Although your responses will be too late to be beneficial to me, I hope that by writing into this panel your responses will guide others who may be dealing with a similar dilemma. My wife’s father was recently niftar after a relatively brief illness. There was a lot of disagreement between my wife and me as to how much our 3 children (ages 12, 10 and 7) should participate in the levaya, shiva etc. My wife was very concerned that the levaya (and particularly going to the beis hakevaros) would be traumatizing for the children. She also insisted that they remain at home and keep to a regular schedule while the shiva was in a different town. I wound up bringing them in just on Sunday afternoon to visit for a few minutes. I know this is a morbid topic but “kach he darco shel olam.” I know that every situation is different but am sure your guidelines would help parents navigate these difficult times.
Your question reminds me of a similar one that was asked a number of months ago. That parent was concerned about her 5th grade son who was traumatized by graphic Holocaust photos. As I pointed out in that week’s issue, each person has different triggers, fears, and emotional responses. Thus, one child may be nonchalant in a situation that causes significant pain for another. Additionally, a child’s age and maturity level should be taken into account before making decisions.
As parents, we try to shield our children from things that we believe can cause them harm. However, child-rearing is not an exact science. Since each child is unique in their needs and emotions, we need to approach parenting from an individualistic perspective. We also need to set aside our own feelings and insecurities in coming to a decision. Sometimes though we feel that something would be traumatic for a child, a more objective viewpoint can help us to recognize that it might actually benefit them. It can be difficult to determine a child’s response to a new situation, but an objective perspective can help us to see circumstances more clearly. One way of achieving this type of perspective is to imagine a friend asking for your opinion. This can help to minimize our subjectivity, allowing us to come to a less emotional conclusion.
A more general issue that I had mentioned is the fine line between appropriately protecting our children and being overprotective. I think that it bears repeating:
“The obvious advantage to erring on the side of caution seems clear in the short term. When we strive to protect our kids from difficulty, they appear to be safer and less distressed. In their younger years, they can seem more content. As kids grow older, however, they not only require less protection, but can be harmed by too much.
“Kids need to learn coping skills—both logistical and emotional—in order to become well-adjusted adults. Overprotection can decrease their ability to develop these skills. When this occurs, kids will often begin demanding continuous protection due to their inability to deal with problems—whether emotional or otherwise. This often becomes a cycle in which both parents and children become used to this protective relationship. They either do not recognize its problematic nature or can’t figure out how to change it.”
As parents, we are in a better position than anyone else to identify our children’s needs, and to properly base our decisions on their individual characteristics. The hardest part is often our emotional involvement in the situation, whether due to fear for our children or our own fears and triggers. Stepping back—perhaps with the help of an outside party—can help us to see the situation more clearly. Sometimes, this can make a seemingly difficult or contentious issue appear much simpler.
-Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW
psychotherapist in private practice
Brooklyn, NY | Far Rockaway, NY
author of Self-Esteem: A Primer
www.ylcsw.com / 718-258-5317
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