If you take it really seriously, parenthood is the most challenging job you’ll ever have. The hours are long and the pay stinks. It requires the most emotional investment and the greatest patience. And no matter how well you do it, there will always be that nagging little voice in your head wondering, “Should I have handled that differently?” But parenthood is also the most rewarding and important role you’ll ever play. And the good news is that we're all in this together...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


The New York Times just reported on the rise of e-joints (brand name Ju-Ju Joints). They look just like e-cigarettes, which a new study shows teens are now using more than tobacco. However, instead of containing liquid nicotine, these vapor pens are filled with roughly 250 milligrams of cannabis oil loaded with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that "adversely affects the developing brain, some studies have found, impairing attention and memory in adolescents and exacerbating psychiatric problems." This has especially disturbing implications for teens. Read the full article...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


For years now, I’ve been beating the drum about the ineffectiveness of multi-tasking, which we all do, especially with regards to electronics – chatting on the phone while we’re driving or cooking or skimming through email, reading the paper while listening to NPR, constantly interrupting any project required sustained thought to check text messages or twitter…But in truth, we’re not really doing several things at once. Rather the brain is shifting quickly and constantly between separate tasks, which not only over stimulates the brain and leads to muddled thinking but releases stress and anxiety-producing hormones. And if we’re actually trying to learn something, like reading important information while watching TV, the brain diverts new information to the wrong part of the brain for proper storage and easy access.

Yet the pleasure and novelty seeking parts of our brain light up with interaction like text or email exchanges, giving us a sense of social connection and a task completed, but leading to a kind of neural addiction. In his fascination article in The Guardian: “Why the Modern World is Bad for Your Brain, ” neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitan adds, “Just having the opportunity to multitask is detrimental to cognitive performance. Glenn Wilson, former visiting professor of psychology at Gresham College, London, calls it info-mania. His research found that being in a situation where you are trying to concentrate on a task, and an email is sitting unread in your inbox, can reduce your effective IQ by 10 points.” 

This can have an especially profound impact on the developing brain (it's still a work in progress til around age 25), and I fear kids are actually hard-wiring their circuitry to be less able to focus on issues demanding more in-depth thinking...

Friday, November 21, 2014


In the process of gathering information for Brookline Parent Education Network to help parents understand some of the subtleties and complexities of growing up LGBTQ, I’ve come across two dynamite websites. Everyoneisgay.com is geared toward teens themselves, and it offers resources and advice about everything from how to come out to one’s parents to sophisticated transgender issues. The other connected site is www.TheParentsProject.com, which provides a wealth of resources, blog posts, and opportunities to ask/answer questions about parenting children through the often tricky process of gender and sexuality identity. Some of the info is broad enough for all parents…

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


According to an article in today's Time Magazine online, "A study being released this week by researchers from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School has found that 18- to 25-year-olds who smoke marijuana only recreationally showed significant abnormalities in the brain." For the study’s purposes, “recreationally” was considered a joint or two on the weekends, which many parents might not find any more alarming than casual beer drinking. But the study’s findings show that even those who smoked just one joint a week altered the density, volume, and shape of two key parts of the still developing brain—the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala. It was a small study, but if it shows this much impact on the brains of 18-25 year olds, imagine how recreational marijuana use could be effecting younger, even more vulnerable brains…

Sunday, April 13, 2014


I’ve always bought into the idea of actions speaking louder than words and the importance of being good role models for children. But Adam Grant’s excellent piece in today’s NY Times Sunday Review, RAISING A MORAL CHILD, puts some science behind it. Two ideas really stuck with me –

“When our actions become a reflection of our character, we lean more heavily toward the moral and generous choices. Over time it can become part of us.” (So, being a good person may take a little practice, but gradually becomes ingrained…)

Then there's this positive bit of reframing: “Shame is the feeling that I am a bad person, whereas guilt is the feeling that I have done a bad thing. Shame is a negative judgment about the core self, which is devastating: Shame makes children feel small and worthless, and they respond either by lashing out at the target or escaping the situation altogether. In contrast, guilt is a negative judgment about an action, which can be repaired by good behavior.” How we talk to kids about their actions can be so potent, the difference between “I am disappointed that you lied about that” vs. “I am so disappointed that you are a liar.” And not just kids – think about how adults talk to each other. 

Monday, March 3, 2014


A decade ago, it would have been almost inconceivable for a promising college football player to “come out” as gay to his teammates, much less to the world at large just prior to the NFL draft. But University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam’s announcement isn’t so much shocking as heartening, a sign perhaps that the culture of bias against gay people in American team athletics is waning. Sam potentially could become the first openly gay player in NFL history. 

Sam’s teammates all seemed to know and be relatively comfortable with Sam’s declaration, and other teams voiced support, as did his school and many NFL players and officials. He will undoubtedly suffer repercussions from the older generation of managers and administrators – his draft stock apparently has fallen already – and he is dealing with what surely must be painful disapproval from his father. But hopefully this is mitigated by what must be enormous relief at presenting his true self to the world.

Sam’s honesty and bravery in blazing a trail along what will undoubtedly be a very bumpy road offers an ideal opportunity for talking to adolescents about the nature of personal identity and the history of bigotry.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


After felony charges were leveled following the suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick, “On Point with Tom Ashbrook” devoted a powerful hour of radio to the issue of cyberbullying, examining why and how it continues to happen, and how easily and quickly bullying and harassing can escalate into terrorizing and stalking. Guests question the wisdom of using criminalization as a long-term strategy for deterrence. Others bring up the empathy gap in developing teens (there are biological issues at play) and charge media with turning cruelty and pain into entertainment. (Even extraordinarily moronic shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Wipeout” glorify people being mean to each other and deaden viewers from considering just how painful some of the stunts must be.) All of this reinforces the importance of parents not just knowing what their kids are up to online, but continuing to help their children become moral human beings who have the ability, and willingness, to see another perspective, to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. The episode (you can listen to it here) could be a great parent/child conversation starter.