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Dear Emuna: All-Girls or Co-ed?
Dear Emuna

Dear Emuna: All-Girls or Co-ed?

Is there a distinct advantage to an all-girls school?


Dear Emuna,

Our daughter is in 6th grade and is in the process of applying to middle school. We have the option of an all-girls school or a co-ed one, both with excellent reputations. We have visited both schools and we were impressed with each of them, as was our daughter. We are having a very tough time deciding between them. Any advice?

Agonizing Parents

Dear Agonizing Parents,

Where to send our children to school is definitely one of those issues that keep concerned parents up at night. The stakes seem so high – and in some respects they are. And our children spend so much time there.

If, as you say, both schools are indeed of equal caliber, I think the best choice for your daughter would definitely be the all-girls school. Did you ever read Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher? In the book, she describes clearly how the presence of boys in the classroom dramatically changes the behavior of adolescent girls – and not for the better. They consciously “dumb themselves down” so as not to outshine the boys (Yes, even in our day and age!) and often spend more time worrying about their physical appearance than their grades.

One parent told me how relieved her daughter is that she can spend just a few minutes getting dressed in the morning as opposed to her friends at coed schools who spend much more time. It’s much better for your daughter if those distractions and pressures are completely removed from the picture.

There will be plenty of time in the future for boys – when she is more mature and confident. Her grades and her self-esteem will benefit from the lack of pressure and presence of boys in her academic environment. Best of luck with your decision.

Chore Rotation Breakdown

Dear Emuna,

We have a rotation of chores in our house – different days for different people, parents and children included. This seemed to be a pretty good system but it can hit some major snags. The problem arises when one child isn’t present for her daily duty, i.e. he has band practice when it’s his night to set the table or she happens to have soccer when it’s her turn to clean up.

Then all heck breaks loose. No one will do a job when it isn’t their night. “It’s not my turn!” they scream, pout or sneer. My husband and I are left to pick up the pieces, literally and figuratively, and then we feel resentful and exhausted. This is compounded by our sense of failure as parents. Haven’t we taught our children better than that?!

I’ve Had It

Dear At Wit’s End,

I’m sure you’ve taught your children better than that. I’m sure you’ve modeled chipping in and helping out and all sorts of other kind and positive behaviors. I’m sure you’ve preached kindness and caring. And a sense of respect for you as parents. But kids (read: people) are inherently selfish. It takes years of training for them to learn to care about others. It takes a conscious effort to decide to do more than your share. It requires a sincere desire to help out and an ability to rise above the pull of the body that just wants rest and comfort.

Most children don’t have the experience, maturity and wisdom to rise to that occasion (many adults don’t either!) and to stay there. It requires a constant effort of will and an intellectual understanding of what’s right and appropriate. It’s not easy.

But don’t be discouraged. I have two words of comfort:

1) It’s the same in every house. That identical dinnertime scenario is being played out in homes across the country. All children everywhere are trying to get away with the bare minimum. It’s not a reflection on your parenting or on your children. It’s just the reality.

2) This too shall pass. Most annoying childhood and adolescent behaviors don’t last into adulthood. Children are a work in progress (aren’t we all?) There are some negative stops along the way which hopefully serve as opportunities for growth. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. They will become lovely, considerate, helpful adults. If you can just be really, really patient…

Out of the Nest

Dear Emuna,

My daughter is a senior in high school. Next year she is leaving home, either to go to college or to study in Israel. I really want this year to be special because who knows what will happen down the road? I’ve tried to arrange all sorts of mother-daughter bonding activities but she has absolutely no interest. In fact, she’s often rude and unpleasant to me, expressing her desire to be as far away from me as possible. This isn’t how I imagined this year would be. Help!

Wounded Mom

Dear Wounded,

I wish I could help. I have a theory that the Almighty makes the behavior of our children in that last year of high school so awful that, instead of being sad when they leave home, we actually can’t wait!

Yes, it can be a rough year. That too is very normal. It’s often the hardest of all because the fears and anxieties of our adolescent are heightened. That separation from their parents which teenagers have simultaneously dreaded and eagerly anticipated is now upon them. They are leaving home and, as much as they want to, they are absolutely and utterly terrified (but they can’t show it!). They’re afraid of being on their own, of being responsible, of a measure of independence.

This understanding may not make the year more pleasant but it does make it more bearable. It lifts the burden of parental guilt and anxiety. It may even permit you, on rare occasion, to be amused by the absurdity of you child’s antics and attitudes.

It’s hard to send them out of the nest, especially when the last year at home has been fraught with struggles. But, as I told the previous writer, here too there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Just a few months away from home (and mom’s cooking!) often leads to a dramatic change in behavior – a renewed sense of gratitude, a new closeness, a deeper and more mature relationship. As long as you can just hang in there for the ride…

January 26, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 13

(8) Jackie, January 29, 2013 11:55 PM

girl's school? cons and pro

I attended co-ed school up to 6Th grade then my school became an all girls school till I graduated from high school. My personal experience was that yes there was less pressure in an only girl school, less day dreaming about the boy who had a crush on you and so on.... But then I had to deal with girls being mean and catty. I guess girls behave much more civilized if they know boys are watching them. On the other hand I pulled out my daughter from a co-ed school at 3rd grade to a all girl school for relegiouse reasons and over she is happy about this choice. She is in 11Th grade high school now. My experience watching her challenges is that she is free from dealing the opposite sex pressure but in middle school she had to deal with a lot of bullying, verbal abuse and mean girls in her class that I believe they would not dare to act like that if they were boy in their class plus teachers in an all girl school are more moody and less qualified academically based on my experience. If you decide to send your daughter to an all girl school, make sure to check on the school Principal's relationship with the students. It is very important that she or he is beloved by the kids.

(7) scott, January 28, 2013 9:09 AM

Time with mom? Familiarity breeds contempt

That sounds a little harsh doesn't it? As kids grow up they get their own lives. So should parents. My infant daughter needs me 24/7. She is the center of our lives. In a few years she'll go off to school and start making friends and having interests of her own. The ratio of daddy time to other time is going to get smaller and smaller. I may sound a little hard at times, but I know that's gonna hit me like a ton of bricks-I love that little girl like nobodies business. I'm gonna have to figure out what to do with all that time that I spent focused on her. But that's a good thing for her as well. If she learns that daddy has a life too and isn't always instantly available (unless he needs to be-I'm a parent first) she'll understand that time with me is valuable. She'll actually make time for me and look forward to the time we spend together. How do I know this is true? Well, it's how I was raised and at forty five I still look forward to and value the time I spend with my parents. As kids we didn't miss family dinners and family breakfasts unless we absolutely couldn't avoid it. We asked our parents to drive us to events with respect for their time-the answer wasn't always yes. We looked forward to unlimited family time during the holidays because it was something special. I still remember coming back from the army and looking forward to having mom help me pick stuff out for my college apartment as a good day-even though I paid for everything. I was a grown man after all. I just liked the time we spent together. Are my parents the coolest people in the world? No...they're as flawed and irritating at times as everyone else. But they're my parents and therefore I love and respect them. It's how I was raised. It's how the world truly works when parents behave like parents and stop making parenthood a popularity contest, vanity exercise or a way to manufacture friends. Get a life. It will be good for everyone. Especially your daughter.

(6) scott, January 28, 2013 8:46 AM


Responsibility to family comes first. Wow such a simple lesson that people forget. And we wonder why divorce is so rampant? It's simple...we teach our kids that given the choice between family and the pressures of the world, the family always takes a back seat. Perhaps you should start teaching your kids that the chores they have do to do to keep the family running are more important than the band concert or the football game or the dance they want to attend. When they grow up maybe they'll understand that their marriage and kids are more important than their careers or friends or stuff. Maybe they'll learn that if you want to succeed in family life you have to plan to be a good parent. That means you figure out how to get your chores done as scheduled despite the band concert. Or the deadline at work. That means you cooperate with your parents and siblings to shift tasks to make sure the family runs well. Perhaps you might try being parents and tell your kids that "I'm sorry, the bathroom isn't clean.... you need to call your band director and tell him you won't be at practice today because you didn't get your chores done" Do that once or twice and you might find that your kids actually plan to put their family responsibilities first. My dad did this once or twice and I found myself working all night to complete tasks at home so I could go on a band trip. I was tired and felt quite persecuted the next day, but I learned the lesson. Family first. Before the next band trip I scheduled my time and ended up swapping chores with my sister who was-surprisingly- willing to help out. I guess she had learned that importance of family as well. As for parents being in a chore rotation...don't get me started. Parents aren't equal to kids. You don't negotiate. You may reason and teach. Sometimes even persuade. You certainly love. But you're parents and they're children. In the end, they do as they are told.

(5) scott, January 28, 2013 8:21 AM

If only it were an all-girl world

My wife went to a fairly exclusive all-girl high school. She got a good education. Good SATs. Good college. Good friends. They were taught how great women were and how irritating and distracting boys could be. The girls that wanted to engage in premarital sex still found boys. The girls that wanted to get stoned still found drugs. You see those problems aren't about the availability of boys...they're about the failure of the girls parents to parent. Bad parents are bad parents whether or not they try really hard to put temptation on a shelf too high for their children to reach. In her forties her high school class started to have unofficial reunions. It was interesting. She graduated in a class of 50 and a rotating group of about twenty five alums faithfully attend these reunions. They all seem to be happy in their careers...but most seem to have not done so well in their personal lives. They never really figured out how to deal with men and families. The message that real life (boys and marriage and family) was a distraction from personal success really hit home. As a rule they married late and approached their lives as if girl power was the fuel that made the world run. You bet, in a room full of women, they know the answer and raise their hands...but the real world is full of men. Most of these women still don't have any idea how to compete with men. How to work with them. They know how to avoid them. How to marry late-or not at all and pay for IVF. They know how be single moms and how to get divorced. If you're raising your daughter to live in an insulated community, perhaps all-girl schools are great. But if you expect them to go out into the male dominated world and succeed (however one defines that), perhaps taking the time to teach them how to succeed and effect change in the real world is something that you should focus on in the teen years. I doubt that my wife will recommend a sex-segregated school for her daughter.

sara, February 12, 2014 7:44 PM

scott, im sure ur saying the truth about your wife and her class....but all i can tell you, is that its not true in the rest of the a young married woman, i can tell u, that the fact that i went to an all girls school definitely made my marriage so much more beautiful...the less close contact to boys one has, the less comparing....and of course, it makes a commitment real, and not just another guy to hang around doesnt have to grow up without men in their life (and thats practically impossible anyway) just to limit the daily close contact with potential partners

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