Emet’s monthly couples’ workshops returned for spring with an informative evening at Shaare Emunah Sephardic Congregation of the Five Towns. In keeping with the goal to provide helpful content for couples at all stages of marriage, the relevant topic was “How to Have Tough and Delicate Conversations with Your Adolescent Children.” The guest speaker was Rabbi Doniel Frank, a marriage and family therapist, who was back by popular demand after delivering a similar workshop to Queens-based couples a few months ago. There was a relaxed feeling in the room as participants caught up with friends and mingled over sushi. Rabbi Nissim Musheyev, Emet Community Development Director, set the tone by explaining the importance of communication within the family since parents have the responsibility to be a “light” for their children.
Navigating healthy communication with adolescents was not only the theme, but it was also evident by the open and conversational manner in with Rabbi Frank led the discussion. He began with the analogy that the adolescent years are similar to “riding the rapids” down a river. The experience can be smooth sailing or turbulent and rocky. With so many developmental changes and outside influences children require a guide, and it is the parents responsibility to help them along. He explained that according to Chazal you can’t punish someone if you didn’t educate them beforehand. Rabbi Frank pointed out that when it comes to broaching sensitive subjects with adolescents there are a few key factors. The first is that parents have to establish a strong relationship with their children early on, so there is a level of trust already in place when things become challenging. The second is that parents must show ongoing relevance and be “parents for life,” offering relevant advice and explanations and not just broaching subjects when there are issues. Most importantly, parents have to take the lead on discussing sensitive topics with their children such as physical development. In answer to the many questions of how and when to start these conversations, Rabbi Frank said that the dialogue must begin well before adolescence, so children don’t turn to their peers instead. He offered age-appropriate tips to open discussions and suggested parents frame these topics by the example of the kedushah of the body that is shown in the Torah. Participants appreciated Rabbi Frank’s candor and were receptive to his commonsense suggestions.
“It was really great to be able to offer this workshop to couples with older children, since Emet is growing along with our alumni and we want to support them as they raise their families,” said Shay Yonaiev, Couples Director. “I was personally happy that I was able to connect my two passions which are Emet and my neighborhood shul. We plan to bring more impactful programming like this to couples in the Five Towns area as well as to those at Emet’s home base in Queens.”