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A Crisis at The Border?

Friday, 22 June, 2018 - 1:34 pm

I’ve been following the latest political storm regarding the children at the US-Mexican border and the controversy surrounding the separation of these children from their detained or arrested parents. Politics aside, this whole saga got me thinking about my own children and my relationship with them.

I think we can all agree that the forced physical separation of children from their parents is traumatic and can be devastating to the child and his/her development. It is a tragedy every time it happens and I have seen it more than once. I served as a US chaplain in the Federal Detention Center in down town Miami for a few years and every week I saw the devastation of new arrestees who were brought into prison and were separated from their children. (this detention center was where people who were just arrested were brought for detention until their trial etc.). The arrests were fresh, the separation from their children was fresh and every week I would observe young children coming to visit their incarcerated parents (and yes, sometimes it was both, mother and father who were in prison). It is heart wrenching to observe babies, toddlers, young children and adolescents have to visit their parents once a week and talk to them through a glass window. If they were lucky, they would then go home to be with grandparents or other family members or if they were not so lucky, they would be taken back to a foster home and the like. It was a weekly tragedy that I observed and which I will never forget.

But I ask myself, is only physical separation devastating? How about emotional separation or psychological separation? Let’s be honest, there are millions of children who live with and are physically ‘united’ with their parents in nice houses and all, but whose parents are all but ‘separated’ from them on so many other levels. Children today yearn to talk to their parents. They yearn to just spend time with their mothers and fathers. They yearn and long to just play a game with their parents and be a family as it used to be. Many parents are so busy and just simply have no time to talk to their children on a daily basis. I had parents tell me that they would love to talk to their children but their conversations last for two minutes because they run out of what to talk about. Their interests are just not the same. How tragic? For all intents and purposes, there children are ‘separated’ from their parents. Think of your own patterns and ask yourself, is my child separated from me or am I really there for them. I know we tell our children that they can count on us anytime and everywhere, but trust me they just want you to talk to them on a regular Tuesday. They desperately want and need you not only when they “need” you. They want to be connected to you. Stop giving in to their every silly desire whenever they throw a tantrum. They don’t want to be bought off with stuff, they want YOU. Often the reason they throw a tantrum is because they feel alienated, they feel distant and are seeking meaningful relationships with their parents whom they love more than anything else and whom they need more than anything else.

We Jews were given the unbelievable gift called Shabbos. One day a week we close our phones, computers, televisions, tablets and any and all electronic devices and connect to family and friends for real. We spend time together in prayer or at the Shabbos dinner table where parents and children connect spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and of course physically as well. Remember? No face time, no phone connections or face book and the rest. If you want me on Shabbos you have to be right near me physically. It is said that the connectedness of family on Shabbos is what kept the Jewish people going for thousands of years. I would suggest to each of you to try this idea in small measures. If you are unable to observe the entire Shabbos then start with something. This Friday night/Shabbos you and your children should try it for one hour. Turn off your phones, TV’s etc. for sixty minutes and eat a meal together, talk together, hug each other, play a game of monopoly together. You get my point. CONNECT to your children and help them connect to you. Once you get used to one hour you can go to two and then three and so forth.              

It would be so nice if as a result of the latest crisis parents would take a real look at their own homes and families and see if they have ‘forcibly separated’ their children from themselves. Forcibly separating children from parents is devastating not only at the border, it is equally devastating when it is done in our own homes as well. Let’s reunite parents and children immediately.

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