Confessions of a Teenage Beauty Queen

dreamstime_6634032I was hanging out on FB yesterday and stumbled across a great article from a father to his young daughter. In it, he redefines our cultural ideas of beauty. If you haven’t read it – CLICK HERE and read it. That post was so touching to me. Sure, it had a great message – one sorely needed at a time when so many girls are at risk, partially due to what our culture teaches them.

But that isn’t the only reason. This topic is highly personal to me.

I grew up without a father figure until I was in my early teens. By then, I had already developed body dsymorphia – I saw myself as an obese girl even though I was a normal weight for my size. There are a ton of reasons why the body image problems developed (and that’s for another post), but suffice it to say it was a huge issue for me. For years I facilitated between periods of anorexia and bouts of bulimia. I was a mess.

And no one knew.

I kept all of that hidden away from the rest of the world. My weight stayed somewhat constant. I was in beauty pageants, even won a few. I modeled and even went to NYC. My weird quirks were normal with models and beauty queens. We were all suffering body image problems. I never told anyone about my secret rituals around food. Never admitted how ill I was.

In college, my first time away, my gifted introverted self hit crisis mode. I saw a counselor for the first time. It was terrifying. And like any bright, scared, soon-to-be-adult, I ended counseling as soon as I felt “ok”.

For the next several years, I hit the depth of my body image issues until finally I couldn’t ignore the pain any longer, and I again sought help. I had a great therapist. I stopped  and purging. Stopped the anorexia.

At least for a while.

But, although I stopped behaving like an anorexic, I hadn’t fully healed the core of my body issues. And so I became an emotional eater, and a new issue with food (or maybe the same issue reborn) blossomed.

It has taken more years than I care to admit to become more comfortable with my body. I have only just started to allow pictures of me, only now refused to inhibit my speaking career related to my body issues. I am finally in a place of healing, acceptance. I’ve done the work on the core issues, replaced emotional eating with healthy eating and no longer engage in the rituals.

In short, I am finally happy with “who” I am now. I’ve learned that diminishing myself serves no one, least of all me. I’m not willing to hate myself in order to be liked by others, something I thought I had to do in my youth. I’m better. Stronger.

It has been a long and difficult road. I wish someone had noticed the turmoil I was in, wish a trusted adult had said the words the father in the above article said to his daughter. But I am grateful that I DID figure things out. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, more resilient than I ever gave myself credit for being.

I am proud to say I have two amazingly strong daughters. They are healthy, fit, and not focused on cultural norms for beauty. They are self-confident and feel quite comfortable forging their own path. I would like to think I had something to do with it – who knows. Most of the time I am fairly certain they just came onto the planet with an amazing amount of resiliency and emotional intelligence. There are my example, my ideal.

Strong. Resilient. Intelligent.

I stand here now humbled and grateful – for the strength I’ve found, the life I have, and ability to give to our children the strength I once needed.

Whew – okay. There you go. Confessions of this victim of our cultural definition of beauty…

What confessions do you have to share?

Supporting Your Child’s Passions

parent and child talking

How many of you take the time to nurture your passions? Do you spend time on them? Use your passions to help direct your life goals? Anything?

How about the passions your children have? Do you help them nurture their passions? Do you actively encourage your children to explore the things they are most passionate about?

If you are like most people, you are inconsistent about both your passions and those of your children. In fact, you may not even be sure of what these “passions” are. Am I right?

Here’s a little way you can get on track with supporting your children’s passions, as well as your own.

First, help your children identify the things they most care about. Have them make lists, idea posters, digital scrapbooks – anything that will help them clarify the things they care most about. And if you haven’t done that for yourself, I would advise making this a fun project you both can do.

Once there is once clarity about the things you care most about, encourage your children to find one thing they can do weekly (or monthly) to embrace that passion. If they are into fashion, talk about making fashion boards or a starting up a fashion blog. If cooking is their thing, give them some freedoms in the kitchen to cook (safely) and explore. 

I think we often downplay our children’s passions as fleeting hobbies. While this will be true at times, it won’t always be true. The more we can nurture and support the interests our children have, the more we give them permission to be whomever they authentically are. 

Our children are the future – let’s help them embrace it with passion and creativity, shall we?!?

More Than Shy: A Request for Help

parent and child talking

As many of you know, I announced the sale of my next nonfiction book, MORE THAN SHY: A Parent’s Guide to Social Anxiety, to Prufrock Press. The book will be released in early 2015, which of course means that I am knee-deep in the research phase now. This book covers social anxiety from the perspective of the biological aspects of social anxiety, the behavioral and environmental factors of anxiety, and specific strategies for parents and educators on the topic of social anxiety. I have some personal stories and Frequently Asked Questions I plan on adding – but I need more.

And that is where all of you come in.  As I’ve done with the majority of my books, I will be holding online focus groups and surveying parents, educators, and even children about this topic and I would LOVE to involve all of you! So, please take a moment and complete this form and let me know if you’d like to help in some way. I will be in touch by the end of the month with more information.

Thanks and here’s the link to the form just in case the form doesn’t come up on your computer or mobile device. –

The Many Forms of Bullying

Yesterday we  focused on understanding the bully. Today, we are talking about the three types of bullying – Physical, verbal and relational.

Physical Bullying, due to its visible nature, often attracts the most attention. It can include slapping, hitting, psychical violence and destruction of property belonging to the victim. It is most often perpetrated by male bullies, though this is starting to change.

What I find most interesting, it actually accounts for less than 1/3 of reported acts of bullying. Also interesting, bullies who use this method of bullying are often the most troubled and more likely to be headed for serious criminal offenses.

Verbal Bullying is equally perpetrated by both male and female offenders and accounts for the majority of reported acts of bullying (70% or more). It is often easy to get away with and can have devastating impact to the victim.

Verbal Bullying often consists of taunts, name-calling, and other verbal forms of abuse. Gossip is included in this type of bullying. It is typically the earliest form of bullying and can be the gateway to both physical and relational aggression.

Relational Aggression is the most difficult form of bullying to detect from an outsiders point of view. As defined by Barbara Coloroso:

“Relational bullying is the systematic diminishment of a bullied child’s sense of self through ignoring, isolation, excluding, or shunning.” (pg 17)

This type of bullying typically occurs from late elementary through high school, if often perpetrated by girls, and is used to reject the peer with a purposeful intention that is devastating. It is extremely difficult to detect because it involves things as covert as a particular roll of the eyes or hostile body language. I will be posting a great story of a friend who experienced relentless relational aggression at the hand of her gifted classmates later in the month.

These three forms of bullying is hard individually – but when they combine, the impact is devastating!

In our next post we will examine the difference between teasing and taunting.

See you then!

Bully Prevention Month: What is a Bully

Since October is Bully Prevention Month, I thought I would dedicate the majority of the rest of the month to the topic, covering everything from bullying, to prevention.

To start, it only seems fitting to define what a bully is and is not.

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. The National Association of School Psychologists approximate that 1 in 5 children has either been a bully or been the target of a bully – not surprising in my opinion. In fact, I would guess the total may even be higher.

Bullies can be defined in many ways – but here is my favorite definition from Barbara Coloroso’s book, THE BULLY, THE BULLIED AND THE BYSTANDER:

“Bullying is a conscious, willful, and deliberate hostile activity intended to hard, induce fear through the threat of further aggression, and create terror.” (p 13)

Coloroso goes on to identify three specific elements to bullying – three elements that are included in legal definitions as well:

  • Power – a bully is always in a position of dominance with their victim – either real or perceived.
  • Aggression –  The goal of the bully is to induce harm in some way – either physical or emotional. This IS NOT accidental in any way – it is deliberate acts of exclusion, aggression and/or violence.
  • Threat – Bullies do not typically act as a one-time thing. There is typically the perception that the bullying will continue.
  • Terror – Bullying in its more persistent and extreme forms produces a kind of terror in its victim. This can have long-lasting and devastating impact on the victim.

IN the next post, I will tackle the different types of bullying, including relational aggression and cyber-bullying.  Until then, what is your definition of a bully?

Quiet Kids Q&A

In honor of the release of Quiet Kids: Help Your Introverted Child Succeed in an Extroverted World, I wanted to bring you a little Q&A about introversion. As part of the research for this book, I interviewed hundreds of parents and educators of introverts and took their questions and answered them through the book. This Q&A style, I hope, makes the information completely accessible to both parents and educators in ways that are different from previous books on the subject. Here is a little example of just some of the topics addressed in the book:

1)      Why is important to address temperament, especially introversion, with kids?

Helping kids understand their temperament early does a couple of things – first, it helps them understand that they are not crazy. They don’t need to force themselves to meet some Western ideal (extroversion), there is strength in introversion. Secondly, it helps parents and educators recognize the unique strengths the introverted child may possess, also serving to remove any stigma introverted children feel.

2)      How do you know if your child is introverted?

Like any personality trait, each individual introvert is somewhat unique. In general, introversion refers to how a person uses energy – extroverted people tend to thrive on social situations, needing the energy from these situations in order to renew. Introverts, on the other hand, find the energy generated in highly social situations to be draining. They require solitude in order to renew.

It is the same with children. Some typical early signs to look for:

  • Hesitation in new situations
  • Appears to be “lost” inside of him or herself
  • gets grouchy when around people for too long
  • overly “shy”
  • Become agitated when there is a lot of sensory overload
  • Most comfortable by him or herself or with 1 or 2 friends
  • Needs “downtime” after school or highly social activities

3)      What are the most challenging things facing parents of introverted children?

For the extroverted parent of an introvert, it is recognizing that their child does not NEED to be extroverted in order to be successful – there is strength, significant strength, in being introverted. For the introverted parent, it is making sure not to project any difficulties they had as children on to their own kids. Not all introverted children struggle related to their temperament. 

Do you have an introvert in the house? What questions might you have???

Understanding Introverted Children: The Release of Quiet Kids

I am so happy to announce the official release of my book, Quiet Kids. This book, in addition to being the book I wish I had read as a child, speaks to introversion in children, pulling on the latest research in the area and providing parents and educators strategies to help support introverted children. As most of you know, my writing career started with my books related to gifted children, and while not all gifted children are introverted, a quiet temperament does dominate that particular subgroup of children.

Quiet Kids looks at what it means to be introverted in today’s noisy world. Here is the description of the book:

Being an introverted child is difficult, especially in an ever-increasingly noisy world. Often viewed as aloof, unmotivated or conceited, introverted children are deeply misunderstood by parents, educators and even their peers. That’s where Quiet Kids: Helping Your Introverted Child Succeed in an Extroverted World comes in. Designed to provide parents with a blueprint for not only understanding the nature of introversion, Quiet Kids provides specific strategies to teach their children how to thrive in a world that may not understand them. Presented in an easy-to-read, conversational style, the book uses real-world examples and stories from introverts and parents to show parents and educators how to help children develop resiliency and enhance the positive qualities of being an introvert. With specific strategies to address academic performance, bullying, and resiliency, Quiet Kids is a must read for anyone wishing to enhance the lives of introverted children.

Publisher’s Weekly was kind enough to call the book “Extremely useful for educators and parents, this thoughtful text emphasizes the many gifts of quiet kids.”

QK - BNQuiet Kids can be found in Barnes and Noble stores across the United States, as well as online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Walmart and other retailers world wide.

As part of the launch of Quiet Kids, I developed a little quiz to help you know if you may have an introvert in the house:

  1. My child prefers to spend time alone or reading after school? T/F
  2. My child is generally quiet? T/F
  3. Teachers often characterize my child as shy? T/F
  4. I often worry that my child has very few friends? T/F
  5. My children struggles when things are not part of a routine or predictable? T/F

A yes answer to most of these questions may indicate that your child has an introverted temperament.

I also have a special giveaway to celebrate the launch. CLICK HERE and enter for your chance to win copies of all of my books or even an annotated copy of Quiet Kids, complete with my notes.

THANK YOU for the support of this important book. Be sure to check out the events page on my website to see what other fun things I have planned.

It’s Break Time!

Hi everyone!

As you likely could tell, I took my break a tad early this past week. Such is life when deadlines are approaching! I will be back on Sept 29 with a calendar of fun posts celebrating the release of Quiet Kids.

Speaking of, I have a new cover that I wanted to share, along with a FABULOUS Publisher’s Weekly review:

“Extremely useful for educators and parents, this thoughtful text emphasizes the many gifts of quiet kids.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Have a great and healthy week everyone!

The Benefits of Social Media for Introverted Children

Happy Thursday everyone! Today is parent advice day around the blog and I thought I would talk a bit about a recent TV segment I was in. The interview was originally going to be about helping introverted children as they go back to school. At least, that is what I thought. Instead, the host wanted to focus on social media.

You see, I am a bit of a rebel. I believe that almost anything in moderation can be a good things, and one should never throw out an idea or intervention due to fear. But mostly I believe that we, as parents, have an obligation to help our children practice the skills needed for life. When in comes to social media, that means teaching them how to get the most out of social media without putting themselves in danger.

This is particularly true with introverts. The digital domain provides a venue for introverts to be more extroverted. In fact, many introverted children and adults consider themselves as introverted in person, but extroverted online.

Before I give some specifics about capitalizing on the positives of social media with your introvert, I thought I’d show you the clip from UT-TV:

The take away from this and the information I share in Quiet Kids is that our digital world can be great for introverted children, giving them a place where they can be social without the energy “zap” that often accompanies in-person encounters. Additionally, here are a few more things to think about when considering allowing more access to our digital world:

  • Set clear boundaries with all social media. Know what sites your child frequents, and visit their pages often. Know their passwords and usernames so you can go into their pages and see everything.
  • Model internet safety yourself. Don’t post inappropriate things online, or share too much. Then teach your children the same good habits and appropriate internet etiquette.
  • Make sure your child turns off the computers, tablets, and phones every night. It is the best way to ensure a good night’s sleep – for adults and kids.
  • Remember that your introverted child may not be used being as social as they are able to be via the digital world. While this discovery is good news for the introvert, it is important to remember that being an introvert is more than being somewhat withdrawn. It is about your body’s biological approach to energy consumption. Introverts still need plenty of time away from their social world. Be on the look out for indicators of fatigue and social burnout with your child.
  • Declare one day a month a “dark day” – a day in which all social media is abandoned, and everyone takes a digital break!

These tips can help you reap all of the benefits our digital age has to offer, while still keeping your child safe.

What  do you think? Are you introverted in person, and extroverted online?

Back to school already?

This month marks a significant milestone in my parenting life. It ranks right up there in the top five, where things like potty training and out of a carseat live. And it has caught me by surprise.

For the first time in…carry the one…nine years, I’m not dying for my sons to go back to school. Ever since A was a preschooler and off to the World’s Best Preschool, I’ve counted the days and hours until Back to School. Heck, when A started kindergarten I practically poured margaritas in the parking lot, no I’m not kidding. There was much rejoicing that day.

Summers were long and painful…before this one. They were full of bickering and loooong afternoons and praying I got through another day without leaving them out in the woods to be raised by wolves losing my mind. I never hated summer until I had high-intensity kids. There was one year where I was ready to send them back an hour after they started summer break.

I can’t tell you exactly what was different about this summer. I made some plans with the boys, but not nearly as much as I would have liked to have planned. I know things are different for us as a family, and that probably had a lot to do with it. Three years ago we were all hurting as my husband struggled through a difficult job situation, on top of us trying to manage an incredibly intense kid. Two years ago we moved cross-country and dear god I will never move again with children living under my roof. Last year we were all still reeling from my husband’s job change on top of being new homeschoolers. This year? No major life changes.  That plus sheer maturity (what little of it there has been) on the part of our sons and we had a very relaxed-ish summer. Not perfect, by any stretch, but I’m not quite ready to let it go.

So Back to School came up on me a little suddenly this year. Our school-going son has his school supplies and class assignment and everything ready to go. Our homeschooled son…well, I haven’t planned a whole heckuva lot and we start on Wednesday too. Thankfully what little is ready can be started immediately and the rest added as I figure it out.

Summer passed in a blink this year, and not once did I pine for the first day of school. This is a first, and I’m a little sad that it only took nine years to get to this point.