"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.’”