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Dear Highlights Podcast

A weekly podcast about raising kids today, hosted by Christine French Cully, Highlights Editor in Chief and Chief Purpose Officer

Highlights 4Cs

Curious, Creative, Caring, and Confident™
The light bulb icon represents curiosity. For content about raising a curious child, look for this icon.
The paint brush icon represents creativity. For content about raising a creative child, look for this icon.
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Dear Highlights Podcast

For 75 years, Highlights magazine has received thousands of letters and emails from kids, and we answer every single one. “Dear Highlights” has always served as a way to help ease children’s concerns and help encourage them to become their best selves. In so doing, we’ve sustained an ongoing, authentic dialogue with kids that has deepened our understanding of their worries and fears, as well as their hopes and dreams. Our goal for the Dear Highlights podcast is to elevate the voices of children and help parents raise kids to be curious, creative, caring, and confident.

Dear Highlights addresses the issues around being a kid today and offers parents expert advice to help raise their children to be their best selves. Tune in wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts! We launch a new episode every Tuesday morning.

Subscribe on Spotify, Apple, Google or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.


Episode 24. Parents on Pandemic Worries and Hopes

 Pandemic parenting is not for the faint of heart. In this season 2 finale, Highlights talks with four families about the stresses and successes of parenting during the last year. Listen in to hear:

How a gardening club helped a high-risk 8-year-old
How a mom of two pandemic babies is finding hope in her family tree
Why many of us are inspired by kids right now, and our hope to keep that for our future

Episode 23. Conversation with a Friend: Dr. Madeline Levine

In this episode, Highlights talks with Dr. Madeline Levine, author of Ready or Not: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World, about the many challenges of raising children today. Listen in as we discuss:

● What grown-ups can do about kids’ increasing sense of fatalism about their lives
● Why we should treat school-age kids the same way we treat kids learning to walk
● How long-term thinking can ease our stress about day-to-day parenting decisions

Episode 22. Kids’ Letters About Divorce

 Highlights talks with Dr. JoAnne Pedro-Carroll, author of Putting Children First, about how to help children not just survive, but thrive during the big family change of divorce. Listen in as we discuss:

● What to say when you tell your kids your family is changing
● Naming the “forever” kind of love you have for your children
● Reimagining your former spouse as an important colleague in the business of raising kids

Episode 21. Conversation with a Friend: Teacher of the Year Juliana Urtubey

Juliana Urtubey, 2021 Teacher of the Year, joins us this week for a candid conversation about her experiences in the classroom. Listen in as we discuss:
● Why we shouldn’t fixate on “learning loss” during the pandemic
● The magic questions that can get your child to tell you more about their day
● How we can help every kid love school

Episode 20. Kids’ Letters About Cell Phones

Highlights talks with Common Sense Media’s Erin Wilkey Oh about a modern-day rite of passage for children: their first cell phone. When are kids ready? Listen in as we discuss:
● Signs your child is ready to handle a cell phone
● Why telling kids what you are doing on your phone is good modeling
● Teaching our kids to recognize “red flag” feelings

Episode 19. Kids Letters About Grandparents

Celebrate Grandparents’ Day by joining our conversation with Stanford Children’s Health’s Nancy Sanchez and Marilyn Swarts, who share tips from their class on grandparenting. Listen in to learn:

● When they realized a class on grandparenting was needed
● Why social media is often the first conflict between grandparents and parents
● What grandparents can do to be welcomed into their grandchildren’s lives

Episode 18. A Conversation with a Friend: Lenore Skenazy on the Value of Free Time

Highlights talks with Free-Range Kids author Lenore Skenazy about how long, boring afternoons are fertile ground for growing and nurturing creativity during childhood. Listen in as we discuss:
● Why Lenore was once dubbed “America’s Worst Mom”
● How remembering our own childhood pastimes can help give us confidence
● If there is still room for boredom in a world filled with digital entertainment

Episode 17. Kids’ Letters About Sexual Abuse

This episode contains sensitive content about the sexual abuse of children and may be upsetting to some listeners. Tune in for an open, honest discussion about:
  ●How children tell us something is wrong without words
  ●What we should ask of children’s schools, camps, and sports teams
  ●What adults can do to help children who have experienced abuse

For local resources, support, and information about sexual abuse, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 or visit online.rainn.org to receive support via confidential online chat.

Episode 16. A Conversation with a Friend: Stephen Dubner on Kids and Public Policy

Author and Freakonomics Radio host Stephen Dubner joins us on this week’s episode of Dear Highlights to discuss why public policy doesn’t always put kids at the center of the conversation. Listen in to learn:
●How an amazing 4th grade teacher introduced Stephen to Highlights
●What car seat policy can teach us about how we consider what’s best for kids
●How long-term thinking could help us make better policy for kids

Episode 15. Kids Letters About Back to School

With the new delta variant of COVID-19 on the rise, this school year is kicking off with much more uncertainty than anyone expected. The Ohio State University’s Dr. Barbara Boone joins us this week to share insights from her research on family-school relationships, and offer tips on how adults can support the kids in their lives and help them work through big feelings about the new school year. Listen in as host Christine French Cully and Dr. Boone discuss:

●How to establish a strong line of communication between school and home
●Remembering that while teachers are doing heroic work, they’re still human
●The importance of taking time to really lean in and listen to what kids have to say

Episode 14. A Conversation with a Friend: Nelba Marquez-Greene on Processing Trauma

Founder of the Ana Grace Project, Nelba Marquez-Greene, joins us on this week’s episode of Dear Highlights to discuss how we can help communities, children and their caregivers heal from trauma. Nelba shares with us:
  ● How we can help kids maintain strong relationships and emotional support systems (even during a pandemic)
  ● Why music is central to her work, and the powerful effect it has on kids
  ● Her hard-won wisdom on empowering our kids and each other to move forward after a traumatic life experience

Episode 13. Kids Becoming Vegetarian

Two million American kids don’t eat meat. Does your child want to join team vegetarian? Whether they’re inspired by a love of animals, concern for the environment, or committed pickiness, what’s a caregiver to do when a child wants to cut meat out of their diet? Who should decide what kids eat? And can harmony be found at the dinner table without a grown-up becoming a short-order cook? Our guest, Jennifer Anderson, a registered dietitian and the founder of Kids Eat in Color, joins us this week to offer some professional insight on the topic. Tune in to hear Jennifer’s advice on how food can stop being a battleground, and start being a way to connect.

Episode 12. Children and Grief

The majority of kids will at some point grieve a loved one. It’s a normal part of childhood we often don’t talk about enough. How does a child’s evolving understanding of death impact their grieving? How can we help kids express and process their grief?

Developmental-behavioral pediatrician and Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Dr. David Schonfeld joins us on this week’s episode of Dear Highlights to shed light on the important topic of childhood bereavement. Host Christine French Cully reads letters from grieving children who have lost family members and talks with Dr. Schonfeld about how adults can support children’s understanding of death, model effective coping, and help children to continue to feel connected to their loved one who has died.

Episode 11. Becoming a Big Sib

Helping your school-age child adjust to becoming a big brother or sister can be hard. After all, your child has grown used to your current relationship, whether they have all your attention or share it with an another sibling. And now their world will turn upside down. Are there ways to better prepare your child(ren) for the birth of a sibling? Welcoming a new baby is the subject of this week’s Dear Highlights podcast. Host Christine French Cully talks with New York University Professor of Early Childhood, Erin O’Connor, co-founder of Scientific Mommy--a platform designed to bring together parents, researchers, and teachers around issues of child development--for tips on how best to approach your child about the new baby, when to start an age-appropriate discussion, what should happen on the big day, and living together peacefully once the new baby comes home.

Episode 10. The Role of Fathers

In honor of Father’s Day, we’re talking about dads in this episode of our Dear Highlights podcast. We know that kids look to their fathers to provide a feeling of security, both physical and emotional. Children want to make their fathers proud, and an involved father helps promote a child’s inner growth and strength.  Yet many children write to us about their dads, longing for a different relationship, one that is more connected. Our podcast host, Christine French Cully talks with John Badalament, Ed.M, author of The Modern Dads Dilemma: How To Stay Connected With Your Kids In A Rapidly Changing World and Director of Training and Education at Fathering Together, about the role today’s fathers play in family life. He offers insight and tips on how dads can become more connected with their kids, starting when kids are very young.

Episode 9. Saving the Planet

This week’s Dear Highlights podcast focuses on kids who want to save the planet. Host Christine French Cully talks with Highlights Science Editor Andy Boyles, who provides tips for parents on supporting kids’ interest in caring for the planet and how to talk to kids about the environment,. For years, kids have written to Highlights about animal rights, conservation, climate change, littering, pollution, and more. This podcast will help families learn the many ways they can get involved to help save our planet.

Episode 8. Importance of Play

I have so much homework, when will I have time to play? This kid lament is one many parents hear daily and to help, this episode of the Dear Highlights podcast tackles the importance of play in a kid’s life. Host Christine French Cully talks with play expert, Temple professor Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD,  about how children really learn and why they need to play more and memorize less. Yet many parents, educators, and policy makers worry that playtime takes children away from precious academic activities. Dr. Hirsh-Pasek discusses why play is important, the purpose and need for play in a child’s life, how play influences learning, and simple ways parents can encourage playful learning at home.

Episode 7. Suicidal Thoughts

It may be hard to fathom, but children as young as age 8 can have suicidal thoughts, and many parents don’t know when their children are in crisis. In this week’s Dear Highlights podcast and in honor of Mental Health Awareness month, our host Christine French Cully, talks with Dr. John Ackerman, a child clinical psychologist and the Suicide Prevention Coordinator for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, about risk factors and treatments for mood disorders and suicide in children, and how to tell if your child is at risk.

Episode 6. Respectful Conversation

For many parents, a child talking back or being rude is met with immediate anger or sternness—perhaps an instinctual response from their own upbringing or beliefs about respecting our elders. In this week’s Dear Highlights podcast, we tackle dealing with disrespect in terms of back talk and how a rude exchange can become a teachable moment. Mom and educator Dr. Chawanna B. Chambers talks with our podcast host Christine French Cully on how to teach a child who is seemingly acting disrespectful to manage their responses. For Chambers, her 6-year-old speaking rudely was an opportunity to teach a lesson about our brains and how we can head off a problematic interaction before it starts. 

Episode 5. Big Feelings

This Dear Highlights podcast focuses on mental health for kids. Host Christine French Cully interviews pediatric psychologist Parker Huston, PhD, Clinical Director of On Our Sleeves, a national movement to break stigmas around children's mental health, from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. They discuss concrete strategies for parents about tweens and mental health, such as when to know if a mood swing is just that or something more. How can parents tell if their child’s anxiety over attending a birthday party is a phase or a sign of a deeper issue? Many children occasionally experience fears and worries or display disruptive behaviors. This podcast offers advice on assessing children’s mental health.

Episode 4. Mother's Day Tribute

We created a special Dear Highlights podcast as a Mother’s Day tribute.  Host Christine French Cully shares how kids feel about their moms with a few letters, poems, and stories they’ve written to Highlights over the years. We’ve all experienced or at least heard about the additional roles moms have had to take on in this pandemic--teacher, social director, creative muse, and more! To honor them and all they do for children every day, we dedicated this podcast as a Mother’s Day tribute.

Episode 3. Navigating Friendship

Today’s Dear Highlights episode discusses navigating friendships, both the fun and the challenge. Highlights receives more mail about friendship, a vital part of a kid’s social-emotional development, than any other subject. By making and keeping friends, kids learn important life skills, such as getting along with others and resolving conflicts. Positive interactions with friends help build self-esteem and provide kids with a sense of belonging. In contrast, negative interactions with friends, such as being betrayed or feeling hurt by a friend, can dampen their self-confidence. Our guest, child psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, is the author of Growing Friendships, A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends and of Kid Confidence, Help Your Child Make Friends, Build Resilience and Develop Self Esteem. She provides insight to parents on how to navigate the ups and downs of their child’s friendships and offers actionable advice on the best ways parents can help their child.   


Episode 2. Sibling Rivalry

In this Dear Highlights episode about sibling rivalry, host Christine French Cully talks with clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life  and founding editor of AhaParenting.com, about sibling rivalry, the role siblings play in family life, why siblings fight, and how parents can best keep a peaceful, happy home. Dr. Laura offers simple yet powerful ways to cut through common sibling squabbles and to foster a loving, supportive bond between siblings, while giving each child the vital connection they need.


Episode 1. Worrying

This Dear Highlights episode discusses how the pandemic affected children as their worlds turned upside down, and how parents can nurture optimism in their kids as we move to a new normal. This past year, kids have had to tackle distance learning, face-mask wearing, social distancing, and more. With that, many children were worried about parents who were front-line workers or about the health of their elderly grandparents. One recurring theme was the anxiety that kids felt due to the pandemic. Now that the world is beginning to open up, how will kids feel about the future?  Additionally, how can the parents who love them best guide them to have a sense of optimism? Our guest, educational psychologist Michele Borba, EdD, author of the new book, Thrivers, and TODAY show contributor, offers sound, realistic advice to parents, teachers, and advocates for children about helping children thrive.