By Norma Richman
In keeping with the mission of the school, High Point Academy has sought to create a learning community that includes parents, as well as students. This means that since we, as adults, are our children’s learning models, our attitudes about life-long discovery can inspire our children to take charge of their own educational journeys. Two years ago, a new Parent Education program was launched to provide parents with a toolkit to further this goal. Why a toolkit? The program is designed to arm parents with a set of tools and personal resources that allows them to support their children with more insight and confidence.
Imagining what the things are that children do not share with their parents or parents do not share with their children, and those things that tend to perplex us all, we crafted a program to further the dialogue. Our speakers’ topics ran the gamut from cyber-safety to night-time struggles over the use of smart phones and tablets, from teaching our kids to approach life with openness and curiosity to discussing sexuality with children in a thoughtful, composed tone.
Parent Education at High Point Academy kicked off in the fall of 2016 with a compelling presentation by nationally-known internet safety specialist Lori Getz. Getz, who has appeared on Dr. Phil and The Today Show, opened with the premise that every day our children are online, connecting with friends, downloading content, sharing where they are, and developing reputations. Her mission: to help bridge the gap between a young generation of digital natives and their parents and teachers.
After speaking to a parents-only audience in the morning about internet safety, security, and ethics, Ms. Getz continued the discussion with students in the afternoon, creating a line of dialogue for both audiences to continue at home.
In the spring Dr. Joe Dilley continued the conversation with an informative and enlightening presentation to High Point parents that focused on appropriate responses to children whose electronic devices seem to monopolize their time. Dr. Dilley is a licensed clinical psychologist and the co-founder of Synergy Psychological. He specializes in the assessment and treatment of anxiety, ADHD, and technology addictions. His book The Game Is Playing Your Kid: How to Unplug & Reconnect in the Digital Age has been featured across media outlets including Mom Talk Radio, The Chicago Tribune, Scouting Magazine, and Psychology Today. His advice was pragmatic yet sensitive to the value and universality of technology in our society.
Dr. Tina Payne Bryson addressed parents and upper-grade students in separate presentations. Dr. Bryson is the co-author (with Dan Siegel) of two New York Times bestsellers – The Whole Brain Child and No Drama Discipline— each of which has been translated into over twenty languages, and she introduced her latest book The Yes Brain for the first time to the High Point audience. She is a psychotherapist and the Executive Director of The Center for Connection in Pasadena, California, where she offers parenting consultations and provides therapy to children and adolescents. Dr. Bryson’s professional life now focuses on taking research and theory from various fields of science, and offering it in a way that is clear, realistic, humorous, and immediately helpful. She spoke to an all-parent gathering first, discussing how parents can foster their children’s ability to say yes to the world and welcome all that life has to offer, even during difficult times. She followed up with a presentation to upper grades on what it looks like to cultivate a “Yes Brain”. Dr. Bryson has been a valuable resource and partner in addressing social and emotional issues and will certainly be back to impart more wisdom to both parents and teachers.
The 2017-2018 year wrapped up with “Beyond the Birds and the Bees: Talking to Your Children About Their Bodies and Paving the Way for Healthy Sexuality”, an informative, lively presentation by Dr. Ginger Bercaw. Dr.Bercaw is a clinical psychologist, relationship expert and sex educator. A Co-Founder of the California Center for Healing, she earned her Doctorate in Psychology from Pepperdine University. She has authored two books on developing emotionally and sexually healthy relationships and has spoken to professional and non-professional audiences alike. She is passionate about giving parents the tools they need to help their children develop healthy self-esteem and strong relationship skills. She advised High Point parents on how to establish themselves as trusted allies to their children, including how to answer the (dreaded) questions about the birds and bees. After an interactive discussion on clearly outlined, age-appropriate ways to talk to children about their bodies and sexuality, parents walked away with many practical steps and with strengthened confidence in this sensitive and often awkward territory.
Coming back to that toolbox, parents noted that they felt better prepared and armed with real-world tools.
“It was reassuring to know that I wasn’t alone in dealing with certain issues,” says Cynthia Chylinski, parent of a fourth grader and a sixth grader. She continued, “Every day we try to be the best parents we can be — but rarely do we have time to actually sit and listen to someone give ideas about how to be a better parent. I attended all of the Parent Education events at High Point Academy. I was impressed with the diversity of topics and the caliber of speakers. Each event was different but I always left feeling like I had some new tools to use as a parent.”
April Castaneda, parent of a fifth grader, noted, “I attended the parent education program Beyond the Birds and the Bees with Dr. Ginger Bercaw. I found this session to be very timely and helpful. The session had real tools that I was able to start using right away. Dr. Bercaw’s statement that you don’t just have ‘the talk’ one time, but you have a series of small conversations and you tell as much as your child is ready to hear was very sound advice.”
Head of School Gary Stern summed up the program this way: “High Point Academy and parents are partners in helping to raise our children. The Parent Education program provides our families with important professional development in best practices related to child development and supporting the healthy social and emotional development of children in the fast-paced, ever-changing world of today.”
Parent Education at High Point Academy promises to be equally informative in 2018-2019, with two events already in the works. One will be a morning presentation, and one will be designed for the evening crowd. As usual, free babysitting for parents will be provided at the night-time event. Check the school website in the fall for details.