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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘LMHC’

What Happens To The Children?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

The marriage is ending.

Let’s start with some facts. In the general population, 50 percent of marriages end in divorce within 10 years. Sixty percent of divorces occur among couples between the ages of 25-39. More than a million children are affected by divorce per year. Half of these children will grow up in families where the parents stay angry and resentful toward each other.

Unhappy parents have a hard time raising happy children. Children of divorce have higher rates of substance abuse, conduct disorders, depression, interpersonal issues and problems in school.

In the Orthodox world the figures aren’t quite that high – but they are accelerating rapidly. Years ago a couple got divorced for “extreme” reasons: domestic violence, child abuse, sexual abuse, infidelity, or untreatable mental illness. Now it’s those reasons and more. Couples get divorced because they are too impatient or intolerant or not emotionally connected enough to see crises through and learn the skills that can help them have a really good relationship and a really good marriage.

Landmark studies like the ones done by Judith Wallerstein and others indicate that years after a divorce both men and women are still quite angry with their former spouses. It is important to remember that anger often is the manifest, or outer, layer of emotion that is being used to cover up underlying feelings of sadness, pain, shame and despair.

This anger can be dealt with in many ways. Some turn their anger inward, causing depression. Many use their anger to bitterly malign the former spouse. Often the goal is to destroy any possible relationship the ex might have with the children, the rationale being that the ex-spouse is not worthy of a parent-child relationship.

Even in the best of circumstances – what we might call an “amicable” divorce –children will be affected in a highly emotional and significant way.

The goal of a “good” divorce is for parents to communicate effectively, without bitterness and rancor, and not let the children get caught in the middle. Their commitment to their children should fuel their energies and enable them to work together to help their children cope and adjust to the changes brought on by the divorce.

Unfortunately, more often than not we see maligning, accusations, spitefulness and deep anger. This creates an environment for the children that is fraught with instability, despair, confusion and frustration and that can only lead to feelings of low self-esteem and poor adjustment in all areas of living – psychologically, socially, academically and behaviorally.

In other words, the negative reactions and behaviors of the parents are what prevent the children from coping and adjusting properly, not the divorce itself.

This fundamental and crucial concept is difficult for parents to digest and internalize. Why? Because it requires them to own their feelings, to own their behaviors and to realize it is their behavior, not just the behavior of the other parent, that can be harmful to the child.

Helping Ourselves,
Helping Our Children

Several years ago I spoke to a group of parents concerning “doing it all and self-care.” Consider the following scenario: You are on a plane, awaiting takeoff. The flight attendant begins her (or his) safety and security announcements. At one point she notes the oxygen mask stored above and states that if oxygen is necessary, a mask will drop down. She describes how the mask must be placed properly over nose and mouth. And then she emphasizes that if you are traveling with a small child, put the mask on yourself first, before you place the mask on your child. Because you can’t care properly for your child if you haven’t properly cared for yourself.

Parents who are divorcing or divorced need to take care of themselves so that they will have the positive energy to care for others, particularly their children, who need them more than ever at this time. Some ways include:

• Support Groups. Hearing that you are not alone and that your situation is not entirely unique can be supportive and helpful. Sharing experiences, and giving and getting advice to and from others, can be nurturing and empowering.

• Friends and Family. Allow yourself to get the support and empathy you need by allowing friends and family members to pitch in and help you, whether by babysitting, taking your child to shul on Shabbos, or going out for some relaxation time together. It is best to choose family members who can be strong with you and for you, who can respect your privacy and understand their boundaries.

Internet Challenges: Blessings In Disguise?

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

I understand the feelings of the men who gathered at Citi Field to proclaim their united position against the Internet. The problem, as we know, is the proximity to filth that we can introduce into our lives whenever we open a browser window. Those who gathered at Citi Field want us to junk our computers because we tend to gravitate toward what is forbidden—and in huge, heartbreaking numbers.

But is this the best solution?

Chava, after all, ate the apple in spite of her desire not to. She even put up a geder, a fence, for herself. In effect, she threw away her computer: If you recall, it was her idea to tell the snake that G-d had told her not to “touch” the tree (Bereshis 3:3). She meant well – but she failed.


Certainly, the answer is not to stop building gedarim. Rather, it seems that we must think clearly and deeply as to what, exactly, Hashem wants of us when we build them. Only then could we be legitimate in saying, “This geder came from HaKodosh Baruch Hu.” But how are we to know what Hashem wants?

Allow me to share a personal story for a moment, and you may see where I’m going. When I was a child, my parents could not afford yeshiva tuition and reluctantly put me in public school. When I was in 6th grade we visited the United Nations. Now, every child in my class – and my teacher – was Jewish. Nevertheless, we went to lunch at a non-Kosher burger restaurant. Now, I was basically a goody-goody. I was respectful of adults; I certainly did not challenge them. And I was hungry. I have always had a healthy appetite. But I stood outside. I would not go in.

The teacher came begging me, to no avail. I “knew” – don’t ask me how – that going in to that treif (non-kosher) place was wrong. I had never heard of the concept of ma’aris ayin (not to look inappropriate). Yet, at all of 11 years old I “knew,” and I went hungry.

Where did I get this from without a yeshiva education? I don’t recall my parents saying anything about it. Obviously, they weren’t thinking about this possibility or they would have sent me on the trip with my own brown bag!

But I have the answer. Looking back on my childhood, I can tell you precisely: My parents, z”l, taught me to love G-d with all my heart. It’s that simple. And that complicated. I can remember a bright spring day when the weather was warm and my father and I happily set out for the park. “Take off your shoes, Debbele,” he suggested, “and feel how Hashem makes the grass so soft and cool on a warm day.” I did and I delighted in its coolness, privately thanking Hashem for His brilliant creation.

My father took very literally the words of the Shema which require that we speak of Hashem when we get up and when we walk on the way and when we lie down. My father brought the Holy One into our conversations all the time, and in doing so, made Him an integral part of my life. I would not want to disappoint Him or lose my connection to Him. And my father wasn’t alone. My husband and I passed down this love and constancy of Hashem to our children and we see the fruit of our efforts when our grandchildren speak. I have no doubt that they would pass the same test that I did.

How does a parent do that? The first step, of course, is for the parent to examine his own heart. When he davens, is he rushing to get it over quickly or do the words speak to him? Does he feel Hashem’s support when things are tough? Is he connected? Only when the answers to these questions are favorable does he have something concrete to pass down to his children.

You see it’s all about internals, not externals. The gedarim we create for ourselves must come from inside our hearts. They are not about whether we may touch the tree but whether we care more about eating the fruit than connecting with G-d.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/internet-challenges-blessings-in-disguise/2012/06/21/

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