You are here

The Parent Pep Talk Podcast

The Parent Prep Talk

About the Podcast

The Parent Pep Talk is a heartfelt and humorous podcast filled with advice and understanding from empathetic experts, honest parents, and teens who are willing to talk. It’s for all parents looking for a little perspective, a few well-tested tips, and the feeling that you're probably doing a lot better than you think, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. 

In the meantime, we'd love to hear from you. Please email us at [email protected] if you have any questions, suggestions or concerns.

How the Podcast Works

Each podcast has three segments.

The first segment is an interview with an expert. This is a person who not only understands the topic but also understands parenting, so the advice is going to be really practical and realistic.

The second segment is called “Off the Record” where a panel of kids answers your questions. It’s a great way to get some insights into what your kids are thinking.

The final segment is “Taking One for the Team.” This is when a fellow parent “takes one for the team” by sharing an awkward story that might not paint their kid, or their parenting, in the best light but it hopefully helps the rest of us realize that there are no perfect kids, no perfect parents, and that we’re all doing our best.

Plus, every episode includes a Safe Kids Tip of the Week.


Gary Karton, Host

Gary Karton - Podcast Host

Gary started his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has spent the last 20 years working in the world of nonprofits to help children and families. He is currently the Content Advisor for Safe Kids Worldwide.

Gary is the author of The Last Akaway and The Rock of Sarraka, the first two books in an award-winning fantasy adventure series for middle-grade readers. He is also the co-author of No Free Lunch, One Man’s Journey from Welfare to the American Dream.

Finally, Gary is the father of two boys and has been on a 19-year journey to learn everything he can about parenting.


Episode 10: The Power of Laughter: How to show your playful side at home | Top

This Episode

How often do you show your playful side at home? This episode of The Parent Pep Talk is about the power of laughter and joy and how a simple improv game called “Yes And” can help parents reduce stress, improve relationships and better connect with their kids and partners. Plus, our kids panel talks about how they notice when parents are stressed out. And one dad “Takes One for the Team” by sharing how agreeing to jump from some rocks into a river finally broke the ice with his kids. 

Jen Jurek

Jen - Podcast GuestJen has been working in theater professionally since 1999. Jen is the lead coach, director and founder of Hallet’s Cove Theater (TM) and Astoria Women’s Improv, which she started as a direct result of needing a place to reconnect to her community when she became a mom. Jen's work was recognized in BORO Magazine in March 2018 and continues its mission in bringing laughter and neighbor lovin’ to Queens and surrounding neighborhoods. This past summer, Jen has advised and worked with Harlem Hospital on an IRB approved study using improv to measure improvement in well being in patients suffering from chronic or severe mental disorders. She will be joining the team at the Expressive Therapies Summit to help in leading and explaining improv exercises to Mental health professionals. 

Episode 9: Giving Back: How to Raise Kind and Charitable Kids  | Top

This Episode

Empathy is a muscle, and in this episode, we’ll talk about how to exercise that muscle with some easy tips on how to raise kind and charitable kids, even with limited time. In Off the Record, our panel of kids answers a question about how to encourage your kids to give back. And one mom Takes One for the Team by sharing a story about how her philosophy of caring about her community didn’t seem to be sinking in with her son. Plus, a special version of our Safe Kids Tip of the Week.

Guest: Natalie Silverstein

Natalie - Podcast GuestNatalie Silverstein, MPH, is the volunteer coordinator of Doing Good Together in New York City. She is a passionate advocate for family service, and is a frequent consultant and presenter to parents, faculty, students, and community groups on the subject. She has been a writer and editor for several nonprofits, and is a contributor to parenting blogs and She holds a Bachelor's Degree from Providence College and a Master's Degree in Public Health from Yale University. She and her family regularly make time to volunteer in their community.

Episode 8: Smartphones: How to Set Limits and Bring Peace to Your Home | Top

This Episode

Technology impacts the way our kids think, behave and communicate. In this episode, we start at the beginning. When and how to introduce your kids to a smartphone. How to set limits and bring peace to your home (at least a little). Our kids panel offers advice on how to keep kids off their devices, and one dad Takes One for the Team by sharing a story about his son’s secret Snapchat account. Plus, our Safe Kids Tip of the Week will help keep your older kids safer when walking to school.   

Guest: Marc Groman

Marc Groman - Podcast GuestMarc Groman is an internationally recognized expert in privacy, technology and cyber security. His past roles include Senior Advisor for Privacy in the Obama White House, Chief Privacy Officer of the Federal Trade Commission, and President and CEO of the Network Advertising Initiative. When not consulting, serving on various boards, or teaching at Georgetown Law School, you’ll often find Marc explaining Snapchat, YouTube, smartphone privacy settings, and Fortnite to other dazed and confused parents.

Guest: Dr. David Reitman

Dr. David Reitman - Podcast GuestDr. David Reitman is a board-certified pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine, meaning he just treats teens. He is an associate professor in pediatrics and an attending adolescent medicine physician at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. He is a well-known national lecturer on topics relating to adolescent health and college health such as teen substance abuse, mood disorders, and developmental problems.

Together, Marc and David host a podcast called Their Own Devices that offers helpful tips about screen time, social media, sexting, privacy, online gaming, and other challenges facing parents. Marc and David aren't just experts – they're also married, and raising a teenage son.

Episode 7: Dyslexia: Discovering the Gift of a Learning Disability | Top

This Episode

Depending on how you look at it, dyslexia can be considered either a burden or a gift. In this episode, we talk about why that is, how to know if your child has dyslexia, and tips for both students and parents. In “Off the Record,” our panel of kids, who all have dyslexia, answer a question about how to best support your dyslexic kids, and one mom “Takes one for the Team” by sharing a story about how she finally learned to connect with her kid. Plus, our Safe Kids Tip of the Week is a great way for the whole family to work together to stay safe. 

Guest: Cynthia Davis

Cynthia Davis - Podcast GuestCynthia received a degree in developmental psychology from Duke University and a Masters in Cross Categorical Special Education from UNC-Greensboro. Over the past 25 years she has taught children with special needs in a number of settings. She was an Educational Therapist at Amos Cottage Children’s Hospital in NC, and she worked as a Learning Disabilities teacher for Chesterfield County Public Schools in self-contained and collaborative settings. She left CCPS to stay home with her children and had a thriving tutoring business, then nine years ago she left private tutoring to work at Riverside School in Richmond, VA. It has been her joy and passion to teach children with dyslexia to read using the OG approach, and she has been thrilled to see her knowledge multiply and positively affect the lives of even more children as she trains teachers to use the approach. 

Episode 6: Nutrition: How to Help Your Kids Create Healthy Eating Habits for a Lifetime | Top

This Episode

In our first speed-round edition, we focus on a variety of nutritional issues, including: What to do if your kid won’t eat vegetables? Is fast food OK? And is organic food worth the expense? In Off the Record, our teen panel answers a question about what to do if your child doesn’t want to try new foods. And one mom Takes one for the Team by sharing a story about her toddler’s favorite food: water. Plus, our Safe Kids Tip of the Week will get your kids excited about nutrition and keep them safe.

Guest: Deanna Busteed

JDeanna Busteed - Podcast Guesteanna Busteed is a registered dietitian with a Board Certification in Sports Nutrition. She brings more than 20 years of experience developing health and wellness programs as well as providing cutting-edge nutrition, fitness and wellness services to a wide variety of individuals and groups. Her specialties include health promotion, disease prevention, weight management, sports nutrition, wellness, and fitness. Deanna also has experience working with vegetarian diets, celiac disease and eating disorders.

Deanna graduated from University of Rhode Island and obtained her Master of Science degree in Nutritional Science from the University of Massachusetts. She completed her Dietetic Internship at Framingham State College.

As a dietitian she has worked in Boston-area hospitals, outpatient counseling centers, fitness centers, and in college health. Prior to moving to Northern Virginia, Deanna was formerly the Nutrition Director at Bosse Sports and was a dietitian for Healthworks Fitness Centers for Women and The Sports Club LA/Boston. Deanna has been quoted in Natural Health Magazine, Redbook, Boston Magazine, The Boston Herald and The Boston Globe. Deanna is the co-author of “A Guy’s Gotta Eat: The Regular Guy’s Guide to Eating Smart.”

In 2012, Deanna created and launched the Nutrition and Wellness Program at Arthritis & Sports. This unique program provides orthopaedic patients with comprehensive nutrition and wellness plans designed to improve surgical outcomes and optimize the overall health of their patients.

Deanna is presently the Sports Dietitian for George Mason’s Center for Sports Performance, servicing over 500 Division I athletes. Deanna is a member of the adjunct faculty teaching Sport and Exercise Nutrition in the College of Education and Human Development. She also serves as a Senior Fellow for the Center for the Advancement of Well-being, an interdisciplinary research and teaching center at George Mason University dedicated to catalyzing human well-being. Deanna is a certified Pilates, Yoga and Barre instructor and enjoys teaching weekly class in Vienna at SourceCore Studio.

Episode 5: Free Range Parenting: Finding the Balance Between Freedom and Safety | Top

This Episode

How do parents find the right balance between giving kids freedom and making sure they’re safe? In this episode, parent educator, Lynne Ticknor, discusses the value of giving kids independence and why it’s easier said than done. In Off the Record, our kids panel talks about the pride of earning their parents’ trust, and one dad Takes one for the Team by sharing the exact moment he realized he was being too protective. Plus, our Safe Kids Tip of the Week gives your kids freedom and also keeps them safe.

Guest: Lynne Ticknor

lynne_ticknor.pngLynne Ticknor is the Education Director at the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP) in Kensington, MD. She is a certified parent educator and has been teaching parenting classes since 2006. Lynne has also written for national parenting publications, including Scholastic Parent & Child, Parenting, Parents, Family Fun, and ADDitude, in addition to dozens of regional magazines.

Episode 4: Youth Sports: How Parents Can Make or Break the Experience | Top

This Episode

If done right, there are so many benefits to playing youth sports. In this episode, former Georgetown basketball coach, Craig Esherick, shares the keys to being a successful youth sports parent. In Off the Record, our teen panel of athletes answers a question about what to do if your child wants skip practice. And one dad Takes one for the Team by sharing his personal story about “sideline rage.” Plus, our Safe Kids Tip of the Week keeps young athletes safe and performing at their best.

Guest: Craig Esherick

dr._jonathan_dalton_.pngCraig Esherick is an Associate Professor and Associate Director of the Center for Sport Management at George Mason University. Professor Esherick was a basketball coach for 25 years after graduating from Georgetown University with a J.D. and undergraduate finance degree. He is the author of three textbooks, numerous chapters, and articles on topics in the sports industry. He is currently working on his fourth book, The Art and Science of Coaching.

Episode 3: Education: How Seeing Beyond the Grades is Better for Your Child and for You  | Top

This Episode

“Education is perhaps the greatest superpower of them all.” That’s what Jacki Bragg said during her Teacher of the Year speech at graduation. In this episode, Mrs. Bragg explains what she sees as the true value of school, how involved parents should be, and just how important are grades. In Off the Record, our teen panel answers a question about what to do when your kid won’t tell you what’s going on in school, and one mom Takes One for the Team by sharing a story about why she was convinced her kid would grow up to be, as she says, “A screw up.” Plus, our Safe Kids Tip of the Week helps parents get their kids to school safely.   

Guest: Jacki Bragg

Jacki Bragg has been one of the most respected teachers in Maryland for more than 21 years. She has been voted Teacher of the Year by the students and Outstanding Teachers by her colleagues.

Episode 2: Anxiety: How To Make Things Easier for Your Child and Yourself  | Top

This Episode

If your child is experiencing anxiety, please know you’re not alone. It’s a growing issue that is affecting more and more families. In this episode, anxiety disorder expert, Dr. Jonathan Dalton, shares why anxiety in our kids isn’t necessarily a bad thing, how to know if it is at a point that requires additional support, and a few tips, for kids and for parents, on how to handle your child’s anxiety, that can make things easier starting today.

In Off the Record, our panel of teens, who all experience anxiety, answer a question about what parents can say, or not say to help, and one mom Takes One for the Team by sharing a story about a time when she thought she was helping her son deal with his anxiety, but it didn’t quite turn out that way. Plus, our Safe Kids Tip of the Week is about the single most important thing a family can do to stay safe in a car.   

Guest: Dr. Jonathan Dalton

dr._jonathan_dalton_Dr. Jonathan Dalton is the founder and director of the Center for Anxiety and Behavioral Change. Dr. Dalton specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders in children and teens, with a focus on anxiety-based school refusal. He believes strongly in the importance of public outreach and frequently presents to student bodies, educators, mental health professionals, and community groups on the treatment of anxiety and related disorders.

Episode 1: Well-being: An Important First Step to Raising Happy Kids  | Top

This Episode

We all want our kids to be happy. In this episode, Dr. Beth Cabrera shares how focusing on well-being is an important step and offers some simple strategies to get you started. In Off the Record, our teen panel answers a question about how to get your kids to “open up.” And Gary Takes One for the Team by sharing the answer he received to the question: “Is parenting supposed to be this hard?” Plus, our Safe Kids Tip of the Week is about a toll-free number every parent will want to save today. 

Guest: Dr. Beth Cabrera

Beth CabreraDr. Cabrera is the author of Beyond Happy: Women, Work, and Well-Being. In 2009, Dr. Cabrera founded Cabrera Insights, and she joined the George Mason University Center for the Advancement of Well-Being as a Senior Scholar in 2013. Beth lives in the Washington D.C. area with her husband. Their two children are in college.