by Ilana Steinberg, Denver JDS parent
Stress, homework, relationships, changing bodies, rollercoaster emotions, substance use —do you ever find yourself wondering how Denver Jewish Day School is addressing these issues and helping our children to cope?
Throughout the school year, Denver JDS offers programs designed to bring parents along on the journey of their children’s education. These programs help me to feel a bit more like an insider, which I appreciate. This is a special place, and I like feeling that I’m a part of it. The more I understand what our children are doing, and the philosophy behind the school’s choices and priorities, the more connected I feel, and the more invested I feel in my choice to send my children to this great school.
MenschSkills is a program in which your sixth through ninth grade children talk about these issues each week. Josh Lake and Dr. Rachel Gall, who facilitate MenschSkills, offer parents regular opportunities to hear about the topics our children are exploring in this program, and to discuss how we as parents are dealing with them. So far this year, we have had three MenschSkills parent breakfasts. I’ve attended each one and found them valuable in helping me to shape my own thinking about how I help my daughter in her journey through middle school and into high school. We’ve talked about stress, self-harm, and the science behind how chemical substances affect children’s brains. Tough but important topics, and all inter-related, which is the raison d’être for MenschSkills.
I have found these programs to be enlightening, and also a source of reassurance and comfort, and of realizing that I’m not alone. Sometimes it takes being together with other parents to be reminded that we’re all going through this. And, because we come together, we share not only our worries and concerns, but also our ideas and strategies. Hearing other parents’ perspectives helps me to deepen my own understanding and opens my mind to other ways of approaching these challenges. I truly believe it’s worth taking the time out of my day to be in community — my community — to address these parenting issues about which we all care so deeply.
Middle school emotions are complicated. One thing I’ve come to realize, through these parent sessions, is that the self-care skills our children learn now can serve them as they enter adulthood and, indeed, for the rest of their lives. MenschSkills doesn’t approach these challenges with cookie-cutter solutions (like “just say no to drugs”). In MenschSkills, Mr. Lake and Dr. Gall work to educate our children with facts. Then, most importantly, they encourage our children to develop their own unique “tool kits” — strategies that can work for each of them as individuals.
I hope to see you a future parent education program!