Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Cheshvan 5764 - November 19, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

Family Secrets
by R. Chadshai

Q. We have a daughter of sixteen who feels entitled to participate in all suggestions for a shidduch which we contemplate for our eldest daughter. She says she is old enough to be taken into our confidence and is deeply offended when we suggest that she is too young. She claims that if she is old enough to help with the household chores and is continually being told that she is `one of the big ones,' why is she `one of the little ones' in the family when it comes to the riveting subject of her sister's shidduch?

I don't particularly want to hear her opinion on a possible candidate, nor do I want to involve her in the subject at all, but she watches me like a hawk. When I have a telephone conversation, she wants to know who it was and what it was about. If I go out with my older daughter, she insists on knowing exactly where we went and why. She cross-examines me and although I sympathize with her, I have no intention of letting her in on this subject.

Can you suggest any way in which I can keep this kind of tension from coming between us, and what to do about this younger girl's hurt feelings?

A. This is a common problem which affects many families. As the children grow up, parents spread their love and attention as equally as possible. Nevertheless, there are times and situations where one child needs far more attention than his siblings. Every child has to feel secure in the knowledge that he has a special spot in his parents' hearts. He also has to know that if he confides in them, no matter what the secret is, they will respect his privacy.

Every child who feels confident that his parents will keep faith with him will fully understand that they have to extend the same courtesy to his brothers and sisters. Their secrets have to be safeguarded, too.

Naturally, there will be times when one child will try to wheedle some secret out of his mother/father. If the parent states politely but firmly that the subject is not up for discussion, the child will only respect him for this.

Shidduchim is one of the subjects which the prospective candidates prefer not to discuss with the whole family. On the other hand, it is one of the subjects which arouses avid curiosity amongst younger siblings. They will coax and whine and use moral blackmail like the one you mentioned, of being old enough to help all the time but not old enough to be included in family discussions. In their hearts, the teenagers will understand fully, and will know that when their own time comes, their parents will guard their secrets just as staunchly.

You would do best to explain to this girl of sixteen that it has nothing to do with being `big' or `small' and that it is just a matter of respecting a confidence. Ask her not to try to listen to your telephone conversations but assure her that she will be told of any happy news before any outsiders know about it. Remind her of things which she may have told you which you never divulged even to the older sister.

To make her feel better, you can ask her advice about choosing new curtains, or which color to paper a room or any other `adult' problem. This will not lessen her curiosity, but will mollify her resentment. If she knows that you are adamant in your determination, she will stop pestering you. Children only continue to badger a parent when they feel even an ever-so-slight hesitation in the decision.

The same arguments apply to an older married sister who is not taken into the parents' confidence before a shidduch. Parents are entitled to act as they see fit, and do not have to explain all their reasons even to older, married children who feel as intelligent and experienced as their parents. The children will have to come to terms with that fact.


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