I recently heard a speaker recount that he was the guest speaker at a function and sitting there he was shocked to notice that the menu had delicious meat as the main course and cheesecake with milk chocolate truffles for desert, he was horrified and approached the person in charge and pointed out his concern. The person in charge responded, when I heard that you are the guest speaker, I knew that we will have enough time after the main course to have a milchig desert. The bad news is that you won’t be having a milchig desert tonight, however the good news is that I will be brief and hopefully to the point.
Many speakers start off sharing that they are not really a speaker, they’re not really a mechanech and so on. As a therapist I know that it can be traumatizing at times. For example, if you are on flight and over the loudspeaker you hear, I will be flying you tonight, however I am really not a pilot and don’t really know how to fly, however I will try my best. Or right before entering the operating room the surgeon humbly admits to you, I am really not a surgeon, but I heard that you are in pain, so I figured it’s worth a try. With that said I will confess that although I work with teens, I am not the expert on teens, the true expert on teens is in house tonight and is none other than our esteemed rosh yeshiva shlita
At the recent TU convention the Rosh yeshiva presented, and in addition to the fact that he had a huge turnout, after the presentation the menahel of a first rate yeshiva approached the rosh yeshiva and said, I will take a copy of this presentation for each one of my rebbeim. The information applies to talmidim in all yeshivos. Our rosh yeshiva exemplifies the pshat of Chanoch Lenaar al pi darko, to be matzliach in chinuch you need to go in the ways of hashem. To be rachum, chanun, erech apayim, rav chesed and emes. It is the rosh yeshiva who is the person that is behind the great success we celebrate tonight. It is he who handpicked the top of the line Rabbeim who are transforming the Bochurim to be the successes they are. MOE lives by the words of the Mahrshal that asks why it says in the haggadah, Echud Chacham, Echud Rasha, Echud Tam, Echud Sheno yodea lishol, shouldn’t it say Echud Chacham, Sheni Rasha, Shlishi Tam, Revee Sheno yodeah lishol? The answer he says is that that they are all number one and all deserve and equal opportunity. MOE offers every bochur the opportunity to find hatlacha in torah and life.
Many people are aware of the issues that many of our teens are facing, there are many meetings held, and symposium’s presented on what the issues are, however fewer do something about it. There’s a riddle that goes, what’s the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. Both tell you that it is hot in the room. But there is a huge difference between the 2. A thermometer can tell you the temperature however it does nothing about it. A thermostat however does something about it. We celebrate tonight “the thermostat” a team of dedicated individuals who decided to do something about it. MOE needs our support to continue with their great work, and we need them to assure that every bochur will be there at kobolos hatorah.
I was asked to talk about teens, in my opinion, the biggest challenge we have in being mechanch teens, is communication. If we are able to better communicate with them, we would be able to know what bothers them and be able to help them deal with it. The lead researchers on communication found that anxiety is what breaks down communication. When someone is anxious they shut down and can’t communicate effectively with another person. As an anxiety specialist I can tell you that anxiety is basically driven by the feeling of being out of control. As long as one feels in control they remain calm, and when they feel that it’s been taken away, fear and anxiety kick in.
What are the two most challenging obstacles teens negotiate that create anxiety? The first is who is the boss in their lives? From when kids are at the terrible two’s stage, they are in the process of moving from being totally dependent on their parents, to ultimately being independent by the time they get married. They begin at 2 throwing the food mommy put on their highchair tray unto the floor, and continue with similar behaviors into adolescence. Our challenge then is, How can we have them feel like they are charge and at the same time being mechanech them?
The second obstacle is that children recognize that everything we wish for them, Bonei, Chaya & Mezonei, are all glued to pain. Life equals pain. On the other hand dis-functionality has no pain; drugs, alcohol & suicide are ways of running away from pain. How do we teach them to deal with pain, so they move towards life rather than running the other way?
Research proves that the best way to deescalate anxiety and the need for control, is to validate. Studies show that if the mom crunches her face to mirror her 8 month old baby when it’s crying from the pain of the shots it received, the baby will stop crying. If your 2 year old scrapes her knee, the most effective way to calm her is to sigh and acknowledge the tragedy. Trying to argue that it’s really not so painful will only escalate the pain. When we validate our teen that is in pain we de-escalate their pain. Of course this has its limitations, if your child is on the parkway heading back to Lakewood and you hear on the radio that there is someone driving on the wrong side of the parkway. Of course like every good parent you call your son and tell him to watch out, as you heard that there is someone driving on the wrong side of the highway. Your flustered son responds, Mommy, one car? I see 50 cars driving towards me on the wrong side of the highway, that is not the time to validate him, just tell him to get off the wrong side of the highway. However in most cases when you validate a child they feel that they are in control and you are giving them the right to think and feel as they please. Once you validate them effectively, they should be in position to communicate with you and listen. The skill of validation had 3 steps. 1) Mirror back their words, 2) validate their right to feel what they feel 3) empathize that they are in distress. It is simple once you get the hang of it and then you can move ahead with your parenting.
Regarding the second challenge of teaching them to effectively deal with pain. The gerer rebbe once said that pain is given to us by hashem, suffering we do unto ourselves. It is really suffering we can’t tolerate, pain actually is very tolerable. Let me illustrate with 2 of my clients, both are women that are married for 15 years. One was blessed with 8 children and one is childless. Which woman experiences more pain? The answer is the woman with the 8 children. She had 8 childbirths to contend with, she has no nights, no days, and no schedule. The childless woman on the other hand, had no pain of childbirth, sleeps and eats when she chooses to, lives practically a pain free life. If I ask you who suffers more? The answer is of course the childless woman. So pain after all doesn’t equal suffering, it’s rather pain plus not accepting it, that equals suffering. If we teach our children to accept pain, to accept their lot in life, they will not suffer and need to run away from life.
Additionally we need to teach our children that pain is counter intuitive, when we move towards pain it actually will not continue to escalate it will rather always diminish. For example if the pool is cold and you want to swim, if you stick with the discomfort it will diminish. If you have a mosquito bite and don’t itch to relieve your discomfort, it will not get worse but rather diminish. When you show your child examples from their life where something was uncomfortable and they stuck with it and it got better rather than worse, they will be able to make a better choice. These skills will help us help our teens move toward success in life, by minimizing their anxiety and keeping our doors of communication open with them.
One final thought as I close, we are now making final preparations for kabolas hatorah, the chasam sofer points out how moshe rabeinu saw the best way to prepare klal yisroel for kabalas hatorah. We know that Moshe postponed kabolas hatorah for a full 24 hours, he held back millions of mitzvos and torah, why? This is a serious decision on moshe’s end after all. The Chasam Sofer says that this was to ensure that every Jew would be ready and pure and able to participate in Kabolas hatorah. According to the Chasam Sofers calculation’s the only person that couldn’t be ready on time and needed the extra day to become pure, would be a handicapped woman. And the way moshe wanted us to prepare for kabolas hatorah was to make sure every person was there, and nobody was left behind. Thats the way we prepare for kabloas hatorah!
What better way to prepare than being here tonight and assuring that no boy will be left behind. In the Zchus of supporting MOE an institution that makes sure that no boy will be left behind when it comes Kaolas hatorah, may we merit to the brochos that come with Kabols Hotarah health, wealth and nachas until the coming of Moshiach BB”O