We convened dozens of experts to talk about some of the most pressing issues parents face: bullying; screen time; sex, consent and gender; and raising kind, compassionate, grounded kids.
I took pages and pages of notes, and as I’ve reviewed and distilled them, there are several overarching, actionable takeaways across all the sessions that are worth sharing and repeating. So here goes:
Bullying is top of mind for many parents, and for good reason. So what can parents do on a daily basis in their homes to help combat it and raise compassionate kids?
• Ask meaningful questions. As Stand for the Silent co-founder Kirk Smalley said, “We as parents need to start asking the hard questions. If you don’t start asking them, you’re going to get the soft answers.”
• Eat dinner as a family. Even if the family dinner isn’t always calm, just show up and talk about who you admire or things you’ve heard or read that inspire you as a person.
• Emphasize being a good person and how that’s an important value in your family, said Elizabeth Englander, the director and founder of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center.
• Read diverse books so kids can see themselves and others in their home library, and encourage your school’s librarian to have diverse books available, said Deborah Pope, the executive director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.
• Ryan Beale, the founder of Prepare U Mental Health Curriculum, advised, “Ask yourself what you and your partner are doing in your home that you could do better at. Ask how you’re going to lead by example.”
Watch the panel on bullying below.
On Screen Time
There was a lot of talk about when to get children a phone (more on that in the coming days), and the one nugget of advice that I found the most applicable came from Jill Murphy, the editor-in-chief of Common Sense Media.
“Narrate what you’re doing when you’re on your phone,” she said. Tell your kids that you’re looking at your phone to view a birthday party invite or to talk to a fellow parent about a playdate or looking at the news. “Give your child insight that it’s not just a phone — it’s a computer, and this is what it has access to.”
Watch the panel on raising screen savvy kids below.
On Sex, Consent And Gender
I’m very conscientious about raising my sons to deeply understand bodily autonomy and consent. This panel had some standout conversations not only on consent but also on the challenges of raising gender-questioning and transgender kids. Kim Cavill, a sex educator from Chicago, said something really interesting about consent that struck me as particularly poignant.
She said, “Consent is really a low bar when we’re talking about sexual relationships and what we as parents inevitably want for our children. Consent is what makes sex legal. It’s not what makes it good. So we can’t just talk about consent and then close the door and feel like we’ve done our job. We’ve just started our job at that point.”
As writer Carvell Wallace said, “They’re conversations that can’t be had in a moment. They’re conversations where the door to that conversation has to be open and has to remain open, and your kids have to walk through it when they feel like walking through it, but they’ll only do that if it’s open all the time.”
In short: Talk, talk and then talk some more.
Watch the sex, consent and gender panel in full below.
On raising a kid who’s at home in the world
The final panel of the day centered on raising grounded, compassionate, self-sufficient and resilient kids. It’s a tall order, for sure, but I walked away from it with a real sense of purpose: to really see my two kids.
Here are some of my favorite tidbits of wisdom from the esteemed panel:
• As Board Certified Licensed Professional Counselor Dr. Tammy Lewis Wilborn eloquently advised, “Make sure your children understand that no matter who they are, no matter who they are not, no matter what the world tells them, that they are enough.”
• New York state teacher of the year Christopher Albrecht said, “We need to help children believe in themselves. When people don’t believe in themselves and face adversity, they have fear, and we all know that fear leads to anger. Let’s produce a generation where we help them believe in themselves.”
• Andrea Beaty — the author of the beloved children’s books Iggy Peck Architect, Ada Twist Scientist and Rosie Revere Engineer, among others — said that books are like “little empathy machines.” She added, “We tend to think of kids not as real people, but they are real, and they feel everything with all the passion and power and intensity that we feel. Our job is to show them the way forward with that.”
• Melissa Bernstein, a co-founder of Melissa & Doug toys, advocated for the power of play, arguing that “play builds more skills than any scheduled activity you could ever imagine.”
Watch the full panel below.
There is still a lot to digest from this wonderful day, and I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned for years to come. If you have any great nuggets of advice or wisdom you want to share, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.