Tuesday, June 15, 2010


During the past few weeks, several people have approached me and asked what happened to PROUD. For those of you unfamiliar with this, I was the co-chair of a wonderful community coalition, Stevenson Community PROUD (People Rallying to Oppose Underage Drinking) for several years. It was born out of concern for our youth after several students in a neighboring community died as a result of underage drinking. We did not want our community suffer a similar fate. This coalition, made up of high school students, parents, educators, and community leaders worked together to educate the community on the dangers of underage drinking.

Last year, PROUD was disbanded. To all those actively involved, it was a sad time. We had worked together for four years and truly made an impact in our community. With guidance from the Lake County Lake County Underage Drinking Prevention Task Force, we worked to redefine the social norm around underage drinking in our community. We organized a parent folder to hand out during Stevenson’s parent open house, containing wonderful materials on the statistics of underage drinking in the north suburbs as well as educational handouts on the effects of alcohol on the developing brain. We collaborated with several other communities, Deerfield and Lake Forest/Lake Bluff, to share information and resources. We held 18 parent coffees where we shared concerns, stories, and strategies. And we helped the students find their voices – that being alcohol-free was a good norm to strive for. Five Stevenson seniors, who worked side by side with us from the beginning of PROUD in their sophomore year, earned Prominent Patriot awards prior to their graduation. This recognition of honor and distinction from their high school confirmed that healthy choices lead to positive rewards.

I’m sure all those reading this are asking themselves, “So why disband?” In the Stevenson High School district, which is fed by more than five junior high schools, we have roughly 4500 students. Considering each family has, on average, two children, those students represent about 2250 families. While many parents applauded the work of PROUD, very few attended meetings. The work of PROUD was carried out by a very small group of highly dedicated people, and the volunteers who began the coalition lost their energy over time. Some had children who graduated the halls of high school and had moved on. Some community leaders found the lack of attendance concerning, and shifted their energy to other causes. The students who had begun this mission moved on to college, and it was difficult to bring new ones on board when the adult leadership was dwindling simultaneously.

But the message of the coalition still remains an important one today, as I hear more and more stories of students as young as 12 years old drinking and mass arrests by our local police force of underage drinking parties and their host parents. With the increased use of cell phones by students, parents are communicating with each other less and less, and teens are empowered to embark on risky behavior without consequence.

So, to those parents who have been asking about PROUD, I will be dedicating the next few blogs to the information and resources that PROUD offered. With the summer upon us, it is my hope that parents will find support and guidance to help their children live substance-free lives. If PROUD couldn’t rally physical support at meetings, perhaps in the virtual world of blogging, facebook, or twitter, we can create such a buzz about prevention that the mission of PROUD can live on, and therefore, so will our children.

Mission Statement: “Stevenson Community PROUD educates and empowers parents, students, and the community to prevent underage drinking and promotes safety and well being for everyone.”

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Welcoming Spring

With the sun finally emerging from behind the winter clouds, I was excited to see all the families outside riding bikes, walking their dogs, and just enjoying the beautiful weather this past weekend. Spring brings out the warmth and colors as everything comes to life. I want to share some thoughts about how to refocus yourselves and your children to the great outdoors.

For those of you reading this who live in warm climates, you don’t quite understand the nature of winter hibernation. Going weeks without seeing the sun, bundling ourselves to the point of unrecognizability, and avoiding stepping outside as often as possible is how many northerners spend the long winter months. When we look out our windows and see the first signs of spring, the tulip greens emerging, robins grabbing broken branches for their nests, buds forming on our trees and bushes, a smile emerges on our faces. Yes, we have a few nasty Mother Nature teasers, where a 70 degree day pops up, only to be followed by 35 degrees and snow flurries the next. But when days of consistent warmth and sun surround us, we know spring is here.

I want to encourage everyone join me in committing to enjoy this spring and summer by enjoying outdoor activities. The goal: turn off the electronics, turn up the activity level. Below I offer some suggestions to step outside and get moving. Our kids need to see us modeling a healthy lifestyle so they get off the couch, put down the game controller, computer, and cell phone, and enjoy the good old outdoors and spontaneous play! Please feel free to comment on this blog with your own ideas to share with each other.

1. Arrange nature walks. Take friends, find groups, take your pet, or just meditate with yourself on a hike.

2. Biking. I am always impressed with my daughter's camp counselor job. She bikes for about four hours each day with seventh and eighth grade campers. What a wonderful way to enjoy the fresh air and get exercise! So, on your own, with a friend, or in a biking group, get riding!

3. Gardening. Whether planting flowers to enrich our environment or vegetables and fruits to bring organic foods into your home, connect with the earth!

4. Find a sport that you enjoy and participate. Tennis, golf, softball, baseball are just a few ideas. Some encourage teamwork, others self-improvement. All incorporate movement, skill-building and sharing time with people.

5. Picnic. Take the family to a park, preserve, or beach and enjoy the afternoon or evening together. Bring some games to play or take a hike together.

6. Tour your city. Whether strolling leisurely through downtown Long Grove, exploring downtown Chicago, or driving to Lake Geneva or Milwaukee, our local area offers such variety and beauty all around us.

I am excited to embrace spring this year. Today I enjoyed a walk through my neighborhood, stopping to visit friends along the way. It felt great to reconnect not only with my physical self, but with nature, friends, and my husband. I hope to see you outside on one of my outdoor adventures!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teaching Resilience to Our Youth

Last week, I was asked to speak to the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff parent community on Resilience - How to Nurture and Develop Your Child's Inner Self. They planned a series of discussions on "The Middle School Years: A Parent's Guide", offered through a wonderful community organization, LEAD, a United Way agency whose mission is to support parents and other adults shaping the future of our youth and is dedicated to promoting healthy family relationships and preventing alcohol, tobacco, drug use, and other risky behavior by youth.

My goal for the evening was for parents to walk away with a better sense of what they can do to enhance the self-motivation and responsibility in their children. Teaching children how to manage their disappointments and failures will lead to resilience and empowerment. Allowing children to develop resilience, to own their actions, grades, and life choices, is one of the hardest tasks of parenting. The seminar provided parents some tools to improve communication with their children and receive practical strategies to help them learn to find motivation internally rather than seek external rewards and gratification.

I am excited to be offering this seminar again on March 14th at Temple Chai's Wellness Day 2010, sponsored by the Chai Center for Enrichment & Renewal, Temple Chai Sisterhood, and the Levinson Scholar-In-Residence Fund. Anyone with school-age children will find this program invaluable. To register for this program or get information about the many other programs and events offered that day, visit the Temple Chai (Long Grove) website and follow the link to the Chai Center to download the registration packet.

In the meantime, I assigned homework to the group last week, and thought I would share it with you. Please spend some time in the coming weeks to incorporate one of the following ideas into your daily lives. Let me know on this blog which one you are doing, and what impact it has on your family's life. Remember that as families make changes, the first response might be resistance. Stick with it, stay positive, and see if, after four or five weeks, you notice the positive effects of your efforts.

1. Journaling or Emailing

If you choose to journal, purchase a small notebook for each of your children. Explain the purpose of the journal - just a way to share private thoughts between you and your child. Tell him you will leave the journal in a specific place in his room when you have written in it, and he can leave it on your pillow or by your nightstand if he wants you to read it.

If you choose to email, let your child know that you want to use email to share private thoughts between you both. Let her know she can respond via email or initiate conversation.

Be sure YOU don't OVERDO it. Only write to your child once or twice a week at most.

However, always respond respectfully and promptly to THEIR emails or journals to you.

Keep your thoughts positive and sincere. Don't fake it!

2. Spending one on one time together - what would your child like to do?

Find time once a week to spend together doing something child-focused

Grocery shopping or folding laundry does not count!

This activity does not and should not cost a lot of money. You don’t have to buy your child’s time or attention!

3. Family Meals

Plan on spending at least one night a week eating together as a family.

Make sure everyone can attend ahead of time – don’t wait to the last minute to tell the family, and then feel disappointed when it doesn’t happen.

Plan the menu together or make sure that there are items at the table that each person will enjoy.

4. Family Nights

At least twice during the month, up to once a week, spend the evening together.

Decide together how to select activities. It can be by submitting ideas into a hat and selecting the winning choice or rotating amongst family members. Everyone needs to agree to participate in each other’s activities, and parameters on what can be selected can be talked about ahead of time. (i.e. – activity that lasts 1-2 hours, in the house, no cost, etc.)

Enjoy finding time to smile with your child today. And remember, sometimes we see the rewards of good parenting many years later.