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Archive for the Category Family Matters


Choose play over flashcards and drills

Don’t be fooled by studies telling you to push your preschooler too fast and early. We’ve seen these studies before. They don’t tell the whole story.

Play is the vehicle for development of the brain. It’s natural learning, and built into the neurological software of all children. We know from years of studies that rushing kids makes them peak early and turns them into performers who only look good – maybe test good – but don’t think for themselves and aren’t as self-motivated. Worse, many develop symptoms of stressed.

We need to prepare children to be creative, fluid, and invested problem-solvers and to love learning for what it really is: an exhilarating exploration of the mind.

Let very young young kids start on the road to knowledge through play!

Please contact Dr. Rao about reproducing any material found on these pages.

Do you have a Digital Disease?

Fatigue, stress, and anxiety are related to heavy screen exposure. Screens grab our thoughts and pump up our emotions. There’s nonstop social media, advertisements, 24/7 news, higher expectations to work at home on mobile devices, and binging on endless entertainment. These digital demands compete for our precious, limited brain space. They mess with our emotions. The fix is to take a moment or two and rest your brain. Shut down the screens and practice mindfulness. Think of only one thing and stay in the now. Mindfulness helps you focus, become better at tuning out unwanted distractions, improves memory, lowers blood pressure, it may even boost your immune system. And get moving, outdoors preferable, even for a few minutes through out they day!

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Should your teen watch the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why?

Even if you aren’t a Netflix subscriber, you have probably heard about the new series 13 Reasons Why. The series concerns a teenage girl who is raped and commits suicide. As a mental health expert, I have significant concerns about the popularity of this show among teens.

Artistic license aside, from a teenage brain perspective, here are two main problems I have with the show as a psychologist.

First, most Netflix shows are binge-watched because all shows are available at once. Most teens will watch one episode right after the other. Why does this matter?  Without a week (or even a few days) between episodes, there’s less opportunity for the adolescent brain to digest the graphic content of suicide, to discuss the content with others, or allow ample time for their more logical brain centers to dive in and put the highly charged emotional material into context. To me, this is the equivalent of an overdose of highly disturbing material. I sincerely hope this series does not nudge kids on the edge of suicide to take that horrific step, which is happening with greater frequency these days across the nation.

Second, there’s no post-episode service message and hotline (at least several teens have reported to me they haven’t seen one). Something has to be addressed at each episode and be conspicuous.

If the series makes people more aware of suicide among our young children and teens, that would have great benefit. But without some structure in place for this to happen, I fear kids will be left to their own devices to make sense of this. Keep in mind, the majority of young people watch these shows alone on laptops.

A deeper discussion among parents, teachers, educational leaders, politicians and clergy is required to ensure that teenage suicide remains in the realm of fiction instead of the all too common occurrence that it has become.

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Up your child’s social game!

The first three seconds matter. You can’t get them back. Everyone forms first, strong opinions in these fleeting moments.

So, all young children need to learn greeting basics. Practice them constantly with your children.

  • Head up
  • Eye contact
  • Smile
  • “Hello, nice to meet you… my name is _______”
  • Extend hand (if child is older)

In my office, when first meeting a child, I know which parents have (and which haven’t) spent time training their kids on the greeting basics. The kids who get these simple steps down early, I’ve observed, go on to be happier, make more friends, handle new social situations more easily, aren’t as self-conscious, and act more confidently.

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Defining Leadership Thoughtfully

Tips and advice for raising children from Dr. Anthony RaoColleges, despite stated goals, are selecting high performers, not leaders. Grade point averages and résumés are about standing out from the pack, not truly leading it. Emphasizing these criteria promotes unhealthy, Type-A behaviors in high schoolers who push themselves out of fear of rejection. We should define leadership more thoughtfully.

In my work with young men, I see leadership at pivotal moments that demand a courageous response. Facing an unfair coach. Confronting a bully. Sticking by a friend who comes out to them about his sexual identity. At pivotal moments these boys, often shy and unassuming, find their voice. They stand up for what matters to them, but not in a self-promoting way. They demonstrate a quiet resolve that has the power to help others see things differently.

Rosa Parks comes up frequently in office discussions, in addition to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Lincoln. Boys I talk with also admire celebrities as varied as Derek Jeter and Ellen DeGeneres.

The boys I know with leadership potential are passionate yet emotionally measured, self-reflective and able to position themselves as learners. They don’t idealize popularity and can step outside social media and trends to think for themselves. They don’t showboat or pad their online profiles. And like the Rosa Parkses of the world, they don’t stand out until they stand up, leading decisively at pivotal moments of their choosing.

Please contact Dr. Rao about reproducing any material found on these pages.