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Default 10-22-2005, 05:37 PM

That's why I'm sure parents will be interested in "Parent University: Conversations about Raising Kids in Today's World."

The program will take place Nov. 3 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Helen Keller Middle School. Sponsors are the Parks and Recreation Department, Easton Operation Respect, the Easton PTA and the Easton Community Center.

The Parent University aims to help parents remain connected to their children during the often-rocky times of adolescence.

Easton and Redding are openly confronting a problem that is seemingly inherent in communities, especially the affluent ones, by organizing programs designed to examine parent-child relationships as a whole.

The problem I speak of is substance use and abuse.

In recent years, kids' drugs of choice have expanded far beyond the usual suspects (marijuana, cocaine, heroin) to include everything from Robitussin cough syrup ("robo-tripping") to inhalants and the abuse of pain medication (Oxycontin).

Parent University is set in the same spirit as last spring's Family University, in which former drug enforcement agent Tom Pasquale discussed the dangers of drug abuse.

Parent University will feature Noel Federly, clinical director of Waterbury Youth Service System, Inc.

He will speak about ways to ensure quality family time while keeping priorities balanced.

When I was growing up, I took dance class. That was it - no sports or extracurricular activities until I reached middle school and traded in my tap shoes for the school newspaper.

Today, we live in a hyper-competitive world, especially in homes parented by high achievers who expect nothing but the best from their children.

We just to need to make sure our children's physical and emotional vitality are products, not consequences, of their "best."

In an interview with the Courier, Parks and Recreation director Gary Simone expressed his enthusiasm for the upcoming program.

"It's something that can benefit all parents," he said. "We are very excited about the possibilities of this program, what it can lead to."

In addition to Federly, the evening will feature child counselor Madeline Wragg, who will talk about valuable ways for parents to stay connected to their children as they face the pressures of growing up.

That's a dilemma parents face when their children become adolescents. After years of knowing every little thing about their child, suddenly they find the connection diminishing as their young teen starts stretching his or her wings.

I grew up in a very open environment where my parents and I talked about everything. Since I was an only child, my parents often doubled as my closest confidantes - with mixed results.

Child experts often warn parents about the dangers of becoming their children's "best friend." The boundaries can easily blur and before you know it, the kids are calling the shots. (Not that I ever did).

Parent University also will include sessions with Rob Garafolo Jr., author of "A Winner by Any Standard: A Personal Growth Journey for Every American Teen"; school psychologist Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, E.D. LLC; coach Art Haddad; and counselor Elizabeth Driscoll Jordensen, CADC.

Coffee and dessert will be provided. Attendance is free but registration is required.

I strongly encourage every parent to attend.
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