Baby Gorilla Born for the First Time in the Cleveland Zoo’s History – what happened next and what we as human parents can learn from this!

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo announced that for the first time in its 139 year history, a baby gorilla has been born there.

The baby was born to Nneka, a 23 year old female, and Mokolo, a 34 year old male.  

This was Nneka’s first baby and either she did not know how to care for her baby or she was not interested.  

However, Fredrika, or Freddy, the troop’s oldest female, who had raised four infants herself, WAS interested, and she took over.

The team at the zoo had been preparing for this possibility for months.  They had brought in a stuffed gorilla baby and had bottle fed the “baby” in front of the female gorillas.  They also rewarded the female gorillas if they brought the “baby” to a team member for feeding.

After the actual gorilla baby’s birth, Freddy held the baby almost constantly and brought him to team members for feeding when he seemed hungry, just as she had been taught to do with the stuffed “baby”.

Weighing around three pounds at birth, newborn gorillas are in almost constant bodily contact with their mothers for the first six months of life and they nurse for about three years.

SO much like humans, right?

But one problem – humans, at least in Western societies, usually do not have an older female readily available if they do not know how to care for their first babies – or if they are ill or suffering from postpartum depression. AND parents usually don’t have a team available to help if there is a problem during the early weeks and months of a baby’s life.

What can we learn from this?

Well, it’s been said many times, but it DOES take a village. Or a team. Or a grandmother, aunt, uncle or a few friends.

Before YOUR baby is born, think of who you want on your team.

And if you already have children and don’t feel like you have enough help, try to bring some relatives or friends closer.  And if this isn’t possible, look for a parents group in your community where you can meet other parents and possibly make new parent friends with whom you can trade some babysitting, advice or support.

After all, we are ALL primates – and we can learn more about parenting even from our cousins, the gorillas!

Blame Shifting

Today in our parenting group one mother talked about how, when she was angry with her toddler, her partner told her that she was out of control.

She quickly went from being angry with her toddler to being angry with her partner.

Things escalated.

Blame shifting happens fast when people are angry.

“How dare you tell me I’m out of control??? You try getting him to put his shoes on! In fact, why don’t you try? I’m going up to take a shower. And don’t ever say that to me again!!”

You’ve probably been there – at least a few times.

But let’s dissect this: toddlers, and children in general, can be frustrating. Especially when THEY feel frustrated. This particular toddler wanted to wear his mother’s shoe to school. Not both of her shoes. Just one of her shoes. His mother was trying to reason with him – and getting nowhere.

This little boy was yelling louder and louder. His mother just did not seem to be getting it! Why couldn’t he wear her shoe to school?

And as he yelled louder and louder, his mom found herself yelling louder and louder. Her partner was at least partially right, things WERE getting out of control. But the mom was so flustered that his saying this to her only made her feel worse. She felt that he was blaming her for not handling the situation better. And of course she was already angry with herself for not being able to manage her toddler. So, inevitably, her anger shifted to her partner.

This is easy to do.

So we discussed this in the group. The consensus was that it is often helpful to talk about this sort of situation when it is NOT happening – and for parents to agree with each other what can and should be done at the moment that will not cause the frustrated parent to feel blamed.

One mother suggested trading off – when she feels too frustrated she asks her partner to step in. She has found that this serves two functions – first she gets a break to calm down and second, her children learn that when they go too far, there is a consequence.

Another parent suggested having a “safe” word or phrase. In her case, the word is “breathe”. When things are getting out of control, she has asked her partner to say this to her and she has found that it actually helps her to take a step back from her own anger – and to take a deep breath.

Blame shifting happens at other times too – in arguments, when everyone is under stress, when people feel guilty and want to place the responsibility on someone else.

But it is never particularly productive.

More Social Media Advice From A Teen

So, remember that 19 year old I wrote about a few weeks ago? The one who gets her friends to pile their phones on the table when they eat together so that no one looks at their phone during the meal?  Well, she has more ideas.

This week she told me that she had an exam that she was worried about.  So what did she do?  She decided to analyze her own social media use.

She looked at her phone to see what apps she spends the most time on – and found out that by far, she looks at TikTok the most.  Very scientific approach, right?

So she deleted TikTok for two days prior to the exam so that she would get those hours back – and use them for studying.  

Self control being what it is, she knew she could not stop herself from looking at Tiiktok if it was still on her phone.  

Teens of all ages as well as young adults have told me that they simply cannot stop themselves from checking social media – sometimes as much as every 2 or 3 minutes. 

Young teens have complained to me that they just don’t know what to do.  They know they shouldn’t do this – but they find themselves doing it anyway.  And for some highly motivated kids, this is distressing – they want to do well at school and they know their use of their phones is getting in the way.  One young teen boy cried in my office as he told me how guilty he felt – he knew he should be studying more, reading more and doing other things that were better uses of his time but Youtube was sucking him in every day after school and he just couldn’t stop.

People have compared social media use—as well as computer gaming, Youtube and other computer activities— to an addiction.  And I tend to agree.  The in-the-moment pleasure derived from doing these things, the immediate surge of gratification gained from looking at these sites is so powerful.  Reading and studying?  They don’t stand a chance. 

So, parents, you are in a difficult spot.  Recommending that kids delete their apps, even temporarily, will be met with protest and push back.  What are you to do?

Maybe just leave your computer open to this post for a while and let you kids walk by and see it for themselves…..

Or talk with your kids about the ideas here, just to see what they think.

Let The Kids Eat Sugar! (In Moderation)

By Karen Libber Fishbein, LCSW, and Samuel Libber, MD

Halloween is almost here, and candy is everywhere! My daughters (ages 6 and 8) are very much looking forward to celebrating the holiday after missing out last year due to COVID-19. Thinking about the sugar consumption that will follow this festive day may be overwhelming to some parents.

In this post, Samuel Libber, MD, and I hope to put your mind at ease. Dr. Libber is a pediatric endocrinologist with over forty years of experience. He is also my father and a fellow sugar lover.

Dr. Libber and I both believe that establishing healthy habits surrounding sugar intake is an important task that parents can take on.

Sugary treats are everywhere and equipping our children with realistic and healthy approaches to sugar consumption will benefit them throughout their lives.  

Part One: Karen’s Observations As A Mother

To start out, I will share my philosophy on sugar consumption in children. I believe that children who are typically developing (and don’t have medical issues that impact how sugar is metabolized) can benefit from being offered certain sugary treats. In my present-day home (with my children) and in my home growing up as a child, dessert is/was offered as a reward for consuming a healthy meal. A “healthy meal” is defined by a meal that includes  protein, fiber, whole grains, a calcium source, and fruits and/or vegetables.

As a result, my daughters consume sugar on a daily basis – and so did I when I was growing up.

Some folks and some fellow parents might wonder how this impacts my children.

Here are my  reflections:

–  First of all, sweets are not viewed as a forbidden fruit in our home. My daughters both understand the rules listed above and realize that as long as they adhere to mealtime standards, they will earn a sweet treat.

   We do monitor that the girls don’t go too far with their dessert treats. I believe that when kids are offered treats as a reward for healthy eating, they learn how to self-regulate their sugar consumption. Once my oldest daughter ate too many marshmallows after dinner and was sick to her stomach during the night.  Since that happened, she has never binged on sweets again. I truly think that learning the hard way was an effective means for her to gain a deeper understanding about her body.

– Secondly, I think that when children are offered sweets regularly, it reduces the “scarcity mindset”. If children know that dessert will be available to them, they are less likely to spend time worrying about when and how they are going to get some candy or a cookie.  They also may not feel the need to overeat  sweets when they receive them, since they know that there will be opportunities to partake in the near future.  Interestingly, when other children come over to play, I notice that kids whose parents strictly restrict sugar often go straight to our candy jar upon their arrival. Not only is it the first stop, but the experience often involves overeating. When my daughters come home from school or from other activities, heading straight to the candy jar is usually the last thing on their minds. They are more interested in playing outside with friends, playing with toys/games, or having time to decompress.

A final observation I have about children living in a sugar-friendly home is that they often model the adults around them. So, for example, I am a dessert lover, and since I was given sweets after healthy meals from a young age, I find that I know how to control the amount of sweets I eat as an adult and I am able to moderate my dessert intake. At mealtimes, my daughters observe me eating healthy, balanced meals, and they know that I will enjoy dessert right along with them after the meal is over. I believe this gives me more credibility in their minds and lets them know that I too understand the importance of eating healthy, while also enjoying the indulgence of dessert. I feel strongly that children who view their parents eating a variety of foods, and positively accepting their bodies will then be more likely to adopt this behavior in their adolescent and adult lives.

Many folks may wonder what this sugar consumption means in terms of my girls’ physical health. I will share that both of my daughters are in the average ranges of height/weight. Staying physically active is something that we value as a family. Both of my girls often run around and play outside with their friends, sometimes for hours at a time. Additionally, they swim, dance, go to the playground and take walks all around Philadelphia. We try to come up with fun, physically active activities on a regular basis.  This mindset is integrated in our day-to-day life just as much as having sweet treats is.

Part Two: Dr. Libber’s Perspective As A Pediatric Endocrinologist

One lesson that I’ve learned over the years is that there is tremendous variability in how interested kids are in sweets.   Some of this may be environmental, and some may be innate.  In any case, many kids are not at all motivated by sweet foods and are fine finishing their meals without desserts and steering clear of sweet snacks between meals.   But when kids do desire sugary foods, certain rules should prevail:   Snack foods between meals are best designed around fruits, vegetables and savory foods.  Desserts, if sweets are offered, should have carefully controlled portion sizes without visible offerings of “seconds”.  If children are still interested in further dessert items, those should center on fruits and not on baked goods, ice cream or high-calorie processed foods.  

Many of the challenges in the diets of American children may be averted at the “supermarket stage”.   If parents concentrate on buying healthy food such as fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid purchasing unhealthy or overly processed foods, choices stay available to the child but become more limited.  If the choices are apples with cinnamon and raisins versus chocolate chip cookies, many of today’s kids would likely go for the cookies.  However, if parents refrain from purchasing chocolate chip cookies and the choices boil down to sliced apples versus mandarin oranges versus banana slices with jimmies, kids are still presented with options.   Furthermore, any of the latter choices are healthier than the chocolate chip cookies. Another tip to cut back on sugar intake is to avoid juices, sodas and artificially sweetened drinks.

Health problems due to excess sugar are well-documented.   There are potential dental concerns, behavioral concerns, weight-gain concerns and later in life, concerns over the consequences of too high a caloric intake —high blood pressure, diabetes, blood lipid problems, heart disease and many more.

Childhood is a great time to start setting patterns that could last a lifetime and help to prevent a large variety of health challenges later in life. Remember the wise words of my daughter – portion control, plenty of outdoor play and avoidance of the “scarcity mindset” when it comes to dessert. It’s never too late – or too early – to get started!


From Lisa Walton Medium Daily Digest:

16 Spine-Tingling Halloween Books Kids Will Love

Spooky stories are a great way to draw in reluctant readers

Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

It’s the season of witches and warlocks, goblins, and ghosts. And one of the best times of year to hook your kids with a good book. Even reluctant readers are often sucked in by the thrill of a good mystery or ghost story. Here are 16 spine-tingling Halloween books that kids will love.

Take advantage of the eerie allure of Halloween to pick a book that will delight your readers. From mildly-spooky to spine-tingling to sweet, there is a book just right for every reading appetite.

This spoiler-free list includes Halloween choices for readers of all ages.

Picture Books (Grade K-2)

Room on the Broom

by Julia Donaldson

This classic Halloween read about problem-solving, friendship and making room for everyone is sure to bring a smile to young readers.

How to Catch a Monster

by Adam Wallace

This sweet bed-time story is just spooky enough to qualify for Halloween. It reminds kids that things aren’t always as scary as they seem.

Bonaparte Falls Apart

by Margery Cuyler & Will Terry

This Halloween story is chock full of monsters. With encouragement and support, they help Bonaparte keep himself together during a stressful transition.

Frankie Stein

by Lola M. Schaefer

One of my favorite Halloween stories of all time. Frankie Stein is not the child that his parents expected. This story about love and family teaches children and parents alike that it’s okay to be different.

Young Readers (Grades 2–4)

Case Closed #1: Mystery in the Mansion

by Lauren Magaziner

This choose-your-own-adventure story is packed with puzzles and clues. The readers join the story to help Carlos and friends solve the mystery and save his Mom’s detective agency. This book is the first in a series so it’s a great way to get kids excited about reading.

The Nocturnals

by Tracy Hecht

Three unlikely friends learn about friendship, teamwork, and laughter as the Nocturnal Brigade solves unexpected mysteries of the night. This series is perfect for virtual learning. Visit the website for printable online activities and educator guides.

It’s Halloween, I’m Turning Green, My Weird School Special Series

by Dan Gutman

Another kid favorite! I couldn’t included a list of Halloween books without a selection from My Weird School. Join A.J. and the gang from the laugh out loud funny My Weird School series in a holiday-themed chapter caper about candy, costumes, and more.

Middle Grade (Grade 4–7)


by Raina Telgemeier

After Maya and Cat learn their new town is haunted, Maya becomes determined to meet a ghost. But Cat is not interested. Can Cat put aside her fears and make the spirits appear?

The Haunted Lighthouse

by Zander Bingham

A classic mystery that kids will love. After Jack’s aunt buys an old lighthouse, odd things begin to happen. Mysterious figures in the windows, strange noises, flickering lights. Could it be haunted?

Ghost Squad

by Claribel Ortega

This action-packed debut novel weaves a thrillingly spooky tale about family and phantoms.

Premeditated Myrtle

by Elizabeth C. Bunce

This smart new series combines unexpected plot twists with a strong female lead trying to earn the distinction of most daring and acclaimed amateur detective ever. You can’t help rooting for Myrtle.

Spirit Hunters

by Ellen Oh

We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh bring us this captivating ghost story about a seventh-grader who must face down the dangerous ghosts haunting her younger brother. Its twists and turn will have you guessing with every page.

Young Adult (Grade 8–12)

One of Us Is Lying

by Karen McManus

This New York Time Bestseller is one of my favorite reads. The twisty plot keeps you guessing until the end. Five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out? Who did it? Can you guess? You can’t go wrong with any of McManus’ books.

Cemetery Boys

by Aiedn Thomas

This modern ghost story is perfect for Día De Muertos. A transgender Latinx boy summons a ghost to prove to his family that he is a real brujo. Only now he can’t get rid of the spirit? A wonderful book for Halloween and beyond.

Rafa and the Real Boy

by Emily Juniper

This exciting new release blends family drama, romance, friendship and suspense. Readers will find themselves engrossed in Rafa’s complex, emotional journey and guessing at what is real and what’s not.

Smartphone Fatigue

Recently a 19 year old I know told me something shocking.  She said that she wished her friends would use their cell phones LESS when they are together.

I have to say, I was really surprised – and elated!

She said that everyone’s constant phone use got in the way of talking to each other.


Here was living proof that even teenagers get tired of seeing their friends on their phones all the time!  It’s not just parents who feel this way!

And I suspect that plenty of teens feel this but just don’t say it.  I suspect, as I said in my last post (see “Attentional Insult”) that teens, kids, even adults feel a little bit hurt each time they are wanting to talk to someone and instead see that person looking at their phone. 

This teen even had suggestions!  She said that sometimes when she and her friends go out to eat, they put all their phones in the middle of the table so that no one uses a phone during the meal.  She said that she grew up in a house where phones were not allowed at the table and she actually liked this rule.

So parents – what can you do to help your kids and teens with phone use? Take a tip from this teenager – and The American Academy of Pediatrics.  Ban phone use during meals.  No phones at – OR UNDER – the table for anyone – and that means you, too!

Attentional Insult

Today I went on an outing with a friend and his young daughter. My friend is in his 30’s and I have known him for a long time. I went out of my way to meet him and I’m sure he was pleased that I was there – but I noticed something. Every few minutes as we walked together, he looked at his phone.

Of course this is ubiquitous. It happens all the time. Nothing new here. But at the same time, I noticed something in myself. Each time he did this I felt a little hurt.

Am I the only one?

Or do other people feel slightly insulted when someone looks away and centers their attention on their phone?

And how about children?

Do they feel hurt when they are playing and look up to see if their parent is watching and instead, see their parent looking down at a phone?

What I am interested in is whether children get used to this when this is done by their parent or whether they feel a little hurt each time this happens – just as I did?

And if they DO feel hurt, what does this do to their sense of themselves, to their self confidence and to their feelings about their parent?

Even at my advanced age, I remember what it felt like when my father or my teacher focused on me. It was important to me. I wanted their attention and even more, I wanted their approval. I wanted them to think I was special in some way or another. I wanted them to notice me.

And I also remember the disappointment I felt when the teacher called on someone other than me or when my parent concentrated on one of my siblings rather than me.

I am sure nothing has changed in terms of children’s feelings about being noticed in the past few decades – I have to think that most children still crave the same sort of attention and recognition that I did.

So what happens when a parent shifts attention away from a child – not to a sibling, or to making dinner – but to the phone? And what happens when this occurs many times a day.

I would like to suggest something that is sure to be unpopular. I would like to suggest that this sort of shift may be experienced by children as an insult. A small insult. But still an insult – which, when repeated over and over throughout the day, every day, may add up to a larger insult.

And what does the research show?

Let me summarize what I have found:

A large international study done by a technology company had interesting results. Of six thousand eight- to thirteen-year-old children, 32% reported feeling “unimportant” when their parents used their cellphones during meals, conversations, or other family times.

This is alarming. If one third of all children feel unimportant when parents use cell phones during times when they might be having interactions, this is a LOT of children feeling unimportant at least some of the time.

Catherine Steiner Adair wrote a book called ‘The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.’ In researching her topic, Steiner-Adair interviewed one thousand children between the ages of four and eighteen, asking them about their parents’ use of mobile devices. Over and over again children used words such as “sad, mad, angry and lonely” to describe how they felt when their parents were using their cell phone. One four-year-old called his dad’s smartphone a “stupid phone.” Others recalled throwing their parent’s phone into the toilet, putting it in the oven or hiding it. And one child said, “I feel like I’m just boring. I’m boring my dad because he will take any text, any call, anytime”.

So it seems that some children DO feel hurt.

Other studies I found looked slightly different questions:

In regard to the effect of parental cell phone use on children’s behavior, a study done by the pediatrician Sarah Radesky is relevant. Radesky became concerned enough about what she was seeing in her practice that she decided to do an observational study of cell phone use among mothers. She chose a popular location to do her research: McDonalds. And, perhaps not surprisingly, when Radesky looked at the patterns in what she and the other researchers observed, she found that children with parents who were most absorbed in their devices were more likely to act out, in an effort to get their parents’ attention. She described one group of three boys and their father: The father was on his cellphone, and the boys were singing a song repetitively and acting silly. When the boys got too loud, the father looked up from his phone and shouted at them to stop. But that only made the boys sing louder and act sillier. She noted that not only did children whose parents were on cell phones act up more but the parents were also more irritated than parents who were not on their cell phones.

Could it be that children “act up” sometimes, not to be “bad” but because they are feeling hurt?

Other researchers,Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, Sarah Myruski and colleagues studied the effect of cell phone use on young infants using a well known research strategy called the “still face paradigm”. It is well known that when presented with their mother’s expressionless face (still face) infants become dysregulated and display negative feelings as manifested through fussing and whimpering. In periods as short as two minutes, it is clear that seeing their mother’s unresponsive face is unsettling to even very young infants. Dennis-Tiwary and her colleagues realized that this same reaction might also occur when mothers are looking at cell phones. They recognized that during cell phone use the mother is physically present but distracted and unresponsive, similar to the still face paradigm. They performed a study to look at this and sure enough, for infants ages seven to twenty-three months, the infants who had the most negative reaction to their mother’s “still face” were the ones whose mothers used their cell phones the most. When their mother’s were displaying the still face (similar to the “cell phone face”), these infants explored less, were less able to re-engage with the mother or to explore the room and displayed fewer positive feelings once their mother was available again. These researchers concluded that, like other forms of maternal withdrawal and unresponsiveness, mobile-device use can have a negative impact on infant social-emotional functioning and parent-child interactions.

Brandon McDaniel, a researcher at Illinois State University has studied technology-based interruptions in parent-child interactions which he has called “technoference”. McDaniel has started to look at the effect of parental phone use on children’s behavior. His results show that technological interruptions are associated with child problem behaviors.

Of the parents he studied, almost half reported that their use of technology interfered with their interactions with their children three or more times per day. And, interestingly, mothers perceived their phone use as more problematic than fathers did.

So – what is your opinion on this? Feel free to leave a message in our “comments” section.

And if you are interested in finding out more, check out these links:

What Does It Mean To Truly “See” Your Child?

Recently I read an article about Adam Phillips, the wonderful British child psychoanalyst. In it he was quoted as saying, “There’s nothing to you until someone sees something in you.” 

At first I wondered, is this really true?  Don’t we know ourselves and know what we are capable of even without someone else noticing?  And then I remembered my developmental training.  In studying child development, I learned that it was eye contact with the parent that helps the infant to settle down when agitated or frightened and it is through eye contact with the parent that infants learn social regulation. In fact, the greater the amount of parent-infant eye contact, the better the social regulation of the infant. 

So, quite literally, from the very beginning babies need to be looked at by the parents.

I also remembered that later in development, at ages two and three and four, the greater the ability of the parent to “see” and to admire their child, the more likely it is that the child will feel worthwhile and known. The child of this age who feels admired and valued by the parent will incorporate these feelings into their own sense of themselves as admirable and valuable. This is the basis for self-confidence.  

All two and three-year-olds will say, “Look at me!” and what they need is for the parent to see who they are and what they are doing – and then to express admiration.  Children of all ages want to know that they are noticed, that they are valued and that their particular abilities are appreciated.

Thinking about this raised the question of what exactly it means to “see” your child and to let your child know that they have been seen.

And I remembered a family I saw in my practice many years ago.  The father was a self-made man, the first boy in his extended family to go to college and the only one to ever go on for an advanced degree in medicine.  When he had his own four children, he wanted the same success for them that he had had.  He valued education and he wanted his children to do well academically.  Of his four children, it was clear that his two favorites were the two who were most academically inclined.  One of the others showed signs early on of being artistic.  She loved dance and painting from her earliest years. While her father was loving and well meaning, he did not understand her. He projected onto all of his children his own wishes and values.  What had made him successful is what he wanted for them.  As a result, his artistic daughter felt misunderstood and “unseen”.  She did not feel valued by her father and while talented, she eventually lost faith in her own artistic ability.  She became an angry and unhappy teenager.  She was furious with her father, although she did not exactly know why, and she had very little confidence in herself.

This father wanted his daughter to be like himself.  He was not able to love and appreciate her as a different sort of person.  Of course, his desires for his children came from a loving place; he wanted his children to be successful in life.  But unbeknownst to him, in not being able to value his daughter’s unique talents, he contributed to her lack of confidence in herself.

So one important element in “seeing” our children is to be able to see them for who they are, not for who we want them to be, to value their unique character traits and abilities, and to reflect our appreciation of them – just as they are – back to them.

But how do we do this?

It occurs to me that there is no one simple answer to this question – but there are some starting points.  

First of all, to be truly “seen” children need to feel that they are understood.  Every child needs to feel that their parents know what they like and what they don’t like, what is easy for them and what is hard, when they are making an effort and really trying and when they are not.  And every child needs their parents to be able to be with them for prolonged periods of time and accept their interests and their way of being.  This is related to something talked about all the time these days – being “present”.  

Being present with a young infant, a toddler or a young child means just being there with them as they do what they are doing. It means being able to hold back on our own projections and agendas and just to be.  Is your baby lifting up his head during tummy time?  Can you take joy in this moment with him in his effort? Is your two-year-old collecting rocks?  Can you be with her and collect some too rather than hurrying her along or telling her to drop them because they’re dirty? Is your four-year-old drawing a three-armed man?  And are you able to comment on how interesting this is rather than saying “but people have only two arms?”

To allow our children to “see” something in themselves, to feel confident at least some of the time, and to move forward in development, we must first be able to “see” them clearly and be able to love and admire what we see. Secondly, we need to be able to be present with them as they are and to put into affectionate gestures and words how much we admire them.

This is the beginning of what we need to do to truly see our children and to allow them to become people who see something valuable in themselves.

And while we’re at it, we all need to try to expend some effort on “seeing” our partners and our friends as well.  We need to acknowledge more often that we appreciate their unique selves and that we value their efforts. Just saying, “You are such a good cook and you made a great dinner tonight even though you were exhausted” or “Thanks for making the effort to call/text/email” will go a long way.  

After all, we ALL need to know that we have been seen.

Fall Scheduling: To Do or Not To Do, That is the Question!

Dr. Corinne Masur

In an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times (see link below) Emily Oster suggested that starting now, we can all begin to make more conscious decisions about what we want on our schedules and those of our children.

But can we?

Having our schedules empty out during the quarantine was a revealing experience for many of us – and for our children. What could we do with our time when we didn’t have to go to a million activities? We had to draw on resources we didn’t know we had to figure this out.

Even though most families found the quarantine experience extremely difficult, I heard a lot of comments from parents and partners about the benefits in spending more time together. While family life could get claustrophobic at times, at others, parents found they were getting to know their children and partners better and many people appreciated the slower pace of life.

So now – the question is – do we have the courage to turn down some of the activities that are becoming available again? Are we willing to give thought to whether we want all that busy-ness back?  Can we get ourselves to consciously go through each of our prior activities and decide if we really want that back in our life – or in the life of our children?  

Emily Oster has some ideas about this – and so do I.  The thing that she does not mention explicitly in her article is the importance of communication. Are we able to talk together as a family to make our priorities clear before accepting all the sports and lessons and activities into our lives again? Are we able to have discussions about whether we want to be as busy as we were before?

I have a few suggestions and then you can read what Emily has to say as well:

1. Sit down with your partner, if you have one, before autumn starts and talk about how busy you want to be.  Talk about what your family priorities are. Talk about what you want back in your life and what you do not.  And if you do not have a partner, you can think about this for yourself and perhaps even write down what you do and do not want back in your life.  The purpose of all this is to make these decisions consciously rather than just deciding on the spur of the moment as each activity presents itself.

2. Sit down with each of your children and have this discussion with them. You now know what your priorities are for the family. Within the confines of those, ask your child what his or her or their priorities are and what activities he or she or they want back.

3. Don’t be afraid to set limits.  For example, if you have decided you want one day of the weekend – or even the entire weekend – for family times, stick to that. Try to help your children understand your priorities for the family and to make decisions keeping those in mind.

Life is getting more back to “normal” – but we all have to decide whether we want it to be the old normal or a new normal, informed by our experiences during this past year and a half.

For Emily Oster’s piece: