Dr. Deborah Gilboa
Dr. Deborah Gilboa

Parents of children facing mental health struggles wonder how much leeway to give their children and how to best support each child. It’s a tough question, but Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a parenting expert, speaker and author of several books including Get the Behavior You Want, Without Being the Parent You Hate!, has an answer — by building resilience.

Gilboa, a family physician in Pittsburgh, will be the keynote speaker at a May 21 Youth Mental Health Conference and Resource Expo for parents and professionals.

She plans to devote her entire presentation to the topic of resilience. And, her bottom line message is that although it can be hard with a child who is struggling, one of the best ways to help is by building that child’s or teen’s resilience. While empathy matters, feelings of guilt, she said, don’t help your child.

“How do you build resilience? By having empathy and high expectations,” said a multitasking Gilboa, who gave a phone interview while returning home from grocery shopping for Passover.

“That means figuring out what your child has mastered and deciding what they are ready to try next. Our job as parents is to keep our kids working at the leading edge of their abilities in terms of things like problem-solving and speaking up for themselves,” said Gilboa, a mother of four boys.

Gilboa offered a poignant analogy: If a child’s first-grade teacher tells her parents how well she is doing with advance math problems, the parents will want to know what skills the teacher plans to work on next. If the teacher says “‘Nothing. She’s good where she is for now,’ that response isn’t going to go over very well with the parents. The same is true with our kids’ mental health.”

The conference, sponsored by Kadima, will be held at the Birmingham Covington School in Bloomfield Township. It is geared toward parents and professionals with breakout sessions to address youth mental health-related topics affecting newborns to college-aged young adults.

Session topics will include understanding the importance of attachment in the early years, identifying anxiety in young children, building positive self-image, bully-proofing through empowerment, the impact of ADHD on siblings, gender identification, an introduction to some of the mental health diagnoses that arise during the teenage years and addiction.

In addition to the keynote, Gilboa will also lead a breakout session for parents on how to talk about mental health concerns with their children and an afternoon session for professionals on how to effectively partner with parents.

“Mental illness is so far behind all other illnesses and disabilities in this country in terms of the continued negative associations and fear,” said event chair Suzanne Zwiren. “Far too many people struggle silently with a mental health challenge, or watch their child struggle without getting the help they need or, unfortunately, wait until a crisis occurs.

“The purpose of the conference is to continue to expand the communication and education for and, more importantly, between parents and professionals regarding the mental health of our children.”

Jennifer Lovy Contributing Writer

Tickets for the conference and expo are $25 for the morning parent and community session. The afternoon session, with continuing education for social workers and educators, is $45. To register, visit kadimacenter.org/hbhm2017 or call (248) 663-4330.

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