Salma Hayek Breastfeeds Dying Infant: Your Take?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

In partnership with Pampers, actress and humanitarian Salma Hayek has been spending time in Africa on a UNICEF mission to raise awareness for tetanus.  One child dies every three minutes from Tetanus, a preventable disease.

A recent ABC news report followed the actress and reported that Salma stood at a baby’s bedside as she took her last breath, as the 7 day old baby’s young mother, looked on. If the woman had simply been given a vaccine while pregnant, a medication that only costs 7 measly cents, the newborn would still be alive today.

At another clinic, Salma Hayek was so moved at seeing the suffering of a starving baby who was born on the same day as her little girl, Valentina, that she picked up the baby and nursed him.

salma hayek with daughter Valentina

Hayek appeared on last Thursday’s Today Show and talked about it. Kathie  Lee Gifford asked, “You found a child that was starving to death, the mother had no milk – and you nursed that baby?” Hayek nodded and then said, “It’s about women sticking together and we really need to help the children in any way we can.”

As a soon to be mother in 13 short days when we adopt our little girl, I had a visceral reaction to this story.  The idea of baby’s dying of preventable diseases and circumstances makes me feel both sad and frustrated.  We must continue to teach our children the Powerful Words of citizenship, generosity, kindness, empathy and compassion. Reading about some people’s comments about this “contraversial” story, especially those condemning Salma for nursing another woman’s baby, or calling it “disgusting”or “unnatural,”  leads me to wonder just how far away from “natural” we’ve all come.

What are your reactions to this story?If your child asked you about it, what would you say?

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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…!!

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?

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Debate Over the Death of a Child: What’s Fair?

brody family photo

Debate Over the Death of Washington DC Orthodox Jewish Child: What’s Fair?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

A 12 year old boy is currently lying motionless in his hospital bed in Washington DC after sadly being pronounced “brain dead” (and therefore, medically dead) on Tuesday.

The hospital staff would like to turn off the machines that are keeping his heart pumping and his blood pressure under control so that they can be made available to others in need who have a chance of long term recovery. However, the boy’s parents, devout orthodox Jews, are fighting to keep the machines intact, citing that their religious beliefs dictate that death does not happen until the heart stops beating. This, of course, is a catch 22—they won’t shut off the machines until the heart stops beating—and the heart will not likely stop beating until the machines are shut off.

We must, of course, be tolerant of religious views and practices as we would want others to be tolerant of our personal views. The hospital is going to court over this because the staff feels that treating this child is “offensive to good medical ethics” because, unlike the highly publicized cases of Terri Schiavo and Karen Ann Quinlan, the boy has no brain activity.

There is currently a debate even within the orthodox Jewish faith about when death does indeed happen—is it when the brain no longer is active or when the heart stops beating? Aside from that, should religion or science define the death of this child?

The statement that if God is the decider of life and death, how do we play a role in this process … is an important theological concept and exactly on point. Medicine has a physiological definition as to when they believe death has occurred. Jewish law believes that the definition of death is not exclusively a medical one but is also a theological one and should be decided in the theological or religious arena. The two obviously work together to some extent but the final arbiter is the religious determination. (Rabbi, Dr. Edward Reichman)

What an emotional and sad case.

There is nothing more tragic than the death of a child. Anyone must feel for these parents. However, given that we are exploring fairness this month, let’s ask, is it fair to the boy—to others awaiting treatment—to the hospital staff—to keep sustaining the boy and using hospital resources? What would you do if you were in such a situation? Should the hospital respect and tolerate the views of the parents even though their views differ from the medical view? What makes sense?

For me, I wouldn’t personally want to stay hooked up to machines in a vegetative state with no brain activity and no hope for recovery. I wouldn’t want anyone in my family to have to suffer like that either. HOWEVER- would I want someone to tell me that my view was wrong? Should we all simply be able to say when enough is (or is not) enough? Who gets to decide? What’s too much?

Please comment below.

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Do People Still Help One Another? Compassion Wrap Up with Dr. Robyn

Friday Musings: An Opinion Piece by Dr. Robyn Silverman

There are times when you have a bag in each hand, a box on your head, and your keys dangling from your mouth and nobody would think to help you. We’re just not in the land of compassion. People are self-centered—listening to their i-pods, playing with their blackberries, and tuning into their favorite radio station, W.I.F.M. (What’s in It For Me).

So you can imagine how struck I was the other day when I was at an organic food market and people were actually helpful. Now I know what you’re thinking, “that’s their job,” but it’s a lot of people’s jobs to be helpful and you and I know that most of the time, they’re not.

Just think for a moment about the people on the other end of just about any service call, insurance inquiry, or typical grocery store check-out. Standing on line at my typical grocery store can take three times longer than it should since Mary is shouting over to the next check-out station, “Hey Ashley, “whatcha doing now?” instead of ringing in the one box of Coco Puffs that the woman is attempting to buy in front of me.

Anyway, back to the organic food store. It wasn’t anything that was that big of a deal. But I think that’s why it made such an impression on me. Two tired women were pushing baby carriages with one hand while they carried their lunches (salads and a soup balanced on top) in the other.

I pulled up behind them just as they were navigating towards the cashiers– when a thin, bearded man swooped in from what seemed like a secret side door, and approached the women. He asked, “Can I take those to the cashiers for you, ladies?” Given the “every man for himself” treatment in the typical grocery store, you can imagine how shocked they were. And I was too.

This “Compassion Concierge” of sorts, took their lunches and brought them directly to the shortest line, placed the lunches on the conveyer belt, and asked the ladies if there was anything else he could do for them. Would they need some help getting the food out to the car? Did they need any other groceries that he could run and bring them while they waited on line to pay for their lunches?

Holy Moly. It really made an impression on me. It wasn’t this man’s “job” to make things easier for these ladies. How many times do we hear, “it’s not my job” as an excuse for why people can’t be more helpful? He saw a need and he reacted. Can you imagine if all of us reacted in the same way with people in our communities?

So the next time I walked into the store, I found the helpful man. It turns out that his name is Buck. I told him how much I appreciated how he went the extra mile. Thats when he told me; “I’m team leader here at our store. I don’t just think it’s important to react in these ways for the customers– but also for the young people who are watching me to see what they should be doing.” Buck is a smart man.

Now that we’re wrapping up compassion month, we know that nobody’s looking for heroics. We’ve all heard it before–small acts of kindness can make such a difference. It takes such a short amount of time and a simple willingness to open one’s eyes and lend a helping hand. This man didn’t get paid anything extra nor did he ask for applause. But I imagine he made the day of two exhausted Mommies who were just so happy to be given a little break from having to do it all. And perhaps he inspired some other young people to be a little more helpful.

As parents, we need to follow Buck’s lead. At this time, why not:

  1. Take the time to recognize someone who goes the extra mile– even when nobody’s looking. Perhaps it’s someone at your Powerful Words Member School– or someone at work– or a young person in the community. When people are recognized for the helpful little things they do, they tend to do even more of them– and they realize that they are indeed helpful to others. That means a great deal
  2. Do something compassionate– show your children that there is indeed a moment to slow down. We often run from one thing to the next– but sometimes, it’s important to take a moment and do a small act of kindness. These are the vital lessons we must teach our children so that they just accept it as a normal part of life.
  3. Ask your family– what compassionate acts have you engaged in this month? Highlight those moments when your children thought of others. Talk about the moments that you slowed down to help someone who needed it and how it made you feel. Find out how your children felt when they helped someone feel better about something– shared with them– gave them a hug. Even a short conversation can make a big impact. It will help you to relay your family values and your children to learn what’s really important.

Have a wonderful weekend-

Modeling Compassion for Children: 4 Easy Hands-On Examples

We often hear that parents must serve as role models for their children. “Monkey See, Monkey Do.” Since the Powerful Word of the month is compassion for all Powerful Words Member Schools, it’s a great time to demonstrate ways to be compassionate at home. After all, when you show kindness, your children will learn kindness, and demonstrate kindness. When you show intolerance, impatience, and injustice, they will learn to behave in the same ways.

Here are some hands-on ways to understand how to pass on the ability to be empathic and compassionate to your children.

1. Compassion for Other Family Members

Scenario: It’s the weekend. Mom and Dad have been doing chores all day long. Both are tired. When they decide to call it quits for the day, Mom offers Dad something cold to drink and they sit together on the couch. Dad massages Mom’s feet after a long day.

Effect: Little Matt sees that both Mom and Dad feel for and understand each other. Little Matt learns what empathy and compassion look like. He also sees the positive effects such kindness has on others.

Teaching Moment: Talk to Matt about the importance of showing compassion to others in the family. Even if you’re tired or even if you’re a child, you can still show kindness is easy, helpful ways. These acts of kindness make people feel good inside– both the receiver and the giver!

Participation: Let Little Matt bring a cookie for Dad or let him massage Mom’s fingers.

These little ways of contributing to others will send the signal to Little Matt that he can make others feel good by showing compassion.

2. Compassion for Animals

Having pets in the home is a great way to teach children compassion.

Scenario: Polly the cockatoo is making a raucous in her stand. Mom checks her out, sees the seed bin empty, and the water cup empty. Mom cleans the containers, places some seeds and pours fresh water.

Effect: Little Matt understands that if pets need and deserve attention.

Learning moment: Explain to Little Matt that the bird became noisy because it couldn’t fend for itself and she was hungry. Just like when he was a little baby, and he was hungry, he would cry. Mom treats Polly as a member of the family who needs caring, Little Matt would treat Polly in the same way.

Participation: Assign Matt to be the “listener” for Polly’s cries or the “food checker” every other day. When able, he can put seeds and pour water into the container.

3. Compassion for Playmates

Scenario: While playing in your backyard, Little Matt’s friend, Tommy, bruises his knee and starts crying. Mom washes his bruises, blowing to keep the pain away, and placing antiseptic to make sure the bruise doesn’t get infected. All this time, Mom explains to Matt what she is doing.

Effect: Little Matt sees the pain in his friend and sees Mom try her best to take the pain away. Again, Little Matt learns empathy and compassion.

Learning Moment: When our friends get hurt, we need to stop what we’re doing and take care of the. That means helping them when they trip or getting an adult when they need some extra assistance.

Participation: Let Little Matt join in blowing the pain away. He can also get the band-aid out of the cabinet or the cotton-ball out of the container.

4. Compassion for Others

Scenario: One of the local charities called and they’re doing a big clothing drive. Mom and Dad start putting their old or unworn clothes into bags and marking them “Charity.” Matt’s Mom explains what she’s doing. Matt’s Dad tells his son that the clothes are going to people who need clothes but are unable to buy them.

Effect: Little Matt sees that his parents participate in giving to charity. He will likely want to join in and help the people in need as well.

Learning Moment: Matt’s parents teach him that there are many children that rely on nice little boys and girls for toys, clothes, and household goods. While he may not like his Sesame Street Comforter Set anymore and he may not read his “board books” anymore, other little boys and girls may love them! What can he give away to help others?

Participation: Matt can put his clothes from last year that he no longer wears, into a bag for charity. His parents tell him that his clothes are going to other little boys who will love everything Matt gives to them! They will be thinking, “thank you, Matt!”

Note: Many of our Powerful Words Member Schools do great charity drives in August! We’d love to have you join in and donate your unwanted clothes and household items!

Each time we take a moment to include our children in the process of giving to others and showing compassion to others, they learn valuable lessons about kindness and empathy that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Start early—start today!

Earthquake Response: How to help children cope when a disaster strikes

photo from: MSNBC: XINHUA via AFP- Getty Images

The tragic earthquake may have occurred in China, but it has rocked the whole world. Especially due to the very high death toll and the percentage of children lost in the disaster, hearts around the world are heavy.

Whenever a worldwide tragedy occurs, children look to their parents to make sense of it all. They may be wondering to themselves, will this happen to us? Is our family safe? Is our school safe? And the even more elusive, why did this happen?

It’s normal for children, just like parents and educators, to feel confused and scared. And even though many parents may shield their children from the news, information can easily seep out through friends and the media. It’s important for parents and educators to be available and ready.

Here are some things to remember:

(1) Stay calm: Children are looking to you to see how to react. By staying calm and in control, children will feel more safe and secure.

(2) Be available: Your children may need you to simply “be there” to listen or sit with them. Sometimes the most powerful parenting takes place when we say nothing at all.

(3) Reassure them: Make sure that the children know that the adults are taking care of the problem and working hard to take care of the people who are hurt or lost.

(4) Let them know that they’re safe: If you know that your children and your family members are indeed safe, be sure to let your children know. If this is not accurate information and safety is still in question, don’t lie. Reassure your children that the adults in charge are doing everything they can do to keep everyone as safe as possible.

(5) Comfort them: Allow them to cry, question, and show concern. Don’t shrug them off and tell them to “stop worrying.” This does not help. Tell them it’s OK to be scared or sad and that you’re available to them if they want to talk or just be together.

(6) Be observant: All children won’t express their concern, grief, or fear outwardly. You know your child. Sometimes your child will become very quiet or lose their appetite when something tragic happens. Some children will be more likely to have a reaction—perhaps due to past trauma, special needs, or emotional sensitivity. Be there for your child and know that even if your child is not showing outward signs of grief, s/he may still need your help.

(7) Keep your normal routine: As much as possible, keep your children’s schedule “as usual.” Children are comforted by predictability. However, if your child needs some time with you or isn’t sleeping, be flexible.

(8 ) Be honest: Tell your children the truth about the event, as is appropriate for their developmental level. Children don’t need to know all the gory details—this will only serve to make them more scared and confused. However, don’t pretend or lie. Stick to the facts and don’t exaggerate or speculate. Children are very perceptive and need to know that they can trust you to tell them the truth.

(9) Partner with your children’s school: Find out what resources are available to the children during the school day if they’re feeling scared or unsure. If a personal tragedy happened, make sure the guidance counselor and your child’s teacher knows about it. School can provide your children with comfort by being with friends but also with counseling, as needed.

(10) Limit the media onslaught: The best people to talk to your children about these tragic events are trusted family and educators. Do not allow the media to educate your children about these disasters. The media often talks about high death tolls and shows gruesome pictures that are not developmentally appropriate for children to see. If you want your children to know the facts, as appropriate, talk to them yourself.

Lastly, your children (and you) may feel better by taking action. We’ve been talking about compassion all month in our Powerful Words member schools and this would be a good time to put character into action. In times of tragedy, children may not be able to help directly but they can send letters, draw pictures, write poems, send food or supplies or donate some of their allowance to help relief efforts. This kind of action can be incredibly helpful to your children as well as those who are in need.

For more information on talking to your children go here.

Families in China and those who have lost anyone in this tragedy, we’re praying for you. You’re in our thoughts.