Conversations help parents find balance

PHOTO: Oregon Hillel Executive Director Andy Gitelson boxes up Shabbat dinners for students who have returned to the University of Oregon Campus.


The 15 parents of college age students who joined the first Finding Balance for Parents Zoom conversation heard some important tips for helping both themselves and their students cope with this unusual year. Though the conversations are confidential, the presenters later shared some tips so other parents could use the wisdom.  
“People appreciate the opportunity to come together during this time and connect with others experiencing similar situations,” says Rachel Nelson, director of educational initiatives at the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. Rachel is organizing the series (see below).
Many parents said the BASE technique shared by Pediatrician Dr. Erika Meyer was especially helpful. 
Dr. Meyer says she adapted the BASE technique she shares with parents and patients from an adaptive therapy of the same name that is used to treat depression. “Why wait for someone to be depressed? This is a good framework,” she says.
Her adapted acronym stands for Body, Accomplish, Social connections and Enjoy.  
Body: Do something healthy for your body like exercise, healthy eating, sleeping.
Accomplish means set small goals and give yourself credit for what you’ve done that day. 
Social means connecting with people who are important to you – family, friends, people around you – and reaching out to help those in need.
Enjoy is a reminder to do something that brings you joy. “Ideally the things you enjoy should come from the first three,” says Dr. Meyer. For instance, if a student enjoys soccer, the exercise, social connections and accomplishments are part of Body, Accomplish and Social. 
She says connecting in small gatherings or virtually with groups, such as Hillel for college students, can be a good way to enjoy social connections. 
Oregon Hillel Executive Director Andy Gitelson and Greater Portland Hillel Executive Director Hannah Sherman shared the many ways Hillel is helping students feel connected in this stressful year.
“We are so grateful that the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland created the space and opportunity to engage with parents of college students to hear their concerns and questions about the time we are living in and the stresses and impact that COVID and remote learning is adding to families’ lives,” says Andy. “Even though most campuses have gone online, Hillels across the country are seeing increases in student activity, both virtually and where safely possible in person, as students are seeking opportunities for spiritual growth and connections with their peers.”
Hillels have all pivoted to focus on creating spaces for connecting students, building community, holistic wellness support and resources to enable students to celebrate and explore their Jewish identity in their own homes.  
“I’d encourage parents who have children on a college campus to reach out to that campus Hillel, so that we can reach out to their student to provide support, resources and of course a home-cooked Shabbat meal or fresh bowl of matzo ball soup,” says Andy.
For UO or OSU, contact Andy at or for Portland campuses Hannah at

Programs are confidential and not recorded so parents can feel free to share real world issues.
Nov. 10, 7 pm
Finding Balance: Mental Health Challenges for Kids and Familie

Hear from other families struggling with these issues and get tips for coping. Panelists: Dr. Allan Cordova, The Children’s Program; Dinah Gilburd, Jewish Family & Child Service; Rabbi Barry Cohen, community chaplain; and Mel Berwin. 

Dates to be Determined
Finding Balance for Parents of:

• Preschool: Panel: Dana Hepper from The Children’s Institute; Dinah Gilburd, LCSW, Jewish Family & Child Service; and Cory Willson, assistant director at Foundation School. 


•Middle school

•High school

•Special needs

• College Students: This follow-up to the Oct. 19 program will feature a panel including college administrators.

For more information, email Rachel Nelson, JFGP director of educational initiatives, at


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