Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The First Step: Evaluate Your Child

We need to look at our child and assess their readiness to form a family of their own. How to decide if your child is ready?

Each case and each child is different. We know that intellectually; Let us apply it practically.

Just because one child went in one direction and the other one has paid lip service to our belief that they are exactly like their brother or sister, now is the time to listen to their voices, to hear what they think they want.

We are not just stating the obvious. Many times parents do not realize that even if two children may seem to be very similar, they are still individuals with individual wants and needs. Just as each labor and delivery is unique, so too, each child's needs are unique, and their shiduchim are unique. When our Chachomim tell us "Chanoch L'Naar al pi Darko" (teach the child according to his needs,) they are directing us to be specific in dealing with each of our children.

Often where there is a close relationship between parent and child, the parent can see the signs that the child has reached the maturity necessary for marriage. In other cases the child may openly tell the parents s/he is ready to be married. In still other cases, the child might be mature enough to marry, but not secure enough of his/her feelings to believe themselves ready for such a commitment. They might even feel so insecure that they won't broach the subject with their parents. It is up to the parents to talk to their children and to encourage them.

Some kids believe they have to be perfect themselves before trying to raise a family. As we all know, perfection is a chimera. Until Moshiach comes we live in an imperfect world. Explain to them that no one is perfect, and no one gets married knowing all that there is to know. Marriage means maturing, growing and learning together. If you believe your S/D is ready for a shidduch, say so, and encourage your child to go ahead.

On the other hand, do not push a child who is not ready. It will only backfire. The bottom line is that it rests upon us as parents to look at our children and determine when they reach the right time. Evaluate their capabilities and their maturity. Then if they are ready - even though WE may feel WE are NOT ready for this -go ahead and start looking into shiduchim.

If you are not good at reading your children or even if you are, get advice from a Mashpia, someone who knows your family and your child well and can advise you. Age alone is no indication of readiness. Some kids are more ready at a young an age than others who are years older.

In some cases the kids have had a friend who has gone though a bad experience in marriage, or r"l the parents' marriage is not one to make an example of. They are understandably scared of getting married themselves. It is beneficial to have a mentor, a mashpia, and sometimes a trained professional speak with them to alleviate their fears, and help them go through with shidduchim. Doing this before one starts with shidduchim will prevent a valid and good shidduch falling apart because of fear of marriage.

Generally, I believe that it is a good thing to start looking earlier rather than later. First of all, if the couple is younger when they marry, they are more flexible about each other's foibles, and they are not so set in their ways that compromise is difficult. They are also more idealistic and less "earth bound" pragmatic, cynic, or what you would call it.

Secondly, when our child has enjoyed his/her own independence, with his/her own money, job, and maybe apartment, the demands for the qualities a mate has to have become more detailed and more insistent. Our child may believe they are more "in touch" with what is good for them than a parent and they may not let themselves be guided by a parent as easily as when they were younger and more unsure of their opinions. They may find it difficult to give up hard won independence and have to share with another person, even more, have to adjust their life and make "space" for someone else.

This is especially true of older singles that have an established career (which in the case of a girl, might have to continue in a different city). At their stage they may try to find someone who will fit into their lives, and will not make allowances for major changes in their own lives or lifestyles. Suffice it to say that it is easier all around if we have the zechus and the Siyata d'Shmaya to marry off our children when they are (relatively) younger.