I once heard a quote, “The apple doesn’t fall from the tree… except when there is a storm outside.” This seems to be an appropriate way to describe parenting today. How do we parent in a day and age when the world outside is trying with all their might to grab our children away from us? What tools can we use to weather the storm? Dr. Gabor Mate, a Canadian psychiatrist who is a Holocaust survivor, stated, “Whatever the hopes, wishes or intentions of the parent, the child does not experience the parent, they experience the parenting.” We need to develop the parenting skills needed to effectively raise healthy, happy and productive children in today’s society.

In any true storm, the most effective course of action is to stay home and out of the storm. Of course, it would not be feasible for our children to never leave the four walls of our homes and venture outdoors. However, we can create our homes in such a way where even when our children do leave, their hearts and their minds stay home. They enjoy spending their free time at home with their families and they are happy to come back home at the end of the day. How do we infuse this feeling into our children?

We need to make our homes happy places. Our homes should be filled with laughter, joy, music, and fun. Our Shabbosim should revolve around spending time with our families and the focus at the table needs to be on them. When children enjoy being at home they will want to be there more often. One of the best pieces of advice I can give parents is to make your home the one that children want to bring their friends back to. Make your home the shelter from the storm.

The second most important and effective step in weathering a storm is to wear protective gear when venturing outside. No sane person would walk into a thunderstorm wearing just a t-shirt and flip flops. So too, when we send our children “outside”, we need to outfit them in protective gear. When utilizing technology, strong parental controls and filters are necessities, not accessories. Parents need to have open dialogues with their children about drugs, smoking, drinking, vapes, and co-ed relationships. Children must have chores and curfews. They need to be taught responsibility and ownership. And the most important message that parents can give their children is to impart to them in no uncertain terms that even when the children make mistakes and break the rules (which they will), they can always seek shelter and come back home.

At Madraigos we counsel our parents to love unconditionally, but parent with limits. It is these limits that, if put in place preventatively, will safeguard our children through the storm.

But sometimes, no matter how well we prepare, we head out into a storm and hit an unexpected hardship. The winds of the storm are so strong that they threaten to blow away everything we have. Sometimes, the storm becomes a hurricane of massive proportions. To survive such a storm, we need to be tethered down so tightly that no matter what comes our way, the rope does not break. Even in a storm, the apple will not fall far from the tree - if the apple is tied to it.

At the end of the day, when all is said and done, the only thing that will keep our children safe and protected is our relationship with them. If we have been successful in building a strong positive connection with our children, resonating with empathy, devotion, love and pride, our children will remain tethered to us. They may face challenge after challenge but their connection never severs. I have met with teenagers on the brink of disaster, children who have suffered through tremendous challenges and traumas. There have been times when I myself am shocked that they have not given everything up and drowned themselves in a life of substance abuse or irreligiosity. And when I ask these adolescents what has stopped them from going over the edge; they respond to me that they could never hurt their parents in that way. And that no matter what it takes, they will seek every recourse they can to find help and make sure they live up to their parents’ expectations of them.

At Madraigos we believe in parenting by prevention - acquiring the necessary skills and resources to parent effectively before reaching a point of crisis. Our community wide parenting events and parenting support groups are all aimed at this idea of empowering the parents in our community to build these relationships with their children and to give them the tools about how to do it.

To get more information about any of these programs or to seek out individual guidance and resources, please contact Mindi Werblowsky, LCSW, Clinical Director at 516-371-3250 ext. 112 or mwerblowsky@madraigos.org

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