Being a parent is tough; being one to a teenager is a whole different world.
“I’ve learned a lot having been the parent of a teenager, which turns out is not the easiest (job) in the world,” said Anthony Wolf, a child psychologist and author of several parent self-help books, to nearly a score of people interested in fixing parent/teen relationships.
Wolf was one of three child development experts invited by Chabad of Greenwich to talk about parenting during the organization’s 18th annual parenting conference held last week at the Bruce Museum. The workshops drew about 50 people, local residents and several from Westchester County, N.Y.
Wolfe, author of “I’d Listen to My Parents If They’d Just Shut Up: What to Say and Not Say When Parenting Teens” and “Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager,” spoke about his experiences in a large room decorated with student artwork.
Dr. Dale Atkins was in the room adjacent to Wolf. She began by writing down parents’ thoughts on the qualities that make up a compassionate, caring person. When her pen ran out of ink, a man offered her a pen.
“Now that’s compassion,” she joked. In her session she presented exercises that placed the parents in small groups, exchanging laughs with the audience.
Maya and Levi Hecht of Milbrook said they were especially excited to hear Atkins. They have four children, ages 9, 7, 2 and 10 weeks. Maya Hecht, pre-school teacher and curriculum director for the Chabad of Greenwich, had taught three of Atkins’ grandchildren.
“We have four kids, we could use all the advice we can get,” said Maya Hecht about the conference.
“You want to make sure you do everything right, you don’t want to mess them up,” said Levi Hecht.
Also discussed was living in Greenwich, which presented its own set of obstacles and advantages for parents.
“Raising your kids in an affluent community can be nerve-wracking, because we want to make sure our kids are exposed to lots of ways of life … I want to make sure my kids grow up with diversity, that they are responsible, hard workers,” said Maya Hecht, whose children attend Stamford schools.
Farell Diamond of White Plains, N.Y., sends her eldest child, 6, to Carmel Academy so he can be a part of their special education program. He has ADHD.
“Parenting my older son is challenging in ways where it feels like I don’t have the skill sets to manage. I’m always trying to learn more, always reading books or attending lectures or classes,” said Diamond.
She said she mostly came to support the parents of her son’s school. One of those parents was guest speaker Dr. Judith Zackson, a licensed psychiatrist who owns a private practice in Greenwich.
Zackson began her first session, which took place in a room populated mostly with women, by asking: How can I love my child? What is the best way? Am I going to love my second child as much as my first?
“We all think our children are so great, and we have to,” said Zackson, before talking about the human biology of parenting — beginning with a focus on the hormone-drenched “mommy brain.”
At the conference, the parents learned about the history of parenting, got advice on parenting in the new digital age, and mostly, found a group of other parents to bounce off worries and ideas with.
“There is a sense of community and tradition characteristic of Jewish parents, which is a good thing,” said Wolf. “It adds a dimension to kids’ lives that I think is a plus.”