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Do we shelter our teenagers?

Dear Rabbi,

I’ve been deeply disturbed watching images of recent terrorist attacks taking place around the world. I try to protect my 11 and 13-year-old daughters from watching such coverage, but my husband thinks I should let them face reality. Can you please offer some words of wisdom?ASK THE RABBI 2

Elaine

Dear Elaine,

There is, on the one hand, a desperate need we all feel of wanting to shield our children from the cruel world that lurks out there. On the other hand, there is the need to educate our children about the realities of life and the world they are going to grow up in.

So, where to find balance? I suppose it would depend on what the coverage is. If it is general reporting, there’s an argument that your children should be made aware; they will want to ask questions and you need to provide sensitive answers. If it is more graphic coverage, describing beheadings or being burnt alive, I don’t think kids need to hear that kind of stuff.

It’s enough they know there are barbaric individuals in the world. They don’t also need to know precisely what these people get up to. The verse declares, “Educate the child according to his (or her) way.” By definition, it’s all about the special attention we pay to children.

It’s about recognising the value of each child and looking to nurture his or her uniqueness, This enables him or her to grow and develop in accordance with his or her particular standard. In that way, all our children will have the right sort of confidence whereby, as they grow older, it will always remain an integral part of them.

Thay way, they’ll be able to go out there and confront their world head-on, rising to the challenges as they present themselves.

Strange guilt over my flight

Dear Rabbi,

I’m not religious but keep Shabbat when I can. My job involves travelling around the world so this often proves difficult. I’m due to catch a flight on a Saturday morning to California next month for work, yet feel a guilty flying at this time. If I’m not religious, so is it silly?

Marcus

Dear Marcus,

Why are you putting the cart before the horse? “Is it silly to feel guilty when I am not all that religious anyway?” Or, perhaps, it is precisely because you are feeling guilt that proves you are more religious than you think.

Religion and the guilt associated with it is something you’re feeling on the level of the soul.

You can try to expunge the feelings, but that’s like going into a state of denial, which is self-defeating. Let your emotions dictate what you intuitively know to be correct and organise your life accordingly.

I’m not judging you for what you may or may not observe on Shabbat, but since you are asking the question and as you are feeling the guilt anyway, I think you should catch another flight outside Shabbat hours. S

omething tells me you’ll feel a whole lot better and, by extension, your business dealing will go a whole lot better as well.

Good luck!

Our barmitzvah ‘threat’ to son

Dear Rabbi,

It is my son’s barmitzvah coming up this year and as we are not regular shul goers I have tried to encourage him to attend so that he feels part of the community before his special day.

However, he has absolutely zero interest in going.

Shabbat mornings turn into huge arguments where he insists we can’t force him, yet we are trying to do our best to encourage him to go.

We threaten to cancel his barmitzvah if he refuses to go, even though we don’t mean it.

Can you help?

Deborah

Dear Deborah,

First, never issue a threat you don’t intend to carry out.

Once you do, and you don’t carry it out, your kid will know that you everything is eminently negotiable and will walk circles around you always and forever.

Second, threatening to cancel a barmitzvah – are you kidding me?

Your son knows you want it as much as he does!

Third, so you never went to shul much if at all and now you want your kid to go for the next six months because… why? It’s the done thing? That’s hardly a reason. He might be inclined to continue going after? Unlikely, if you never set the example.

Remember, kids will sometimes listen to what you say; they may sometimes do as you say – but they will almost always do as you do. Because as much as we are watching our kids to see what they are doing with their lives, make no mistake, they are watching us to see what we are doing with ours.

So no disrespect intended, but you created a problem which has been, effectively, 13 years in the making and now you want advice on how to fix it. How about you start by some positive encouragement?

Don’t make going to synagogue a chore.

Make it exciting and offer incentive.

Go together as a family and – for the sake of all that is good and gracious – don’t stop after the barmitzvah, because you’ll really confuse him going forward.