Our Two Cents: Should teens be made to sit through services, or get time to socialize

Dr. Sharon Ufberg and her three children offer advice about family, love and life. Send your questions to ourtwocents@jweekly.com.

With the High Holy Days fast approaching, I’m getting worried. As always, I bring my teenage daughters to services with me, but the past two years they have both left in the middle of services to hang out with their temple friends for the rest of the services. I’m not sure exactly how I should feel about this. On the one hand, I love that they have made friends with the other kids at our synagogue. On the other hand, I don’t want to take the girls out of school simply to socialize all day. What do you all think? Should I force the kids to sit with me? A.S., San Raphael

Saul: Some of my fondest memories of the High Holy Days services were hanging out with my close friend David Friedkin. Both our parents knew the value of giving us a little freedom to just chill during those days off from school. No need to worry, I’m sure you and your teens will figure out the right balance.

Alexis: I had to laugh when I read your question because I did precisely the same thing as your daughters during High Holy Days services when I was a teenager. I think it would be great to strike a compromise with your daughters: Ask them to sit with you politely and attentively for part of the service, but give them the freedom to hang out with their friends for part of the time, too. The time that the teens spend together is bonding time — and there’s nothing like feeling a part of a Jewish community of friends. Balance is the key here! The more understanding you are, the more responsive your daughters will be. Listen to their needs; talk about making the holiday meaningful.

Jessica: I agree with my sister; this is not an either-or situation. Spend some time talking to your daughters about why going to temple and participating in the service is important to you, but also recognize that they’re in a different stage of their life. Have them agree to spend at least an hour in the service before they can sneak away to socialize with their friends.

Sharon: The High Holy Days are a great opportunity to have significant family time with your teens. Rather than focusing on how much time they spend in services with you, create some family rituals for this time of year that feel special to all of you. Make honey jars or homemade jam to give to friends for a sweet new year. Try your hand at making round challahs or find a local beach to do a traditional tashlich (casting off your sins) ritual together. We have always enjoyed making the holidays our own, either by creating  new family rituals or trying out a tradition that we usually would not observe. For example, I remember when the kids were old enough we would walk to the synagogue on the holidays. It was a fun way to all be together and make the day unique and special.

Dr. Sharon Ufberg
is a Napa-based radio host, journalist, consultant and integrative health practitioner. Her daughters live in San Francisco: Lawyer-turned-writer Alexis Sclamberg, 28 and married; and hair colorist Jessica Sclamberg, 26 and single. Saul Sclamberg, 24 and single, studies chiropractic in Los Angeles. Read more at http://r-2-cents.com.

Ufberg/Sclamberg Family