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Joseph: I wish I could get out of it, but it’s not easy to switch at my age.

I realized that at this point I had found a small opening that perhaps would help us to explore their relationship in connection to their son’s delinquency.  Sarah had mentioned that her husband lost his job about three years ago. I wondered if this also had a significant impact on Moshe.

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            DS: You mentioned before that the problems at work started about three years before.  When did Moshe start having trouble in school?

Sarah: About two years ago.

DS: Is it possible that some of the work stress started spilling over into Moshe’s life just after Joseph lost his job?

Sarah: Maybe, but I’m not sure.

DS: Is it possible that the strain on the family became greater after Joseph lost his job, and this is the reason that you also are not getting along so well anymore?

Sarah: It’s possible.  Two years ago I started working again, and since then I have been unable to give the kids the kind of attention I used to give them.

During that session, I was able to refocus their energy from solving Moshe’s problem to solving their marital discord.  Over the next few sessions, we began exploring the way Relationship Theory could help their marriage.  We talked about spending quality time together, understanding each other’s needs, and reducing critical and destructive language.

After six months of working with this family, I began to see changes in the way they related to their son.  Moshe began to feel more comfortable in their home and was more willing to give school a try and focus on his studies.  In general, Moshe’s family was typical of the families I see with teens-at-risk.

Often some type of emotional imbalance exists in the family and eventually one or more children begin to exhibit signs of distress.  When such symptoms of distress crop up, the best approach is to seek out professional advice and find ways to improve the relationship with the teenager.

Resolving conflict between the parents is a positive step that parents can take to help support the emotional growth of their children.  A good marital or family counselor will be able to break habitual patterns of triangling, and relieve the emotional distress that may be contributing to a teenager’s at-risk behavior.

First Aid Relationship Tips

  • Explore your relationship with your spouse and check for any unresolved issues that may be affecting your teenager.
  • Avoid triangling and using your teenager to communicate with your spouse.
  • When necessary, seek professional advice on how to improve your marriage.

Next week, part 22 – Managing Money Together

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is the Executive Director of Shalom Task Force and author of a “First Aid for Jewish Marriages.” To order a copy, visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com. For more information about Shalom Task Force, please visit www.shalomtaskforce.org. You can e-mail questions to him at rabbischonbuch@yahoo.com.

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