Darien Resident’s “Ask Lisa” Podcast Makes an Impact Near and Far

above: This past May, Dr. Lisa Damour and Reena Ninan spoke to parents at Darien High School about the challenges of raising teenagers. – photos courtesy of Deepinder K Kanwal @deepdivephoto

Reporting from the front lines of war to the trenches of parenting, journalist and Darien resident REENA NINAN is part of a new mission: “To democratize mental health around the world.” Ninan, along with renowned psychologist DR. LISA DAMOUR, co-hosts the popular podcast Ask Lisa: The Psychology of Parenting.

The weekly podcast, which debuted during the summer of 2020, answers real-life questions from listeners on topics ranging from achievement pressure and teenage drug use to building self-esteem and navigating social media. A former White House and foreign correspondent, Ninan “gets the answers parents need,” while Damour—New York Times bestselling author of Untangled, Under Pressure and The Emotional Lives of Teenagers—shares her expertise and a practical approach to parenting.

“I’ve practiced for nearly 30 years as a clinician, but it doesn’t matter what you know if you can’t share information that feels kind, accessible and doable,” says Damour. “Reena does the most extraordinary job of being the ‘every parent.’ She asks the right questions and completes that conversation by standing in for the listener.”

One of the top parenting podcasts in the United States, Ask Lisa is resonating globally as well. Recently, the podcast reached the No.1 spot in South Korea, Romania and the Dominican Republic. It has also earned Top 3 honors in countries like Chile, India, Japan, Indonesia, Mozambique and Switzerland.

“As a longtime foreign affairs correspondent, seeing this has given me so much pride,” says Ninan. “Across the world, the podcast is changing the way people are looking at parenting and have access to information.”

While Ask Lisa has a worldwide reach, it also hits close to home. Ninan has lived in Darien with her family since 2016, and she has two children in middle school. Damour also has two children, one in college, and another in middle school. Although she lives in Cleveland, Damour also has ties to the community. She used to visit her grandparents in Darien during summer vacations, and her mother attended Darien High School. To address the mental health issues affecting local families, Damour and Ninan spoke at the high school.

“There’s been tremendous support and love for this podcast from within the town,” says Ninan. “More than 700 people came to the Darien High School event last May for our parenting discussion. People are hungry to connect and find community.”

The duo first met at CBS News, when Ninan would interview Damour as an expert and regular contributor. “We had such a great chemistry,” says Damour. “We became friends through that, and it was a very natural thing to work together.”

Concerned about the pandemic’s impact on mental health, Damour enlisted Ninan to help her with the podcast in 2020. The timing was serendipitous, as Ninan had recently left her job to start a production company called Good Trouble Productions. The first podcast tackled “Parenting During a Pandemic,” and the topics continue to reflect what is timely and top-of-mind.

“I’ve had people stop me at the grocery store to tell me how it’s changed their parenting, and also how it helped them make it through the COVID years.” says Ninan. “We are blown away by how much it’s grown, and we feel like we’re just getting started.”

Ask Lisa will continue to bring in leading experts for the podcast, in addition to choosing topics based on listener requests. The hosts also remain focused on their goal “to democratize mental health.” Damour works in collaboration with UNICEF, which helps children in more than 190 countries and territories.

“From Day 1, Dr. Lisa has been reaching out to those who are disadvantaged and to communities of color,” says Ninan. “This has been a cornerstone for her, and she wants to take this message to people who are overlooked.”

When asked about her approach, Damour says it’s important to share information about “typical and expected development” to effectively help parents.

“A lot of people hope that normal means easy in family life. Normal has never meant easy,” says Damour. “We like to level-set. Even on a good day, raising kids is a hard thing to do.”

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