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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Time Magazine on Attachment Parenting

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Time magazine’s cover story about attachment parenting has garnered a great deal of attention. Clearly, the shock value of showing an attractive young mother breast-feeding a child nearly four years of age was enough to excite worldwide conversation. No doubt this was their intention, and in that sense, it worked. The story inside focused on a controversial theory put forward by Dr. William Sears about attachment parenting. In a nutshell, attachment parenting argues that modern Western parents have forgotten how to parent naturally. His theory includes the hypothesis that nature dictates that we can never be too close to our children: we ought to carry them in a sling attached to our body as much as possible; they ought to sleep in our bed almost constantly; we should never allow them to cry for fear of damaging them psychologically with abandonment issues; we ought to breast-feed them until they are at least toddlers and generally remove any kind of division or separation between us and our babies. Dr. Sears’s theories were put forward in a mega best-selling book called The Baby Book.

But, respectfully, I have significant questions about the theory. First, there is the issue of the marriage itself. I have counseled countless married couples, and I have frequently seen how, when a child is born, the marriage can potentially be disrupted. A child is supposed to enrich and further develop a family. We parents dare not raise children in a manner that undermines our own marriages. That is not good for husbands and wives and it’s also not good for children. A husband should not feel that he has lost his wife to their baby. A husband should not find reason to become jealous of his own child. But just imagine the feeling of any husband who has become a new father, seeing his wife now breast-feeding the baby for most of the day, his marital bed – previously the domain of only him and his wife – now shared with the child, and his wife responding to each and every cry of their new baby with comforting cuddles and loving embraces. That husband might just feel that the child has usurped his place.

To be sure, many will say that a husband who has this feeling is being selfish and immature. He should get over it, as the interests of the child come first. And yes, we can criticize this husband as being infantile. How could any father be jealous of their children?

But I counsel couples, and it happens. And while a man must be mature enough to resist this feeling, it’s also true that even after having children our marriages should flourish and not falter.

I would appreciate if the advocates of attachment parenting please address my concern which I raise for the benefit of marriage.

And then there is the issue of intimacy. How is it possible for married couples to have a passionate love life with children in the marital bed? Don’t parents need to have their own private space where they are husband-and-wife and not just mom and dad? A Harvard University study shows that the sex life of a couple often diminishes by 74% in the first year after a baby is born. I can imagine that for those parents practicing attachment parenting and allowing their children to sleep in the marital bed on a nightly basis, that percentage would probably be even higher. While I may be wrong, I can imagine that their intimate life might disappear almost entirely. In the Jewish religion it is regarded as inappropriate for a couple to be intimate when a child is with his or her parents in the marital bed. How could it possibly be positive for a marriage or for a child to have parents growing less intimate as a result of the birth of baby?

There are, of course, responses to each of these challenges offered by the proponents of attachment parenting, which has been brought to my attention by my friend Donna Tabas. Regarding nutrition, they remind us that infants under the age of six months who are exclusively breastfed need unlimited access to the breast to optimize the mother/infant breastfeeding diad to provide optimal milk supplies, especially during growth spurts. They point out that prolonged nursing and child-led weaning which extends nursing into and even through toddlerhood is, they argue, biologically normal, as evidenced by the average weaning ages worldwide, and that it is only Western modern society that has redefined weaning in the first year as socially normal.

More than Moody – Understanding Adolescent Depression

Monday, January 9th, 2012

The teenage years are no picnic for both the teenager and the parents. Parents of young children yearn for these days, which they assume will be carefree child-rearing, but are rudely introduced to a challenging parental time. Teenagers assume they are halfway onto adulthood and expect adolescents to be time of freedom but soon find it instead to be a time filled with of a lot of demands and responsibility. Teenagers are bombarded with pressures from many different sources. Between school, family, friends, and even from within, the pressure is constantly building up in a teenager. Wanting to look one’s best, reflect well on one’s family, get good grades, and be a loyal friend are but a few of the pressures that teenagers face. Sometimes such pressures can be too much for a teenager to handle. When this happens, it can lead to depression.

About 20 percent of teens will experience teen depression before they reach adulthood. Depression can affect a teen regardless of gender, social background, income level, race, or school. While teenage girls report suffering from depression more often than boys, boys are less likely to seek help or recognize that they are suffering from depression.

When a teenager is depressed, common symptoms like anger, irritability, and moodiness are often downplayed. Parents are in denial that something is actually wrong, and may attribute long lasting unhappiness to being a “typical teenager.” It can be very hard for a parent to believe that their child is depressed. If you begin to notice a pattern about your teen’s behavior, don’t be quick to dismiss it. If something “doesn’t feel right,” go with your instincts and deal with it. Try to figure out how long it’s been going on, how extreme it is, and admit the possibility that your teen is depressed.

Warning Signs · Trouble with school and concentration. Depressed teens often find it difficult to concentrate on schoolwork or stay interested in hobbies they once enjoyed. Depressed teens don’t “care” anymore; therefore, it is not uncommon for a depressed, formerly good student to get into trouble, skip classes, or let grades slip.

· Isolation or changes in relationships. Making friends and keeping them takes effort. In an attempt to reduce the demands and pressures upon them, depressed teens will begin to spend more time alone, keep fewer relationships, and pull away from their families.

· Unexplained illnesses. Emotional pain can wreak havoc on the body, especially when it is unexpressed. Depressed teens complain of headaches, stomachaches, and menstrual pain. When a physical exam from your child’s doctor doesn’t reveal a medical problem, don’t overlook the possibility that their unexplained symptoms may be a cry for help with their depression.

· Extreme habit changes. Depression may lead to dramatic changes in everyday activities. A depressed teen might sleep all day or not at all, eat excessively or stop eating entirely, or spend endless hours watching TV or playing games on the internet. Lifestyle changes are not unusual in an adolescent, but when they are drastic, they can also signal something much larger.

· Substance Use – The use of drugs and alcohol is often the result of adolescent experimentation, but substance abuse can also be a sign that your child is depressed or unhappy and using substances as means of self-medicating. When the depression is left untreated, the substance abuse can escalate into an addiction and become a problem in its own right.

Just because teenagers spend most of their day at school and with friends, that doesn’t mean that parents can’t have a major impact on their psyche. Those few hours with the people who love them most can make all the difference.

· Treat the problem – not the symptom. For a depressed teen, being disrespectful and acting out are symptoms of feeling out of balance and unhappy inside. These teens are extra sensitive to parental reactions. When parents react with harsh lectures, yelling, expressions of disappointment, and aggravation, it makes depressed teenagers feel like a failure and often even more depressed. While a parent should never condone negative behavior, it is important to keep in mind that the behavior itself is only half the story.

· Communicate without judgment. Your teen needs someone she trusts more than ever. Most depressed teens feel completely alone and are embarrassed by what they are feeling, so build them up and let them know you are there for them. Oftentimes, teens don’t try to communicate and connect because they are afraid they will have trouble explaining what they are feeling and get flustered. Encourage your child to talk to you. If he’s willing to talk, try your best to listen in a non-judgmental manner that conveys understanding and empathy. You can also encourage your teen to write in a journal. Writing can be extremely therapeutic. It is an opportunity to sort out feelings without the worry of being judged.

Raising More Tolerant Children

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

All responsible leaders in our community have roundly condemned the recent violence in Beit Shemesh and Meah Shearim. Even the Eida HaCharedis, which is the umbrella group of the anti-Zionist Yerushalmi kehilla, criticized the actions of the “Sirikim” (zealots) who are generating much of the mayhem, stating that they are a radical fringe group of several dozen radical families.

What is becoming increasingly apparent from reviewing posts on Jewish blogs and the hundreds of e-mails I’ve received over the past few days is that there is a huge divide between those who decry the violence in unequivocal terms and those who offer mitigating circumstances to fully or partially explain the poor behavior.

Since I began writing columns for The Jewish Press promoting tolerance and decrying violence of any kind, many people have told me, “You are American; you just don’t understand what battles haredi Israelis face with the secular Jews.”

Well, it is my tefillah that we never come to think that violence under any circumstance is acceptable. We can neither condone it nor justify it – in the same way we would never excuse murder or child abuse. Violence hurts the victims, but far worse, it corrupts the souls of the perpetrators.

Thirty years of dealing with teens at risk and families in crisis gives one a pretty good feel for which families will emerge whole from the challenges that compelled them to seek help. One of the greatest predictors of success is the attitude of family members. In the initial meeting, those who say things like “We all made mistakes and we are committed to working things out,” almost always get through their crisis. But folks who fail to look inward and say things like “We raised three perfect children and the fourth one is ruining our lives,” will rarely see improvement until their attitude changes.

We are doing ourselves and our children a terrible disservice – and will be sowing the bitter seeds of future episodes like the ones that have been making headlines in Israel – if we avoid the grueling introspection and cheshbon hanefesh that a crisis of this magnitude requires, and instead blame all the mayhem on the secular press and the ongoing struggle between the secular and haredi communities.

In a magazine interview a while back, Rabbi Shmuel Papenheim, a former spokesperson for the Eidah, lamented that the elders of his kehilla have no control over the Sirikim.

What was most striking, however, was the feeling one got from reading the article that in his view the evolution of the Sirikim into such a destructive force was a natural disaster like an earthquake rather than an inevitable outgrowth of tolerating violence under certain circumstances.

The Sifri (Midrashic commentary) in Devarim (343) notes that when Hashem revealed Himself to give the Torah, He first went to the children of Eisav and asked them if they would accept it. They replied that they could not do so because the Torah says, “You shall not murder,” and Eisav’s father Yitzchak gave him the blessing of “Al charbicha tichyeh,” by your sword shall you live (Bereishis 27:40).

Our great rebbi, Rav Avrohom Pam, zt”l, who lived every moment of his life pursuing peace and harmony, asked, “How can we possibly think Yitzchak blessed his son Eisav that he be successful in killing people?”

Rebbi explained that Yitzchak’s blessing was for Eisav to “live by the sword” by effectively hunting and by defending himself when attacked in battle. However, since his daily bread came through bloodshed, he and his children became desensitized to killing to the point where it would be inconceivable for them to accept a Torah that forbid the taking of human life.

If the “blessed” actions of Eisav had such a corrosive effect on him and his family members, how much more so is the moral compass of children shredded by listening to adults speak about others in hateful terms, or even worse watching them engaging in violence for “good” causes.

Truth be told, we all need to improve how we get along with those who come from different backgrounds. Upon the advice of a reader, I opened a thread on our website (www.kosherjewishparenting.com; see “Increasing K’vod Shamayim”) inviting people to make suggestions on what we can do to help mitigate the terrible chillul Hashem and to help raise more tolerant and respectful children. We invite you to join the dialogue and hope it will continue to help us all raise more tolerant children steeped in genuine ahavas Yisrael.

Earlier this week I shared a beautiful insight from Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky, zt”l, with my talmidim in Yeshiva Darchei Noam that might be appropriate for us to use as a springboard for discussion with our children and grandchildren this Shabbos.

The final charge of Yaakov Avinu to his gathered sons, as recorded in this week’s parshah, is referred to as the Birchos (blessings of) Yaakov – even though many of them seem to be describing attributes of his children rather than blessings. Reb Yaakov suggests that the greatest blessing and gift a parent can give his or her children is to explain to them their unique strengths and weaknesses – treating them as individuals and celebrating their diversity.

The Art Of Good Communication

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Whenever I speak at a shul or event I’m usually asked what I think are the vital aspects of good communication, and by implication, what makes for bad communication. When asked, I include five components of good communication.

Good communication in marriage is respectful.

In a healthy marriage couples avoid what I call “disrespectful judgments.” Sarcasm, ridicule, judgmental statements and accusations, and put downs fit into this category. Good communication avoids all such disrespect. This is another way of saying that good communication is qualitative. Just listen to couples talking to each other. Do you hear condescension or sarcastic responses to honest statements and questions? Do you hear one partner make fun of the other’s mispronunciations or poor grammar? Do you hear a spouse berating or criticizing the other’s choices or decisions? Do you hear one spouse trying to intimidate the other into submission? Do you observe eye-rolling in responses to honest thoughts from the other? Now, analyze the way you talk to your spouse? Is your communication respectful, or does it show grave disrespect?

Good communication in marriage is quantitative.

Most couples engage in meaningful conversation less than 15 minutes per week. Two-income families trying to enable the children to participate in every available recreational activity only makes a viable solution more difficult to discover. The problem is not insurmountable, however, as long as we take advantage of multi-tasking.

Good conversation can occur while participating in other activities. Talk while taking a walk, when working around the house together, when conducting family meetings, and while driving together to shul, the grocery store, or a shiur. Couples intent on quantitative as well as qualitative communication seize every possible moment to talk respectfully with one another.

Good communication in marriage is a two-way street.

While effective, respectful talking is essential to good communication, respectful listening is also vital. Bad communication begins with one spouse dominating the conversation, but the listener can also ensure bad communication. A lack of eye contact, negative facial gestures, or disengaged body language also stymies good communication.

Watch a couple at the airport or in the food court at a shopping mall talk to one another. Does one spouse dominate the conversation? Does he interrupt his spouse when she tries to get in a few words of self-defense or alternate viewpoint? Does the dominant voice refuse to really listen? If so, this conversation is not a two-way street and is doomed to be at best, poor communication.

Good communication in marriage probes for more insight.

No matter how well conceived and how well stated, most listeners fail to grasp the full meaning of the speaker, especially the subtle nuances. The only way to overcome the unnecessary miscues in conversation is to ask questions. To maintain good communication, however, the questions must be asked respectfully and courteously.

Responses like, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard; don’t you mean to say…?” probe but are incredibly disrespectful. On the other hand, an introductory statement to a question like “Please forgive my inability to keep up with you, but I need to ask a question about what you just said” is both probing and respectful.

Good communication in marriage is honest.

Any spouse who learns that his spouse lied about something wonders from then on if the truth is on the table when any issue arises. Tragically, lying brings long-term consequences that most spouses fail to consider before twisting the truth. Honesty, however, is not merely avoiding falsehood. Honesty also means that we refuse to avoid sharing information that our spouse has the right to know and would want to know. Why would we avoid sharing such information? Usually, we either fear judgment from our spouse if we admit our failings, or we fear hurting our spouse’s feelings.

Good communication in marriage does not hide, distort, or evade the truth from the other. But honest communication doesn’t necessitate cruelty just for the sake of honesty. Respectful honesty is the key phrase.

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is an expert in marriage, pre-marriage education, and working with teenagers at risk. He is the executive director of Shalom Task Force and maintains a private practice in Brooklyn. For an appointment or to watch his free video series on marriage and parenting, visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com call 646-428-4723 or email: rabbischonbuch@yahoo.com.

How Does Marriage Counseling Help?

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

If you are in a difficult marriage and are considering seeking help, you’re probably wondering: what would the counselor make us do during the session? Would my counselor know the appropriate technique to use for our specific case? Is our counselor’s style suited to our problem?

These are all valid questions, and you have the right to ask them.

The good news is that there are many marriage-counseling techniques available, with most verified by research and experience. The use of these techniques is not limited to counseling sessions; couples can borrow these techniques and/or the rationale behind them, and use them to either enrich or heal their marriage.

The following are three of the most commonly used techniques in marriage counseling:

Analysis of communication patterns

It may be cliché, but it’s still fact: the majority of marital issues can be traced to poor communication.

Conflicts are normal in relationships. After all, no two people are alike; it’s inevitable that a husband and wife will differ on at least one issue. But while you can’t avoid disagreements, you can transform them into constructive discussions. The key to successfully navigating conflicts is to be able to communicate your position well.

What many couples aren’t aware of is that communication is a skill. It requires deliberate effort. We can’t always go with what feels natural, and assume it will make us understood.

Consider this example:

Wife: He’s so insensitive. I’ve been moping around all week, and he doesn’t even sense that something is wrong.

Husband: Oh, did you want me to comfort you? You were so surly; I thought you wanted me to stay away!

Was the husband really insensitive? He did notice his wife’s discontent, and sincerely wanted to respond to it. However, because the needs weren’t communicated directly, the husband received the wrong message. And you can imagine how this simple miscommunication can escalate to a bigger fight!

What a marriage counselor can do is mirror unhelpful communication patterns to the couple, and help couples express and receive messages better. At first, new communication styles may feel unnatural, and the counselor may even have to act as a translator to decipher what couples really want to say to one another. But once functional communication is learned, it can be a powerful tool, not just in addressing conflicts, but in providing support and nurturance.

Surfacing Unconscious Roots of Relationship Problems

Some counselors adapt a psychodynamic approach to counseling. In this approach, the unconscious roots of one or both spouse’s behavior are surfaced. This approach is most applicable when an irrational pattern of reacting exists in the relationship. Psychodynamic counselors believe that much of our behavioral tendencies are shaped by either childhood experiences or significant events in our lives. Our experiences can create a need to be fulfilled, or a skewed perception of reality. When it comes to dysfunctional tendencies, it is always helpful to gain awareness of how they were formed, so that a couple can begin changing them into functional patterns.

There is a reason why the psychodynamic approach works in marriage counseling: unfortunately, marriage can be a catch-basin of personal issues. This means that it’s easy to see your relationship with your spouse as a solution to what your childhood lacked. While there’s nothing wrong with looking to your partner to fulfill your needs, — indeed, the impact of a neglectful or abusive parent can be healed by a spouse’s love — a lack of awareness about this dynamic can lead to unreasonable expectations.

Consider this example:

Rachel came to counseling because of her husband David’s “extreme jealousy.” David is unreasonably suspicious, and demands that he be informed of his wife’s whereabouts 24/7. He also has a tendency to “overreact” whenever Rachel is in conversation with another man. Rachel feels stifled by David’s behavior, so much so that she can’t enjoy her social relationships anymore.

Upon exploration, the counselor found that David’s parents separated when he was a child. When David had been eight, his mother left him with his father. David blamed the separation on his father’s complacency; he felt that had his dad just been more vigilant, he could have curbed his mother’s affairs before they progressed into something serious.

David wasn’t aware of it, but his jealousy is a direct result of his childhood. He was trying to be “vigilant” — the way his father never was — to protect his family. Unfortunately, he couldn’t see that his reactions are uncalled for by the situation, and is actually harming rather than protecting his marriage.

In cases like David’s and Rachel’s, a marriage counselor can help by uncovering these unconscious roots of irrational behavior, and bringing it to the couple’s awareness. Then David can start to control his jealousy, while Rachel can be more compassionate when it does occur. The counselor can even teach Rachel how to assure David that history will not repeat itself, helping David to gain greater security in their relationship.

When Should A Couple Go For Marriage Therapy?

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Q: My husband and I are having trouble in our marriage. We tend to fight about the same issues every day and he’s so emotionally distant. At what point should I consider seeing a marriage therapist?

 

A: A professional practicing marriage therapist can act as a mediator when it comes to disagreements and personality differences. These differences can cause any number of arguments. Most of the rifts a couple experience have the potential to end in a peaceful way, but then there are those rough and tumble situations where there seems to be no hope in sight. When the stability of your relationship is in question, marital therapy can provide you with the best relationship advice and guidance.

Seeking out marriage therapy to get unbiased guidance from a mediator who is professionally trained in such matters is a good start to getting back what was lost between the two of you. The marriage family therapist will offer you his or her expertise and qualified suggestions as your professional negotiator. It’s sometimes nice to have that cushion when you and your spouse can’t seem to get past your problems and communication has stalled.

Family counselors are certified professionals who have experience in all types of situations. Marriage therapy advice is a just a small portion of what they offer to couples from all walks of life. They also instruct couples on techniques of how to strengthen their bond, improve their listening skills to better understand each other, and increase their conversational and interpersonal skills.

A marriage therapist will never place blame on a guilty party, if there is one. They only try to help you work through the misconceptions, accusations and ego trips that may bring negative feelings into the relationship. You’ll find that marriage and family therapy will have a significant impact on your relationship and your lives. When communication becomes stagnant and it no longer exists between loved ones, family therapists can guide and teach you to share your feelings once again. They give a person permission to share their deepest fears and desires without feeling guilty or ridiculed by their partner. Egos are checked at the door when a mediator is present, for there is no room for them in a successful relationship.

Boredom, emotional neglect, lack of communication or attachment issues from childhood are just a few reasons why marriage problems may occur. The problems can be compounded or it may be just a single issue, but it is enough to shake the foundations of a relationship. When the couple fails to identify the causes of their difficulties, confusion and separation from the relationship can soon follow.

Sometimes, the advice helps reveal issues that were once hidden due to anger, misunderstandings, and a breach of trust. Using your marriage counselor’s advice can aid you through the process of working it out for yourselves.

There is the belief, or opinion, that family therapy should only be undertaken when a situation is too dire for repair. This is a false conviction. Marriage family therapy can be beneficial to any couple that is having issues, and at any stage in a relationship.

In many instances, troubled couples thought they were destined for divorce, and had actually started the proceedings, before they engaged in any type of family therapy. They soon realized their mistake once they began participating in regularly schedule appointments with their family therapist. The family therapy sessions saved their marriages from failing and taught them how to relate to each other in a more efficient manner.

It is best to begin family and marriage therapy when marital problems are still in the early stages. The sooner a couple engages in family and marriage therapy, the quicker and easier it will be to eliminate any misconceptions, anger, frustrations, and trust issues they may have.

Now, there are always those stubborn partners who refuse to participate in any marriage and family counseling. This should not stop the one individual who wishes to seek help. The marriage therapist can help the individual work through their own personal issues, and maybe once their partner sees the remarkable effects that the marriage therapist is having on their spouse, they may want to join in on the sessions.

Don’t be surprised when the marriage counselor digs deep into your private life. No judgment will be placed upon you; it just gives the therapist an understanding plateau of what makes you tick. It’s common to feel uncomfortable with disclosing so much personal information, but as your sessions progress, that queasy feeling will dissipate. The more open you become, the easier it will be to accept truths and understandings.

Seeking out professional guidance when your relationship appears to be bleak and unsalvageable is the wisest thing you could ever do. Regardless of the price you pay for family therapy, it can never be as expensive as losing a family.

Divorced Father and His Relationship with His Three Year Old Son

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Question: My son is three-years-old and we have a great relationship. However, his mother and I are divorced and every time I go to pick him up he runs around and sort of avoids me. It’s seems more like a game than anything else. I say that because once I chase him down and get him, we go off together – no tears, everything is great. But then, when I drop him off, he runs away without saying goodbye. For me his behavior is somewhat disturbing, how mother though has said that all this means he really doesn’t want to be with me. Other than pick-up and drop-off everything is truly fine between us. Shouldn’t my ex-wife try to help instead of doing nothing and complaining?

Answer: Taking you at your word that there is no further issue and that your son is not genuinely unhappy to see you or thrilled to leave you, it seems that you have something of a training issue. This is one of those divorce-related issues that commonly gets out of hand quickly. If his parents were married, they would demand he give each parent a kiss hello or goodbye as a greeting. The obvious support of both parents creates a simple, easy resolution to training a child to properly greet others.

After a divorce, there are these sad differences that cause further rifts between parents. Your ex probably feels it’s not her job to deal with this or, worse, that she’d be covering up real issues which are occurring between you and your son. It would be ideal if she’d help and the two of you could stand firm together and teach this simple well-mannered behavior. In fact, the behavior could be brought on by conversations she’s having around your son in anticipation of your time together. In subtle ways she could be making your son anxious. She could be saying things like, “Everything will be okay with Daddy and I’ll be right here when you get back waiting, don’t worry.” This sort of sentence contains underlying negative messages that little kids feel and interpret without even realizing it.

However, there is nothing in the scenario you’ve described that would suggest that mom is fueling this behavior – and it may be time to reduce your dependence on her doing the job of parenting. It’s not her job any more than it’s yours to care for this situation. In reality, distancing herself from this may help you learn to be a more complete parent and feel confident to manage these types of situations.

A simple solution would be to teach your child a secret handshake and greeting that you practice with him. The secret handshake can include a ritualistic kiss and hug as well. This way, through fun and love, you’ll get your son in the habit of running to you to be involved in the “secret” greeting.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/divorced-father-and-his-relationship-with-his-three-year-old-son/2011/02/09/

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