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Child psychologist shares advice with RE parents

Dr. Michael G. Thompson, a bestselling author and prominent children's psychologist, unpacked the topic of "the pressured child" during a lecture to RE parents and guests in a jammed Swenson Hall on April 17. Thompson shared anecdotes from decades of working with children and schools worldwide and counseled parents against viewing "childhood as a business career that can be built."
"This concept of childhood implies that the parent is in charge, and the parent’s preparation is going to get the kid to [a prestigious university],” Thompson said. “It implies that it is what the parent does that truly matters.”

Thompson met with parents for two hours, taking questions on topics ranging from managing internet exposure to social isolation to teen suicide. He urged parents to appreciate and enable their child’s particular journey through school and life, rather than attempting to carve out some predetermined path.

Thompson has written nine books that help parents navigate the challenges of raising emotionally healthy children including Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys. He is the supervising psychologist for the Belmont Hill School in Belmont, Mass., and has worked in more than 700 schools worldwide.

He was introduced by Head of School Penny Townsend, and his visit was supported by The Fund for RE and the Kennedy family. The school, which is in the midst of its REinventing Excellence capital campaign, has welcomed a number of esteemed speakers since it launched the campaign with a lecture by educational innovator Sir Ken Robinson in fall 2017. Ransom Everglades has also hosted physicist Brian Greene, astronaut Winston R. Scott and digital biologist Tiffany Vora.

Thompson warned parents about other modes of thinking that drive poor parental decision-making: a fear that the world has become so global and competitive that children need to be hyper-prepared, and the belief that opportunities for success – which parents often view largely as admission into prestigious schools and universities – are exceedingly scarce.

“The greatest health epidemic in the United States right now is rising anxiety among children in adolescence,” he said.

Thompson told stories that elicited knowing smiles, nods and bursts of laughter. He asked parents to recall milestones in their own lives, such as when they got academically organized. Several men admitted that they didn’t get organized until college – helping Thompson drive home the point that having a disorganized freshman does not constitute a crisis.

“I never ask the women that question,” Thompson admitted with a grin, “because they always say ‘fourth grade’ or ‘second grade.’”
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Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The mission of Ransom Everglades School is to provide an educational environment in which the pursuit of honor, academic excellence and intellectual growth is complemented by concern for the physical, cultural and character development of each student. The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.