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Responding To Problems With Prayer, School, Secular Music *


Schonbuch-Rabbi-Daniel

The principles of Relationship Theory (where the greater the relationship, the greater the ability parents have to connect to their teenager) can help address some of the key issues facing teenagers today including: problems concentrating during prayers, difficulty in school, listening to secular music, smoking, rude behavior and alcohol and drug abuse.

It is important to note, however, that the suggested solutions do not offer black and white answers for these problems; rather, they provide an overall strategy for parenting that focuses on some of the inner issues that often hide below the surface and may be the underlying cause of a teenager’s at-risk behavior.

 

Problems with Prayer

Scenario: Your teenager doesn’t like to pray and won’t go to synagogue.

Possible inner issues: Control, meaning, learning disabilities, individuality

Difficulty in prayer may be rooted in several underlying issues. One common cause is that praying in synagogue can become an issue of control, especially when teenagers feel forced to go pray with their parents and siblings. Prayer can be viewed by teenagers as another obligation or chore they have to perform to make their parents happy.

When teenagers find it difficult to pray, it may also point to an underlying attention disorder. Some teenagers simply have trouble concentrating for long periods and may say, “I hate shul.” or “It’s boring!” What they really mean is “I can’t sit for a long time” or “I’m crawling out of my skin because I don’t like being in group settings for a long time.”

Some teenagers stop praying because they don’t find prayer meaningful. And this may not be their fault. Unfortunately our schools often neglect to teach the “whys” of prayer. Many teenagers have grown up learning only about the obligations of communal prayer and have not developed an appreciation for the beauty, structure and meaning behind the words.

As alternatives to confronting teenagers on the issue of prayer, possible relationship-based strategies include:

· Having your teenager assessed for attention difficulties. · Studying with your teenager the meaning and symbolism behind prayer. · Empowering your teenager by offering him or her choices about where and when to pray. For instance, a different minyan may be more enjoyable. · Spending quality time alone with your teenager instead of relating to one another only during synagogue services and at family meals.

 

Difficulty In School

Scenario: A teenager is having trouble in school and is failing in one or more subjects.

Possible inner issues: Learning disabilities, control, individuality.

Few challenges are as frustrating and difficult to deal with as a teenager who is having trouble in school. Often parents become agitated when they receive a disheartening report card or a call from their teenager’s principal to discuss the teen’s behavior. The most important strategy parents can try to adopt in this situation is to resist the temptation to blame teachers, the school or their teenager but rather seek out the cause of their teenager’s difficulties in learning.

One possible cause for failure in school is an undetected learning disability. Teenagers who struggle with learning are especially vulnerable to feelings of depression and despair. Many experience the embarrassment, confusion and humiliation that go hand in hand with falling behind their peers in school. Behavioral and adjustment difficulties – from isolation or withdrawal to clowning or acting out – can mask less visible signs of learning difficulties. The following signs may also be clues that an individual is experiencing difficulties with learning:

· Having difficulty paying attention · Hiding, losing or avoiding schoolwork or homework · Being especially sensitive to criticism, mistakes or poor grades · Giving up easily or appearing poorly motivated · Showing anger and frustration when engaged in schoolwork, homework or similar settings · Having attendance problems or developing school-induced sickness · Avoiding schoolwork through over involvement in other activities

Parents, however, can become catalysts for change when they begin to address the key issues that are affecting their teenager’s performance. Relationship-based strategies include:

· Having your teenager evaluated for possible learning disabilities · Hiring tutors to supplement your teenager’s learning · Highlighting your teenager’s positive qualities · Working with your teenager’s teachers to utilize his or her unique interests and abilities · Empowering your teenager with healthy levels of control

 

Listening To Secular Music

Scenario: Your teenager likes listening to popular music on an mp3 player.

Possible inner issues: Control, individuality, lack of satisfying relationships.

Music is one of the most inspirational forms of fine art. In its rhythm, melody and its variety of sounds, music transmits many exciting feelings and sensations. Its power is in its ability to penetrate straight into a person’s soul and to manipulate a person’s feelings. Depending on its content, music can evoke the most elevated and noble feelings or produce quite the opposite by arousing self-destructive or impulsive feelings.

About the Author: Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, Marriage and Family Therapy, is an expert in marriage counseling, pre-marital education, and helping teens in crisis with offices in Flatbush, Cedarhurst, and Crown Heights. He is a certified PAIRS instructor, and trained as a Level 1, Emotionally Focused Therapist at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, and is a member of AASECT. He is the author of At Risk – Never Beyond Reach and First Aid For Jewish Marriages. To watch his free videos on marriage and parenting and for appointments visit: www.JewishMarriageSupport.com or call 646-428-4723


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