Parenting a Child with Down Syndrome + Inspiring Creativity + Kids and Divorce

[amazon asin=B00AEBEUCY&template=thumbleft&chan=default]George Estreich, author of The Shape of the Eye.
A memoir of a father raising a child with Down Syndrome
Issues: Hearing the diagnosis; health and psychological issues children with Down Syndrome face; worries about your child’s future; more.

[amazon asin=1591810760&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Bernie Schein, author of If Holden Caulfield Were in My Classroom.
Inspiring love, creativity, and intelligence in middle school kids.
Issues: What is No Child Left Behind and what does it mean to your family? Helping your child deal with peer pressure; helping middle schoolers tap into their emotions and realize that it’s their strengths, not their weaknesses that define them as individuals.

[amazon asin=B001F7BDE4&template=thumbleft&chan=default] Benjamin Garber, author of Keeping Kids out of the Middle.
Child-centered parenting in the midst of conflict, separation, and divorce.
Issues: Establishing conflict strategies that genuinely meet children’s emotional and psychological needs; building a safe, consistent healthy environment for your child; creating parenting plans that keep your child protected.

Can Sex Make You Smarter?

We all know the benefits of sex: it feels good, it’s a great way to relieve stress, and the hormones it release can act as an antidepressant. Other studies have found that lack of sex increases stress, which, in turn, may inhibit growth of new brain cells.

But Dr. Jens Forster and a team of researchers at the University of Amsterdam put two and two together and found that sexually aroused people actually do better on tests of critical thinking than those who aren’t aroused. In other words, they say, sex may make us smarter.

(One has to wonder, though, why you’d stop having sex to take a critical thinking test in the first place–and could it be that the incentive to get back in the sack could make you think a little more clearly?)

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Is There Intelligent Life in Your Living Room?

Dear Mr. Dad: This might sound silly, but is there some way to tell if my daughter is a genius? She’s only seven but I think she’s a lot smarter than I am.

A: As parents, we’re always worried about how our kids are doing, and there’s no shortage of information on warning signs of some terrible condition, or red flags that might indicate something else. But it’s pretty rare to read about signs that our kids might be above average instead of below.

You’d think it would be a you-know-it-when-you-see-it kind of thing. And it can be. Sometimes. In England, a 4-year-old girl was recently accepted into Mensa (—a society of geniuses. Officially, one has to be a teenager to get accepted, but this little girl’s IQ came in at 159 (Einstein and Stephen Hawking just squeaked past her at 160). By age two she had taught herself to add and subtract and was reading elementary school books.

Cases like this are quite rare. And I’d bet that for every one of them, there are at least 10 kids who are just as smart but whose high intelligence goes unnoticed because they’re bored out of their minds and spend their time screwing around instead of working.

So what are the” warning” signs of extreme intelligence? Here are a few indicators suggested by the American Association of Gifted Children ( Your daughter may be a genius (IQ of 140+), or just gifted (IQ of 110-140) if she:

  • seems much more mature than other kids her age.
  • has trouble interacting with her agemates and prefers to hang out with older kids or adults.
  • developed language skills early. That could have shown up as skipping the babytalk and going straight to full sentences, or teaching herself to read. My middle daughter scared me half to death when, at the ripe young age of three, she started reading signs on stores we were driving by.
  • regularly questions authority.  This doesn’t necessarily mean she has no respect for authority, just that she asks a lot of really tough questions.
  • is easily bored.
  • Is incredibly curious and absorbs new information the first time she hears it.
  • likes to collect, organize, compare, and contrast.

If a few of the above are true for your child, it’s probably worth getting her tested.

Okay, assuming your daughter is really, really smart. Now what? Here are a few ways you can nurture and encourage her intelligence even if she is the smartest person in the room—including you.

  • Read. Talk about the stories, the subplots in the illustrations. Encourage her imagination by asking her to make up another story using the same characters.
  • Minimize exposure to “educational” videos or “brain-building” games—most of which are neither. What she really needs is live interactions with other people.
  • Talk about everything and anything. Ask a lot of questions and listen to the answers. You’ll probably learn something. Things like, What would happen if we dropped this uncooked egg on the rug? What about if we tossed it out a car window while we’re driving?
  • Don’t push too hard—or too little. On one hand you don’t want her to burn out. On the other, a brilliant child who’s lazy will eventually be left in the dust by a plain, old bright kid who works hard.
  • Be the adult. Yes, your child may be smarter than you, but she still needs your help navigating the world. Hopefully you’ve got more knowledge and common sense.

The Case of the Overall Underachiever

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have become very concerned about our 11-year old son. He’s a perpetual underachiever in almost everything, from school to the ball field. We know that he can do better – he’s smart as a whip! How can we encourage him to do better?

A: We all want our kids to get good grades, have lots of friends, and do great things in life. But before your child (or you, for that matter) can accomplish those goals—or any others—he has to answer two questions. First, “Is this goal actually worth achieving?” Second, “Am I capable of achieving it?” If the answer to either (or both) questions is “no,” chances of success are pretty slim, whether in school or the real world.
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