came out of her shell?” Yes I have.  It’s a true story that I tell when I present on working with all different kinds of students at national conferences. And today, I’d love to share it with you.

I know parents have been a little alarmed about what might happen to their shyer children as they grow up.  DO they grow “out of it?” This concern has grown since the news came out this July about babies who were born too prematurely are more likely to grow up to be timid and less likely to get married and have children.

Eight year old Jessie was the quintessential wallflower. Short with straight brown hair, she always stood in the back line, last person on the right. If she didn’t have a wall to stand behind, her body language seemed to create one.

Her teacher, Guro Jason, made sure to start noticing her. Slowly at first, he made eye contact. He provided an encouraging word. He nodded at her from across the room.

Overtime, Jesse showed that her focus was sharp and her skills were clean. Her instructor began to spotlight her during class. “Great execution, Jessie. Great finesse!” He turned the class’s attention towards her as an example, even where she stood, in the back line near the wall. She would tell us later, no teacher ever really noticed her before.

Jessie’s hard work earned her a spot in the Black Belt Club. Her new uniform seemed to make her stand taller than she did before.

One week, Guro Jason asked to talk to Jessie after class. “I’ve been impressed with your consistent good work in class. If I called on you, would you be open to being my demo partner for one of the skills we’re learning in class? Jessie looked nervous, but, as she would months later, “he made me believe in me.” So Jessie quietly said “yes, sir.

Jessie doing a demonstration of some stretching

Before class, Jason pre-framed Jessie. At first, he asked her to show an easy stretch that he knew she felt comfortable executing. But later, he would ask her to show some of her stick work, which, while new, she seemed to catch onto quickly.

After a few weeks of having Jessie demonstrate the same drills over and over, Guro Jason had a special request. “Would you be open to leading the entire intermediate level (across classes) in this stick drill during graduation? Graduation was performed in front of hundreds of people. She looked petrified. Still, she said a little more loudly that before, “yes sir.

Jessie practicing for graduation

Jessie practiced everyday.  She was focused.  She was ready.

At graduation, Jessie stood in front of 125 other students. Set” Guro Jason yelled. And something in this little girl clicked. She reached within herself and called out, loudly enough to fill the middle school gym, “Yes, Sir!” Her counts were loud, her eyes, focused, and her movements, flawless. People clapped and cheered. Her parents cried. OK, I cried.

After graduation, people remarked how martial arts transformed Jessie into a different kid. But I had to correct them. By allowing her to take on a leadership position that fit her skill set, in her own time, we were allowing her to transform herself from wallflower to winner.

Thanks for visiting! Please give us your tips for working and parenting children who seem shy, nervous, or timid.  And if you have a child who may seem a bit shy, please contact me and I would be happy to give you a list of Powerful Words member schools by you.  It’s a great opportunity for children to realize their own potential in their own time.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dr. Robyn Silverman Announces…We’re Adopting a Baby!

OUr baby- 18 weeks in utero

Our baby- 18 weeks in utero-- Looking very content!

We’re adopting a baby!
Dr. Robyn Silverman

We’re excited to announce to our Powerful Parent community that we’re adopting a baby, due March 1st!  We’ve been matched with a wonderful couple since early July.  We couldn’t be more excited!

The picture above is from our ultrasound appointment that we went to in early October with our birth-parents.  We found out at that time, we would be having a daughter!

We’ll be going out for the birth in about 5-6 weeks and are honored to be included in the delivery room.

FAQ  about Dr. Robyn’s adoption:

(1) What country are you adopting from? United States

(2) Do you know what you’re having? It’s a girl!

(3) What kind of adoption is it? Open adoption. We speak/text with the birth parents often and have become quite close.  We adore them.  Our birth mom tell us what’s going on with the pregnancy, plays the CD we made for the baby each day, and sends us pictures as she grows.  She even sent us a picture of the baby kicking at her belly! We are thrilled that we’ll continue to have contact with them after the birth to update them on how the baby is doing, send them pictures, and visit, when possible! After doing a lot of reading on open adoption, we decided that it was the best option for us because we want our child to have the opportunity to ask questions, know who her birth parents are, and get the full story with no secrets. When we met our birth parents face to face, we were even more certain of our decision.

(4) Was the adoption process grueling? No, we’ve had a great experience.  Once we got approved for our home study, which happened very quickly, we were matched with our wonderful birth parents 15 days later.  It’s been a pleasure getting to know them and being a part of the pregnancy since our baby was only 5 weeks in utero. What an amazing blessing!

(5) Aren’t you nervous that…At first, of course we were nervous.  It was all so new! But as we’ve had the opportunity to talk, spend time, and get to know our birth-parents, we are certain of our decision just as our birth mom is certain of hers.  I think of myself as a great judge of character, after all, it’s what I do!  We really like and respect our birth parents and they’ve been forthright in expressing their feelings towards us and the adoption as well.  Our face to face visit with them in October made all 4 us know we were destined to meet. Since then, our mutual positive feelings for each other have been reaffirmed time and time again.

Feel free to ask questions.  We are so happy about our adoption and are grateful for all the love and support that our friends and family have given us during this incredibly special time.  We wanted to let you in on the good news as well.

Warm regards,

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dr. Robyn

Some other blogs that cover adoption/children who were adopted:

Mother Issues

Mamahood and more

Hearts Wide Open

Diabulimia: Does my friend have Diabulimia?

Ask Dr. Robyn: Does my friend have Diabulimia?  Is Diabulimia a “big deal?”

I received a question from Jennifer in NJ whose friend has Diabetes and is currently losing a lot of weight.  Jennifer is concerned about whether her friend might have Diabulimia and if her behaviors might be causing a real problem.  This video answers, “What is Diabulimia?” and “How do I know if someone might be having a problem with Diabulimia?”

If you or someone you know is having a problem with Diabulimia, please get help.

Please comment below about Diabulimia, your take on the problem, or your stories. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dr. Robyn is Guest Editor for Dove Self Esteem Fund!

dove self esteem fund

Dr. Robyn Silverman

How do you explain real beauty to a girl?

Joining Dove Self Esteem Embassador, Jessica Weiner and psychologist and author, Ann Kearney Cooke, I am honored to have been asked to be the guest editor for the Dove Self Esteem Fund. Do you know about the great efforts of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty that teaches girls not to get sucked into the media hype about thinness as well as the importance of loving “the skin you’re in?” They do films, workshops, and education for girls, moms and anyone who loves or works with girls.

The question I was asked to answer for preteen and teen girls was: How do you explain real beauty to a girl?

Here’s the full article and bio.

Highlights from the article include:

If you asked me about real beauty, you might be surprised by what I say…when I was 14 years old, there was an enormous billboard in our town center of a woman in an expensive dress looking down on the street through heavily made up eyes.  I thought she was perfect; unblemished, flawless, and yes, a real beauty. As I look back, I realize how wrong I was to think that way…she was digitally modified, primped, preened, puffed up and paired down…what’s really beautiful about someone who doesn’t really exist?

We want girls to realize that real beauty is in their best friend– their mom– and in themselves.  So I included passages such as this one:

Real beauty doesn’t need to be all made up or dressed in fancy clothes. It’s imperfectly perfect. It’s your best friend’s contagious zest for life that you see every time she pretends to pose for glamour shots while wearing a fuzzy bathroom and hippo-patterned pajamas. It’s the two of you singing into a hairbrush and dancing to some ridiculous song on the radio– just because it’s fun. Just because you can. Yes, real beauty is in your best friend…

Read the rest of the article!

What do you think real beauty is all about?  How would you explain it to your daughter, your niece, your student, or other girls you love?

Please comment below– we’d love to hear what you have to say!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs