Posted by on Nov 25, 2015 in Holidays, The World We Parent In | 0 comments

Image courtesy Saratica via

Image courtesy Saratica via

It doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving. The world feels kind of sad and scary right now, not joyous and abundant like it should when the holiday season commences.

Maybe that’s appropriate. It’s worth noting that joy and abundance aren’t always present for many people. As we revel in our holiday feasts this week, let’s take a moment to think of those close to us who aren’t as fortunate and those far away who feel less secure than we do. How can we meet deprivation with open hearts? How can we meet those who sow fear and destruction with determination and reason? And how do we teach our children these things without frightening them beyond measure when we’re so afraid and uncertain ourselves?

Heavy thoughts for Thanksgiving week, but it’s a heavy November. At Uncharted Parent, we’re going to enjoy our turkey and trimmings, but we’re also going to talk about what we might do to help others this holiday season. It may not be much, but goodness knows the world can use any help it can get.

Uncharted Parent wishes everyone a very happy and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Read More

Paris & Syrian Refugees

Posted by on Nov 18, 2015 in The World We Parent In | 0 comments


Nous sommes tous Parisiens maintenant.

This is how it feels. We are all Parisians now. Who doesn’t want to travel to Paris, to dine in one of its abundant sidewalk cafés, attend a cultural event like a concert or a sporting event like a soccer match? It’s the crown jewel of Europe, the City of Light. Paris, nous t’aimons, even if we haven’t been there. (I have, but only briefly and long ago. Still, I love you.) City of our hearts. City where people were doing what people might be doing in any city, anywhere.

And that is why it is so terrifying that so many people were murdered on a busy, happy Friday evening. Right or wrong, we easily identify with the victims of the massacre on November 13. If it can happen in Paris, it can happen anywhere. It can happen here. We mourn, and we are scared. Maybe we had settled into complacency a bit, fourteen years after September 11, but no more.

We are awake now.

If you have young children, you may be struggling with how to explain what they’ve heard from others or seen on the news. I want to share two items with you. The first is a dialogue, with subtitles, between a man and his very young son in Paris, as the father tries to calm the boy’s fears. Watch with tissues. The second is a link to an article in The Guardian that includes a brochure for children with a cartoon of a crying Eiffel Tower holding children’s hands. The English-language portion of the article alone offers helpful pointers, including questions to consider when talking to children about the attacks.

Finally, we face the question of the Syrian refugees. Since authorities found a Syrian passport at the site of one of the attacks, more than half of U.S. governors have called for the United States to halt the resettlement program for refugees from Syria into this country. My column explaining why this call runs counter to who we are as a people (and why it would be ineffective anyway) is in The Concord Monitor today. The first few paragraphs are below; click here to read the entire column.


My Turn: Refusing Syrian refugees is not who we are

On Monday, Gov. Maggie Hassan became the first (and at the time of this writing, the only) Democratic governor to join a long list of GOP governors in calling for a halt to the U.S. resettlement program for refugees from Syria. The governor’s opponent in the upcoming election for U.S. Senate, current Sen. Kelly Ayotte, agrees with this position.

Why these actions? Because a Syrian passport, believed to belong to one of the attackers, was found at the Bataclan Concert Hall following the terrorist slaughter in Paris on Nov. 13. Based on this evidence and a trace of the passport’s progress through Europe, one of the terrorists is believed to have slipped into France with the refugees now flooding into Europe in numbers not seen since World War II. (It is important to note, however, that authorities are also pursuing the credible alternate theory that the passport is a fake, planted by the terrorists to increase anger against Syrian refugees.)

America stands with France. We who felt our own towers crumble, saw the gash cut into the home of our own defenses, honored the heroes who sacrificed themselves to save others – we know the shock, the hurt, the anger, the determination. We know the fear. We will do what can and must be done to help France locate and punish any living perpetrators of this barbaric act, and we will take measures to protect our own country and citizens as well. These are not questions. They are the responsibilities of our leaders and rightful expectations of our citizens.

But we must not let the fear govern our actions. We are all afraid; there is no shame in admitting that. No one wants to believe that a Friday evening dinner out or attendance at a rock concert could end in blood and death, just as no one wants to imagine someone could fly his or her plane into a building. But how will we meet these fears? Will we examine the facts, respond to the threats, tighten security yet preserve our essential values? Or will we find the first group of “others” we can identify and shift responsibility onto their shoulders, an act that may feel like an accomplishment but serves only to turn us into oppressors, like those we claim to abhor?

(To read the rest of this column in today’s Concord Monitor, click here.)

Read More

Paying Attention to the Presidential Race for the Sake of Your Future Voter(s)

Posted by on Oct 28, 2015 in Education & Learning, The World We Parent In | 0 comments

Soon, your kid may be eligible for one of these. Will he or she be ready?

Soon, your kid may be eligible for one of these. Will he or she be ready?

I know: it’s painful this time around. I used to do this political and policy stuff for a living and even I’ve become cynical. Congress has become a national joke, each side thinks the other is the devil’s spawn, “compromise” is the new f-bomb and we have people who’ve been elected to serve in our government with the express purpose of obstructing that government. And I won’t even mention You-Know-Who, leading or running second in the GOP polls. (Why, people? Why? You know this isn’t just a reality TV show, right? It’s not, “the last uber-narcissist standing on the island—or in front of the camera—wins the country.”)

This is not my usual, biennial exhortation to participate in the civic life of the community in which you live by voting—although that will be important when your state’s primary or caucus day rolls around, as well as in November 2016. Rather, I’d like to highlight an aspect of civic engagement that may not have meant quite as much a few years ago as it does now.

It’s common in political life to refer, fondly and perhaps with a bit of levity, to all of our children as “future voters.” But it struck me recently as I considered nearly fourteen-year-old “Jack” and ten-year-old “Emmie” that the future is no longer very far away. Neither of my kids will be old enough to vote in November 2016, but Jack will vote in the following presidential election, and Emmie will vote in the one after that. When they do vote, I want them to be educated enough about this country, their government and the electoral process to take their votes seriously.

I’ve brought my kids into the voting booth with me since they were small because I wanted them to see that voting matters. I knew they didn’t fully understand what I was doing, but that was okay, because they were little and I could explain everything in simple terms. But now they’re listening to me and my husband discuss the candidates and the parties, watching me turn red as I yell at the television (okay, that’s perhaps not always the best model of behavior), and noticing that we read articles, discuss policies when the candidates do and make a point of watching at least some of the debates.

And they’re beginning to take an interest.

Read More

“The Gift of Failure” – From Book to Real World Lesson

Posted by on Oct 21, 2015 in Domesticity, Education & Learning, Growing Up, Parenting on a Daily Basis, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

This weekend, my son forgot his soccer cleats. We had traveled an hour away from home; there was no way to retrieve them.

“The one day you don’t ask me if I’ve got every little thing is the day I forget them.” Thirteen-year-old “Jack’s” voice rose as his eyes, shoulders and mood plummeted. The next few hours of Jack’s life began to take shape in his mind, and they didn’t look good.

Not a coincidence, I thought. I bet you don’t forget your cleats again. But all my husband and I did was tell Jack there was nothing to be done about it now. We didn’t get upset, or raise our voices. We simply informed him that he would have to present himself to his coach, tell him he’d forgotten his cleats and face the consequences.

As soon as Jack skulked out of the minivan in his uniform and his sneakers, I grabbed my phone and sent a message to Jessica Lahey,* author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. I told her what happened, letting her know that she’d inspired me to stop running through the “Do you have…?” list with Jack as I always had prior to his soccer games. He is, after all, just a few months shy of fourteen years old. Shouldn’t he be able to collect all his gear for a game on his own?

Yes, I believe he should. But I’d never given him the chance to carry this responsibility before.

The Gift of Failure takes on the American trend—one might even call it a crisis—of overparenting. Writer, speaker, middle-school teacher and mother to two boys, Jessica expands on her excellent writing in the New York Times and The Atlantic to offer breathing room to parents and kids struggling to keep up with crazy schedules, hyper-competitive parenting and other pressures that never seem to let up. In The Gift of Failure, she explains how our kids are capable of more responsibility than many of us parents allow seem willing to let them take on. By not granting our kids that responsibility, we’re depriving them of the much-needed experiences of trying, failing and learning how to recover. Our kids need to build, over time, the necessary skills and confidence to succeed on their own so that they don’t end up living in our basements when they’re thirty-five years old. (My words, not Jessica’s.) And that means we have to allow them to fail.

How does this philosophy play out in practice?

Read More

Guest Post: Preventing Medicine Abuse

Posted by on Oct 14, 2015 in Health & Sleep, Parenting on a Daily Basis, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

Image courtesy

Image courtesy

Please welcome Peggy McKibben to Uncharted Parent. Peggy is a high school nurse, a mother of two and one of the Five Moms at Peggy takes a proactive approach to keeping teens healthy, which includes educating them and their parents about over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription (Rx) drug abuse.

What? Don’t I have enough to worry about with the current heroin epidemic, ramped-up illegal drugs and the omnipresent dangers of alcohol?

Unfortunately, kids may abuse OTC and Rx drugs, too, and access to those medicines may be as simple as opening the cabinet in the bathroom or dropping by the corner pharmacy. But if you arm yourself with information, you’ll be in a better position to educate your teens about the dangers of medicine abuse before they’re tempted to experiment or friends try to persuade them to do so. Below, Peggy offers several tips for helping to prevent medicine abuse by teens.


With the fall season in full swing, October has given way to sweaters, pumpkin everything and multicolored leaves. But here’s something about October you may not know: it’s National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. Take the time this month to learn about the prevalence of medicine abuse and how to prevent medicine misuse by your preteen or teen.

Medicine abuse may not be as common as other types of drug abuse, but it still occurs and should be a topic of conversation between parents and teens when they talk about risky behaviors like illegal drug and alcohol use. Don’t get trapped in the “not my teen” mentality. Even if your teen hasn’t abused over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, there’s a chance that he or she knows someone who has, given that one in three teens know someone who has abused OTC cough medicine to get high.

A 2014 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that approximately one in 30 American teens reported intentionally abusing OTC cough medicine to get high. Additionally, the research explored OTC cough medicine abuse by age and found that 2.0% of eighth graders and 4.1% of high school seniors had abused OTC cough medicine.

So, how can you prevent teen medicine abuse? These six tips can help:

Read More

With Teens, Listen First

Posted by on Oct 6, 2015 in Parenting on a Daily Basis, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 1 comment

(Image courtesy riviera 2005 via

(Image courtesy riviera 2005 via

By the time we find ourselves mothers or fathers to teens, we are usually experienced parents. We’ve walked bare spots onto our floors getting babies to sleep, separated arguing siblings, cleaned up spilled and thrown food, endured homework battles, and so much more. We laugh to remember those days when we actually read parenting manuals (you know, the ones we tossed into recycling bins after they failed to sell two yard sales ago). In general, we feel like we at least kind of know what we’re doing.

And then, one day, we looked up to find men- or women-children in our houses. We have Teenagers.

Teenagers call for a different approach to parenting, because they aren’t like the little kids we previously raised. One minute they’re like friends in conversation, discussing the refugee crisis in Europe. The next minute, slave to hormones they don’t understand, they’ve kicked shut doors, screamed in frustration and made you wish you could hop on a plane to a secret deserted island until they turn twenty-one because you said no, there will be no pizza for dinner tonight. And while the triggers for their rages may not seem like big deals to you, neither does coming home thirty minutes after curfew without calling seem like a big deal to them. Come on, you know you can trust them. After all, it’s not like they would ever do “anything stupid.”

How do we parent these proto-adults? In our house, respect is still the first rule. The kids are expected to demonstrate it to us and to each other, and they receive it from us as well. But how do we translate that into day-to-day parenting at this new stage in all of our lives?

There are numerous answers to that question, but I found one that was so good I have to share it with you.

Read More

Banned Books Week 2015: It’s Perfectly Normal

Posted by on Oct 1, 2015 in Education & Learning, Growing Up, Health & Sleep | 6 comments

BBW-logoWelcome to Banned Books Week 2015! I love Banned Books Week, and not just for the obvious reason that it’s about books. This annual celebration is actually less about books than it’s about freedom of thought, of exploration, and of the opportunity for each person to decide for herself what’s appropriate for her family.

(Look below for an opportunity to enter a Banned Books Week giveaway as part of our annual celebration with Book Journey!)

You don’t want your kid to read something? Okay. I suppose that’s your decision. But don’t tell me my kid can’t read the same book. That’s not your decision. It’s mine, or, more likely, it’s my kid’s. If you don’t believe a particular book that the teacher has selected as part of the curriculum is appropriate or you personally think it has “no educational value,” you are absolutely free to raise an objection. Feel free to discuss it with the teacher. But why should you get to say that none of the kids in a class or a public school get to learn from the book just because you don’t like it?

Each year, I peruse the list of the previous year’s top ten list of banned books and pick one to read and review for Banned Books Week. This year, I knew as soon as I saw the list which book I would read: It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health, by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley.

You undoubtedly could anticipate the reason for the challenges to this book before you finished reading its title. Despite its universal application, the book delves into an area of adolescence that makes some adults uncomfortable—even squeamish. Some find it immoral. So let’s look at the book’s approach to the subject.

It’s Perfectly Normal is divided into an introduction followed by six sections: “What is Sex?”; “Our Bodies”; “Puberty”; “Families and Babies”; “Decisions”; and “Staying Healthy.” Together, the material covers everything from the basics of how a baby is made to gender identity to puberty to deciding to have sex to staying safe on the internet to making healthy choices when sexually active. That’s a lot of ground for about 100 pages. Cartoonish drawings of a genderless bee and bird take opposing viewpoints of the material as they accompany the adolescent reader through the pages, with the bird feeling confident about its changing body and feelings, and the bee tapping into a tween or teen’s uneasy side.

There’s much that’s good about this book.

Read More