Children of Divorce
Your article on the effects of divorce on children was informative [“The Scars of Divorce” by Tzippora Price, spring 2017]. I am a psychologist in private practice and have treated children and adolescents whose parents have divorced. Based on my experience with this population, I would add the following:
1. Elementary school children do not always fully process what is going on when parents divorce. As a result, parents often underestimate the reactions of their children. In one of the cases that I treated, the parents divorced when the student was in fourth grade. The child was always on the quiet side and his parents did not think that he was affected greatly by the divorce. However, once he became an adolescent, he began to blame his mother, became oppositional and acted aggressively towards her. His mother brought him for therapy because he had become unmanageable.
Divorced parents need to know that the outward behavior of a child may not mean that he or she is “okay.” It may mean that the child has not fully processed or come to grips with the implications. Parents need to be aware of the emerging adolescent and the effect the changed developmental status has on the child’s understanding of divorce. An adolescent’s strong feelings, including shame, anger and even guilt can surface years later.
2. The research on emotional problems distinguishes between internalizing disorders and externalizing disorders. A child with an internalizing disorder turns the distress inward and develops problems such as anxiety and depression. Or the child complains of health-related issues such as headaches and stomachaches. The “externalizer” turns the stress outward and may gets into fights with peers and become oppositional toward authority figures. Parents need to be aware of these two types of responses to stress so that they do not get sidetracked from addressing the real cause of these problems, i.e., the child or adolescent’s feelings and inability to come to grips with what has happened to the nuclear family and his role in it.
3. People, including children and adolescents, need to feel that they can affect outcomes and have some control over their lives. Children and adolescents of divorced parents have little if any control over what is happening to them, especially in contentious divorces. It does not matter how much time has elapsed since the divorce. Parents can hate each other for years and often use their children as pawns. Who does the adolescent go to for money? Does the mother say, “Go ask your father” while the father tells his daughter to ask her mother? Empowering a child or adolescent to stand up respectfully for him or herself is highly beneficial.
Dr. Morton Frank, psychologist
Forest Hills, New York
Why No Examples of Sephardic Women?
I read with great interest Faigy Grunfeld’s “A Business of Her Own: Jewish Women Entrepreneurs of the Past” (summer 2017), which offered a survey of such women from medieval through early modern times. To my regret, no women from the Sephardic world were mentioned. One such woman was Doña Gracia Nasi (1510-1569), who was a preeminent figure in post-Inquisition Spain. Widowhood propelled Doña Gracia to head her husband’s bank and also the humanitarian cause of her fellow conversos, putting up her fortune and political clout to protect and re-settle these Jews in the Ottomon Empire. She was even an early Zionist with a plan supported by the Sultan Suleiman of Turkey to re-settle the persecuted conversos in the city of Tiberias in 1558. All of this and more are beautifully detailed in the book A Woman Who Defied Kings: The Life and Times of Doña Gracia Nasi. Isn’t this evidence enough for Doña Gracia’s inclusion?
Great Neck, New York
A Rabbi’s Daughter
I read with great interest the cover story “Growing Up in the Public Eye: Children of Rabbis”[summer 2017]. As the daughter of Rabbi Samuel Adelman, who passed away over fifty years ago at the young age of fifty, I wanted to share a published poem that my Dad wrote, in which he shared his feelings about not spending more time with his children. Since I am a mother of four children, I understand the conflicts he must have had and I feel what he must have felt. I only wish he were here so I could tell him not to feel guilty. He was a very good father and gave all of his children a tremendous foundation. He took good care of us in spite of his very busy schedule and at the same time accomplished more in his fifty years than most of us can accomplish in 100 years. To this day when people find out that my Dad was Rabbi Samuel Adelman, many of them remember him and tell me what a great man he was.
By Samuel Adelman
Jephthah was an Israelite warrior who, before he went into battle, pledged that he would offer to the Lord the first living thing that would greet him upon his victorious return. The Victory turned to tragedy; for, it was his daughter who became the price of his success! This thought crossed my mind one day as my little girl came into my study and interrupted my work.
“Daddy,” she said, “I want to talk to you!”
“Not now, honey, I’m busy,” I replied.
“You never have any time for me,” she cried, as the tears welled up in her eyes and she ran out.
Daddy, will you tell me why,
You never have the time to hear,
The many things that make me sigh,
The many things that bring a tear.
For everyone you have the time,
To hear their tales of woe;
But must I wait to make the climb,
Into the heart that I love so?
So often have I been turned aside,
When to you I’ve drawn near,
I’ve wanted so to you confide
My hope, my dream, my fear.
Daddy dear, the world’s so vast,
It goes beyond your scope.
Your children must never be the last,
Lose us and you lose its hope.
Dear child, forgive this fool,
Who’s dreamed a dream so vast,
That in his eyes the only rule,
Made his children’s hopes the last.
Save the world—make it good:
This was your daddy’s goal;
Before his eyes the ideal stood,
As he forgot his parental role.
I’ve won my battle, I’ve saved the day,
I have victory in my hand.
But in the end I’ve this to say:
My castle’s built on sand.
For if I’m to live fore’er
In God’s eternal sphere,
My breath of life in you must bear
The only hope I’ve here.
Reprinted with permission from Windows to My Soul, (Golden Bell Press: Denver, 1963), 36-37.
Please note that in the article “Rabbi’s Son Syndrome” by Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin (summer 2017), the sidebar “Raising Happy Rabbinic Children” was written by Bayla Sheva Brenner, not by Rabbi Bashevkin.