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, September 2, 2015


PFLAG recently released an excellent new publication  "OUR TRANS LOVED ONES: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR PARENTS, FAMILIES, AND FRIENDS OF PEOPLE WHO ARE TRANSGENDER AND GENDER EXPANSIVE that beautifully addresses some of the issues families face, serving as a supportive guidebook of experiences, expertise, knowledge, and resources. 

One paragraph serves as brilliant advice for all of us:
The most important thing for all children to know, at a very deep level, is that they are loved unconditionally. It seems like a fundamental concept of family, but when children are brave enough to look at themselves at such a deep level and share their reflections with those around them, it is crucial to remind them over and over of how proud you are of them for asserting this level of authenticity.  It is the bravest thing a human being can do and when a child is celebrated for doing so by a parent, caretaker, family member, or friend, it can be heartwarming; more importantly, it can be lifesaving.


The website Teen Safe (www.teen-safe.org) is designed to foster better family communication, promote resilience and healthy activities, and reduce risky teen behaviors via true-life stories, scientific evidence, and helpful educational materials for parents and teens/pre-teens. The site offers a free 15-minute video course for parents that is quite informative about the effects of substance use on teen brain development. The section detailing the impact of early marijuana use of mental health is especially worth noting as medical marijuana is beginning to be a part of our culture. It’s only 15 minutes long, and at least one local pediatrician is asking all his patients’ parents to check it out!


Today, as never before, the lives of adolescents are saturated with commercial marketing, targeted through video games, the Internet, and those omnipresent mini-computers -- cell phones. The level of digital activity and saturation is daunting. But I just ran across a website (yes, I know, the internet!) that offers some measure of direct guidance for parents. Boston Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Michael Rich also happens to be a media enthusiast and something of an expert on the subject. He offers advice to parents via the hospital's Center on Media and Child Health. Through “Ask the Mediatrician,” parents can pose questions and get answers about how media use is affecting out children, with topics ranging from cyberbullying to the impact of multi-tasking on brain development, and he's dealing with questions both general and quite specific.  Check it out...


The American psychotherapist, educator and clinical social worker Wendy Maltz came up with a dynamite little acronym for codifying the basics of healthy sexuality that offers a terrific tool to help adolescents and their parents navigate the gnarly ins and outs of social life. The model is  called CERTS, and whether you're sending an adolescent off to college or back into the quagmire of middle/high school, this is a quick and easy formula to help reinforce some basic information about healthy relationships.

When considering romantic entanglements, keep in mind:
   Consent (it needs to be mutual, sober, awake, enthusiastic, verbal – if there are mixed messages, slow down) 

I’d love to see this on every bathroom door of every school and dormitory across the country!

Saturday, January 31, 2015


OK, full disclosure – I do not have sons, so perhaps I could be chastened for not having a clue what it takes to raise a young man in today’s culture. However, I do have two girls, both of age, one still in college, and both – in my estimation – strong, competent, extraordinary young women. And both, by most accounts in addition to my own, drop dead gorgeous.

So when I read Susanna Schrobsdorff’s “Be Brave, Be Safe” essay in this week’s Time Magazine, her advice to her daughter on handling the dangers of sexual assault on campus immediately resonated. I know what messages I’ve pressed on my daughters about being aware of their vulnerability in different surroundings, dressing appropriately, taking care in engaging with strangers, making smart decisions despite peer pressure and a culture that tends to elevate drinking and casual sex while devaluing loving, clear-eyed intimacy. We’ve talked about nourishing caring, supportive friendships and finding self-esteem in being true to one’s most essential nature. We’ve talked about kindness, generosity, respect, and I truly believe those messages were heard and continue, for the most part, to be the cautionary angel on their shoulders, at least subliminally if not completely hard-wired.

But I have to wonder – what messages are young men hearing, especially the young college men who use the prevailing culture of drunken tomfoolery to excuse sexual assault? Weren’t values like kindness, respect, and self-respect imparted from toddlerhood? What happens in adolescence when testosterone ramps up? What messages are our young men getting – from schools, from the media, and yes, from parents? Are we dropping the ball in the guise of “building strong men?” And why are all the “good” guys, who wouldn’t think of having drunken sex with someone they barely know, not stepping up, stepping in?

“No means no” shouldn’t just be a watch-phrase for young women. That’s a message for everyone, and young people especially need to hear it and have the courage to say it, loud and clear.

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...