Dealing with Non-Frum Family Summary

A fellow BT has written a good summary about Dealing with Non-Frum Family based on some posts and comment threads on Beyond BT so we’re reposting it here with permission.

There’s a lot of discussion about dealing with non-frum family in the Beyond BT site. It’s a hot topic for all baalei teshuva’s because we all go through it to some degree. It’s also a very sensitive topic as everyone has different types of relationships with their parents and families to begin with.

Here’s some tips other Baalei Teshuva have provided:

– Almost every BT has to resolve conflicts with their parents, it is a normal process.

– Obviously every parent and every situation is different, but it does need to be pointed out.

– There is an emotional factor of rejection that the parent often feels when the BT chooses a (radically) different lifestyle.

– There is also an implicit (and sometimes explicit) statement that what I’m doing is right and what you’re doing is wrong.

– One general approach is to be as accommodating and accepting as possible and over the long term expose the relatives to the depth and beauty of Torah.

– Another approach is to encourage mitzvos observance (positive and negative) whenever possible in a reasonable manner.

– We generally should set the rules in on our own houses, but we should consider which rules to set and how to gently enforce them.

– When our children are negatively effected by non-Torah behaviors we have to weigh that factor in heavily.

– We need to internalize the truth that our non observant relatives are good people and impart that understanding to our children. Non-observance is generally due to a lack of knowledge in our generation.

– If we focus on growing together, perhaps there will be less conflicts (oops, thats from the next Mussar post).

– BT conflicts with parents can be shalom bayis issues and a rav should be consulted.

– Every time you do or say something think whether it will create a Kiddush Hashem or Chillul Hashem.

– Most important word that summarizes this entire thread – tolerance!

To read more visit these popular posts & comments:

1. Dealing with non-observant parents

2. Alienating family & breaching values

5 comments on “Dealing with Non-Frum Family Summary

  1. I agree with Judy Resnick’s sentiments and want to add something: a good strategy for a BT to keep things in perspective vis a vis non observant family members is to think “where would I personally be if I were in the shoes of [mom/dad/sis/bro/whoever] and to realize that the BT might be as far or farther from Torah as those relatives are today if it weren’t for the very specific circumstances we were in. Imgagine if you had never met that Rabbi or family, never gone to that seminar on a whim, never read that book that got you started thinking, never stopped in Israel on the way back from India, etc. Or imagine if you had grown up in the era of your parents (for example, my parents grew up in the ’40s in a geographical location where there were no Torah observant people and no exposure to traditional Judaism –how religious can I claim I would be if I had had the same experiences?).

    I think this perspective helps to foster a spirit of understanding in one’s relationship to the relatives and can prevent the growth of ga’ava in one’s character.

  2. Love and mutual respect are the keystones to any good family relationship, in any religion or culture.

    The unconditional love that exists between grandparents and grandchildren is a very powerful force.

    Focus on a non-observant relative’s good character traits: hard work; decency toward others; kindness; refined speech; willingness to cooperate toward a mutual goal; perseverance despite adversity; commitment; caring for others. There is much good that children can learn from even the most unlikely sources, if we are smart enough to point it out. Remember the story in the Gemara about how one of the rabbonim noted that a dead animal lying in the road still had bright white teeth. We can train our children to focus on Grandma’s helpfulness and not her uncovered hair; Grandpa’s skillfulness and not his bare head.

  3. Bob, that’s not a BT-specific question. There are plenty of “not good” orthodox folks out there too. So how do you deal with that issue in general?

  4. What if one or more relatives are not good people? Do we shield the kids from that info if they don’t catch on themselves?

  5. Some good points, just a couple of comments:

    The first 4 items are generic and apply to any parent-child relationships where grown children in some way choose paths different from their parents. It applies in the non-orthodox, non-Jewish, and even within the orthodox world. I think knowing that it’s “normal” should make it easier to deal with.

    We need to internalize the truth that our non observant relatives are good people and impart that understanding to our children. Non-observance is generally due to a lack of knowledge in our generation.

    The first sentence here is great. I would drop the “non-observant” label. “Observance” is not binary, it’s a continuum. Dropping that labeling will help foster the love and understanding by letting your kids (and yourselves) see them as people and not “others”.

    The second sentence, whether true or not, can lead to condescension, which could then lead to many of the of the first four issues.

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