Posted on November 26th, 2016

Parking Lot for Parents of Teens

Yes, the preschool did start at 9am. and yes, the parking lot is still filled with parents even though it is 9:25am. The post-drop-off shmooze with its collective sharing of stories, struggles, and wisdom is a rite of passage for preschool parents. How to transition from crib to bed, the best getaway methods at drop-off to avoid the total meltdown, and play date arrangements are all be discussed and that feeling of community is beautifully reinforced.  

However, those little ones eventually grow up and two miles down the road there is no such schmoozing going on in the parking lot of the local high school. Except the issues get a little more complicated with teens: fights around increased demands for freedom, mental health issues, the impact of academic stress, emerging sexuality, and of course the complex world of social media that drives so much of their existence, to name a few. But this laundry list often doesn’t get the benefit of collective wisdom or community. Instead, it is often tackled alone, with feelings of isolation, shame, confusion, and desperation.  

There is no parking lot for parents of teens and so I created the Parking Lot for Parents of Teens. This is a monthly two-hour gathering where the best of our Jewish values serve as the antidote to the common isolation of parents with teens. Each month has a different focus on a relevant issue and the parents themselves often drive the discussion. The evening starts with introductions and a question that often has parents reflect on their own teen years. A relevant Jewish concept is introduced and there may be breakout groups, videos, role plays, anonymous index cards for written responses, and the end of the evening is always wrapped up with the parents reflecting on the value/take-away they got from our metaphorical parking lot.  

I have learned that parents of teens are in need of community, support, spiritual sustenance, connection, and applicable wisdom to help them create intentional relationships with their teens. Our Judaism offers all of these. The Parking Lot for Parents of Teens can happen in any synagogue that has someone in the community who has experience with teens and a passion to learn and help. So park and let the schmoozing begin!

Craig Parks is a senior staff member at Temple Solel in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, and is in his 18th year as the Director of Youth Programming as well as a faculty member of Songleader Boot Camp.