Monday, May 21, 2012

PTJL For Parents of Children with Special Needs

Arlene Remz, Executive Director of Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, writes about the new, exciting partnership between Parenting Through a Jewish Lens and Gateways this fall.
At Gateways, the focus is on children and teens.  We love the wonderful bar and bat mitzvah stories, the examples of students making great strides at school, and the pictures of high school volunteers and Sunday program participants laughing at a Purim carnival.  Our Day School ProgramsJewish Education ProgramsTeen Volunteer Programs, and Gateways to College directly serve young people, while Community Services and Professional Development help students by supporting their teachers and schools.  Parents and families get support through all these programs, but I have to admit that support has been indirect.

Not any more.  This fall CJP and Hebrew College will offer a special Parenting Through a Jewish Lens (Ikkarim) class for parents of children with special needs.  Parenting Through a Jewish Lens is a 10-week course for parents that explores core values through discussion and some text study.  Led by expert instructors, the focus is on conversations about the questions that really matter: What is my vision of parenting? How can I help my child identify a good path?  How can I help my family through dark times?  How do I talk to my child about God?

Jacob Meskin, Academic Director of Adult Learning at Hebrew College and co-author of the curriculum, explained the thinking behind the class this way: “When you have a child, you change the way you think, you have a new set of things to work out.  Judaism has a lot of wisdom about these kinds of issues, such as creating a family environment, getting along with your spouse, and raising children.”  A parent who took Ikkarim described its power simply, "This program enabled me to slow down and think about how I want to raise my child."

Parenting through a Jewish Lens is offered in synagogues and communities throughout the Greater Boston area, and parents of children with special needs have been among the almost 1,000 who have already participated.  But I believe that there is a place for a Parenting Through a Jewish Lens class specifically for those parents. The class can help build a sense of community among parents of children with special needs, who may welcome conversations with others who have similar experiences.  In a shared space these parents can get the support from Jewish tradition that every parent looks for.   As Meskin explains, all parents need “the sense that they matter, the strength to cope with their challenges, and help finding a way to God for them and their children.”

We coordinated with Hebrew College to offer this program at the same time and place as the Gateways Sunday Program---Sunday mornings from 9:30-11 at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston.  This way, while the students are in their Gateways classes, the parents will meet nearby.  If someone is interested in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens for parents of children with special needs but their child is not presently in the Sunday program, this is a twofer—the opportunity to enroll in two wonderful programs, one for you and one for your child.  And there is babysitting for siblings if you need it!

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