Leaving a home country and starting a new life in Israel is not easy for any Olim. In addition to programs for english speaking Olim, in 2015 Kav L’Noar started developing programs fro French Olim. Our French Olim department provides the community with culturally sensitive counselling, mentoring, school group mentoring and parental guidance services in French.
Parenting Struggles within the French Olim community
Michelle was worried about her 14-year-old son Joachim. He was so addicted to his phone, it was hard for him to put it down for a single second. Even when they went on a family trip to see the Spiderman movie, she could see him busy swiping and messaging and scrolling throughout. She didn’t want to take it away altogether though, because she thought it better that she at least be able to see when he was on the phone and peek over his shoulder sometimes. If she removed it, she thought he’d just get another one in secret and she’d lose him to the screen altogether.
Rafael lived two streets away from Joachim. His father Chaim felt just as helpless as Michelle. In their house, the issue wasn’t screens, but curfews. Rafael was told over and over again to come home at a reasonable hour, that a 15-year-old still needed his sleep, that his grades were suffering and it wasn’t worth throwing away a whole future for the sake of more time hanging out with his friends. But nothing was getting through to him.
Michelle and Chaim both knew that they had it easy compared to some. Rafael and Joachim had both told their parents about other youngsters in the neighborhood who were smoking marijuana, who thought it fun to go into open apartment buildings and vandalize the elevators, who had dropped out of school. They wondered if the parents of those teens had been too strict and driven them away or maybe it was the other way around, maybe they’d turned a blind eye just too many times.
“I don’t need a class to learn how to parent.”
As parents, it’s always tough to get the balance right. But Michelle and Chaim found it especially difficult because they were far away from their native France. In France, the red lines for children and teens are very clear, and they would have known exactly when and how to exert their authority. But Israeli culture is more relaxed, there’s more freedom, and they felt unsure of what was most appropriate. Chaim was upset that whenever he did see Rafael he ended up nagging him or shouting at him. Rafael would yell back. “I’m a good boy! I don’t smoke, I don’t break the law. Why are you so obsessed with what time I get home? Why can’t you learn to trust me?” At the back of his mind, Chaim wondered whether Rafael was right.
Kav L’Noar offered a group parenting class, in French, especially to address these kinds of issues. But the parents felt uncomfortable. Michelle said, “I don’t need a class to learn how to parent. It’s up to me to figure out what my kids need.” Chaim said, “I do need help. But I don’t want anyone else to know that. Even my friends. It’s just too embarrassing. What kind of person can’t manage their own son?”
When your rabbi helps you parent
Kav L’Noar reached out to the neighborhood rabbi, who ran a local community center attended by all the local families. Together we built a special weekly program for parents. The program featured the rabbi sharing insights from the Torah that are relevant for parents and an accompanying professional who would share practical parenting tips on relevant topics. This time, Michelle, Chaim and a bunch of others all were happy to join the ‘Rabbi’s learning program for parents.’ We are getting excellent feedback on how much they appreciate getting new parenting tools and insights and how comforting it is to be able to share their dilemmas with other parents in similar situations. Kav L’Noar continues to look for ways to reach out to communities in the most effective possible way.
*All names and identifying details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.