Category Archives: Articles

When a Family Man Thinks Twice: A Divorced Dad // SF Chronicle

You get married. And at some point you don’t know if the marriage is going to work. And since it’s your first marriage, you feel discouraged and hopeless and start believing that your marriage looks nothing like the ones on TV or in US magazine. And you think how nice it would be to have a marriage like that, built on friendship, hiking, and an active sex life. Read More »

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Parents of Mentally Ill Children: “What If He Were Your Kid?”

Dr. Coleman was asked by to write a piece about the parents of Jared Loughner and other parents who have had similar kinds of struggles. Here it is:

What if he were your kid? You wouldn’t raise that kind of kid. You’d know the signs and get help. You’d have spotted it early on and gotten help for him right away. You would’ve seen the warnings and acted before it became the national tragedy that it did. Good parents don’t raise those kinds of kids.
But, what if you’re a good parent and you didn’t see the signs and you did raise that kind of kid, or at least some kid like that? Read More »

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Strangers at Our Table, SF Chronicle

Holiday gatherings are supposed to be a time to eat heartily and bask in the presence of our loved ones. So why do many of us leave the table feeling empty? Read More »

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Family Estrangements and Facebook

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Dr. Coleman was interviewed by journalist Catherine Saint Louis for an article on the ways that social media complicates estrangement. To read the article go here

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AARP: When Your Kid Divorces You

AARP The Stranger in Your Family

Dr. Coleman was interviewed in a recent AARP article by Meredith Maran on parental estrangement. To read the whole article go here: The Stranger in Your Family


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BOOK REVIEW: “Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex,” Amy Schalet, Ph.D.

The notion of a rebellious teen driven by hormones and an undeveloped brain is so much a part of our ongoing cultural narrative that we assume its universality. But, what if this construction of adolescence is more cultural than universal?

In a fascinating new book, Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex, University of Massachusetts sociologist Amy Schalet examines this question by asking both American and Dutch parents the question: “Would you ever let your teenager’s boyfriend or girlfriend sleep over?” She finds that while the vast majority of parents here say no way, the vast majority of parents there give a qualified yes.

Oh, those Dutch, you say. With their hashish cafes, their acceptance of prostitution, their non-punitive approach to drug addiction. Of course they’re going to be loose about that. What aren’t they loose about? And yet, as Schalet demonstrates, the Dutch attitude toward the sleepover (like their more tolerant approach to adolescent alcohol use) reveals a very careful and measured approach to parenting.

And that approach reveals fundamental differences in how our two cultures view the construction of the individual and the role of society at large. These differences are especially interesting because there are many ways that the two cultures are quite similar:  Like us, the Dutch developed a governmental system based on a liberation from an outside power (Spain, in their case), have powerful middle classes, experienced a sexual revolution in the 1960s, and are proud individualists.

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Estranged Parents Featured in NYT’s Article: When The Ties That Bind Unravel

Dear readers,

Today’s NYT’s featured an article on parental estrangement by one of my favorite journalists, Tara Parker-Pope. The article is one of the first I’ve seen that discusses the pain of estrangement from the parent’s perspective. She interviewed several people who post here on the When Parents Hurt forum. To read the full article, click here: Be sure to add your comments at the end of the article!

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Book Review: MIND IN THE MAKING: The Seven Essential Skills Every Child Needs, by Ellen Galinsky

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I have long been an admirer of Ellen Galinsky’s work. As president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute, Ellen and her colleagues have  produced some of the most interesting and important findings on the relationship between work and family functioning that we have. I often cite her research in my interviews and she has become one of the most important go-to people in the field. So I was not surprised by how much I liked her new book, Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Skills Every Child Needs.  Mind in the Making summarizes the best of what we know about how children develop the capacity for thinking, learning, developing good judgement, and succeeding in life. Unlike most parenting books, Mind in the Making backs up each one of its assertions with research on child development, neurology, and parenting. It is written in a warm, engaging style that reads more like a conversation with the reader than a
dry treatise on child development. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Mind in the Making provides the reader with multiple ways to help a child develop the seven essential life skills that she describes. Highly recommended!

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How Common Are College Hook-Ups?

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Not as common as you might think. Researchers at Duke University spelled it out for a random sample of almost 1,500 students at the Durham, N.C., campus and found that only about one-third had had a hookup in college. Researchers surveyed 732 freshmen and 723 seniors and found that of the one-third in each grade that had had a hookup, less than half involved oral sex or intercourse. The study also found that nearly 60% of the freshmen reported that they had never had sexual intercourse. Click here to read the full article by journalist, Sharon Jayson.

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Advice for Couples: Having the Sex Talk


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Most people have a difficult time asking for what they want from their sexual partner. And they have an even harder time saying what they don’t like. The following, taken from my book The Marriage Makeover is provided as a guideline to having a talk about sex:

Begin a conversation about it by expressing your love or positive feelings for your partner. Open the conversation by asking what is pleasing or displeasing to him or her as a way to put you in the more vulnerable role first. Then say what you like or don’t like. Be as specific as you can. “I would like it if we could talk more before sex, during sex, or afterwards.”  “I really like it when you ___________” etc.

State your needs and wishes clearly as requests, not demands. Put your requests in the positive: rather than saying, “You never want to have sex” or “You’re so self-involved in bed.” Say, “I really like it when we make love. I’m wondering if you have any ideas about what I can do to have it feel better or more pleasurable for you?” Write down what you each think the other expects in terms of frequency. See if you can reach a compromise.

Assume it will be awkward to talk about it, especially when you first begin to try.

Raise the topic of your sex life in a period of relative peace or harmony, never during a fight. If you raise this issue, be open to hearing your partner’s complaints that aren’t sexual in nature such as a desire to have more time together, less criticism, more help with the house or kids.

Work on the issues of shame, self-criticism or embarrassment by listing your sexual anxieties with your partner. If your partner is trustworthy, tell him or her your worst fears and agree to not make fun of the other’s sensitivities or to raise them during conflict.

Try to keep an open mind about what should happen sexually between you and be creative about satisfying each other’s needs for closeness and pleasure. What matters most is not that you engage in any particular sexual act, but that you problem-solve as friends.

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