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My children are having a hard time dealing with the fact that everyone is going away for mid-winter vacation except us. Help!

First of all, you are not alone. There are many families whom, for whatever reason, are also not going away for mid-winter vacation. When your children say “everyone”  take it with a grain of salt. That said, peer pressure is real, and it is a hard thing for a kid to deal with. What is peer pressure? Peer pressure is the influence that a group of friends or classmates can have on another person their age. 

What are some ways to help your child deal with negative peer pressure?

The most important thing to do when your child is struggling, with anything really, is to listen. In therapy we call it “active listening.” That means it involves more than listening to the words they say. Instead, you are consciously analyzing what you hear, and trying to pick up on intent, content, and emotion from the speaker. Active listening requires really paying attention. If you’re scrolling through Instagram on your phone or making dinner while someone is talking, you’re not actively listening. When you are making eye contact, focusing, and offering feedback you are showing your children that you are “zoned in” and care about what they are saying and paying attention not just to them but to their feelings.

Set a good example by focusing on yourself rather than on others. Remember that your kids pay more attention to your behavior than you think and a lot of things you say affect them. When you are stressed and venting, do you say things like: “Am I the only mother that works?” “How are all the other mothers always available?” Is your spouse saying, “Wow, so-and-so gets a new car every year! I wish I had that.”  Children often learn through imitating their parents. 

Set clear guidelines of what they can expect from their midwinter vacation and what it will look like. Show them that you care about their time off and will try to accommodate their choices of activity… locally.

One of the most important things you can do as a parent is keep the lines of communication open. Encourage your kids to share their feelings with you. Be respectful of their feelings and try to avoid “talking down” to them. Frequent communication with your children usually has a strong impact and demonstrates that you care about their thoughts and feelings, even if you can’t change circumstances.

One of my favorite “therapy tips” to parents is to “feel where your child is at.” What that means is to try and remember what it is like being their age. Take a minute and pick a specific memory of when you were a child or teenager, for example, when you were 11 and did not feel like you had any friends. Describe that feeling fully. What was it like for you at that age? Did you feel strongly? When we can do that, we are more likely to be more empathetic towards our children’s feelings. 

After all that, try having a conversation with your kids about emunah. Without forcing it down their throats, attempt to have a conversation with them about the possibilities of what they think Hashem wants from them. How can they change their outlook? How can they change their happiness from getting what they want to being content with what they have?  For many, that starts with being grateful. Try having a conversation about that, remembering to bring it down to whatever level your child is at.

Keep in mind that it is ok for your children to be a little sad they cannot get what they wanted. Sometimes, we just want to fix it for our children, and it is hard to see them sad. It will be ok. Sit with them. Feel with them. Believe with them that Hashem wants best for us and that you will get through it – together. 

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