Tag Archives: Adolescence

What 7 of today’s top headlines tell you about teens today

Where's the good news?

Where’s the good news?

When it comes to teens, it seems that “Headlines” are usually “Dead Lines”….yes….news about deaths, teenage thugs, bullying, and more.

I’m tired of reading all this bad news about teens.

You might ask: “So, just look for the good news, what are you complaining about?”

It’s not that easy.

I get news alerts from Google and Yahoo sent to my Inbox, and generally what comes up, almost on a daily basis, is what you see below.

News

Tired teenagers may need a new mattressFree Malaysia Today  – 20 hours
The researchers found that teenagers’ mattresses were often too small to accommodate their rapid growth. Moreover, they were often worn out …

Teenage thugs locked up after brutally attacking cyclist for being ‘ginger’Manchester Evening News  – 25 minutes
Court is told that the four teenagers launched an ‘unprovoked attack’ on the cyclist as he stopped at lights in the city centre.

New wearable tech Ringblingz to help teenagers stay connectedNew Kerala  – 16 hours
Washington, Feb. 09 : A new wearable technology has been reportedly launched that helps teenagers stay connected based on the social media …

Teenagers held over car theftsThe Herald  – 2 hours
TWO teenagers have been apprehended by police and three stolen vehicles recovered after residents raised the alarm about suspicious activity.

Two Tucson teens arrested in murder plotFOX 10 Phoenix  – 11 hours
Two Tucson teenagers are facing charges of conspiracy to commit murder after Pima County deputies say they were plotting to kill an …

Cincinnati Police arrest four teens in weekend aggravated robberiesFOX 19 Cincinnati  – 14 hours
Cincinnati Police have arrested four teenagers in connection with two aggravated robbery offenses during the past weekend in Northside.

Russian teen project charged with “gay propaganda”Scoop.co.nz  – 9 hours
“The Children-404 project is being prosecuted for “gay propaganda” because it provides sympathetic, supportive advice to isolated, bullied, …

dam nearly finished

I’m not saying that teens are not often a troubled lot, or that teenage rebellion is something we should be surprised about.

After all, James Dean, Catcher in the Rye, and all that…..we’ve all been sensitized to the plight of the adolescent.

However, it is worse now with bullying occupying a virtual limitless space and even bigger social platforms where often teens feel unwanted, unloved, and ostracized.

I’m just saying that I need a break.

So please, to all of you out there working with teenagers or reporting about them…..just write more of the good stuff, if only so it takes up more space in my Inbox.

 

 


“You’re Not Invited”: Teen Victims of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Years and What To Do About It

Mazel tov hats at a bat mitzvah

Party time (for some)

We know that many Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebrations have gotten way out of hand. Thousands have seen Rabbi Wolpe’s Washington Post article “Have we forgotten what Bar Mitzvahs are about?” although fewer may have read the Rabbi’s apology for what some have said was an angry tone.

Beyond the materialistic approach that some of these affairs take and the message it sends, there is another consequence of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah years, regardless of how ‘over the top’ and excessive the extravagance is.

That is the social rejection experienced by those that are left out, not invited—not considered ‘worthy’ of sharing the celebration.oii

The ones who aren’t ‘cool’ enough to be invited or who aren’t in the ‘in’ group.

The ones who get a sick, stinging feeling when finding out they’re one of the few kids who won’t be going to what should be a communal celebration of a life cycle event.

It is a Jewish experience within a Jewish context that leaves scars. This awful irony does not escape them.

During the Bar/Bat Mitzvah years, we would want them to feel wanted, accepted, and comfortable and instead they experience an extreme version of the already intense adolescent social pressures.

One parent told me that his son told him he was ‘never going back to that place’ referring to the synagogue that he felt failed him by allowing such obvious exclusionary behavior.

Here they are, ostensibly learning Jewish values, (B’tzelem Elokim, Kavod HaBriut, Tzniut, and many others) with a huge chasm between learning these values and what they’re actually experiencing in their lives…within the community of a synagogue no less.

How sad. We certainly make a lot of effort to make other environments fair (no scores in Little League?).

Can’t we figure this one out? Although the scenario above does not happen in every single synagogue, I know that you know it happens often enough for us not to ignore it.

Understandably, making rules and not allowing free choice in this area is extremely tough, but in not choosing to set policies, we are choosing and allowing our highly impressionable teens to be victims of this socially isolating experience.

And it’s just a shame that some teen’s experience of a Jewish religious rite becomes a place where popularity plays out.

With some effort, these issues might be solved in some creative ways. Our teens, at least in a Jewish environment, deserve a safe haven from some of the most painful social experiences of adolescence.

Quick, let’s think of some alternatives:

1. We go back to the ‘old-fashioned’ ways, and truly make this opportunity a communal experience.…held in the synagogue with the entire synagogue community plus friends and family included. Expensive? Not when done without the glitz and glamour.

2. Have all the families agree to invite everyone, no matter what type of celebration.

3. Discuss the social implications of this event with the teens, making it part of the supplementary school curriculum.

4. Families celebrating in that year agree to donate monies into a joint fund, and hold a celebration for everyone in the class at an agreed-upon time.

5. Raise awareness of this issue at parent education opportunities.

Do you have creative ways of dealing with this issue? I’d love to hear what some synagogues have worked out, I’m sure so many parents and Jewish educators would love to have some options. Please respond and share.

Photo credit: Wikipedia


Catching Catfish: Real and Unreal Life for Jewish Teens

trust

Just when you think you can keep pace with the bizarre events of the everyday, you find yourself having a discussion with Jewish teens that blows the dust off your brain just a bit.

This is necessary.

It keeps the distance between the generations and confirms for teens why they’re glad they’re not as old as you are.

Last week I sat with a group of teens taking a Current Events class.

After chatting about the Israeli Knesset and the elections, the conversation veered way weird when they got to talking about the Manti Te’o business.

That was not news. What was news to me was the term Catfish, the MTV show “Catfish”  and the verb “catfishing.” I was fascinated, but in a sad way. Just listening to these teens talk about the real, the fake, and the in-between relationships they have to negotiate between real life and online personas, I was overwhelmed with the amount of distrust they experience on a daily basis.

How do they begin to navigate through these murky waters? When shows like “Catfish” keep their interest (most watch the show), how do we counter the values of the day with Jewish values that build character, strong identities, and a commitment to honesty?

There is now, more than ever, a compelling reason for instilling in our teens a strong sense of self.  A way to know who they are and what they stand for.

Plus, we have to always be current. Always on the look-out for the next challenge.–so we aren’t caught acting like a catfish, slinking along on the bottom of the river.


“After My Bar Mitzvah, My Dad Decided to Convert. Is He Still Considered Jewish?”

Some labels might be useful. Others, not so much.

Some labels might be useful. Others, not so much.

I wasn’t prepared for such a troubling question by this slight yet earnest 8th grader. He had been so patient; holding his hand up until the discussion left an opening.

This evening, the teens were very talkative once they got going about the topic: Intermarried Families. His question arose during a workshop on sensitizing Jewish high school students to the many issues intermarried families face.

They had personal experiences about the issue, since about one-third of them were from intermarried families themselves.  The conversation had relevance for them and  they shared personal stories peppered with jokes, hurt feelings, and sometimes defiance.

The program was specifically designed for teens and consisted of film clips to trigger conversation and raise awareness.

His question came after I shared an experience I had when I was a teenager myself, while attending a large suburban Conservative synagogue in my town. I have a very clear memory of asking a congregant who someone was. He pointed to him and then lightly said: “Oh, this is Mr. So and So, who converted to Judaism….” I couldn’t figure out why I needed to know that. This man was forever labeled in my mind as ‘the one who converted.’

I’ve experienced this practice even as an adult. Why must we use labels?

Let’s come back to the boy sitting in front of me. He was obviously very concerned and wanted an answer. Yet, in the format of the program, with a full agenda and little time, I could not engage him in a full discussion of all the questions I wanted to ask him.

For example, why does he feel a need to ask this question? Does this first question represent other, more pressing questions about the choices his father made? What does he think about how the Jewish community responded to his father? Is it what he expected? Did he feel his Dad was welcomed? Rejected? Did he sense a total acceptance of the choice by his father’s family? Is he still wondering about his father’s reasons for conversion? Was it only for the ceremony or was there some deeper reason that his father made the choice he did? What impact did the father’s conversion have on him? Did it make him doubt his own choices going forward or feel more secure in them?

How would you respond to this student when there is so much more to discuss?

What I said next created some comedy, but my intention was to offer a really concrete example for this student: “Here’s how I see it. You know when someone gets his/her nose fixed? Or some cosmetic work done? Once it’s done, we no longer say, “You know, this is Ms. So and So…she recently got a nose job. We accept that the person has a new nose, and we move on. No need to reference it. We don’t need to go back to past history and label that person any differently than anyone else. Similarly, Your father’s Jewish. He’ll always be considered Jewish.”

He seemed to be reassured and we continued on with the discussion.

The students had a lot to say, and more questions to ask as the evening progressed.

The question above demonstrates just how much work we have to do to create more understanding among all of us about those who ‘choose Jewish’. Here are some tips to consider when a family member converts:

  1. Have a family discussion about the decision. Teens are at the stage when they are actively questioning many things. Especially about religion, the meaning of life, their place among their peers, and more. They will appreciate knowing your reasons for the decision, and being included in some thoughts you’ve had.
  2. This is an opportunity to connect with your teen about spiritual journeys. We often reserve conversations with our kids to the mundane. These conversations about religion and faith are of an entirely different level. Personal yes, but it opens so many doors.
  3. You might schedule a meeting with the family and the Rabbi together, so all parties are aware of any new roles and  responsibilities.

Photo credit: BazzaDaRambler, flickr. Creative commons license.


Writings about Jewish Teens: 2012 in review

The WordPress.com team sends me a summary e-mail at the end of the year (complete with fireworks!) that lets me know my progress (I’ve been blogging for two years) and more about what you, the readers of this blog, find interesting to read about Jewish teens.

There is a list of the most viewed blogs–can you think of a better motivator?  Even in my very, very small niche world, this list gets compared (ready?) to the number of climbers of Mount Everest! See below.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 12 years to get that many views.

See what I mean? Here’s the list:

A Few Top Posts from 2012

1. From Jewish Camp to Synagogue: Five No Brainers

This post talks about the chasm experienced by many campers when they return home after a summer injection of Judaism, and what synagogues can do to bridge the gap.

2. Judging Jewish Education by Fun

What are the trade-offs between programs that offer fun and those that offer content?

3. Five Things Parents Should Know

I know what you may be thinking. People seem to like the number five. (See number 1.) Interesting, no? These are things that parents should know about Jewish education for their teens.

4. Hiring Teen Aides? (Full disclosure: this title had the number five in it too, but on my end, it’s just how many tips I wrote at the time).

Synagogues use/hire teen aides in the classroom for all sorts of reasons. Here are some reasons to think about the intentions of these efforts.

5. One minute, three reasons why Jewish education helps teens focus on what’s important.

The title pretty much says it.

6.”Please feel free to contact me….”Advice for #Jteens and others

I wrote this in response to an e-mail I received from a job applicant, and found the comment an ironic one from a person wanting to make a favorable impression.

7. “Wow, You’re Soooo Jewish!”

I wrote this post after hearing a student tell this to another student in a Jewish values class. It’s interesting to see the students’ take on just how “Jewish” things are.

One more thing, a 2011 post made the list, and you can read that here:

What I learned about marketing from working at a Jewish community high school 

You might have missed some of the ones above, or want to read more about Jewish teens. Hit the subscribe button, and you won’t miss a thing!


For Teens: Worrying About Being Normal? Don’t.

English: Histogram of sepal widths for Iris ve...

What’s the new normal anyway?

I recently read a great post called Approaching Normal.  It got me thinking about how teens today think about being ‘normal’.

Even as adults, we all wonder about it, and the post describes just how much politicians, advertising gurus, and marketing mavens depend on our desire to be in that state of normalcy.

So, we all think about being normal and fitting in, into some group,  but take yourself back to your teen years.  You might want to add in some thoughts about your identity as a Jewish teen, especially if you lived in an area lacking a large Jewish population.

Try to imagine dealing with the wrenching angst of feelings that you didn’t fit in.

Of being out of the place you coveted for whatever reason. And then think of the reasons you thought you couldn’t make the grade: wrong clothes, image, name, hair, really……it could have been for any reason at all.  Logic, though trying to peek through the fog, has no role here.

Think about what you were thinking, feeling, or even how you were acting….did you think you were totally normal and just like everyone else?

Those years were tough, weren’t they? But you’re done now, and all grown up (debatable, I know).

Well, our teens live and breathe in that world, but now it’s even harder: more pressured, more intense, more public.  There are fewer places to hide.

Did I say the right thing? Wrong thing? Will my peers/teachers/boy-girl friend hate me? Will this be posted on facebook? Who will see? What will my parents think? Where else will it be shared, and how quick? Who will be texting this? Who can I rally? What will happen in school tomorrow? Will everyone on the bus know? Maybe I should stay home?

They live in that excruciating difficult world of alternating fear, wonder and panic. They are surrounded by unanswerable questions and questionable answers that are nearly impossible to obtain with any certainty.

We can’t even begin to imagine. Well, it turns out that there is no ‘Normal’.  Not really for anyone. That’s a relief, because what our teens are going through isn’t really normal, or is it?

Photocredit: Wikipedia


Current Events: did your teenager’s eyes just glaze over?

taken by משתמש:Hmbr

Mention “Current Events” to a group of teens and just watch what happens.  Their eyes seem to glaze over.

As if talking about something that isn’t in a textbook is a violation of protocol.

I don’t want to be an alarmist, but to some students, reading a newspaper might seem like reading information in a foreign language.

I’m not sure how much today’s teens are grappling with the issues of the day.

How can this be?

Easy. It’s not in the curriculum.

Sure, when something really big happens, it gets some class attention.

However, the stories that are important, but not part of breaking news, are literally another story.

Where are our students getting the depth of a story?

My experience with Israeli teens has always been the opposite. They are intimately involved in the politics of the day, and those conversations happen informally: in the taxi, on-line at the movies, everywhere.

The article in the link below notes that according to a Pew Research study, 49% of people were getting their news in digital form. Good for them. But are today’s teens using their apps for news?

Try an experiment. Ask someone you know, under the age of 18, what news they’ve heard recently. Chances are it’s the new sensational story with the glitz, gore or glamour that way back, was called Yellow journalism.

So, what will change? You.

Have conversations about what’s important to you as a parent, and it will trickle down. Be broad about subject matter.

Don’t wait for a family dinner (those are in short supply). Talk about current news anywhere. In the car. On the line at Target.

Try to make those little moments count for some ‘thought’ time.

Those teenage brains need a workout, and our teens are capable of great thoughts.

Time for that may not always be part of the school curriculum, but it can be part of yours.

photo credit: Wikipedia


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