Same as it never was

There’s something about coming home. I’m currently in NJ where I grew up and yet, I’m not really where I once was. Since my Dad passed away way too early and entirely too suddenly in 2006 from liver cancer, my Mom has since moved out of the house where I spent my entire childhood and moved into what I think can only be described as a college dorm of 55 and olders. Yes, the sticky floors and keg parties have been replaced with lovely apartments and games of cards, but still, my Mom lives steps from many of her best friends who get together nearly everyday.

These friends, all who seem familiar and yet many whom I had never met– appear to thankfully absorb some of the pain of loss and help to create new, fun memories for this now much more independent woman. I admit, I miss my old house– the memories– the way things were– but even if we were there, things wouldn’t be the same, would they? And my Mom wouldn’t be finding this new “life” in her life.

When I was a teenager, whenever I returned home from camp, or later, from college, I marveled about what was different. The bathroom countertop always seemed shorter, somehow, my reflection just a little bit older, and my room just a little bit smaller.

Now I look for what’s the same. It’s comforting to see the same restaurants, the same people, and the same stores. It’s challenging to rely on “sameness” though, isn’t it? It’s almost unfair. We change and yet, expect things to stay the same. Sameness gives us a marker of progress, a feeling of comfort, and something to depend on.

As the children go back to school in many areas of the world, and many tears are shed (mostly by the parents who are stunned that time has flown by) how can we welcome change when we rely on sameness?

  1. Talk about the good times but don’t dwell on the past: It’s often fun to meet up with old friends, talk about old times, and relive the memories. However, living in the past is both dangerous and impractical.
  2. Look for the good in change: While change can be unsettling for anyone– whether we’re talking about a child or a parent–it’s vital that we identify what benefits have made themselves known due to this change. There’s a reason cliches like “every cloud has a silver lining” exist.
  3. Don’t make “better/worse” comparisons: When we talk about what was better in the past, especially when it comes to things we can not change, we are setting ourselves up to feeling bad. Yes, things may be different, and yes, you might want to improve your current circumstances, but that should urge you to look forward rather than back!
  4. Tame your fears about change: Change doesn’t need to be negative. Change can be quite wonderful. We all have fears that tell us to hold onto the status quo. But often, the most wonderful things happen when we’re willing to take a risk and embrace the future.

Remember– the way you look at change is going to influence the way your children approach it.

Here’s to growing up and smiling at what’s to come-

22 Ways to Teach Generosity to Children: Part 1

Do we have to wait for the holidays to teach values?

22 Ways to Teach generosity to children

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

This is part 1 of a 2 part article on teaching children to give outside of the “season of giving.”

As you know, I coach the top instructors, coaches, teachers, and leaders in the children’s after-school program industry. If you’re part of a Powerful Words member school lead by some of these industry leaders, you know that the powerful word of the month is generosity. Sometimes people are curious about why I don’t reserve such a concept for when we are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Isn’t that the “season of giving?”

While holiday time is a wonderful time to talk about generosity and gratitude, I think it’s important to spread the word about giving throughout the year. During the summer, contributions to charities are down. People are thinking about vacations—not donations. The structure of the school day is out and the lazy summer schedule rules. But giving and generosity is just as important in August as it is in December, right?

As we are getting ready to go back to school in this half of the world, it’s only natural that our attention turns back to manners, giving, generosity and respect. These values help children to make and keep friends, excel in school, and feel fulfilled.

As we’ve recently talked about helping children create a “bucket list” that stresses giving over receiving, let’s delve deeper into the topic of children and generosity. This 2-part article contains 22 ways to teach children the gift of giving all year ‘round.

Here are the first 11:

(1) “Can Can:” Ask your children to go through the pantry at home and find any canned goods that haven’t been used within the last 6 months. If they’re not being eaten, give them to a family who can use them!

(2)Grocery Grab:” Request that your children pick out one item each at the grocery store to contribute to the local food pantry.

(3) Planned Percentages: Direct your children to set aside a certain percentage of their allowance, job money, or money that came through gifts for the purpose of giving to charity. Then help them choose a charity that is meaningful to them, allow them to research it, and motivate them to write the letter telling the charity how much and why they want to donate to them.

(4) Entertain “the troops:” Visit an assisted living facility or a nursing home so that your children can sing songs, play games, and read with the seniors there.

(5) Out of the Closet: After every other season, have a “closet day” in which your children spend some time going through their closet and bagging up the things that are too small or unused. Then drive them to the drop off center or charity and allow them to contribute their donations.

(6) Out of season giving: Ask your children to help make cards or wrap presents for people outside of your family and circle of friends. Perhaps these contributions would be for the local children’s hospital or other charity. It doesn’t need to be holiday time to do this! Be different!

(7) Adopt a friend: Invite someone who doesn’t have family nearby to share a meal or come over for a movie. You wouldn’t believe how grateful they will be just to feel included.

(8) A Giving Living: Talk to your children often about generosity, giving, and how they can give of themselves each day. It’s amazing that the more we give, the more we get out of living.

(9) “I just called to say…:”Encourage your children to call elderly family members—even extended family members– just to say hello, tell them what’s new, and ask them what they’re up to these days. A simple call can make someone’s day.

(10) Cards Held in High Regard: Ensure that your children send out thank you cards. If they’re very young, have them sign them in their own way—either with their name, a drawing, or decorative stickers.

(11) Characters with Character: Read books that illustrate the power of giving. Talk about the characters with your children and ask them how each character showed generosity of spirit. What did they admire?

Stay tuned for 11 more ways to teach children generosity outside of the season of giving on Wednesday! In the mean time, what are your ideas? What ideas sound great to you? What ideas will you try this month? The more we share these ideas, the more we can inspire our children to become generous givers.

Have a Powerful Day!

No Time? 5 Tips to Spend Time with Children When You Have No Time to Spare

Strapped for Time? 5 Tips to Spend Time with Children when Parents Have No Time

By Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

The Powerful Parent Blog

Between work and martial arts and gymnastics and shopping and piano and swim lessons and school and dance class and babies and laundry and chores…we often find we’re strapped for quality time when it comes to spending time with our kids.

When Susan, one of my newest coaching clients, came to me a few months ago, she was nearing her whit’s end. Cody, her 7 year old son, was talking back to the teacher at school and getting into arguments with friends. “It’s been getting worse over the last year or so since my daughter, Kayla, was born. I love both of my kids but the baby takes up so much of my time and I know that Cody needs me too. I don’t know what to do.”

It was Dr. Anthony P. Witham who once said “children spell love…T-I-M-E.” He was definitely onto something. Unfortunately, if you are like most parents, time is a precious commodity that often eludes us. Whether we have a new job, a new baby, or we just need to make the coffee or strip the beds, we always seem to be wishing for a little bobble from Father Time’s Treasure Chest. We need more. We want more. But we just don’t have it. Does that mean we don’t love them? Of course not.

Spending quality time with our children is extremely important for their development. Note that I said “quality” not quantity. We must find ways to slow down and slip in some memorable time that will let our children know that we love and care for them.

Many children will let you know in their own “subtle” ways if they feel that you are not giving them the attention that they need. Some will withdraw while others will “act out.” You might see it when a child gives “lip” to a teacher, fights with another classmate or resorts back to behaviors that once got your attention like increased crying, throwing tantrums or even bed-wetting. This is a way to capture your attention, albeit often negative, so that they can enjoy “focused” time with you. Essentially the thought process is, “if I can’t get her attention by doing something good, I’ll get her attention by doing something bad.” Nobody wants that!

So how can you find time when you don’t have any to spend? Here are some of the ideas that I am working on with Susan:

(1) MAC time: In Susan’s case, this stands for “Mom and Cody time” but you get the drift. MAC time is special alone time with your child doing something you both enjoy. With Susan and her family, this is the time when Dad takes the baby (another benefit for the baby-quality time with Dad) and Mom spends time with Cody. This could mean going to a movie, going to the local theater to see “Cinderella,” or just sitting at the park on a bench and talking. The frequency of MAC time is up to you. With one of my clients, a single mother of 3, we devised a plan so that each Saturday she spends quality time with one of her children and the last Saturday of the month they spent quality time as a family. Make it work for you.

(2) Integrate Together Time into Daily Schedule: Children love to help. Do you have a mailing to do? Have them put the stamps on the envelopes. Need to go shopping? Make grocery shopping “fun time” with you. Need to make dinner? Let them help you by contributing to the preparation process. While it might be messier and it may time more time in the beginning, you will see that the children will become your greatest helpers and they will look back and remember that “before dinner” was always special time with you.

(3) Family Meetings: Once per month I have any “Powerful Families” working with me, run a family meeting in which they discuss how they can integrate better character into their home. For example, for “respect month” exercises like “brainstorm what your ideal family would look like if everyone was using respect” and questions like “what are some specific ways that we can show respect at home” are included. This process allows for children to contribute to the family atmosphere, show the children that their opinions are valued, and allow for the family to spend quality time together doing something meaningful. You can also take some of the discussions that are ensuing at your Powerful Words Member School and use them as a springboard to talk about important, meaningful things in a short amount of time.

(4) Phantom Time: Don’t have a moment to spare until about 3am? You can still let your children know that you care. Write notes and drop them into their lunch boxes. You can also make a recording that they can play in the morning if you can’t be there. Recording devises are inexpensive and easy to operate. While it isn’t ideal to rely solely on “phantom time,” it provides something so your children know you are thinking of them.

(5) Break time: Everyone is busy. Some are busier than others. Slide in a “break time” so that you and your children can spend 15 minutes or a half hour together. Set a timer if you need to so that everyone knows when “break time” starts and finishes. Give warnings to your children when 2 minutes are left so that it doesn’t come as a surprise. Don’t even have break time available? Wake your child up 15 minutes early so that you can spend a little extra time doing something fun in the morning. You might not think that 15 minutes is any significant time at all, but to a child, it is 15 extra minutes with you.

Spending time with your children provides them with opportunities to learn and to be heard. Most of all, it provides you and your children with time to connect. It’s these connections that make time precious. So leave the beds unstripped for another few minutes and put the coffee on an automatic timer. Take those extra moments to spend with your children. When you look back, you will be thankful for the memories.

Here’s to a Powerful Week!

Photo credit: Jupiter Images

*Article originally written for Bay State Parent Magazine, award winning magazine Parent Magazine in Massachusetts

7 Ways to Help Your Child with ADHD

Helping Your Child Cope with ADHD

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

The other day I wrote about ADHD and it’s recent link to obesity and overweight. It brought up a few questions about how to address some of the typical issues that plague children with ADHD and how to best support children who are coping with the effects of ADHD.

I’m currently getting ready to present to a large group of after-school educators in Orlando, Florida on teaching children commitment, determination and stick-to-itiveness, but I wanted to take a moment to give you at least a few tips on how you can help your child with ADHD:

(1) Advocate for them to get services in school: Your child has a special condition that makes them eligible for special accommodations such as: Sitting closer to the front of the room and the teacher, shortened homework assignments and longer testing times.

(2) Get everyone organized: Many children with ADHD (as well as many people in general!) have trouble when things are not organized and also may have trouble organizing him or herself. Teach your children how to stay organized by providing specific places for the children to put things when not in use and sticking to a schedule as best as you can.

(3) Set and keep home rules: Be sure to set easy-to-follow rules that have clear and consistent consequences. If rules are broken, be sure that the consequence is enforced and appropriate.

(4) Reward positive behavior: It’s easy to focus on the “bad” when children are impulsive and unfocused. This is no time to “let sleeping dogs lie.” Be sure to reward your children for positive behavior with praise and attention. Let them know you appreciate them and their effort.

(5) Don’t “go it” alone: There are many people available to help. Your physician, your school officials, and your after-school activity teachers are on your side. If your child attends a Powerful Words Member School, this can be a very positive and fun way to help your child feel that they are making physical strides while at the same time learning values such as focus, determination, respect, and impulse control in their Powerful Words character lessons. As this month is “determination month” you can help your child set a goal and go after it—a great skill-building and self-esteem building month for children with ADHD as well as ALL children!

(6) Be a Positive Role Model: Show your child with ADHD as well as all your children how to stay organized, stay determined, and try again when things don’t go as planned. They are looking to you to see how you react! If you stay calm and handle things with grace, they are much more apt to follow your lead in time, than if you tend to fly off the handle when plans get changed or fall short.

(7) Don’t Compare: Allow everyone to strive to their personal best. Comparing your child with ADHD to other children, especially those within the family or close friends of the child, will only serve to embarrass and denigrate your child. It will NOT motivate them! Reward the effort your child puts in as well as the small successes he or she achieves. If s/he stays determined and reaches his or her goal, this is cause for celebration NOT time for comparison with others who may have done it better, quicker, or more neatly.

And of course, remember to breathe. Your ability to take each day as it comes and celebrate the good in your life and in your child’s life will go a long, long, way.

Have a Powerful Weekend!

ADHD Can Increase Obesity & Overweight in Children, Study Says

ADHD and Weight in Children…and other facts about ADHD in kids

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Given the “war on obesity” and the increasing number of children being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the results of a recent study is a real double whammy. According the July issue of Pediatrics, children with ADHD have a 50% higher risk of being medically overweight if they are not taking medication for their condition. Interestingly, those who were taking their medication were much more likely to be underweight.

The Study:

  • Who was studied? 63,000 children and teens between the ages of 5 and 17 years old. The data came from the 2003-2004 U.S. National Survey of Children’s Health.
  • Where were they studied? Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island.
  • By Whom? Molly E. Waring and Kate L. Lapane, researchers from the department of community health.
  • Interesting Fact: 1 in 5 children with ADHD are said to be clinically overweight.
  • Why we need to be careful: On the one side, we need to make sure that one problem does not beget another, such that a problem with focus also connects to a problem with health, but on the other hand, we need to make sure that we don’t make our children “scale” obsessed and give them body image issues on top of everything else! We know from other studies that girls who weigh themselves often are more likely than other girls to engage in unhealthy dieting and go up and down in weight. The girls who are most scale-obsessed, according to a 2006 study out of the University of Minnesota, tend to skip meals, use diet pills, abuse laxatives, smoke, binge, and vomit to lose weight. Help your children stay healthy, but don’t allow them to get crazy about weight.

Arguments against these findings:

(1) Some researchers believe that because the diagnosis of obesity in children and the diagnosis for ADHD are widespread, you can’t say that the overlap is due to a cause-and-effect connection rather than just coincidence.

(2) Some researchers agree that there is a connection and this is nothing new.

(3) Some researchers believe that there is a connection but we don’t know about any cause-and-effect link. In other words, we can’t say that ADHD CAUSES obesity and overweight nor can we say that obesity and overweight CAUSES ADHD.

Facts about ADHD

  • It’s estimated that between 3 and 5 percent of children have ADHD. In the United States, that equals approximately 2 million children.
  • The top characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
  • Symptoms: Fidgeting, squirming, trouble listening, difficulty playing quietly, said to talk a lot and often, often interrupt or intrude impulsively, easily distracted, lack focus, difficulty finishing tasks.
  • Symptoms appear early in the child’s life—but since ALL young children tend to fidget and become impulsive to a degree, it’s important to see a physician for confirmation of diagnosis.
  • Disorders that can sometimes go along with ADHD: Learning disabilities, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Tourette Syndrome, Conduct Disorder, Bipolar Disorder.

Some Possible Treatment Options for ADHD:

(1) Medication

(2) Behavioral Modification

(3) A combination of both Medication and Behavior Modification

(4) Psychotherapy

(5) Social Skills Training

(6) ADHD coach for child

(7) Counseling

(8 ) EEG Biofeedback

(9) ADHD Diet

(10) Alternative Medicine

Have a child or know a child with ADHD? What are your thoughts on the July Pediatrics study? Do you find any challenges with ADHD and the weight of your child? What has worked for you?

Looking forward to hearing from you-

Cartoon above found here

Children and Determination: What Research Tells Us

I’ve Got a No-Quit-Go-For-It Attitude! What Research Can Tell Us about Children and Determination

As you now know, the Powerful Word of the Month is Determination.

Wish your children showed more stick-to-itiveness and determination? Turns out, it’s a very important predictor to success. Researchers have suggested a strong link between enhanced self-determination skills and doing better in school and out of schools for students with and without disabilities. Here are the details:

  • Let them get involved: Allowing children to use their self determination skills and providing the opportunity for them to do so, can be enormously helpful in their academic outcomes. When students with disabilities get involved in planning, decision making, and implementation of their educational programs they tend to achieve better academic success than their peers who did not get involved and use these self-determination skills. Studies have also found positive results when students get involved or take a leadership role in determining their IEP (Individualized Education Programs) and transition goals.
  • Support their autonomy: Research shows that when we support the autonomy and independence of students within the classroom, students are more self-determined, motivated, and more apt to perceive themselves as competent. This, in turn, predicted the larger likelihood of students staying in school rather than dropping out.
  • Understand your parenting style: Parenting style can have an impact on children’s acquisition and development of self-determination skills. Parents who involve their children in more decision-making, were more likely to foster determination skills in their children. Interestingly, researchers have found that Caucasian parents were more likely to foster these self determination skills in their children as compared to Asian and African American parents. This may be due, in part, to cultural differences, expectations, and norms.
  • Determine if you’re Allowing your Child to Live Up to Their Own Potential: Parents with typically developing, non-special needs children, were more apt to foster determination skills in their children than parents of children with special needs. Specifically, parents of children with disabilities were less likely to involve them in household chores and interacting with salespeople, to allow them to make their own decisions, to teach goal setting and recognition of their weaknesses, and to involve them in making choices and decisions when dealing with unexpected and undesired behaviors. These parents also tended to exert more control in their children’s post-school career and living arrangements. These students wound up with less determination themselves.
  • Know what to teach: Parents can help support children’s self determination skill development by teaching certain skills at home and enrolling their children in programs that help to foster development in the following areas: Choice Making, Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, Independent Living, Risk-Taking, Safety Skills, Goal Setting & Attainment, Self observation, Evaluation, Reinforcement, Self instruction, Self understanding, Leadership, & Self Awareness. (We will be going over many of these skills at our Powerful Words Member Schools this month—and you can also reinforce these skills when out in the community!)

Looking forward to a Powerful Month!

Children with Determination: Dr. Robyn Silverman Announces the Powerful Word of the Month

Dr. Robyn Announces July’s Powerful Word to Powerful Parents and Families

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmpk69CFSGY]

Have a Powerful Month!