The emails and calls have been coming in steadily. Questions about anxious children, bewildered with this new pandemic world of ours and the chaos that surrounds them.
What can we do, as parents and grandparents, to help our children get through this challenge?
I have included grandparents in this formulas because this is the mesorah of our Avos.
Sheal Avicha Viyagedcha, Ziknecha Veyomru Lach – Ask your father and he will relate it to you, your elders and they will tell you. This is the derech through which I grew up. Mama and Zayda, my mother’s parents, were our lighthouse. Their perspective colored my life. I can still recall bending my head down for my Zayda’s bracha. As his hands covered my head, he would whisper precious words and I would feel his tears fall gently upon me. Under my Zayda’s soft white beard I felt sheltered and safe. Then I would ask Mama for her bracha and feel emboldened. When Zayda was unable to speak anymore, just seeing his glistening eyes, holding his hand, and knowing that he was here, gave me comfort. If you have the ability to touch a child’s soul by being a presence in their life, even if now it’s a call because you cannot meet in person, seize the moment. The more love, the more strength and stability a child feels.
I offer the 3 ABC’s as a guide to keep us steady in unstable times. While there is much we cannot control right now, our reactions are in our hands. Let us try to empower ourselves and our children throughout this upheaval.
A = ATTITUDE
What are your first thoughts when you wake up in the morning?
Many people tell me their mind says ‘I can’t do this anymore.” Throughout the day we hear the little voice in our head that says “It’s impossible” or “Everything’s crazy.”
Our children pick up on our words and our body language.
In my parenting course I ask parents to look at themselves in the mirror before facing their families.
“Would you want to wake up to yourself?” I ask. “If not, then what do we expect from our loved ones?”
When you notice yourself going into negative territory, ‘awfulizing’ your life, stop. Change the channel. Because all your negativity is spreading spiritual air pollution in your home.
Instead of saying “I can’t” try “It’s hard but I can.”
Switch the negative thoughts to positive ones like “We will make it” and “It’s going to be all right.”
Your physical and emotional being shapes your home. We speak about corona being contagious but our attitude is catchy as well.
Gam zeh yaavor is a beautiful Jewish wisdom. Nothing lasts forever. Not the good and not the bad. This difficult time will pass. What is the spiritual legacy that we will leave for our children? What strengths can we transmit to them now so that they are able to withstand the winds and storms that the future may hold?
B = BELIEVE
Our emunah has sustained us from our days of suffering in Egypt. We have traveled the four corners of this earth, gone through every type of persecution, crusade and inquisition. We have been shoved into cattle cars, gassed in the crematoria, told that we will be thrown into the sea. Anti-Semitism has once again reared its vile head all over the world. Here, in ‘the land of the free and home of the brave,’ there have been killings and stabbings just because one was born a Jew. The world has been ready to say Kaddish for us for thousands of years. And yet, here we are. A nation of miracles.
I, myself, was born upon the ashes of the holocaust. To think that we have started all over again, raised beautiful families loyal to Torah, built shuls and yeshivas, called our children by the names of those who died al Kiddush Hashem, and seen life flourish is testimony to the love that Hashem has for us. Ki Lo Yitosh Hashem Es Amo – Hashem will never abandon His people.
We must believe that though we may not understand it, there is a Divine Plan here. Emunah and bitachon means that despite it all, we know that Hashem is watching over us, caring for us, and loving us still.
This must be the message that we give over to our children at this time. Every time we kindle our Shabbos lights, daven with kavanah, make a bracha, we are proclaiming our belief in Hashem and trust in His goodness. Everything we have studied and learned till now was practice for these days. This is when our children become branches of our tree. But for a tree to withstand harsh winds there must be strong roots.
C = COMMUNICATION
Children require a sense of security now more than ever. Allow them to talk. Listen to their words, try to put yourself in their place. Put down your phone, put away your device and show that you are interested in their thoughts. You may be under pressure; stressed out. You are feeling as if you have no patience or time.
Dig deep. Find your kindness muscle and use it. Create a sacred time like dinner or bedtime. No work emails, no texts, just you and your loved ones.
Sometimes all a child needs is a good word, a smile, a hug. Your spouse too.
May Hashem grant us the strength and wisdom to fill our homes with light, blessings and joy.