Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is believe our children—but we must

When children reach out about something serious, be mindful of how difficult it is for them to come to us.

Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is believe our children—but we must

After seven days of statements and testimony from more than 150 sexual abuse survivors, Larry Nassar, the former team doctor for the U.S. gymnastics team, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. Here is what we learned from the women’s testimony: Many of the accusers were minors, as young as 6 years old, at the time of the assaults. Most of the women were gymnasts but they also included dancers, rowers and runners. Some of those who shared their experiences are well-known and medal-winning Olympians, such as Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas. All told, their stories reflect a pattern of abuse that took place for decades.

One of the striking themes of their collective testimony is that when some of the women—many of whom were girls at the time—told adults in their lives (e.g. parents and coaches) the adults were hesitant to believe the girls and as a result, didn’t do anything to address the reported abuse.

Further, the U.S.A. Gymnastics Team and Michigan State University, where Nassar was employed, did not report their concerns.

“Over those 30 years when survivors came forward, adult after adult, many in positions of authority, protected you, telling each survivor it was okay, that you weren’t abusing them. In fact, many adults had you convince the survivors that they were being dramatic or had been mistaken.” - Aly Raisman

“I reported it. Michigan State University, the school I loved and trusted, had the audacity to tell me that I did not understand the difference between sexual assault and a medical procedure.” - Amanda Thomashow

Beyond the devastating impact of the abuse on these young people, including a range of psychological effects like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), family issues, anxiety, depression, intimacy issues, body image issues, shame, guilt and suicidal thoughts, what can we learn from the courageous testimony we heard from the survivors?

What we can learn from this disturbing, long pattern is that adults must listen to children and take them seriously. When children come to us, share their experiences and reach out about something serious (e.g. bullying, bias, harassment, sexual assault, etc.), it is important to be mindful of how difficult it probably is for them to come to us in the first place.

While many young people might have an intuitive understanding that what is happening to them is wrong, they may not have the exact words or full understanding. That’s why they need supportive adults’ assurance when facing difficult, challenging or traumatic experiences.

They need our reassurance that they did the right thing in bringing this to our attention. And they need to know that we will listen, respect them and do something.

Acknowledge the courage it took for them to come forward

When a young person comes to you about a difficult and disturbing experience, let them know how important it is that they came to you. Thank them for telling you and acknowledge that it might have been hard for them to share this information. Recognize their bravery in coming to you and remember that young people do not routinely ask for help, so this is a big step.

Take them seriously

Never belittle any serious incident like this—whether it’s a one-time occurrence or something that’s been happening for a while. Don’t question that it happened or their motives in telling you. Be sure to give young people the time to tell you everything they want and need to share through active listening. That conveys that you are taking them seriously, that you care and that you will take action.

Listen and allow them to express their feelings

Young people may have a range of sometimes conflicting feelings about incidents like these including fear, sadness, rage, numbness, guilt, shame, etc. They may need to cry, shout, be silent, take a walk or something else. Allowing them to express their feelings and not judging those emotions conveys acceptance.

Encourage them by asking open-ended questions and don’t ask for a lot of details until they have gotten their feelings out. When asking for details, be open and honest at the onset if you are a mandated reporter and therefore there are certain issues that you have to report to the proper authorities.

Be proactive, talk about next steps and get them help

After providing time for them to share their feelings, explain to them what you need to do in terms of reporting the incident and getting them help. Explain the process and the next steps you will take; and get their buy-in for the (ideally) co-constructed plan. In serious cases, remember that youth get a vote, but not a veto, in the next steps—especially when mandated reporting is required.

Be discreet and whenever possible, maintain confidentiality and be clear with them who you need to tell and why. Follow the appropriate school, local, and/or state procedures for any given incident and if you don’t know what that is, ask your school’s administration. In addition to following your school's policies, is important for adults to provide young people with appropriate counseling and crisis resources.

Similar to bullying and sexual harassment in schools, these incidents often go unreported in part because the adults in children's lives are unapproachable or address the situation ineffectively. And when bias, bullying, hate, harassment and abuse are reported, sometimes young people's experiences are dismissed or belittled and therefore, not taken seriously.

As Olympian Aly Raisman so eloquently stated, we hope to create a world where children “will never ever have to say the words, ‘me too.” Taking children seriously and listening to them is an integral step in that process.

Reprinted with permission from Listening to and Believing Children,” ADL Education Blog, January 25, 2018. All rights reserved.

Create a school-ready capsule wardrobe for your kids

Dress for success whether virtual learning or in the classroom!

Tina Meeks

Going "back to school" this year may be less of a literal statement than in years past—but there is just as much reason for your kids to celebrate moving on to new grades. Just like in every new school year, a big part of the fun is refreshing your kids' wardrobe with clothes that allow them to express themselves.

Even if finding back to school clothes this year doesn't include a trip to the mall, you can still make an event of it by shopping H&M's kids collection from your computer. Pull up another chair for your shopping buddy and get the cart started with these fave capsule wardrobe options we've already scouted.

Here are our favorite picks:

A t-shirt made for play

H&M t-shirt

Call them essentials, not basics. A graphic t-shirt aces the test when it comes to being perfect for school. And because your little student will probably want to wear something that expresses their personal style as often as possible, it's great to know the shirts can stand up to school time, playtime, downtime and everything in between!


Dressed-up casual shorts for total comfort

H&M boy shorts

Whether pulling up a chair for a virtual meeting with the class or heading back to the school for in-person learning, some comfortable, yet stylish, shorts will help your kid focus on the real tasks at hand: learning—and having fun while doing it!


Layers for when seasons change

H&M sweatshirt

When it comes to feeling comfortable at school, layers are the MVPs. Whether the AC is blasting or the day started off cool and is warming up quickly, having a unique sweatshirt to shed or add will help your kid look cool while staying warm.


A bit of flair with distressed denim

H&M distressed jeans

A school staple for generations, denim is both classic and continually fashionable with updates like distressing and new wash colors. If you're shopping online for jeans this year, take note of H&M's generous return policy—your kids can try on the orders at home and return anything that doesn't fit without a trip to the store.


A fashion statement piece

H&M girls skirt

What's better than expressing yourself through a stylish outfit when school is back in session? Still feeling perfectly comfortable and ready to tackle anything the day holds while looking so good. With so many fashion-forward looks available at budget-friendly prices, H&M's children's collection means every kid can find an outfit that speaks to them.


Some comfy kicks

H&M boys shoes

A sure way to put a little pep in your child's step this year, cool and cozy shoes are a staple on all back-to-school shopping lists for good reason. (Plus, it's fun to compare them to last year's shoes to see how much your kid has grown!)


Anything-but-basic blouses

H&M girls blouse

Whether in the classroom or showing up for a video call with the class, a styling blouse or button-down shirt is a great way for your student to comfortably dress up the day. Better yet? Style doesn't have to come at the expense of comfort with so many made-to-move tops designed just for kids.


A shirt ready to go whatever the day holds

H&M boys shirt

With "going to school" meaning anything from showing up in the classroom to doing a virtual session, it's important to have clothes that are perfect for anything the day holds. A classic, cotton shirt with a fashion-forward design is a great way to keep your student feeling ready to start the year with an A+ attitude.


This article was sponsored by H&M. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Products that solve your biggest breastfeeding challenges

Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

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Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.


Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.


Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.


Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.


boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.


Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.


Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.


Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.


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After a long day of doing seemingly everything, when our partners get home it kind of becomes a habit to ask, "How was your day?" In between prepping dinner, handing off the kids, finishing your own work, we don't exactly get much value from this question. Sure, it may open up the opportunity to complain about that awful thing that happened or excitedly share that presentation you killed at work—but it usually stops there.

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