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We gathered together, 35 of us, to continue our discussion about how to be the best parents for our children. With our worlds rocked recently by the suicide deaths of two seemly content 18 year olds, we each sought some grounding and guidance from our Jewish tradition.

Our previous session of the Mishpacha Family Alternative Learning program became an emotion-packed support group, as adults shared heartfelt concerns and fears. We agreed that if young men who appeared fine were actually roiling in turmoil, then perhaps our own children could be struggling with demons of their own. How do we open up conversations, without stepping into a minefield that shuts our children down?

Our Mishpacha Coordinators directed us to three Jewish values that could guide our communication:

  • Miyut sicha, minimizing the conversation – striving to choose words carefully and speaking about meaningful subjects. 
  • Emet, being honest and truthful – recognizing and owning the emotions and judgments that lead to conflict. 
  • Shema, listening – allowing our young people to talk while we hold back on the critiques, suggestions, or judgments.

    Listening, we learned, is a form of sacred communication, that needs to be practiced. Our most sacred act, reciting our most sacred prayer, compels us shema yisrael – listen you Jewish people

In chevruta (study pairs), we delved into favorite texts about these three Jewish values. We then talked about situations for which we might have responded differently (better?) had we thought about this particular value or text.

Are you interested in exploring more Jewish texts about effective communication? Check out our  favorites!

By the way, the Or Ami Center for Jewish Parenting is hosting presentations in the coming months to help parents improve our parenting:

  • Parent/Teen Collaboration Models: How and Why to Work With Your Teen To Raise Your Teen on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 6:30 pm with Dr. Bruce Powell who knows teens. In addition to raising his own 4 children, Dr. Powell, founder and Head of School at New Community Jewish High School, was instrumental in founding two other LA Jewish High Schools. This is NOT a recruitment event for the High School; we bring Dr. Powell to Or Ami because his parenting wisdom is so enlightening and helpful. 
  • Cyberbullying: What Families Don’t Know Will Hurt Them on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 7:00 pm with the Anti-Defamation League’s Eva Vega-Olds, Project Director (Pacific Southwest Region A World of Difference® Institute) and Matt Friedman, Associate Regional Director.
    This interactive workshop for parents and teens (grade 7 and older) will increase understanding and awareness about the problem of cyberbullying, educate and empower adult family members to effectively discuss and respond to experiences with cyberbullying, and provide tools and skills to teens for responding to cyberbullying and being allies to others. 
  • Rabbi Kipnes’ Top 10 Tips for Raising Decent Jewish Teens and Pre-teens on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 6:30 pm. Come learn with Rabbi Kipnes how to effectively communicate with your kids about sex, drugs, love and more.

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