Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘1’ Category

I have 4 small children.  There are times I am so tired I could cry.  I don’t know how I am going to get through the next 3 weeks, let alone the next 3 years!  Help! –NB, Baltimore, MD

Your problem is one I hear about from parents all the time.  It happens to every parent, sooner or later. As we nurture and work with our kids, all day every day, each of us will eventually find ourselves “running on empty”.  When we become totally exhausted, a sense of overwhelm can set in.  Take heart and take a step back. Look at your situation with a little compassion.

Before we were parents, we knew we needed to take care of all our basic human needs in order to maintain some kind of balance.  None of that has changed.  We still have to eat properly, get enough sleep, have some form of mental stimulation and enjoy meaningful adult interactions. If anything, we need it MORE now!

It is very important to learn your signals of overexhaustion, as they are very individual.   If you need help,  get it. There really is no other option. If we are to care for our little ones in a loving, patient way, we have to draw strength from inside. If there is nothing from which to draw, everyone loses.   Being a martyr eventually produces resentment.  You don’t deserve that. Your kids don’t deserve that either.

You didn’t say whether or not you are employed outside the home. Some moms find that part-time employment has certain advantages.  It preserves the majority of your time and focus for family life while providing a regular outlet for social and intellectual stimulation. It also imposes a structure to your daily schedule that, in and of itself, can help you maintain a more predictable and manageable flow of activity. Whether or not you have an outside job, though,  it is extremely important to find at least 20 minutes a day to do something that you love to do.  It will become the island of time you cherish that you will look forward to throughout the day.

I also want to give you a few suggestions that you can use to reduce your actual work load.   Start with your spouse. The two of you may need to redistribute some of the home tasks to lighten your burden.  Some things like laundry and housecleaning may even have to be professionally outsourced for a period of years. You should not feel guilty about asking for this kind of help when you need it.

Here are a few more tips.   Each change  is intended to create a little more space for you to nurture yourself. The sum total can bring about a major improvement in your overall sense of well-being.

  • A teen helper on nights and weekends can provide an extra pair of hands.,
  • If you don’t have extended family leaving nearby, you might consider “adopting” an affectionate and capable ”empty nester’ who is happy to act as surrogate grandparent.
  • Why not switch off with other parents hosting play dates, giving each other a break every so often?
  • Over time, you can (and should) teach your children age appropriate, self care techniques as well as basic family tasks.
  • Create a fund of good ideas that suit your life.  Talk to friends.  Once you start looking, you will discover time saving ideas in books, magazines and on websites. one of the most labor intensive periods of life.
You deserve a break today!   Thanks for your question and hatzlachah rabah (have great success)!  This is the most labor intensive period of your life.   But, believe it or not, it passes quickly.   Fill it with sweet memories with your kids and cherished moments for yourself.

©2009 Deborah E. Katz , JPARENT, LLC All rights reserved.
___________________________________________________________________________________
Want to ask a question? Click on the Ask Debbie page at the top of the blog to submit your questions.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

My wife and I are experiencing the effects of the economic downturn. With Chanukah approaching, how should we talk to our kids about not being able to give presents this year?–Sholom, Denver, CO

Sholom, as you well know, you are far from alone in these difficult times .   We all wish you and your wife a lot of strength and courage as you go through this time and pray that Hashem grants you hatzlachah (success) in securing a better financial situation for your family in the very near future.

About your parenting question….

Talking to kids about hardship involves some preparation.  Before you begin to talk, think about what you want each child to know.  Hold the intention to be reassuring and calm. It is fair to explain that things are a bit tough financially right now. While it is not necessary to give all the details, don’t lie to your children. With each child, keep the language and information age appropriate.    Most important of all, assure each one that the whole family is safe.

Next, have a  family meeting.   Explain that there won’t be regular gift giving for Chanukah this year.    This Chanukah will be extremely special for everyone.  You are going to be spending some quality time together as a family.   Then, go around the table and ask each child and each   for a fun-to-do but low cost Chanukah idea.  One person may ask for a family games night.  Another may suggest a gift exchange where everyone makes a card or gives a personal item to another family member. A third person may suggest a crafts night where Chanukah decorations are made and hung.  There could be a chesed night, a cooking night, a music night and a learning night.   Imagine the possibilities!

The biggest benefit is that the family connection that will emerge will be palpable.   Plus, your children will learn the lesson of the Chanukah miracle:  that when things seem dark, we  need to take the step to light a candle.. and Hashem will light up the room!

So, Sholom, why not make this the most memorable Chanukah you’ve ever had?  Your children will treasure the experience and your  neighbors and friends will learn so much  from your family’s example.

©2009 Deborah E. Katz , JPARENT, LLC All rights reserved.
___________________________________________________________________________________
Want to ask a question? Click on the Ask Debbie page at the top of the blog to submit your questions.

Read Full Post »

Question:  As a new parent, I am seeking a few key parenting principles to keep in mind as my daughter grows up.   Your thoughts? —Shuli, NY, NY

As parents, we are our children’s first and most lastingly influential teachers. Our main jobs as Jewish parents are 1) to facilitate the formation of  the child’s  healthy self image and 2)  to teach an integrated Jewish world view that will guide the child throughout life. With these goals in mind, here are my “top five” parenting principles:

Kids are not little grown-ups. Kids are in a state of almost constant growth–physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually.  Children’s interactions are highly imitative and sensitive to outside input.  It is not a flaw that they don’t think or act like we do!   It is, in fact, the  parent’s  task is to teach kids appropriate behavior in different settings. When a child does not live up to an expectation, even repeatedly,  resist the tendency to label or ridicule.  Instead, keep the child’s potential in mind.  Correct the misbehavior unequivocally.   Validate the child for  every sign of  positive growth. Stay nurturing.

Parents are always on. The way we interact with the world  is a living lesson to our kids. Starting with the earliest years, a child internalizes the parent’s example, deeply registering each perception.     For a parent, therefore, self awareness is very important.    Here are some questions to consider.  Am I the Jew that I want my child to become?  Are my time priorities in line with my personal values?  Do I try to avoid discharging negative emotions in the family?  Do I show my kids how I try to get up after every setback and grow from the experience?

Setting limits for children is kind. Creating a set of clear expectations is like giving kids a manual for success in the life.  As long as the family rules are  respectful, age appropriate and child centered, children will benefit from the structure.  Employing logical and natural consequences is a constructive and effective approach to teaching responsible behavior.  A child brought up in a family that has set clear expectations will thrive in the atmosphere of trust, security and, paradoxically, personal freedom.   S/he will also learn to be socially responsible within the family and will receive plenty of practice in healthy decision making.

Kids need a strong connection with each of  their parents.  Children learn the most about themselves through their parents’ eyes. When a parent shows a child genuine interest and affection, the child infers s/he is intelligent, interesting and worthy of love.  Spending special time with each child affords the parent a regularly scheduled opportunity to encourage individuality and instill confidence.  Children get valuable information from their parents’ longer life perspective.   When a parent nurtures a deep connection with a child,  the parent can often mirror the child’s thoughts back to the child, appreciating, restating and, in some classes, reframing.  This is probably the most important (and most rewarding) way a parent can nurture a child’s self understanding.

Mothers and fathers are partners in parenting. There is no one correct answer to the question: “Whose approach is right?”  The best parenting approach for every family starts with a joint parenting plan that takes into account the parents’ unique blend of personal styles, values and strengths. When parents work as a team, their combined strengths synergize, providing a better, more balanced childhood experience for their kids than either could provide alone.  The lasting lesson to children is that shalom bayis is not always about being the same. It is about creating outcomes where everyone feels valued, understood and respected.

Parenting is the toughest job and the most rewarding. Parents have unique access to the inner and outer worlds of a developing child. This access can afford them almost unlimited influence during the childhood years.

To be clear– No two families are alike.  Life with kids can be challenging.   Taking a good sense of humor along with you on your journey can turn many a tough moment into an occasion for spontaneous levity.   Most of all, we all need a lot of Siyata D’Shamaya (help from Hashem) to raise our kids.     May Hashem help us as we perform the truly holy task of raising the next generation of Am Yisrael as strong, emotionally healthy Jews.

©2009 Deborah E. Katz , JPARENT, LLC All rights reserved.
___________________________________________________________________________________
Want to ask a question? Click on the Ask Debbie page at the top of the blog to submit your questions.

Read Full Post »

According to Rabbi Yissochar Frand in one of his annual tshuvah drashas, there are 2 central axioms on which the Jewish concept of tshuvah (repentance)  rests.     The first premise is that all human beings have the ability to change.  No matter how far we may have strayed from the path, Hashem tells us that we can change.  We can grow. We can repair.  We can return.  We can find closeness with G-d.   We can reach inside and find the strength to fulfill our fullest potentials.

As parents, this is our template for helping our children to grow.   Their young lives are all about change.   When a child does not live up to an expectation, our job is to hold their highest potential in our hearts and minds. We do not label them or lock them into patterns that do not represent their best selves. Instead, when they breach a limit, we strive to re-establish trust as soon as possible.   We give them every opportunity to change and grow.    We believe in them so much that, one day, they will learn to believe in themselves.

Rabbi Frand continues by explaining that the second key element of tshuvah is the idea that human beings are resilient.  We struggle with life’s challenges and sometimes we fail to meet them.  But, as long as we manage to get back up again, we are still in the game.   Here our children have much to teach us.   Little toddlers fall once, fall twice, fall three times.  But they always get up again.  This quality of resilience shows us that human beings are born resilient.       We should take a lesson. We must learn to never give up  on ourselves even when we have lost our way, and even if we feel regretful, disappointed or heartbroken. We can set our sights on our goals again and keep striving to attain them, regardless of the external or the internal obstacles.  Our job is to keep showing up for life, for as long as we live.

As we enter the Aseres Y’Mei Tshuvah (10 days of repentance),  may we always remember to  keep our children’s infinite potential in mind even when they experiment with new behaviors.  And, may we acknowledge our children’s lesson of dogged persistence, and pull  ourselves together again after every setback.  We are all here to help each other to grow.

On behalf of myself and my family, I send you and all of Am Yisrael my sincerest good wishes for a healthy, happy, productive and safe New Year.

©2009 Debbie Katz , JPARENT, LLC All rights reserved.
___________________________________________________________________________________
Want to ask a question? Click on the Ask Debbie page at the top of the blog to submit your questions.

Read Full Post »

It is a very important parenting task to make sure that our children learn to take care of their bodies correctly throughout life.  Modern medical science has released a tremendous amount of research over the past three decades showing that a healthy balanced diet, regular physical exercise and a good sleep regimen are the primary controllable variables for ensuring vitality, preventing serious disease and lengthening life.

Many of our children spend long hours sitting in day schools and yeshivos, usually without significant physical activity.  In addition, especially on Shabbos and Yom Tov, eating multiple large festive meals is an accepted part of the Jewish family and community experience.   It therefore is not difficult  to understand why childhood obesity is on the rise in the Jewish community, along with its attendant life-long negative health implications.  It’s a community-wide health concern that we can no longer afford to ignore.

But while the concepts seem simple enough, it’s not always so easy  to put them into practice. Here are a few family friendly suggestions.

•    Eat a good breakfast to kick the metabolism on early in the day.

•    Exercise with your kids. Go for a walk, play basketball or go for a swim. Skip the elevator and race to the top of the stairs.  Try to do vigorous exercise most days,  for about 30 minutes a day. In addition to boosting metabolism and toning muscles, exercise burns off stress.

•    Prepare meals together.  Experiment with a new fruit or vegetable every couple of weeks.  Go with whole grain cereals and pasta and low fat dairy foods. Choose chicken and fish over beef.    Ever try beans, lentils, quinoa, or tofu?  Be creative with different ways to prepare foods.

•    Give treats on occasion.  “Never say never” to any food.

•    Don’t use food as a symbol of love or reward.  Creating the association predisposes the child to overeating throughout life.

•    The way we eat makes a big difference.  Always remember to eat sitting down.  Start with small portions on the plate.   Walk back into the kitchen for refills.  Chew slowly and thoroughly.  Slower food consumption actually reduces the amount of food consumed and is more satisfying.  Stop eating when satiated. (No one should be required to eat every last morsel.)

•    To avoid binge eating, don’t get too hungry between meals.

•    Snack smart.  Teach kids to check labels for fat, salt and sugar.  Popcorn, nuts, fruits and veggies are satisfying munchies and don’t have to be boring.

•    Be sure everyone in your family drinks at least 8 cups of water or juice a day to stay hydrated.  (Sodas are high calories and do not hydrate.)

•    Get enough sleep.  Tired people eat more, are more irritable, are more anxious, have more accidents and are generally less productive.   Young kids need 10-12 hours of sleep.

•    If stress levels are very high, relax for a few minutes with your kids, teaching them to take slow abdominal breaths.

•    Read books together that reflect values of maintaining a healthy body.

To sum it all up: Teaching children to keep their bodies healthy is a “no-brainer.”  For many of us, this means learning a whole new way of relating to diet and exercise ourselves.    So, just try one suggestion at a time.   Let’s help each child learn to treat his body like the precious gift it truly is.

So how about a nature hike in the woods ?

©2009 Debbie Katz , JPARENT, LLC All rights reserved.
___________________________________________________________________________________
Want to ask a question? Click on the Ask Debbie page at the top of the blog to submit your questions.

Read Full Post »

Question: My wife and I have two very young children.  In our neighborhood, we sometimes notice a lack of respect in the way the parents and children communicate.   How can parents teach their children to respect their parental authority?   –Yaakov, Chicago, IL
Since it is the parents who are the ones who structure the parent-child relationship, it is wonderful that you and your wife are discussing this question while your children are still very young.   When parents do not have a parenting plan, the default position is almost always derivative of their own childhood experiences. That can work out fine if both maternal and paternal grandparents held the clear parental authority and respectful communications flowed in both directions.   But if either parent was raised in a home where, for whatever reason, the parent-child relationship was strained, it is a great idea to make a conscious effort now to set the right tone so that your children will naturally learn the correct balance of authority in your family.

Our ultimate authority figure is, of course, Hashem Himself who we refer to as Avinu Malkeinu (our Father, our King).   While ‘Avinu’ refers to Hashem’s caring, loving and protective relationship with each of us,  ‘Malkeinu’ implies a reverence and awe, as with a subject towards his king.  This duality sets the paradigm for the Jewish parent-child bond. As parents, we must try to create a working balance between providing loving protection and keeping our place of respect and authority.

The halachos (Jewish laws)  of Kibud Av V’aim (the commandment to honor our father and mother) seem emphasize the respectful distance aspect of the dual relationship.  For example, according to halacha children should not sit in a parent’s seat at the table and should stand when either parent enters the room.  Children are not to contradict their parents nor call their parents by their first names.  Children are even to to serve their parents food and drink and escort them in and out,  with a pleasant demeanor.

We, as parents, are given the right to allow some flexibility with the performance of this mitzvah (commandment).  But, I believe,  it is still  important not to dispense with these displays of respect entirely.  For example, each parent can teach the children the custom of keeping a place at the table for the other parent.   In addition, we can ask the child to bring us a drink, smiling at them when we tell them that they are learning the mitzvah of Kibud Av v’Aim.  The mitzvah therefore becomes pleasant to perform. It is a goal to have our children address us with appropriate respect.  But teaching proper communication skills  is an ongoing project.  Respectful (and disrespectful) speech occurs in a context.  Children have to explore our boundaries. That is how they learn.  Sometimes, because we hold the power in the relationship, we can choose to overlook an occasional outburst or boundary cross.     Especially the child is in an angry frame of mind and not in control of herself,  the parent, as a matter of common sense,  should not force her to comply with a request, in the name of Kibud Av v’Aim.      What can result is resentment, both at the parent and at the mitzvah itself.  This association is toxic and, if the scenario were to repeat itself,  there could be a real risk that the child will view the mitzvah as coercive, rather than a mitzvah that Hashem has given her with love. When the parental mindset remains focused on the child’s benefit, we can decide to delay discussion until everyone is ready to discuss things more effectively, and with more derech eretz (civility).    The goal is an atmosphere of compassion where the child learns from our example how to best resolve differences respectfully.

Around the house, parents can expect cooperation from their children.  But, again, gaining cooperation is an ongoing project.  Starting as early as age 4, we begin to teach our children to take on more and more responsibility.  When we ask our children to do something for us, and they cheerfully cooperate, we meet them with enthusiasm and gratitude.   If however, they are otherwise occupied, we must teach them to ask us for our permission to delay.  Any reasonable request for extra time will usually be accepted. But, children should not be given the right to simply ignore their parents’ requests.    If they do ignore a request, an appropriate consequence should be calmly and consistently applied to set a limit on the disrespectful behavior.   In this way, we keep abreast of  our children’s progress as they continue to assimilate this aspect of being respectful to parents.

Honoring parents is, of course, one of the Aseres Hadibros (Ten Commandments).     As we approach Shavuos, and prepare to receive Hashem’s Torah with a full heart, let us all focus on being the type of caring and self aware parent that our children will want to respect and  emulate.  When we have the clear intention to partner with Hashem as a loving authority figure to our beloved children, we can be assured that when we teach our children the mitzvah of Kibud Av V’Aim , it will be,  first and foremost, for the children’s own benefit. And, because we are following the example of Avinu Malkeinu, we can also be assured that Hashem will be helping us along the way.

©2009 Debbie Katz , JPARENT, LLC All rights reserved.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Want to ask a question? Click on the Ask Debbie page at the top of the blog to submit your questions

Read Full Post »

Question:   My 15 year old daughter settles for nothing less than top grades.  She participates in every conceivable extracurricular activity and everything has to turn out perfectly.  She is exhausting herself. I am starting to get worried about her.   Do you have any suggestions?—Malka, Teaneck, NJ

Children who are perfectionists believe, consciously or unconsciously, that their personal worth is attached to their performance rather than their essence.    They are often very self-critical when they compare themselves to others and they therefore often feel little satisfaction, even after expending prodigious effort.    They are in an exhausting race to find their self esteem.    In a competitive society, perfectionism is a common problem among sensitive, high achieving individuals.

As parents, we can actually teach our children to have a positive self concept.  It is best to begin to focus on this vital parenting task from the very beginning and never really stop.  Don’t lose heart, though, even if your children are already a bit older, because it is never too late get started. It will just take longer to be successful when kids are past their most formative years.  To build self esteem, we must provide unconditional love and attention, very consciously separating how we may occasionally view our children’s negative choices from how we think of them as intrinsically valuable people.  They read us very well, and they learn about their worth by seeing themselves through our eyes.

Not uncommonly, children become perfectionists because they desire to please an insecure, demanding or critical parent.   For example, some anxious parents view any error as failure.  Some are very competitive and must win at any cost.   Still others want ‘more’ for their children than they themselves were able to attain in life. Regardless of the reason for requiring top performance, the child learns the essential lesson.   She is NOT okay the way she is.  She had better work harder if she is going to ‘deserve’ her parent’s approval.

So, does this mean that we cannot expect excellent effort from our children?    No.  We expect them to learn and grow up to utilize their potentials.  But, we simultaneously infuse them with the knowledge of their inherent precious worth and of our respect for their unique qualities.

So how can you help your daughter?   Teach her that when she was born, she was given a precious gift from Hashem Himself—her holy neshama (soul).  Her essence is not just wonderful, it is actually holy.  And absolutely nothing she will ever do can affect her essential holiness.  Remind her that Hashem created people and therefore, since all people have some challenges in addition to their strengths, they are being ‘perfectly’ human.  Hold her and tell her that she is plenty good enough just the way she is.  You love everything about her.

When you see her working a bit too hard, remind her to strive for excellence, not perfection.  Encourage her to set realistic goals and give it a good effort.   From now on, focus her, not so much on the endpoint, as the meaningful content of the task and her enjoyment in the process.  After all, the pleasure of a perfect outcome is momentary but the pleasure in a meaningful process lasts far longer.  Remind her that Hashem has put us here on earth to be m’sameach (joyful).  She is actually doing a mitzvah by enjoying what she does.

In addition, consider whether you and/or your spouse has a critical side that has been affecting the way your daughter has been viewing herself.  If this is so, you will be doing yourself and your family a tremendous favor if you were to seek out professional help to address the root causes for that negativity. And as a extra bonus for your efforts at self improvement, your daughter will learn a valuable lesson from your example:  As long as we live, we keep working on getting better and better.

To sum up, make sure that your daughter knows that she does not have to DO anything to be loved and appreciated.    Her accomplishments are her contributions to the world and they have definite merit.  But it is who she IS that you treasure and her essence is perfect now, just as it always has been and always will be.

©2009 Debbie Katz , JPARENT, LLC All rights reserved.
___________________________________________________________________________________
Want to ask a question? Click on the Ask Debbie page at the top of the blog to submit your questions

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »