Home Cherry Hill News Cherry Hill Public School District connects parents to community resources through Parent...

Cherry Hill Public School District connects parents to community resources through Parent University

Topics include addictive and compulsive behavior and more

In 2019, the Cherry Hill Public School District created “Parent University” as a way for parents and community members to become acquainted with the resources in their community through a one-night informational event. After a three-year hiatus, the event returned on Wednesday, April 19.

From 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., attendees could meet and speak with community resources which included a wide range of organizations such as cultural groups, college readiness organizations, and organizations that provided resources for mental health, eating disorders, health, parenting and growing stronger in specific areas, like literacy.

Following the open house were presentations on Naviance and College Readiness by Cherry Hill East Student Counselor Darren Gamel, Internet Safety: Cyberbullying and Hidden in Plain Sight by Cherry Hill Police Department’s Officer Anthony Amato, Creating Affirming Spaces for LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) Youth by Greg Langan from Jefferson Health, Building resiliency, promoting self-care and strategies to reduce stress in our lives by Dr. Regina and Harry Green, Guiding your Child to Behavioral Success by Bancroft’s Dr. Nicole Schwartz and Addictive and Compulsive Behavior in Today’s Teens, by Paul Lavella, founder of NJ Recovery Wellness. 

“The feedback from our first Parent University was that the presentations were too short because I was trying to have parents attend as many as they could in a short amount of time, (25 minutes.)” said Bonnie Mingin, district supervisor of people services. “This year the presentations are 35 minutes each and the parents can pick three out of six presentations.”

The topics chosen reflected the relevant issues that students are facing today and sought to help parents become more aware and informed on them. For instance, Lavella’s presentation went over how to recognize the warning signs of true problematic behaviors and differentiate them from what’s just “kid stuff.”

“There are a lot of different reasons (for these problematic behaviors), such as the inability to resolve anxiety or depression or tolerate distressful situations,” Lavella said. “ … ‘I don’t have to feel my anxiety if I’m drinking or smoking marijuana,’ or ‘I don’t have to deal with my anxiety if I make myself preoccupied with something else, like the doom scroll at 3 a.m (when you are scrolling indefinitely on social media.)”

When it comes to addressing these kinds of problems, Lavella encouraged parents to overcome their discomfort in broaching difficult subjects and address their concerns in a pragmatic, effective way as they see them.

For example, saying “Hey (kid’s name), I see that you have a hard time getting to school in the morning and I notice that whenever I try to wake you up, your phone is right next to your hand. You’re on your phone in the middle of the night, what’s happening?”

One of the ways Lavella suggested to enhance motivation to change can be helping them recognize what their goals are, and letting them see whether or not their actions are matching up to work towards that goal.

“If we can get the teen to see, not by our coaxing  or pushing, or pushing our agenda on them but if we can encourage conversation to explore what they want and are their behaviors working towards it or working against it, that’s where we can get some traction and some openness to consider change – whatever that change might be,” Lavella said.

Langan, from Jefferson Health, also gave tips on how to have conversations with teens and create affirming spaces where they feel safe enough to be themselves.

“The frame that I put on all of these discussions is you don’t necessarily need to understand to be empathetic, the goal is to let your child know that you’re here for them no matter what it is that they tell you,” Langan said. 

Other suggestions Langan had included letting your child start the conversation with you and to be open and aware of the biases in yourself.

“You don’t want to engage in the conversation if your child isn’t necessarily ready yet,” he noted. For addressing biases, Langan offered using non-gender language (like asking “Is there anyone that you’re interested in?” rather than “Are there any boys/girls in your school that you’re interested in?”) and being conscious of the way people watch queer representation in media and not making disparaging comments.

When it comes to finding resources for your child, both emphasized that the resources are out there.

“Ultimately you have to find what works for you and your child, so don’t be afraid of knocking on multiple doors because in healthcare and mental health, the treatment is really only as good as your connection to your provider,” Langan said. “Because if you don’t connect with that provider, you might not tell them all the information that is needed to provide you that service.”


Exit mobile version