3 min read
8 tips on encouraging your teens to embrace Jewish values.
Here are 8 ways to help you raise your teens with Jewish values:
1. Find ways to connect with your Judaism: Teens can smell hypocrisy a mile away. If you are not excited and devoted to your Judaism your kids will know it. So you need to find ways to live and love your Jewish values and make your Jewish traditions fun and memorable.
2. Find a mentor: Everyone needs a role model. Develop a relationship with a rabbi that you like and respect. Let your child see that you make time for this relationship. Encourage your teen to find Jewish mentors that he can connect with.
3. Create positive relationships: The most powerful tool in parenting is developing a positive relationship. If you want your children to embrace your Jewish values you need to have a good relationship with them.
4. Set limits and rules: Teens need and want limits and rules. They also want to be a part of that rule making. What rules do you want to make about Judaism?
What is your dress code? What about attending services? Sit down and discuss what your expectations are. Hear your child’s side of the story and work out your guidelines with them.
5. Respecting parents starts with you: The Torah is very clear that children need to respect their parents, “Honor your father and mother.” And you can model respect by showing respect to them. Try to keep yelling, blaming and accusing at a minimum. If you do lose it, (we all do), apologize for your outburst. It helps to mend the bad feelings and makes parents look human and more approachable.
6. Unplug: The Jewish calendar has a built-in day once a week to unplug, refresh and unwind: Shabbos. It is the best time to connect with your family, especially teens, whose schedules can get very busy during the week. Shabbos meals are the ultimate bonding time. Making favorite foods, laughing with your family and sharing words of Torah can make the day extra special.
7. There are different ways to connect to Judaism: There are so many ways to connect to Jewish life. Some people are attracted to the intellectual aspect of Judaism. Others connect on a more emotional level or spiritual level, through song and prayer. There are others who commit themselves to a life of doing chesed, loving kindness and there are many acts of kindnesses that teens can commit to doing, working with kids with special needs, visiting the sick, volunteering to tutor in Hebrew. Guider your teen and help them find the best way for them to connect to their Jewish heritage that fits their personality.
8. Love your teen for who they are: This is not specific to raising a child with Jewish values, however your teen is going through a difficult time, where their hormones are raging and they are trying to find themselves. There are times where it will be hard to get along. Always try to focus and hold on to the reason why you love your teen. It will help you get through these tough years until you come out the other side.
With thanks to Rabbi Sruly and Ruchi Koval who ran a parenting panel Raising Teens and Tweens with Jewish Values. And to Rabbi Arieh Friedner, Director of Cleveland NCSY who also contributed to the article.