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Dr. Michael Thompson

School Psychologist and Author

Dr. Michael Thompson speaking to Lower School faculty

Dr. Michael Thompson, a school psychologist and author, visited The Haverford School to discuss boys’ social and emotional growth, focusing on the topics of friendship and popularity. 

Dr. Thompson met with faculty, students, and families during his visit to campus, exploring topics specific to each group. With teachers, he discussed conflict resolution and age-appropriate social dynamics. He encouraged teachers to give the boys ample space to both make and recover from mistakes. Students were asked to define friendship and explored how popularity can impact a class. 

During an evening lecture with parents, he shared the boys’ definitions of  friendship from earlier in the day. He explained how peer friendships aid in boys’ social-emotional development, emphasizing the need for adults to allow boys to lead their own social dynamics. 

“Children teach each other things, such as moral values, aggression control, enhancement of self-worth, and more,” he said. “When your child is playing or engaging with another child, leave them alone. Don’t tell them how to play; just let them.”

Dr. Thompson underscored the inevitability of conflict in boys’ friendships and the benefits of allowing boys to resolve their conflicts on their own. According to Dr. Thompson, in most cases, adult involvement only extends or exaggerates childhood conflicts. 

Families also had the chance to explore concerns with Dr. Thompson, who touched on topics of impulsivity, loneliness, and popularity. Parents asked about social media, video games, and developmental set-backs related to the pandemic. Dr. Thompson’s responses demonstrated trust in the Haverford faculty and staff and empathy for parental anxieties about the normal stops and starts of boys’ social and emotional development. 

Dr. Michael Thompson greets a fifth grade Haverford School boy

Finally, Dr. Thompson shared with the families gathered in Centennial Hall that adults modeling healthy friendships and relationships in their homes is an important aspect of any childhood. 

“As a psychologist, I only ever worry about a child when they are alone,” said Dr. Thompson. “A childhood without friends doesn’t forecast a healthy or happy adulthood.”

If a child does not seem to have a friend to rely on, Dr. Thompson suggests helping them find kids with the same interests, even if it is outside of a school setting. A boy who is interested in piano, for example, could explore a music group or try a camp, both offering opportunities to find a friend with similar interests. 

If you are concerned about your child’s emotional development, please contact your son’s Division Head and/or a School Counselor for support. 


About Dr. Michael Thompson

Dr. Michael Thompson

Michael Thompson, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, author and school consultant. He has worked in schools for fifty years, starting out as a middle school teacher, later training as a counselor and psychologist. He is presently the supervising psychologist for the Belmont Hill School in Belmont, MA and has worked in over 700 schools in the U.S., Asia, Africa Europe and Central America. Dr. Thompson is the author or coauthor of ten books, including the New York Times bestseller Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children, The Pressured Child and Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow. His latest book, written with his colleague, Rob Evans, and published by NAIS is Hopes and Fears: Working with Today’s Independent School Parents.

Dr. Thompson was the facilitator for the NAIS Institute for New Heads from 1992 through 2001 and subsequently served in the same role for the Academy of International School Heads from 2002-2016. He has been honored with the Hedley S. Dimock Award by the American Camp Association for his contributions to camping.

Dr. Thompson is married to Dr. Theresa McNally, a psychotherapist. He is the father of two grown children and the grandfather of three: Aubrey, Brynlee and Kalen.