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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Andrew Solomon discusses "Far from the Tree: Love No Matter What" at GPS event on April 11 2017

Andrew Solomon & Katie Scherer
On April 11, 2017, the Glenbard Parent Series hosted author and psychologist Andrew Solomon in a presentation called Far from the Tree: Love No Matter What. Glenbard West parent Katie Scherer shared the following takeaway: "Andrew Solomon gave a very moving presentation about how various conditions that were once viewed by our society as disabilities are being reframed and reclaimed as identities. Regardless of the nature or extent of our own children's differences, we as parents can make the choice to accept these differences as gifts and love our children because of them, rather than in spite of them. Having differences is human, not lesser."


Distance from the Tree is No Measure of Some Fruit’s Quality

“It’s like finding those apples that have already fallen from the tree. They may be smaller, or have blemishes, or be oddly shaped. But when you bite into one, you find that they can be sweeter than any still hanging on the tree. And you shouldn’t ignore ‘em, but gather ‘em up, and use ‘em, same as the others.”

That’s how a literature professor of mine once described Sherwood Anderson’s town of misunderstood characters in his ground-breaking novel, Wine’sburg Ohio. Published in 1919, the novel focused on the lives of townspeople struggling with unconventional personalities or difficult personal challenges which made them feel inferior or unaccepted in a world that demanded conformity.

This analogy came to mind when I attended Andrew Solomon, Ph.D.’s presentation for the Glenbard Parent Series at the College of DuPage McAninch Arts Center on April 11th entitled, Far From the Tree: Love No Matter What.

Solomon, a clinical psychology professor at Columbia University and Weill-Cornell Medical College and director of the University of Michigan Depression Center, is the author of the best-selling book Far From the Tree: Parents, Children & the Search for Identity and his presentation synthesized the basic message in his book, “What are the means by which parents can raise children successfully, giving them a sense of identity even when those children are challenged with disabilities such: as autism, Down syndrome, dwarfism, deafness, or mental illness like schizophrenia? How do parents give their children what it takes to survive and thrive despite societal prejudice associated with transgender, gay or lesbian sexual identification?

Ironically, these are some of the very same issues that Anderson’s characters struggle with in Winesburg, Ohio. And though the novel was written with an honest and bold compassion and forthright simple style, the world in 1919 did not yet know what to make of such subject matter, and it took twenty years for the critical acclaim to build for Anderson’s book, which is now considered one of the best novels in American literature.

Still, it has taken decades upon decades for our societal mores to accept that which is not considered mainstream. And there are some individuals who would argue that we still have a ways to go.

Solomon explains that when it comes to having children that do not conform to the “accepted” standard, a parental influence on their child has its limits. But parental love for their child does not have limits.

What do we really need to understand when it comes to the love between a parent and child? Solomon uses his own mother’s words for clarification, for she would say to him,

 “The love for your children is unlike any other feeling in the world and until you have children you cannot know that love.”

Solomon asserts that it is all about the power of that love and what it can do to help children at a disadvantage to not only, “survive but thrive.”

When it comes to individuals, Solomon explains that there are two kinds of identity. The first he refers to as Vertical Identity, which includes elements like the language you speak and your ethnicity, those things that you have in common with your parents. The second is Horizontal Identity, those attributes that you do not have in common with your parents, like deafness, mental illness, “gayness”  or Down syndrome.

When Horizontal Identities are discovered by parents in their children, they try to “change” their children to help them better assimilate into society. After all,  parents are supposed to help “change” their child. Discipline is the parents’ job, to teach their child right from wrong, manners, and so on.

Consequently, Solomon differentiates between parental love and acceptance for a child. Most parents love their child, but acceptance is different. Acceptance takes time. And the lack of it doesn’t mean an absence of love.

There are three kinds of acceptance, according to Solomon: 1) self-acceptance; 2) family acceptance; and 3) community acceptance.

With gentle humor, Solomon used his own experiences as a young homosexual man, to help the audience understand how different times were, what it was like to grow up in an America that was not open or accepting of what was once referred to as, “alternative lifestyles.”

The strides which have been made by the medical and scientific communities to overcome certain disabilities has societal ramifications and needs to be examined within the context of “social progress.” For example, most children right now who are born deaf, are given a cochlear implant. And there is now a drug which can be administered to children born with dwarfism, which over time, prevents the stunted growth. But what are the social implications for those individuals who currently live and thrive with those disabilities?

Solomon explains that the bonds of love we have for our children go far beyond the scope of our understanding. Dylan Klebold was one of the gunmen responsible for the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. His mother never gave an interview regarding the incident until 2012 when Solomon interviewed her for his book Far From The Tree and posed the following question.

“Even knowing ahead of time, what a terrible crime Dillon would commit, knowing the pain that he would inflict on the lives of so many people, if you had to do it all over again, would you still have Dylan?”

Her response was that even in knowing what pain would come from his birth, she would still do it, raise him all over again, because he meant so much to her and she so loved him.

Solomon’s distillation? “We take care of our children because we love them and we love them because we take care of them.”

In a broader context, Solomon suggests that we can all make a choice to love and accept any child with a disability. And parents of children with disabilities should seek out and get to know parents of children with different disabilities, not just those whose kids have the same exact disability that their child has.

Resource and supportive information abounds: on the internet for example, in the way of Solomon’s TED talk; or attending the Glenbard GPS series; or by contacting your public school, county, or medical community’s social services.

Solomon’s message is clear; there are many aspects of parenting children with disabilities that can be thrilling, exciting and rewarding.

Even when it comes to the transgender issue, Solomon explains that people seek a “fixed” identity. If transgender is “allowed” then all genders are called into question. Apparently, ambiguity is what makes people uncomfortable.

Still, Solomon is convinced that, “We need diversity for the ecosystem of kindness in our civilization. Being different doesn’t equal ‘lesser.’ ”

Finally, Solomon explains that empathy cannot be taught because it is a visceral feeling, “I see that you’re sad, and now I too feel sad.”

However, compassion can be taught. “I see you’re sad. How can I make you feel better?”

He didn’t say it outright, but  perhaps one can infer, that parents can and should teach their children compassion. Only then can we have a society filled with compassionate adults.

Maybe it doesn’t really matter how far the apple falls from the tree, or even it the apple came from the same tree at all. What matters is whether or not you embrace that apple and throw it in your bushel to be enjoyed, even loved, as all the others.

written by Suzanne Burdett, a freelance writer and a former Glenbard parent

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Expert Panel discusses Tough Teen Topics on March 22 GPS event

On March 22 at Glenbard South, panels addressed Tough Teen Topics: Social Media Safety & Anxiety, Parties and Depression.  

Digital safety for teens panelists included  Robert Berlin – Dupage County States Attorney, DuPage County Under Sheriff Frank Bibbiano, and Detective Rich Wistocki – Naperville Police Department and TeenSafe.

The panel discussing Anxiety, Parties and Depression included Judge Christopher Stride, Patrick McGrath PhD, Justin Wolfe LCPC, CADC, CRC and Linda Lewaniak LCSW CAADC.

Glenbard East parent Mary Rose Crimmins shares her take away:

"Talk to your teens about alcohol and drugs and the dangers they pose whether they are at a party where there is alcohol, or about to get in a car with a friend who has been drinking. Leave the party. Do NOT get in the car! Choose your friends wisely.

As a parent, you will be liable if you knowingly allow teenage/underage drinking at your home and someone gets hurt or killed as a result. It is a felony. Get to know the parents of your teenager's friends. Be sure you can trust that your child will be safe in their house where there will be no underage drinking.

Another topic that was discussed was depression. Depression can happen to anyone. A teen can have a lot of involvement in school, be high functioning and social but become isolated, lack drive and might self injure to punish oneself. Also, depression, anxiety and teen pressures can sometimes lead to alcohol and drug abuse. Spend dinner time with your teens, listen to them, don't judge, and be there for them if they need help."

To view the video of this event "Tough Teen Topics", please click HERE

Resource links: 

Keeping Kids Safe on their Devices (Detective Wistocki’s presentation)
Juvenile Justice Online Website (mentioned by Detective Wistocki)
Adolescent Depression (Justin Wolfe’s presentation)
Linden Oaks Behavioral Health  Dr. Jason Wolfe's website
Anxiety Centers of Illinois  Dr. Patrick McGrath's website
Eating Recovery Center, Illinois  Linda Lewaniak's Website

Chicago Tribune article covering this event

A panel discussion featuring the Naperville high tech crime unit director and other experts warns parents of potential ways teens can get in trouble online and by…

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Carol Ann Tomlinson speaks on Balanced Parenting For Successful, Independent and Safe Youth Who Thrive

On March 2  the Glenbard Parent Series hosted Carol Ann Tomlinson on the topic Balanced Parenting for Independent Youth Who Thrive on March 2, 2017 at Glenbard West High School.

Glenbard West parent Karen Lilly shared this take away:
 "As parents we must model the values we want our children to embrace and model how we deal with our mistakes.  Teach kids to be thinkers and problem solvers and  create opportunities for mistakes so they can learn from them and see the value in making them. Strive for a growth-mindset instead of a fixed-mindset. Encourage them to give their best effort but make school about learning and not a grade. Household chores teach responsibility, and remember we may not agree with their actions/decisions, but we need to show them unconditional love, always."

 Dr Carol Ann Tomlinson (left)
and Karen Lilly

Resource Links (click on text)

Parent Notes from this event with Dr. Tomlinson

Web site for Carol Ann Tomlinson, PhD

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Drew Dudley speaks to parents and students during Glenbard's Live Life Well Week

On Feb 22 and 23 Drew Dudley addressed students at all Glenbard high schools as part of Live Life Well Week.

Drew Dudley spoke to students as part of Live Life Well Week.

On Feb. 22, the Glenbard Parent Series hosted Dudley in a program at the College of DuPage entitled Everyday Leadership: Celebrating he Simple Actions That Improve Each Others Lives.

Glenbard South parent Ann Marie Andexler shared this takeaway:

Drew Dudley with Glenbard South
parent Ann Marie Andexler
"If we hope to matter, lead and make a difference we need to plan for it.  Know why you matter. Know and define your core values and create opportunities to live them. Once established youth can use these core values to help them in their decision making. Work hard to make your grades extraordinary and then work twice as hard to make them the least impressive thing about you. "

Drew Dudley shares his slides from his leadership presentation to parents:

Creating Cultures of Leadership Slides  

Resource links (click on text): 

Robert Crown Center for Health presents Raising Healthy Teens: Sex Ed on February 16 2017

The Glenbard Parent Series: (GPS) Navigating Healthy Families presented Raising Healthy Teens in the Digital Age: Get the Conversation Started with the Robert Crown Center for Health Education on Thursday, February 16th, at the Marquardt Administration Center. Becky McFarland Community Initiatives Coordinator for the DuPage County Health Department shared this take-away:

Becky McFarland
Community Initiatives Coordinator

Parents should have ongoing discussions with their kids so that when they need to make their own decisions they have a solid foundation to make the healthy choice. Keep your sense of humor and use the media and real life situations as a way to begin these challenging conversations. Be clear about your values and talk facts rather than beliefs. Teens needs accurate information to help protect them from the pressures that are real. Be open to their questions so you can be an askable adult!

Resource Links (click)

Notes: Raising Healthy Teens in a Digital Age: Sexual Health Workshop for Parents (pdf)

Website for Robert Crown Center for Health Education

Handout: Sex Education in the Digital Age Parent Resources (pdf)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Robert Crown Center for Health presents Raising Healthy Teens: Substance Abuse Prevention on February 8

On Feb. 8, the Glenbard Parent Series and Robert Crown Center for Health presented Raising Healthy Teens in the Digital Age/Drug Abuse Prevention.

Parent appreciates Raising Healthy Teens tips

Mia Cosillo
Glenbard South parent Mia Cosillo shared this takeaway:  "Start the conversation early and keep it going. Set boundaries, and be prepared to follow them. Know the risk level of your children. Model healthy ways to handle stress. We have to understand the reality of their world. Social media can make teens feel isolated, leading to a heightened sense of being unworthy. Know their friends. It was interesting to learn about the social host laws that hold parents accountable - if they knew or should have known about alcohol use in their home, if parents provided the alcohol or not, or if parents were home or not, they are legally responsible."

Event Summary

Get the Conversation started focused on the reality of the multiple messages that children receive daily that form and influence their decision-making.  So where do parents come in?

We have to understand the reality of their world...sometimes the isolation that teens may feel - as different and not a part of their school experience - the reality is they feel a "heightened sense of being unworthy"  Figuring out where I fit can lead to trying alcohol or other substances...how do parents talk to their children before experimentation begins?

It starts early...5th grade...8th grade and by 12th grade majority of kids try drinking or smoking.

What's the Perception that parents have of their child's use....

Monitoring the Future Study 2010
Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health 2011:

Parent: 5% believe their teen used marijuana
Children: 28% self-report using

Parent:10% believe their teen drank alcohol
Children: 52% self report drinking

Parent: 3% admit giving their child medication NOT prescribed for them
Children: 22% say they were given medicine not meant for them by their parents

How do we get the message out to parents that we begin healthy conversations with our kids when
they are young...we have to be more self-aware of our own habits...drinking and how we choose to
handle stress...

Set boundaries...and be prepared to follow them
Ongoing conversation...
Supportive relationships...
Know the risk level of your children...
Know their friends... social hosting

One more...don't think you child won't experiment. They are kids...wired to test
limits and needing your guidance and early conversation and trust.

Bottom line is this truth:  Teens agree that YES  their parents would feel youth's using drugs or alcohol is "wrong" or "very wrong"

Contact: Robert Crown Center for Health Education Kris Adzia, Director of Education  kadzia@robertcrown.org

Resource Links

You Tube Video:  Why are Teens so Moody?

Website for Robert Crown Center for Health Education

Raising Healthy Teens Drug Prevention in the Digital Age Handout

Friday, February 3, 2017

Pamela Randall-Garner speaks on Social Emotional Learning and Restorative Justice

On Feb. 2 the Glenbard Parent Series organized a workshop on Social Emotional Learning and Restorative Justice:  The Skills of Building Peer Relationships for a Safe School Climate with Pamela Randall-Garner of CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning).

Glenbard West parent Michelle Nothvogel shared this take-away.  " It was great to learn about restorative practices and social discipline happening in our schools with its approach to build empathy, compassion and its focus on how ones behavior affects others. Being reminded about the importance of trust, humor, and making sure everyone has a voice and is heard was also very useful."


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Author David Sheff speaks to GPS on Jan 25 & 25 on "What Happened to my Beautiful Boy"

A Fathers Journey Through His Son's Addiction

David Sheff
From David Sheff:  "Drug abuse is America’s greatest challenge—it impacts every other societal problem you can name. We’ve ignored it because it has been our great shame. We’ve viewed drug use
as a problem of morals, character, and criminality rather than what it is: a health crisis. As a result,
drugs are now killing more people in our nation than any other non-natural cause. A person is dying every 19 minutes. We can change the course we’re on, but only when we reject the status quo and adopt new prevention strategies that address the underlying causes of drug use. When we do, we will make our cities safer, help families stay together, help our children grow up healthier, and save countless lives."

Parent appreciates honest insights re: substance abuse

Glenbard West parent Molly Murphy 
The Glenbard Parent Series presented "What Happened to My Beautiful Boy; A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction" at Glenbard North on Jan. 24.  Glenbard West parent Molly Murphy shared this takeaway: "David Sheff shared a raw and honest program, reminding us that addiction is a medical disease and not a character flaw. We need to get past the stigma of mental illness, depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse and be better informed about their connection. We need to not only share the success of our kids but also their struggles.  Listen more, act early and love our children for who they are and not who we want them to be."

Friday, December 9, 2016

GPS event helped parent learn new social media trends

The Glenbard Parent Series: (GPS) Navigating Healthy Families presented Tweens,Teens and the Tech Trends of Today with Liz Repking on Thursday, December 8 at the Community Consolidated School District 93 in Bloomingdale

Liz Repking and Lynn Dugan
Glenbard West parent Lynn Dugan shared the following takeaway:  "I hope to teach my teens to make good decisions regarding social media and cyberspace in general but the landscape is challenging because it is ever-changing. Of course, we need to model good online behavior and help kids understand 'What goes online stays online.' This presentation gave me a chance to learn new things (have you heard of Kik?) and equipped me for the important dialogue I want to continue with my kids."

View the presentation on the Glenbard Parent Series YouTube Channel here

Liz Repking's Cyber Safety Consulting web site here

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Strategies for Improving Executive Function Skills to Plan, Organize, and Problem Solve for School Success with Sarah Ward

The Glenbard Parent Series: (GPS) Navigating Healthy Families presented Strategies for Improving Executive Function Skills to Plan, Organize, and Problem Solve for School Success with Sarah Ward on Tuesday, December 6 at Glenbard South.  

Sarah Ward spoke to a packed house of students and parents at the GPS  Dec. 6.  Two students share their take aways:

Glenbard South Senior-
Thank you GPS for bringing in a speaker who confirmed what I have been trying to convince my father of- forever.  Listening to music helps me drown out the other distractions when doing homework. So great to have my dad now understand, since he heard it from an expert. Nice!!

Glenbrd West Junior-

What a helpful program for all students. So glad I attended. I will now " plan backward to execute forward".  This won't be my last GPS.

Glenbard North parent Cindy Allston shared the following take-away:  

"It was fascinating to hear that kids with Executive Functioning Deficits have time blindness and are unable to see the future.  We need to help them become a future stretcher to actually visualize the passage of time, so they can plan and go toward that future/project completion. Consider shading in "time to work" on a wall clock to actually make time visible, was one helpful strategy.  And always plan backward to execute forward."