By ERIN ROLL
Parenting is often a lonely, stressful job.
The Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence, in partnership with some other groups, wants to help make it feel a little less lonely and stressful.
Next month, the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence (MFEE) will present “You Got This,” a series of workshops for parents of young children. The conference will take place at Nishuane School on Sunday, Oct. 28 from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.
The conference will be a chance for parents of young children to connect with each other and get some useful advice on navigating the world of parenting. To make it as easy as possible for parents to attend, child care will be provided on-site. Transportation will be provided and dinner will be served at the end. The conference is also free of charge.
“You Got This” is a joint project between the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence, the Montclair public schools and the Montclair Community Council for Young Children.
The conference is targeted to children from infancy to about age eight.
Masiel Rodriquez-Vars and Bridget Placek are two of the conference organizers.
Rodriquez-Vars is MFEE’s executive director, and Placek is a blogger who contributes to several parenting blogs, such as Scary Mommy and The Pants Free Project. She will also be the opening speaker.
“There is no such thing as a perfect parent,” Rodriquez-Vars says. In today’s world, parents feel a lot of anxiety over whether they are doing the right thing as parents, she said. The goal of the conference, she said, is to tell parents, “Hey, take a step back, you’re doing great.”
The plan is to give parents a selection of parenting workshops to choose from, with plenty of time to connect with other parents in between, Rodriquez-Vars said..
“When I moved to Montclair, I didn’t know other parents. I didn’t know what resources there were in Montclair, I didn’t know how to connect with other parents,” Placek said.
In January, MFEE hosted a series of workshops for parents of middle school and high school students. It was such a success that MFEE decided to do a similar program for parents of young children.
“The high school conference was the first time we really forayed into this kind of work,” Placek said.
MFEE sent out a survey to parents asking them what they wanted to see at “You Got This.”
“They didn’t want to be overscheduled at a conference,” Rodriquez-Vars said. “They wanted time to meet other parents.”
Some of the workshops are going to be peer-to-peer workshops led by other parents, speaking from their own experience.
The school district was very supportive, Placek said.
Some of the topics covered will include advice for expecting parents, child nutrition, how parents need to give themselves a “time out” once in a while. There will also be a dad-specific workshop.
A nutrition workshop will offer parents tips on options of healthy eating. “Rather than forcing this idea, if your kids don’t eat kale, they’re not going to college,” Placek said.
Mountainside Hospital will have a “teddy bear clinic,” staffed by hospital residents, where children and their favorite stuffed animals can get a look at what going to the doctor involves.
Local artist Marie Saint-Victor and writer/activist Ghana Hylton will be doing a workshop on “creativity in chaos,” where participants will get to explore parenting challenges (and triumphs) through arts and crafts projects, as well as writing projects.
“The thread that’s running through this conference is that we all have the tools to do this,” Placek said.
To register for the conference, visit the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence’s website at mfee.org.