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In her ninety-eighth year my mother beat pneumonia twice. She always said that she would know when her time was up – and she did. People would ask her what she attributed her many years to. Though she was not raised in a religious home, she would always say that Hashem knew what He was doing. We learn in the Torah when one honors parents the reward is a long life. She was certainly proof of this.
As the new school year begins, we parents must gain insight into one of the common causes of youth at risk -- abuse and molestation. It is a highly sensitive issue generally deemed the domain of mental health professionals and community leaders, with a host of significant halachic ramifications, such as raglayim l’davor - meaning reasonable suspicion, which is the halachic threshold to permit reporting to authorities under the rules of mesira.
The world likes to believe that threats to Israel's security by its neighbors are the country's greatest concern. The narrative of two ancient peoples in one Holy Land fighting for their place in the world is a great story and leads to an uncanny number of headlines, the expenditure of a relatively large percentage of the UN's energy and resources, and more divisive discussions and actions than are devoted to other - much bloodier - conflicts, such as those in the Congo and Sudan.
From Ecclesiastes we learn the expression "there is nothing new under the sun" and when you read history you see how true this is. From cults to politics it seems as if nothing is really ever new. That also includes technology. While a certain invention or discovery can be classified as new, we often find it in nature much earlier. Arctic fish used anti-freeze in their bloodstreams long before people put it in their cars. There are airplanes, but birds flew much earlier; there are satellites, but the moon was there earlier. Whales are better than submarines and as for nuclear fusion; the sun and stars had that worked out long before we did.
Francine has been coming to therapy for about a month. Her parents brought her due to problems and conflicts she was experiencing boat home, school and in the community. Like many teens, Francine did not see the value of therapy and felt the problems were only her parents' issues. Besides, if she needed to talk to anyone, she would speak with her friends.
Mr. and Mrs. S. came into the office with their ten-year-old daughter, Sharon. They were very distraught and had numerous complaints about Sharon’s behaviors. Not only was she having problems academically and behaviorally in school, but they also complained that every time they asked Sharon to do something at home it became a major altercation.
When the parent-teen relationship is strained or just needs improvement parents can utilize outside help to bring about a change. When necessary, one of the most effective ways of wielding indirect control is by having the teenager meet with a mentor. As a third person, uninvolved in family conflicts, a mentor is able to interact with a teenager and provide an informal means of solving problems at school, help the teen do homework or simply be a friend.
This is the fourth and final part on my series on anger, apersonal control and anger management. I believe there are several major beliefs one needs to appreciate when it comes to understanding anger, angry people and controlling anger and other emotions - let's call then the "secrets of anger." An important definition to remember before we discuss these secrets is that when something happens that causes us to have strong emotions, the thing happening is referred to as a trigger.
In continuing our discussion on anger management, I would like to share some basic beliefs that one must understand in their journey to anger management (which I also referred to as personal control). As we have previously discussed, anger control is directly related to self-esteem and confidence. That is, the better the self-esteem, the more capable the person will be in controlling emotions. Also, related to this is the concept we refer to as "shame."
In Part I of this four-part series, I introduced you to Aaron and his extreme anger. I ended that article with, "I must say that as I was describing this theory, Aaron's mouth dropped open, his eyes grew wide and tears formed in his eyes as he moved closer in his chair. The only thing he could say was, "How did you know?" With that comment, Aaron and I started a remarkable relationship. With all the counselors he had been to over the years, Aaron said that no one really understood him. Here was the angry young man who didn't want to be there, fully engaged and ready to work, ready to share his pain, ready to begin a trusting relationship."
Dr. and Mrs. Schwartz came into the office looking very tired, stressed, despondent and unsure of themselves. They came without Aaron because he had refused to come to the appointment. He claimed that at 15 he could decide for himself if, and when, he would come to appointments about his life. They began by describing an extraordinarily angry young man.
As I indicated in my last column, there are a thousand-and-one inspirational stories that I could share with you, testifying to the pintele Yid embedded for all eternity in every Jewish heart. It might be a book, speech, Shabbos experience, a hug, kind word, or a blessing from a bubby, zeidy, rabbi or Torah teacher. In an instant, that pintele Yid can come to life, make a journey that spans thousands of years and reconnect the soul to Sinai - and thus, every day, Yiddishe neshamos are reborn.
Life is full of stories about teenagers having difficulty making it through adolescence. However, parenting teens – even teens who are at risk – doesn’t have to be such a daunting task when parents are willing to focus more on the relationship and less on getting immediate results. Building the relationship is the key to reaching teens who are at risk.
"Time waits for no man" is an old saying, though I'm not sure where it originated. Other such sayings like, "time flies by too quickly" or "the older you get, the faster time flies by," also contain meaningful messages. For me, I can't believe how quickly the days and years go by. When I think about it, I realize how we must make the very most of each day to accomplish what is important while we still have the opportunity.
Flip Wilson was a famous comedian and television actor who once used the line, "The Devil made me do it." At the time it was funny, though pretty soon completely overused. In hindsight, the quote can be a pretty accurate description of the misguidance of our youth, as well as many adults. Could this be another means of blaming the yetzer ha'ra for our misdeeds? Can we really get away with anything if it's not our fault or was an accident? What about the concept of "responsibility," how do we teach that to our children?