Home schooled: Parents use parlour groups to share tips

Ometz’s parlour groups help parents with children in Jewish day schools

by Nina Heft

When you think of the role we undertake as parents, raising future generations, its importance cannot be underestimated. When I first had kids, I actually thought it was all going to come naturally. I knew that there was no manual, but I’m a professional, I’m educated—so you think: “I can figure this out”. You soon realize that it is not always easy, that you have a lot of questions, and you are not sure what is “normal” and what isn’t.

And the truth is, we don’t have all the answers. So when I attended a parenting lecture by Barbara Victor of Ometz many years ago and she mentioned the network of “Parlour Groups” that Ometz helps put together for parents in the Jewish Day School system, I was sold. They organize an ongoing opportunity for groups of parents to get together, share experiences, concerns, etc. and, through an experienced moderator, get the assistance they need throughout each of the developmental stages of their school-aged children.

Soon, I found myself part of a group of parents with kids the same age attending the same school. We formed our parlour group before our children were out of elementary school, and have continued well through all the ups and downs of adolescence—and it goes without saying: “what’s discussed in the group stays in the group!” We meet once a week, rotating homes, and thanks to the expert guidance of our moderator, Sylvia Kirstein, we share the trials and tribulations of raising children today, often with lively discussion and many viewpoints.

A supportive environment

The role of our moderator is very important. She helps you navigate the difficult path. She listens. We don’t have all the answers, which she helps us to accept. But she brings a wealth of knowledge to the group, professionally through her years as a clinical therapist, and personally, as a mom herself. She shares many useful resources with us and she leads us in discussions about current issues raising teenagers, the problems they are facing, and touchy subjects that are difficult to discuss but ones that need to be addressed.

Every meeting leads to at least one “a-ha” moment or an actionable item that I can put to use in my own parenting. But it is the support that I get from being part of this group that is one of the most rewarding aspects. We came together with a common interest—to learn to be the best parents we could be—not necessarily to form new friendships. After 6 years, we have definitely formed a bond with each other, have learned from each other’s experiences, and have been validated by each other as well. We are all going through similar things. Sometimes it’s just enough to know that; it’s not necessarily about “right” or “wrong”, but about support.

I often think of the many parents who may not have the same social safety net, who are meeting in parallel parlour groups all over the city, with their peers, and for whom these encounters offer tremendous reassurance and assistance. Thanks to Ometz, I hope I will continue to learn from my group for years to come.

For more information or to join the Ometz parlour groups, visit its website or call Carol Liverman at 514.342.0000 ext. 3846.

Last year, Federation CJA allocated $4.4 million to Ometz, permitting the continued immigration, employment, and social support needed to secure the growth and vitality of the Montreal Jewish Community.

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