Reflections on a Conversation with Dr. Lisa Damour

By Middle School Counselor Reyna Smith
When Dr. Lisa Damour visited Parker on April 30, I had the pleasure to meet with her in a small group, see her during Morning Ex and attend the evening event for parents. She gave such sound advice and perspective on how to help and better understand our teenagers. Dr. Damour told a story I’m calling “The Glitter Jar” story. I recall it like this:
Imagine a mason jar filled with mostly water and about two inches of loose glitter. When visiting a school in Dallas, Dr. Damour met a counselor who told her that when a student comes in full of emotion and all worked up, she gets her glitter jar. At this point, Lisa, who describes herself as a highly critical person, began to roll her eyes at this woman’s tactic of using a jar of glitter. The counselor showed her the jar, shook it up and said, “I tell my students, ‘Honey, this is your brain right now, and I can’t talk to you until your glitter settles.’”
Dr. Damour realized the brilliance in this method. She told me that our teenagers have a hard job being students, the equivalent of adults sitting in meetings all day long without end, with little control over their time. Then they come home, and we unintentionally shake their glitter jars again by bombarding them with our questions. Even the typical, “How was your day?” might shake their jars when all they want to do is come home and settle their glitter first.
When she spoke to Parker students during Morning Ex, Dr. Damour asked them what they do to decompress. They gave some typical and some odd answers and added that their parents sometimes don’t understand (or can’t see) they are trying to decompress. Later, after telling the glitter story, Dr. Damour said to us, “School is a bunch of meetings; let them do weird things when they come home, and don’t try talking to your teens until their glitter is settled.”
I will be making my own glitter jars soon.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.