For some, parenting at Passover can be a challenge. On the one hand, there are the younger school age kids for whom concepts of oppression may be beyond their comprehension. On the other end, there are teens who are in the process of differentiating themselves from the family. On both ends, our children may experience a disconnect to the relevancy of Jewish history.
It is important to note that teens’ desire to differentiate themselves is a normal developmental process, even though a challenge in some families.
The key to surviving teen challenges, and particularly at Passover time is realizing, this too shall pass.
Oppression and freedom from oppression are the themes of Passover, much like the teen may see themselves as hard pressed to conform to the expectations of parents and family.
Rather than dismissing, minimizing or arguing the teen’s point of view, the parent need only draw parallels to Jewish history and ask the teen how or where they identify themselves in view of Jewish stories.
Very often, while teens are differentiating themselves from family, they still seek connection, but are often loath to let the parents know this. Whereas anger and lectures push away and undermine connection, curiosity and wonder can be used to draw in. Hear your teen through, continue to be curious, value their input and wonder if they would like to share any of their thoughts come the Seder to make Jewish history current and relevant.
With that, we not only can facilitate and improve our connection with our teens, but their connection with Jewish identity and history.
As per the younger school age kids while it may be a challenge to comprehend the larger issues of oppression, on a more personal level, they likely understand what it means to be bullied, especially based on a visible difference. One need only ask the younger child if they have seen a friend or classmate picked on, called names, singled out, treated harshly for somehow being different.
The key with the younger child is simply to wonder about their experience with this; to wonder about who was involved; to wonder what happened; to wonder if anyone, including another child did anything; to wonder if other kids stood by. If happily there is not a personal experience, then you can wonder about that theme in a movie or TV show; how it made them feel; what they might have done given the example and experience.
The objective is to seek a real or even fictional example of oppression at an individual level based on a person being different. Even Beauty and the Beast can serve as this example.
From there the parent can enlarge the concept to big groups of similar people and smaller groups of dissimilar people and how larger groups of people can also pick on smaller groups of people.
From there, it is not so much a stretch to make the Passover story come alive.
With these discussions, we can also address the concept of resiliency – the ability to overcome adversity. We can talk about the role of even one person standing up for someone bullied and how in Jewish history, that someone was Moses.
For these younger kids, it is not necessary to explain Moses as the tragic hero whose own earlier deeds forbade him passage to the Promised Land. It is enough to appreciate the heroism, tempered by fear and pain as he stood for what was right.
Jews have a tremendous legacy of social justice and helping others. Starting with the personal and moving to the group and then to overcoming adversity by addressing principle and serving others, our young children can be invited into the story making it relevant on a level that works for them.
Jewish history is paradoxically current history. When we the parents make it relevant on a personal level, it comes to life with meaning for our kids. It is this relevancy to the lives of our children that can maintain their interest and connection hopefully to serve yet another growing generation.
It’s Passover. That’s so what!
Gary Direnfeld is a social worker, formerly in Dundas, Ontario, now living in Keswick, Ontario. In addition to his private practice, Gary is a media personality, columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and court recognized expert in parenting. For more information, go to: www.yoursocialworker.com.