Do you have a question for Rivkie?
A good friend of my teenage son (let’s call him Mordechai) moved away this summer. Mordechai is upset about his friend’s departure, especially since they have known each other for most of their lives. He is a well-adjusted kid, and has many friends, but this is really throwing him for a loop. How do I help him through this rough patch?
First of all, kol ha’kavod (well done) for having a teenager who confides in you! Rivkie wishes her kids would do the same sometimes. You must be doing something right. Just being there and listening to him is enormously helpful, and it sounds like you are doing that.
Additionally, you are a NORMAL JEWISH MOTHER for not wanting your precious bubbeleh to undergo any sadness. In fact, most of us would wrap our darling kinderlach in bubble wrap if we could, amirite? That being said, however, we are doing our children a disservice if we try to skip over all the bad, hard feelings and “fix it” for them. Striking a balance is key.
To begin with, you need to give your son some tips on how to get through these types of life events. A trait that has turned into a buzzword these days is that of “resilience.” This has been found to correlate highly with success. Although some people are born with this trait, there are lots of people who develop it as they grow up.
When I Googled resilience, I came upon a one-pager from the American Management Association about this very topic. These points might be especially helpful to your son:
1.) Remember that stress and change are normal and are a stimulus to your growth.
2.) When a stress occurs, don’t let yourself deny, overreact, avoid, or strike out.
3.) Put each stress in a broader perspective, so that it’s more tolerable.
4.) Analyze each stress, so that you can see how best to solve it.
5.) Make a decisive action plan to turn each stress to advantage, and carry it out.
This list is a great start when talking about his stress. You can show your son this list, and discuss with him parts that he can relate to. Obviously, none of us change overnight, and he’s not going to read this list and say, “Okay, Mommy, yes, I’ll do this all now, thanks so much for sharing.” BUT, it can serve as a foundation upon which you can build, giving you some vocabulary to work with.
Some say that kids are naturally resilient, but I personally don’t buy this. Everyone is different, and our job is to parent our children according to their strengths, personalities, and emotional capabilities, and to help them develop their own resilience skills.
This looks very different for each kid. I know that, in my house, there is a huge range of abilities to deal with adversity. I personally do not win the award for most resilient. My husband, in contrast, is Mr. Resilient. One of the best things we can do as parents is to make our kids self-aware and help them learn to deal with adversity head on instead of letting them avoid it or, worse, for us to sugar-coat it. Give your son words, tools, and a sympathetic ear and tell him, from me, that he is lucky to have such a great mother.
All the best,