Rivers Hosts McLean Parent Workshop: “Building Connections”

The Rivers School hosted the third and final parent/caregiver session of the Rivers|McLean Partnership Program on May 9 in Kraft Dining Hall. These workshops were introduced during the 2021–2022 academic year thanks to the generosity of the Bartlett Family and the Bartlett Family Fund for Wellness. Part of a partnership between Rivers and McLean Hospital’s School Consultation Service, they are designed to foster and normalize conversations about mental health and provide useful tools for parents/caregivers to utilize at home with their children. The theme of this session, “Building Connections,” focused on the challenges of navigating difficult conversations with kids, discussing mental health within a family, and learning the skills that adults need to make these conversations with their children productive.
In this workshop, McLean clinician Daniel Crump, LICSW, walked attendees through multiple facets of connection and insights on how to nurture and build these important ties between adults and their children—especially crucial during those years when it seems like kids would rather not talk or share. 

At the most elementary level, said Crump, connection is a basic human need that helps to regulate and reduce the intensity of emotions. He noted that connection also moves us forward through difficult times and ultimately builds a sense of self worth. Crump asked participants to think about behaviors that get in the way of connection. The audience provided a number of answers: “Distractions,” said one attendee. “Paying minimal attention to the other person,” offered another. “Not listening” and “Trying to change another’s point of view” were also among the responses.  

Always keeping the discussion grounded in real examples for parents and caregivers, Crump introduced the concept of relationship mindfulness as a way of “paying attention on purpose, and without judgment to the other person and the relationship.” He went on to define what constitutes true empathy: “Empathy is slowing down and attempting to connect with another person.” And he emphasized the importance of connecting “without distraction,” allowing one to practice “relationship mindfulness.” 

The session continued with conversations around what has worked for some adults. A mother of four—herself one of four children—spoke about a family tradition that involved her dad taking each child on a solo trip. She tried this with her own children, one by one, and was amazed at how this undistracted connection led to conversations that would not have occurred otherwise. 

The Rivers School thanks the Bartlett family and the Rivers|McLean partnership for their teacher training, parent workshops, and student-facing services throughout the year, all of which strengthen Rivers’s ability to address mental health challenges more broadly. 

About the Rivers|McLean Partnership
The Rivers School’s multi-year partnership with McLean Hospital’s School Consultation Service (SCS), made possible by the vision and generosity of the Bartlett family, benefits our community at every level. This partnership allows us to offer professional development for faculty and staff throughout the year, wellness skill-building workshops for our students, and a series of parent-education sessions. Together, McLean and Rivers are committed to eliminating mental-health stigma and obstacles to effective mental-health care—obstacles that can and do prevent students from equitably accessing the full Rivers experience.