“Teen Tragedy”


Moshe Ben-Chaim


Please do not read this article on Shabbos, as it is to be a day of without pain.

Last week we email you concerning two teenage girls who were reported missing. Unfortunately, we have learned that the police have posted an update on the missing persons: both girls R"N were found dead, the scene suggested suicides. We must not allow these two teens to pass in vain. There is a vital lesson all parents must learn and apply, immediately, before it is too late...again.

We don't know the worries of these two precious girls, or whether they could be reached. Our hearts go out to their parents, families and friends. But it is evident that Rachel Crites, Rachel Smith, and too many other teens see no hope for happiness. Teenagers go through the toughest times in life. There is great pressure to conform to peers to gain their respect, and to be part of a group. It is all about self-worth. Parental pressures, in the form of control issues compound matters, and parents' foolish vicarious wishes aggravate matters...followed by teens’ obligations in the home, sibling rivalries, and jealousies. A teen’s need for self-esteem and popularity, combined with parents who don't offer any, is a lethal mixture.

Are parents eliciting their children's deepest concerns? Are they sensitive enough to read their children's faces...their moods, behaviors, and warning signs? Do they sit their child down – even against their will – swallow their roles as superiors, and play the needed role of “helper”? If not, parents must initiate conversations, or find someone with whom their teens will open to, and even pay them to take on a support and mentoring role.

Teens don't have any answers, just questions, and deep concerns. We must make ourselves available to them, in an easy, and a clearly genuine demeanor. They must have someone safe in their daily lives to turn to when life gets rough...and we see how rough it gets. For if they have no one to turn to, they turn on themselves. Many times teens are forced to either give up, or teach those who oppress them a hurtful, terminal "lesson"...the last lesson they teach anyone.

We don't hold positions without much schooling. Similarly, we don't know what is best for "our" children, simply because they have our last names. We aren't fit parents, simply because we bore these children. To help prevent similar tragedies, all parents must be educated on basics in child and teen psychology. Shuls, yeshivas, and community leaders must organize mandatory adult sessions where experienced professionals teach the "rules of engagement", education of teens, emotional issues, and cite specific cases and solutions. And schools must incorporate a mandatory class where students may voice social and familial issues. In such a forum, those teens with problems will feel comfort in the knowledge that others also share similar fears and worries. These teens will feel less ashamed, and will vocalize issues so they may be learned by adults, and addressed, instead of swelling to the point of implosion. And those students that don’t have the concerns yet, will be educated on what they are, and how to properly handle them, as they inevitably arise.

Although adults must work tirelessly as the breadwinners, children must take priority over business and social agendas. Money can always we earned, and we can always socialize at the next affair. But we cannot postpone a child's development...it will happen with, or without us.

Our children's secure and happy development will happen with us.

And without us, there may be no development at all.