‘You Will Walk Out with a Game Plan’: Panel Discussion on ‘Building Family Resilience’ To Be Held Feb. 8 at Town Hall


Most everyone is affected in some way by problematic behaviors such as substance use or abuse, anxiety or depression, according to one local expert, and adolescence is in and of itself a period of developing an identity.

During that time, adolescents move away from their parents as guides to who they are “and look more to their peers for that feedback and developing their role,” according to Tracey Masella, manager of the adolescent transitional living program at Silver Hill Hospital.

“That creates a lot of dissonance in a family. Some parents are not ready for that and often, adolescents in this process of identity formation will try out a lot of behaviors that are risky, to see what fits. It’s a time of great confusion for families as they try to navigate their kids moving away from them—as they have to do, and should do—but sometimes that creates a lot of stress and anxiety.”

As part of a panel to be held next Wednesday, Masella will offer tools and strategies for parents and adolescents seeking to get through this difficult period.

Building Family Resilience in a World of Booze, Bongs and Benzos” is a free and will be held 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 8 in the large meeting room on the second floor of Town Hall. Presented by the League of Women Voters of New Canaan in partnership with the town Department of Human Services, it is designed as a follow-up to a well-attended and effective panel discussion one year ago that centered on substance use and abuse in New Canaan, especially heroin and other opioids.

Joining Masella as panelists are Kathy Brown of KM Brown Consulting, Dr. Frank Bartolomeo of the Southfield Center for Development and Darien-based pediatrician Dr. Jamie Murray.

Addressing peer pressure, self-esteem, adult role models and setting boundaries, the panelists will offer tips on what and how to say the kinds of things that help build resilience, through their own presentations and live role-playing.

“You will walk out with a game plan,” said Miki Porta, a league member who helped organize the panel. “It’s worth your while to come because you will walk out with a few action items that you can try out right away, and that is really different and useful. It’s not just learning and thinking things over.”

Brown said there is a “real need” for an open forum where trained professionals are addressing a situation that faces so many local families.

“It is something we can do for our kids and nurture in our kids. I keep saying in the prevention world—which I am very involved in—we teach, we educate, we scare them a little bit, we use logic, scientific evidence. But the bottom line is that ultimately it is going to be the child’s choice if they go to a party or go off to college, it will be their choice. So if we can arm them, there might be a more positive outcome.”

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