The Reincarnation Story

Tejal Toprani, MSW

Misra is a psychotherapist in part-time private practice and a most-time stay at home mom. She lives in California with her spouse and two young sons.

In the 4th grade I had two best friends with whom I played at the back of the playground during recess.  

One Monday, my Korean Christian “best friend” asked me what I did on Sunday. I don’t remember what my answer was but it did not involve church.

“Why?” She asked. 

“Because I’m not Christian.” 

Eleven year old me was raised Hindu and I still am. 

We can break here for a quick religious education: For those of you who don’t know, Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion and the third largest religion behind Christianity and Islam. Hindus believe that God exists and that all human beings are divine. Hindus also believe in the importance of religious harmony among all things. Our religious place of worship is called a Temple and the word for “temple” is different depending on what your native Indian language is. 

Okay, back to the story: It’s Monday and I am at recess and my “best friend’s” response to my recollection of my Sunday was “You didn’t go to Church?” and I say “No I’m not Christian, I’m Hindu.” To which my “friend” replied, “If you’re not a Christian, you’re going to go to hell!” 

Eleven-year-old me was shocked. 

How could someone so affirmatively declare what was going to happen to ME in the after life? Who died and made her Queen? 

But all my eleven year-old self could blurt out was “Nooo I’m not!!!” Being told I was going to go to hell felt isolating and hurtful. I didn’t know what to do with this information. Our other best friend stood by listening. 

So when I went home that day I asked my Dad if we were going to hell when we die.

It bears mentioning that my Dad is the opposite of Mr. Rogers when it comes to explaining things to children. 

But hindsight is 20/20. 

My sweet, well intentioned Dad said that as Hindus, we don’t believe in hell. 

Whew! 

What a relief!

Now I can take this information back to Janet (oops!) and be exempt from any “Hell” she thought I was going to for not worshiping the same god as she did.

My bad! 

But my Dad didn’t stop there. He proceeded to tell me that Hindus believe that heaven and hell are all here on earth. Hindus serve out their karma for good and bad deeds here in cycles of reincarnation. He said, “When each life ends our souls come back in other living things like a spider, a cockroach or …. a warthog.” 

Eleven-year-old Tejal was freaking the F out! 

My Dad sensed my fear and tried to walk backwards away from this landmine by saying “Maybe you will come back as a bird.” 

To my parents credit there wasn’t a blueprint on how to handle these questions.. The great immigration cycle of Indians from India started in 1965, less than a 100 years ago. Up until recently there weren’t any childrens’ books or regular temple activities to teach young Indian American children like me about their culture and religion. 

I wish I had had the chutzpah to explain my background when my Christian “best friend” told me I was going to “Hell.” I didn’t have a rebuttal or an experience of my own to share with her.

As a result, the experience really shaped me. It empowered me to learn more about my culture and religion. It then informed me to figure out how I was to educate my children on Hinduism. Even though I’m still afraid of coming back as a warthog in my next life, I’m writing the blueprint that works for me and our family.

INTENSIVE PARENTING – PART 2

Dr. Corinne Masur

Following up on my last post where I talked about intensive parenting, I would like to talk a little more about the subject.  

But this time I want to talk about one of the things that makes parenting intensive these days and one way to reduce the workload.

And to help, I want to quote Dawn Staley, former Temple University Women’s basketball coach, Olympic gold medallist, and Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer who was interviewed recently by Terry Gross on Fresh Air.

Dawn Staley made some interesting observations about parenting. 

She said that parents these days often cannot stand to see their children feel uncomfortable.  She said that the parents of her players often want to protect them from frustration or failure … or even minor discomfort. 

This takes A LOT of work on the parents’ part and is a questionable strategy for raising resilient, independent children.

She said:

“I find that just through my life, being uncomfortable, I found a way to grow. And I give that to our players. … I’ll give you an example. Most of the players that I coach, their parents, they don’t want them to hurt. Like, they don’t want them to be unhappy. They don’t want them to go through life hurting or failing… bad game, bad grade, just – break up with your (partner). Like, their parents don’t want them to go through that.

And I am the direct opposite of their parents. Like, I want them to do that. I want you to break up, have a breakup. I want you to have a bad game. I want you to fail the test because from those moments, growth is taking place. You find a way to not have those repeat performances in … your life. So sometimes my players – they struggle with me because I don’t treat them like their parents treat them.”

This is so profound – Coach Staley is suggesting that in her own life she grew from the times when she was uncomfortable – and she thinks her players can do the same.

This may sound sensible – and yet it is so hard to institute a similar policy with our own children – so hard to tolerate our own children’s frustration or pain. 

Letting children fail or fall or have a bad break up without rushing in to prevent it or to fix it is hard for parents.  We want our children to be happy and comfortable.  We want their lives to be smooth and easy.

But is this the best thing for our children?  And is it the best thing for us parents?

Will our children learn what they need to live their lives independently, and to survive frustrations and disappointments – if we don’t let them experience difficulty as they grow up?

I have written about this in other posts and no doubt I will write about it again.  But I think it is worth thinking about the answer it to these questions.

And I think it is likely that protecting our children too much is not a good parenting strategy – not only for our children but for us. 

Trying to cushion every fall (metaphorical or real) is a full time job even if you just have one child. And if you have more than one?  Well, that is total overload.

And taking this approach to child raising leaves very little time to be an adult outside of work, to talk to our partner, to be with our friends, to relax, to read, etc. 

To be good parents, we need time to refuel, including in the presence of our children – not just on nights out.

We need to do this partly for ourselves, and partly to show children that being an adult is not just one never ending string of chores and responsibilities. 

I just read a wonderful comedic memoir called, “Did Ye Hear Mammy Died” by Seamus O’Reilly.  In this book O’Reilly describes how his father raised him – and his ten siblings – after their mother died.

His father had eleven children. He raised them without help.  He never remarried.  But he did expect the older ones to watch the younger ones and perhaps, most importantly, he did expect them all to amuse themselves.

The author describes hours and days and weeks of boredom.  And he also describes all the reading and other activities he and his siblings dreamed up to do.

Their father did not sit on the floor to play with them.  He did not see it as his job to entertain them, except, perhaps on the occasional vacation. But he did keep an enormous library of books and videos (movies) in the house and he did insist that they spend time with each other and he also made sure that they knew what they were supposed to do and when they were supposed to do it.  He did wake them all up every morning and he did chauffeur them to their various clubs and choirs and classes and performances.  He made sure they got where they needed to be and he did have someone to clean up the house after them. But again, he did not feel it was his job to sit on the floor with them or to entertain them. He had his own interests and hobbies and activities that are well described in the book.

This is a fascinating story for so many reasons, not the least of which has to do with parenting.  

Reading this book, and listening to Dawn Staley gives us pause to think – and these two tremendous adults make clear how all encompassing AND how limited our current view of parenting is.

Parents’ lives today are arduous, in part because we have a hard time discriminating what our jobs are with our children and what we need to leave up to our children to do on their own. 

When our 16 year old gets a ticket, if we contact our friend who has an inside track on cancelling that parking or speeding ticket, will that teenager learn that it’s better not to speed or to park in an illegal spot?  

Or, if we pay the fine for them, again, will they learn anything from the experience?

The answer is obvious.

And the same goes for what will happen if we always jump in to help them to finish the school projects they have left to the last moment or when we write the college essay for them.  

We may feel the stakes are too high to let our child experience consequences.  If he doesn’t get a good grade in 6th grade, he won’t get into the higher level classes in middle school.  If she doesn’t write a good essay, she won’t get into the college she wants.

But we have to ask ourselves, how will our child learn to do what they need to do in life if they DON’T suffer the consequences when they fail to do these things? And why we are so worried about our child’s project or college essay or problem with a girlfriend/boyfriend/partner in the first place? 

We have to ask ourselves why we don’t think our children can sort these things out and what our children will miss out on learning if we sort everything out FOR them.

And then we need to think carefully about when and where we step in to help – and when and where we sit back, do our own thing, and let our children figure things out for themselves.

Is parenting too intensive? 

YES.  But perhaps we can do something about SOME of the load by looking at our own behavior.

And for the Dawn Staley interview, here it is in its entirety: 

https://www.npr.org/2022/06/06/1103287397/inspired-by-the-sixers-basketball-star-dawn-staley-forged-her-own-path-on-the-co

Translating Psychoanalytic Terms into Everyday Life:

Aggression in Our Children — It’s Not What You Think!

Most people think of aggression as a bad thing.

Especially when it comes to our children.

“He’s too aggressive” is something you do NOT want to hear from your child’s teacher!

However, it is important to consider other meanings of this word.

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, talked about people having two drives: the aggressive and the libidinal — or loving. He believed that these two drives motivated all human behavior.

Modern day psychoanalysts do not necessarily think this way anymore — but we do still think about aggression — and not necessarily in the way that you think.

Henri Parens, a wonderful child psychoanalyst, moved the field forward by MILES by talking about the aggressive drive as having more than one component.

He talked about the HOSTILE aggressive drive which is the one we normally think about.

And then he talked about the NON-HOSTILE, NON-DESTRUCTIVE aggressive drive. This is the one that provides motivation in life. It is the “oomph” that moves kids forward to learn, to be creative, to get up and DO! It is the thing that drives curiosity and exploration.

All kids need SOME aggression –

They need the first kind in order to be able to protect themselves and to stand up for themselves.

This is the kind of aggression that is built into our DNA in order to ensure that we survive as a species — as well as in our individual lives. Being able to fight back is not a bad thing! It is only when this form of aggression is expressed in excess or in situations that do not warrant it, that it becomes problematic.

And children need the second kind of aggression — the non-hostile, non-destructive type, to learn new things, to move forward in life, to achieve, to do MORE.

The non-hostile, non-destructive type of aggression is so important to kids to provide the motivation to do what they need and want to do. And some children have more of this than others. These are the children that are more active, more curious, more energetic and seem to want to just do MORE.

It sometimes feels like a burden to a parent to have a child like this —

BUT if you can help your child to channel this energy, to use it for productive purposes, if you can support their energy level by engaging in productive activities with them and encouraging them to engage in some on their own, if you can provide them with the materials and activities they need — whether legos or art supplies or science kits or music lessons or teams to play on or model airplanes to build, if you can set sufficient limits to help them to contain their energy and to channel it, you may find that you have a future CEO or artist on your hands!

For more on this subject, see Henri Parens’ book,

Aggression in Our Children

3 Principles Which Will Help You To Nudge Your Children into Doing What you Want –

Or — the gentle art of Choice Architecture

Every day we make thousands of decisions, most of them unconsciously. What we decide often depends on the way in which the choice is framed and the context in which a choice is made. Economists have been concerned with how people make decisions and behavioral economists specifically, among them Nobel Laureate Richard Thaler, were the first to incorporate insights from psychology into their work.

Thaler has developed a whole science revolving around how people make choices.

In its highest application, this science is used to help people to make the choices that are best for them. This is called “Choice Architecture” and Thaler writes about this in his books “Nudge” and “Nudge, the Final Edition”.

Here we are going to apply these ideas to parenting — and for transparency’s sake, I will say that all the ideas in this post are stolen from this brilliant man!!!!

Principle #1

Think about what words you choose when you speak with your child. This can drastically alter what choice your child makes!

For example, when you want your child to go to bed, you say, “Are you ready for bed?”

And your child says……….”No”.

Of course. What do you expect them to say?

Thaler would say that you have constructed the question in the wrong way.

If you want your child to go to bed, you need to say, “OK, time for bed! Do you want to jump into your bed like a frog or slither into bed like a snake?”

Or something like that.

You can give your child a choice. You can give him or her SOME power and agency. But you DO NOT give them a choice about WHETHER or not they go to bed.

Principle #2

To get your child to do what you want them to do, make the choice simple for them.

For example, let’s say your child is five and you want them to get dressed in the morning on their own. And let’s say your child has put up some resistance to doing this.

Ask yourself why.

Investigate.

Figure out what’s making it hard for them to get dressed on their own.

Let’s say you go into their room and realize that their drawers are a mess, full of clothes that are too small or for the wrong season.

Or let’s say you think about it and realize you gave your child six choices about what they COULD wear. You know the old, “do you want to wear a dress or leggings or maybe tights and a skirt or here’s a nice pair of jeans you liked last month.”

No.

In the first case, your child might be unable to get dressed because he or she finds it so frustrating to look through the drawers and find something.

If you need to, help clean and organize the drawers. Put things that are appropriate for the season in the drawer, get rid of all the old stuff and put pants and shirts and socks and underwear in different places so they are easy to find.

And, if you have to go a step further, lay out two outfits — but no more.

Make it easy for your child to do what you WANT them to do.

Look for whatever obstacles are getting in the way of their doing what you want and REMOVE THE OBSTACLES!

Principle #3

If you want to reduce certain aspects of your child’s behaviors, make those behaviors you don’t like harder for them to do.

Let’s say your child likes to run around at night after bath and before bed. He gets himself all excited and then it’s hard to get to bed and the whole process takes too long. You’re exhausted by then anyway and this makes it worse.

Try something new. Pick your child up in his towel (let’s say he’s five or younger) and say something loving and distracting (“oh, you’re so snuggly after a bath”) as you walk to his room. Once there, shut the door(s) without saying anything and then help him get the pajamas on. If you need to, make up a story — this is our bear den — let’s be cozy here. Do you want two books or three? Let’s make this room our princess castle, here’s your princess nightie. ETC.

In other words, get your child to their room without making a big deal of it, shut the doors and don’t let them out.

But do it quietly. And subtly.

This way you reduce your child’s ability to run around wildly. The trip between the bathroom and the bed is obviously a hard one for your child and one that invites running! Removing the obstacles to their doing what you don’t like, in this case, means removing the temptation — and the ability — to run around

Or let’s say you don’t want your child to eat so much junk food.

Sorry — but you’re going to have to either hide the junk food you like or stop buying it all together. And don’t go to fast food places together either. If you want your child to stop eating so much junk, make it hard for them to find any!

These three principles WILL help — if you think about how to use them. They are not magic. They won’t make parenting a snap in five minutes as so many blogs promise you their advice will do — but they WILL help.

Thank you, Richard Thaler! The next book you write should be for parents!

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!

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!

HALLOWEEN READING WITH KIDS

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)

Ghosts

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.

HALLELUJAH!

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!

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.