Stellar Panel To Speak At Family University Workshop

Those of you who have rowdy, rambunctious teens may well be familiar with the name, Michael J. Bradley.

If that doesn’t instantly ring a bell, then, you’ve probably seen him on programs like NBC’s “Today Show,” or CNN, or heard him on NPR. And if you still haven’t, chances are that you’ve bumped into his award-winning book, “Yes, Your Teen is Crazy” in the parenting isle of your local bookstore.

Dr. Bradley, a nationally-renowned psychiatrist and an expert on adolescent behavior, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Bedford Central Family University’s workshop series, to be held on November 8, at the Fox Lane Middle School campus.

In his talk “Yes, Your Parents Are Crazy!,” aimed at middle school students, he’ll shed light on issues faced by today’s kids that have become hot button, of late—sex, drugs, alcohol, violence, and broken homes—and offer tips on how best they can resolve disagreements and manage conflicts with parents in a positive way.

Dr. Bradley’s keynote address, “Loving Your Child Without Losing Your Mind,” which is tailor made for parents, will take a look at the flip side of the problem. He’ll speak about how to open channels of communication with reticent, recalcitrant kids, and provide a guide to dealing with them.

“Parenting an adolescent in today’s world is much the same as flying a jet aircraft or performing brain surgery. Any training you received 30 years ago is not only useless, but it can also actually impair your ability to perform well.”

“Neurosurgeons and pilots constantly upgrade their skills, replacing outmoded thinking with new training that reflects contemporary realities,” he writes in one of his books.

“He’s the big draw this year. He’s a fantastic speaker,” says Clare Sherwood, co-chair of Bedford Central Family University and a mother of two teens.

The three-hour-long event is split into two sessions: the first, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and the second, from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m., with a half-hour food break in between. There’ll be a total of 24 workshops, of which 13 will take place during the first half; the remaining 11 will be held post-dinner.

In “Kids in the Candy Store,” Michael Nerney—an authority on drug-abuse prevention and former director of the National Drug Research Institute—will educate parents about substances routinely found in households that are susceptible to abuse by kids and may lead to an addiction.

“He’s a very gifted speaker. He’s entertaining and knowledgeable about the teen culture and has up-to-date research information. He’s so good that I’ve already booked him for 2008 and 2009,” said Patty Warble, executive director of the Drug Abuse Prevention Council for Bedford, Katonah, Lewisboro, and Pound Ridge.

The law enforcement trio of Westchester County assistant district attorney Bruce Kelly and Bedford Police Department youth officers Joe Communale and Bill Smith will together, present “Parents that Host, Lose the Most,”—an initiative that began in Ohio—to make parents aware of the legal risks of serving alcohol at house parties in New York State.

“They are some of our old favorites. I have to say that we have a wonderful relation with our police department,” said Ms. Warble.

Former New York Jet Dennis O’Sullivan will speak on “Pure Performance.” He’ll give the audience the lowdown on the adverse physical, physiological, and psychological effects of drugs and alcohol abuse on athletic performance, with concrete scientific data to back up his assertions.

For the benefit of the Spanish-speaking students, there’ll be a Spanish-language workshop, run by the staff of Fox Lane Middle School. “We’re doing this because there’s a strong Hispanic presence in the school district,” said Ms. Sherwood.

Quite a misnomer, Family University isn’t a university. It’s a non-profit community organization, comprised of a group of teachers, parents, students, counselors, and other professionals, who work to foster an open and enduring parent-kid relationship, which, in the long run, will help children made healthy life choices.

It was born in 1994, when 300 members of the Katonah-Lewisboro School District got together to address the large numbers of alcohol and drug related accidents involving students at the John Jay High School.

Its guiding philosophy is simple. The once-yearly event wasn’t meant to be a one-time source of entertainment, but to serve as an “educational evening” that’d encourage frank family discussions about issues of concern much after the event was over, said Ms. Warble.

“Three years ago, it was duplicated in the Bedford Central School District,” she said. Its reach has expanded dramatically from 400 people in 1994 to over 6,000 people in 2006. Last year, about 400 people attended the event. “We expect the same this year,” said Ms. Sherwood.

The event is not a walk-in. Those interested in participating are required to register, the deadline for which is November 2.

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