Physician-mom knows family, parenting issues firsthand
As a mother of four boys, Dr. Deborah Gilboa knows all about the ups and downs of parenting.
She also knows how helpful it is for parents to have a resource to reach out to when they have questions. Having served as such a resource for years, she's now working with dozens of other experts to bring all the answers to one place.
Gilboa, a family physician practicing in Squirrel Hill and a renowned parenting expert, is the spokesperson for the Pittsburgh Parenting Expo, premiering March 8 and 9 at the Monroeville Convention Center.
“Parenting is an art and a science” says Gilboa, whose website www.AskDrG.com includes tips and videos. “Kids can surprise us, challenge us, enrich us, confuse us. You will leave with answers to your questions and feel more normal seeing other people asking the same questions.”
The expo will include 35 speakers tackling topics from preparing your child for kindergarten to talking to them about sex and everything in between. Local and national companies will offer parenting-related products and services, and entertainment and education stations will keep kids busy throughout the day.
Each session runs about 30 minutes. Participants will leave each with three tips on how to tackle the topics, including potty training, nutrition, money, homework and ADHD.
Many of the speakers are from the Pittsburgh region, leaving participants with local contacts to call on in the future, Gilboa says.
Ernie Dettore, play-content expert and founder of the PLAY Academy at the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children, says the event will serve as a “wonderful opportunity” for families to spend time together and gather information. He'll speak about the importance of creative play, which has become less common as society continues to put an emphasis on academics and work.
“Children don't play outside anymore,” he says. “A lot of times, they're participating in organized events adults send the child to. We've taken away opportunities for children to learn to negotiate and organize.”
Wendy Hardy, assistant professor of early childhood at University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, will discuss ways to prepare children for kindergarten.
“Parents of preschoolers or pre-kindergartners often don't know what to expect,” says Hardy, who interviewed teachers about things they'd like parents to know. “I'll be giving them simple ideas of things they can do at home.”
The topics slated for discussion are things all parents can relate to, Gilboa says.
“We tend to think, ‘No one else does this. I'm the only one with a messy house. I'm the only one who forgot to pay a bill,'” Gilboa says. “It's our inclination as humans to think everybody else has their lives together. Parents love to hear other parents' concerns. It creates a sense of community, and they can have a sigh of relief.”
From performer to physician
Gilboa's path to national recognition as a parenting expert started in the School of Drama at Carnegie Mellon University. The Bronx native was raised in Chicago, graduated from CMU in 1992, then went on to land a position at The Second City improv theater, where stars such as Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell got their starts.
Gilboa also was volunteering as an EMT, an experience that helped her realize her desire to help people in a hands-on way. She returned to Pittsburgh to attend medical school at Pitt and has practiced medicine for the last 14 years.
Part of the mission of the Squirrel Hill Health Center, where she's based, is focused on public health. Gilboa often gave talks in the community and was frequently asked for parenting advice. She now speaks at schools and conferences around the world and is the author of three pocket-size booklets with tips on how to raise resilient, respectful and responsible children. Her full-size book, “How to Get the Behavior You Want Without Being the Parent You Hate,” will be published in the fall.
Her theater background helps her speak in front of large crowds, as she's often asked to do at conferences and universities around the world. While their questions vary — from “How do I keep my child from being sarcastic?” to “At what age should I stop letting my child see me naked?” — most parents have the same goal of doing right by their children, she says.
“All parents want to give their kids the best shot,” she says.
She and husband, Dr. Noam Gilboa, an emergency-medicine physician, are parents to Ari, 11, Nadav, 9, Oren, 7, and Gavri, 5. They are fortunate to be able to raise them “the Pittsburgh way,” she says, meaning they have a tight network of family close by who help. Gilboa and her husband were camp counselors in their youth, which has helped in their raising of four boys, she says.
“We like a certain level of chaos, and our boys are happy to provide that,” she says with a laugh.
She most admires her boys' adventurous spirits and insightful nature, she says. They also embody a generosity instilled in them by their parents. The family travels frequently, often for Gilboa's work, and each trip involves an aspect of community service.
“All six of us really love to travel, but we wanted to be sure the boys don't think everyone gets to do it,” she says.
A recent trip to Disney World included a day spent at a teen-pregnancy center where the boys cleaned high chairs, folded pamphlets and sorted donations after hours. They've worked in an orphanage in Thailand. They've also given back locally, making stuffed animals for Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh patients, throwing a Christmas party for kids at Hosanna House and helping out with bingo at the Southwestern Pennsylvania Veterans Hospital.
Oren uses words like “awesome,” “great” and “loving” when he describes his mom and dad, who say their approach to parenting is all about consistency.
“They know what we expect of them, and they know what they can count on us for,” says Noam Gilboa.
Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or firstname.lastname@example.org.