The Family Weekly: When Families Are Divided On Vaccinating Their Kids

Plus: The rare genetic condition that reshaped a mother’s dreams for her daughter, and segregation in gifted and talented education

This Week in Family

(9dream Studio / Shutterstock)

As measles outbreaks multiply across the country, some families are divided on the need to vaccinate their children. That can lead to difficult or awkward conversations with family members who doubt the science behind vaccines—particularly when it comes to the health and safety of young children and newborns in the family. One sociologist advises that the best way to reason with family members who refuse to vaccinate themselves or their children is to try to listen empathetically first, rather than engage in “facts ping-pong.”
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(Wenjia Tang)

In this week’s installment of The Friendship Files, two women talk about a friendship that’s grown up with them. They started off as mild rivals in high school, when they played flute in band. They supported each other through difficult family transitions during their senior year, and kept up a long-distance friendship through college and post-grad life. They eventually became roommates in California, navigating the messiness of splitting rent and chores and the occasional fight.
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(Maria Nguyen)

When doctors find a small hole in her infant daughter’s heart, Julie Kim is reassured that her daughter will grow up to lead a happy and healthy life after a successful open-heart surgery. But then a more troubling discovery hits: Her daughter has a rare genetic condition that may leave her unable to speak, walk, or care for herself as an adult. How does a mother process the grief of losing the life she imagined for her baby—and how does she learn to embrace the full life her daughter will still have? “I am learning that grief can be complicated and ambiguous,” Kim writes. “We hold ideas and expectations of ourselves and loved ones so tightly that we have difficulty seeing them from any distance, and that it’s even harder to let them go.”
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Could a cost-benefit-analysis approach to parenting make the job a little easier? In her new book, Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, From Birth to Preschool, the economist Emily Oster makes the case that there isn’t one optimal solution to parenting. “When you make choices, you want to make the right ones, and because of this rhetoric around a certain choice being ‘right,’ every choice ends up seeming very consequential.”
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Black students are drastically underrepresented in gifted and talented programs in public schools across the country. Historical factors, such as housing segregation and unequal funding, play a part in the gap, as do the biases that cause teachers to underestimate black students. But affluent, white parents are more likely to be able to advocate for their children in a system that already privileges them—often at the cost of students of color. A sociologist writes about her decision, as a black, middle-class mother, not to test her son for a gifted program, but to advocate for broader changes in the school district.
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Programming note: Dear Therapist will return next week. In the meantime, you can read through the archives and send Lori your questions at