Families asked to save March 2 for Hopewell Valley’s Night Off

GUEST COLUMN

By Sheryl Stone
   The headlines in our community since the first of the year have been unsettling. Concerns about our children and families have been heightened and the answers to the questions we find ourselves struggling to explain are not always clear.
   A year ago the Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance’s School Sector, inspired by Hopewell Valley Central High School Guidance Director Fay Rappaport, discussed the possibility of making a statement to the community about the importance of family time.
   By now you have read letters to the editor, seen posters around town, driven under street banners in Pennington and Hopewell boroughs, and received a postcard with a sticker for your family calendar to mark the date for Hopewell Valley’s Night Off – Tuesday, March 2.
   Hopewell Valley’s Night Off is a communitywide initiative designed in response to the increasing demands of work and school on personal and family time. With the support of local school officials, sports leaders, parents, community and religious leaders, all sports practices, classes and homework will be canceled for this special March 2 event.
   Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld on his Web site: www.hyperparenting.com, puts it this way: "As thoughtful parents, we love our children deeply and want to do the best we can to give them a good start in life. But today’s world pressures us to shuttle our children from activity to activity, leaving little to no free time to just be a family that enjoys the pleasure of spending time together. The pressure to over-schedule is very hard to resist when it seems that every kid on the block is being groomed for success.
   But it is misleading:
   1. No scientific evidence exists that doing so many classes and extracurricular activities produces better, let alone superior, children who are destined to be high achievers. In fact, studies show that the variable that most predicted a good life was one good relationship.
   2. Recent research has actually connected this over-scheduled, pressured, stressful life to childhood and teen substance abuse."
   A recent Gallup Poll indicated that the number of families with children under 18 who were eating together at home seven nights a week has fallen from 37 percent in 1997 to 28 percent.
   Joseph Califano, president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, says: "There is no question that the more children have dinner with their parents or a parent, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use drugs."
   Supporting families is the most positive step we can take to build a healthy community. Fortunately leadership in our schools, municipal government, businesses, faith communities and community groups agree and have passed resolutions, rescheduled meetings, and contributed funds to make our first Hopewell Valley’s Night Off a reality.
   We hope you have been able to clear your calendar and that you and your family are looking forward to an unexpected gift of time to relax together in the ways you find meaningful. Enjoy your night off and if you or a member of your family is willing, let us know what your plans are by e-mailing us at: hopewellvalleymunicipalalliance@hopewelltwp.org. We can’t wait to hear from you!
   Members of the committee that planned for the March 2 event include: Cherie Campbell, Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance; Dick Fitzpatrick, Stony Brook principal; Stephanie Gray, YMCARE director; Sarah Gregg, Pennington Presbyterian Church; the Rev. Emily Griffin, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church; Deanna Harrell, HVYMCA executive director; Michael Hritz, Hopewell Valley Recreation Department director; Nick Lorenzetti, HVRSD superintendent; Denise Nichols, Parents’ Council; Fay Rappaport, HVCHS director of guidance; and Janet Watson, Timberlane nurse.