Shalom Shaarei Kodesh,
According to a recent CDC study on children and mental health, children’s diagnoses of depression and anxiety continued to climb in 2020, keeping pace with a trend that emerged in the years prior to the pandemic. Between 2016 and 2020, the number of children diagnosed with anxiety grew by 29 percent, and the number diagnosed with depression grew by 27 percent. The pandemic has only exacerbated these issues in our teens. The question is, what do we do about it as parents and grandparents?
This week’s parashah, Emor begins in an interesting way:
וַיֹּאמֶר יי אֶל־מֹשֶׁה אֱמֹר אֶל־הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם לְנֶפֶשׁ לֹא־יִטַּמָּא בְּעַמָּיו׃
The LORD said to Moses: Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: None shall defile himself for any [dead] person among his kin…
The Talmud (Yevamot 114a) asks an important question: "Why does the Torah tell Moses to ‘speak’ (Emor) and then, in the same sentence, tell him to ‘say’ something to the priests and the sons of Aaron?" The answer they give is that one command is to speak to adults, but the next statement is there to teach us that adults must also speak to children. In the case of the Torah, the priests had to speak to their children about certain physical disabilities. As we know though, there are some scars that are unseen that can cause the most damage.
The road to healing begins with a conversation, but how to have those conversations with our teens is a challenge unto itself.
This Shabbat, we are blessed to bring in a youth and family educator, Scott Fried, who will help us learn how to effectively speak to our children about the challenges they face. Scott met with our teens and parents in 2014, both together, and then separately. After the parent-only talk, there was a line of parents waiting to talk to Scott with tears in their eyes.
One parent sent me a thank you note: “I must thank you for bringing Scott Fried to us. He was so inspirational and understanding of our struggles as parents.
He is a gift.”
I urge you all, whether you are a parent, uncle or aunt, grandparent, child, or teen, to join us this Shabbat for one or all of his sessions.
On Friday night, Scott will speak to our congregation about the pandemics that he has lived through in: “AIDS to COVID: Lessons on Living for a New Generation.”
On Shabbat morning, Scott will meet with our 3rd - 6th graders and lead a session called "Tell Me Something True & Beautiful." Following services, our teens will meet with Scott for Teen Talk: We are taught to not just look at the container, but what is actually inside (Pirkei Avot). Exploring ways in which we can best support our teens, as they grow and develop, we will consider some of the internalized negative core beliefs that interfere with their abilities to see positive attributes.
On Sunday morning, over breakfast, Scott will speak with our adults (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) in a talk titled: "The ABCs of Gen-Z Parenting (and Grandparenting)." Learn 5 survival tools for communicating with your teen that will bridge the gap between you. Through a spiritual element, you will find a sense of holiness in the work of raising teens during this challenging time. We will end with an extensive Q&A session.
We live in challenging times, but we do not have to face these challenges alone, which is why being a part of a holy community like ours is so vital. Please join us for any or all of these sessions.
Rabbi David Baum