MARBLEHEAD – The well-known youth development expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa – also known as Dr. G – is bringing her take to the North Shore on how the pandemic could lead to more empowered and resilient kids.
Gilboa will be the featured speaker as Epstein Hillel School’s Friends of the Hillel Library honors the school’s resilient faculty and staff with an outdoor summer soirée on the plaza on Aug. 26 at 6 p.m.
Amy Gold, head of Epstein Hillel School, first met Dr. G at the 2019 Prizmah Jewish day school conference.
“I attended two of her sessions and was extremely impressed by her wisdom, humor, and practicality. In one session, she spoke about how to help parents and students see the power of failure and in another she spoke about how to protect students’ mental health given how stressed they are. Since 2019, I’ve followed her blog, and I know that she will be an engaging and dynamic speaker for the parents, faculty, and staff attending the Friends of the Hillel Library celebration,” she said.
Gilboa, a co-host for “The Doctors” who is seen regularly on “Today” and “Good Morning America,” and whose TEDx talk is entitled, “Doing too much is good for you,” was born in the Bronx and lives in Pittsburgh. Also, she’s a second-generation American Jew; her grandparents were refugees from Russia and Ukraine.
Growing up in the Chicago area, she attended public school, Jewish camp and was a first Saturday morning bat mitzvah at her Conservative synagogue. Gilboa, a board certified family physician also happens to be an alumna of Chicago’s Second City Improv Theater. She’s also a graduate of University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine and Carnegie Mellon University.
She’s a mother of four boys, and by the time she gives her talk in Marblehead, her oldest son will have made Aliyah after high school and be serving as a lone soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces.
Gilboa talks about how stress, rather than being a sign of failure and something to avoid, is actually something that can be embraced and used as a tool for moving ahead.
The conventional wisdom is that kids are being harmed by what they are going through during the coronavirus pandemic, having dealt with school shutdowns, falling behind in academics, missing friends and dealing with remote learning.
But Gilboa has a different take on what kids have been going through, though she is in no way minimizing what students have experienced. Research, she said, shows that rates of mental distress and mental illness are on the rise among kids.
“They were rising before the pandemic; the pandemic has made it worse. That’s absolutely true,” Gilboa said.
The top reason kids were stressed before the pandemic was over their academic performance, with kids from affluent households with two college-educated parents suffering the most. “And, now that stressor, that problem has dropped to the No. 2 spot, and social isolation has come up to No. 1,” Gilboa said.
For example, before the pandemic, social media was more of a stressor on young people. “Now it’s a little bit more even in its ability to alleviate some of the social isolation,” she said.
“In my experience, what doesn’t kill you makes you miserable,” said Gilboa, who questions the wisdom that by going through hard times, we get stronger. She said there are people who go through traumatic events and continue to struggle.
But now, kids’ mental health is on society’s radar in a way it wasn’t before the pandemic.
“This is also an incredible opportunity in two ways,” she said. “One, a way of awareness, meaning we have entered into a national if not global conversation about kids mental health.” Educators, parents, coaches, youth group advisers, and many adults are watching kids to see if they are OK.
“We are no longer assuming that they are OK and only if we see something disturbing will we look for a problem,” Gilboa said.
In addition, most people who suffer trauma find it isolating, Gilboa said.
“So, when these kids experience their next upheaval and disruption, it’s likely to be a more personal and isolated event, likely to be a death in the family or a job loss or an opportunity loss,” Gilboa said. This will affect a much smaller nexus of people around them.
“And they will have, if we use just a little bit of intentionality now, they will have a set of strategies and knowledge that they would not have had if this had not happened,” Gilboa said.
The event featuring Dr. Gilboa and honoring Epstein Hillel School’s faculty and staff as recipients of the Edith Bloch Award takes place on Aug. 26 at 6 p.m. at Epstein Hillel School, Six Community Road. The event is open to the community at no charge. RSVP by Aug. 19 by calling 781-639-2880 or emailng Deryn Pressman-Mashin.