Tackling the science of parenting ... with humor

Joan Goodchild
Parentalogic is co-hosted by Boston-based comedian Bethany Van Delft and pediatrician Alok Patel.

Any parent knows that raising kids is filled with a lot of love and fun, but also a good amount of angst and questions for every year of a child’s life. From tantrums to fevers to sleepless nights, raising happy, healthy children and staying sane throughout the process is a tall order. Unfortunately, there is no manual or helpline, and there’s no shortage of contradictory advice from family, neighbors, total strangers, and the Internet. 

Enter Parentalogic, a new digital show from PBS science series NOVA and WGBH Boston that focuses on the science behind parenting. The series is produced in partnership with PBS Digital Studios and can be found on its own YouTube channel. 

Co-hosted by pediatrician Alok Patel and Boston-based comedian Bethany Van Delft, the bi-weekly series tackles the challenges of raising children with scientific research and humor.

“Parenting is wonderful and HAAAARRRRRD!!” said Van Delft. “There’s so much to know, so much going on, and there is so much information coming at you from all directions. The internet, well-meaning family, meddling strangers, it makes finding reliable, factual information daunting. We hope to not only offer parents legitimate answers to their most commonly asked questions, but to help them understand what’s going on with their kids by providing useful health and science research along with, advice from both a medical and parenting perspective.”

As Van Delft notes, the internet is a blessing and a curse for us all in our parenting journey. Armchair experts that get their information from Google often mean well, but instead parents can come away with both facts and fiction when it comes to kids. That’s why Patel said the mission is to use science-based information in the series.

“Parents simply want to do what’s best for their children and at times that means trying to find quick answers to make the best decisions,” said Patel. “Unfortunately, the ‘search’ can lead towards a path of pseudoscience and misinformation and ultimately, more confusion. I’ve seen this with everything from vaccine information, to teething remedies, to antibiotic use, to, the present-day example; Covid-19. With this program, we hope to do two things to combat the pseudoscience epidemic: give parents a quick, evidence-based, overview on common pediatric topics and to help motivate everyone to pay attention to credentials and the validity of any health information they may run into online.”

And with a healthy dose of humor added to each episode, the hosts hope that means the content will be approachable and easy to understand. 

“I think humor helps relax people,” said Van Delft. “Humor connects people, it shows you you’re not alone in this experience. And humor can help make clinical, complex, or daunting topics more accessible. And, well, science is science.”

“Humans are hilarious, without even trying to be,” added Patel. “The most real version of a human is a child – the inspirational being without inhibition who simply wants to have fun. We do our best to tell their story while sprinkling in the science.”

Each episode is only 5 to 6 minutes. The first episode premiered in July and looked into the science behind tantrums. Other episodes have tackled fevers in children, and kids’ poop (yes, poop!). 

Topic development is a collaborative effort and, in the future, will include a dive into issues like how to decide between breastfeeding, formula, or a combination of both, or where allergies come from, and child common bathroom habits.

“We all jotted down the most common childcare questions we could think of. We wanted to make sure the topics were general enough to be inclusive, applicable to all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, with their core in general pediatrics,” said Patel. “From there, we wanted to focus on topics that could provide enough science with actionable items. We wanted to empower our viewers with everyday knowledge and not just esoteric facts.”

Episodes are posted biweekly and as the show evolves, Patel said Parentalogic staff want to hear from viewers on ideas for future topics. You can catch the show now on the PARENTALOGIC YouTube channel.