When I was a young teacher – years before I had children – a wise head of school pulled the faculty together before parent-teacher conferences and shared this quote from Elizabeth Stone.
“Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”
"Remember," he said, "when you talk about someone else’s child with them, you are talking about their heart."
Parenting is such sublime, scary, soulful work – and we can use all the help we can get. Here are four recent articles that might provide a slice of support:
Psychologist Lisa Damour takes on a difficult topic with her characteristic warmth and wisdom. Pandemic-related boredom, stress, and food insecurity have all contributed to a rise in disordered eating. And so has a spike in screentime:
During the pandemic, teenagers have spent more time than usual on social media. While that can be a source of much needed connection and comfort, scrutinizing images of peers and influencers on highly visual social media has been implicated in body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. Dr. Austin noted that teenagers can be prone to comparing their own bodies to the images they see online.
Damour breaks down both when to worry and how to help:
Experts encourage adults to model a balanced approach to eating and to create enjoyable opportunities for being physically active while steering clear of negative comments about their teenager’s body or their own. Parents should also openly address the dangers of a ubiquitous diet culture that emphasizes appearance over well-being, creates stigma and shame around weight and links body size to character and worth.
How can parents help teens avoid substance abuse? Last month, I talked to Jessica Lahey, author of the new book “The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence.” As I wrote:
Lahey’s motivation for writing this book is personal. Born into a family with a history of addiction, she found herself struggling with alcoholism as an adult. After finding her path to sobriety, Lahey – a career educator – began to teach teens at an inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. These experiences, along with the task of raising two teenage sons, prompted her to spend years researching the core elements of efficacious addiction prevention.
Among her findings? Teens need parents to talk early, openly, and honestly about how drugs and alcohol affect the developing brain. Parents can also amplify the protective measures that will reduce their risk level:
These include getting them academic support; setting clear family expectations about substance use; building healthy sleep, exercise, mindfulness, and nutrition habits as a family; and enlisting other adult allies to help, such as mentors, pediatricians, guidance counselors, and coaches. Research shows that “as long as a kid has one supportive, protective adult in their life, then they can overcome a whole bunch of risk factors,” says Lahey.
In the seventh grade Habits of Heart workshops, we spend the first three minutes of class doing a 3L Reset.
- L1: Look Backward with Gratitude: What are three good things that have happened in the last few days (1 minute)
- L2: Look Forward with Hope: What is one thing giving you hope write now (1 minute)?
- L3: Look Inward with Mindfulness: Finally, let’s take one minute and just focus on our breathing – to be present in the moment.
We know from research that gratitude, hope, and mindfulness are habits that support flourishing – but habits take time and practice to develop. Read this article to learn more about the research behind each L.
In this article for PBS KIDS, I explore four ways parents of younger children can help them build perseverance and resilience:
- Help children name their goals
- Help them work through tough emotions
- Praise children’s efforts – and be specific
- Use stories to teach them about “yet”
And like most things in life, what’s good for young kids is good for all of us.