Eve Sullivan's blog


Report from Tunis, and FIEP

Steven Pinker . . . a quote I read on a Chipotle bag, of all places . . . said, "We will never have a perfect world, but it is not romantic or naive to work toward a better one." I am in Tunis this week for the 50th anniversary conference of the International Federation for Parenting Education (FIEP/IFPE).
 
My seatmate on the flight from Boston to Paris was an Algerian man. When I asked if he was a dad, he said - with a big smile - "Yes, I am the father of two little girls." Conveniently, I had the Parents Forum "Tools of the Trade" in Arabic, to give him. It was the least I could do, as I had upended a dish of lentils from my dinner tray all over his trousers (and mine). Economy class is a sardine can, no room to move!
 
Raising children is such a joy and such a job! We need to do more to support parents. I look forward to the conference at the end of this week and to hearing the perspectives of parenting education colleagues from around the world. I trust that our efforts will do more than a little bit to make the world a better place for all our children.

Jay Z said "Dream Big, Be Unrealistic" …I'm ready!

The beginning of my horoscope today - - which ends 'Start small' - - is much more inspirational: 'Travel, connect with old friends and... consider offering a service that is in dire need in your community.'
 
January looks right in line with this advice. In a week's time I will fly to Tunis to visit a dear friend whom I have not seen in close to ten years, then I will take part in the 50th anniversary of the International Federation for Parenting Education
http://www.fiep-ifpe.fr/informations_en.php?id=5conference
 
What service could our communities be in more dire need of than parenting education? The year is off to a good start: I got the laundry done. This morning I'll spend time with two of my grandchildren and this afternoon I will visit my youngest grandnephew. Tomorrow I'll get cracking on our local parenting education initiative. Happy, happy!
 
 

Our goal as parenting educators

We want parents to raise compassionate children . . . http://nyti.ms/1m00bbn . . . right?
 
The parenting education and support that social services presently offer does not seem to do enough to help enough parents accomplish this goal. I suggest we consider more peer support. Yes, that is what Parents Forum is all about. We need more modeling of what Amy Dickinson 'AskAmy' @askingamy describes as friendship's highest calling: listening without judgment and offering assistance when asked.
 
Wishing a Happy New Year to family and friends and to strangers as well, the friends I haven't met.

World stage, a starring role for parenting education?

Yes, there were over 4000 other representatives of nonprofits at the UN in New York last week for the Department of Public Information (DPI) NGO conference, but parenting education was represented. I was there on behalf of the
 
International Federation for Parenting Education http://www.fiep-ifpe.fr
     celebrating its 50-year anniversary !
Please write to info@parentsforum.org if you want more information in FIEP!
 
Two highlights -- after a three-hour line for registration -- were a panel presentation on media strategies to support mental health, thanks to the NGO Mental Health Committee http://www.mentalhealthngo.org, and the opportunity to contribute to the final conference declaration. Not sure yet if this point was included, but please tell me what you think...
 

Qatar 'Empowering Families' Conference, reporting on day one

Before I tell you about the conference, I have to say a few words about the experience of this, my first trip to the Gulf Region.
 
What I'm glad I brought: crackers (to have as snack instead of ordering room service), headphones (for the gym), masking tape (to make a small band-aid, with a piece of tissue, for a little blister on one toe after a day of walking), the adapter plug for laptop charger of course.
 
What I wish I'd brought: a 100-watt lightbulb. All the lighting in the room is very dim. When I asked to have a higher wattage blub, they brought me a flood light!
 
What makes Doha look so different from back home, Cambridge, Mass.: the wide variety of black abayas women wear, some with very ornate embroidery, camel races -- apparently -- on the tv in the gym, gracious service at every turn (I am not to used to this, since I usually stay in a youth hostel when I travel), construction projects everywhere and an incredible variety of modern architecture.
 
What I saw on the first two days in Doha:
 

Overdue for an update - exciting stuff coming up

Seriously, I should post more often.
 
Tomorrow (Thursday March 27, 2014) there is a meeting of the UN NGO Committee on the Family in New York, at 12:30 in the Church Center. The topic is "Military Parents and the Family: An Exploration of Paths to Strengthen the Family" 
 
Included in the program is discussion of peer support. Yeah!
   Pat Raskin: "Reuniting: Finding each other after deployment
   Kay Higgs-Adams "Now that they are back: A focus on children of military families"

A New Year's Day telephone call

Last evening, back from a movie, I was sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a cup of tea. When the phone rang I thought it might be one of my sons, but it was another mother's child.
 
The young lady, calling from Georgia (the state, not the country), said someone had recommended she contact Parents Forum for advice on getting in to college. I never saw that coming! We had a fascinating conversation - despite the tinny sound, she was on a cell phone - as I wracked my brain for advice or encouragement to give her . . . YearUp . . . City Year ? She had been in touch with the former and said it didn't work out. The second was new to her. She looked it up online while we were talking and said she would contact City Year.
 

Double win for parenting education: The New Yorker and the Cambridge (MA) Chronicle

Good news twice!
 
The New Yorker Dec.16 included my comments on the sad story (in the Dec.2 issue of the magazine) by Rachel Aviv who wrote about an immigrant mother losing custody of her son over a six-year period, starting when the boy was three. The Cambridge Chronicle published my letter on an opinion piece about the fatigue experienced by family members caring long-term for disabled or elderly family members. The links are here:
 
My New Yorker letter  nyr.kr/1iXq4b8  begins, "Aviv's sad story might have been different if the U.S. provided universal access to parenting programs...."
 
The Chronicle letter  bit.ly/1aYJQZB  ends, "When communities make appropriate resources more widely available to parents at every stage of children's lives and when we, as responsible parents, beging to accept these as routine...our family lives can only improve." 
 
All in favor, say aye.
 
 
 

Bad news / good news / bad news on youth mental health

The first slice of bad news in this sandwich is a report in the Boston GLOBE magazine on Monday headlined "Rate of children getting mental health care rises". Lara Salah reported research (from JAMA Psychiatry Nov.27) showing that "the rate at which children and adults received medication for a psychiatric condition doubled" over the last 15 years. She noted that the findings "may also signal the overuse of psychotropic medication among children and adolescents for minor conditions." That is not good!
 
The good news is a grant, announced (according to an AP report today in the GLOBE) by Vice President Biden: a $100 million investment in mental health services, targeted to community health centers and rural health centers. That's good.
 
The bad news, in my view, is the complete absence of any mention of parenting resources. Who are on the front line of care and concern for children's well-being, including mental health? Parents, of course. If we get the support we need, we can more likely see that our children get the help they need, not medication! 

Struggling appropriately

That is the phrase I sometimes found myself using when people asked me about my kids, especially when they were teenagers, and it is what I hope I am doing now! Two months of home renovations consumed my summer and some tasks remain, painting, wallpaper still to go up. But the project is mostly done. 
 
So many times I think of sharing on this blog some bit of information, or an experience that challenged or delighted me, but then the day gets away from me!
 
My job stocking shelves at the Michael's Arts and Crafts Store gives me an occasional chance to interact with parents, sometimes customers and sometimes coworkers. I love to hear people tell me their stories. It is a gift to be able to offer encouragement, maybe ask a question that helps them move to a more compassionate place. Perspective, maybe that's what we need most as parents.