Some Thoughts On Social Media Use by Jen Hamilton, School Psychologist

In recent months, I have observed an increased use of social media (Instagram and Snapchat have skyrocketed!) Some kids are talking with me about connecting with other kids that they don’t know to offer (and seek) support when they are going through difficult times. Another trend I’ve heard about is setting up Q&A pages (such as where peers can write in anonymous questions or thoughts. And finally, of course, there is the “standard” use in which kids are posting pictures and comments about their day-to-day lives.

The important thing to realize in this new wave of computer usage is that generally, kids are searching for connection with other kids. But they are not yet at a developmental age to be able to fully consider the range of potential consequences of their online activity. There are times when kids get in over their heads, hearing about the psychological issues of other kids. It is hard enough to know what to do when you are worried about a close friend at school (seek help from a trusted adult!) But when suddenly faced with a worrisome situation of an online acquaintance who may live several states away, this can be a very heavy burden to manage. There are also times when kids inadvertently cause hurt feelings or make others feel excluded by posting images of private get-togethers. Or, in the case of setting up Q&A pages, they may inadvertently get their OWN feelings hurt by inviting anonymous criticism. Another concern that is difficult for teenagers to grasp is that anything they put out on the internet then becomes public information. Forever. They are not quite yet able to fully understand the potential implications of that. Finally, and perhaps most worrisome, kids at this age are very trusting; if they perceive that they have made a “friend” online, it may not seem like a bad idea for them to give out personal information. A student recently told me that a friend she had made online “told me that she’s not a creepy 49-year-old man.”

The early teenage years are a time when kids’ primary psychological task is to seek independence from their parents (yes, all those hours spent alone in the bedroom mean your kid is right on target!) It is typical for kids to be doing some things privately that their parents are not fully aware of, and online activity seems to be today’s most likely vehicle for this. While I do not encourage snooping or policing of your child’s online activity (just like reading your child’s diary, it may give you a wealth of information but ultimately is counterproductive as it erodes trust and will most likely lead to pushing the behavior underground, lying, or increased tension at home) I DO encourage open, honest communication with your children about what they are doing online. Ask them about their usage and talk openly about your concerns but also make sure to LISTEN to them and resist the urge to lecture. Remember that kids are most likely to make good decisions when they feel trusted.

I also encourage families to talk about setting limits on computer use so that the social media sites won’t be such a distraction during afternoon and evening hours. While most kids will openly balk at limit setting, they often express relief to me that their parents have removed the temptation for large chunks of time during the week. Some ideas include having a timer on the wireless router so that at a certain hour kids no longer have access to the internet, changing passwords on sites such as Facebook during the academic week so that kids are only able to use it on the weekends, “turning in” smart phones until homework is completed each day, and (I ALWAYS recommend this one) having all electronic devices charge overnight in the parents’ bedroom (they can get “parked” there after 9 p.m., for example.)

Just as in every aspect of growing up, kids need to have some freedom but the best kind of freedom is within the confines of some safe and comfortable limits that have been set up by parents!

If you would like to discuss this or any issue further, please do not hesitate to contact me at or (781)320-7073. As always I welcome your thoughts and comments.

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A Few Thoughts on Parenting in the Wake of Recent Tragedies by Jen Hamilton, School Psychologist

The tragic events of last week were as much a reminder for me as I have seen in my 15 years working as a psychologist that one singular stimulus can result in a multitude of reactions and coping mechanisms. It is important to remember that we all cope in different ways. While some kids have repeatedly reached out to the members of the counseling staff to tell and retell their experiences, others preferred to quietly return to a sense of normalcy. Some kids presented as teary and anxious while others joked and chatted in class more than usual. It is our job as parents, teachers and counselors to create the space for kids to process in their own way. Let them talk (or write, or draw) in their own time, knowing that if and when they are ready to do so, you are going to be there to listen.

Another issue that confronted us all last week as parents was how to balance our own needs and emotions with those of our children. Many of us asked ourselves, “What if I say the ‘wrong’ thing and end up scaring them more?” Please know that it is OK for kids to see that we have questions and concerns of our own. While it is not appropriate to use our kids as sounding boards to work out our own anxieties, it is perfectly natural to show emotion.

Finally, it is helpful to encourage our kids to understand that while there are a few very bad people in this world, there are so very many good people. In the sage words of Mister Rogers, encourage your kids to “look for the helpers.” The way to fight some of the helpless, anxious feelings we all have is to get behind the first responders, marathoners who continued running to give blood, Bostonians who were fearless, selfless and resilient; talk about what they have done and join your kids in brainstorming ways that members of the Nobles community can become one of the helpers in the rebuilding process. Tapping into our kids’ passion and goodness is a very powerful way of healing.

Please know that the counseling team will remain vigilant in the coming weeks to reach out to those who seem to be displaying high levels of anxiety which may manifest as trouble sleeping, difficulty focusing, nightmares, or tearfulness. We will continue to remind students that we are here to offer a variety of concrete strategies to help quiet the mind, and we will focus on resilience throughout the spring. As always, do not hesitate to contact a member of the counseling staff if you have any questions or concerns about your child.

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The Studies Show: To-Do Lists in the Digital Age and the Death of the Assignment Notebook

“The Studies Show” is a podcast series hosted by Noble and Greenough School Learning Specialists Gia Batty and Sara Masucci. Through this series, the two hope to share information about some of the research they have come across in their work.

Visit to access all episodes, along with helpful resources recommended by Batty and Masucci.

Click here to listen to this month’s podcast of the
“Studies Show: To-Do Lists in the Digital Age and the Death of the Assignment Notebook”


Click to download these apps mentioned in the podcast:

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Community Service in Action

The Boston Globe recently featured several local teenagers who are making a difference in their communities. Among the teens profiled is Nobles junior Jonathan Bloch ’14, who has volunteered for Wellspring since he was 11 years old. 

To read the full article, click here.

Jonathan’s passion and commitment to helping others is exactly what the Community Service program strives to encourage in all Nobles students. We want students to find a cause that inspires them, so that they can inspire and serve others. Whether they have the resolve before coming to Nobles, like Jonathan, or discover a cause or organization here, the end result is the same: inspiring leadership for the public good and empowering students to lead lives characterized by service to others.

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Do Good Work: An Opportunity for You by Ben Snyder, Head of Upper School

On Fri., March 8, Nobles is collaborating with Project Zero to host a conference for educators from around the country called “Developing Responsible, Caring & Balanced Youth.” The conference will feature internationally notable educators and social entrepreneurs including Howard Gardner, William Damon, and Kiran Sethi of Design for Change.

Our goals for the conference will be to address important questions such as these:

• How do we raise balanced, responsible and caring youth in this opportunity-rich, yet challenging context?

• How are young people responding to the changing world in school, at home, and in social environments?

• Are youth more socially aware and less prejudiced than ever before, or are they more narcissistic, egocentric and self-serving?

• How do we equip young people to recognize and confront ethical dilemmas and to respond with integrity?

• How do we help them develop a sense of purpose for themselves, yet also care about the wider world?

The world young people encounter is dramatically different than ours was at their age. Social media, access to infinite information via the internet, a hyper-competitive race towards college, and many other pressures have put adolescents in decision-making situations in which, frankly, they may not be developmentally ready to make good choices. We hope this collaborative effort helps adults understand those pressures more sensitively and develop ways—both in and out of the classroom—to help kids negotiate the minefield of adolescence to emerge as young adults who hope to lead lives characterized by integrity and character so that they will make a positive difference in their communities.

Anyone is welcome to register for the conference; visit to sign up for either a day or full conference. And, please feel free to share this opportunity with friends, colleagues and family.

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Building Relational Capital by Rick Wilson, Consulting Psychologist

My oldest daughter just presented a very elaborate, creative and well-delivered Power Point presentation…of her Christmas list. Fancy dissolves, rotating cubes and a thumping sound track pulled me in like a tractor beam. I was impressed, to say the least. Somewhere, on high, I heard the faint chorus, not of angels, but of focus groups and ad execs proclaiming, “Gloria!”

And so it begins: the pressure to please, the set-up for disappointment, the potential to become reactionary, the hurry to get it all done, the family expectations and conflicts. It seems like an impossible balancing act. Ahhhh! The holiday season is here. You probably have your own version of this snapshot. The holidays are inherently stressful. Despite this, there are ways of surviving with your spirit intact.

I don’t know about your family, but we really don’t need more “stuff.” My daughter will probably receive many of the items on her list, but the most important part, from my perspective, as a dad and as a psychologist is this: Looking for intentional ways to build relational capital within the family. No amount of success or achievement can match, or supplant, working to build deeper bonds within our family. Research study after research study affirms this truth—we all benefit most deeply from the feeling and experience of authentic connection with others. So here are some ideas to build relational capital this holiday season. Most of the suggestions cost little money, are not flashy and intentionally “low fi.”

Building Relational Capital:

  • Take an “electronics sabbatical” for some agreed on length of time
  • Make cookies or cook something together
  • Decorate together
  • Play a family touch football game
  • Crank up the music and dance
  • Serve meals together at a shelter
  • Take a short winter hike
  • Walk the dog and have your child join you
  • Play an old-fashioned board game
  • Tell a story about positive holiday memories when you were a young
  • Go bowling
  • Visit a neighbor with a plate of cookies
  • Take your child out for cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Talk in the car ride, sit and enjoy together.

The key is having fun and bonding together! You and your children will not regret it.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season,
-Rick Wilson, Consulting Psychologist

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The Measure of Self-Worth by Sherrie S. Delinsky, Ph.D.

One of the necessary tasks of adolescence is developing a sense of oneself. It is one of those clichés of the teenage years that happens to be true. An adolescent goes through growing pains, separating from family, in order to figure out who he/she is, as his/her own individual. A natural corollary of exploring one’s identity (i.e., “Who am I?”) is assessing one’s self-worth (i.e., “How good am I?” “What am I worthy of?”) As a clinical psychologist, I listen to messages about perceived self-worth in the way a pediatrician might utilize a stethoscope to detect the telltale signs of asthma. Disturbances in self-worth are common in depression, anxiety, perfectionism, body image disturbance, self-defeating behavioral patterns, and general unhappiness. Here are some truths about self-worth:

  • Perceptions of self-worth are incredibly subjective and may not correlate at all with others’ impressions. It may be surprising—even shocking—to hear how an individual may perceive his/her self-worth, because he/she may appear to have it “all together” to the outside world. Low sense of self-worth is often at the root of angst, suffering, and self-defeating behaviors.
  • Self-worth that is predicated on external achievement (e.g., grades, praise from others, or winning in sports or other arenas) is precarious. The most stable and meaningful sources of self-worth are those that are internally derived. These internal sources of self-worth require work to develop, even for adults. Intellectual curiosity, caring about others, spirituality, and connection to one’s values are examples of internal sources of self-worth.
  • Just like with the stock market, diversity is best. The more sources of self-worth a person has, the better off he/she is. That way, if you take a hit in one area (e.g., get injured and cannot participate in your sport), your self-worth does not plummet. This is especially applicable with the college admissions process!
  • Ironically, many perfectionists suffer from low self-worth. In order to compensate for deficits in self-worth, they set unreasonably high standards for achievement (e.g., “If I can get all As, then maybe I’m not so bad”). Unfortunately, it is impossible to be perfect and the inevitable falling short of such standards perpetuates the vicious cycle of low self-worth.
  • Much has been said that teenagers today are part of a generation of inflated self-esteem predicated by adult behavior to prevent kids from feeling bad about themselves (e.g., trophies for everyone for everything!). These efforts do not seem to boost self-esteem, and in fact, may confuse kids about what actually contributes to self-worth. The critical task is to help adolescents sort out for themselves, perhaps with guidance, which values truly matter to them. These values should be a compass for determining and working towards life goals as well as for achieving a stable, internal sense of self-worth. Questions to ask are: “What makes you feel good about yourself? When do you feel you are living according to your values? What traits do you appreciate in yourself and why?” Self-worth may fluctuate at times, but overall, should provide a sense of security and comfort, even in the face of adversity.

Sherrie Delinsky graduated from Nobles in 1994, before earning her BA in psychology summa cum laude from Yale University in 1998, and her PhD in clinical psychology from Rutgers University in 2005. Delinsky is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Wellesley, Mass., and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. She specializes in the cognitive-behavioral treatment of adolescents and adults with eating and weight disorders, body image disturbance, anxiety, and depression. Delinsky has authored more than 20 research papers and book chapters on mental health. For more information, visit her website:

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The Studies Show: Study Spaces

“The Studies Show” is a podcast series hosted by Nobles Learning Specialists Gia Batty and Sara Masucci. Through this series, the two hope to share information about some of the research they have come across in their work.

Click here to listen to this month’s podcast of
The Studies Show: Study Spaces


For more information about Dr. Robert Bjork’s work at UCLA (mentioned in the podcast), check out the following links:

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Essential Work by Steven Tejada, Dean of Diversity Initiatives

I recently sent this New York Times article to our entire faculty and staff.  The piece highlights the importance of the work we do at Nobles around issues of race and class.  We host monthly racial affinity groups (Brother to Brother, Sister to Sister, Asian to Asian), advise diversity student organizations open to everyone (Multicultural Students Association, Students for Socioeconomic Awareness), fund student conferences (NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference, AISNE Students of Color Conference, AISNE student diversity conferences), incorporate race and class into our curriculum, and provide professional development opportunities for faculty (AISNE diversity conference, NAIS People of Color Conference, Diversity Institutes).  The article also stresses the need for us to continue to think of these issues creatively and as a community.  Diversity work is always evolving and always challenging us to find the best ways to serve all of our students.

The article has a couple of points of personal intersection for me.  I served as the Director of Admissions and Placement at the Oliver Scholars Program in NYC for 5 years.  I also have crossed paths with Andre Robert Lee many times since we have been asked to speak at many of the same conferences.  A couple of years ago several of our teachers and students had the opportunity to view the film at the People of Color Conference and Student Diversity Leadership Conference.

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Believing in the “Beauty of Benign Neglect” by Jen Hamilton, Middle School Counselor

I recently read an article in Psychology Today called “Lessons for Living:  Five surprising principles for living, loving, and playing well with others” by Elizabeth Svobada.  It offered a great deal of wonderful advice, but one piece in particular really jumped out at me. Lesson #2 on the list, “The Beauty of Benign Neglect,” asserts that over-parenting can be extremely harmful in that it robs our children of opportunities to become resilient and self-sufficient.  As the mother of three young children, I truly understand how difficult it can be not to try to smooth out hurt feelings, offer solutions to tricky problems, or even suggest corrections to be made on homework assignments.  It is so painful to see our children struggling.  Yet without the struggle and the opportunity to problem-solve, kids cannot develop a sense of competence.  And there is nothing like competence to foster true confidence in our children.
Reinforcing this point, Dr. Joann Deak came to Nobles recently to talk with students, faculty, and parents about brain development and the importance of ‘stretching’ oneself during the adolescent years. One of Dr. Deak’s assertions is that making mistakes offers an incredible opportunity for our brains to learn deeply.  In analyzing what we did wrong, rethinking our approach, and trying again (and again, and again!) we are able to develop and grow in amazing ways.  During adolescence, brains are elastic and have the ability to increase neurotransmitters in response to this kind of exercise.  So not only is making mistakes essential in terms of building confidence; it also, quite literally, can make our kids smarter!!  Again, this got me to thinking:  If we rob our kids of the opportunity to make mistakes by paving the way for them or being a little too helpful in solving their problems, we are denying them a real opportunity for growth. Sometimes the best way to help is to step back and allow our kids to help themselves.
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