Hashem is everywhere; the trick is to make Him part of whatever type of activity–music, art, science, nature–naturally engages your child.
Empathize, Don’t Moralize
“Kids going through a difficult time need more than just platitudes,” says Rabbi Hochbaum. When tragedy strikes–such as the death or illness of a loved one–set aside any expectations about what your child should or should not say or do.
Think of your own emunah journey and how you may have found comfort during a difficult time, suggests Rabbi Hochbaum. Then talk about that experience with your child. Doing the mitzvos even when you’re angry at G-d is part of how we maintain our emunah, he says. So support your child’s efforts to do the right thing, even if it seems like he’s just going through the motions.
If your child is feeling beaten down by disappointment (“Why didn’t I win the contest?” “Why did it have to rain and ruin our trip?”) try a Dayenu exercise: Have her list all the blessings Hashem has bestowed, big and small, for which hakoras hatov is due. Use the analogy of bitter-tasting medicine (or ouch-inducing shots) to explain the ways of Hashem: What feels bad to us now can make us better in the long run.
Ultimately, even kids need to realize the limits of our understanding in this world. As Rabbi Horowitz puts it, “we’re never getting 100% of everything.” Let us hope that the emunah and bitachon we instill in our children will bridge the gap between their finite comprehension and their faithfulness to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.Ziona Greenwald
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