Nancy Rappaport, MD
Dr. Rappaport is a mom of 22- and 18-year-old daughters and a 20-year-old son, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, an attending child and adolescent psychiatrist in the Cambridge, MA, public schools, and the author of The Behavior Code. www.NancyRappaport.com
What’s your favorite parenting tip? Make sure to have date night once a week. This is hard when they’re little, and it took me about six months until we got into a routine. But when you have more kids, you do it more often. Having priority time as a couple is super huge. As a new parent, that’s hard to remember.
What has surprised you most about parenting? How much my kids have taught me. They make me humble. I can’t believe I was a child psychiatrist who worked with teenagers before having teenagers. They taught me everything I needed to know.
Also, I’ve been surprised at how well my kids know me. They might not do it at 2, and 4, but at 6, 10, and 12 and definitely as teenagers, they make wickedly smart observations. If you can use their observations as opportunities for reflection, it allows for a growth opportunity for you.
How do you get your kids to eat healthy food? As a child, I was forced to eat everything on my plate, and to this day, I will not eat Brussels sprouts and asparagus. I came into parenting thinking I didn’t want that to happen with my children. It was important for me not to make meals a battleground. In my son’s first six years, I think the only green food he ate was avocado. But now at 17, he’s a meticulous eater, very conscious of what he eats. I think if you are a healthy eater, your kids will migrate in that direction.
How do you work exercise into your family’s life? My husband and I love to exercise, and our kids grew up with exercise as a priority. When my kids were little, I woke up at 5:40 to run. Now I think, How did I ever get out there? But when my kids were little, running was my salvation. Another thing that has kept my kids active is we didn’t have a TV until they were 10. I remember one day during my third pregnancy, I was so tired, I told my kids we were going to sit on the couch and pretend to watch TV. They fell for it for a little while.
How do you recharge your batteries? The better care you take of yourself, the more you have to give to your family.
Some days when my kids were babies, on my drive home from work, I’d stop at a garden and meditate for 10 minutes. I knew that as soon as I walked in my door, I needed to be with my baby. And so I gave myself permission to be good to myself. I think that’s huge. Today, I do yoga, meditate, and go on hikes with my husband. Once a year, we go away together for a week. Also, reading has always been an escape for me.