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Family matters

Fair Lawn program to address thorny parenting issues

Smooth-running families are things of the past, it seems, but a weekend program coming to Fair Lawn next Friday night and Saturday, Sept. 16-17, aims at helping to give parents the tools they need to begin to set things right.

Featured in the program, called “Positive Jewish Families,” are two leading Jewish mental health professionals, Dr. Alex Bailey and Lauren Roth. “Positive Jewish Families” is a special community-wide Shabbaton program designed by the OU’s Department of Community Services. It is being hosted by Fair Lawn’s Congregation Shomrei Torah.

Bailey is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Teaneck. His work with families and parents centers on communication, negotiation, and setting expectations among parents and between parents and children.

Roth, a psychotherapist in private practice in Lakewood, lectures extensively across the United States on numerous topics, including marriage and parenting.
To be sure, the family unit is not what it used to be. Today, in most families, both parents work. After a long day at school, children are busy with a wide range of sports, enrichment, and extra-curricular activities. Just getting children from one place to another requires intricate scheduling matrices and carpool-sharing.

Then there are the birthday parties, the bar and bat mitzvah lessons, and their attendant celebrations (depending on the size of a child’s peer group, there could be one such simchah nearly every week in a given year, including the child’s own, which comes with its own set of stresses).

Parents often find themselves engaged in endless texting and e-mailing, or else find themselves competing for attention with iPods and iPads, television shows, computer games, and the like. Because parents have jobs outside the already stressful one of running a family, what with iPhones and PDAs, those jobs are at their fingertips well into the night.

This goes on week in and week out during a school year, and it does not seem to ease up much in the summer. When do parents have time to communicate with each other? When do they have time to communicate with their children?

Indeed, studies have shown that parents actually engage their children in face-to-face extended conversation for no more than one hour per week. This can generate all sorts of problems. Given this reality in too many families, the need for better and more positive communication is clear.

During the course of the weekend, Bailey and Roth will discuss these and other issues relating to healthy parenting and relationships. “One of the biggest challenges today when dealing with children at home and in school revolves around communication,” Bailey told The Jewish Standard. “How can we get children to listen better – and how can we listen better to children – so that we develop positive relationships while maintaining a sense of boundaries and expectations?”
He and Roth hope to answer those questions and more during the course of the Shabbat program.

For more information on OU Positive Jewish Family opportunities, contact Frank Buchweitz, National Director of the OU Department of Community Services at frank@ou.org, or visit www.oucommunity.org.

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