Past Events 2018-2019

Teen Scene 2018

TEEN SCENE 2018 – Teen Panel Reassures Parents

By Maneesha Sharma


NYC-Parents in Action’s 32nd Annual Teen Scene was held on February 12th, 2018 at the Trinity School, in a packed room of over 400 people, where 16 high schoolers spoke from the heart. They shared only their first names, candidly answering questions from long-time moderator and current PIA Co-President Lucy Martin Gianino, as well as from the audience. A panel of eight girls and eight boys from a sampling of NYC schools (co-ed, single sex, progressive and traditional) discussed a wide range of issues that affect high school life in NYC. There were moments of shared laughter among the panelists and the audience alike, as students offered answers and thoughts that were reassuring yet revealing. One panelist told the parents, “We students are doing a whole lot of good in addition to [doing] the bad.” Despite a changing world, with vast cultural shifts brought about by social media and technology, what hasn't changed much among teens is how decisions are made, why friendships are chosen and how different lifestyles are explored.


The first topic addressed how teens experience pressure, growing up and attending NYC independent high schools. The panelists reminded parents that all high schoolers are dealing with the same issues: finding friends; balancing the demands of school work and extracurricular activities; and peer pressure. Several students emphasized the importance of finding the “right people to hang out with.” Friends, apparently, may be both cause and cure for students’ anxiety (albeit not the same ones!). Panelists agreed that the increased presence of social media encourages a need for “instant gratification,” and prompts a fear of missing out (“FOMO”). Notably, if there were issues at school, students said they often found solace in friends from camp or other extra-curricular programs, such as sports or dance teams. Maintaining good friendships, the panel agreed, is key to surviving high school. Interestingly, there was no mention of turning to teachers as a resource, and “school is never the answer.”


On the topic of smart phones and the control they exert over teenagers, the students did not hide their attachment to their devices. They admitted that while some kids may be “addicted,” there was some policing going on among friends. One student expressed dismay that, on a senior school trip, the students who snuck in phones took away from the other students’ group bonding experience because the phone users were “always looking for Wi-Fi or charging spots.” The widespread perception that technology is out of control and social media is taking over peoples’ lives is real, the panel acknowledged, but also noted that teens realize Facebook and Instagram lives are curated and are not a reflection of real life. Further, the students appeared to understand that even innocuous posts can negatively affect peers, making them feel left out, or worse. As one young man exclaimed “[It] can break your heart!”


When asked how it feels to start high school, the students explained that entering 9th grade was a big leap from middle school: “It is scary, teachers treat you differently, expect more from you.” By junior year, however, the “vibe” is different, as the students, by then, feel like upper-class-men and -women. The biggest laugh of the evening was a senior’s delayed realization that “now everything counts, including 9th grade transcript!” In 12th grade, for all schools, the college process consumes students. One panelist suggested a useful tip for parents regarding college applications: “Don’t keep talking about it, we [students] already know what a big deal it is; [parents need to] just know how much stress your kid is dealing with.”


Sound advice for parents trying to help alleviate stress included making time for dinner every evening as a family. Panelists agreed that despite hectic schedules, dinner together is a good way to relieve pressure, as it allows the students permission to take a 20-minute break.


On the topic of weekend socializing, the panelists confirmed that there are unsupervised house parties. Sometimes good children make bad decisions, they noted, so keeping the lines of communication open is key to managing risky behavior. There seemed to be a casual attitude from the whole group regarding consumption of alcohol. One student explained that at least 90 percent of students in high school have had a drink. Regarding parents offering their teenage children alcoholic beverages, one girl remarked, “Awkward!” but impressively, all the students agreed on the mantra “stall when possible.” Referring to “club kids,” the panelists agreed that despite bouncer bag checks, high schoolers do manage to sneak in clear alcohol in water bottles, for example, or participate in heavy “pre-gaming” before homecoming weekend parties. Despite this level of consumption, there was widespread awareness among the panelists of the dangers of alcohol and drugs to the developing teenage brain, information picked up in school sponsored programs and from outside resources such as Hallways.


Marijuana’s recent legalization in some states has made high schoolers more willing to try it, despite associated risks. Some have even seen fellow students smoking in class with a very cavalier attitude. The prevalence of vaping (using both flavors or scented oils and more addictive substances, such as pot) was of great concern among parents. Students reported significant vaping use among their peers at all high school grade levels, either to relax or to get high without getting caught. Parents learned that vape shops (without checking customers’ ID) routinely sell the popular Juul, a small, vapor-delivery device made to resemble an ordinary pen.


Addressing sex and relationships, the panelists reported significant knowledge about health and sexual activity safety. There was strong concern about, and well-informed interest in, the #MeToo movement. Further, conversations on gender equity, in settings both formal and informal, are occurring regularly among teens.


After this in-depth discussion of teenage life in New York City, the students closed with some heartwarming thoughts, when asked by a parent what “makes them hopeful.” They said they were “hopeful about the future,” and listed as reasons: their friends; the ability to do so many different things; the desire to help others, to bring about change, to educate; and to share opportunities. This positive, cheerful vision further lifted the spirits of an already enthralled audience. While teenage years are considered the age of rebellion, it was comforting to parents to know the kids value what is “right” despite what we hear may be “wrong.”




Date: February 12, 2018

Time: 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Trinity School
101 West 91st Street
New York, NY
10024 Map and Directions

PIA Seminar 2018

Vaping: Essential Information and Strategies for Protecting Youth

(Presented in partnership with the Hallways Program of Freedom Institute)

By Melanie Wells


The explosive rise of vaping and JUULing is a deceptively normalized phenomenon, with research now revealing that these activities are far less benign than users initially assumed. And yet, according to Hallways, parents should not despair, but should remember this hopeful message:

“YOU are still the most important influence in your child’s life. TALK to your kids, early and regularly.”


In perfect alignment with PIA’s long-time support for effective communication, Freedom Institute’s Rachel Russell (Chief Clinical Officer, Freedom Institute) and Katherine Prudente (Hallways Program Manager) enlightened the audience at the Collegiate School on Wednesday, April 11 with a reassuring message: you have a key role to play in protecting your child’s well-being, and there are strategies you can employ to effectively do so. That was the good news.


The more sobering news, delivered first, was a dense tutorial on the ominous explosion of the use of JUULing/vaping by teens, and the clinical facts surrounding it. The audience was urged to take note: “We are at a critical turning point,” said Russell, likening it to a similar flash point that emerged around cigarette smoking decades ago, when a long-ignored health threat demanded action and intervention.


Before launching into the details, Russell asked the audience, “Are you curious? Nervous?” Both feelings were acknowledged. Russell assured the crowd that they’d learn “essential info” to better understand vaping/JUULing and to counter myths; and they’d also learn practical tips to use at home.


First, Russell offered some background on teen development, pointing out that parents need to know what will NOT work with this age group. “Scare tactics,” she emphasized, “DO NOT work.” (Think “just say no” and “here is your brain on drugs” – tactics from the crack cocaine years.) Further, she added, facts alone (even medical lectures) don’t work either. Kids, typically, do not ingest these facts and then avoid substances; rather, the research shows, they listen, become more curious, and then go experiment. What does work, said Russell, are holistic preventive efforts that promote social-emotional wellness, whereby kids develop important life skills. An effective prevention approach is:

1) Data-driven (evidence-based facts stand up best to scrutiny);

2) Community-based (looking at all elements – family, school, cohort, teams, other activities);

3) Ongoing and strategic (informed by science);

4) Person centered (keyed to the ages and culture of the kids involved).


Social-emotional wellness, firmly established, is key, but, Russell noted, it is “hard to gauge.” Social-emotional wellness comprises the “softer skills” (good decision making, impulse control, emotional regulation, ability to weigh consequences, i.e., the “frontal lobe” stuff). Effective prevention programs use skills-based learning to encourage and promote healthy development. However, working counter to the steady, successful development of social-emotional wellness, are a few risk factors. A big one is the adolescent brain itself, which, Russell explained, not only doesn’t fully develop until age 25-26, but more critically, develops “back to front,” allowing the primitive systems (think, “old brain”) to mature first, and the all-important executive function system (frontal lobe) to develop last.


This late development of executive function explains those puzzling times when parents, seeing a bad decision their child has made, may ask incredulously, “WHAT were you thinking??” The answer is, they weren’t. The ability to think ahead, weigh consequences and synthesize data to make good decisions is still a work in progress in the teen years. Similarly, when a parent asks a teen or tween to describe her feelings, the blank stare the parent gets in response is not always surliness, it is often simply evidence of a brain not yet able to find the abstract words to describe the feelings.


Still, social-emotional wellness skills are crucial to avoiding addiction (which is, by the way, an adolescent onset illness – with 90% of cases beginning in the teen years) and therefore must be taught if we are to help protect teens. Adolescents who rate high on stress (and many in our community do) are three times more likely to experiment with marijuana and two times more likely to do so with alcohol.


Further, and with relevance to our community, research has revealed a surprisingly big risk factor: affluent culture. This doesn’t mean an individual family of means is necessarily at huge risk, but it does mean the CULTURE of affluence surrounding our teens increases addiction risks. Per the research of Suniya Luthar, negatives associated with affluent culture include:

1) higher rate of substance abuse than the national norm

2) higher rate of depression/anxiety

3) immense pressure for achievement

5) focus on external markers of success

6) priority on extrinsic, as opposed to intrinsic, value

7) easy access and exposure to substances (with money for purchase power).


Kids internalize messages about success, noting the high value affluent culture places on external markers, vs. acknowledgment of the child’s own inherent worth. A sense of one’s inherent worth increases confidence; a lack of it has the opposite effect.


With this background in mind, what are the nuts and bolts of vaping and JUULing?

Facts: e-cigarettes (ENDS, or “electronic nicotine delivery systems”) come in many forms, from pipes to plug-ins, and deliver differently according to their mechanisms. (Kids know the terrain well. They’ve even learned to take ENDS apart and tweak the mechanics in order to deliver drugs other than nicotine, or to increase nicotine’s effect.)


Nicotine is delivered via vaporized liquids, which come in over 7,000 flavors, often cannily named and packaged to suggest a fantasy candy-land, with the young user in mind. (No self-respecting adult is likely to be seduced by “Cake Berry Blaster,” “Tutti Frutti,” “Cotton Candy” or “Avalanche Apple Slam.”) These “vape sauce” flavors represent an obviously cynical marketing approach on the part of companies who clearly target young people, while adhering to the fiction that the product is meant only for the legal user (age 18 and over). Virtually all marketers know that the best time to grab new customers is in the teen (or even tween) years, said Russell. And this is a $3.7 billion market, she added, projected to rise to $5.1 billion by end of 2018, with three major tobacco companies involved. Teens are blissfully ignorant of risk, and believe “vape sauce” is harmless, said Russell, and though some products are labelled “nicotine-free,” the industry is not well regulated. The flavoring agents, notably, are unregulated, and though their ingredients may have been approved for ingesting, they haven’t been approved for inhalation into the lungs. Some trace compounds in the flavored “vape sauce” are carcinogenic, if inhaled.


Regulation holds no appeal for companies seeing profits from three million middle- and high-school students who use their products annually, and some recent research on vaping is funded by the very companies who profit from it. However, counter to early claims, there is data to show that vaping has NOT proven an easy path to quitting traditional cigarettes; rather, vaping may prompt teens to START smoking traditional cigarettes, within 6 months of e-cigarette use. Further, the kids who vape and JUUL are not seduced solely by nicotine producers. Vaping has a huge presence on social media, with YouTube videos demonstrating “vape tricks” under titles like “simple vape tricks everyone should know.” Hiding a JUUL in the string of a hoodie (readily accessible to pop in the mouth for a quick hit) or creating weird vapor “trails” are shown as easy, fun ways to rebel. Ducking under a desk for a quick hit in class, when the teacher turns to the board, works too.


JUUL, with its small size and resemblance to a pen or USB stick is the most popular delivery system with many kids. It is easy to hide (adults don’t recognize it) and is convenient – it comes with pre-filled pods, carrying a liquid nicotine of choice. It’s easily found at any bodega or online. Kids “hack” the system by taking it apart to access the heating coil and pour liquid on it directly to intensify the hit (“dripping”), or to swap out nicotine for THC, in the pod. It’s ubiquitous – and its popularity is going nowhere but up.


So, is this really safe? Russell noted side effects: impulsivity, attention deficits, gum disease, lung cell damage, bronchitis, wheezing, elevated blood pressure and “popcorn lung” (scarring). It’s time to “amass forces,” said Russell, which will take “all of us, working together” to intervene – parents, schools, community. Early prevention works best, she said; Hallways currently goes into the schools to do its preventive work. Ask your kids what’s happening in their schools around this subject, she advised.


Russell stressed again that the heart of successful intervention is overall social-emotional wellness, combined with strong family relationships, with a focus on coping, decision making, stress management, building interpersonal skills and empathy. What should parents know about what THEY can do to help?

1) STRONG ADULT RELATIONSHIPS are key. Do your part in strengthening yours with your child.

2) SKILL REINFORCEMENT is crucial. It must come from home, school, community. Russell likened it to teaching a toddler to walk – parents patiently assist them over and over until they can manage alone. Social-emotional skills, too, need to be WALKED THROUGH and PRACTICED, over and over.

3) REPETITION is key. You don’t tell your child once in his life to pick up his clothes and make his bed; you remind him, again and again. Social-emotional skills, too, take reminding over time to become habit. Tell your children over and over that you want them make good choices.

4) BE PROACTIVE: talk to your child EARLY, OFTEN and CONSISTENTLY. Russell noted that kids “value their relationships with their parents and want to know they can talk to you, even if they seemingly resist.”

5) USE TEACHABLE MOMENTS. Become adept at the “one-minute conversation,” described by Russell as quick, frequent, in-the-moment observations you can make to your teen. And for longer conversations, carve out the time needed to extend those teachable moments into a full discussion.

6) EMPATHIZE. It’s hard to be a teen! Remember? Recognize their lives are tough, often with social hurt.

7) DON’T CRITICIZE TEEN FRIENDS. Instead of saying “I don’t like so and so – she’s trouble,” say that you’re worried about her well-being. Express concern for the friend. If you convey concern, your child will know that if he screws up, you’ll worry about him rather than reject him.

8) SET BOUNDARIES. Be clear with your expectations. Say plainly, “I don’t want you vaping, I don’t want you smoking pot - I want you to be healthy and safe.”

9) MODEL what you want to see. If you come home and say, “What an awful day – I need a drink!” what are you telling your child? That if things are tough, go find a chemical? Wrong message!

10) ANTICIPATE SITUATIONS, TALK THROUGH THEM, AND ROLE PLAY. If you want your child to avoid risky situations, play through them and help her brainstorm ways to handle them safely, or extricate herself.

11) ENFORCE CONSEQUENCES for risky behaviors. Russell acknowledge this is a hard one, always. Yet, she said, kids who have no consequences are pitied by other kids. Kids with them, feel cared for.


Russell also noted warning signs for parents to heed. For nicotine use: evidence of pods or packaging in bedrooms or backpacks; little thumb-drive-looking things; unusual changes in online purchases; hiding/secrecy (sneaking out to vape/JUUL); anxiety, or restlessness. For THC: red eyes; dilated or constricted pupils; changes in sleep/eating/activity patterns; changes in dress or grooming; declining grades or decline in extracurricular participation.


Katherine Prudente, Hallways Program Manager, noted that a substance abuse problem develops over time, and she outlined the stages:

1) This is fun, and it feels good. (Your child still has some control).

2) I want to do it again. (Still more a “want” than a “need.”)

3) I had a terrible day and I need to get high. (Now it’s a need).

4) I feel bad if I don't use. (Now it’s a requirement to avoid withdrawal; fully developed dependence).


It is important, said Prudente, to intervene before there is a fully developed pattern of dependence. The Hallways intervention system (Hallways Indicated Prevention Program, or HIPP) follows a protocol of assessment (teasing out symptoms vs. normal teen behavior, identifying other factors that may be at play, such as depression or anxiety and determining what intervention is needed); short-term counseling (including learning healthy skills and practicing); and referrals (if indicated).


Prudente also provided a short list of intervention strategies that parents may use:
1) If you see something, say something.

2) Parents/caregivers must all be on the same page and the same team.

3) Trust the strength of your relationship.

4) Always lead with concern.

5) Use dialog, not reprimands.

6) Discuss family history – if there is addiction, share that information with your child.

7) Seek support.


Finally, she advised, find your OWN words for talking points. Express yourself as yourself, in ways that will help your child hear you. Be clear. Most important, say where you stand, without ambiguity.


The speakers then took a few audience questions:

Q: What is the nicotine high? A: The “hit” may make users a little dizzy, but they don’t know they’re hooked until they cannot get more of it. It is subtle.

Q: Does vapor trigger smoke alarms? A: No

Q: Are e-cigs as toxic as traditional ones? A: No, but they aren’t safe. It’s like the difference between 60 mph with no seatbelt or 90 mph with no seatbelt. Neither is safe, but it’s a matter of degree.

Q: Where do kids get THC? A: Online, in the form of oil or “dabs.”


All parents want the same things – to see their children grow up healthy, and to keep them safe. But no parent, alone, can face a crisis of the expanding magnitude of the JUUL/vape crisis. Take heart, take heed of Hallways’ valuable tips, and take comfort in numbers – we are a community. Stay involved, informed and connected, and together our community will find the strength to support our children - through love, attention and ALWAYS, through consistent communication.


FREEDOM INSTITUTE, a non-profit organization, was founded in 1976 as one of the country’s first intervention programs. For more information about Freedom Institute, its services and the Hallways Program in New York City middle and upper schools, go to or

Date: April 11, 2018

Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Collegiate School Auditorium
301 Freedom Place South
New York, NY Map and Directions

Fathers Forum 2018

Your Child: Defining Success and Finding Balance

By John Lloyd


How do you support your child while he or she discovers and develops a passion? And how can you help your child balance excellence and achievement with a well-rounded and healthy adolescence?

This was the focus of the 9th annual PIA Fathers Forum, rescheduled for May 7th at Manhattan’s Collegiate School after being snowed out in March. Attendance and enthusiasm were unaffected by the schedule change, as over 200 fathers heard from a panel of experts and threw a wide range of questions at them.

Jeremy Leeds, a Clinical Psychologist and Director of the Center for Community Values and Action at Horace Mann School, moderated the discussion. Panelists included Kurt Froman, a professional dancer, choreographer, and educator; Douglas Brunt, the author of three novels including Trophy Son; Dr. Michael Sweeney, Director of the Metropolitan Center for Cognitive Behavior Therapy; and Tom Kelly, the Headmaster at the Horace Mann School.

Jeremy kicked off the discussion by asking the panel to consider their own path to success:

“If your school-age self could see you now, what would they be surprised by? What would they say “Of course, I knew it would work out that way?”

The panel’s answers were varied. Kurt knew he wanted to be a dancer from a very young age and drove himself towards that goal. Douglas is on his second career, having worked his way up to CEO before becoming a writer. Tom had dreams of being a professional baseball player before finding his calling as an educator. And Michael said, “I was anxious as a child, which is a good pre-requisite for running an anxiety center.”

Michael said all the positions he has held paled in importance to his role as a father. “I’ve been a shrink longer than a dad. When I became a dad I thought, ‘I should give all these people half their money back,’ because while the advice I had given was all correct, how important it was to the recipient was not clear until I was a parent.”

Finding balance

Tom challenged the focus on success right off the bat, however, by asking, “What about happiness?” He predicted that if his child-self saw him now, he would ask: “Are you happy?”

Each person must define happiness and success for themselves. Tom asked, “Is your specialization the one thing that defines you?” He said as parents, we should not allow our children to fall into the trap of ‘one data point.’ “I’m a huge fan of lots of data points on the chart.” A hyper-specialized kid can be devastated by criticism from a coach or teacher. We as parents should be helping our children achieve balance that will lead them closer to fulfillment.

Michael agreed, saying that burnout is a much greater risk for those who define themselves in only one way. “If you have six pillars you define yourself by and one falls away, you have five left to support you. If there’s only one and that falls away, you’re in trouble.”

But Michael pointed out that pushing your kids to try harder isn’t always a bad thing. “Fear and anxiety have a purpose in the right dose. There’s nothing wrong with kids being ‘medium nervous.’” Grit and durability come from overcoming challenges, and it’s better to face some of those challenges earlier when the stakes are lower. We should be less eager to save our children from problems. “The development of identity is effortful.”

Michael said that kids who achieve notable success too early can struggle to fit in with their peers. “Specialness is not your friend, ordinary is your friend. Specialness will diminish your sense of community.”

Kurt had a different perspective. He agreed that being solely defined by one thing was an issue, and he admitted that he struggles with it himself even as an adult. But the New York City Ballet hires dancers at 16, so they need to be fully capable artists at 14-15. “I don’t know if it’s possible to be a [successful] 14-year-old ballet dancer if you’re not fully into it.” He described how he and his brother would spend 4-5 hours a night working on dancing after spending that much time on other homework.

He sees that same dedication in many of the kids he teaches. As a Broadway choreographer, he taught the five 12-15-year-old boys who were rotating in the lead role in Billy Elliot. The boys absorbed a decade’s worth of learning in four months. “When kids are focused and given the right tools, they become like Olympic athletes.”

Passion versus drive

But not every child has the passion to sustain that level of focus. Kurt sees kids join his pre-professional studio who were born with the facility to dance, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to go on to professional careers. Dance became more fun for him as he went deeper into it. But he has worked with incredibly talented kids who no longer enjoy dancing. “You see the light behind their eyes die out.” The parents may want this life for their child, but those parents may not be paying sufficient attention to what the child wants.

Tom agreed, linking this to his earlier theme of happiness. As parents, we have to ask ourselves whether the goals we have set for our children are what they want. We’re all supporting our kids in what he called “high-octane schools,” but he challenges parents to ask, “What am I doing to support their happiness? Am I okay when my kids pull back and say they’ve had enough?”

Kurt, who found his own passion and decided, as a child, to dedicate himself to it, said he came from a broken home where he got no parental support; he was “flabbergasted and envious” that so many fathers would come out to a session like this one.

Although Kurt said he couldn’t imagine someone succeeding as a professional dancer without loving it, Douglas offered another angle. His novel Trophy Son was about a young tennis prodigy and “the cost of early excellence in our achievement-obsessed society.” To research it, he interviewed numerous professional players at all levels. He found that many of them disliked tennis despite their success. Andre Agassi has said that he doesn’t enjoy tennis, and Roger Federer said he wouldn’t let his kids play.

Tennis pros described the stress involved in competition as especially high when they were younger. One player told Douglas that he now feels equipped to handle losing a match, but when he fell short as a kid, “I didn’t just lose the match, it was like I lost my self-worth.”

Before he became an educator, Tom was a promising baseball player. He was drafted out of high school and made it to the minor leagues. But he wasn’t good enough to excel at that level and he is thankful to the coach “who told me, ‘Go to college. You’re good enough to be here, well done, but don’t stay and be good in a small pond.’ That was a blessing.”

Defining success

Framing such weighty decisions as success versus failure at such a young age can put a lot of stress on a child. Kurt said those kids who show an early love and skill at dance but who don’t become professional dancers “instead become our theatregoers, patrons, teachers, or just great people.”

“We want to give kids the space to discover their passion,” Douglas said. When he was a kid, he had time after school to wander the neighborhood until dinner. He’s said he is not against specialization, but he’s against forced specialization, and the feeling that a child must choose early. He spoke to a sporting goods store owner, who lamented that kids used to buy different gear for different seasons, but now they typically only buy equipment for “their” single sport.

Tom said that at Horace Mann they have tried to adjust their definition of success. “We hope that colleges say first, ‘This is a great kid,’ then only second, ‘and wicked smart.’” He said that it’s very easy to do what everyone else does or wants to do. “But if we did that, we’d never have special people like the ones on this panel.”

Achieving perspective

A father in the audience asked how to help kids who may be struggling to keep up with the demands of New York City independent schools. “The bar keeps getting higher.”

“Aim for personal bests,” Tom suggested. When a teacher signals that your kid is average at a top quartile school, are you hearing the whole message or just the word ‘average’?

He discussed the school’s role in this process, focusing on the purpose of report cards – they are meant to be descriptive, identifying where the partnership needs help, and measuring against a norm. Every year at Horace Mann, they work on developing truthful and constructive messages.

As the headmaster, Tom often hears from parents who escalate issues to him, including one father who questioned why his son wasn’t placed in an advanced math class. Tom showed the father sample tests of students who showed affinity for the topic, who “splashed down and tried everything they could think of” instead of just leaving a question blank when they didn’t know an answer. The father was upset at the placement but the student was not. “He wasn’t a math kid, he was a theatre kid, and he went to a theatre school and was happy.”

When is your child “busy enough”?

A father asked the panel how to determine when his child was “busy enough.” This father observed that his own child thrived within a structure, and that when he was under-scheduled he did worse because he spent all his downtime on screens.

The panel had differing takes on this. Douglas felt that the constant availability of screens today meant that addictive behaviors could arise more quickly than when we were kids. He has imposed structure on his kids’ screen time – an iPad limit of one hour, except for on car trips. He said that discipline is on the parents. “Once you give a tootsie roll after lunch, you always have to give one.”

Michael noted that the subject of screen consumption differs from child to child, and the same number of hours could signal different things for different children. One child’s behaviors might be typical of his peer group, but others might be so shy that they are using devices to avoid engaging with other people. “Do a little detective work about why they’re on screens all the time.”

Before he was a writer, Douglas was a CEO. He spoke about how jammed his day was then - he had no time to think. “I felt like I had stepped into a batting cage with a pitch coming every second and a half, swatting away like crazy with no time to reflect.” In his second career as a writer, he gets to reflect and gather his thoughts before writing. “What a gift that time is. Kids today are like me in the batting cage. So much structure, multiple travel teams, always someone telling them what to do.”

Tom said that “kids are growing up in uncharted waters, with information coming at them at ridiculous speed.” Does a child have enough time to be settled, structured, and thoughtful? Parents have some control over this. “If a kid is over-tutored, that kid didn’t write the checks or book the tutor.”

Jeremy picked up on this and talked about the Importance of reflection. We all need time to step back and think, including planning next steps. It isn’t just about finding the time, it’s about making reflection an integral part of the process. As Michael said, “Kids need unstructured time, please find it.”

How to engage and be engaged

Jeremy and Tom had asked their Ethics in School and Society class how they define success. Jeremy reported that the discussion focused on communication with parents. Their responses included: “Give examples of what you went through when you were my age”; “Don’t assume that the way you engaged with my older sibling will work for me”; and “Don’t be afraid to say no but give reasons.”

Michael distinguished between a conversation and a monologue. He said if you want to engage your kids, start with empathy and kindness, and don’t start with an agenda.

As your child gets older, Tom stressed how important trust was. If you’re not comfortable that your high school senior can go to a party and make good choices, remember that next year they’ll be in college. He encouraged letting your child take a healthy risk: “You’ve made a lot of good decisions, I’m going to let you make this one.” And if they do make a mistake, then that’s teachable, although he advised postponing a lecture in the heat of the moment. “They won’t tell you the truth if it always comes with consequences.”


Jeremy summed up the evening by remarking on the wide range of experiences and opinions on this year’s panel and stressing that everyone has a different story. “I hope you’re taking away different ways of thinking about how to address issues. There are choices you make; and whatever you decide, there’s something you’re not doing. That’s sometimes hard to accept.” He also pointed out that defining and understanding one’s values is crucial to parenting.

Finding balance is our job as parents, he emphasized, and he reassured every father in the audience that they are capable of achieving that balance.


Date: May 7, 2018

Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Collegiate School Auditorium
301 Freedom Place South
New York, NY Map and Directions



Christopher La Lima is a Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Psychology at Hofstra University in New York, NY. He specializes in evidence-based treatments for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), disruptive behavior disorders, and anxiety and mood disorders, with an emphasis on obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and related disorders. He has completed doctoral practica at the New York University (NYU) Child Study Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute/Columbia University Medical Center’s Anxiety Disorders Clinic (ADC) and Pediatric Anxiety and Mood Research Clinic (PAMRC).

Teddy Frischling has been the Director of Athletics and Physical Education at the Dalton School since 2002. He is also the director of A Dalton Summer and the boys’ varsity basketball coach. Teddy began his career at Dalton in 1995, when he returned to his alma mater (alum ‘89) to teach Physical Education. During his teaching tenure, he coached various middle school and high school teams in basketball, soccer, football, and baseball. Teddy’s legendary love of Dalton and athletics is evident in his two equally spirited children, Greta (’25) and Henry (’29). Teddy’s dedication and energetic leadership make him a role model for students and peers.

Rande Bryzelak founded Nutrifitness to provide a new class of health coaching. Aware of the nutritional fads and lack of standards in the training and exercise field, Rande has committed himself to providing clients with integrated nutrition and fitness counseling by university-trained specialists in applied physiology, exercise, biochemistry and nutrition. Rande was a champion skater in his childhood, but as he sought to regain his strength after a severe, unrelated accident in his early 20’s, he realized that people are at risk from bad nutrition and supplement information, and from untrained "trainers." His experience and recovery challenges inspired him to fill a need for seriously trained and focused nutrition and fitness experts. Rande Bryzelak founded Nutrifitness to provide a new class of health coaching. Aware of the nutritional fads and lack of standards in the training and exercise field, Rande has committed himself to providing clients with integrated nutrition and fitness counseling by university-trained specialists in applied physiology, exercise, biochemistry and nutrition. Rande was a champion skater in his childhood, but as he sought to regain his strength after a severe, unrelated accident in his early 20’s , he realized that people are at risk from bad nutrition and supplement information, and from untrained "trainers." His experience and recovery challenges inspired him to fill a need for seriously trained and focused nutrition and fitness experts.

Dr. Palmo Pasquariello graduated from Sophie Davis School of Medical Education in 1983. He continued his medical studies at New York Medical College where he was awarded his MD in 1985. He completed his residency in Pediatrics at Lenox Hill Hospital in 1988. He is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the Medical Society of the State of New York and the New York County Medical Society. Prior to joining Weill Cornell Medical College in 2014, Dr. Pasquariello was in private practice for 26 years. Dr. Pasquariello has received numerous awards and recognitions for his compassionate care. "As a pediatrician, there's not a day when I don't laugh -- there's not a day a child doesn't do something to make me smile."

Douglas Brunt, author of the New York Times bestsellers Ghosts of Manhattan and The Means, has enjoyed critical praise for his third novel, Trophy Son. Set against the backdrop of the professional tennis world, Trophy Son follows prodigy Anton Stratis from an isolated childhood of grueling practice under the eye of his overbearing father to his dramatic rise through the competitive world of professional tennis. Brunt notes: “The main thrust of the novel explores the sacrifices made for such an intense life, and how our culture increasingly requires early specializing in athletics to succeed. It's a very narrow way to grow up and while I use tennis here, the message of the book applies … [to] ... kids specializing in any sport or other activity.” Trophy Son, navigating the landscape of youth sports culture and the cut-throat professional tennis world, reveals uncomfortable truths about early specialization, parenting, the pressure to succeed, and the cost of early excellence in our achievement-obsessed society. A Philadelphia native, Brunt lives in New York with his wife, Megyn Kelly, and their three children.


Date: May 7, 2019

Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

The Dalton School
108 East 89th Street
New York, NY
10128 Map and Directions