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January 19, 2017 / 21 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘stress’

Getting Your Children To Sleep

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am having a very difficult time putting my children to sleep at night. My four-year-old son constantly barges out of his room after he has been put to bed. This usually goes on for about an hour – no matter how many times I put him back in bed or threaten to punish him. I also have an eight- year-old who is afraid of bedtime because she can’t sleep. As a result, she sometimes stays awake until midnight just lying in bed. Other times she will wake up during the night and stay up for hours. I have shared pleasant thoughts with her, trying to help her relax – but it doesn’t seem to help.

My marriage has become extremely tense because I am spending all my time with my children instead of with my husband. How can I get my children into bed so I can spend more time working on my marriage?

Y.Z.

Dear Y.Z.:

Your sleep issue, while obviously very frustrating, is not unique. Many children have a difficult time going to sleep. When children go to sleep they view it as a separation from their parents, which can make them feel extremely uncomfortable. – which causes them stress. Some children even feel they are missing something fun and exciting if they go to sleep. And then there are the children who are afraid to go sleep because they think they might not wake up.

It’s possible that you are putting your son to sleep too early. If he goes to sleep an hour later and wakes up in the morning on his own, the amount of sleep he’s getting may be sufficient for him. If putting him to bed an hour later is too problematic for you, then give him the privilege of staying up for an extra hour, as long as he plays quietly in his room. When the hour is up you can go into his room to tuck him in. It is also very important to have a sleep routine. How do you put your son to bed? Do you read him stories, speak to him in a loving way, listen to his stories about his day, or engage him in a pleasant conversation? The time before a child goes to sleep is precious and should be used wisely. Children will often tell you anything and everything in order to steal a few minutes. Since children generally have such a strong desire to stay up “for just a few more minutes,” this is the best time to foster and enhance your relationship with them.

A bedtime routine whereby your son bathes, brushes his teeth, says Shema, and spends some time with you or your spouse (either in storytelling or pleasant talk) before he goes to sleep can help him know what to expect. This kind of consistency often helps make bedtime easier. This can also help your son separate from you without feeling anxious. Even though it is very tempting to threaten your son with punishment when he continuously comes out of bed, try to avoid this. It may be helpful for you to record a tape for him to hear, expressing your love for him and extolling his virtues. Your son can play the tape in his room after you leave, so that his separation from you is easier to handle. I would also recommend storytelling tapes. Children will often fall asleep much more easily when they are listening to a story before they go to bed.

As for your daughter, she appears to have a more serious problem. First, make sure that you are not allowing her to have any caffeine. Some individuals are more sensitive to caffeine and any amount of it can cause sleeping difficulties. If caffeine is not an issue, you should investigate whether your daughter is afraid of something related to bedtime, i.e. going to sleep. If something is troubling her, perhaps talking about it in a reassuring way will help her sleep better.

Even though your daughter is already eight years old, she also needs a bedtime routine – whereby you give her love and attention. Children are never too old to need special time with you. Even teenagers, who have a loving and communicative relationship with their parents, love to talk to Mom and Dad before they go to bed.

A child’s worst fears frequently emerge right before they go to sleep, possibly causing them immense difficulty in falling asleep. If you talk to your daughter before she goes to sleep about what is bothering her, you might uncover the root of her problem. If this doesn’t work I suggest that you seek professional help, since she may be phobic about sleeping and may have something deeper bothering her that must be addressed.

Dr. Yael Respler

‘Living in De Nile’

Friday, March 30th, 2012

I love Pesach. Really, I do. Even with the stress and preparation associated with March Madness (I still have no idea why my father thinks it has anything to do with basketball), I enjoy it. Maybe it’s because of my mother’s spinach kugel, or the way I still love actively searching for the afikoman. Maybe it’s the Manischewitz brownie mix that gets more expensive every year. Maybe it’s singing “Who Knows One” as fast as possible, or maybe it’s the way my brother sneaks extra wine into the charoset when he thinks my mother isn’t looking. Maybe it’s the way you can find the entire Jewish population of Columbus in Graeter’s ice cream an hour after Pesach ends. Whatever the reason, I love Pesach.

I also love cleaning for Pesach. (Yes, you read that right). Every year some newsletter always addresses the fact that Pesach cleaning does not have to be spring cleaning, and every year almost everyone ignores it. I love the lack of clutter as much as the next girl, but believe me, I’ve seen households take it to a whole other level and not only wash the mattresses, but the walls too. I think it should be simple. Putting things back in their place. Donating the toys and clothes no longer used. Finding a drivers license from years past. The dust is gone, the whole house smells fresh, and you can now start to deal with the chametz.

But, in this case, the chametz isn’t the last stale cookie crumbs in your sock drawer or the M&M’s wedged in your sofa cushions. It’s your limitations. Chametz can be anything that prevents us from being the person that we know we can be. And during the year, it is so easy to become so enthralled with our own ego that we actually lose ourselves. We forget that the real present is not the wrapping paper at all, but the neshama inside.

This is where the matzah comes in. Matzah is more that just a cracker that we wave around at the seder (although, even I admit that after the first couple of bites, it really does become the “bread of affliction”). While yeast causes chametz to rise with it’s own self-importance, matzah remains flat and humble.

In order to achieve this level of humility, we need to take away the distractions. We can’t focus solely on our outside. We must cultivate our minds and perfect our souls. A person with this level of humility is not in constant competition with others, and although they realize that physical attributes and goals are important, they also know that they need to constantly work on their inner attributes, for it is those that make them truly unrivaled.

During the weeks leading up to Pesach, we must try to work on ourselves as well as our households, for in order to establish and maintain a good relationship with G-d, we must first establish one with ourselves. That’s why we have Pesach. By eliminating the chametz and making room for the matzah, we have the opportunity to recreate ourselves. Pesach is known as Chag HaAviv (The Holiday of Spring) for a reason. Think about it. Spring is a beautiful season. Everything that’s gloomy and lifeless during winter is renewed. From barren trees cherry blossoms begin to bloom. Daffodils shyly start to open their buds. And we, too, are given the chance to renew ourselves. Pesach breathes new life into us. We can recreate. Refresh. Renovate. Repair. And if once a year I had that opportunity, I would take it. Wouldn’t you?

Wishing you a chag kasher v’sameach!

Donyel Meese

Lashon Hara – It’s Not Just Gossip

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

When people hear the term “lashon hara“, they automatically associate it with gossip. Speaking about someone behind their back to others, usually in a manner that is denigrating and unflattering, often describing alleged activities or doings that put the subject of the discussion in a rather negative light. This is the ultimate interpretation of lashon hara.

But there is another component to lashon hara, literally, “bad speech”, that is often overlooked. This version entails speaking one on one, or directly to a person, but using words or a tone, inadvertently at best, or on purpose, at worse, that upsets the listener, causing the hapless individual distress, sorrow, anger or feelings of inadequacy or worthlessness.

I strongly feel that in most cases, this lashon hara is not deliberate, but is the outcome of gross insensitivity, usually because the speaker hasn’t “been there, done that,” has never “walked in the other person’s shoes” and thus is relatively clueless about the listener’s reality.

Case in point, based on a true incident. Suri, a widow, was talking to her late husband’s sister, Rivka, with whom she is relatively close, especially since both lived in the same community and have mutual friends. Rivka’s brother in Israel was making a simcha, and had of course invited his American siblings as well as his late brother’s wife. Rivka was very excited about the simcha and told Suri that she was booking a flight for a 10-day visit – even though her husband would not be able to come along. She was thrilled that she would have a golden opportunity to reunite with two of her sisters who had made aliyah recently. She missed them terribly.

“I haven’t been to Israel in quite a few years,” Suri told Rivka after hearing her plans.” Maybe I will go to the wedding too. We can go together.”

Her sister-in-law’s response to her enthusiastic suggestion, however, stopped her in her tracks. ” Suri, I’m going to be busy with my sisters.”

Suri felt as if icy water had been poured over her. “Oh,” she managed to stammer. “I had the thought that it would be a good opportunity for both of us to travel with someone, rather than alone, it’s such a long trip,” adding that she had her own relatives and friends to be with.

With that she changed the topic, any desire to go to the simcha completely erased.

Days later, when asked by a friend why she wasn’t going to the wedding when earlier she was seriously considering it, Suri confided how hurt she was, how diminished she felt. ” Did Rivka really think I’m a friendless nobody that I have to tag along with her? And suppose I did have nowhere else to be, why exclude me? Why shouldn’t I hang out with HER SISTERS? I was married to their brother!”

A week passed and a confused Suri called up her friend. “Do you think I was over-reacting? Rivka has always been nice to me. I have been a guest at her Shabbat table too many times to count. Maybe she was just simply letting me know that she couldn’t be a proper companion to me while in Israel since she would be running around, and this way I could make a better decision about the trip”.

“It’s very likely that was what her intention was,” her friend stated. “She was giving you a heads up as to her availability in terms of being with you.”

“So I was being over-sensitive?” Suri asked, beginning to feel somewhat foolish.

“No, actually, your sister-in-law was being under- sensitive. Grossly insensitive, actually, but not deliberately, of course. She, like most people, forgot to SEE who she was talking to.”

Because Suri does not have a husband, she is all too familiar with what it is like to travel alone, especially great distances. She has experienced the long silences; the boredom; the shlepping of heavy luggage; the stress of having to deal with any hassles on your own. That is her reality. But it is not Rivka’s, who went straight from living in a home full of brothers and sisters to having a devoted husband as her constant companion, in and out of their home.

Rivka did not gossip or talk behind Suri’s back; she did not malign her or ridicule her – yet she is guilty of lashon hara because the words that came out of her mouth caused tzaar – pain. Had Rivka been more conscientious; if she had invested some thought towards whom she was addressing, she could have modified her message, conveying the same information in a respectful and uplifting way – speaking in what would rightfully be viewed as lashon tov.

“Suri, I would love to have you sitting next to me for those 12 long hours in flight, though if I fall asleep, I can’t promise I won’t snore! Everyone in the family will be so happy to see you, but I want you to know that I am so looking forward to connecting with my sisters and will likely be spending most of my free time with them. You are most welcome to join us, but I don’t want you to feel obligated to. You may have more interesting people to visit or places to see than a bunch of yentas catching up on old news. It’s your call.

Cheryl Kupfer

Instilling Derech Eretz

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

I enjoyed your recent column concerning the jealousy a girl had toward her newborn brother.

As you deal with derech eretz-related issues, I need to tell you that I am having a hard time with my children regarding this very topic. They no longer follow the rules you set in your DVD, “Chutzpah is Muktzah 2.”

I wonder if their deteriorating attitude is happening because my husband and I are arguing more often. Unfortunately my husband lost his job, and although I am working and he is collecting unemployment, he is very nervous at the lack of job opportunities. This is causing him to fight with and act very disrespectful to me. Can it be that the children are picking up on this and acting disrespectfully toward me as well? I am trying hard to be supportive; I know that this situation is very hard on him. My husband had a high-level, prestigious job and is very educated, so being home and feeling inadequate is very difficult for him.

I, Baruch Hashem, have a great job, enabling us to manage financially. Due to the circumstances, I am not making any major purchases and not putting any pressure on my husband. But between his anger and the children acting out, I am going crazy. Dr. Respler, please help me deal with this situation. While I try to support my husband, I must get my children under control.

A Mother Who Is Losing Her Mind

Dear Mother:

It sounds like you are correct and your children are feeling the tension at home, which may be adding to their stress level. This stress, in turn, may be manifesting itself in their behavior and speech. Nevertheless, you can begin to change it.

Try to speak to your children and your husband in the same manner with which you want them to speak to you. This will permit them to hear proper speech all day and it will begin to become second nature to them. You can also speak to your husband about how your children’s level of derech eretz (or lack thereof) is bothering you and that you want to start changing the way people speak to each other in the house. Tell him that if the two of you start to speak to each other and to the children in a very respectful manner, they will respond in kind. It follows the premise of practicing what you preach. This may alleviate some of the tension because even though your husband is edgy, once everyone starts to speak nicely at home, things may become calmer.

You can also start a derech eretz chart with your children. Every time they speak with derech eretz, you should give them a sticker and make a big deal about it. After 10 stickers, your children can choose a small prize or treat. The prizes/treats can be tangible or something like special time with you or your husband. Give your children a lot of positive reinforcement when they speak respectfully. They will crave this attention, and will continue to speak with derech eretz because they will want to continue to receive it. When your children speak disrespectfully, remind them in a calm and loving way of the proper way to speak – and give them a chance to self-correct. If all else fails, you can even remind them of the prize for which they are working.

In order to alleviate some of the tension, try talking to the children about what is going on. Parents generally feel that they should shield their children, and thus do not talk to them about life’s stressful things. While this may sound like the best course of action, it actually can be harmful to children. Children pick up on stress and hear bits and pieces of what is going on. This often becomes very scary to them because they know you are upset, and this upsets them as well.

Moreover, because no one ever sat down with them and told them what is going on, they may think something terrible is happening. It would be a good idea to sit with them and explain that Daddy is going through a hard time because he lost his job. He may look sad and angry, but everything will be okay and the family will be fine. You can ask the children to try to listen and talk nicely, so that the situation becomes easier on Daddy. Ask them if they have any questions and inquire about how they feel regarding what you just told them. Try to answer their questions as honestly as possible and in a soothing way. While not saying anything that would scare them, don’t lie to them. Listen to their feelings and tell them that any questions they may still have should be directed to you, not your husband. Explain to them that it is too painful a topic for him to talk about.

Dr. Yael Respler

Pro-Palestinian Jewish Author Facing Indian Deportation for Muslim Extremist Ties

Monday, March 5th, 2012

British-born Jewish author Susuan Nathan, who is staying in Kozhikode, in the South-Indian state of Kerala, is about to be expelled from the country for her ties with Islamic extremist groups, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported Monday.

Nathan came to India for medical treatment. In September she asked Indian authorities for permission to live in India for five more years in order to finish her literary work and to complete treatment. She says her condition, post traumatic stress disorder, destroyed her family.

The Kerala government informed the High court in Kochi that Nathan had “close connections” with Islamic extremist groups like the banned Students Islamic Movement of India  (SIMI) and National Development Front (NDF).

SIMI was banned in India under US pressure after 9/11. The ban was lifted by an Indian court in 2008, and reinstated after 24 hours.

NDF is regarded as a militant and extremist Muslim organization. It is operating in Kerala to improve the conditions of poor Muslims and other minorities in that state.

At age 50, Susan Nathan fulfilled a lifelong dream by immigrating to Israel from England in 1999. She took a job with “Mahapach” (Turnabout), an organization that went into deprived areas, both Jewish and Arab, to tutor young people. Soon she became a vociferous advocate of Palestinian rights.

In 2003 she moved from Tel Aviv to the Arab village of Tamra in northern Israel, where she wrote “The Other Side of Israel,” about the “historical, political and cultural currents of the Middle Eastern conflict.” The book has been translated into nine languages, including Malayalam, the dialect of Kerala.

Over the past decade, Nathan has been an outspoken pro-Palestinian advocate, appearing in Sweden and the US in forums such as the Swedish Human Rights festival and the Stockholm Olof Palme Centre, as well as forums sponsored by the Arab American Association. Nathan writes extensively for the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet on issues related to Israel.

The Malaysian news agency Bernama reported that the 62-year-old Nathan was recently ordered by the Kozhikode District to leave the country, after her visa had expired. She was staying in a house in Kozhikode that had allegedly been arranged for her by Abu Backer, the former Vice President of the banned SIMI.

Nathan is challenging her deportation in the Kerala High court.

The Indian Express reports that a Division bench, comprised of two justices, has reserved orders on the petition.

In an interview with Niranjalli Varma of doolnews.com, Nathan sounded calm about her current predicament:

“What is going on now is nothing when compared to what I have faced in my life, be it in South Africa or Israel. This is nothing. This is like Winnie the Pooh’s tea party. There was no problem in extending my visa and there is no problem in extending my visa again. There is some kind of concoction from the side of the police.”

Varma inquired: “Have you been under any sort of pressure or stress from any political or religious group?”

Nathan responded: “No, not at all. All I would say is that a very eminent Professor of Psychiatry who works in Belgium has written to my lawyer stating that I am suffering from very severe post traumatic stress disorder. Which means that I don’t sleep at night, I become very nervous or afraid when I see a police car on the streets, I become hyper vigilant of people who visit my home, I am over suspicious of people and my response to very innocent questions could be at times aggressive and  defensive.

“That is what post traumatic stress disorder does. It affects your concentration, it would take considerable amount of time before I overcome it and I need specialist care here. I don’t want to talk more about that. But I would like to say it destroyed my family, it destroyed my children.”

Jacob Edelist

Multi-Generation Blended Family

Friday, February 17th, 2012

My family is once again in transition. We are in the processes of evolving from your basic “blended family” to a “multi-generational blended family household.” As is often the case for those of us in our forties (and approaching 50), we have begun a new chapter – the one commonly known as the “sandwich generation.” At this stage we are “sandwiched” between raising our young children, while at the same time trying to help our parents as they age. Since many of us started building our own families while we were quite young, we now find ourselves providing support (financial or otherwise) to adult and or married children and grandchildren while still having younger children at home.

On a personal level, our daily lives currently revolve around our five minor children and one adult child living at home, an adult daughter living away from home, a married daughter and her family who live a block away from us and her newest additions; and my parents who recently moved in with us. Thankfully, my parents are physically well and have each other and therefore able to have their own apartment. Somehow though it seems surreal that fifteen years after moving away from them, they are now living in an apartment attached to our home and have become part of our extended household.

Multi-generational families are making a comeback these days. For some the choice is made out of necessity because of the unstable economy, for others it is due to the physical needs of either the younger generation or aging parents. And then sometimes the decision to live this way is out of a mutual desire to be full and present participants in extended family life. For us it was a combination of factors that brought us to this point. For as long as I can remember, my parents have talked about being able to live in Israel. Fortunately I married a “doer,” a man who takes action, overcomes obstacles and makes thing happen. Since my parents had a clear wish to make aliyah when my mother decided to retire, my husband undertook the challenge of helping them realize this dream. This was no easy task. My parents were living in the US; we live in Israel, and embarked on a yearlong construction project to make it a reality. Since my husband and I are of the belief that Israel is the homeland of all Jews, and that as Jews it is our obligation to come “home”, we view helping our parents to attain this goal as part of our commitment to “honor” our parents.

In their decision to relocate to Israel my parents could have chosen to move to a city with greater amenities than the small settlement my family and I live in. They could have chosen a more “Anglo” neighborhood, surrounded by people who would better understand their culture, their language and their philosophies. They could have lived in a city or a retirement community with people closer to their age. However, a major motivation for my parents is their desire to get to know their grandchildren. My children and my brother’s children have lived far from my parents for most of their lives. Since my brother moved to Israel before his first child was born, my parents, for the most part, played the role of visiting or simcha grandparents. My older children, born during my first marriage, had a close relationship with my parents up until the time I re-married and re-located, after which we visited, phoned and e-mailed – but it just wasn’t the same as seeing them daily. My parents, now retired, understand the important position they can play in our children’s lives and I feel blessed by their desire to embrace that role.

Change is difficult at any age but especially when you are older; moving to a new country could prove to be overwhelming. From a logistical standpoint living in close proximity to family members who are looking out for your best interest makes that transition so much easier. I suggested that if moving to Israel was what my parents wanted, the best scenario for all of us would be for them to live here with us. Yes, it will be work for me to balance all of my personal responsibilities; my husband, children, parents, home, and community obligations, but they understood that living far from us would cause additional stress and that I would not be as available to assist them. I felt that they could be reasonably happy here and did not want a situation where I would feel torn between my husband and children’s needs and my parents.

What I failed to consider in this new arrangement was the emotional affect it would have on all of us. For an entire year my husband and I spent every waking hour and many restless nights dealing with some phase of the move. My family suffered through the challenges of construction while attempting to retain some semblance of normalcy in our active home. We were so busy that my husband and I honestly did not even have a chance to consider the emotional impact. To my surprise, in the early hours before my parent’s arrival, my husband suddenly turned to me and simply said “I guess starting tomorrow our lives will be changed forever.” It was at precisely that moment that I became conscious of the fact that we had never actually talked about all of the ramifications of this decision. We never weighed the pros and cons or discussed how our children were going to react or how this was going to affect us as a couple. What was it going to be like living with my parents after all of these years? It was then that I felt an overwhelming affection for this man I married; I understood that his entering into my life allowed me to be able to do this for my dear parents. One of the first things that drew me to my husband was his sense of knowing what was “right.” When he believes in something he uses all of his strength and his determination to follow through and make it happen.

Yehudit Levinson

Israel Study: Maternal Stress a Plus for Fetus

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Children of mothers who experienced stress during pregnancy may have increased abilities to cope with mental and physical distress in maturity, according to a study out of the Faculty of Medicine at the Technion and Ha’Emek Hospital in Afula reported by Globes.

According to Dr. Avi Avital of the Technion, pregnant rats exposed to stressful stimuli gave birth to offspring who reacted to stressors with reduced levels of corticosterone hormone .  Babies of mothers with low stress in pregnancy reacted with higher levels of the stress hormone.

Furthermore, rats who experienced distress in utero showed less physical signs of distress during stressful situations than their previously non-stressed counterparts, and showed better survival instincts.

However, stress during the “childhood” of rats did not improve their abilities.  On the contrary, rats exposed to stress in pre-adolescence exhibited increased distress reactions in the years following.

Malkah Fleisher

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel-study-maternal-stress-a-plus-for-fetus/2012/02/13/

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